Back in 2011, rappers P.O.S and Astronautalis dropped a 7" single together as Four Fists, a newly announced duo project between the two long-running rapper friends with an extensive history of features with each other. Named after an F. Scott Fitzgerald short story, Four Fists planned to release an LP, but as the two would quickly discover, life can get in the way of creating art. Andy Bothwell (Astronautalis) got married and dealt with his catapulting career, and Stefon Alexander (P.O.S) unfortunately dealt with kidney failure.
However, earlier this year Four Fists returned with two singles that showcased each rapper's respective maturation within the last seven years: the hard-hitting, brassy "Nobody's Biz," and the cool, beepy "G.D.F.R." The two singles showcased two sides of a coin; the first serving as a warning that Four Fists' debut was indeed on the horizon, with P.O.S and Astronautalis rapping with confidence and sense of urgency, and telling cops to fuck off along the way; the second presenting an electronic, synth heavy instrumental where both rappers could wax poetic on the importance of being both genuine artists and people.
Today, the duo see the proper release of their debut LP, 6666 – a record detailing the anxieties in life that beyond our control, as well as the home and comfort we find within our individual lives. The two teeter with comedy and drama, from quoting Bobby Hill from King of the Hill, to uncovering our own unique paths. But overall, the duo is purely having fun, and it shows on songs like "G.D.F.R." and "Dork Court." EARMILK got a chance to speak with Andy and Stef via Twitter on the duo's debut LP, and the two give us the run-down on 6666, track-by-track.
1. Nobody's Biz!
EARMILK: "Nobody's Biz" is the opening track on the album, and we got familiar with it when it dropped earlier this year. It's aggressive and brassy. How do you feel about it now since its initial release as a single drop? It's definitely a loud intro that sets the stage for the rest of the record.
Andy: This was a song, I started…probably back in 2015? with the intention of it being a Four Fists song. I made a basic form of the beat, wrote my verse, and had the chorus idea…but from the jump…knew it had to be me and Stef.
Stefon: And you can feel that. It basically wrote itself. It already felt massive, but then Subp Yao got ahold of it…and blew the brains out of it!
A: Subp Yao's work on the whole album, can not be overstated, but what he did on this song was unreal.
S: Hahaha…did you want us to talk about what the song was ABOUT?
EM: Yes! And specifically that line, "no cops, yes now!"
S: Action! Wanting action! It is hard to make the argument FOR cops these days.
A: I feel like everyone should listen the original song, "White Riot." That song continues to be timeless. When Stef says, "I'm over the same conversations / Either do it or don't, I don't care how you felt." I feel like that nails it. There is a lot of talking, and not enough action.
S: Like that Elvis song?
A: Hahahaah! Yes. Exactly.
2. Bobby Hill
S: This is some rappin' ass rapper shit.
EM: "Bobby Hill" is a banger. Andy, you went HAM on those name drops.
A: Listening to it over here…Stef's Bobby Hill quote issss THE BEST.
EM: And Steph, your verse was cartoonish.
S: Thanks? Yeah, thanks!
A: cartoonish feels right, that image of the driving backwards in a hearse, with a cigarette.
S: Rapping ass rap has to be pretty cartoonish.
EM: Yeah, that "Bobby Hill" quote was amazing. But the cartoonish vibe to it is great, especially when given the context of… well, rap. Yeah. Y’all are just having fun.
A: For sure! And that is really the Bird Peterson beat doing the talking there. You can't hear that beat, and want to do anything BUT rap.
EM: Next up, "Coriolanus," a Shakespeare reference. How does it work with the song?
S: Haha…that'll be some Andy shit.
A: The first part of my verse is shaped around some lines from the play "Coriolanus". Act 4, scene 2…I think? I love that line about anger eating you alive. a lot of that comes out in this record. Learning to let go of your anger, requires acceptance of flaws, in you…and in the world. That is the core of this song…letting go of the things that haunt you. and if you don't know the play…everyone should watch this. … so sick.
S: What he said!
EM: Also dig the theme of not really being the crutch for someone else to figure out what they’re doing in a way. The “Ain't nobody tryna save you” for sure. And of course, men are trash.
S: Haha…both of those things are pretty true, right?
4. Sid Vishis
EM: Chiptune is what I thought of when first hearing the song.
A: Man, I think I hate that term?
EM: How so?
A: It is unfair…but some much of what chiptune music is…or what gets brought the front is like, "a chiptune cover of the game of thrones soundtrack."
A: I know that as a genre, there is much more to it than that, but I feel like that is what is connected to that term now. Like, a perfectly good genre has been swallowed up by dumb shit. Like dubstep.
S: Hahaha! Like dubstep.
EM: I think it’s a diminishing label, for sure. People just shove the genre as just “Gameboy stuff” in a way. Not to knock Subp Yao, because this beat is fire. And I think it pairs well with creating an anthemic hook and atmosphere. I can already imagine the chanting at shows.
A: Don't let my dumb association ruin yours. If it is a compliment to you, then it will be a compliment to Subp Yao. He is a pretty positive dude.
S: Yeah, this one is going to be fun as hell live.
A: This was another one, that was started a bit beforehand. I had the chorus and nothing else. I knew it was a Four Fists song, but I needed Stef to write that verse before I could make it a song.
S: Didn't Subp Yao remake the whole beat?
A: Yeah. He lost the session in a hard drive crash, or something. When I told him we wanted that beat he, being the hard working dude he is, turned it around and remade it from scratch in like two days.
EM: That’s impressive.
S: He's a beast.
EM: So this song is basically slightly passing on the live fast lifestyle, but not necessarily condemning it, correct? You each have made careers out of being genuine rappers and people without much of a drastic difference between your personality and rap persona, I guess. I mean, would you agree with those statements?
S: Yeah, the line between person and rapper is pretty thin with us.
A: Yeah, and for me, it is less CANCELLING that approach, but more like, we don't care.
S: Yeah, none of that stuff matters. So, let's focus on what does.
EM: Next up, "Annihilation." It’s my favorite song on the album. It’s breakneck and sporadic.
S: Fuck yes it is! ICETEP ON THE BEAT!
EM: Oh my LORD. Y’all are just primitively screaming at the sun with this one.
A: When Tep sent us this beat, we both thought, "we HAVE to make this work, but we have no idea how."
S: But then, when all three of us sat down to write, it just happened.
EM: Who was first to step up to the plate and tackle this production? Was a hook idea there first?
S: We just let the beat play, all of us in the room. Us and Sims. And after a while, we did the check-in. "What does everyone have?" And everyone had these little bitty parts of parts – which were all great! And [we were] all writing around the same topics, and then we dove back in and finished these parts.
A: For me, it was one of the most intimidating beats on the record, but then it became a song in no time.
EM: Is that all three of you yelling toward the end there?
EM: I love that, damn. It gets so anxiety-inducing, which is the idea.
6. Joe Strummr
EM: And going straight into "Joe Strummr," which gives me the opportunity to breathe again. Even if it reaches into the anxiety realm.
A: That was the idea when we were laying out the album. The album is so much about growth, and change, the album needed a turning point. "Joe Strummr" was clearly it.
S: We were working on two different songs at the time, and when Andy walked out of the study and sang me what he wrote for this, it was so fully formed…it took me a while to figure out my approach on it.
A: But you got it. I am really proud of this song.
EM: It’s triumphant. It’s the hope of the problems presented prior.
A: Well…maybe still a bit disappointed. Everything I wrote in there is true. About the drug dealer, and all of that. My wife and our friend and I were watching Game of Thrones, and we heard this CRAZY screaming out our window. It was the drug dealer who lived in our building LOSING it because someone stole her stash. Once we realized that she wasn't getting murdered presently, we went back upstairs, locked the door, closed the window and unpaused Game of Thrones. My wife, who is German and moved to America in the last three years, was like "…wait…what? How is that normal?" Not that she was implying we call the cops or anything like that. But, how the two Americans just shrugged and unpaused HBO and kept moving.
EM: It’s just what we do, I suppose. Passivity I guess – hope would be a poor choice of wording there. There’s a certain comfort in not directly being involved with something that doesn’t already directly involve us.
A: It is a place we all have been.
EM: "Fjorti"s is another favorite of mine. There’s a weird innocence to doing awful things when you’re a teen.
S: Yeah! It is part of being that age. That is that word. A Swedish word meaning exactly that – teens hanging out, doing teen stuff.
EM: Steph, I love your verse so much. And Andy your story is nuts.
A: I wish I was the kind of guy that could pretend it was true, buuuut…I think we covered that in the talk about "Sid Vishis." Personally, I like thinking about Paper Tiger as a teen. I heard he drove a tricked out car.
8. Dork Court
EM: How did this track come together? Was this always a Four Fists idea?
S: Breakmaster sent me this beat, and I started writing to it, but then it felt like it should be a Four Fists song.
A: Stef played me the beat, and I didn't see how it fit on the record…till I heard him rap his verse. Then I GOT IT. And knew I had to write the best BARS OUT rap of my life, to try and keep up with Stef's.
S: And you DID. PAUL!
EM: Yeah Stef your flow is something serious here.
A: So serious. "Them toys could use a circuit bend," so sick.
EM: Also of note is a Paul Wall mention, which is like the third southern emcee you’ve name dropped on the record Andy, I think.
S: This is just some bars out stuff! So damn fun to write. So damn fun to rap.
A: I am from the south. I still mostly listen to southern rappers. Don't let the Shakespeare citations fool you, I still bump Screw (RIP).
EM: Hahahahaha ??
A: Also…who were the other two? I really can't remember?
EM: Trick daddy and Mystikal.
A: OH YEAH!
EM: I think southern influence is injected into the record as well. Obviously, some of it is subconscious hahaha, but I dig that.
A: man…Both of those rappers are so huge for me. Life changing. (As RAPPERS. As people…not so much. Yikes!).
EM: So "G.D.F.R." slaps. This is definitely another anthem.
S: GOD DAMN CHAN! This was one of the first ones we wrote for the record. Andy, Beak, and I in the woods…drinking and rapping.
A: Hahaha! That night was so hype. You can hear it in the flows. We were so loose writing these, it stayed till the end.
S: Yeah this one, you were loose on. In a really great way.
A: Yeah, that comes out when we work. I get way more loose. Less in my head.
EM: It’s a fun song throughout, it’s felt for sure. That beat too. Goddamn Chan.
S: Yeah man! It was born to be this way.
EM: Fuck Bukowski – a statement I can totally get behind, but for the sake of this interview – why?
A: I think I am just tired of heaping praise onto terrible people. And in many ways, I am doubly tired of worshipping people who make art out of being cynical and jaded. Not trying to discourage people from liking what they like…I am just not interested in giving any more value to people like that. Nor am I interested in art like that. I should say this, with the caveat, that at one time in my life, I idolized Bukowski. And at another part of my life, Hemingway. And at another part, Kurt Cobain. And I am not embarrassed by that, but I think now…there are people who are more deserving of adoration. But that is not really what the song is about, haha.
EM: We are weapons. Can we talk about that, and the "four fists inside of us?" "Just remember to breathe, just remember to be" is a mantra in its own right and something we all tend to forget
A: I wrote this about how I used to worship people like Hemingway…I felt like i needed to live like that to really live. I had to love, and drink, and fight, and see death, and be in war, and be on the edge to live. Because everything has already been discovered, living was the new frontier, in the modern age. And I tried to live like that, in many ways… which, I don't regret, but I was wrong. I didn't need to live through war to live. I have found life laying next to my wife in the grass, hearing her talk about her day. We are the weapons. My friends are the revolution. Making art, and being happy, and having love is the real frontier.
S: Yeah, finding happiness, and wisdom through all your dumb mistakes and youth. That is what the short story "Four Fists"is all about. That is what this song is all about.
A: Not "inside of us," "inside of life." The punches to the face we all take, all need, and hopefully learn from.
EM: Who is that quote from in the beginning of the track? Was it found before the album was shaping up, or during its creation process, or was it something that was always held dear and felt like it belonged with Four Fists?
A: Joe Strummer. From some old Swedish TV interview. He is a theme through the album. It was found during the process. I was watching a lot of his interview.
S: That song is really aspirational. Writing about an ideal life. What I am working toward. What we probably all are.
A: Yeah, and for me, it is about embracing the life I have. And realizing how great it is.
A: I like how it has two perspectives like that…on the same thing. Without sounding like "Ebony & Ivory."
EM: I think it serves as the perfect closer. It's vulnerable and it's a delicate teetering of enjoying the now.
A: ? (We haven’t used enough emojis in this interview).