Defenders of the Faith [Interview]
Vancouver, B.C. – The group Defenders of the Faith is comprised of two notable Canadian hip-hop foundation-builders, Checkmate and Concise. Hailing from the West Coast, the two have paved their own paths by putting in over a decade of hard dedication and strong work ethic.
While individually they have had their own successful track record (think: the Canadian banger “Northern Touch”), the duo complement each other nicely and have a thick chemistry that is instantly recognizable.
On November 11th, 2008 their album debut as a group African Kings was released with much anticipation from fans across the country. The album features guest appearances from Daz, King Reign, Tone Mason and many other heavy hitters. The release, which has generated a healthy buzz with their “Takin’ it to the Top” single leading the way, is one of the first projects being distributed by HipHopCanada’s new label, HipHopCanada Digital in conjunction with KOCH Entertainment and DefendersMusic.ca.
HipHopCanada’s Tara Muldoon caught up with Checkmate and Concise to discuss African Kings, how they came together as a group and what they have planned for the future. Here’s how things went down:
HipHopCanada: How did Defenders of the Faith come about?
Checkmate: We met around the time of “Northern Touch” when we both lived around Burnaby.
Concise: We were in the studio a lot together. Chex used to be in a group with Jay Swing who I was in the studio with. Also, when I was on Checkmate’s album, the first track we did together was called “Defenders of the Faith”.
HipHopCanada: What is the story behind African Kings?
Concise: We are both from Africa, so it’s our extension – but also that we are kings of the game.
HipHopCanada: What is your new relationship with HipHopCanada Digital?
Concise: Our deal is a digital album release. I called Jesse when we had the album done and didn’t have anywhere to release it. Jesse said, “Mess with us at HipHopCanada Digital” and it’s a wrap. Big shout-out to Jesse and Mo.
HipHopCanada: What is a typical studio session like with the two of you?
Checkmate: When it’s just Consise and I, it’s calm and we get work done. Regardless of what it is that we are working on, we focus. On the flip side, though, when it’s the whole crew, because a lot of people come through, it can get rowdy.
HipHopCanada: Do you both prefer being an MC over a producer?
Concise: I love both, but I started as an MC so that’s my heart, but I love both.
Checkmate: No contest. It’s equal love. It is two different types of joy they bring but still all love.
Concise: [Laughing] It’s like choosing which son I love more.
Checkmate: Yeah, no contest.
HipHopCanada: What are your production tools?
Concise: Honestly, we use everything including the kitchen sink! The MPC 2000 XL Reason, Pro-Tools.
Checkmate: Pro-Tools with the Roland XV5050.
Concise: We have a bunch of producers who are in the same studio as us, so sometimes we even get live instruments. We use everything.
HipHopCanada: Nice. What are your favourite joints on African Kings?
Checkmate: You know, I almost love the album cuts more than the singles. My favourite track is “Mr. Green”, which I won’t tell (the readers) what it’s about. I love conceptual songs and that’s what it is. Also, mine is “Stakes of the Game” with King Reign.
Concise: Mine are “Throw ‘Em Up” and “Sunshine Lady”.
HipHopCanada: Dope. Is there anything you think the fans would be surprised to know about you?
Concise: I am a MEAN cook.
Checkmate: If you ever come across “Mike Minestrone” on online poker, that’s me.
HipHopCanada: [Laughing] Checkmate, what does Concise bring to the group?
Checkmate: His gifted lyricism and he’s a versatile producer. He’s always messing with R&B but just with his own twist.
HipHopCanada: Concise, what does Checkmate bring to the group?
Concise: Chex brings the experience and half the money [Laughing]. Seriously, he’s been in the game for a long time and helped me out with [DJ] Kemo.
HipHopCanada: Thanks for coming through guys. Any shout-outs?
Both: Everyone on the record, Daz, Reign, all of BrassMunk, Bishop Brigante (you’re on the next one!), Tone Mason, Kemo & Vanguards, Savage Beats. Sade – she’s the dopest right now, better than 80% of all rappers. Shout-out to everyone we’ve ever worked with . . . sorry if we didn’t mention you, it’s not intentional! We definitely have to shout-out The Dinunzio bros . . . Age & Fo! And Young Kazh, Tre Nyce . . . Special shout-out to Jesse & Mo!
Editor’s note: For more information on Checkmate and Concise, Defenders of the Faith, check out http://www.defendersmusic.ca, http://defendersmusic.blogspot.com and http://www.myspace.com/defendersofthefaith.
Buy the album: To purchase the album African Kings on iTunes [click here].