Jesse Dangerously and my back on stage together last summer – probably performing this song – at Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro, NC. photo by Aggie / brandnewkindof.com
Well, it’s now been over a week since my last process post, which was also the first. I guess that means it’s time for another one! Since I like the whole going-in-order thing, I’m going to talk about track two of the Malibu Shark Attack album, “Yo Into New York,” which features incredible guest verses byJesse Dangerously and Kevin Steinhauser from Math the Band.
(Somewhat related side note: Math the Band’s latest album, Stupid and Weird, was mixed by MSA’s own Rocky O’Reilly and is a super great record.)
I’ll make the same disclaimer here that I made last time: I am in no way attempting to tell you what you should think or feel about the songs. I’m only going to say what I was thinking and feeling when I wrote them.
This is the song that is essentially responsible for Malibu Shark Attack existing at all. When Rocky first emailed me out of the blue to ask if I wanted to make an album with an odd and exciteable Northern Irish indie rock producer, this is one of the tracks the he sent. As soon as I heard it I knew. I instantly knew that I needed to work with this guy and that it was going to literally change my life.
When the band was performing this song on our UK tour with MC Lars I would introduce it by saying “Rocky wrote this next song about being super hungover in New York; I wrote it about being really good at rap. Let’s go!” And that’s pretty much true. The song’s original title was “Put The Boke In Hoboken;” “boke” meaning “barf,” “puke,” etc. But that was before I had written anything for it or had even heard it, in fact. When Rocky sent it to me the title had already been changed and the singing part, sung by the incredible Angie McCrisken, was already in there too.
Here are the lyrics:
oh snap, this is no act
this is no accident
no low fat atkins stamped on the package
we don’t hold hands and we don’t fold napkins
rap game Frodo Baggins marching into Mordor solo
so old fashioned
so Cro-Magnon practically half Jurassic
massive tyrannosaur swag is classic
I’m a grown man so I don’t throw tantrums
just go ham yelling “YOLO”
don’t go back on our word, no quotes redacted
we mastered the curve, you’re below the average
we crafted and nurtured a chapter and verse
so the pastors in churches will quote this passage
now don’t act so mad just ’cause you don’t have post-grad vocab
dope raps in an accent thick as molasses back since Jackie Onassis, check it
Atlanta to Canada traveling the road map
from Staten to Manhattan we putting the YO back.
“Put the YO into New York!” a bunch of times.
my whole team is so fresh and so clean
dressed to impress double decker supreme
all of these ladies no less than a queen
on the scene so fetch and so mean
I live my whole life like it’s Friday Night Lights Matt Saracen
with a rap flow that has no comparison
I’m half black half actual alien
galaxy class, yo
haters insist that the way that we live is immature
they get a ticket to take a trip on the Hindenberg
my language and diction are changing the hipsters into nerds
making it Middle Earth in Williamsburg.
Jesse Dangerously’s verse:
ship shape you could drown in the wreckage
we ’bout to burn this motherfucker down in a second
and the sound is impressive when we’re pounding the mechanism
now is the reckoning and I reckon I could wreck this thing
rap game Myra Breckinridge
I’ll switch it up with kitten ears
disappear vicious no visitors
Lister and the Cat
come hither for the blistering attack
I’m a wizard and my staff grants wishes
I’m Alfred doing Batman’s dishes
I’m a fat decathlete
now that’s ambitious
I’m mathnastic backflips on your mattress
that’s Rich and me and Tribe are gonna put the…
slide cross town to the old sixth ward
we’ll stay out all night
burn the birthday boy (sung twice)
Third verse by Kevin Steinhauser:
ayo, we’re not about to stop
don’t worry about the clock
and we don’t give a shit about noise complaints go ahead and call the cops
don’t let the energy drop
don’t stop til you reach the top
we’re just throwing it down in the big fucking city just partying with robots
And the chorus again. Fin.
Honestly, there’s not much I can say about the content of the song other than I wanted to rap really good. The main goal was to make the song fun, and since Rocky’s music was already incredibly fun, it was just up to me, Jesse and Kevin to keep it that way.
To go back to what I mentioned before in the first process post, about rhythms and pockets of the beat, it was actually pretty challenging to settle on an approach to the first verse. The second verse was super easy, but I’ll come back to that.
When I originally sent the song to Jesse Dangerously to ask him if he’d write for it, I hadn’t finished a verse for it. I had started a verse but it was suuuuuuuuper terrible and ended up being scrapped and deleted forever from my draft folder. If I remember correctly, I think it had a line about picket fences and sixth senses and was going to be about how I moved around as a kid from California to Arizona to Atlanta and then finally went to New York to visit for the first time. Seriously, though, it was awful.
Luckily, before I could make much headway into that travesty, Jesse sent back a demo for the verse he’d written. It was something like a two days after I sent him the beat. It might even have been the next day. After hearing it I realized what a horrible mistake I had been making and started writing the verse that ended up on the song.
I should back up a little bit and tell you how I got to know Jesse. In the fall of 2012 I went on tour with Adam WarRock, Mikal kHill and, you guessed it, Jesse Dangerously. I had toured with WarRock before as his back up hype guy, but this time I had my own set. The four of us met up in Chicago, kHill and WarRock in one car, me in another and Jesse on an airplane since he was coming from Canada.
Prior to this, kHill was the only one of us who knew Jesse personally. WarRock and I only knew him from a handful email exchanges to organize the tour and the fundraiser album we made to promote and support the tour, called FUN RAZOR. Clever, no?
So I knew he was a really great rapper (seriously, just check out the opening track of FUN RAZOR called “Pauly Shore”), but I knew very little about the man himself.
Jesse Dangerously and I met for the first time when I picked him up from the Chicago airport. I’m usually pretty bad at meeting people; awkwardness and whatnot. But as we drove back to meet the others we had a really great time making fun of terrible billboards and shop names and discussing our shared admiration of another Canadian rapper named Buck 65, who it turned out was a friend of Jesse’s that he’d grown up with.
(Somewhat related side note: I do an impeccable Buck 65 impression. For real.)
This is all set up to say that in Jesse’s verse, the lines “Mathnastic, backflips on your mattress, that’s Rich” are references to that conversation on that day when we first met.
One of the terrible shops that we saw was a place called The Mathnasium, whose name was the source of several laughs; hence, “Mathnastic.” The other part of the line comes from a Buck 65 song called “Wicked and Weird” in which there’s a part of the chorus where he says “wicked and weird, I’m a rat-fish trying to practice doing backflips on your mattress.” Also, his real name is Rich; hence “backflips on your mattress; that’s Rich.”
It was also later on that same tour that “The YOLO Story” happened. If you’ve seen me perform in the last year or so there’s a good chance you’ve heard me tell that story. If not, ask me about it next time you see me. It’s one of my absolute favorites to tell. I bring it up because that’s the reason I say “YOLO” in my verse.
So I guess this song is basically about Jesse and I reminiscing on how awesome that tour was. I seriously did not realize that until just now. Huh.
There was a period around when Rocky and I were finishing up the album that we weren’t sure if Jesse was going to be on it. I mentioned earlier that he wrote and recorded his demo astonishingly fast, but then when it came time to get finals vocals from him it became really uncertain as to whether he’d be able to get them to us in time. As a safety measure, I wrote a second verse just in case Jesse’s didn’t come through. However, almost immediately after I did Jesse got us his part. I really liked what I’d written, though, so I asked Rocky to extend the second verse to fit both of us.
It was all really dramatic and frantic at the time, but I think it turned out for the best. It ended up being a really fun song to make and a super fun song to perform, both with Jesse on the mc chris Revenge of the Nerd tour last summer and with the MSA band in the UK last month.
I know a lot less about Kevin’s involvement since Rocky made that happen. I will say that it’s a fantastic last verse of the song that basically sums up what the song is about: Partying as hard as you possibly can in New York (or wherever you happen to be).
Thanks again for reading! I hope you enjoy the song!