20 Questions: Beans

Photo: Lauren Hillary Voss

The prolific ex-Antipop Consortium rapper is releasing three full-length albums and his debut novel on the same day, and shares his loves and influences in depth with PopMatters.


Wolves of the World

Label: Tygr Rawwk
Release Date: 2017-03-31



Label: Tygr Rawwk
Release Date: 2017-03-31


Love Me Tonight

Label: Tygr Rawwk
Release Date: 2017-03-31

You can never fault Beans for being anything less than overambitious.

Known in many circles not only for his work with the heralded Antipop Consortium collective but also for his otherworldly solo career (his first release, 2003's Tomorrow Right Now, came out on Warp Records), Beans has slowly carved out a unique world for himself, his sometimes-personal, sometimes-outre lyrics melding with a wide range of productions and finding a unique audience every time. There will always be those who love his outsider-art approach to his Warp-era records, and those who will never get enough of the confessional nature of his 2007 set Thorns. He never intended to be the biggest rapper out there: just one of the most distinct ones you'll ever come across.

So leave it to Beans to release his first set of new material from 2011, and it's not one but three full-length albums, and a novel to boot. Via his own Tygr Rawwk Rcrds, Beans is unleashing the heavily electronic Wolves of the World, his dark subversion of a loverman rap set Love Me Tonight, and the socially-conscious but surprisingly-funky album HAAST all on the same day. As if that wasn't enough, the novel Die Tonight comes out at the same time, tracing the life of a record-obsessed teenager who encounters a new album that possess him and makes him kill, only to soon discover an afterlife that is far from what he was expecting.

Amidst so many projects coming out at the same time, how does one celebrate? By answering PopMatters' 20 Questions of course, with Beans going in great detail about his overt love of Batman, the best advice he ever got from his mom, and the one word he'd say to the current leader of the free world.

* * *

1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?

I love the movies and I go every Monday or on the occasional Tuesday for the price of a five-dollar ticket at the Cedar Lee Theater without fail but the last movie that made me weepy was on a date night with the missus.

The last movie we saw together was Get Out but the movie that had us both ballin' was Fences. Viola Davis is awesome! She killed that role, man! Our eyes were rivers! I was so touched I made a puddle in my popcorn!

2. The fictional character most like you?

I am vengeance, I am the night, I am Batman.

When I was a child, my father saw that I was enthralled by comics in general and Batman in particular.

As a surprise, he custom-made these capes with the bat emblem on the back so he could hand out to kids at a Batman themed birthday party in our basement. I had a Batman Carvel ice cream cake, Batman party decorations, the works. My father made Batman special to me by hosting that party.

Throughout my life, Batman has always been the flyest. The Dark Knight Returns, Year One, and Killing Joke are the flyest books. Batman: The Animated Series and Batman Beyond are some of the flyest animated shows. The Dark Knight was the best superhero movie ever (until Logan) and his depiction in Justice League and Justice League Unlimited is the flyest.

Batman is training, disciple, and focus. Batman is one of the few DC superheroes without any powers that people with powers are scared of him. He has contingency plans to take out everybody in the DC Universe should any of them go astray. Simply put, he's unfuckwitable.

My missus said that we could both work well with others for the greater good but we crave our solitude. If there's any comparisons to be made with Batman, that's the most I could think of.

3. The greatest album, ever?

Rough. This is rough. I could list my top choices and explain why each album is great but just naming one of them is unfair for me to say but here goes:

Public Enemy's It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back changed my life. It was sonically experimental and an eye opener in terms of making me conscious of what it's like to be aware of myself as a black man in America. For that matter, Boogie Down Productions' By Any Means Necessary accomplished that same feat. Actually, a lot of Golden Era '88 hip-hop records did that for me.

Throughout my formative years, Public Enemy affected me in such a way that when I finally met Chuck D, I was in complete awe. Anti Pop went on tour with PE, Kool Kieth, and Edan and I had a chance to finally met Chuck D, I was speechless. I got crazy choked up. I think the only thing that I said to him was that I didn't know what to say to him.

Also, Marvin Gaye's I Want You is a perfect album. Perfect.

4. Star Trek or Star Wars?

Both. Cisco and Janeway are my favorite Enterprise captains. I like Star Wars for all the background history that you don't get to see in the movies explaining the origins of the Sith and the Jedi. Star Wars backstory is pretty in-depth.

5. Your ideal brain food?

To stimulate my thoughts, I need to constantly hear new music, I need the inspiration of a great film, and I need to be constantly enthralled in a book. TV and comics are comfort foods. I get really grumpy without either of these things.

6. You're proud of this accomplishment, but why?

Finishing my first book, Die Tonight, was a great achievement. I was intimidated to begin writing a book because I thought the process would be very foreign to me then writing a rhyme but once I got started, I learned to love the process. I feel it really suits me.

7. You want to be remembered for ...?

I want to be remembered as an artist who was prolific, hard working, and iconoclastic. I want to be considered as a great writer and hope that my work past my death will exceed my expectations.

8. Of those who've come before, the most inspirational are?

Sun Ra, Ornette Coleman, Miles, Matta, Magritte, Ernst, Wilfredo Lam, Ted Joans, Cy Twombly, Prince, Bowie, Alan Vega, Tod Dockstader, Basquait, Rammellzee, Jacob Lawrence, Curtis Mayfield, Octavia Butler, David Axelrod, Coltrane, Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson, Jack Kirby, Moebius, Steve Dillon, Truffaut, Hitchcock, Richard Stark (Donald Westlake) -- just to name a few.

9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?

There's a current comic book by Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, and Elizabeth Breitweiser out now called Kill or Be Killed, which their sixth collaboration, that I wished I had written.

Kill or Be Killed is about a college student named Dylan who attempts suicide. He survives due to unlikely events and is visited by a demon who spares his life. In exchange, Dylan is allowed to live one month for every person that he kills. Brubecker said that he choose a young character to explore the optimism of youth and the consequences of vigilante violence and it's effects on Dylan's loved ones.

What I like about Kill or Be Killed is that it could easily translate into film. When I finally flesh out an idea for my script, I would want the script to be in the vein of Kill or Be Killed. The comic has all the elements that I wished I would've written for my non-existent script.

10. Your hidden talents . . .?

I can draw pretty well and I paint using watercolors. I went to art school when I got started doing poetry shows and was cutting classes to go to the studio to make demos.

11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?

"Make new friends but keep the old, one is silver and the other is gold," says Mom. It's pretty self-explanatory

12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?

"Planet Rock" by The Soul Sonic Force was the first record that I ever bought with my own money in first grade. The sound that was achieved on that single has never left me.

13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or . . .?

My Westerlind Felt Hats (I have four in assorted colors) and my Izipizi Glacier Sunglasses (I currently have three assorted pairs to match the hats but I might get another pair just because)

14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?

My father. He passed away when I was ten. As an adult, I don't know whether we would have gotten along. A dinner might be a good chance to find out.

15. Time travel: where, when and why?

I'd travel back to the time when music mattered the most, the mid-'60s and '70s. I wouldn't interfere in any current events or try to change history but I'd go to significant musical events and witness them firsthand.

I'd go see Sun Ra and Gong at the Bitter End in 1965, the classic Quartet of John Coltrane playing in 1964, Band of Gypsys at The Fillmore East, Miles in the '70s, Bowie on the Ziggy Stardust tour in 72, and Suicide at The Mercer Arts Center in 1973.

I'd go see James Brown, Parliament-Funkadelic, and Sly and The Family Stone in their prime. I'd go see Ornette Coleman perform right after the Free Jazz album was released. I'd travel overseas to go see Black Sabbath in June of 1970 right after Paranoid dropped. I'd would go see a Joy Division performance.

I'd go to Germany and go see Can in 1971 and every Krautrock band that I could find and collect their records. I'd also go and see Led Zeppelin all through '71-'75 and Roxy Music. I'd dance to Larry Levan at the Paradise Garage and wait on line to get into Studio 54 in 77-79. I would hang out at the Mudd Club and Max's Kansas City.

I'd most definitely would be at the Sedgwick Rec Room on August 11. 1973 for the birth of Hip Hop then move ahead in time to see Fresh Fest 84 with Newcleus, The Fat Boys, Whodini, Kurtis Blow, and Run DMC. In 1984, my mother wouldn't let me go because she thought I was too young for a concert and she didn't want to take me.

I'd also cheat and buy myself a superb loft and other prime real estate in NY for cheap in the past so I could have a place to store all those records from all those eras when I returned to the present.

I'd also collect vintage comic books in the early '60s and '70s as they were coming out and keep them in mint condition.

16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation or Prozac?

Personally, I'm partial to shrooms.

17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or . . .?

Books, Film, and Music. I constantly need to have something to read and new things to hear and watch.

18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?

New York, New York. Home, sweet, home!

19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?


20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on, now?

After the release of these three albums (Wolves of the World, Love Me Tonight, and HAAST) at the end of March, I'm about to start writing for the next record, Nibiru Tut. My goal is to have that album out by October.

Fingers crossed.

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still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

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10. Lillie Mae – Forever and Then Some (Third Man)

The first two songs on Lillie Mae's debut album are titled "Over the Hill and Through the Woods" and "Honky Tonks and Taverns". The music splits the difference between those settings, or rather bears the marks of both. Growing up in a musical family, playing fiddle in a sibling bluegrass act that once had a country radio hit, Lillie Mae roots her songs in musical traditions without relying on them as a gimmick or costume. The music feels both in touch with the past and very current. Her voice and perspective shine, carrying a singular sort of deep melancholy. This is sad, beautiful music that captures the points of view of people carrying weighty burdens and trying to find home. - Dave Heaton

9. Sunny Sweeney – Trophy (Aunt Daddy)

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8. Kip Moore – Slowheart (MCA Nashville)

The bro-country label never sat easy with Kip Moore. The man who gave us "Somethin' 'Bout a Truck" has spent the last few years trying to distance himself from the beer and tailgate crowd. Mission accomplished on the outstanding Slowheart, an album stuffed with perfectly produced hooks packaged in smoldering, synthy Risky Business guitars and a rugged vocal rasp that sheds most of the drawl from his delivery. Moore sounds determined to help redefine contemporary country music with hard nods toward both classic rock history and contemporary pop flavors. With its swirling guitar textures, meticulously catchy songcraft, and Moore's career-best performances (see the spare album-closing "Guitar Man"), Slowheart raises the bar for every would-be bro out there. -- Steve Leftridge

7. Chris Stapleton – From a Room: Volume 1 (Mercury Nashville)

If Chris Stapleton didn't really exist, we would have to invent him—a burly country singer with hair down to his nipples and a chainsaw of a soul-slinging voice who writes terrific throwback outlaw-indebted country songs and who wholesale rejects modern country trends. Stapleton's recent rise to festival headliner status is one of the biggest country music surprises in recent years, but his fans were relieved this year that his success didn't find him straying from his traditional wheelhouse. The first installment of From a Room once again finds Stapleton singing the hell out of his sturdy original songs. A Willie Nelson cover is not unwelcome either, as he unearths a semi-obscure one. The rest is made up of first-rate tales of commonality: Whether he's singing about hard-hurtin' breakups or resorting to smoking them stems, we've all been there. -- Steve Leftridge

6. Carly Pearce – Every Little Thing (Big Machine)

Many of the exciting young emerging artists in country music these days are women, yet the industry on the whole is still unwelcoming and unforgiving towards them. Look at who's getting the most radio play, for one. Carly Pearce had a radio hit with "Every Little Thing", a heartbreaking ballad about moments in time that in its pace itself tries to stop time. Every Little Thing the album is the sort of debut that deserves full attention. From start to finish it's a thoroughly riveting, rewarding work by a singer with presence and personality. There's a lot of humor, lust, blues, betrayal, beauty and sentimentality, in proper proportions. One of the best songs is a call for a lover to make her "feel something", even if it's anger or hatred. Indeed, the album doesn't shy away from a variety of emotions. Even when she treads into common tropes of mainstream country love songs, there's room for revelations and surprises. – Dave Heaton

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