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article imageCatching up with hip-hop duo The Action Figures at Dilla Day Special

By Layne Weiss     Feb 9, 2014 in Entertainment
Detroit - It's been an amazing year for Grand Rapids hip-hop duo The Action Figures. They're on tour with legendary Detroit rap group Slum Village, and they just performed at Dilla Day in Detroit Friday night.
I caught up with the group at Dilla Day(Dilla's birthday), and asked how it felt to perform at such an incredible event celebrating the life and legacy of one of the greatest hip-hop producers and artists of all time.
T.A.F member Marq Beyond said, "It is really a funny funny experience because last year we sat in the mezzanine and watched the whole time, and we watched Illa J (Younger brother of J Dilla and member of Slum Village) perform and we watched everybody come and rock out and then for the next year to come and like...Illa J is like one of my brothers now. Ya know what I mean? So to come in from the stands to the stage is like wow...I could never put it into words."
"Yeah, ya know....he pretty much said it," fellow T.A.F member KySean said. "Ya know it was like being there and ya know last year, looking at everyone perform and not having relationships with these people, and a year later, you know like seeing the world ya know the way Illa, Slum...and to be able to hit the stage...It just lets you know like....It just lets you know how fast things can change over."
The Action Figures producer commented that this was his first Dilla Day. "Just to see these guys perform is incredible. The energy was incredible. The crowd response was crazy, and you know, just to be named as the first official group to set it off was amazing.
"You guys are on tour with Slum Village now too, right?" I asked.
"Yeah," they responded.
"How's that?"
"Awww man...It's uh..It's just funny. I never actually thought I'd be doing it," Marq said.
"I remember seeing 8th grade...seeing like 'Selfish' on BET and I knew all the words," Kysean recalls.
"Selfish was the shit, yo," Marq responded.
Kysean echoed Marq's sentiments that he never actually believed he would be on tour with Slum Village, a group he loved as a kid.
"I'm just like the hugest Dilla fan ever," Mozaic said. J Dilla was one of the original members of Slum Village. "Just to be a part of his legacy is incredible...God gave us his time on this earth for a reason. It's dope that we can be able to share that experience with his family, and to be able to not only be fans, but to be a part of Slum Village, be part of the legacy."
Marq Beyond says to expect two new Action Figures projects this year. "We're really hitting everything really hard," Kysean tells me.
[Kysean takes my place for a split second to see what it's like to be an interviewer]: "Marq, what's your favorite food, bruh?"
"Anything Italian."
"Who is your favorite Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle?"
"Seriously. I'm a Ninja Turtle freak," Marq responds. His favorite is Raphael. "Raphael is the dopest Ninja Turtle."
Mozaic: "Donatello." (My favorite too!)
Kysean: "I don't have a favorite. I didn't like the Ninja Turtles. I was a Pokemon kid, so anything else I didn't wanna mess with."
Marq: "And for the record, Donatello was wack."
[Kysean takes the reins again] "Ok so Layne. I have a question for you. How do you feel about the [TMNT] movie that's coming out, the live action one?
"I don't know...that stuff ruins it for me," I respond.
"Worst director ever," Kysean says.
"Martin Scorcese?" Marq asks.
"No, Michael Bay, right?" (And yes, it is Michael Bay).
Kysean says the real life stills "look good" but he knows the movie won't be.
"What was the first rap you wrote?" Kysean asks Marq.
"'Bad Boys In The Hood.' I was seven-years-old." (Up until that point, Finally Famous rapper Adubb Da Gawd had held the record at nine-years-old).
Kysean was eight-years-old...He always knew he wanted to rap. He recalled sneaking into his sister's room and stealing her cassette tapes...
"I recorded a freestyle over a Dru Hill song," Marq reminisced.
Mozaic recalls his first beats program being MTV Music Generator on Playstation One (from the late 90s). "I started like that like real real serious." And things have just evolved from there...
Who's your biggest influence?
Kysean: "Kanye West."
Marq: "Typical."
Kysean realizes it's "typical," but recalls switching from a private school to a public school (where he met Marq and Mozaic). He was a quiet kid and Kanye influenced him to have a voice, to write raps, and made him realize "that I can just be me."
He also grew up listening to a lot of west coat hip-hop. Guys like Ice Cube and DJ Quik.
Marq's biggest influence "of all time" is Michael Jackson. Hands down. "Michael Jackson is the reason I wanted to be on stage and Jay-Z is the reason I wanted to rap."
"J Dilla is the reason I write," I said. That's a long story that I'll get to one day....From there, the three of us took a moment to reminisce about how J Dilla really did change all of our lives (I was wearing my "J Dilla Changed My Life" shirt, by the way).
"If it wasn't for Dilla then what?" Kysean ponders.
"No Slum," Marq answers. "So no Slum, no Action Figures."
"No Tribe (A Tribe Called Quest)," Mozaic notes. "No Pharcyde."
Mozaic's biggest influence was "definitely" Dilla and also Pete Rock. "Back in grade school, like in the fifth grade when I heard Soul Survivor II, like that just changed my life," he recalled. "I was making like techno beats on the Playstation."
Dilla Day featured a face-off of sorts between Pete Rock and DJ Premier, and Mozaic and Marq were on opposite sides. "How he feels about Pete Rock is how I feel about Premier," Marq said.
For more information on The Action Figures, you can follow them on Twitter @RealTeamAF or Facebook. They have an EP coming out this year, so lookout for that!
This is one of the most fun interviews I've ever done.
It's been a huge year for The Action Figures, but they're JUST getting started!
More about the action figures, dilla day, slum village, Grand rapids, Hiphop
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