Chicago's Air Credits Makes Dystopian Music From A Not-So-Distant Future
Chicago rapper Showyousuck and producer STV SLV (pronounced "Steve Sleeve") make up Air Credits, one of NPR Music's 2018 Slingshot artists. The duo's music imagines a not-too-distant future when the planet's water supply has all but vanished and the landscape has turned to desert. WBEZ Chicago's Jesse Menendez, host of Vocalo Radio, sat down with Showyousuck and STV SLV — aka Clinton Sandifer and Steve Reidell, respectively — to discuss Air Credits' new EP, Wasteland Radio New Archives [Green/376].
This interview originally aired on March 2, 2018 on WBEZ. Watch a video of the conversation above and read an edited transcript below.
Jesse Menendez: Showyousuck, tell me what the idea was for this dystopian rap project. Were you watching Lost in Space one day and thought, "You know what? I need to rap about this."
Showyousuck: On my end, it's my love of comics and B-films and sci-fi movies, kind of put to really well-made rap music.
Menendez: And Steve, when this idea came up, did you envision a soundscape that would play as the background for this world?
STV SLV: When we started working on this, the lyrics that Show started writing ended up being kind of these near-future, bleak situations, and that is how we started building the world that Air Credits exists in. Some of the some of the early beats that Clinton responded to, we just zoned in on that world.
Menendez: [In that world,] the only remnants of the past exist through these pirated radio stations and these archived radio broadcasts. So far, what have we learned from these broadcasts about the world that you guys have created?
STV SLV: It's sort of in the year 20-question-mark-question-mark — like, could be next week, could be 30 years from now, who knows. The planet is almost out of water. It's turned into a desert wasteland. A lot of the population has ceased to exist or left the planet, and money has turned into a form of currency called air credits.
STV SLV: Because air has become a commodity.
Menendez: So through the last couple of releases, we've learned more and more about this world. One thing that I haven't asked you, Show, is: Who are you in this whole universe? Because as I understand, you do take on sort of a new persona. You're not necessarily just Showyousuck, the pizza-loving party bro.
Showyousuck: In some songs, I just kind of play as a narrator, telling the story of a certain situation. Each song is kind of a different character and a different situation.
Menendez: Is this a cautionary tale? We're talking about a world where resources are dangerously low. We're almost in a Mad Max time loop here. Is this what you think might happen if we don't pay attention to our own environment and how we're polluting the air and the water?
Showyousuck: Oh yeah, absolutely. The inspiration for this stuff came from movies that were already cautionary, so it definitely ties right into that, but also a lot of the other songs tell stories of things that are happening now and are parallel to things that are happening now.
Menendez: So let's talk about the new project, Wasteland Radio New Archives (Green/376). First, I want to ask you, Steve, about how these tracks come together, because they are so explicit with how they move the narrative along.
STV SLV: So this whole Wasteland series, this is just the beginning of a whole series that we're going to do this year, and maybe after this year, of short bursts of songs that all seem to fit together. Last year, we spent the year demoing out like 25-plus new songs, and this year, we're collecting them into the groups that make sense and then envisioning this sort of future, where the cloud has disappeared and all these old archives of music are just gone.
Menendez: Every SoundCloud rapper just wet their pants right now.
STV SLV: [Laughs] It's dark. It's bleak. So the whole idea is that radio stations are trying to archive as much music as they can so that doesn't happen again. So they're archiving new songs that are being created at the time and they're archiving old songs that they can find. In these fictional radio stations we've imagined, there's people that work there whose job it is to kind of take requests. They're called the new archivists. Somebody will contact them and be like, "I remember this song. It kind of went like this." And then it's the new archivist's job to to recreate that song to the best of their ability — and then they're archived on things that are listed by a color and a number and then put into the archives. So this first batch of four songs is, out of all the demos we made last year, these four fit together thematically and sonically.
Menendez: Not that you guys are making this up as you go along, but are you guys making this up as you go along? Or have you thought out what this world looks like and how it's gonna unfold?
STV SLV: If we learned anything from the TV series Lost, it's to say no, no, we absolutely have a plan.
Menendez: Let's take your song "Through the Dust." This is one of those songs that allows me to think about what's happening in this world. In this song, I'm feeling like Showyousuck's character is the leader, or the appointed leader, of his village or town.
Showyousuck: Sonically when I first heard it, it was like, if Air Credits could score the wrestler Brock Lesnar's intro music, this is what it would sound like.
Menendez: It's a hot track. It's very frenetic.
Showyousuck: To me, a lot of the songs in this project are just about humans in desperation and how are they are reacting in desperate times. This song is about a guy who left his family, whether it's for noble reasons or not. He's been going for two years at this point so maybe it's a choice of his not to go back at all. But he's left, and there's nothing but paranoia that sets in for him because he hasn't slept for two years, and that does insane things to your psyche.
Menendez: Do you feel like by the release of the next two [projects] we'll have the conclusion to the story? Or is it so enjoyable creatively to do this that you're like, "Yo, I don't even know if this is ever going to end?"
STV SLV: To make another parallel to TV series, I think we're just going to keep writing. I think more factions of the story will present themselves along the way; we'll go down hallways of different plot lines. This series is going to last probably throughout 2018 and then, at the end of it, we'll probably compile all of the best of the stuff that's on the Wasteland Radio New Archive series and put it onto a single LP.