Young Bull

An Interview with Durham’s Young Bull

by Andrew Cheek

at the Beats N Bars Festival in Durham, North Carolina

August 25th 2018, 4 p.m.

~90 degrees Fahrenheit

Young Bull photo by Andrew Cheek

Young Bull photo by Andrew Cheek

We met on the brick pavilion under the Lucky Strike water tower on the American Tobacco campus.

photo by Andrew Cheek

photo by Andrew Cheek

Born and raised in Durham, Young Bull is a hip-hop trio composed of Tahmique Cameron, Christian Sinclair, and Gabe Fox-Peck. They often perform with a band, and at Beats N Bars Festival they did just that. Their music weaves hype trap hip-hop with old-school kick-back soul auras that are especially bright played live (accented by bass notes and occasional drum solos). Poetic vocal harmonies and poignant twirls on the keyboard (played by Gabe Fox-Peck) are also known to suffuse their music (as in their acclaimed song “Chocolate”). When asked about what defines their musical style they answered, in a few more words, “Durham.”

Young Bull performed on the main stage of Beats N Bars Festival, following Ace Henderson, as part of the array of performances and live events (and panel discussions) that compose the Beats N Bars Festival. I met up with Young Bull (and their bass player, Butler Knowles, making a cameo) for an interview on a warm Saturday. Afterwards we snapped a few 360° pictures on the pavilion and at their concert (see below).

Andrew Cheek: So, how did you get started making music together and how has that evolved into today?

Tahmique Cameron: Gabe and I met on the J.V. basketball team and we were already kinda friends before that, but we got closer as we played basketball together. There was a talent show, and the talent show only had one spot left and there was a line of people. The teacher said Gabe and I would get the spot, if we did it together… so we did it together, then… there was chemistry, you know, making the music. We did John Legend, Ordinary People, for the talent show then we went, and were supposed to record that at the crib. He played the beat for “I Can’t Get You Out of My Head” and he had some words written down and we just added to it. So that was the start, and the foundation of it.

Christian Sinclair: That song they ended up making I found about eight months later on Soundcloud while I was at NC State. When I was there I was recording stuff and mixing in my room and I just found it (their song)… I used to go through Soundcloud all the time looking for music and, I basically just reached out to them through Soundcloud messaging.

Christian and Tahmique photo by Andrew Cheek

Christian and Tahmique photo by Andrew Cheek

Gabe Fox-Peck: Shout out to Soundcloud messenger.

Christian: For real. They sent some stuff over and we started recording from there. First when we started, I was recording in Stanhope Apartments then sending it to them through email. Then they would do all the mixing and whatnot.

Gabe: We recorded that first song in my bedroom after school one day (we went to the same high school) on a mic I got at Guitar Center. And he [Christian] was recording in the bathroom at NC State, haha. Very unprofessional in retrospect.

Christian: It was tight, though. I still have a mixtape up where everything was made in that bathroom.

Gabe: We didn’t even meet Christian until we shot a music video for the song he was featured on.

Tahmique: Which was “Quiet.” That was the first day we met him, the day we shot that music video.

Christian: Yeah so when you see me acting awkward, it’s because I was trying to figure everybody out.

Christian Sinclair photo by Andrew Cheek

Christian Sinclair photo by Andrew Cheek

Andrew: Per the name Young Bull, what does Durham (and the Triangle) mean to you all? In the sense of how being in Durham and the Triangle influences your music, and the stories you tell.

Christian: When I first started, I made everything by myself. For me, being in Raleigh and coming down to Durham and making music… Durham was the first place I started collaborating. We started recording videos around Durham and I didn’t really do that anywhere else. So, it influenced me a little bit in that sense.

Gabe: I think Durham is, well, obviously it’s in our name (that’s the “Bull”). Young Bull. I think it’s been pretty huge to the sound from the beginning just because we grew up here. Even the musicians we play with live are all people that I knew before, just from playing music around Durham and playing gigs with… mostly jazz musicians. So just the sound of Durham, of the Durham music scene, and also, like there’s a whole different side where Tahmique is coming from within that Durham sound. It’s pretty essential to our sound, that’s why it’s in the name. Even when we go play shows in NYC or wherever else, Durham is still a part of the sound.

Butler Knowles: Yeah I never even lived in Durham. I grew up in Raleigh.

Gabe: Then why are you talking?

{All laugh}

Butler: From an outside perspective, though, I can see that it’s such a rich community of artists. Even, like, John P. Kee is one of the biggest gospel artists in the world and his church is in Durham. So, it’s a huge part of the sound.

Christian: You can feel it.

Butler: It’s unique to this place.

Christian: Right. And maybe ya’ll don’t fully realize it because we’ve been around it but… from Greensboro, Winston, there’s not… I don’t know. Winston doesn’t have as much of that musical community feel. Durham is kinda small in the grand scheme of things, but… it has its presence.

Butler: But I mean 9th Wonder is from Durham.

Tahmique: Well, he’s from Winston.

Butler: Oh, word.

Gabe: But he lives in Durham.

Butler: Yeah, right.

Tahmique: He lives in Raleigh. He teaches in Durham, that’s different.

Butler: Yeah.

Andrew: He’s all over the place.

Tahmique: Yeah.

Gabe: He’s North Carolina.

Tahmique: For sure. Yeah.

Butler: And then there’s the Art of Cool project and stuff.

Gabe: Right.

Christian: Right.

Butler: Which brings in a ton of different sounds.

{Everyone starts talking at once}

Tahmique: Well anyways, to speak on the Triangle aspect of it, like, what does it mean… Even the state of North Carolina, really, we’re just different… and not that we intentionally try to be… Even as individual people, you know. We’re the cool outcasts in a sense.

Young Bull photo by Andrew Cheek

Young Bull photo by Andrew Cheek

Andrew: Where’s your favorite place to hang out in Durham? It could be anywhere. To hang out, be creative, walk around…

Christian: My least favorite place is Gabe’s basement. It’s hands down my least favorite place that I’ve spent the most time in.

Gabe: It’s a little dirty down there.

Christian: It is a little dirty, but it’s not that. I’m not a big spider guy.

Andrew: Me neither.

Christian: Dude, they freak me out.

Gabe: I’m a big spider guy. I’m big into spiders, roaches, raccoons. All that stuff. But honestly, downtown is a cool place to hang out. Durham has changed soooo much since we started making music here. Some good ways, some bad ways. But definitely a lot of growth, and more venues to play at. I don’t know. I like to go to Surf Club. That’s where I hang out.

Christian: I like to hang out at The Building.

Tahmique: The Building… I like to hang out at The Building, at the Sweepstakes, um..

Gabe (leaning forward in his chair): Nobody knows what The Building is!

Tahmique: They don’t have to. It’s incognito. Just put “The Building.”

Christian (seconding): Yeah that’s my answer, too.

Tahmique: Just put “The Building” in quotations. The Building. But yeah, I like to hang out there, and, at the Sweepstakes… that’s really it. We don’t really hang out much. We’re homebodies.

Gabe: When we’re hanging out we’re making music chilling in the house.

Young Bull with Will Darity photo by Andrew Cheek

Young Bull with Will Darity photo by Andrew Cheek

Andrew: So, what have you been doing here at Beats N Bars? And do you have anything planned while you’re here? I know you’re performing tonight.

Christian: We did our sound check.

Tahmique: We’re going to get something to eat!

Gabe: We made a video with Runaway a couple of months ago with John Laww. He was big in the video behind the scenes. We had to memorize all the words in reverse, it was a crazy concept.

Andrew: Ohh, it was that video!

Gabe: Yeah. John Laww, who’s the founder of this [Beats N Bars], or at least one of the co-founders, he was big in that video.

Christian: Another thing we’re doing at Beats N Bars is we’re selling merch. And, we’re about to open our online store.

Tahmique: And we’re about to drop a new music video “Space” coming August 31st. Really, we’re just out here enjoying a good time. That’s really it, just trying to enjoy the festivities and see some good performances. Shout out to everybody that’s on the bill. I don’t like to say, and I try refrain and stop other people from saying it – “local acts.” It just contains people in this little local box. No. I like all the people that are from North Carolina that are on this bill and putting on for the state. Putting on for whatever city they come from. Especially when people hit us up asking for local acts. Like, most of the shows we do aren’t even in North Carolina…! {Smacks hands on table four times} Stop-calling-us-a-local-act!

Gabe: Of course, we’re happy that we’re from here. It’s just that “local act” means, “Oh, they’re going to get paid less.”

Andrew: It’s kind of limiting.

Christian: It’s a little demeaning, too.

Tahmique Cameron of Young Bull photo by Andrew Cheek

Tahmique Cameron of Young Bull photo by Andrew Cheek

Andrew: What’s the coolest thing you’ve seen in music this year? The whole musical world. It doesn’t have to be Hip-Hop.

{All mutter in agreement that a lot has been going on}

Tahmique: Cool as in cool cool? Or cool as in, like, whaaaaat?

Andrew: Any of those. Wild, cool, weird, exciting…

Tahmique: Maybe the Tekashi takeover. It’s not even cool! It’s just the wildest  “what just happened?”

Christian: But it does make sense though. “Cool” is tough. There’s been a lot of cool shit. The Kanye stuff was crazy.

{All agree thoroughly}

Tahmique: Jay and Beyoncé too.

Christian: That too. But Kanye, what he did, this whole “I’m going to produce this many albums (3 or 4) and they’re all my artists.” That was cool. And it’s never happened before. Where somebody has had everybody’s attention for…

Tahmique: For weeks. Back to back.

Christian: As soon as I heard Kid Cudi and Kanye were going to drop something together…it was amazing.

Christian: Lebron going to L.A. was cool, but that wasn’t music.

Gabe: That wasn’t cool.

Butler: I like seeing the way people are responding to the political climate. I remember Marcus Gilmore (he’s this great drummer) posted the night Donald Trump was elected something along the lines of “We artists have a lot of work to do.”

Gabe: Especially right now with the mid-term elections coming up. And a lot of crazy stuff coming out with the Trump administration and how he might get impeached. It’s neat to see how activism and art are at a peak high. Also, the re-birth of live music in Hip-Hop. Which is kind of where we fall.

Tahmique: Festivals also. In the grand scheme of how they’ve been going on in the U.S. And festivals in the Hip-Hop community.

Gabe: Hip-Hop, in general, is on the rise.

Andrew: And Kendrick Lamar won a Pulitzer Prize.

Christian: And Jay-Z was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, I think. Well, last year.

Tahmique: Jay becoming the President of Puma Basketball might’ve been the coolest thing to happen in music this year.

Gabe: I don’t know about that. That’s dope though.

Tahmique: I just like to see a black man succeed that’s all.

Gabe: I feel like in general we can say Hip-Hop’s acceptance into the mainstream culture. In every aspect. And not just acceptance like it’s being consumed, but it’s being controlled by Hip-Hop artists. Respected in a different type of way. Also misunderstood, still, as it always has been. To finish that thought on what I was saying before about live music – the fact that people are valuing musicianship is exciting, and there’s a place for musicianship within Hip-Hop as far as live musicians go… who have been around playing for a long time. But now, it’s becoming popular for big hip-hop artists to tour with a live band. And that hasn’t been the case, I don’t think, ever. Until now. It’s always been, like, DJs.

Andrew: I don’t think Chance the Rapper was the first to do it, but I saw him at UNC-Charlotte a few years ago and he had a whole band with him.

Christian: Jay-Z used to do it when he was on his Black Album tour, I think, or for one of his tours. I feel like we’re still forgetting something else that’s happened recently.

Gabe: Yeah. Anyways. I feel like we pretty much hit it. We’ve covered a lot.

Andrew: There’s no one right answer.

Gabe: We love Hip-Hop. And we’re happy about it.

photo by Andrew Cheek

photo by Andrew Cheek

Andrew: Would anyone like to add anything?

Christian: North Carolina is getting bigger music-wise and I feel like it’s super important for people in Durham to just support. We have new stuff coming out soon, too.

Gabe: And realize we’re from here. You don’t have to look at us as some… I don’t know. We’re regular people. We’re just Durham (or– Triangle-based) people. We’ve been a lot of places, but this is where we’re from. We’re accessible. If you hit us up on social media we’ll probably respond. In fact, that’s what Tahmique is doing right now. Haha.

Christian: And just keep updating with us. Yeah. That’s it.

Gabe: Okay.

Andrew: Thank you very much.

[end]

 

 

This interview has been edited lightly for punctuation and clarity.

Andrew Cheek

Andrew Cheek is the Head Writer and Content Coordinator for Beaumonde Arts Agency. He graduated from North Carolina State University and is in process of polishing the manuscript for his children’s novella. With a background in literature and film, and a taste for half-marathons, Andrew’s inspirations range from Virginia Woolf to Wes Anderson to his Adidas running shoes.

Be first to comment