Check Other
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The past couple of decades have seen many Houston hip-hop artists make their mark on the national (and sometimes international) level, spreading the chopped and screwed style for which the city has become known. While syrup sippers and Willie D wannabes still abound, there's at least one Bayou City-based group of MCs who consistently deliver intelligent rhymes and attention-grabbing beats. Check Other, a collective of four skilled and driven wordsmiths, refuse to cave to any pressures to dilute their product. Their focus is on delivering meaningful, high-quality hip-hop that speaks to a diverse array of music lovers.

We had the opportunity to sit down with these talented MCs (Tommy Bumps, Sid, Mr. Mention, and Sunny D. Cypher) and learn more about their motivations, their dreams, and their plans for the future. Check out the interview, photos, and a video after the jump.
BOT: Explain the meaning behind the name 'Check Other.'

Sid: The name 'Check Other' came to be after we were all pretty much formed and established, after we started making the music. We started getting serious about taking it to the next level. Of course the name issue came up, and we threw around a bunch of different ideas. One of my suggestions was 'Check Other,' because it was hard to pinpoint our sound and the type of music that we make. It wasn't like classic West Coast or classic East Coast or down South or anything like that. It's more like a mixture of a whole bunch of things - reggae, Spanish and, of course, mainly hip-hop. But I just thought, when you're filling out an application and they ask you to define yourself, a lot of times nowadays people will check 'other' because they're more than one thing. They're not just white or black or Native American or whatever - they're a bunch of things. So I said, "What about Check Other?" And it stuck - everybody liked it.

Tommy Bumps: We represent that in our music as well as in our personalities. All of us are different nationalities, different backgrounds. When people meet us, they say we're different anyway, so Check Other just kind of fits with our personalities as well as with our music.

BOT: How did you all meet?


Sid
Sid: Bumps is my brother. We moved from California to Atlanta in '97, and we met Mention there. We just started kicking it around '98, and became friends at first. We messed around with music, but we were mainly friends. Fast forward maybe five or six years: circumstances made us come to Houston, where I went to school and met Sunny D. Cypher at the Art Institute of Houston. We were both studying culinary art. We connected and found out that we both had an interest in music.

Mr. Mention: Initially our friendship was completely based on...marijuana. [laughs] That's what we did, that's what brought us together. I brought a whole bunch of tapes with me from New York. It was cool because I was somewhat ignorant of what the West Coast hip-hop scene was like. And they didn't know too much about the East Coast shit. There were certain artists that they were listening to for a long time that I didn't really know about and vice versa. After that we all figured out that not only did we like hip-hop, but we were able to do it as well.

Sunny D. Cypher: We had a couple of other members we were working with before, but they didn't really work out too well. We kind of just came together - all the best people stuck together. [laughs all around]

Bumps: The best combination. [laughs]

BOT: Hey, we've been there. Sometimes it's necessary.

Sid: It's basically like life: sink or swim.

BOT: What do you think about the state of hip-hop today?


Mention
Mention: I think music has always been at the top of things as far as a driving force behind a lot of things that go on in the world. Not necessarily meaning that people get shot because of music, but a lot of people get inspired because of music. Of course, hip-hop has come a long way. It's thirty years old now, and so many hands have dealt with it. It's almost like the Bible - it's been edited so many times and you don't know what the fuck to believe. A lot of the kids that are growing up now listening to hip-hop don't really have a good sense of loving the stuff that came before them, as opposed to reggae, where you have to kind of know the old tunes or else you'll feel like a dumbass, because they're gonna play those old tunes wherever you go. You go to hip-hop spots now and they don't play that old shit anymore, so the kids don't really know the history of how far it's come.

Sid: Hip-hop now is controlled by different people than 20, 30 years ago. Is it a good thing? Is it a bad thing? It's making money, that's for damn sure. It's funny because the Internet makes things so accessible, but you still have to search a lot harder for the good things. There's good hip-hop out there - they just make the watered-down stuff so easy. You hear it on the radio, you hear it on commercials, you hear it, you hear it. They don't push the really good stuff like that. All in all, [hip-hop] is controlled by different people now, but on the flip side it's so powerful and it was started so purely that I don't think it will ever die off. Yes, it's watered-down and mainstream, but the good stuff is still out there. And that's what I hope this group tries to promote.

BOT: What's the driving force behind your music?

Cypher: Quality. It's so easy to sell out if you want to make money. You can always adjust your style to make money. You gotta stay focused and keep coming with the real. But the artists who look the dumbest and talk about the least are the ones who make all the money. You gotta resist temptation and stay focused. And that's what we're going to try to do.

Mention: Another driving force behind the stuff we're doing is the fact that we actually have the ability to make good hip-hop music. And when you know you've got something, you want to show the world. I think we all understand what it is to make good hip-hop, and what the world recognizes.

BOT: Who's your target audience?

Sid: I think we're happy with giving it to real hip-hop fans, true music lovers who can appreciate a good song or creativity in music.

Mention: Anybody that doesn't mind something being honest. There are artists out there who purposely make songs for the record, purposely say shit for the record. We have songs that are honest. It's not a forced issue with us.


Cypher
Cypher: If it's a real song, you don't have to think about the topics. If it's a natural song, then it's real. And that's good music - hip-hop or any genre of music.

Mention: So our target audience is anyone who feels our honesty and would allow us to be ourselves through the music.

BOT: What other artists out right now would you compare yourselves to?

Sid: If we had to compare ourselves to someone, I would hope that it would be a group like De La Soul, for the simple fact that they're actually a group. You rarely see groups together, and if they are together it's just to promote themselves, and then they go off and do their solo thing. But De La - they're still doing it together. Mixtapes and albums - hopefully that's where we can be in twenty years.

BOT: Who are some of your other biggest musical influences?

Cypher: I like MC's that can spit. As long as you got lyrics, your rhyme sends that chill down my spine when you bust, no matter what kind of style.

Sid: Devin the Dude is somebody that I look up to. He combines a lot of elements and makes it sound really, really good.

Bumps: I've always been influenced by old '70s artists. Nothing's better to me than to hear a nice riff from a blues guitar or even a rock song that just catches your ear. It's a feeling you get when you hear a certain type of music that you dig. It's something that turns on in your head - it's euphoric, kinda like...I don't wanna say sex. But maybe close to it.

Mention: I came to the States in '86 and everything I heard up to that point and even afterwards growing up was Spanish music. Spanish ballads, accordions, a lot of guitars. But hip-hop fascinated me even in the islands, so when I got to the States it was inevitable because I moved to the south Bronx and the scene was crazy then. I had to learn about the soul stuff and the jazz stuff myself - through hip-hop actually. I got into it like, "What are they sampling? What is this?" And then I would learn later that those sounds came from another record.
BOT: What's your favorite part of performing live?

Mention: The girls. [laughs] My favorite part of performing live is being able to be myself on stage and connect with somebody - making eye contact with someone, making them smile maybe.

Cypher: It might sound egotistical, but sometimes I like it better when you've got the cats in the crowd that don't give you any response - they sit there and they smirk, and they're fronting. But you know you're giving them something hot, and they're trying hard not to show that they like it, but you know they're loving that shit. Sometimes when you step off stage and people come to you, and they're like, "That was tight," that feels good. I like to tell people that I can do it, especially the doubters.

BOT: What's your biggest goal for the next year, and for the next five years?

Sid: I'd say exposure. Shows. I think that's the main thing we're trying to do.


Bumps
Bumps: This is kind of a cliche - a lot of artists start out doing music for the love, and they're like, "I don't even care about the money, man, I just wanna make my music." I think that even if we didn't have a potential outlet to show our talent to the world, we'd still be doing this. Every Sunday we'd be in that apartment making tracks, eating food. That's just what we do, that's just part of our friendship. But we really wanna just try to solidify ourselves as musicians and to make a living at this - not get rich, but hopefully this will be an every day thing.

Mention: In the next five years, we hope to be doing as many shows and festivals as possible. We also really want to try to concentrate on Europe and places like Japan - just overseas, period. I think there's no other place in the world where they're still absorbing that grassroots hip-hop. That's what we're all about - we're all about sampling and big beats and hard-core rhymes. The US still hasn't established a core audience that fucks with that. But overseas is where it's at. Those people there are actin' like it's '82.

BOT: What's your favorite non-musical activity?

Sid: I think a few of us have the same thing in common - like I said, I met Cypher in culinary school, so-

Cypher: We throw down in the kitchen.

Sid: We all get down.

Mention: We can get down in the kitchen. I think overall, entertaining - having people over, eating, drinking, watching the game, you know.

Sid: Smoking weed, man. I love to smoke weed. [laughs] I do like to travel - if I can travel, I love to do that. But smoking weed and cooking, man. I think those two are the things that I do most outside of music.

Cypher: Good combination. In the right order too.

Mention: Put this in bold, okay? [laughs] To all the ladies reading this: We like to smoke weed, and we like to cook.

Bumps: We get high...get in contact with us! [laughs] We're on the Internet.

BOT: Do you have a dream venue where you'd like to play?

Bumps: The Colosseum - that's right, baby! I'm gonna be right there in the middle!

Cypher: Woodstock.


Mention: The older I get, the more I'm leaning towards benefits, you know what I mean-

Sid: Like the President's inauguration?

Mention: Like the Tibetan Freedom Concert, stuff like that. Events where we can get people from all walks of life.

Bumps:If we're performing at home, in front of family members and people who knew us when we were small and see us now, for me that would probably be my dream venue. I guess we all have that little, I don't want to say arrogance - but we want to show the naysayers or whatever.

BOT: So because of that, is that who you're speaking to?

Bumps: Our music doesn't really promote any negative-

BOT: But even in the positive sense, like all your family and friends-

Bumps: Oh, definitely. I mean, our motto is 'Family First' (fam1ly). We try to make the kind of music that our people will be proud of, and the kind of music that we want to stay true to.

[Conversation degenerates into a chaotic jumble about real estate, a hip-hop cafe, Snoop Dogg omelettes, and Check O toilet paper and tablecloths]

Sid: I just want people to give us a chance. That's all I'm asking. Listen to it, if you like it, cool. Check it out. Check O.

Bumps: First and foremost, we do this for the love of it. We do this for the culture - all of us are really deep into culture, we live it every single day of our lives. We express it in the way we interact with people, the way we go about our everyday lives.





- Breakfast On Tour(www.breakfastontour.com)


http://www.blogtalkradio.com/bew/2008/03/14/tba - Be Worldwide Radio


Discography

Check Other EP; 2006
Check Other The Album;2007
Westheimer Traffik:The Mixtape;2008

Photos

Bio

Check Other represents the spirit of individuality without the fear of ridicule, reinforced with a strong belief in family coming first (fam1ly). With beats that are filled with DeLa Soul and lyrics that we derive from our Tribe Called Quest, Check Other brings the Brand Nubian music to the people, as Leaders of the New School with Native Tongues. We stay away from the mindless mainstream sound of some popular music, and are far from the mundane "62 bar" verse style of some underground hip-hop. We have no recognized style, that's why you should Check Other. The “Check O Fam” is just that. A family of two brothers by blood and a collective of four brothers by dope beats and rhymes, brought together by fate to form the hip-hop Voltron and slay all the wanna be lions in the game. With cut throat punch lines and an East Coast swagger all his own, Mr. Mention does his name justice by finessing any tune with a delivery that will make UPS jealous. To accommodate the lyrical aggressiveness of “Mention” comes Sid Vic. An MC that never met a beat he couldn’t bully. Showing no mercy on a track, “Sid” translates his deeply rooted Harbor City influence into a raspy display of honesty in every rhyme. Before the bruises must come the bumps, Tommy Bumps that is. As 1/2 of the auditory rhythm of Check Other, “Bumps” embraces his left coast culture by creating a soulful soundtrack with a lyrical narration for “heads” to rock their life to. Bating clean up is Sunny D. Cypher, the other half of the Check’s creative melody making. The California born MC perfects the usage of abstract metaphors accompanied by a “take no prisoners” persona on the mic. With tracks that will make a Nun nod, “Sunny D” completes the four-man “wack MC” assault team. ..