The genre-blurring versatility of the U.K.’s Foreign Beggars is finally touching down in Las Vegas for the first time. Together for a decade, MCs Orifice Vulgatron and Metropolis (above, left and center, respectively) along with DJ Nonames (right) have grown from their underground hip-hop roots to fusing razor-sharp rhymes with grime-y dubstep drops and break beats. Vegas Seven catches up with Metropolis (a.k.a. Ebow Graham) fresh off the release of their LP The Uprising and in advance of their 18-and-up gig Nov. 18 at the Hard Rock Café on the Strip.
People are just getting used to hearing dubstep in major nightclubs. How do you translate that to a live show?
When we first started playing dubstep as part of our sets, people didn’t know what was what and had no idea. For example, we went to Brussels, and when we dropped the dubstep stuff, everyone was really baffled. Within a year, everyone was going to dubstep parties, and the dubstep producers were playing it all the time. It’s just one of those things that’s catching on like wildfire. When we started playing in France, the crowd would just stare at us like we were a three-piece jazz band, but now they know, when they come to our shows it’s a party. I’m pretty sure we’ll be able to get [Las Vegas] people moving—especially if they’re just getting used to electronic music. Already they know about hip-hop music, and we have that element in there as well. I know that ‘trap’ [music] is becoming huge all over the world, and I’m confident that were gonna be able to get people to get used to it.
You bring up trap music, which is emerging in the electronic scene, but how would you define it for those who are unfamiliar?
I only basically about a week ago discovered what trap actually means. I’ve heard the music, and it was 12th Planet that introduced it to me. He was always playing this stuff like Juicy J, and I was like “What is that? What is that?” because I really liked the beats. It’s only recently that I really found out it’s [called trap], because people feel like they’re caught in a trap, it’s like a poverty cycle or whatever. But I think it’s evolved to more than that now where it’s a medium of music where they use the 808s [drum beats] and stuff, but not that deep, low, 808 sub shit that you always hear in clubs.
Your album The Uprising came out in October on Deadmau5’s label, and even he’s got a new collaboration with Cypress Hill. Do you see a shift in the electronic scene to more hip-hop influences than house in the coming year?
I don’t know, it’s such a broad spectrum when you’re talking about electronic music; it’s so huge, everything from drum and bass to dubstep, grime music, house, techno, psy trance … Maybe people are a little bit more interested in working with rap vocalists at the moment because we provide something that singers don’t quite do—we’re versatile and can flip over to different styles. Maybe now people are more willing to experiment with various genres. I never thought I would hear Thom Yorke or Erykah Badu working with Flying Lotus. So I wouldn’t say that it’s necessarily a shift toward hip-hop in particular; just people are more open-minded about working with people from different genres now.
You guys collaborated with Tommy Lee on “Minds Eye” (produced by Millions Like Us), who seems to be popping up everywhere working with electronic artists. How did you end up on a track together?
Vulgatron is a real rock fan. He’s always been into metal and all sorts of stuff. Actually, I think Skrillex made the introduction, because [Vulgatron] said he liked Tommy Lee and Tommy Lee was saying he likes Foreign Beggars. We just kept on talking, and it happened that Millions Like Us were working on a track and got him to do some chops on it. We were like, "Yup we’d love to work on that!" So we were real proud to make that happen. I never would have thought when I was a kid and learning how to rap that I would make a track with Tommy Lee.
You guys have also teamed up with Skrillex, Excision, Knife Party and a whole bunch more. What’s personally been your favorite alliance?
I’d say probably the most organic thing that we’ve worked on has been our work with Noisia, which opened up a lot of doors for us and maybe a little bit for them as well, because after we worked together, I know a whole bunch of rappers started hitting them up for beats. Normally, we’ve been in the situation where people would send us a beat over e-mail and we work on it separately and send the vocals back. But with the Noisea project, every single track that we made we sat in a studio together and built from scratch and everyone had a say in everything. Also, working with Alix Perez, because we’ve been fans of his for a long time and he’s actually a real close friend of ours now—he’s about to move into the building next to me. Working on "Flying to Mars" in particular, because that was a beat that I was there with him when he started writing it. We eventually got into a real special studio at the Strongroom in London with Donae’o, and he came up with this amazing hook. A lot of people were expecting us to do something really loud, aggressive dubstep throughout the album, but that track is like a nod to the original dubstep scene, and that comes from London.
You guys have been making music for about 10 years in the U.K., but how has the American scene treated you thus far?
I remember when I was coming up as a rapper back in like ’95-’96, even in England people weren’t used to hearing rap with a British accent. Everyone was used to American hip-hop and that was the main thing. … Numerous people I have met from various states are like, "If it’s not American, it’s not hip-hop." But recently with the growth of grime music in particular—which has exported people like Mike Skinner from The Streets, Dizzee Rascal and Tinie Tempah—they’re kind of like rap, but they rap on dance music and come from the grime scene. I think since that scene grew at the same time as dubstep, now that dubstep has come into things I think it’s made people a lot more willing to listen to what’s happening in the U.K. in terms of vocalists anyway. … Whereas in America, you’ve had rappers on the charts for years. We’ve never had that until recently, so this whole thing for us is completely new. Having dance music that rap fits with regularly in the charts and being respected for that across the world is new for us.
Las Vegas locals are spoiled and hate paying for anything, so why should we pony up $20-25 a ticket to your show instead of getting on a nightclub guest list and hearing a DJ spin for free?
Because you’re gonna do that every single week whether we’re there or not and that’s fine. But you need to come out and see Foreign Beggars because that’s a special experience, we’re crazy onstage and bring a lot of energy. We’re gonna bring our own brand of electronic music, go hard and make sure everyone has a really good time and loses their minds!