Truth can be a bitter pill to swallow, and when you’re coming for every trickster, jokester, hack, cheat, liar, and poser in the world, it helps to sugar coat the message. So, when three-time DMC champion DJ Craze and Red Bull 3style winner Four Color Zack started in on their third mix as DJ culture defenders 2¢ (pronounces 2 Cents), they knew they needed to kick it up a notch in every way possible, and that meant one thing above all – a catchy name?
“How come what is loosely billed ‘real DJing,’ or what I would call ‘creative DJing,’ is always so hard to sell to the masses?,” Zack asks. “Because we don’t tend to go for the easy low hanging fruit. The ‘Sugar Puppies’ thing was just us in the studio making jokes about what we should have done if we were trying to hit the masses. It was really just a singular joke that popped up on the mix, and then we thought, ‘wouldn’t it be funny if we just completely ‘sold out’ and called the whole thing ‘Sugar Puppies’ and ran with that for the cover?”
So, here you have two of the world’s greatest battle DJs mean mugging a camera in front of a pretty pink background decked out in some Snapchat puppy faces. It looks innocent enough, and sure, it starts off with The Chainsmokers hit “Closer,” but that’s about the end of the niceties.
“Sugar Puppies” is in truth a danceable checklist targeting all the wackness 2¢ would like to see offed in 2017. Whether you are a DJ Mag Top 100 button pusher, a bullshit trap rapper, a drunk driver, or President-elect Donald Trump himself, 2¢ has its red dot squared right on your ego-blown forehead.
“The entire political system that’s going to get us all blown up by a nuclear bomb is (enemy) number one, because it will likely kill me this year, and everyone I know,” Zack says. “That whole thing is an endless topic of fuckery. It’s just gotten so bad that we could dedicate entire mixes to that at this point.”
“Sugar Puppies” is the first truly political mix in the 2¢ series. Where a lot of people want to pay lip service to political ills, 2¢ faces the issues headfirst and sandwiches it between fun, jokey, easy to hold discussions. “We’re still gonna poke fun at dumb DJs,” Zack promises, but just 10 minutes into the 38-minute mix, the gangsta rap starts pumping while David Cross’ chides police brutality before they mix into actual recordings of cop shootings. “Put your hands up” isn’t an alien phrase in dance festival environments, but to hear it coming from an angry police officer is a whole ‘nother context.
“We’ve made that joke before about the juxtaposition of actually sticking up a crowd, from a thuggy rap perspective,” Zack says. In fact, the duo’s first original track is called “Stick ‘Em Up!” “There’s just this ongoing joke thing, but the adding the police element to it was a little sobering.”
It’s all part of the DJs desire to push the culture toward standing for something of substance. The first two 2¢ mixes were vicious indictments of the watered-down DJ and hip-hop scenes, hilarious in their head-on shit-talking of hugely popular icons, but in light of recent events, the guys went and bought a bigger pan so they could fry every giant, sinister fish in the sea.
“I was like yo Zack, I wanna be like Rage Against The Machine about all this shit,” Craze says. “I’m outspoken on my Twitter. I’m always talking about this shit. My political views are out there. I’m kind of depressing sometimes, so I’m like ‘Zack, we need to make this kind of fun, but we need to talk about real shit, man. Like Zack was saying, we already fried everyone in the scene, and we’re always going to do that, but let’s take it to another level, you feel me? Lets get serious about this shit, but let’s have fun with it.”
Immediately following the corrupt cop jabs, you hear George Carlin’s voice cracking jokes about a macho man beat-down event he dubs “Slugfest,” followed by an automatic fire of festival trap and dubstep style bangers mixed as only 2¢ can deliver. Even as they seem to draw parallels between music’s light-hearted amelioration of violent and criminal acts and the country’s divisive atmosphere, Zack and Craze are straight murdering on the ones and twos. It’s a blinding, body-moving, mind-numbing display of pure cut and mix mastery. It’s just as impressive as it is emotionally moving.
“Our mission has always been, whether solo or as a group, to make something that’s going to last longer than what the industry is mostly made up of,” Zack says. “It’s so easy these days to make a mixtape that will be forgotten by the time its even over, and I think we both care so much about what it is that we’re doing, we just drive ourselves to always make something that actually matters – even if it only matters to us. It needs to be more than what everyone else is doing, because that’s how we are raised in this culture. Strive to be the best, strive to put out stuff with substance. DJing has the ability to be so much more than just a guy at a party telling you to put your hands up.”
“For me, it’s always about reppin’ the culture,” Craze continues. “I did the ‘New Slaves’ routine, and that shit had a message. It really sparked something in me that made me want to keep giving people messages in music, because I feel like now it’s more important than ever to wake people up, just spark something in people to make them come alive. I think a lot of people are asleep. I think right now, a lot of people just don’t give a shit. They’ll be passionate about something and then just get over it the next week, back to normal, back to their regular life. These mixes, for me, I want them to always do what they’re doing, just strike a little nerve in people and spark something up in them and wake em up a little bit.”
“Sugar Puppies” looks cute, but it’s bitingly honest from beginning to end, and when those two pennies ring their final jingle in the air, you’ll be left sitting wondering, “what next?”
Actually, 2¢ has an album in the works, or at least a bunch of new original tunes, and as long as there are bullshitters and piss takers trying to hold real art or real people down, 2¢ will be there with another soul-piercing mix to keep those charlatans in check.