The Tacoma Crew Talks New Music and Expectations
UGLYFRANK, Khris P, and Glenn (then known as EvergreenOne) caught lightning in a bottle with their self-titled debut ILLFIGHTYOU in 2013. It happened serendipitously with no real plan; just 3 friends in Tacoma having a good time, accidentally putting out a cult-classic rap tape. FRANK had only started rapping the year before, soooo you know… just normal friend stuff.
Their song titles are all caps / no spaces. They’re frequently described as “aggressive.” The music is noisy, but shy of abrasive. What makes them such standouts is intangible. They aren’t doing anything that crazy or different. ILLFIGHTYOU simply make excellent rap songs with impressively adept technical ability and gritty subject matter. They aren’t reinventing the wheel; they’ve got wheels that make off-roading seem like a smooth ride.
Khris P’s production is carefully curated chaos, and the rapper’s ability to stay on theme and complement each other make for extremely cohesive projects. FRANK’s 2014 BOBBY HILL EP sees him stepping into the spotlight, proving to be a perfectly capable solo artist and mind-bogglingly proficient rapper. The group’s 2015 follow-up, CASHINTHEBATHROOM EP, is brief but banging, and noticeably missing Glenn. He was going through “life stuff” at the time, but he’s back and ready to work with his solo record GLENNGLENNGLENN expecting a January release before a new ILLFIGHTYOU full length sometime next year.
“Like are people even going to like us? We’re a little too much.” – GlenN
Their lackadaisical release schedule, and living in the rap universe equivalent of the sticks, has given them “rare” status. That’s beneficial these days; now when they pop up for a performance or interview it seems important and anticipated. But with added eyes and adoration comes pressure. When you make something great by accident, how do you recreate that energy on purpose? In the case of ILLFIGHTYOU, you just let it happen when it happens.
I caught up with the fellas while they were in LA to talk about maintaining a good group dynamic, and living up to expectations.
Tacoma isn’t really known as an epicenter of rap music, so what’s it like trying to make it work as a group living there?
I have to let them know it’s not that cool. Like I’m still working here, paycheck to paycheck.
Khris P. (KP): To me that was always part of the goal…to blow up an unknown place. So it’s kind of…mystical feeling. People come up to you, not to pump your head up or nothing, just like “Oh you’re a part of ILLFIGHTYOU?” There’s this excitement you can feel in people. So it’s a mystical ass feeling to me.
Glenn (G): But with such a lack of people doing it out there it can get frustrating. Sometimes it gets overwhelming, people start to expect a lot out of you. They might see us popping up on a blog – and they don’t understand really that ain’t shit – and they’ll see me bartending and want to ask 80 questions. All “ohhh Frank’s in Fader, and you guys are doing MTV, and this and that.” And I have to let them know it’s not that cool. Like I’m still working here, paycheck to paycheck. That’s an overwhelming feeling.
So you guys are getting that sort of “hometown hero” status around Tacoma? People are rooting for you?
(They all nod in agreement and say yes.)
G: It feels like it. Sometimes that feeling might fade away, but we’ll throw a show that we announce three hours in advance and a ton of people come out. To be honest we haven’t put that much music out, but it seems to be working for us.
A few years ago Seattle was having it’s big moment with Macklemore ruling the charts, then the Seahawks winning the Super Bowl. It was a big year for the Pacific Northwest. Did you guys feel any residual pride in Tacoma, being so close to Seattle?
G: No. (everyone laughs) No, absolutely not. I actually looked at it like “fuck.” Like are people even going to like us? We’re a little too much. So no I didn’t feel any pride like that.
I don’t tell them concepts, but when I’m making the beats there are concepts.
Any idea on what the tape you guys are working on now will be called?
UGLYFRANK (UF): I don’t yet…probably “Dooky Drawers” or something like that. (Hearty laughing.) We’ll probably call it “Diarrhea Comes In Like Thunder, Comes Out Like Rain.” (More laughter.)
G: We don’t ever think of concepts or names for songs or anything. Khris sends the beat and-
KP: -I don’t tell them concepts, but when I’m making the beats there are concepts. When I’m bringing the shit to them, they don’t know that I’m working with a concept theme as far as making all the beats for the project, but they know what energy to feel off of it. So as far as naming stuff, the names are usually just the names of the beat and then when it comes to the tapes it’s just something where we all go “ahhh yeah that sounds like it.”
Khris give me three adjectives that would describe a beat you’re making when you know it’ll work for ILLFIGHTYOU?
Broken, industrial, and flow
KP: Broken, industrial, and flow. I’m really into shit being fucked up. If a room’s messy I love the way it looks, I see the cool shit in the messiness. That’s why I say “broken.” And these niggas are gritty with their shit. “Flow” because obviously I know they’re going to be rapping their ass off. And then I’m just really into industrial sounds and I feel like it makes a good environment for rapping. Like Nine Inch Nails and all that shit, it’s an industrial sound. It sounds like you’re outside in a post apocalyptic place.
Let’s talk about group dynamic. Since you’re all working on solo ventures at various times, how do you decide when it’s time to come back together and work as a group?
KP: When we all like each other again.
UF: Ha ha yeah, when we’re all hanging out and not fighting each other.
G: Everything we’ve done has just been based on feeling it. We’ve been on benders and woke up in the morning in a good mood and made songs. So even when we’re not talking or hanging out a lot, and it feels like ehhhhhh maybe aren’t going to do another project…it’s like nah, it’s going to happen, we just base it off feeling. When we’re all ready, vibing.
Right, I’ve noticed that sometimes with rap groups it can feel like friendships just turn into working relationships. Have you guys had any of that?
That’s the crazy thing about the first project. It was really just us getting together. It was never our intention for it to become…a thing
KP: Nah. I know personally it hasn’t been that way. It really still feels like hanging out with my friends. You know how you can be like playing in a rec league or some shit, and be hooping, and for that 3 months of the summer they can be like “Yeah nigga let’s go hoop…let’s hoop…let’s hoop.” But then for the rest of the year you might just be seeing them, but you ain’t thinking about hooping. That’s how it really feels. Sometimes we’re just like “alright let’s work on something right now, we ain’t did this in a minute.” That’s the crazy thing about the first project. It was really just us getting together. It was never our intention for it to become…a thing. That was never the intention. It was really just getting together and being like “let’s make some good music.” That’s just how ILLFIGHTYOU happened.
“For the record: I can’t fight. I never fight.” – UGLYFRANK
Since you guys happened as an accident has it been harder, or have you felt more pressure, to recreate that magic from the first project?
KP: Yeah, you don’t want to force it.
UF: That’s why we haven’t dropped a project in so long.
G: That’s the answer for all the kids that ask “when, why, when?” It’s because the way the first one came out. It’s been kind of difficult to recreate that feeling. But I don’t think we’re trying to recreate it, we’re just working when it feels right.
A lot of acts move from their hometown to a bigger city after getting their first bit of traction. What made you guys decide to stay in Tacoma?
UF: I look at it like basketball. I’d rather have my team grinding from the same spot and win a championship [than jump ship to a bigger team in a bigger city]. We’re doing pretty decent, and people see us like, “damn y’all are doing good being from here.” But I want us to have mansions in Tacoma, type shit.
ILLFIGHTYOU…one word, all caps…it’s a very abrasive / in your face name. How did that come about?
G: (sheepishly) I’ve always been a pretty good fighter and like…tough guy. But I don’t think they knew that about me. My best friend growing up was a straight head-knocker. When he was a freshman he was beating up seniors. By senior year he was beating up older guys that were trying to get into the UFC. So my whole time growing up I was forced to fight tougher guys.
I’ve always been a pretty good fighter and like…tough guy
One night these cheerleaders invited us to a party. There were these guys my friend had beat up before, these big ass dudes. They were on their way out and acted like everything was cool, went to dap my friend up and just WHOPPPP. Like turned him in, fully like 4 golf ball knots on his head. I’d never seen him get beat up. I was the only one that jumped in and I got stomped out for like a minute.
By the time I wake up, I have gravel all in my face and shit, but my friend looks at me like “we’re going back.” So we go back up to the party, and he throws a pumpkin through a glass door, we charge back in and I beat up like 8 or 9 people. It was pretty bad. That was one of my biggest fighting stories. Then Khris heard that story through another person.
KP: I was like “ILLFIGHTYOU” got to be it.
G: You know they both have some scrappiness too. We were sparring up and Khris punched me in the chin and I was like damn he can fight too. But I’m never looking for fights.
UF: For the record: I can’t fight. I never fight.
(Everyone laughs, roasting ensues)