For over 10 years, brothers Jeff and Eric Rosenthal have made up one of the most versatile tandems in hip-hop. Dubbed ItsTheReal, the multi-faceted stars have seamlessly dived into the the land of interviewing, podcasting, comedic work, and rapping. After building up a reputable name with their jocular nature, the Rosenthals are readying their first album Teddy Bear Fresh.
Backed by Empire — who has distributed recent projects from D.R.A.M. plus Fat Joe and Remy Ma — ItsTheReal will unleash 11 tracks with features from Curren$y, Bun B, Smoke DZA, Michael Christmas, and Tunji Ige. The project will drop May 26.
After a strong showing in 2013 with their Urbane Outfitters Vol. 1 mixtape, the duo released their humor-filled video “Dave Matthews Bands” in 2016. Donning Dave Matthews t-shirts and a stack of necklaces, the Rosenthal brothers dished out a slew of witty lines on their hoverboards. This past February, they headlined New York City’s SOB’s with Just Blaze as their DJ. The sold-out event garnered positive reviews, as the Westchester-bred stars surprised fans with a guest appearance by Freeway.
Billboard recently spoke to the ItsTheReal about their debut album, rap skills, and thoughts on rappers making the leap to podcasting.
What made you both decide that now would be the best time to release your album Teddy Bear Fresh, especially under Empire?
Eric Rosenthal: We’ve turned down a number of opportunities in the year that could have been a quick payday, but didn’t make sense for the long-term success or our brand. Empire ended up being the perfect partner for us, because they’re at the forefront of music business innovation and they recognize the value in what we brought to the table, as well, so we were really excited when we got to partner up with the same people behind Big Baby D.R.A.M., Fat Joe and Remy Ma, and so on. For us, we were excited to bring on a project that is exciting to a company like Empire with Teddy Bear Fresh. This is a project that Jeff and I have been working on since 2013 when we put out Urbane Outfitters. We wanted to make sure that it was worthy of a company like Empire and we’re really happy to put it out through them.
Jeff Rosenthal: You know, over the years, we’ve been podcasters; we’ve done stuff for Complex. And now Joe Budden has dipped his foot in all that and is taking our jobs so we’re doing the logical thing and taking his — by rapping. Maybe next year, one of us will take his spot as the most reckless and lyrical rapper in Slaughterhouse.
Will the album be more comedy than serious rap?
Eric: Well, for anyone that has heard Urbane Outfitters, the one thing that stands out is that it’s not a parody. It’s not us doing a so-so job when it comes to putting out content. That’s been the thing our whole career. Sketches, podcasts, TV, music, or whatever it is, we want to make sure that we put out a product that people aren’t ashamed to listen to, that people aren’t ashamed to watch, and spread the word on. When it comes to rapping — just like our mixtape — we wanted our album to be top-notch. Our comedy comes across in an authentic and true way. We wanted to really work at our craft and put out something that was the highest quality possible. We think that’s what separates us from any other comedians out there who are or were also rapping. We wanted to have something that had great re-listenability, that was something you can bump, sounded extremely legitimate, and we wanted people to be surprised by the bars that we brought.
Jeff: Also, it should be said that with the track listing and the features, they’re all authentic. These are all people that we know. These are all people that f–k with us either on a comedic, musical level, or personal base. We had Tungi Ige and Michael Christmas say that [they joined the album] because the songs were good. It wasn’t like for any other reason than that. That’s before we had met either of them in person.
How would you say you guys have improved since your 2013 mixtape Urbane Outfitters with DJ Drama?
Jeff: I would say I’m taller and the glasses game is better.
Eric: I think also with everything across the board. Production, which is done by Greg Mayo, is way improved. Our lyrics are strictly written by Jeff and myself. We only write our bars. We had no help from anybody else. Not on the mixtape and not on the album.
Jeff: We have ghostwriters. We just can’t talk about it.
Eric: Our lines are way improved. The ideas behind the songs are way improved. So, we think that in every way possible, everything sounds better. It rocks better. It looks better. We’ve very excited about this project.
Jeff: Our fun game is on 10,000.
You guys released the “Dave Matthews Bands” video in 2016. As we near the release of the project, will you both shoot more visuals?
Jeff: Yeah. We shot the first video for “Waco.” That’s gonna be coming out on Thursday. That was done by Rex Arrow — who does all of Mac Miller’s stuff. He’s done all of our stuff over the last five years or so. We’re really happy with it.
Eric: You know our videos always have to have a twist to them. We shot this at our recreational center that we grew up at up in Westchester. That’s about 30 minutes north of New York City. It was a tremendous and creative experience like always with Rex Arrow. For us, while the music can stand alone and is something that people can enjoy through their headphones or on speakers, the visuals are always important to us. Whether it was “Dave Matthews Bands” or the lyric video for “Fire in a Crowded Room (Get the Hose),” or whether it was “Girls With the Dirty Souths” off the mixtape, or “Jews for Jesus Piece,” we wanted to make sure that there was something extra that people can enjoy watching on YouTube or Twitter, or wherever it is.
Having cemented your feet in the podcast world, how do you guys feel about rappers jumping into the mix with their own shows? Do you have personal favorites?
Jeff: We’re coming for all these motherf–kers! [Laughs] We’ve done Joe [Budden’s] podcast when he was out of town. We did a sketch with N.O.R.E. years ago so we’re cool with all the rappers who are in the podcast game or in the not rap game. We’re definitely trying our hand at the rap game. We actually ran into N.O.R.E. three years ago at Cipha Sounds’ Hip Hop Improv on the Lower East Side. He was mad that he wasn’t on our first mixtape. He’s not on the album, but maybe we’ll do something with him again in the future.
Eric: I think for us, certainly me, and I think Jeff, too, we’ve never went into podcasting thinking that we were just podcasters. You know, we had a podcast years ago and the new one is 117 episodes in, but it’s an art form that allows us to be in the conversation on a weekly basis. That was important to us because we have an interesting point of view. You know, a singular and leftist centered view that’s very unique to us so if we were able to comment in that way on a weekly basis, then that’s cool and you can call us podcasters. But what means the most to us is that 10 years into our careers, we’re more relevant than we’ve ever been. We still get stopped on the street from people who are like, “I wish you guys still did sketches” or “I wish you still did podcasts” or “We want more music” or “We want more of the short-form interviews you did for MTV.” We’ve done a whole range of things over the course of 10 years and people associate us with all those things and not just one thing.
Lastly, what can fans expect from Teddy Bear Fresh overall?
Eric: People should expect songs that hit super hard that you’ll really be impressed by. Things will be on rotation throughout the summer, especially our new single “Waco,” which comes out on Thursday [May 4]. You can expect amazing features on there and I think you’ll be surprised by the excellence in our writing and ideas. We’re really excited about this. We know our core fanbases [are] too. We’re interested in the people who weren’t looking out for us rap-wise before, to definitely look out for us moving forward.
Jeff: Yeah, I think we might not be the top five rappers, but we’re definitely top 135. We just also want to give a shout-out to Rick Ross. Mastermind is in stores and has been in stores for awhile. Rather You Than Me in stores right now. Wanna give a shoutout to Meek and Wale. Shine season has just begun. Shout out to Gunplay, Rockie Fresh, and Teedra Moses, the first lady of MMG. Shout out to Young Sav.
Eric: Shout out the black bottle boys and girls in the building.
Jeff: Yeah, we only drink black bottles. Just shout out to everybody in our MMG family. We’re not signed there, but they’re definitely like part of the family, and we should have some cool announcements too.