By Schuyler Conners —
Xilam Bilam (Los Nativos) and Mr. Gene Poole (The Dynospectrum / Phull Surkle / D.A.P.O.) pioneered hip-hop in the Twin Cities from the mid 90’s to today. They both were original Headshots members, which is the legendary crew that Rhymesayers Entertainment emerged from.
“We got meat back on the menu,” says Gene Poole.
Poole really says it best. Magnate is thirteen tracks of banging hip-hop renaissance to which purity and talent reign supreme. Balam’s production is some of the hardest pounding beats coming out of Minnesota, with himself and Gene Poole spitting like possessed righteous hip-hop guardians.
Xilam Bilam feels the album has reached a higher level than what even they expected, “The energy on the album is mad fluid. It goes both ways.”
Recording Magnate changed the creative process for Gene Poole as he began to experiment with freestyling his verses rather than writing and reciting them. He previously spit all of his recorded material from writings, which he said is no longer working for him.
“Just because the music was making me say it, and I would pace a couple of times and pace a couple of more times and be like ‘oh shit press record.’ And then we would have a whole stretch where we started building off that…the numbers started to fall like the Matrix,” explained Gene Poole.
Mr. Gene Poole’s return to hip-hop started off gradual in a halfway house. Xilam would work on new beats and send them over to Poole. The first track they finished was the face-melting “Reign of Fire.”
“Lost my mind, I could use another, while I set the mood for the music lover.” – Xilam Bilam on “Reign of Fire”
Before Magnate, Poole and Bilam only recorded together once at the home of a mutual friend. It was the early 90’s, he was a Queens native known as Pat Bionic. Equipped with a microphone wrapped up in a sock, neither Poole nor Bilam recall much of their own verses. However they ran through a spirited rendition from part of Pat Bionic’s flow over his own original beat.
“Yo I got that juice, making that shit that knock your mucus loose. Fuck around and get used…created by my man Patrick, wack shit is the menace. Suckas are done like the sunsets over the horizon so run. I bring danger, like the stranger persuading kids into the whip. I spit and burn your skin like rhymes are napalm in the wind.” – Pat Bionic’s verse from the first record of Xilam Bilam and Mr. Gene Poole
Auddio Draggon: The Interview
What do you do to channel your creative energy, or get yourself in the mode to make beats or flow?
“I don’t work like that. Whenever that feeling comes to me and I’m there. I’m releasing it in a digital format into the computer and it just happens at that time. I’ve tried to do it the other way and it doesn’t sound the same. I could go anywhere, anytime and make a beat but it’s not going to be the same as when that energy comes to me then I express it.” -Xilam Balam
“It’s like something else is speaking.” – Mr. Gene Poole
“Right.” – Bilam
“And you have to open up your channel and fuckin’ put it down.” – Poole
“Exactly” – Balam
“Like it’s bigger than us, and there ain’t nothing we can do about it but we have to be here when they call.” – Poole
“That was part of why it took us the length of time it took us to complete the album. It was partly you (Poole) getting your mojo and me waiting for those moments.” – Balam
How much time did you guys take making the album?
“Two years. I would say full two years.”- Bilam
“I would say a year and ten or eleven months.”- Poole
We are settling in the last couple of hours before you are going to unleash the Gangster Horror on thousands of people, what are you doing in the final moments?
“Working on the next one, I’m ready for Pantheon man. I’m already done with the first track to Pantheon and ready for him to send me the second track. It’s not a game, I don’t give a fuck you know?”- Poole
“That is next to drop Auddio Draggon, Pantheon. It might be the last Auddio Draggon album.” – Bilam
“I wouldn’t say so, because like you are going to stop making beats? – Poole
“I am not going to stop making music.” – Balam
“You think I am done rhyming for a while?” – Poole
“I know you are not done rhyming.” – Balam
“There could still be Auddio Draggon albums.” – Poole
“I don’t take it that seriously in the first place. Not as seriously as you, you know what I am saying? I just be doing it, because it relieves my stress levels on a daily basis, on a yearly basis.” – Balam
“I wouldn’t be able to function. I wouldn’t know who I am.” – Poole
“That is one of the main reasons why I do it. Well, I don’t only do music though. Like him, (Poole) he doesn’t only do music either. We are both artists.” – Balam
“But you know what though, yeah there will be more Auddio Draggon. You can guarantee that there will be the word Auddio Draggon and there will be title. Not all of our songs are you going to hear him rhyming but you can guarantee they’re going to be his beats, even if it takes another 5 years and a EP in between them. We don’t give a fuck. But Auddio Draggon is never going away.”- Poole
“Pantheon might actually be done by the end of this year, in the winter. We are going to keep moving with this project.” – Bilam
Being that you are both pillars the Twin Cities hip-hop community, you helped grow this culture from the very start. How do you feel about the current status of Twin Cities hip-hop?
“I don’t want to get too personal, but a lot of the music out right now doesn’t make me feel good. I take music as… it’s an energy, so I am looking for something that is going to make me feel good. And you can take that in any way you want, and that is the bottom line. So I got mad complaints about what is going on in the Twin Cities right now.” –Balam
“One thing I do know is if you let children do their thing, there is not going to be order. What you have to understand is that in any situation, we are all adults, but not all of us act like adults. But there has to be some conduct or line of protocol. So if you want to be like them fine, you be like them, but don’t fucking step in front and say ‘ahh shit, we run this shit’. Because one day there will be a force, an entity that you are going to fuckin’ answer to. And it is not going to be pretty, because it is going to be in the front of the fuckin’ forum. I can’t bring some people that I know in my personal life to a concert where I would be involved because the people that are there rapping make my people want to leave. I heard about somebody talking shit about Slug because Slug was in an interview saying that he came from an era where you told people they sucked if they sucked. Now nobody does it, because nobody wants to be called a hater.” – Poole
“I feel like music is medicine, and if you are feeding me bad medicine, I’m either going to avoid you or smack the shit out you.” – Balam
“When you come to an Auddio Draggon set, bring your fucking notepads and pens and learn how we fucking set this shit up. Those are the techniques that took emcees like Mikey (Eyedea) Larson and Slug to the top of the game. Brother Ali will tell you. He used to sit back there and watch the circle of them boys kill shit and take notes, that is the lineage that this shit is built on.” – Poole
“We don’t only make music, we touch art from every fucking level. I do at least. I release mad energy through paintings, drawings, sculptures and wood carvings. It is a daily ritual, it is part of our life and that’s just how we work. And it is something that you have to understand about us, is that we are artists, true to the word.” -Bilam
“I release energy in many different ways. If it wasn’t for illustration, painting and design, I would be much deeper off in rapper’s asses. This keeps me gated because otherwise it would be overkill. And that is how I usually go but I design cars. The whole deal with that is, I think it comes from being so fucking frustrated with somebody who isn’t getting the idea, not getting the picture. You have heard people say ‘what do I have to draw a picture for ya?’ ‘What do I have to sketch this shit out for ya?’ So when it comes down to it is like well now do you see?” – Poole
“That’s how I look at music when I am making music too. I look at it the same way as when I am putting paint on a paint brush and applying that shit to the canvas. I am drawing a picture for your ass, and it’s audible. But I still have that thought process of creating the landscape musically and audibly for you to get into, enjoy and feel apart of it.” – Balam
“The dude mixes his music like he paints, like he would draw so even as he is mixing it or you are listening to it. He is like ‘you hear what I did?’ He’s like a laid out, made like a bowl, spread shit out, just set them lyrics right in there and cradle them shits. ‘I’m like Damn!’ So you can almost see the sound, not only that you can hear it while making out that picture in the vocals and in the words. You can make scenes out, especially when he is rhyming. Like, I see literal holographic scenes in my mind. His art definitely translates into his music hardcore. Somewhat on mine too, which is weird but I couldn’t get off, like these motherfuckers got off on Outlaw like a motherfucker dude. And that’s my thing cars, right.” – Poole
I heard that that was a similar affliction between you both. Cars?
“Also with Felipe Cuauhtli, he is more into bikes and motorcycles which is why his verse is based around motorcycles (on “Rebel Outlaw”.) But I mean that shit came out like I just vomited that shit out.” – Balam
“Here’s the thing with the song, because we didn’t know what the song was going to be. And we kind of struggled with it, but it was so tight. We tried to write it like 8 times.” – Poole
“But then Gene was like, let’s do it about cars. I was like what? It made perfect sense. Outlaw, you know we speed around these fucking streets but we don’t give a fuck. So when I heard that, I was like it’s done already.” – Balam
“Cars are my thing, I work them, I draw them, I design them. I do all kinds of shit right, and here I am struggling with a fucking verse! And these motherfuckers (Balam and Cuauhtli) are saying shit ten that of me would say. Straight up like pow, pow, pow. I was like ‘ahhh fuck, your fuckin’ killing it.’ That song is hot, everybody loves that song but I think that is a good interpretation of how we do.” – Poole
“That is part of our experience also is building cars and customizing cars.” – Balam
“Ever since we have known each other.” – Poole
“We can’t leave that out, because ever since we have known each other we have been customizing BMW’s.” – Balam
“Yep, and this motherfucker (Balam) would come over, before we started driving Beamers, we had just American cars, because we didn’t know any better. But this mother fucker, would come over with a Tempo with graffiti on it, bondoed graffiti. You got graffiti and then he had bondoed graffiti. Before people were fabricating speaker boxes and fucking shapes and shit, he had them in his shit. That’s the deal, that song is a standout one for me, man. I’ve heard a lot of people listen to that and say ‘dude that shit is tight.’ Because anytime somebody is talking about some cars, it’s about some 26’s, a fucking Maybach or some dumb bullshit. They are not really on what really going on in these blue collar people lives who work through the week, then go in their garage and wrench their shit. Then, come out to the car show and kill you. But this dude (Balam) burnt them man, them lyrics. And Felipe, cuz me and Felipe go like this (fingers woven together) over Xilam tracks. He is like right there, soon as it comes off the…he’s already like ‘Agggghhhhhhhh’ and I am like, ‘Felipe, what’s up man? Quit taking all the fucking tracks, b.’And he be like ‘come on man, its Los Na first, it’s Los Na first man.’” – Poole
Can we expect to hear a new Los Nativos project soon?
“Los Na will be out in the fall, man. The title is The Eagle and The Jaguar, so we will have that. Preceding that, a few weeks earlier, there will be a few videos on Youtube and some single releases and free downloads. Sometime in the fall, don’t have an exact date.” – Balam