“The Story of Metanoiz” – a djrobblog artist interview.
If I told you I’d recently interviewed a young hip-hop duo featuring a couple of very confident 22-year-olds within commuting distance of both New York City and Philly who’ve been rapping since they were nine, you’d probably conjure up any number of negative stereotypes that are often associated with the music genre and its main demographic of diehard followers.
After all, hip-hop music – or rap in particular – has seemingly done everything in its power recently to fan the flames of its biggest critics, those who criticize the music and its artists for being increasingly misogynistic, unapologetically brash, angst-filled, and more recently and quite frankly, dumber and dumber sounding (“Panda” anyone?).
Well, I did in fact interview a new rap act out of northeast Pennsylvania (yes, Northeast PA) – a couple of brothers out of the Pocono mountains with something to say about hip-hop who are anything but those things, well…maybe except the angst-filled part. In fact, the brothers – who happen to be twins – are so anti-stereotypical of today’s popular rappers, one might wonder if they’d even stand a chance in the music industry today.
Allow me to introduce you to the brothers, Kevin (a/k/a “Kaydom”) and Kenny (“Kaydas”) Santiago, who make up the duo Metanoiz – meaning “beyond noise.” I had the pleasure of interviewing these guys earlier this month after being introduced to them by their manager, who’d read one of my articles.
Needless to say, I was flattered at being offered the chance to conduct my first artist interview ever for djrobblog. It’s a direction I hadn’t planned to take the site, but an opportunity I certainly welcomed, especially if it helps raise awareness about new and worthy artists.
However, given the direction in which rap has headed in recent years, even I was a bit skeptical about the prospect. After all, I didn’t want to be interviewing (and thereby endorsing) these guys one week and then hypocritically blasting music that sounded exactly like theirs a week later.
No such worries here. Metanoiz was a noise i didn’t mind hearing – over and over again. Pre-interview, their manager provided me with links to a video clip of their first single – a 2015 track entitled “Your Creation,” plus a mix-tape titled “Nissi” containing several tracks and hosted by noted hip-hop and R&B record producer and DJ, Don Cannon, and, finally, a clip of their new single, “Treble Trouble.”
I listened to all three – several times – then, without hesitation, picked up the phone to schedule and later conduct the interview.
When the interview started, any thoughts of the awkwardness or tension of interviewing two hip-hop guys who were admittedly a generation younger than me were quickly dispelled – by Metanoiz themselves.
Here were these two energetic, enthusiastic and determined millennials with goals firmly in sight and rap skills to boot who, given time and the right exposure (and connections), could easily be riding the Billboard charts. And even if they didn’t get that far, one might never know of their disappointment. They may not have been invited to hip-hop’s party (yet), but negative thoughts are not something that comes easily for these two brothers who started rapping at age nine under the name “Double Trouble,” and have been hard at it ever since.
Fourteen years later – and with a fuller set of life experiences behind them – they rap as Metanoiz, a duo whose music contains messages related to their Christian beliefs, but not drowned in them. They deliver their messages with all the cockiness and brashness of the most hardened street-influenced rapper, but without all the cursing and incoherence.
They have all the pop sensibilities and potential crossover appeal of any number of top-40 artists currently charting, but without all the confectionery.
In fact, these two – Kaydom and Kaydas – came across as students of the art of music…hip-hop and otherwise. They displayed a vast knowledge of music’s history that would give a person twice their age (like me) a run for his money. To wit, they cite artists as diverse as Eminem, Michael Jackson, and Billy Joel, as well as Afrika Bambaataa, Wu-Tang Clan, A Tribe Called Quest, Kendrick Lamar and Christian-based rap artists such as Lecrae and 116 Clique as influences.
Of course, I challenged them on the Billy Joel name-drop by asking them to name their three favorites…and they quickly rose to the challenge (“She’s Got A Way,” “Honesty” and “New York State of Mind”).
I was impressed.
In fact, here’s what they had to say about those musical influences, the state of hip-hop, politics (including Trump and Clinton) and their lives in general. Remember, as you’re reading this, these guys are only 22 years old.
DJR: So where did the name Metanoiz come from?
K&K: Metanoiz means “beyond noise.” It’s not just us two, it’s more of a movement. If you dissect the name, it derives from the term metanoia, which means new (spiritual) point of view. It’s a new style that’s beyond the stuff you’re hearing on the radio. We want to do something different, approach hip-hop differently. One of the things people notice is that we don’t curse – at least in our music. It’s a smart message, it’s a smart business move. A great message to show that we don’t need cursing as a substitution to what we’re trying to say. A lot of rappers use curse words as fillers, especially the N word (as well as “bitches” and “hoes”). We don’t wanna be hypocritical by saying there’s anything wrong with cursing in rap. You’ll hear that our mixtape, “Nissi,” has curse words in it, just not by us. Some rappers add cursing to add more effect, more umph to what they’re trying to say, but many rappers do it excessively and add it as fillers. The other thing is you don’t want children listening to that stuff – it’s vulgar. We want to appeal to everyone. We know that some people don’t agree with cursing, but there’s no one who disagrees with “not cursing.”
DJR: So, speaking of children, what was Metanoiz’ motivation as youngsters?
K&K: We’ve been doing this since we were nine. We were always doing something (with music) and that was motivation for us to keep pushing forward with this great journey. Since the beginning, we’ve had people telling us “you need a Plan B…what about college? (Rapping) is nice to do as a hobby…but pursue something else.” Metanoiz is all about passion, we know we only live once. We believe you should live this life doing what it is you love to do, because if you do then you’ll never “work” a day in your life. This is what we were put on earth to do. People in general have specific talents that they were created to do and if you’re not following through with that talent, you’re going to end up hating your job and you’re just gonna be miserable because you’re not doing what you were called to do. Be conscious of your calling in life.
DJR: Talk more about how God and religion influences your music and your lives.
K&K: A lot of people look at God in a very religious, churchly way. Metanoiz is different. We’re very cautious about the way we approach God. A lot of people focus more on the tradition and the religion, and the first images are the Catholic church or a picture of Jesus being crucified or bread and wine, and they don’t think about the core message of what it meant when Jesus came and died for us. That’s the firm foundation of what Metanoiz is all about. It’s really His sacrifice of what HE did for us and now being able to show people, in this life, to love God and do what you love to do. That’s what Jesus told us is to love. That’s what Metanoiz’ motto is: “Live life, love people, and listen to music.” Music is the greatest thing that life has to offer.
DJR: I can tell you guys are pretty passionate about music, as am I. Talk more about your passion.
K&K: One thing we were taught is that if you find yourself doing something for hours and you don’t even realize you’re doing it that long, do that for the rest of your life. We were like, “YES! YES! that’s what we’re talking about.” Because at the end of the day, that’s all that matters. Even if it’s hard – even if there’s a lot of work being put into it, if you don’t even realize that you’re doing it, then that’s what you were made to do. A machine that was made to do something doesn’t struggle doing that thing, but if you tell it to do something else, most machines malfunction. If you put a person in a place that they’re supposed to be, they’ll just fly. They’ll flow without feeling like they’re working.
DJR: So let’s talk about the music. In the song, “Your Creation,” tell me what the reference to “monster” represents.
K&K: The monster metaphorically represents that drive, that moment where you realize this is what I am. And when you realize what you are, that’s the monster that you’re supposed to be and you’re supposed to be a monster at it. We always want to be extra at what we’re doing, not only for God, but for us. Technically, the monster represents us, Metanoiz, and the Creator of course is God.
DJR: I read a comment on a YouTube page for your “Nissi” mixtape, where one listener said “You’re wasting your talent by keeping religion in your raps. Keep that separate from hip-hop.” What do you say to critics who say that?
K&K: I like that you did your research, so that’s good (laughs). We don’t put any religion into our music, so that guy would be wrong in that sense. Religion is man’s way to find any way to get to heaven. I believe we are all already sanctified through Christ. So we don’t even follow (the traditions of) religion. People who think we’re religious, if they ever met us, they’d say, what? These guys smoke weed, these guys curse? We have a very raw, very offensive outlook on life. I take that guy’s comment and discard it. But what we really are talking about is God. We cannot take Him out of our music. We write about our love of God, the New York Mets, girls, smoking weed, all of which are a part of our lives and things we love. So if we take God out of our music, not only are we literally taking out love, but we are taking out the the thing we love the most.
It’s like saying ‘you rap about women too much, take that out of your music.’ Well, women exist, just as God really does, so we’re supposed to just stop talking about them as if they don’t exist? We have the same response to that guy’s comment, to take Him out of our music doesn’t even make sense.
DJR: Let’s talk about the song “Ride” from the Nissi mixtape and the line: “How these rappers get deals with no flow?” If there’s one thing wrong with hip-hop today, what would that be?
K&K: We give respect to all rappers. Even if they do suck, we would keep that to ourselves. We’re not totally happy with (hip-hop today), but we’ve had enough of today’s cadence (without naming them, the duo mimicked a style often used by rappers like Future, Desiigner, etc.), we’ve had enough of it, we don’t get it, and we really can’t even understand a lot of it. We don’t see that as intellectual rap. All we’re listening to is the money talk. We don’t wanna hear the money talk, we want to hear YOU talk. Kendrick Lamar is an exception, he talks about life itself, but also mentions his love for God. No one refers to him as a Christian rapper, but he has a (non-confining) love for God. The same goes for us. Many people are not consciously writing anything, in fact, they’re not conscious at all. But if you ARE writing, (that’s good) – and we understand there are ghostwriters out there. The whole thing about Drake, we hear all the criticism about him not writing his stuff, but we get it. Some masterpieces cannot be done with one dude. We can’t front. When we write, we sit down with other people all the time. Every time we write a song, there are at least two people writing a song. But back to the music itself, sub genres of rap have come and gone,…southern rap, rock rap. Ten years from now, we won’t be hearing what we’re hearing now. Hopefully, it will be a return to what is being called “old-school” hip-hop. We hope (real) hip-hop finds its way home.
DJR: On this note, I wrote an article about the recent number one song, “Panda,”…
K&K: Yeah, we heard that went gold and platinum recently. We’ve never even listened to the whole song. It’s not the worst track ever, it’s just the same stuff that we’ve heard already. Ten and fifteen years ago, nobody would ever have imagined a song like that being the number one song in the country. We thought it was a joke at first, and then we realized how serious a lot of these guys are. The industry will always have that bunch of people who are making pure garbage, while only a few are making pure gold – like the Michaels and the Princes and the Kendricks. We were so happy when Kendrick walked away from the Grammys with five awards, because (To Pimp a Butterfly) deserved no less than that. Usually, if you go to these record labels sounding like another rapper (Desiigner and Future?), the label will tell you to ‘go home, we’ve already heard that.’ So the success of “Panda” surprises us. Hip-hop should be about labels embracing originality.
That’s why we usually say (our theme is) “infinite,” when discussing old school hip-hop, because that music is timeless. Thirty years from now we will still be listening to Biggie and Tupac, Tribe and Wu-tang because they were timeless. These songs like “Panda” and “Crank That (Soulja Boy)” will end up fading away because they are part of a fad that will die at some point.
DJR: You guys obviously have big goals. What are your plans for the music industry and hip-hop in particular (how do you plan to change it)?
K&K: We want to shake the industry and show people what a real anomaly looks like. We don’t believe people are ready for us. Those who have heard us think they know, but they’re going to be so wrong when they figure out where we’re headed with all of this.
As for hip-hop itself, it has this thing where you have all these the sub-genres that date all the way back to its beginning. And people always refer to the beginning of hip-hop as “old-school.” Yet, when people talk about older rock music, no one refers to that as “old-school,” they’ll just call it “rock music.” We disagree with the distinction of old school. Technically, the older music IS “hip-hop,” and anything after that is simply a sub-genre, whether it’s club hip-hop, trap hip-hop, or whatever. Real hip-hop is old-school hip-hop. Afrika Bambataa, Wu-Tang and Tribe are not old-school, they ARE hip-hop. Metanoiz is going for a hip-hop sound.
DJR: Talk more about Billy Joel being an influence. You don’t hear a lot of rappers cite him as one.
K&K: They did this study on New York Mets fans, which we are, and we all like similar things. It’s kinda weird, but all these fans have similar personalities, and one of the major traits of Mets fans is liking Billy Joel. But we weren’t Mets fans as babies, we just grew up on Billy Joel (who is from Brooklyn and is obviously a big Mets fan himself). He’s huge in Mets culture.
But it’s not just Billy Joel though, our love of artists goes back to (other older artists like) the Drifters, the Temptations, Smokey Robinson, then on up to KC & the Sunshine Band, Earth, Wind & Fire, Heatwave, Chicago, the Bee Gees. Music is everything. Even ’80s freestyle music (like Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam, Expose, etc.). But Billy Joel is an incredible artist, and we’d love to be able to work with someone like him someday.
DJR: People often interview twins as if they’re one person. If you can, please dispel some of the myths about identical twins, you know…that you have all the same likes, etc.
K&K: It’s pretty weird, but we pretty much are one person split into two. We like the same foods, we straight-up finish each others’ sentences. We know what thoughts are on each others minds. We have this really weird thing where we could be sitting in complete silence, and we could have sung a Billy Joel song five hours earlier, and later on that day we could both pick up on the same song at exactly the point we left off, after sitting in complete silence.
DJR: There’s not one thing that differentiates you two?
K&K: Oh absolutely, we have different personalities. Kaydas has an OCD problem, he’s really tidy and all about cleanliness. Kaydam is a little more carefree. Our friends know the differences between us. Even if you met us in person and were with us for a few hours, you’d see a difference. It’s really the names that people get confused. They know which one they’re talking about, we are not THAT similar looking, it’s just the names that throw people off.
DJR: One of my favorite songs on the mixtape is “Greatness” (produced by Elite) and in it, you rap: “Two boys making noise, tryin’ to take it global. It’s hard to do that when your name is only local.” What inspired Greatness?
K&K: That was during a time when it was super hard (for us). But we actually had a bigger fan base at that time, because we were doing super Christian rap stuff so we had a bigger church following. After we embraced different ideals (in our raps), that following obviously changed. If you go on our Facebook account right now, people have posted messages saying “you guys should be famous, how are you guys not signed?” Or, “are you guys famous?” We appreciate the fact that we have 941 followers on our Facebook page, but c’mon, everybody knows that on social media, 941 people is like, “are you serious?” When you get to 900,000, then maybe we can talk. And you’ve got to have at least 4 million before you’re hanging with Drake and them. So when we wrote “Greatness,” we were thinking about how making “noise” actually feels like we’re doing just that sometimes. In this local area, it feels great when people recognize us. But then when we’re thinking about everywhere else in the world, nobody knows who we are. It’s so hard to get those other people to even listen to you. We wrote that about the (dire) odds we face and how difficult it is to make it in this industry. It was written out of frustration. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter if 900,000 people follow us on Facebook, because those 941 people that are following us now are hearing what we have to say.
DJR: Okay, totally shifting gears here, what are your views on this year’s presidential race and the current political landscape?
Kaydas: With that being asked, I’ve got to go right now. Perfect timing for your question. (Laughs). No really, I’ve got to go right now, I’ve got a date with my girlfriend. But Kaydam will stay and handle this one. and it’s really great talking to you and have a great night, homie.
Kaydam: I am going to answer the question. We’re independent, so we couldn’t even vote in the Pennsylvania primary. But you can write this down: Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton – either way, we’re screwed. I voted last time (and I’m obviously not going to say who I voted for), and the person I voted for didn’t get in, but I’m one of many fish in the sea, and I get it, maybe I could be that last vote that makes a difference, but I’m not likely voting this year.
There could be a democrat that I agree with politically, and there could be a republican that I agree with. To Metanoiz, the idea of splitting politics between two factions – Republican or Democratic – is really stupid. I feel that everyone should be independent and think for themselves. It’s kinda whack to think that if I sign myself up as a republican, I’m viewed as this guy that’s all conservative, only about building jobs and kicking out immigrants. If I sign up as a democrat, I’m all about smoking pot and aborting babies. No, it’s stupid. You could smoke pot, abort babies, and still be about conservative ideals. We’re all individual people with our own ideals, and it’s whack that we have these politicians that capitalize on those ideals and make us think a specific way. Metanoiz actually stays away from it because you can get yourself in this hole of a first impression that you don’t want to give people or a wrong idea of who you are because you like a specific politician. It’s dumb that we split ourselves 50/50, that you’re one or the other. That’s way too little to split a country this large into.
I guess to answer your question, Metanoiz probably won’t be voting in this year’s presidential election.
DJR: Fair enough, now back to lighter fare, if there was an R&B artist that you could have sing the hook on one of your records, who would it be?
Kaydam: That’s an interesting question, because I was just talking today with one of the guys associated with our Nissi mixtape, and we were discussing a singer we would love to get on our project after next, and that would be Ashanti. Metanoiz is all about bringing it back, and I believe if we put somebody like Ashanti on a track, people would be like “WHAAT?!” It would be just one of those tracks that people would be like, “you gotta bump this.” We could make a killer track with her that would just be dope.
DJR: That’s amazing, I was just watching an interview she did that this morning on a local Chicago station. It’s ironic you mentioned her in this interview.
I noticed you guys are half-owners in your record label, Anakeion Music. Do you have any other acts signed to the label?
K: Not currently, but we have a whole lineup planned out. Anakeion Music has a heavy influence from the Poconos, you’ll notice the mountains in the logo. There are so many talented artists in the Poconos that people don’t even know about, and people are gonna be blown away by the talent that is “hidden in the woods.” We already have a lineup setup and, God willing, we do plan to start signing people soon.
DJR: Where can readers of djrobblog find or download your music?
K: Metanoiz.com, or datpiff.com/metanoiz. Or you can see our music videos on YouTube; our new one is called “Treble Trouble.” We’ll be dropping a new EP called Lemniscate which is the technical term for the infinity symbol (which goes back to the “infinite” theme we talked about earlier).
Editor’s Note: Kaydas opens “Treble Trouble” with an incredible scat intro, reminiscent of some of the greatest soul legends, like Luther and Aretha. See it below:
DJR: Any upcoming tours?
K: We’re doing the Brooklyn Cyclones (minor league baseball game) on July 3, and we’re doing a Mets game at Citi Field on July 10. We do plan to do a tour in the future with the new EP, Leminiscate, but if not, then maybe doing a tour down the road. We definitely have tours in mind, but we’re just trying to figure out the tour’s concept, so we’re brainstorming right now. For now, we’re going show to show, doing different dates here and there.
DJR: Any final words for the readers?
K: Normally, our final words would be our motto: “Love Life, Love People and Listen to Music.” But I would just say for everyone that is checking out this blog, djrobblog is dope, keep checking out the blog. Glad we had the chance to be the first to be interviewed. People keep blogging and tell your friends about it. I love these interviews, when people want to know things about an artist, interviews are the best way to get it. This is such a great way to get people connected with an artist, so continue to check out (DJRob’s) blog. And those are my final words.
And there you have it, my interview with Metanoiz, a duo of identical twin brothers who are not so new to the rap game but who are on the cusp of success with much to say about a rap party to which they weren’t (yet) invited. No matter, though, these two will likely be changing that game in the very near future, and they’ll be the ones handing out the invitations.
And I didn’t even bother asking the two brothers what would be that Plan B they talked about earlier in the event this rap thing doesn’t work out. After talking to them, I was convinced that failure was even an option.
Btw, the best tracks on “Nissi”:
“Greatness” (produced by Elite; begins at 13:21 on YouTube)
“Ride” (produced by Street Empire; begins at 3:57 on YouTube)
“The Statement” (produced by Elite; begins at 0:00 on YouTube)