Three albums. One novel. One night.
Accomplished abstract poet. Early architect of electronically infused beatscapes. Founding member of legendary leftfield rap act AntiPop Consortium. Childhood Kiss fan. So reads the résumé of the estimable Beans, a New York native raised in the suburb of White Plains. Born in ’71, Beans came of age alongside hiphop. As for siblings, he had one of each. His mother was a dietician, and though his father succumbed to cancer when Beans was 10, he passed on a library of books and records that his son subsequently devoured. Rap’s echoes came through the radio courtesy of DJ Red Alert. Beans’ mother forbade trips to the city to catch Marley Marl in action, but the action eventually came to the ‘burbs, as his older Bronxbased relatives brought vinyl with them when they came out to trim the hedges.
Holed up in the seat of Westchester County, young Beans was privy to what his neighbors in Yonkers and New Rochelle were up to. In school, DMX freestyle tapes and Brand Nubian mixes were traded like baseball cards. He’d taken a shine to DJing at 17, but switched to rhyming, as it was cheaper and required no equipment. He’d long been into comic books and drawing, so Beans eventually went to college for fine art. While there, he discovered the burgeoning slam poetry scene, and made a name for himself at the Rap Meets Poetry series in SoHo. That’s where the future members of AntiPop first witnessed him in action.
As an MC, Beans has very few peers outside his circle. Within the Consortium, his rapid staccato and distinct lyrical bent, and a mix of classic rap braggadocio and fractured new school narrative helped vault the Consortium into cult and critical favor circa ’99 alongside artists from Anticon and Def Jux. Beans also honed his own beatmaking style in the group, citing seminal No Wavers Suicide as his main influence (with nods to Sun Ra, Mantronix, Sonic Youth, Public Enemy and Autechre).
Together with High Priest, M.Sayyid and Earl Blaize, AntiPop made four albums for labels as acclaimed as Warp Records and Big Dada, opened for Radiohead on the band’s Amnesiac tour, and broke up in 2002. Over the course of four solo albums, Beans mastered his craft. Tomorrow Right Now, 2003, found him laying arty verbal swagger over skronky minimal tracks. Two years later, on Shock City Maverick, he’d doubled down on both counts, sounding more confident, fuller. And on 2008’s Thorns, Beans exorcised some spiritual demons, delivering his most personal work to date.
Tours and festivals came, EPs and singles too, and eventually, so did the AntiPop reunion. At the same time Beans was working with his old partners on their praised comeback LP, Fluorescent Black (2009), he was carefully assembling the bits and pieces that would become his 2010 Anticon debut, End It All. In 2017, after a five year hiatus and the completion of numerous simultaneous projects, Beans has returned to the public eye with not one, but three new albums, as well as his first novel. Die Tonight, 226 pages of weird fiction, tells the story of Eric Ford, a teenage loner who gets possessed by a record, goes on a killing spree, and finds himself.