Todd Hamm Don't Talk to the Cops! (L-R): DJ BlesOne, Emecks, Gatsby (Larry Mizell, Jr.)
"This is what we do when we get off of work," says DJ BlesOne at a table in the upper room at Cafe Vita's main coffee house. "This is us opening a Budweiser and hanging out by the pool with our friends; this is our eighties beer commercial."
Bles is sitting with his Don't Talk to the Cops! bandmates Emecks and Gatsby (Larry Mizell, Jr.), the latter of whom is his other half in Mash Hall; two of this year's Reverb Fest. bands at one table.
"We're hustlers, but when it comes to music, that's not a hustle, that's our escape," adds Mizell. "That's us having fun, not us trying to pay the rent.
The band is laying out the set of ethics that guide them as artists, most of which seem to follow the principles instilled in BlesOne and Emecks over a lifetime of b-boy breakdancing and organized dance. The rap game is too standoffish in their minds, so they fall back on what they've learned from the dance world: "It's about competing with each other to be the best, but not stepping on each other," says Bles.Mizell finds himself behind the decks during DTTTC! shows, but for Bles, who claims to have performed dance for the King of Norway, and Emecks, who's danced for the Princess of Sweden, it's a constant one-upping battle that's become the foundation of their relationship, on and off stage. Says Bles: "Our first date we were battling each other, and that's what made us fall for each other."
"Another reason we dance at our shows is to show the audience that 'it's okay, you can dance and move around during the song,'" says Emecks. "'Dance with us.'"
Out earlier this year, DTTTC!'s debut Regular Show is a goofy, half-serious, yet accomplished collection of tracks, that, like all of Bles' productions, are geared toward the live performance--musical scenarios even, for them to flesh out. Incredibly, Regular Show was put together in about a week, and now just eight months later, their sophomore, as-yet-untitled effort is nearing completion. Yet as stand-alone as their compositions have become, the band makes it clear that it's still the dance that guides them.
"It's a full-length, fourteen songs, and every song we're making right now also comes with a vision of how we're gonna perform it, how we're gonna dance to it, what different styles," explains Bles. "And we're trying to really be able to incorporate all the different styles of dancing that we do along with the different styles of music that we do, so it's all there. In the first [album], it was little bits here and there, but this one is all there."
They explain that their Reverb set will feature a huge portion of this new album, and that they are working towards a seamless song-and-dance production, which gets closer to becoming a reality by the day.
"The more we perform, the more we're adding choreography...as we have more stuff committed, then we keep adding stuff," says Bles. "Eventually our goal is: we're gonna do shows were it's literally like...Janet Jackson did in the nineties, where it's non-stop entertainment."
"Thick Janet," clarifies Mizell.
DTTTC! don't push values on others though, instead they prefer to set a positive example within their scene in the same way that they show their audiences that it's okay to dance, rather than beating it into their heads with overly literal choruses and b-boy-centric lyrics. They are local rap's dance ambassadors, and are out to bring bring the camaraderie and the ethos--if not the craft--back to favor.
"A lot of times, break dancers are devalued as humans, they're looked at as props, one-trick ponies, like they're interchangeable, disposable, but really dancers have their own dance language, their own style," says Bles. "Everything about them makes them unique."
Don't Talk to the Cops! plays Reverb Fest. Saturday, October 8, 7pm at The Tractor Tavern