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Metermaids : The Kotori Interview

What the Fuck Is Headphone Rap?
By Matt Thomas

Sean Patrick McGaughan has worked as a dog walker and street fundraiser (yes, that’s an actual job) to support a fledgling music career.  With mild breakthroughs at a few revered venues— like “Sin-e, “CBGBs, and the music festival “North by Northeast— this young rapper/singer/ kind-of-Indie-rock-guy is hoping to finally get signed to a label.  

Why should you care?  Well, it sounds as though his group, dubbed Metermaids, may be on the fringe of an entirely new movement; a genre Mr. McGaughan has labeled as “Headphone rap.  Is it any good?  McGaughan thinks so, but don’t be surprised if he has to play kennels for the next couple of years.

Do you believe that your version of hip-hop will ever be taken seriously by other professional rappers, or is it something that should be classified as its own genre?  

Me and [my manager] kind of coined the phrase “head-phone rap. It’s hip-hop because I’m not singing, but hopefully it’s intricate enough where you want to listen to it with headphones on, to catch all those little details.  But [we’re] still [producing] beats, we just pay a lot more attention to [them]. So it’s a layered thing that becomes more interesting each time you listen to it. It’s a pop song structure with live sounds and trying to arrange rap songs with what you would hear in an Indie rock song.  It’s not completely brand new, but there aren’t a lot of people doing it.

Why would anyone want to listen to it?
I was nervous playing for straight hip-hop crowds because I was afraid they would look at it as “emo rap or “nerd rap. But we threw it down at hip-hop shows and it seems marketable.             

What jobs have you had to take to make ends meet?
I did street fundraising for a bit- anytime you go on Craig’s List you’ll see the ads for them, you’re supposed to make $500-1000 a day. They throw you out onto the street and you have to stop a random person who’s walking past and, in three minutes, get their credit card number. It’s ridiculous.  No one’s gonna give that to you! The company gives you a quota to meet, and if you have a couple of bad days you get canned… I had a couple of bad days.
I’ve been dog walking for a year since that job.  It’s so absolutely tiring.  I’m just absolutely wrecked by the time I get home. It’s hard to get the motivation to do anything.  I can’t put much time in my music, but it’s helped my writing because I have all day long to write as I’m moving through Greenwich Village.  

What can an upper middle-class white guy possibly contribute to a genre that was once said to be the "CNN for the inner-city"?   Why would a mainstream rap label sign you?
Well, first off, I have to knit pick: I’m not upper- middle class! We lived pretty poor.  We struggled.  That’s just a knee jerk suburban reaction.  I’ll never refer to myself as a rapper in my songs. The goal is to write catchy songs not just to attract people who are into underground rap but to make my music as accessible as possible.

Obviously what we’re doing is not the CNN of the ghetto. I have a great appreciation for hip-hop and those who adhere to that statement, which is what Chuck D meant when he said that.  Anybody who’s making good art is just the CNN of where they came from. That’s all you can aspire to do, is to be true to your experiences. That’s the truth to any good piece of art.  

I just want a label to recognize that we’re honest with our art, and that’s what we have to offer.  That’s the deciding factor.  If a label is down with that, great, if not we’ll look someplace else.



©2006 KotoriMag.com 

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