Artist Spotlight: Minus the D
Everyone’s favorite Shakespearean rappers, the Q Brothers, unleash their explicit alter egos as the Retar Crew, bringing their hilarious homage to classic ‘90s hip-hop to the BMF stage.
"It’s one part celebration of guy groups from the '50s and '60s that used to dance behind the lead singer and wear the same outfits, and one part golden era 90s DJ Premier and Guru-type classic hip-hop show. When you combine all this with the sensibilities of The Simpsons and Monty Python, you get the Retar Crew”
So, just to get this straight, the Retar Crew is the same personnel as the Q Brothers, just doing a different show?
“You’ve got that right, yes."
Okay, great—so how did everything get started with the Retar Crew?
"We were performing our adaptation of Shakespeare’s 'Much Ado About Nothing' in Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival, doing 28 out of 30 days, and doing a fair amount of partying through the whole run. After the shows, the four of us would walk through the streets coming up with really funny hooks and choruses and song ideas where we would make fun of ourselves and/or anything around us. We decided we wanted to create a theatrical experience within the premise of a hip-hop group doing a set onstage, and so we came up with the Retar Crew.
Where does the show you’re doing this year, Minus the D, come from in terms of inspiration?
"Rap takes itself very seriously, and it didn’t always. We’re old school hip-hop heads and big fans of Monty Python and the Pharcyde…there are a lot of comedic hip-hop acts out there where it feels like hip-hop is the butt of the joke; with us, we are the butt of the joke. Tenacious D is a good comparison; they’re not making fun of rock, they’re revering rock and making fun of themselves. If you love golden era ‘90s hip-hop, you are gonna freak out because it’s like going back to a time when people actually had fun at rap shows and danced and laughed at themselves. We loved hip-hop culture when it wasn’t pop culture, and we still revere the lyricism of that counter-culture. ”
On the relationship between lyrics and the music in a live hip-hop show:
“With the Shakespeare stuff when we’re the Q Brothers, we have had to build the music to support the fact that every single word matters, and we’ve gained the experience to treat the music for Minus the D in the same way. When you’re doing a whole hip-hop opera, you can have big production numbers that you want to flesh out sonically, but for the scenes in between, you need to keep them skeletal because the main instrument has to be the words. If there’s too much of a mood on a beat, the actors won’t be able to play dynamics; you still need the vocals to be able to dictate whether things are getting darker, or lighter, or going somewhere else. If you put too much into the music there, the actor won’t have enough freedom to pull all that off. Because we’ve been making the music for our productions for 20 years, we know how to make the jokes land and keep the storytelling in the pocket.”
On what Bear Music Festivalgoers can expect from Minus the D:
"We’ve put together a hilarious, dirty hip-hop cabaret from The Retar Crew. It’s gritty, self-deprecating, and explicit, and we push the limits of language and what’s appropriate in a song; usually people can’t believe that someone put this kind of stuff into a song…basically, it’ll make a great late-night show when people have had a couple of drinks and are feeling loose—we can’t wait!"