Fat Beats, aside from being the go-to new york record spot for legendary DJ’s in NYC during hip-hop’s golden age, was also a congregation circle for underground emcees on the come up. In it’s last few years, though, the employees of the vinyl haven proved to be amongst its best-kept secret. The Audible Doctor, J57, Soul Khan, Koncept, DeeJay Element, E holla & DJ Goo formed the Brown Bag All-Stars, a collective that has amassed an impressive resume, both collectively and individually. As of recent, two of the members, producer J57 and Queens-bred spitter Koncept have formed a metaphorical Voltron, and doing some serious damage with their new music.
Koncept made a name for himself in the underground hip-hop trenches, but these days he’s working with hip-hop goliaths such as Ty Dolla $ign, Pharoahe Monche, Royce da 5’9” and more. With J57 on the beats, he’s preparing to drop The Fuel EP on November 20th, led off with the ultra-dope single Porcelain. I had the opportunity to chat with Kon about the project, his background in the game, his new label, and his skills on the one’s and two’s. Peep the Q&A below.
How did you get into hip-hop originally?
I grew up in Queens New York. My next-door neighbor was a graffiti artist, and when my parents used to go out, they’d have him watch me. He got me into drawing and writing graffiti, and he gave me the name Koncept when I was 7. What my parents didn’t know back then is that they would go out, and he would take me out writing with him sometimes. So my first time I ever went out writing I was like seven years old. At age 11 I got my first turntables, which I still have – and still use. You know, I always liked writing. I wrote short stories and poetry. I used to freestyle for fun. I’d have a microphone that I plugged into my mixer, and I’d freestyle for fun when I was hanging out with friends and stuff like that; but, then when I started to write raps it was like I instantly fell in love. I got hooked and stopped doing everything else.
I read before that you DJ. You don’t call yourself a DJ, but you have tables, you’ve had them for a long time, and you’re probably pretty good.
[laughs] I used to watch DMC tapes, all the Scratch DVD’s and the Beat Junkies DVD; I loved scratching, like Q-Bert and all that. It’s funny, I was in my parent’s house about a week ago, and I was looking through some old stuff and I found some old CDs and cassette tapes. I was listening to some things that I did – and I was like, “This shit is dope!” [Laughing]. I was like, “Maybe I should start scratching on my stuff some more.”
I mean, look at Lord Finesse, he almost exclusively DJ’s and produces now.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Do you see yourself doing something like that in the future?
No, I don’t think that I’ll ever do that. I have been thinking about doing some things — like maybe at shows in the middle of a set I’ll just sort of stop and then go behind the turntables and start scratching and cutting up records. Just do it as a surprise, you know what I mean? Because again, a lot of people don’t know about it so I think that would be something cool to add to the shows.
You could start the set like that. Be the warm-up DJ, and then you just come out, no one would expect it at all.
So maybe talk a little bit about Brownbag All-Stars. How did you get involved in the group?
I think it was 2007. As a DJ, I’ve always bought records at Fat Beats, since the time that I got my turntables. One day I went in there to get some records. I walked in and J-57, who used to go by J-Logic, was playing beats in the store, and there were people rapping over them.
I jumped into the cipher and started rapping. That’s how I and J met. We started talking; we exchanged phone numbers, and he sent me some beats. We became friends, and he got me the job at Fat Beats. Working at Fat Beats, there was a bunch of other employees, and it turns out that we formed our group called Brownbag All-Stars.
That’s crazy. Tell me about the new EP and the process of putting it together.
I dropped my solo album titled, “Awaken” in 2012, alongside a handful of music videos. One day, I got an email from Red Bull. They said that they found my music and wanted to bring me on as a Red Bull artist. I thought I was pretty crazy because, at that time, Red Bull was mainly in the extreme sports world. I was like, “Wow, Red Bull! That’s insane.” So I agreed, and a couple days later I got a big box of Red Bull [laughs].
They (Red Bull) hit me up and asked me if I wanted to be in this contest where they took all the people that they had as artists, and people would vote for their favorite artist – and the winner of this contest would get studio time down in LA. I ended up winning the competition. That was at the same time that J-57 and I were already talking about working on the next album where he was going to produce it all, and it was going to be all sample-free. So when we got this opportunity, we decided to be a group like a Gang Starr. You know, like Primo and Guru or like Blu and Exile. We just wanted a project where he produces the whole thing, and I do all the vocals on it. So they flew us down to LA, and we worked on the album. The album is called, “Flight” that is going to come out in 2016. We did the album, and our aim was just to make the best music of our lives. We finished the album, and the following week we were already sitting down with major labels.
It was just a big turning point for us because we knew that we had made the best music that we’ve ever made, but we didn’t know, I guess, the extent of where it could go. So we took those meetings and all that, and then we flew back to New York, and that’s when we decided to record an EP to be the precursor to the album. So we recorded “The Fuel. In that period, we had some offers from major labels and decided not to go that route and do it on our own. So that’s what we’ve been building. We’ve been building Kon 57 records for basically the last year and a half, two years. Now we’re getting ready to launch on November 20th and couldn’t be more excited about it.
What kind of propelled your choice to not go with a major label?
You know, everything that we built has been in our control, we’ve done it on our own. We worked at Fat Beats — J worked there for 5 or 6 years, I worked there for like 3 ½, 4 years – and, you know, we built Brown Bag on our own, and we built our solo stuff on our own. We’ve done our own marketing, and done our own PR and booking. Honestly, we’ve worked almost every part of this industry. We’ve worked so hard on it, that to basically hand it over to a label and not be in full control was just something that we didn’t feel would be right and worth all this work that we’ve been putting in. So we know that it’s more work, obviously doing it on our own, but in the long run, it’s better. We’re in full control, have all rights to everything, and nobody is going to be telling us how to make the music or when to put the music out.
So is it essentially a label?
I mean, it is a label. We’re not signing any other artists or putting any other artists on; it’s just to put our stuff out. Hopefully in the future we get to a point that we’re at that we can help other artists out and put them on but for right now it’s just for our music.
What’s your take on the current music scene in New York City?
I think that the music industry now is lot stronger than it has been in recent years. I think that everything is looking good, and there are a lot of talented artists, a lot of avenues and a lot of people that are doing the right thing for it.
Who are some of the artists that you’re checking for right now?
Joey Badass, Action Bronson… As far as New York artists. And of course, you have Fetty Wap everywhere.
Yeah, he’s everywhere.[Laughing].
He’s from the East Coast, can’t hate on that from my end. I’ll be honest: I didn’t know that he was from Jersey when I first started hearing him. [Laughing]. But it’s dope that he is.
Do you have any last words at all you’d like to share with our blog? Anything else we should be looking out for from you guys?
I mean, we’re going to have the second single coming out in the next week or two, and we have the video for that. “The Fuel EP” drops November 20th and we’re excited. You can pre-order on iTunes right now. The video for “Porcelain” is out. It just broke 100,000 views, which is insane. I can’t thank everybody enough. And yeah, we’re just excited.