The world of underground hip-hop runs so deep that I don’t think anybody has any idea where it ends. The possibilities of what can be done in that realm of music are essentially infinite. Acts like Lord Quasimoto, Saul Williams, Latyrx, Aesop Rock, and even MF Doom have proven to us that well-spoken lyrics and stranger-than-fiction beats do have a place in the musical spectrum (and can even obtain the attention of the masses). The weirder modern hip-hop gets, the smarter it becomes, and that is what New York City’s Argotec has come to build its platform off of. Together, beat junkies Alex Argot and Rich Courage (aka Defpotec) have thrown themselves into the chaos that is modern underground rap music.
The name Argotec comes from an adaptation Argot’s spoken word stage name (Argot), which was given to him early on his career. The term deals with the idea of the slang and lexicon of an underground culture. When Courage brought his Defpotec name into the group, the two of them split the name 50/50 and became Argotec. And what exactly is Argotec? Well, as stated, it’s an underground hip-hop group, but there’s more to these two cats than mixed beats and spit rhymes.
For one thing, Argot doesn’t consider himself an MC per se. MCs seem to gain massive amounts of notoriety, drawing the spotlight in their direction so that they can obtain center stage status. This is not Argot’s agenda. “I consider myself a poet first,” Argot tells me over the phone from New York. “I don’t want to be famous, or be on rap radio. That’s not my purpose. I want to continue to make music and let some of this information I horde out.” Information on our society at large is Argot’s key inspiration in songwriting. “I stay on current events constantly and bang my head against the wall due to our state of being. All that shit like, ‘That’s just how it is,’ frustrates me. I can’t help but write about it, it’s the only therapeutic thing in my life.”
While Argot focuses on the verbal message and bridging the gap between listener and artist, Courage handles the more physical aspect of production, and has a background in the rock ‘n’ roll music world. He tells me how rock ‘n’ roll music has brought him all over the country, “but then I moved to dance, electronic, hip-hop…a bunch of way-off stuff,” he tells me. Courage’s influences though, run deep, as he discusses the music that drives him. “I like things like Dillinger Escape Plan and jazz. I also have a background in art, which influences a lot of the music.” This is proven as well by the fact that Rich does all their visual artwork for their album and shows. Also, Courage is not looking for fame and fortune, either. The art drives him. “I just want to make consistently good art that people can get into,” he informs me.
Obviously, this talk about artistic influence prompts a discussion about musicians we all find influential and agreeable. We discuss A Tribe Called Quest at great length (this seems to be a common theme with people I interview), Jurassic 5, Aesop Rock, Atmosphere, what they both refer to as “the crazier side of hip-hop,” as well as Flying Lotus and an extensive chat on Fun Crusher Plus by Company Flow, which blew Argot’s mind back in the day. The one person we discuss at greatest lenght, however, is Saul Williams, which goes to show how politically and technologically driven Argotec actually is. “I want help people and open up their eyes, like Saul Williams did for me,” Argot tells me, “Like him, I never want to have to compromise my words.”
Neither of these two guys have compromised anything because their debut LP, Wherewithal, is as raw, real, and dark as one could possibly imagine. The two met just over a year ago, and in that time, put together the 13 tracks that make up the album (not to mention, they have a new EP on the way). Wherewithal gives me the feeling of mass quantities of data being crammed into my brain cavity through my ears, and it’s more like a news broadcast than an album you’d “bump with the homies.” “Shiner”, the first track is the epitome of everything I have described. “Stand up!/Take back by packing your noggin full of knowledge and chasing the facts!” Argot calls out while Courage plays back a dub-step style beat, complete with loud, shrill, NIN-type screaming. “Everystep” is a bit more on the mellow side but deals with the complex topic of technology taking over the world at large.
The songs only continue to have unique production value and powerful, lyrical influence. “Box Cutter Lover” comes packed with a fantastic guitar hook and rhythmically perfect lines like “I confess to be blessed as one of the way too many tense hectic messes rubbernecking a complex wreck.” A change of mood and tempo is called for at the start of “Headaches”. The low-key beat boils beneath the surface while Argot calls to arms and trying to provoke a revolution. “Kamikaze Trot” brings me back to The Matrix and sounds so dark, scary, and diabolical that I almost want to run for cover. The final track is “Appetite Insatiable”, a chiller of a track that discusses that the human race is getting too far ahead of itself with technology, ideas, and politics. The album as a whole is packed with social issues that allow one to look at things from a unique perspective.
But, Argot wants his music out there. He wants everybody to talk about his band with their friends at school. He has quite the journey ahead, however. While the two have played a number of shows in New York City, they have yet to integrate into the rest of the nation. They have been shopping the festival market (and are currently working on getting a slot at Neon Reverb in Las Vegas) as well as playing amongst the dub-step crowd to try and broaden people’s horizons.
These are basically two guys with a lot on their minds who just want to share their abilities and talents with the general public. They may not want to be famous, but they sure want to change the world. Argot puts it best when I ask him what the band’s overall message and mission is. “My crazy obsession with current events is that it serves a purpose and the world needs people like me that do things like that. Everybody might not agree with what I feel, but it’s wrong if I don’t say it. Some people might not hear it ever; in a way, it’s more the reason to be an MC, so I don’t go crazy caging it in my mind. If I kept it in my head, I wouldn’t be able to give this interview.” If they keep writing and working this hard to get their message about the modern world across, it’s only a matter of time before the world starts listening. Then, and only then, can change occur, and we all might just be a little bit smarter.
Wherewithal (download code: cJdgjf6F)
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