One of the newest acts in the ever-growing Chicago Renaissance is a duo that goes by the name of Angry Blackmen. Despite literally having the word angry in their name, the duo made up of Brian Warren and Quentin Branch are actually one of the most easy going guys you’ll ever meet, and their music is reflective of that. Their first single “OK!” was released in March and is an upbeat, easy-going track and their most recent single “Smile” is an ode to Black Boy Magic.
I had the chance to speak with them last week, and despite their limited body of work together as a duo, they show a lot of promise and I was sold on their potential. It’s time that you should get know the Angry Blackmen:
Question: How did you guys first decide to form a duo?
Quentin Branch: Basically, we met at a music video shoot by my friend Eric, and we exchanged info and just stayed in contact. This was in 2014, so it kinda happened naturally. At first, I really wasn’t fucking with being a part of duo, but I thought about it and decided that we make good music together. Plus as a duo we can rebrand ourselves as artists so we just did it.
Brian Warren: Late last year was when I brought up the idea that we should do a duo, and he was like “No! Let’s just stay solo since we’re just already doing our thing,” and I was like if you say so. Then it was in December that we got on the phone again and decided to do it, and literally as we were on the phone talking about it, he was drawing the logo. Then he sent the pic, and I was just like, we need to get that to be official, and then he sent the logo to this dude named Wesley who added his own special thing to it. Once he kicked it back to us, we decided that we were going to rock with it. So we really became official in January. We made “OK!” and got Ric Wilson to mix it, and then we dropped it in March.
Q: Who are your musical influences?
QB: Tyler for sure. I love him, he makes great production. Childish Gambino was the one who really got me into rap. Like I liked it before, but he really got me into it. I also really like Pharell’s production and try to infuse that poppy sound he’s known for. Then The Internet, Steve Lacy, and recently, Brockhampton
BW: For me, I gotta shout out the man Chance The Rapper. He’s just goes so hard. J. Cole, Kendrick, Eminem, he’s just so magical with his metaphors and punches. Then also Meek Mill for his punches. I’ll also say, and a lot of people really don’t say this, but battle rap. I don’t even know if they write their bars, but it’s just so creative with how they do it.
Q: What’s the reception been like to your music? Did that help reaffirm your decision to be a duo?
QB: When we first released “OK!” the reception was actually really good. I surprised actually because although I expected it to be popular, I wasn’t expecting it to get it tweeted by EARMILK or Ric Wilson, even though he said gonna do it, it’s one of those things where you never know. Then Rich Jones retweeted it and his manager retweeted it, so it was just getting a bunch of love. It was then that we definitely decided to keep this going. We knew we had something.
BW: I’ll say that when we created “OK!” we actually made it in a Krispy Kreme parking lot out in Homewood. We were just out there playing the instrumental, and then we just vibed off it and went off the type of energy we had. When we hear a beat, we basically freestyle to see who will sound better rapping on it and who can do the chorus. With the reception though, the energy of the people who reacted to it kept us going since we just had people talking about “This is really dope! This is hot!” Everybody was loving it, so we kept going.
QB: When we dropped “Smile” though, I was definitely scared a little just because we made something that was getting a lot of great feedback, but you never know what their expectations are like for the sequel. It’s like how it is with movies, you know? Like the original is usually always better.
BW: Yeah, we were definitely a little nervous just because we were like “damn, people are just gonna want something OK! related,.” When we made “Smile,” it’s more different since we made that as result of what’s going on with this whole racist, KKK, white supremacist stuff going on. “Smile” is something we made to kinda talk about that because as much as what’s going on in the world and how hard it is for a Black man, we still need something to smile about. That’s where the chorus comes from, “Let me see that Black boy smile.”
QB: With “OK!” it’s definitely a song for everyone. It’s like asking are you feeling okay as a person, but with “Smile” we definitely made for Black people, which makes it more more political. All of our songs are for sure going to have those type of messages.
Q: Hip-hop is going in a new direction. Traditionally, it’s always been very aggressive and gangsta rap has been probably been the most popular subgenre of hip-hop for a while, but now we have guys like Tyler, The Creator and Joseph Chilliams who embrace a carefeee nature and you guys have a sound similar to that. How do you feel this new direction?
QB: Yeah, you know when I was young, it was like if you weren’t about that life, it was like “you’re not Black enough.” I hate that. Like, I love anime and listen to bands, and dudes would look at me like “Really?” But now it’s cool because now we got dudes like Tyler rapping about being cute and shit and it allows us to actually be ourselves.
BW: I actually love it because hip-hop is finally not boring anymore. Like not that it was ever bad, but it got to a point where it was like “What else is there?” Now though, people can finally talk about other shit. Like maybe I don’t want to rap about stealing your girl or getting money. Like it’s cool if your getting money, but how’s your day going? What’s going on in Chicago that we don’t know? Bring that up and put some flavor on it. If you don’t have enough knowledge of what you look like, you basically a misfit in the world. How are you doing just as a person? People are rapping about that finally. There’s a lot more variety and we can finally talk and listen about things that weren’t really talked about, and it’s dope to be a part of that movement.