Emerging during the mid-’90s, Styles of Beyond tested the waters with their first single, “Killer Instinct,” in 1997. Their full-length response, “2000 Fold,” dropped a year later and was an underground success. Styles joined the likes of the then-prominent hip hop sparkplugs, Dilated Peoples and Jurassic 5.
Although their album was released in 1998, Styles have not been idle since then. Besides releasing a post-album 12″, they have appeared on various compilations, including the acclaimed “Funky Precedent Vol. 1,” the proceeds of which went to the L.A. Unified School District.
Now ready to re-emerge at a time when underground hip hop is ailing, DJ Cheapshot and Takbir (as well as Ryu and Vin Scully, not interviewed) are out to wreck shop.
“The moment I heard Takbir … I couldn’t hear anybody better out there,” DJ Cheapshot, producer and Spytech Records founder, said. But there was still a piece of the puzzle missing. The second MC, Ryu, filled that void.
“It was like, ‘now we got two of the best rappers ever to fuckin’ walk the earth,'” Cheapshot said. “I think we just formed the perfect team.”
Where does this perfect team get the skills to drop 20 songs off an independent label, and not end up in the dollar bin?
A DJ since seventh grade, Cheapshot was inspired by legendary producers DJ Premier, Pete Rock and Marley Marl and, of course, his pops. “He got me all the jazz records,” Cheapshot said. “I kinda stole his stash when I was a little kid.”
Takbir comes from far different roots. His fascination with ’80s groups such as Human League and Talking Heads led to a thirst for the spotlight. “I would sit in front of the TV and … I was like, ‘somehow, someway I wanna do that,'” Takbir said.
Yet, Tak didn’t always know he wanted to be an MC. Of course, the presence of his brother, an ’80s hip hop producer, and his brother’s friend – master-producer and MC, Divine Styler – must have helped a little.
Takbir’s quest for the spotlight continues beyond his hip hop success. When not busy in the studio, Takbir is an aspiring actor and writer.
“I get inspired from dope movies and classic books,” he said. “I just wanna be like a starfish and plant myself everywhere.”
Cheapshot’s hobbies are a bit less complex: “I like drinking a lot … the Simpsons … boxing’s fun … and producing, that’s my life right there,” he said.
While not going out of their way to be hip hop activists, Styles still wants to promote the good feeling you get when you bust a dope track.
“Basically, I just want people to get that energy and feel what I feel from it that always made me happy,” Takbir said.
As for the current competition, Tak says there’s no one worth peeping in the hip hop world. “I’m numb to it right now,” he said. “[Instead], I been listening to groups like Alien Ant Farm, and [other] alternative music.”
Cheapshot feels the same way regarding new hip hop: “I’m still listening to old [hip hop]. As far as other stuff in my stereo, it’s mainly …rock music,” he said.
But don’t fret all you Styles fans; these boys ain’t crossing over to rock anytime soon. They have been sharpening their claws and are now lying in wait.
While Vin Scully designed most of the beats on “2000 Fold,” Cheapshot is said to be behind much of the production on their upcoming release.
“Oh yeah, man, it’s coming,” Takbir said. “It’s been, like, two and a half years … but we didn’t wanna rush anything, so we just kinda let it happen naturally. It’s comin’, hopefully this summer.”
In the future, Takbir will make sure he’s doing something timeless. As for Cheapshot:
“I see us on top, man. Right now hip hop is very, very stale, even the underground … it’s only gonna take a couple of years before the pendulum swings back to the kind of stuff that we make.”
Styles of Beyond perform this Friday at Velvet Jones, located at 423 State St., with special guests Emanon and Substance Abuse. Doors open at 8 p.m.