“We’re trying to make this album massive and epic,” says Niles “Cyrano” Hollowell-Dhar of the L.A.-based indie hip-hop duo, The Cataracs. “So we had to pick a name for it that’s an artifact of how we got started.” Gordo Taqueria—affectionately referring to the Mexican eatery that Niles and his creative other half, David “Campa” Benjamin Singer-Vine, gorged on in the studio—is the Bay Area natives’ newly-released EP.
The hitmaking duo, who’ve produced for Far East Movement (“Like a G6”), 50 Cent (“I’m on It”), and Snoop Dogg (“Wet”), generated a buzz among the mainstream earlier this summer with their single “All You” featuring Waka Flocka Flame—an unlikely pairing, but the track was oddly palatable. Dabbling in every synth, sound, and serenade, Niles and David have jumped out of the box and into an undefined genre that they hope to stay in.
In between working on new music for Robin Thicke, Rap-Up.com caught up with The Cataracs to talk about everything from their evolution to which Kardashian sister they would serenade to their appreciation for Frank Ocean and George Clooney.
How have you evolved as artists since the first album? David: We haven’t put out a project in like three years [since 2009’s Songs We Sung in Showers], and it feels good to get a cohesive piece of work rather than a single or a song. They all can exist at the same time. I think we still have a long way to go but it’s good.
Your 2008 single “Baby Baby (The Lover’s Anthem)” was featured on “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.” If given the chance, which sister would you serenade? Niles: I gotta be honest. I don’t keep up with any Hollywood reality stuff. Kim has been serenaded enough to the point where her ears will probably fall off. I know Khloe is the least classically beautiful one, so maybe I’d sit her down and give her a little bit of love. David: Is there more than just Kim and her sister? Isn’t Kourtney pregnant? I’d do Kim.
Not really into reality TV? Niles: Not that I’m a Nobel laureate or anything, but I feel like I’m getting stupider when I watch it. They could be really smart people, but just the premise of these shows and the cliffhangers… There’s nothing really intellectually stimulating about reality TV.
Who is an underrated artist that’s finally getting his or her shine? David: Frank Ocean. His lyrics are incredible, versatile, and accessible. He has entered into this music deities world now.
We saw you getting your drama on in the “All You” video. If you were an actor, what would be your dream role? Niles: I’m a really big fan of this band called Queen and a movie is coming out about their lead singer, Freddie Mercury. I think they already landed [the lead]. I don’t look anything like Freddie Mercury. They actually got Sacha Baron Cohen to do it, so I probably don’t stand a chance. Or anything alongside George Clooney. George Clooney is the man. He’s the inspiration for all white people out there trying to find their swag.
What’s the first concert you attended? Niles: I was at the Vans Warped Tour. When I was younger, I was really into rock music. I went with my friend Riley and his dad was super chill. Now looking back, he was super high all the time. They had one hip-hop band and it was these guys—the whole set was smoking pot, that was their whole shtick. I think they might even be called the Weedaholics or something. They had such a well-choreographed show, and the way they were going off of each other. There was this crazy energy that really made me get hip-hop music. When you see a really well done hip-hop show, you just get it. Rock shows have that to a certain extent. Music starts and ends for me with the live show.
How do you transfer that energy into your music? Niles: When you hear a Beastie Boys track, you feel like it’s a live show. You feel like Ad-Rock’s coming from one side and MCA’s coming from the left side. There are songs that I can pull off in the studio, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing it in a live show. I feel like what I loved about the Beastie Boys and hip-hop is that it’s all one and the same. What it sounded like on the record was exactly what they did in their live show.
How can you spot a real Cataracs fan? David: You just know. I appreciate anyone who’s a fan, whether it’s recent or longtime. We have a really specific back catalog that’s pretty much unknown if you’re not a real fan.
What makes an artist bigger than their genre? Niles: I think what makes an artist great is when you can’t put them in a box. The albums that I look forward to, the artists are human beings, they’re multi-dimensional. You can’t fall in love with them unless they’re vulnerable at 360 degrees. That’s why Eminem took the world by storm. He was just naked on these records. You gotta be bigger than the genre itself.
If you were called on by the President, what song of yours would you perform? Niles: If Obama’s re-election was in my hands… Oh, wow. Well, once upon a time we did a song called “I Fell in Love with a Black Girl.” I would dedicate it to Michelle Obama.