The members of Portland-based rap group Animal Farm grew up idolizing such legendary rap outfits like De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, Organized Konfusion, Wu-Tang Clan and The Roots. But when Gen.Erik, Hanif Wondir, F-1 and Serge Severe started making moves as a unit, there weren’t many modern-day rap groups to look to for inspiration.
That’s because in the last decade-plus, the rap business has focused on producing solo artists, leaving groups struggling to gain a foothold in an industry that seems to have little interest for them.
“It’s a lot easier to brand one person, stick them in a box and be like this is who they are,” Gen.Erik says. “With us, it’s really been important with our music to show all sides of our personality and that’s really the benefit of doing it independently. We don’t have anyone telling us, ‘OK, this is the type of rapper you are.’ If we want to do a party track, we’ll do a party track. If we want to do something that’s political, that’s what we’ll do. We don’t have anyone bossing us around, telling us what our personality should be.”
Down to Business
But what Animal Farm does have is internal push, something that makes its recently released “Culture Shock” album so compelling. The collection includes the soulful rap business expose “Down To Business” and the spirited lyrical exercise “Test Of Time” with Talib Kweli. As is evident on these cuts, the group members work together to make its material as strong as possible.
The same policy extends to the group’s renowned stage show. “It’s been really important for us because we can feed off each other’s energy and that really allows us to put on a much liver stage show and engage the crowd more,” Gen.Erik says. “I think that a lot of artists today are kind of getting lazy, just walking around the stage. It’s always a key point of how we sell ourselves, our live show. We really focus on that.”
Animal Farm has also had to focus on the reality that as they strive to push the group forward, individual acclaim and attention will likely take a back seat. “In order to be in a group, you really have to put your ego aside because it’s not just about you shining,” Gen.Erik says. “It’s about working together to make a project that everyone enjoys. To be able to sustain that is a really tough thing because there’s different personalities. Everyone has their own preferences. We’ve been lucky to be able to do this, to get along and to have a good time along the way.”
“We’re just lucky enough to be tight as friends,” adds Hanif. “We’ve known each other long enough that we know can work together and keep building.”
For more from Soren Baker follow him on Twitter: @SorenBaker.