The HDY BOYS have a love for the Caps Lock button and thrift store shopping.
Courtesy of Flosstradamus Facebook page.
No other kind of music awakens the party in me quite like trap. One of my first experiences was at the Drake Underground during Nuit Blanche in 2011, where Flosstradamus and DJ Sliink summoned the ratchet side of Torontonians at a night of heavy bass and beats. Although the origin of the genre is within the underground of southern hip-hop, its contemporary blend with electronic music has created a new movement that is undeniably addictive.
But Flosstradamus has started a movement all their own, called #HDYNATION (Hoodie Nation). Comprised of Autobot (Curt Cameruci) and J2K (Josh Young), Flosstradamus has quickly become one of the most sought-after artists in the game. The duo can fill concert venues and festivals, where diverse audiences are all there with the same agenda: to get as turnt as humanly possible.
Their journey really began in late 2011, where the duo was close to quitting the scene. Instead, they decided to reinvent their brand and try again―this time with full force. "One day we were walking from one venue to another and we were passing a sporting goods shop. I told Curt, 'Yo man let's get some black hoodies and black sweatpants, that'll be our look on stage.' At that time, a lot of rappers from Chicago were calling themselves a name followed by the word 'boys.' So like 'Slutty Boys' and 'Glory Boys,' which was what Chief Keef and all those guys were. From there, we decided we were the HDY BOYS!" said J2K.
Flosstradamus has established an ecosystem with their fans―which are referred to as the #HDYNATION―where their creativity and inspiration is often a product of their fans. A lot of their branding has fan involvement too, most notably their Plursace t-shirts.
"You see a lot of shitty comments online, but our fans give us a lot of feedback. One time I wore a Versace shirt, and then I posted it [online] and someone commented 'plursace,'" said Autobot. "Then we took that to our merch guy, where he took the Flosstradamus and Versace logos and made it into a T-shirt."
Another fairly simple move that makes them stand out from the crowd is their insistence on using ony capital letters on social media. "One time we were posting something in all caps and someone asked if our caps button was broken," said J2K. "Right then, we said fuck it, we are always going to type in all caps."
J2K spends a lot of time interacting online, while Autobot is often the one sorting out the technical work. This translates well in their live performance, as Autobot is usually spinning and J2K is there hyping up the crowd.
The #HDYNATION tour is particularly special because renowned designer Virgil Abloh became involved with their set design. Abloh is well known for his design work on Kanye West's label Good Music and also his art for the Yeezus tour.
"We've been to a bunch of tours and experienced a lot of hip hop and electronic music shows where it's usually just a DJ playing music with graphics on an LED screen―that feels flat [to us]. Curt and I like to bring props and make it a little more of a theatrical event," said J2K.
The set design includes a burned down car with functional headlights, fluorescent tube lighting and a massive DJ booth that's decorated with the warning sign and barbed wire―really giving it that post-apocalyptic aesthetic.
The warning sign in their set has become a widely recognized symbol within the trap scene. But it's there for a reason―it's a throwback to the old hardcore and house records that Autobot listened to. "A lot of hardcore and hard house used to have street signs on them. The warning sign made the cut for one of Fool's Gold releases and then [we] stuck with it during the second volume. But that time [we made it] in 3D. Our fans kept tweeting at us with warning signs, so we took it as our new logo," he said.
Autobot is also inspired by the thrift stores in their hometown of Chicago. He says that they have a heavy influence on Flosstradamus' overall brand. "We are going to make a jersey soon that has an iron print from the Ecko era. We found it on an item I saw at a thrift store. You find the dopest fashion at Chicago thrift stores," he said.
According to J2K, these Chicago thrift stores may even be goldmines. "You find some really hood shit there. Anything with a hip hop and urban influence, you'll find it in there," he said. "It's not like LA or NYC where everything is picked over by boutiques and eBay sellers. The stuff I wear is a mix of things that I either thrift or shit that I get for free."
J2K says that the sign has also become a way to connect with likeminded individuals. The symbol has become a beacon that attracts people who not only share similar music tastes, but also a cultural understanding.
"The fans may like hip hop or electronic music. Perhaps they smoke a little bit of weed or maybe they smoke a lot of weed. At the end of the day when you see the sign on someone's shirt at the party, the street, or on the bus, those people might be the ones you really want to connect with," he said.
This mentality has resonated with popular horrorcore rap group, Insane Clown Posse. The groups Juggalo movement also represents family and unity among fans. Flosstradamus is stoked about having a possible slot at ICP's festival. "ICP actually reached out to us about playing at a Gathering of the Juggalos so we're trying to sort that out for 2015," said Autobot.
Recently, the duo has been working with GTA and Lil Jon on a new collaboration. The guys are big fans of Lil Jon and say he was at the forefront of the new wave in trap music, long before those who spearhead it now.
"He's not just some guy trying to cash in with the popularity of EDM―he really is a part of this culture," said Autobot. "He has a lot of number one records and not only as an artist, but also as a producer. I think he has a good ear and good taste. He's humble, down to earth and one of the hardest working dudes."
Josh used to work for VICE as a magazine delivery man. It's safe to say that his career is coming full circle with THUMP and Flosstradamus' partnership for their show at Igloofest next year. The boys have shown Canada a ton of love over the years and claim that they see themselves living or retiring there one day.
"I'll go as far as saying that Toronto and Vancouver have always been a step or two ahead of what was happening culturally in the scene, since we started touring about nine years ago," said J2K.
Their Igloofest performance will be their first ever. J2K recalls watching Lunice perform at a past edition of the festival and he's actually looking forward to the potential weather conditions. "It seems like one of those events where if the weather is bad it makes it all the more fun so I'm excited to play," he explained.
Flosstradamus is currently halfway through their #HDYNATION tour. Be sure to check them out in Montreal on January 18, as THUMP partners with Igloofest and the trap duo. They are guaranteed to have you turnt all the way up.
Ani occasionally runs the trap, follow him on Twitter: @AniHajderaj.