by Sara McCulloch
Before the 99-cent song or the Bandcamp page, there was the full-length album. And with the album – hip-hop albums in particular – came the interlude. These are short spoken-word or musical skits that segue between songs, setting the tone and providing a context for the rest of the album.
Torontonians Ilona Fiddy, Michelle Le Fade and Romany Williams wanted to celebrate the musical skits from rap albums that really stuck with them. Interludes, a Toronto-based “hip-hop-meets-fashion-meets-illustration” publication, is their “homage to rappers with theatrics.” In their first issue, they re-interpret Ghostface Killah’s “Heart Street Directions” skit. We talked to illustrators Fiddy and Le Fade, and stylist and director Williams about the inception and future of Interludes.
Broken Pencil: How did Interludes come to be, and why did you decide to start a zine about rap skits?
Romany: The three of us are homies…we hang out all the time. We always just listen to rap together. One day, Ilona and I were reminiscing about some of our favourite interludes. And then a couple of days later, I had Michelle over and she brought up one of her favourite interludes and I was like “Ilona and I were just talking about this!” And then we had this idea.
Broken Pencil: What were some of the skits you were talking about?
Romany: Well it’s funny, because “Heart Street Directions,” was the one that really came up in conversation. It was not an overall number-one favourite, but definitely one that we just all really liked, remembered vividly and that we all thought was funny. So we decided to go with that one for the first issue.
Michelle: We also realized it could be a series because when we talked to other people about the project, they would always voice their favourite skits too.
Broken Pencil: In your Foreword, you discuss how the interlude or intermittent skit set the tone for an album or gave the listener context. What were some skits, other than “Heart Street” that really resonated with you?
Ilona: All the ones that were just sex noises, because of how awkward it was if your parents walked in the room and you weren’t close enough to the “Next track” button. Total’s “Whose Is It”—the one where she teaches a dude how to go down on her—there are slurping noises—and it goes on for so long. The “Where Are My Panties” sketch from (the Outkast album) Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. Wu-Tang sometimes used interludes to evolve the overarching narratives of their origin stories and Wu mythologies, or they were just fucking around—either way, it was usually good. The interludes that really stick with you just seem to be begging for a visual.
Romany: You remember different types of interludes for different reasons and when they’re used properly, you’ll never forget the album. For a lot of albums, the interlude is just this extra playful touch that sort of encapsulates the tone of the album, the feeling. It really helps. Like Mob Deep’s The Infamous—that’s one of my favourite albums ever because it’s such a dark album and it’s so real and so visceral because of the skits. And then you have Ludacris albums—like Word of Mouf—where it’s just hilarious and the skits are just so creative and so funny—
Michelle: Poop jokes. Fart jokes.
Romany: Yeah, that sort of stuff. So, yeah, they can just be used in so many different ways and their versatility is great.
Michelle: Yeah, sometimes, the skit or interlude is an opportunity for things to get real, because the minute it’s not in a song and you’re listening to somebody do some sort of monologue for a couple of minutes, it gets intense. It just sounds like your catching a glimpse of a bro-out in a studio sometimes. Or an inside joke. It’s a little more personal.
Broken Pencil: Can you tell me more about the female characters? They’re a lot more prominent in the zine than in the audio version of the skit.
Michelle: The way we see that skit is definitely coming from a female perspective even though he’s playing a joke on them. He’s acting like a pervert, he’s joking, but in my mind, it was like the girls were saying “Let this dude run his mouth.” Then they eyeroll, eyeroll, eyeroll. And that way they can be seen throughout the zine even though they don’t have the most speaking parts. I didn’t want to make them look duped. I think in the beginning they were legit asking for directions, but pretty quickly they found out that this dude is just having a fun time.
Romany: For us, one of the reasons we got so excited about the project was not just because of the musical aspect but because we got to reinterpret the interlude. As much as we love the skit, we’re changing it a bit for ourselves. The main thing—always, first and foremost—is that we want to have a strong female voice because that’s the only way we know how to be, or how to interact with rap.
Ilona: There is that fence you sometimes occupy (not straddle, just occupy) as a female and a hip-hop fan. It can be a strange place. Part of what made “Heart Street Directions” so funny and memorable was picturing this genuine inquirer starting to clue in that this dude is just fucking with her. By the time she says “Fucking pervert!” it sounds far away, like she has already been walking away and Ghost is just having himself a chuckle. Also, if we don’t focus on our girls, then how will we see their outfits?
Broken Pencil: Tell me more about the styling. At the end of the skit, you’ve laid out everyone’s outfits, right down to one girl’s Tommy Hilfiger sports bra, Ghost’s bucket hat and Wallabees, or a girl’s DKNY dress.
Romany: It was really fun to play in a dream world and pretend “If I had access to Prada or Alexander Wang.” I was really inspired by the collections at the time. We were working on Interludes in winter 2013, just after fashion week, when all of the spring collections were coming out. I was really hyped on Paris-based label Pigalle and their SS14 collection—from concept to overall execution, it was a big inspiration to me. I also really liked the layering and easy style of the DKNY SS14 show as well. I wanted to include some Prada tube socks, but I totally spaced!
Michelle: I usually have a hard time dressing my cartoons (that’s where I get stuck a lot of the time), so before Interludes, I would have asked Romany, like when I was drawing, to throw me some ideas. With Interludes, it was so much fun because she got to do an editorial, but instead they’re just illustrations of the clothing we can’t get our hands on.
Broken Pencil: Ilona, you worked on the typography. I wanted to know more about how you decided to illustrate the lettering for the body parts?
Ilona: I depicted the body party of words pretty literally. I usually wouldn’t be so on the nose, but in this case, I couldn’t not. I embraced my immaturity. And in keeping with the spirit of that sketch and Ghost’s humour, which is profane and silly: just dicks and balls and hairy, gooey shit. I had to keep it somewhere between pretty and gross.
Broken Pencil: How does Interludes stand out from other music zines? Or maybe, top-10 lists of the “best rap skits of all time”?
Romany: I referenced Complex’s “50 Greatest Hip-Hop Skits.” It’s so amazing but, you know, this skit’s not on there. Reading that list made me realize how much our perspective is different because the list was compiled by men and rap dudes on the Internet saying “this one, this one, this one.” The skits are great, but it’s funny how “Heart Street Directions” stuck out for us unanimously as women.
Interludes can be found at SOOP SOOP (1315 Dundas Street West) or through their online store (www.soopsoop.ca).