Wednesday, December 1, 2010

BR & Time Bomb

By Muhaimin Nor and Stacy Beatty Jr.
BR & Timebomb are making headway as NYC's freshest and most unique hip-hop group. Using live instruments, gritty life-inspired raps, and the fundamental elements of hip-hop, BR & Timebomb pay homage to music pioneers the Roots all while maintaining their own acquired sound.

Where do you draw your unique style from?
We draw our style from our influences. All six of us grew up listening to different types of music, both what our parents played and what we got into on our own. This ranged from jazz, rock, classical, funk, R&B, salsa, and hip-hop of course.

What's the best part about doing hip-hop live with a band? What's the crowds usual reaction?
The best part is probably the energy we draw from each other and from the crowd. We usually get a reaction that changes from not knowing what to expect in the beginning, to jumping around and dancing with us after one or two songs.

Was Timebomb a band before BR assembled it? How did you guys all get together?
BR put the band together, but some of us had played together before in other groups. Stacy, Shanelle, and Jibrail have been playing together in different bands since high school. BR and Jibrail were in another hip-hop band, The Higher Circle, for a few years. When BR decided he wanted to start his own thing, it only made sense for him to bring in his brother (Jibrail) and Stacy and Shanelle. BR knew Olivia through mutual friends and ran into her on the train around the time everything started. Karnage joined the band in 2008 after our last guitarist left, and we had been playing without one for awhile.

How does the writing process work? Raps then music? Music then raps? Does either party have a say in what the other is doing?
The writing process can differ from song to song. Sometimes BR comes in with verses, a couple choruses, partial melodies and beats. Sometimes Shanelle comes in with everything but the rhymes. Sometimes another member of the band or two will come in with a couple musical parts, and we fill in the rest together. BR writes all of the rhymes, but the rest of the band makes suggestions on subject matter. Everyone has a say in the music.

Describe a typical performance?
It's hard to describe a typical performance for us, because every venue and situation is different. But the energy between the crowd and us is most important. We like to get as close to them as possible, which often means jumping off the stage and performing in the audience. Karnage gets the crowd to sing along and keeps up the momentum in between songs. We often improvise new parts of the set, even whole new songs, especially if we have a lot of time to play with.

Why should people listen to BR and Timebomb? What makes you different than someone like the Roots?
First off, all respect due to the Roots. They were the first group to get worldwide recognition doing hip-hop this way. People should listen to us for our particular spin on live hip-hop. No one else is doing it with a trumpet player who also sings soulfully, and a violinist, and a tight rhythm section and a lyricist versatile enough to say something relevant and get a party started.

How important is preserving the authenticity of hip-hop?
Preserving the authenticity of music, period, is important. People have really lowered their standards in the last ten years or so, and allowed people who can't sing, or write anything original, or play an instrument, or dance on the beat to tell them what they should buy and listen to. We all grew up with hip-hop and lived through its different eras. We're not trying to take it backwards, but want to move it forwards while retaining quality.

What inspires you guys to keep pressing on and making music?
The legends who still create, inspire us. New people who come along doing something positive and innovative inspire us. Our God and our families and friends inspire us. We push each other to keep doing this.

Biggest rock star moment? Worst failure moment?
Our biggest rock star moments are usually playing outdoors for hundreds of people rain or shine, and watching them take cover in the rain to keep watching us until the sun comes back out. This has happened in Union Square Park, Washington Square Park, and other outdoor sites all over NYC. It’s also gratifying anytime the audience sings along the lyrics to a song or demands an encore. Our worst failures usually result from miscommunication with the venue or the promoter. You show up somewhere and the timing and the backline are all messed up, and you may end up playing late with bad sound for 5 or 6 of your friends.

Biggest show venue wise, biggest show capacity wise?
Our biggest venues have probably been the Bell House, Studio 54, Webster Hall and the Apollo Theatre. Our biggest capacity was probably the Atlantic Antic this past September where we played for 600 people, approximately.

Where is the band in the next 5 years?
In the next five years, we'll have put out a few more records and toured both nationwide and internationally, with more intense distribution of our products.

Briefly talk about and describe your first album. Where can you get it?
Our first album, "Believe in Something (Greater Than Yourself)," is the culmination of years of work. It came out right around the time BR's first son was born, and BR and Jibrail's mom passed away. It was our first opportunity to record songs we had been performing and perfecting for years, some with outside producers and some we had composed completely in-house. It took years to finish and we had to go through a couple of engineers and studios to finally get it the way we wanted. "Believe..." is available on itunes, CDBaby, Napster, Emusic, etc., as well as via paypal on our website,

Anything else you want people to know?
We just released a new EP, "Time Is Now," in September and it is available in the same places as our first project. We are doing a couple big shows for the start of the new year, and all the information for those is on our website as well.

Photo by Kimberly Nicholais

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