A couple of days ago on Twitter, an interesting phrase was trending: “Peanut Butter and Swelly.” No, it’s not just your favorite sandwich spelled incorrectly; it’s also the name of the new mixtape that was released on May 27th by the hip-hop duo Chiddy Bang.
The group, consisting of rapper Chidera “Chiddy” Amanege and producer/DJ Noah “Xaphoon Jones” Beresin, was formed in Philadelphia when the two met at Drexel University. Their rising fame is thanks in part to their fellow college students, who, armed with the Internet and a passion for music, have brought them into the limelight and led support from musicians like Kanye West and Black Thought of The Roots.
The duo brings back a special musical form reminiscent of old-school hip-hop: the MC/Producer duo. Xaphoon Jones notes that we’ve seen this type of duo “fade away” over time. Groups like Gang Starr, Pete Rock and CL Smooth, and even Fresh Prince and DJ Jazzy Jeff combined the voice of rap with eclectic samples and beats, creating a fresh sound that Chiddy Bang is bringing back.
“No two songs sound alike,” says Xaphoon Jones of their music, and it’s the truth—Chiddy, known for his smooth and witty freestyle skills, combined with Noah, who has sampled artists from Aretha Franklin to Radiohead to Passion Pit, have churned out surprise after surprise, mixing up different genres and adding their own new spin on them. Chiddy Bang, as opposed to “modern day rappers who have one record,” seek to “give albums and mixtapes another meaning” in the process.
In college, while Noah was hired to deejay events and Chiddy challenged his peers to rap battles, they were introduced through mutual friends and soon began performing their collaborations at different parties. Their first mixtape, The Swelly Express, gained a following after its single “Opposite of Adults,” which samples MGMT’s “Kids,” took off and found popularity on the UK charts. A record deal with EMI followed, and then tours around the world. So, after their freshman year at Drexel, they decided to drop out—or as they called it to assuage their parents’ worries, take an “academic hiatus.”
In two short years, Chiddy Bang has gained even more fans on the Internet by appealing to the crowd they know and love most: college students. Free live shows and free albums downloadable online have found them energetic and young followers, but Chiddy Bang claims it’s really give-and-take. “We built a whole career pretty much off the backs of college kids, so to give back to [them], man, that’s the best,” Noah explains. They’ve taken to Twitter and sites like IllRoots to connect with fans and distribute their work digitally, and it appears to be working. It’s a move that shows their concept of “for the students, by the students,” says their tour manager Sascha Stone. As it happened, when Peanut Butter and Swelly dropped, Noah followed up with the message, “LONG LIVE FREE MUSIC. LONG LIVE THE FANS.”
In their rise to stardom, Chiddy Bang has made friends with some of their fellow musicians, including Big Sean, with whom they toured, and Ellie Goulding, whose song “Under the Sheets” they sampled on their mixtape Air Swell. Chiddy also appeared on Big Sean’s song “Too Fake,” as well as on the song “Rescue Me” by British band You Me At Six. They’ve also found time to support other hip hop stars, including Tinie Tempah and XV, and Xaphoon recently announced future collaborations with Gordon Voidwell.
Chiddy Bang has also made the news many times recently after setting a Guiness world record on April 28th for the longest freestyle rap after he freestyled nonstop for 9 hours, 18 minutes, and 22 seconds while Xaphoon made beats alongside him. Following that is the announcement that they are the face for Taco Bell’s nationwide ad campaign (their favorite is the 9-layer burrito, which Chiddy says is “dope”).
Xaphoon has also released two solo mixtapes that showcase his producing skills: the aptly titled Xaphoon Jones Mixtape Volumes 1 and 2, which can be picked up on his website. In them, he blends his own original beats with hits by Marvin Gaye, The Jackson Five, Rihanna, and Kanye West, who both he and Chiddy want to work with most, and who he says “paved the way” for them.
One question may linger in the minds of many fans, though: what is “swelly,” anyway? It was coined by Chiddy in high school with a friend to describe his way of living. “Swelly is really just a state of mind,” explains Chiddy. “It’s pretty much anything that’s cool, anything that’s fly.” He adds that to be swelly, you “put the conviction and passion into [whatever you do].” That sounds about right for the unique and humble pair, and I expect them to bring their swell to even more people in the years to come.
To get your swell on and download their new mixtape, Peanut Butter and Swelly, for free, click here. Most of their other music is online for free, too! You can keep up with Chiddy and Xaphoon at their Twitters, @realchiddy and @xaphoonjones.Tags: chiddy bang, DJ, duo, free music, Hip-Hop, mc, mixtapes, music, Philadelphia, Philly, Producer, rap, rapper, samples, swelly