The Resourceful Illery of Pseudo Intellectuals
(Photo: Resourceful Illery release show at The Tudor Lounge, Buffalo, 2008, shot by Nate Pereccini)
There was a bit of a chain reaction before finding out more about Pseudo Intellectuals. Polish DJ/producer Graf Cratedigger made two Private Selection hip-hop mixes for The Find. A track called “If On A Winter’s Night, A Rapper” by Pseudo Intellectuals caught my ears.
That led me to check out their 2008 album called Resourceful Illery, steady on repeat for a few days straight. Graf then referred me to the man who got the album by the Buffalo crew pressed on wax back then: Polish radio DJ/collector Druh Slawek.
“It’s certainly Tone’s exquisite, ole’ jazz-drenched beats that I love,” tells Slawomir Jabrzemski, better known as Druh Slawek. “Especially when combined with their laid-back flow and easy-going lyrics. That’s what I love most about Pseudo Intellectuals.”
“Back in 2008, they released a 7” single promoting an equally excellent mixtape, Blue Collar Funk. The album [Resourceful Illery] after that was only available on CD, though. But what can you do—that’s a sign of the times… It kept bugging me that there was no vinyl record of the album, though. So one day, about 4-5 years later, I decided to contact them to see if they would be interested in releasing it on vinyl. We clicked right away, and the rest is history.”
And as they say, history repeats itself. Druh got me in touch with DJ Cutler of Pseudo Intellectuals. That clicked as well, leading to the premiere of “Linda’s Lament” at the bottom of this Q&A, taken from their first new full-length release in five years.
I heard from Druh that you [DJ Cutler] recently moved back to Buffalo from Seattle. Did that spark any new energy and productivity for the Pseudo Intellectuals crew, after your hiatus for several years?
Cutler: Yes it did. We’ve got a few new projects in the clip right now that we’re very proud of. We actually recorded a full album remotely while I was in exile—that should be seeing the light of day in 2020 as well.
Nick: I would like to mention that I flew back home with Cut when he lived out there to see Digable Planets and we had a beer on the plane at 6AM. There are no rules in the sky.
So what’s new?
Cutler: We are currently unloading some of our back catalog on various streaming platforms, and we’ve got some new material coming up. We just released a new remix of one of the EP tracks, “Milding Out,” expertly remixed by the very talented Jazz Spastiks of the UK. In two weeks, May 25th to be exact, we will be releasing a 10-track instrumental project entitled Pseudo Intellectuals in: A Late Stage Malaise. As for the sound, I like to think that we’re always progressing musically—so this should be a reflection of that.
Tone: Stoked about finally releasing this Jazz Spastiks remix. There’s also an unreleased solo album Nick did called Only Built for Food and Drinks – it was a final project connected to his Master’s degree. He can speak to this more, but he also wrote a thesis which we are excited to be publishing along with the record. We are working on fixing that up and it will be ready early summer. That was recorded around 2017 while Cut was in Seattle.
I also wanted to expand on A Late Stage Malaise because I think that’s a direction that we will be taking quite often moving forward. This is a project Cut and I have been working on long-distance since it’s tough to get together to record. This project was totally done in the MPC Live. I make the beats and send them to Cut and he adds the scratches. He also sent me quite a few samples that we ended up using. We created concepts for every song that reflect, in some way, an aspect of living in such a precarious moment of late-stage capitalism. We added intro audio clips from people like Fred Hampton, Frederick Engels, and Salvoj Zizek to help create the vibe.
Essentially, if you’re familiar with the Music Minus One record series which leaves, for instance, space for a trumpet to practice soloing, this is meant to be ready-made song concepts for the radical rapper. All three of us are Marxists and Socialists to varying degrees and I don’t want to speak for them, but we wanted something to reflect our current states of mind as adults raising kids and working to survive during the era of Trump and neoliberalism more broadly. This album is, I think, an interesting way to accomplish that without raps, which are time-consuming to write and difficult to record at this odd moment. But, we have sent the album to a number of our good friends in the hip hop world and we will be putting out vocal versions of the songs as they come in.
Nick: I wrote an entire album during the 2016 Presidential Election that critiqued capitalism in America. Tone produced the entire thing and Cut did all of the scratches from Seattle. I wrote a 96-page thesis on the making of it and the socialist aspects of rap, while focusing on the influence it had on the final product. Rap night is fun, but it’s more than just making music. I hope to release it soon with a copy of the thesis as a bonus. If anyone reads it, I would be happy.
Pseudo Intellectuals has been around for quite a while now. How do you look back on your time together, on and off?
Cutler: Well we effectively started making music as a group just over 20 years ago now, during the Bill Clinton era, so I guess I’ll always look back and wonder how after all this time, why the hell do we still not have universal health care coverage in the United States?! Aside from that, I’ll always be grateful to have been given the opportunity to make music with my best friends for over two decades—many great memories, music, and meals have transpired.
Nick: I couldn’t ask for two people more musically inclined or knowledgeable to do a majority of the work.
Tone: Nick, I’ve known my whole life since we are actually brothers, but, I’ve been rolling with Cut for over half of my life at this point. So now it’s like all of us are brothers. In short, I look back fondly. We’ve been through a lot individually and as a group. I remember forming the group around 1999 after we’d been making music for a short time together. We were originally going to call ourselves The Lawn Wranglers based on this movie Bottle Rocket and then Nick suggested this name Pseudo Intellectuals (Nick is the title guy) and it was so fitting with our personalities in that we all love to pontificate, but unpretentiously. I like to think that Nick saved us from having an absolutely horrible, senseless name.
So what led you to start your own group?
Cutler: We all went to high school together and I used to buy mixtapes from Nick. New Year’s Resolution from ‘96 is a collector’s piece now. Nick was the nicest emcee out of anyone I knew, and Tone soon got really nice on the beats after copping the MPC 2000. We became friends over music really, and over the course of the next few years got to build up our chops a bit through a really vibrant hip hop scene that was proliferating in Buffalo in the late 90s & early 2000s.
Tone: Nick and I loved hip hop from a young age and it was a great connection and interest to have as brothers. Nick was immediately a good rapper; even as a kid he’d do entire Too Short raps perfectly. He just saw the structure of the art form and got it. He did his first studio song when he was in 9th grade. He did talent shows in high school and was so good and infectious right off the bat. So, after high school, we started freestyling all of the time with a group of friends, including, most importantly, my future brother in law, Bruce. We got a bit serious and wanted to record so I bought an MPC to make us beats. Then Bruce, around that time, introduced me to Cut, who had recently begun DJing. I knew Cut in high school, not well, but after meeting up at this moment, we immediately hit it off. Bruce moved away, and Nick and Cut and I started to record.
Nick: I met Mike in high school. I met Tone after I was born because we shared a room most of our lives. Both are good huggers.
Have you ever toured through Europe? Or can you recall how you got in touch with Slawomir?
Cutler: Well, Tone & I were fortunate to tour a bit in Denmark years ago. 2006, I think, as part of Pseudo Slang. Big up to the Dialekten crew! Slawomir got a hold of our Resourceful Illery project a few years after that and was giving it crazy play on his radio show. We noticed lots of comments in Polish on a few of our tracks on YouTube. Years later, he reached out to us and made us an offer we couldn’t refuse to press said project on deluxe 2LP vinyl. We are very humbled and honored by his commitment and collaboration in helping us get our music out.
Speaking of which, Tone is part of both Pseudo Intellectuals and – previously? – of Pseudo Slang. How are both groups affiliated or connected with each other?
Tone: As mentioned by Cut, we had a vibrant hip hop scene here in Buffalo. Much of that was due to a local Thursday night hip hop event called Baby Steps. Which was live from around 1999 till 2008 or so. Baby Steps was run by this guy Emcee Sick with the help of DJ Tommee and DJ LoPro—among a number of other really important and amazing people. Ultimately, Nick and I did countless performances as emcees there from 1999 on. Cut became one of the DJs of the night, and we opened for so many amazing hip hop groups there including Breezly Brewin, Yeshua Da Poed, J Zone, and many others. In addition to this, Baby Steps used to do these “local emcee showcases.”
When I first went to Baby Steps in 1998 or 1999, I wasn’t rolling with Cut too much yet and Nick wasn’t really rapping too much at all, but my friend Bruce and I were constantly writing and freestyling so we went to a showcase to check it out. After seeing that first showcase, I auditioned and got into a showcase and we immediately met countless people and became mainstays in the scene. For instance, we met this guy Tone X who owned a small record label called Deepthinka Records and we met another rap group called Catastrophic Minds. For Deepthinka Records, in 2001, Pseudo Intellectuals and Catastrophic Minds recorded an album under the name The Cinemaddicts called Notes from the Underground. That album was received well locally since it was the first official full-length album to come out of that Baby Steps scene.
Emcee Sick was featured on the album, and he really dug my beats so I started to produce some stuff for him while Nick and Cut and I worked on our first solo album, which ended up being released as part of the Pseudo Slang album Catalogue. All of this time, Emcee Sick was part of a group called Xtracts of Slang with DJ Tommee and he was releasing music as well.
Around 2003 or 2004, DJ Tommee and DJ Cutler both moved away, irrespective of each other. So Sick, Nick, and I combined and created Pseudo Slang. We started doing shows locally and traveled a bit to places like Hamilton, Cleveland, Syracuse and New York City to do shows. We also recorded Pseudo Slang Catalogue (which featured that early Pseudo Intellectuals stuff). Ultimately, Nick left the group, and, in hindsight, I don’t blame him because he never got along too well with Sick, who, incidentally, was an extremely questionable businessman.
Sick and I signed to Fat Beats Records and ultimately put an album out through them called We’ll Keep Looking which featured both Vinja Mojica and Grap Luva and we had a track produced by Daringer, who is a great friend of ours and ended up being the in-house producer for Griselda Records. But to be honest, I was already out of the group by the time that album came out. As I mentioned above, Sick is a very shady business-guy—let me leave it at that… That’s our connection and also why Pseudo Slang no longer exists as it was, though, from my understanding Sick is still using the name.