Photo via UAP Instagram/POW Recordings

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Kevin Crandall is patiently waiting for the Rudy Gobert vs. Skip Bayless pay-per-view.

Members of Congress are currently pushing for national security agencies to take the numerous sightings of unexplained aerial phenomena throughout the United States more seriously. While I am not privy to the conversations that happen behind the closed doors of Washington on the spotting of potential astral technology, I imagine angry politicians beside themselves arguing about the immigration process for extraterrestrials while Unexplained Aerial Phenomenon’s (U.A.P.) “3D” music video blares in the background. The video, depicting the invasion of Earth by celestial rapper Bryson The Alien and the abduction of a conspiratory Open Mike Eagle, acts as the foremost proof of alien activity these hearings have at their disposal (outside of, well, the entirety of Area 51).

The hip hop group consisting of psychedelic electronic duo Pioneer 11 and Portland’s Bryson The Alien has been busy these past couple of years, depositing singles into the ether and putting out music videos showcasing their cosmic exploits. Their debut album, aptly named Casual Abductions, dropped last week via POW Recordings, and within it you can find a plethora of what they describe as “weird raps for weird people.” With guest verses from Fat Tony, Lil B, Open Mike Eagle, and a slew of POW Recording artists (Fatboi Sharif, Outlaw Mel, Kent Loon, Chester Watson, and Archibald Slim), U.A.P.’s debut contorts wills and opens minds through stardust infused raps—you haven’t heard an album like this one. Casual Abductions blends psychedelia, space, and the break within a Pioneer 11 soundscape that warps through your soul as you feel yourself ascend to the mothership via Bryson’s muses.

Made over the course of the past two years, Casual Abductions is a pandemic album. Recording happened in home studios, including a shed in Bryson’s backyard where he had to wake up at three in the morning to beat out his neighbors’ chickens for optimal sound. The cohesiveness of the project, as well as the comfortability these three artists have with each other is incredible given that they had never even met in person until after the album was mostly finished. The trust and vulnerability of that process shines within: Bryson’s hypnotic timbre melds effortlessly with the disorienting vibrations of Pioneer 11’s bass and drums; the idea that they had never passed a joint together until after the music was created is almost unfathomable.

During our conversation, Bryson told me: “I don’t want the alien thing to be gimmicky… I want it to be more like pseudo-education.” U.A.P does just that. They fully embrace the conceptual side of space without falling into the pit of clichés. The history of successful a(t)lien themes within hip hop and other Black oral traditions is storied, and Casual Abductions is the latest to join that lineage. U.A.P. challenges you to open your mind to the unknown, hinting at the existence of various other dimensions—“there’s actually twelve but the one you live in is three-dimensional”—and explaining the importance of owning your masters and staying indie. Hell, I even learned that you can take a red-eye from Portland to L.A.

Fresh off the release, I was able to hop on a Zoom with Alex, Brian, and Bryson. While their dogs roamed the screens, we talked about the album, the pandemic, Sega, and more, exploring the making of the latest alien invasion to grace the Earth.

Y’all have been putting out singles since 2021, since June, when “3D” came out. How does it feel for you all to actually have the full body of work out?

Brian: It feels like you’re watching like a TV series, a season, and you’re watching each episode and you’re like “Oh, that was a great episode, that was a great episode,” and then when you watch back the whole season together, it’s like a completely different experience. So it kind of feels like that—seeing the whole circle. It feels really good.

Alex: Yeah, I agree. It’s like we’ve been listening to these songs just independently for so long, putting them out as singles and then finally stringing them together as the full album. You kind of appreciate it because we’ve been working on this for a long time. I mean it was two years ago that we started, so we’ve been living with this stuff for a long time and I feel like finally, just seeing it all together as one collection, one body at work representing this one really weird fucking time period. I guess in some weird way it’s escapism. We’re translating our experiences through this storytelling and through this art, us musically and Bryson lyrically.

I just saw something on TV that was like Fauci saying the pandemic phase is over technically, or at least right now it’s over. So putting this album out right now feels like this weird culmination of these two years that we just went through that was just the weirdest two years of probably any of our lives. It feels like as a world we’re wrapping up a chapter, and us specifically we’re wrapping up this chapter. It’s interesting. It hasn’t hit me fully, personally, that we’re done with it.

For sure. Bryson, how does it feel to you to have this full thing out?

Bryson: It’s really cool. I never thought I would have a project with this many features, because, on any of my other previous albums, I don’t think I had any. It was always just me and the producers, or me and whoever’s mixing it. So this is definitely an album that had the most input ever. It’s really interesting to see all these different pieces come together, because the album was done before for any features. All ten of the songs were already fleshed out, and then we went back and just tried to see who would be a good fit on the songs.

Yeah, we did a pretty good job finding the right people for the right beats and songs and such, so it’s cool that it’s out. Just like Alex and Brian were saying, we’ve been living with these songs for a while. And we’ve been slow dripping the singles for quite a while, so it’s cool that it’s out now just to see how it’s received. It’s one thing listening to it, sending it back and forth, but it’s a whole other thing now that it’s out in the world and people can listen to it front to back. It’s a milestone for us for sure.

How does it feel to have an album out with so many of your label mates? Have you ever felt this level of collaboration within the label before?

Alex: It speaks in a weird way to how Brian and I, as Pioneer 11, have progressed as a duo. I feel like POW is predominantly a hip hop label and we’ve always been the electronic duo—guitar and bass, more instrumentation. I think that it speaks to how broad Jeff’s taste is; he’s not just focused on any particular thing. I think that being a different kind of genre than the rest of the artists, we’ve always wanted to be able to work with them.

The Pioneer 11 stuff we’ve thought about featuring various hip hop artists on it, but it’s kind of more dance music and we’ve struggled to find a place for it. So with this U.A.P. project it feels like we can actually kind of connect all the worlds together. It’s been great collaborating with everybody, and Bryson is the core of all of it. The metaphor is the one we use in the album, which is like abducting these different artists. Pioneer 11 are the engineers in the spaceship and Bryson’s the guy flying, and we’re abducting these different people. That escapism is probably what got us through the pandemic.

You all met and became friends around 2019, yeah?

Brian: Yeah on Twitter through DMs, respecting each other’s work and stuff.

When did you all really decide to start making music together?

Brian: When we first started talking we were just like, some time we should work on something. Then, I think it was April 7th, 2020, Bryson DMed us basically saying “I’m ready to record, send me stuff.” We were three weeks into the pandemic and we were “okay.” We had a batch of beats that were in our archives for—“Régine” and the “Bulls vs. Pistons ‘91” beat—and we always thought they would be good for hip hop and stuff. So we sent a small batch to Bryson, and he sent back all the vocals for all the songs after a few days or something.

Then we were like “Oh shit, this is fun.” It’s fun to have our inbox filled with creativity. Then we started making some more stuff because we were like, “oh, we should keep doing this,” so we started making more beats. Some of the beats on the album were created at the same time as Bryson. We would make a new beat, send it. He would send us back the song, all of the vocals. It was addicting almost; nothing else was going on and it was really fun.

Alex: Bryson would take anything we would give him and work with it. I feel like that’s so rare. We trusted each other, you know. He was just like, “give me stuff and I’m just gonna do whatever I feel like doing over it.” We both just kind of did our thing, and then we put it together, and it all just worked really well. It was really easy. I feel like collaboration oftentimes should be easy, or else it’s just like getting through the tough battle. It’s always been easy with Bryson and us.

Bryson: Yeah, just like they were saying, it was during the pandemic and I have been wanting to kind of set up my studio situation, anyway. I had a couple of little things but when the pandemic happened I knew I couldn’t go anywhere and record. I just really use this project as an excuse to set everything up. I have a shed behind my house that I used to record.

Brian: I remember Bryson telling us that he was recording really early in the morning, like what time were you recording?

Bryson: Three or four in the morning.

Brian: Cause it was so quiet, right?

Bryson: Yeah.

Alex: I feel like we’re kind of on our own, we do our own stuff in general, but there wasn’t even any other alternative at this point in time, you know. It was right at that point that pandemic that we were thinking this is going on for longer than two weeks, and that this is kind of serious, and we don’t know how long it’s gonna go on for, so all our plans were just kind of like drawn out the window. I think we were both really looking for something to redirect our energy to.

With everything, to an extent, dying down at all. Have you guys met up in person and done any collaborative work in person? Or was it all done exclusively remotely and you just met up after the fact for other things?

Alex: The latter scenario. The recording was done really from…

Brian: Like April to July, 2020.

Alex: We made all those beats either right before then or right around that time. The rest of it was kind of producing it, and also getting the features. Also, us learning the differences between the more electronic guitar and based focus production that we’ve been doing and then hip hop production. There’s overlap but there’s also a lot of differences, so it was a big learning process for us from a production standpoint.

Bryson: Yeah and also I was such an amateur at recording vocals too. It was something I hadn’t done by myself usually. It was usually with other people I work with, or like somebody else would be in charge of it and I’d just lay stuff. But, during the pandemic, and still pretty much now, I’m the one going in there, setting up the track, hitting record, making sure I’m not bumping the mic, making sure I’m not peaking too loud. I have to be in charge of all of that.

So sometimes they were like, “yo man re-record this” or do this this way or, you know. I definitely had to do a few retakes just to get it better, but also just to learn how to work with my shitty ass stems as well, they just knew what to do. But yeah, I had to get up really early to do that stuff because there was just really no other time. My neighbors got chickens, so at five when they get going it’s too late. I had to beat the chickens most of the time. But it was fun, it was a challenge. It was great to have something like that to look forward to at a time where I had already got laid off from my job and everything was just keeping me in the house.

It’s back to that escapism.

Bryson: Yeah, yeah, exactly. It was cool just having this whole kind of world to play within, that ended up becoming Casual Abductions.

Do you all feel like you’ve grown a lot and become better artists through this experience? Having to do things like record your own vocals for the first time, or working on different types of beats that you might not be completely familiar with.

Brian: 100%. Hell yeah. I’m way better. My pen or my sword is way sharper than it’s been just making all of those songs. That setup that you see now is the result of improvement. Of getting into a better state to deliver better quality vocals, or whatever to mix and what not. It was a lot of learning for sure. A lot of email and back and forth. A lot of Gmail. Gmail is like a silent member of the group.

Alex: Dropbox as well.

Bryson: Hell yeah dropbox as well. Both of them. I feel like going into this next tape it’s gonna be just a whole other level, because now we’re figuring out new stuff to do. We’re gonna apply everything we learn on the first one, and then we’re gonna figure out new ways to present the music.

Brian: With the Pioneer 11 stuff I’m doing vocals, so having the opportunity to work with someone else’s vocals, and take myself out of it, that process really ended up like feedbacking into me being a vocalist as well and helping my perspective with that kind of stuff. That’d be one thing. A catalyst of improvements and stuff like that.

Where do you all feel like you’re moving from here? Have you started with your next batch?

Alex: Yeah we have.

Bryson: We’ve recorded what will probably be the next tape, did it kind of last year, kind of the same kind of process as the first one. So, now we’re just gonna look at what we did, and see if it’s still dope, and try to find the next batch of people to get on our songs and whatnot. But yeah, we recorded a big bulk of it.

Alex: Yeah, all of it.

Bryson: Yeah. Shit yeah for all I know it could be all of it, but it’s definitely underway. We’ll look at it and see what needs to be done.

Alex: We’re kind of in a state like we were at right after we sent all these beats and Bryson did all his recording. We’re kind of in that stage where we haven’t tapped the features yet. That’s kind of what I think we want this project to be. U.A.P. is a collaborative project, and Bryson is the emcee or whatever you want to call it, I don’t know what the right word for it is.

Bryson: [Laughing] Me neither.

Alex: But we’re actually talking right now about features for the next one. Do we want to get a whole new batch of artists? Do we want to try and tap some of our favorite people we worked with from the previous album, or maybe a mix of both? That’s still all kind of up in the air, but the songs themselves, weirdly, are already recorded from a creative creation standpoint. They’re sort of done in a weird way. We still have to produce them and mix them, and get the features and stuff, but yeah. We wanna keep it rolling, you know?

It’s so easy for us to make songs together. I could probably send Bryson another round of ten beats this week, and have a third project done [laughs]. You want to embrace this moment of having finished this first one, but we still have a lot more that we’re trying to make and put out. It’s really endless at this point. As long as we can keep making it up we’ll probably keep making more rounds of U.A.P. albums and just keep trying to be creative.

Keeping those weird raps for weird people going.

Alex: Yeah.

Speaking of that tagline, who came up with it?

Brian: Alex, but we’ve workshopped it. We’re always talking existentially or philosophically about communicating to the audience. Music’s the easiest way, but it’s hard to decipher sometimes. It’s always a learning process of how to communicate outside the music. We just feel like we’re doing something against the mainstream with hip-hop.

Alex: It’s funny because we are doing something against the mainstream of hip hop, but we’re not really trying to do it. The way we make music—I feel like we couldn’t make the mainstream music if we tried. When I read other people’s producer forums, I see a lot of like type beats, and we just make whatever we make. We jam out beats with our live jam setup, and then they just are whatever they are.

We were lucky enough to find Bryson as a collaborative partner who will take whatever weird shit we come up with, and he’ll do equally as weird shit. That’s who we are, why fight it. We’re Pioneer 11, it’s a space probe. He’s Bryson The Alien. We’re floating out in space. It’s just who we are. We’re not mainstream. We’re not type beats. We’re not trap or anything. Whatever it is we’re making we are, and that’s really freeing honestly. We’re fortunate that whatever this is that we do actually sounds good.

So I’m gonna pivot to y’all’s videos. You released the one for “Georgia O’Keeffe” today, and then you’ve been releasing them fairly consistently. “Snakes” dropped two weeks ago. When were the videos made? Since you needed to wait on the feature I’m assuming they were made well after the actual songs.

Brian: The “3D” video we shot in June of last year. That was the first time Bryson came to LA, and we all met for the first time and we shot the video. Then Open Mike Eagle shot it a few days later. So we did that in June, and at that same time Bryson also shot the “Régine” video because it was all green screen. Ryan Calavano shot the video, he’s great. We’ve known him for a while, he’s a really good guy. Then Fat Tony had sent us his green screen footage, and I think we put out the “Régine” video in November of last year. Then for the “Snakes” video, Bryson, you can say how you got in contact with the animator.

Bryson: Yeah. I had seen that Open Mike Eagle had an animated video called “Idaho.” The person who did that was Adam Wright, who lives in Scotland, and he goes by BrainPaintProductions. So I seen that and I was like, “oh that’s sick!” So I hit them up, and I just started telling them about the U.A.P. stuff and whatnot, and I sent them some songs and they just got really excited about it. I hit up Alex and Brian about it and then we all jumped in a call and talked about it, and just started workshopping it from there. That was around October of last year. We were pretty much jumping on calls every few weeks, just showing us sketches and ideas.

Alex: That one was in the works for about four months. He’s a lone animator who did that whole video by himself, which is mindblowing to me. He was working on his method for how he was doing it, he had found a new method for that video that he was perfecting. He had this whole vision that fit completely into our alien abduction theme of Bryson walking through the city, and turning people onto his side and abducting them. It was just really cool working with him, and to know that that was just one guy’s vision from seeing our songs is really cool.

Brian: We connected with them a lot and they were just a really kind person. That’s something that, even with POW and Jeff, we’re lucky to be working with like all these really genuine, kind people. They’ve all been the thread of this project.

Alex: Then to get to “Georgia O’Keeffe,” that one was actually a lot of fun. That one we filmed together when Bryson came to town the first week of April.

Brian: We opened for WiFi Gawd at The Smell this month.

Alex: It was our first show played together, the three of us, and it was also our first time doing more of a DJ role or kind of a backing role. It was really fun, it was different. And then Bryson was in town for about four days during that time period so we shot the “Georgia O’Keeffe” video around anywhere we could find. Rolling up a bunch of joints and cruising around and finding good spots. Yeah, we shot that one three or four weeks ago now, and then Archibald sent us his footage from Atlanta like last Friday, then we put it together.

The turnaround time was so fast on with that one, but that’s such a cool video because it really captures this moment where we’re wrapping up the album and we’re all together, hanging out. So that’s the story of the Georgia one, and we do have one more video that is in the works. It’s the Fatboi Sharif “Paz” song. We’re gonna get some footage from him soon and then we’ll have that video that we’re putting out probably in the next month or so.

So for the videos, all of them have really different vibes. Was that planned? Did you all want them to be pretty different and unique?

Brian: I think the songs dictated it a little bit.

Alex: Yeah, the songs dictate in their nature. I think the ones that Ryan did, “3D” and “Régine,” we could have done those more similarly, truthfully. But I think we wanted to show different versions of the UFO theme, with the first one being more a traditional kind of UFO, conspiracy theory theme. Then, the Fat Tony one with “Régine” is more CIA, black and white classified but also psychedelic.

Everything has a heavy dose of psychedelia. The “Snakes” one is another iteration of the abductions, UFOs—the alien themes. Then Georgia is more personal. Aside from all the fantasy, here’s a more genuine look at us and Bryson visually performing, not on a green screen floating in space and not animated, but real life, in person. And then the “Paz” one is probably gonna be weird as shit.

Bryson: Oh my god. Kevin man, this shit’s gonna be insane. There’s already a version of it that exists that I had made with my sister and some other friends that’s crazy as hell, and we’re not even using that version. There’s already a version without Fatboi Sharif that’s already pretty crazy. We’re not using that; we might use bits and pieces of it, but we’re gonna put more minds in the cloud.

Alex: Bryson did a super cool, trippy green screen video and it’s like, wow, this is trippy as FUCK. We need to go all out with this, get Sharif in the video and turn this into just some crazy shit. I’m excited to see what Sharif sends us because we love working with him, especially, because he’s such a unique mind. I’m dying to see what he’s gonna send us, because I know it’s gonna be weird.

Bryson: I love that dude so much, man. Shit, I’m texting him right now, tryna get him on some more songs. That’s my dude. I’m excited to have a video with him because his videos are crazy. I need me some of that.

With the psychedelia, I know you all wrote on Bandcamp that this album was THC infused and made microdosing psychedelics, how does opening your mind and using different psychedelics help you all in your creative process?

Alex: That’s a great question. I know that Bryce will definitely have some opinions about that one.

Brian: I’ll just say from a general standpoint. I think, often, a challenge when creating stuff is to know when to turn off your filter of what’s good and bad. Psychedelics are a helpful way to do that, where you just get into the flow state and think about whether it’s good or not some other time.

Alex: Yeah. We’re all kind of more introverted individuals and I think that weed or psilocybin or acid, any of those things, they help you get out of your head. Numb your filter a little bit and tap into more of the pure emotional kind of stuff which I think is at the core of great art. It’s that core emotion if you can just break those filters away. Yeah, and Bryson had a different experience than we did with it. So, I actually haven’t even asked him about it so I’d love to hear about it.

Bryson: Yeah, man, it’s kind of crazy but every time I tap in to do album work, I have this regiment. I have a kind of sustained binge for the two weeks or however long it takes to get all the songs right. So, that kind of routine of the creation process there’s usually, probably a little microdosing. Or I’m just beginning and I might go in there super heavy and put a lot of paint on the wall, and then kind of have small doses throughout. It just depends. I take it there with the art. I’m really trying to…I guess what I’m trying to say is I don’t want the alien thing to be gimmicky. I want it to be more like pseudo-education, even if it’s like sci-fi, it’s like you’re gonna listen to this and you’re gonna learn.

I mean you’re not going to just get situations and shit that’s like *mimicking abduction noises*; I’m gonna tell you some historical facts as well. We’re gonna talk about Roswell. Just coming at it informed in a way, like I’ll watch The X Files or I watch a lot of Star Trek and then go in there, so I’m feeling inspiration on the psychedelic angle and the educational angle. Just come in there prepared, come out the box with a new perspective. I don’t know if anything is out right now with this sort of outlook. There is so much of humans looking at the world, but I want to hear albums about some foreign entity or something from a different planet just looking around, making observations.

With those other inspirations, X Files and Star Trek and such, do you go into a certain mindset when you’re watching it to pick out certain things you might use for bars, or are you just using it to get into the vibe?

Bryson: Definitely. Hell yeah. If I’m watching Star Trek and they say the name of a race, or they’re in a certain situation, or there’s some sort of conflict that I can spin in a relevant way I definitely take note of that. But sometimes just to get in the vibes and I’m not thinking about it that deep, but certain moments might pop out or something, like a wow!

That’d be an interesting concept if I made a song about that situation, or what my perspective would be of that situation happening in front of me, or something like that. I try to put myself in those worlds sometimes, like would I do if I was there? Then make a song about it. Just the details, you know? How the spaceship looks, or the clothes they wear, or their hair or something, anything. Just trying to be like a sponge, soak it all in.

And then Alex and Brian, do y’all have certain similar things that you use for inspiration for when you’re making beats, or different albums you listen to?

Alex: I feel like we, maybe you’ll put differently, but I feel like we do listen to some stuff but I feel like nothing we listen to translates too much. I think for us it’s more about instrument choice. We take the fundamental principles of hip hop with this driving high hats in trap that become more skittery, and you add the 808 instrument in general with it, combined with various synth melodies. Those are components of a lot of hip hop we hear in general, so we take those instruments and then we just jam and play and work, really not trying to make anything in particular.

We’re just taking the instruments. It reminds me of how, in certain ways, a lot of traditional hip hop was made with those producers just using MPCs, which is what we have. They had the sounds that they had, and they had the patterns that they had, and they could just turn those into cool beats. That’s all we’re really doing. I don’t feel like we’re trying to make anything that sounds like anybody. We listen to the great, like Kendrick and that kind of stuff, but we just don’t have what they have, so we can’t really even try and imitate it. It’s more just general philosophies of hip hop production that play out via the instrumentation that we have.

Brian: Yeah. As opposed to sampling other music, we’re sampling ourselves. But also in terms of what you were saying about influence, when we were making the project—I like to go on archive.org. I don’t know if you’ve ever been on there but they have a bunch of public domain materials: music, books, old movies. In the third interlude and also in the beginning of “3D”, we take a dialogue from this 1957 movie called Plan 9 from Outer Space.

It’s historically, a really bad movie [chuckles], but taking like the lines and then putting it into this U.A.P. world, because it’s a movie about alien invasion, really brings a lot more weight to the moment. That escapism of, I don’t know, for instance, recently, my dog is really sensitive to cell phone sounds. So, watching like TV there’s always texting going on in shows, so that escapism into the pre-technology era of the fifties and the sixties kind of plays into the project really nicely, which is why we wanted to include that kind of stuff.

Alex: Yeah, we don’t really make it on computers, We loop our beats on the MPC and we have synths that we loop. I think a lot of producers today tend to produce via their laptops and that just kind of takes us out of it. We can’t get into the flow of things. We mix it and we do some arranging on the computer, but the idea creation always comes from our live looping setup with the MPCs and synths and guitars and bass sometimes depending on the idea.

I think that is kind of unique. I feel like most producers don’t make it that way. I could be wrong, but I feel like I’ve seen it all through Ableton and sampling, a lot of sampling, and we don’t do that very much. I think the only song that really has that is “Black Astronauts” because that one is actually co-produced with Bryson. He found that sample and he recorded himself with that whole idea and we just added the beat, some embellishments. But yeah, that’s something different the way we do things.

Bryson: I love that yeah. I mean even listening to your stuff I was like, y’all not making this on a computer.

Alex: It’s more fun the other way.

Bryson: That’s the era I grew up listening to: Q-Tip, Dilla. Dilla wasn’t working on no damn computer, he had a drum machine. And I think the beats just feel different when you’re really invested that way.

Alex: I think one really true thing about this project is that limitations are good, and they bring about creativity. A lot of people try to strip away all the limitations thinking that will help creativity. I think that that’s bullshit. I think that limitations are good and they help creativity. When you have infinite sounds to choose from it’s worse. Make it work with what you got. And I feel like that is a through line for a lot of eras of hip hop. It’s a lot of people making it with whatever they had, making it work. Limitations are good, they bring about creativity. I believe that. It’s definitely our philosophy.

Yeah, that’s a great philosophy. Also back to what you were saying Bryson, you guys definitely go into the educational aspect of it. With that being one of your focuses, did that stick out to you when you all first interacted with each other? Was it y’all’s names where you see a group called Pioneer 11, and then you’re Bryson The Alien, and you’re like wait a second.

Bryson: It’s definitely crazy. When I first seen their name I knew it was something space related, but then I learned it’s attached to an actual historical thing. That shit was tight, and it definitely made sense. Then I listened to their beats and I was like wow, what a fucking coincidence.

Brian: I think the space connection was not intentional but probably subliminal, like “Oh, what’s this.” And Bryson makes this great pixel art of himself, and I really was drawn to that. He’s into the 16 bit video game kind of vibe. Really quickly, off the bat, that’s a bit of me.

Alex: I think we definitely bonded over a bit of 90’s nostalgia, too.

Bryson: A lot of that. A lot of that.

Alex: We have that “Mega Man” song where, when Bryson named it that it was like, okay we’re buds.

Bryson: That lead on the hook of “Mega Man,” that *sings “Mega Man” riff* sealed the deal on that. There was no way in hell I was not calling it “Mega Man”; that sealed the deal on that shit. I had to do that.

Alex: That’s actually a bass guitar that’s shifted up, on that.

Bryson: Really? I never would have guessed. That riff sealed the deal on that concept for sure.

Alex and Brian did you guys play on a Sega growing up?

Alex: Yeah.

Have you all talked about that? I know it’s a big inspiration for you Bryson.

Bryson: Yeah, it kind of always comes back to that because, besides being exposed to the hip hop I had growing up—like A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul, all that Native Tongues shit, then eventually Madlib and all that—Sega in general, just the music and the soundtracks, that was some of my first experiences of listening to music. Especially—I don’t know if you’ve ever played Streets of Rage. It’s one of my favorite games, a beat ‘em up type game, you go through the city beating up goons and shit.

Go save a dude that got captured by some mobsters or whatever. That Japanese music, man, it wasn’t hip hop but it kind of was, and that shit just always threw me for a loop. Just listening to some of the music, I always thought it would be cool to rap over some shit like that one day. But yeah, Sega is a big inspiration. Nintendo as well, all that shit, all that. The pixels. I just don’t want people to forget. I know everything looks real as fuck now, and you look at something like that like it’s damn near prehistoric.

Alex: But it was so cool at the time, though. I feel like Sega was futuristic at the time. I remember just being really young and seeing Mario and such, but with Sega you had the graphics that were a little bit more like three dimensional, even though it’s still 2D. It represented futurism, and now we’re in like retrofuturism. Which is so funny, that’s what it now represents. And that’s a huge thing with U.A.P.: retrofuturism. So, I think it all connects.

What does that escapism that U.A.P. has provided the past two years mean to you at the time? And what does it mean looking back on it?

Brian: When it seemed like the reality was everyone’s options had dwindled, all of a sudden we had a new option, which was this collaboration. It definitely gave us a lot of hope at the time. And now, seeing it to fruition validates that hope that it worked for us.

Alex: One thing I saw a lot of people’s lives play out in different ways: a lot of people did things that they were wanting to do. Somehow the pandemic put this big pause on whatever you were doing, and gave a lot of people, including us, this opportunity to pursue something we had been wanting to do for a while. I think, for us, for Pioneer 11 at least, we had been wanting to produce a hip hop album for a while.

We have like a bunch of beats and we had been kind of starting to try and reach out to different artists and stuff like that, but we didn’t know exactly what we were doing, and our beats were also pretty weird. I think anybody we sent stuff to didn’t really know what to make of it. Then the pandemic happens, and, not wanting to speak for you Bryson, but I imagine you found yourself in a similar place where whatever we were doing is on hold now. So it became, what have you been wanting to do? What is that stuff you’ve been wanting to do? For us it was to produce more hip hop, and meeting Bryson gave us the opportunity to do that. At that point in time you have to do something, because otherwise you’re just sitting in the house thinking about the end of the world or something.

You have to do something and I think it forced us to do this thing which we’ve wanted to do. And now, we’re so happy we did it, and it’s so clearly a good collaboration that it’s set this framework for us to keep doing it despite there being no pandemic forcing us to make more stuff this way. It really set the framework for this and established this escapism where, not to get too real with it, but I feel like we’re still in a weird place in the world. The future doesn’t look just like smooth sailing, so I think we’re gonna need this escapism to come in handy again. It’s good to have it and I think we’re gonna keep leaning into it.

Bryson: I second both of what they said. It was really cool just at that time to have something to be excited about and to be really confident in pursuing. I’m sure y’all was just looking at your timeline and everyone was just “Oh, it’s just sad, oh I don’t know what to do blah blah blah,” and the whole time I was just shroomed off in that shed trying to be the fuckin’ best rapper. And it’s not like I was not aware of the reality of the situation, but I’m just the type of person where I only got so much life regardless of what the fuck happens so it’s I might as well spend it trying to create.

The pandemic really allowed me to put that time and love into the music because there was nothing else calling for my attention. It was really a blessing to have that, and just looking at it now, just like they said, we now have a foundation we can continue to build off. I feel like, especially in this industry, collaboration is really the best way going forward. It’s great that we have this thing that we’re able to bring all these people together. Even you. You’ve been involved just listening to our stuff and writing about it. It’s just a really cool way to connect with people. I mean music is just one of the ways to do that. So it’s just a blessing, man. I don’t know what else to say.

I’m just overwhelmed with the awesomeness of this shit. I just want to keep it going, and just keep coming from a real place and not let any sort of success or accolades take me away from who I was in that fucking shed making music. I want to keep that, hold it in a bottle or something. Keep that magic in there. And I know a part of that is just keeping it real and communicating. It’s just really dope. Very thankful. Thankful for you guys for just believing in the music man, because you know Def Jam is not trying to hear the shit, you know? [Laughs] Interscope is not trying to sign me, at all. This is not for them. I’m just thankful for POW and Jeff, even giving us a chance. Let’s see what the hell happens. So far so good.

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