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TWRK: The twerking in pop culture is watered down

eSenTRIK and Benzi of TWRK
eSenTRIK and Benzi of TWRK
Courtesy of the artist

Since DJ and production team TWRK hit the electronic music scene hard with the release of their first mixtape, Volume I, twerkers around the globe have been truly blessed. The music that the recently unveiled Benzi and eSenTRIK create, however, goes far deeper than just the dance move itself. They draw inspiration from trap elements, early Southern rap, and classic hip-hop samples to create a sound that stands alone.

Gimme Noise spoke with Benzi as TWRK prepare for a headlining slot at Bassgasm 10 this Friday.

Gimme Noise: How did you guys meet and start working together?

We met on the internet. I had been doing mix tapes forever, and I heard some of his remixes, and we started collaborating. We realized that we had good chemistry, and decided to form this group all over the internet and the phone. The first time we actually met in person was towards the end of that process.

How long were you collaborating before you actually met in person?

I think we met briefly. He came out to one of my shows in New York, then we met again in Detroit with Diplo. We went from never doing a TWRK show to the big time with Diplo. We hung out for a day before at my place, then went on and did the show, and we've gone on from there.

Putting out mix tapes is how you first connected with the Ying Yang Twins, right?

Yes. So, we did the TWRK Volume I with the Ying Yang Twins, but when I was in college I had tons of mix tapes, and I would just hit up all of these people -- you know, rappers, and people I wanted to be affiliated with, and the Ying Yang Twins were the first ones ever to hit me back. I did a mix tape with them in 2005, way back when I was young and in college. So, when we got to do TWRK Volume I, I decided to hit them up again, and things came full circle.

Do you remember what their response was to your first mix tape?

Yes. So, they loved the idea. They were kind of bewildered by it, but when we played it for them they were like, wow, that's really cool, and they asked us to remix some songs. We did a remix for their song called "Miley Cyrus." Now they're doing a new sound kind of similar to ours, which is really cool.

TWRK: The twerking in pop culture is watered down

Are you planning on working together on anything new?

Yes. We have an EP in the works, which is going to be on Mad Decent, and we've been talking to them about getting on two of the songs and seeing how it goes.

You've said that your name, TWRK, was a "big pitfall" for you in the beginning. Can you explain?

When we decided to start this, it was January 2013. The whole "twerk," Miley Cyrus, all that stuff -- none of it had taken effect yet, so it was just a name of the genre of music. We said, let's put our name on this new burgeoning genre of music, not knowing that the whole Miley Cyrus and....my mom knowing what twerk is, and that whole nationwide phenomenon. We thought we were clever with our name, but now we've come to live with it, and sometimes we just say, hey, we're T.W.R.K. It is what it is. We're content with it now.

In your own words, what's the difference between your TWRK and the pop culture twerk trend?

What's going on in pop culture is watered down. The music, I feel like, might have a longer shelf life, at least we hope. I'd say that Miley Cyrus twerking type of stuff doesn't have too much shelf life, whereas this has a longer shelf life, and it's just another branch of electronic music and all of the upcoming side genres.

 

Why did you keep your identity a secret for so long?

Since we both had experience being club DJs, and making mix tapes, and both had our separate careers, we thought this would just kind of generate more buzz, and it kind of worked really well. People thought, you know, oh maybe this is Diplo, maybe this is so-and-so. It helped build more mystery around us and it drove us to a bigger place, before the reveal and before we started doing shows.

How have things changed since you revealed yourselves?

I think it's cool, because people that know us previously were surprised, and still people come up, like at SXSW, a guy came up to me and was like, why are you here? Why are you here at this TWRK show? It's cool to see. A lot of these new fans, when we get ushered around or were doing larger shows at big venues, they don't even say our names -- like oh, here's TWRK, this is DJ TWRK! It's interesting, kind of like starting a whole new things, and I can see the benefits on both sides.

How did you get hooked up with Diplo?

I started working with him when I was in college, way back, like in 2004 or even before that. We've known each other for a very long time, and he and I have done a couple of albums together. He was on all of my old mix tapes doing remixes. When we brought up this project, he really liked it and released it on Mad Decent, and we kept going from there.

Can you describe what your creative process is like, and how it's changed since you first got together?

We just come up with an idea for either a sound or an old-school sample, like in the case of Badinga. It was the K7 "Come Baby Come" sample. We hear little bits that we wanted to sample and loop, and then we go back and forth. The best ones happen very quickly, and the ones that take a long time sometimes don't work as well. Lately we've been working with a lot of bigger names, like Just Blaze (on a song called "BLT"). Those aspects start with an idea or a little sample, and we give it our own twist. Now we've been able to clear some of these old-school samples. We just cleared "Badinga," the "Come Baby Come" sample, so it can go on the label. Now when we hear these old-school samples we can think of them in terms of if we clear them, we can use them as a real single. We can take them to 2014 and make them accessible for all these young kids.

 

Are there a couple you have in mind?

There are a bunch, but we have to speak to the lawyers first. One we're actually working on is Nelly's "E. I." We got with his producer and they have all the files, and all of Nelly's vocals, and we're going to make that one crazy next. The younger kids don't know a lot of these older songs. They know "E. I." but a lot of songs of ours they love, they think are our new songs. It's going to be interesting to sample something that everybody already does know, and flip it.

Do you have any stories from recent shows or festivals you've played?

We had shows with twerk contests, and our whole show would be based around the contest. All of them would get completely out of control, and there would be very large cash prizes, and girls would lose their minds. A lot of them, once the contest ended, people would go home thinking that we came there just to do a twerk contest, and that was it. It was kind of embarrassing. That happened a couple of times. Now we say, if you're going to do one of these contests, do it at the very end. We've seen some wild things. Girls will do a lot of stuff for...one of them was for $3,000.

What does your mom think of all of this?

She thinks its funny. It was kind of weird at the beginning, but now they've come around. She puts our stickers everywhere, and any time they mention Miley on Fox News or something, she'll go, oh, they're talking about you guys! I'm like no, that's not about us; they're talking about that whole culture thing. At the beginning it was a whirlwind of oh, you guys are really big, you guys are everywhere! I think she's started to understand it now. I just tell her, when she tells her friends the name of our group, to say T.W.R.K.

So what's the ultimate goal for TWRK?

Soon we'll release our EP on Mad Decent. We have tons of remixes coming up for a bunch of big people. The goal is to branch out beyond the 100 BPM stuff. We have a couple singles that are more uptempo, dance-y and trap stuff. We want to become a brand all on our own and go crazy. I have my label, Get Right Records, which I want to keep expanding and create our own empire, like Mad Decent Fool's Gold did, and sign a bunch of new artists. We want to have a bunch of Billboard number one hits, live in a mansion, have a bunch of ex-wives, and see what happens.

What would you say to your fans?

We provide the best 100 BPM twerk music out there, and you can always rely on us for quality. This is just the beginning.

Anything you want to add?

I was an intern for Rhymesayers all through college. I did street team, like hanging up posters and promoting the shows and giving out stickers. We want to do a song with Atmosphere, or maybe even Brother Ali. That would be awesome. I've already done a song with Brother Ali, but I would like to do another one.

We're excited for Friday! It'll be nuts. We bring a lot of energy.

TWRK is a headliner this Friday, March 21 at Bassgasm 10, which is taking over all of First Avenue. Party starts at 6 PM, $20 advance/$25 door, 18+

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