Greenpoint Hip Hop: Hand Job Academy Interview + Video

Greenpoint Hip Hop Artists: Hand Job Academy © Fabian Palencia

Hailing from Brooklyn, NY, Hand Job Academy is vivacious trio of MC’s that came together for one common cause: to fuck shit up.  Their Kicktarter campaign to create a music video for their song “Lena Dunham” was successfully funded this past weekend. I recently had a chance to chop it up with them on a rooftop in Greenpoint, where we discussed Hip Hop, having porn actor as fans, E-40 and touring.

GP: How’d you meet up & come together as a group?

Clara – Well, Ashley and I were at a party, and they were just playing hip hop and we were nerding out over it, and it was kind of like one of those things where it was like “no shit you know all this random hip hop,” and we knew the feeling was mutual.  It was just weird because neither of us looked like the kind of people who would be rappers, and somebody was beat-boxing at this party and we just started freestyling, and it was really weird how it all fit together.  So we were rapping for a while together then we were in one of Meg’s films for school (Meg’s a filmmaker) and then we needed some video work done, and she did it for us. Then a week later she emailed us some freestyles she did and it was so sick we were like “oh my god, can you be in our band?”

Meg: So then they inducted me.

GP: How long ago?

Meg: Maybe a little over 2 years ago.

GP: What role does each member of the group play creatively and what is your creative process?

Meg: We all write our own lyrics, we all have our own flair we put into our own writing.  We try to share some responsibilities.  I make all the videos, I come up with the concepts, direct and edit them.  Claire does merchandise.

Clara: Yeah, I do some of the visual components, I was doing a lot of the social media for a while, but they really stepped up so now everybody does it. It’s just hilarious because they’re so funny.  Ashley really engages the crowd in a way that I’m not really as free to do.  She actually will just be the one that’ll be freestyling like at four in the morning on the train. She just says what’s up to everybody and talks to all manner of human beings and it’s really cool.  I don’t do that.

Ash: We’re doing it for the kids, doing it for the children basically.

GP: It seems like there is a strong live element to your music.  What can people expect when they attend one of your shows?

Meg: They can expect definitely high energy.  They can expect some interesting costumes, maybe some costume changes.  They might expect a book distribution, zine distribution, one per person.

Clara: They can expect, how you say, the turn up…Ashley’s never wearing any clothes.

Meg: We play off each other, yeah she’ll be stripping down.

Clara: Meg’s always telling us to shut the fuck up, because we’re Geminis and she’s a Taurus. We like rolling around on the floor.

Ash: Lots of hugs and high fives.

Claire: It’s kind of like a punk show in a lot of ways, because we’re on the floor.

Ash: Head banging.

Clara: Yeah head banging. That’s just how we roll.

Ashley: Don’t be scared though.

Clara: Little tiny bit of choreography, little tiny bit.

GP: Speaking of punk, what are some of your musical influences?

Clara: Literally, no one has ever asked us this … no one in an interview has ever asked us what our musical influences are.

Meg: I think we all have different musical interests and people that we look up to … but I think we can all agree on E-40…He make his own language, his ad libs.

Ash: I like E-40, he’s my favorite MC.

Clara: I love old country music.  I have a Patsy Cline tattoo, I have a Captain Beefheart tattoo, I fucking love Bjork, ya know?

Ash: I love Sonic Youth.

Clara: But rapper wise?  Lauren Hill.

Meg: Brooke Candy.

Meg: We’re also inspired by other local rappers.

Ash: I’m interested in touring with any bands that I look up to, and I think I just look up to a lot of bands in Brooklyn because it’s such a hustle.  All of our friends are in rap groups, and we admire the fuck out of them.

Meg: They’re inspiring to us.  Ratchet By Nature, Cunt Mafia, shout out.

Clara: Champagne Jerry..Duck Duck Goose

Ash: All these people from Greenpoint that we are about.

Clara: Yeah, you should check out Ratchet By Nature, they’re like our sister group. Sam Wise and Apple. Sam looks like a metalhead; he has long hair, Apple is a Dominican chick … It’s so funny because we throw around the term punk a lot, but I am such a huge dork.  I love Black Flag, obviously and Bikini Kill, that kind of shit. People think that we’re comedians, but we’re totally not.  We really want to do this with our lives, and tour, and I think our live show is just really entertaining.

Meg: We just happen to put our personalities in it, and people just happen to think our personalities are funny.

GP: In the future, do you plan on incorporating different sounds or different genres into your music?

Clara: I mean, we play instruments, ya know. I always fantasize about that.

GP: Who plays what?

Clara: I play the drums, kind of, but Ashley’s a really sick musician.

Meg: I know how to play piano.

Clara: Meg can really, really sing.  I think all of us can kind of sing.

Ash: I like to play guitar… I’m interested in playing instruments and stuff, but it’s just like so hard because we’ve kind of had it easy being rappers, we just bring our mics.

Meg: We have a hard enough time as it is trying to fit the three of our schedules together.

Clara: As far as touring with gear, you have low overhead if you’re a rapper.

GP:  So do you consider Hand Job Academy a business?

Meg: Yeah, it’s a business.

Clara: We have a bank account.

Ash: We’re looking to raise money for our next project, which is a music video that we want to shoot.  It’s going to be crazy.

Clara: You should be in it.

Meg: It’s going to have a ton of features.

Clara: Yeah, we know a lot of random people in the art world, like, adult entertainers. All these random porn stars want to be in our video, so that’s pretty tight.

GP:  That’s always good.  You can’t really be a rap group if you don’t know people in the porn industry.  What producers do yo work with?  

Meg: Anyone. Send us your beats.  Mainly we work with a producer called Good Goose.

Clara: He’s from Virginia, where all the best producers are from.

Meg: Sometimes we work with Dubious Luxury, he produced the “Shark Week” beat.

Ash: We have a lot of beats coming out on our next album that’s coming out in August. It’s called #ikeamonkey

GP: Fresh.  Any last words?

Meg: Never change.

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