By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
Clutch City transplant Big J relocated to Dallas from the Land o' Crunk and Cough Syrup a few years ago and hooked up with DJ Frantic through like-minded musical associates. The pair quickly "clicked 'cause our styles were similar," recalls Frantic. "It really worked out perfect."
Big J's lazy, low flow recalls the rumbling timbre of KRS-One with somewhat smoother delivery and significantly clearer sinuses. His rhymes are pointed, literate and well-formed without being detractingly erudite. On the microphone, J's sizable stature and presence borders on intimidating, though his fierceness is slightly softened by the fact that he's, dare we say, kind of cuddly.
"Before I met J, I was doing more DJ battles," says Frantic, "but now I focus more on our stuff 'cause we get to play out more than just like two or three battles a year."
A perfect counterpart to Big J's lumbering lyricism, DJ Frantic's impressive beat-mincing abilities show the sizable influence of turntable super crews such as the Executioners or Invisibl Skratch Piklz. Mix in some more up-tempo party moments, like those of Florida's legendary DJ Magic Mike, and Frantic's affinity for club sounds ("I really love me some house music") and you have some indication of where this guy is going.
Clever Monkeys formally, if unremarkably, debuted in Austin. "I can't remember the venue," said Frantic. "There was like 30 people there." But the performance helped the newly formed duo cross paths with a promoter who "threw parties for pretty big acts and he liked our show and got us to open up for Murrs, then Kool Keith."
Dallas DJ/producer/ hip-hop bon vivant and unwitting Zune pitchman Rob Viktum said that "working with those guys is a real treat, because they know exactly where they are going. They like to rock the party and represent that good hip-hop vibe that's missing nowadays." And if you're wondering if this is the reason why Rob Vic works with Clever Monkeys and if it might have something to do with being all about supporting local hip-hop, he goes on to say, "That's why I worked with them. I'm all about supporting local hip hop." So there ya go.
Independently, Clever Monkeys keep plenty busy with weekly solo engagements in and around town. Aside from hosting the upcoming First Friday at Absinthe Lounge, Big J mixes it up Saturday nights at Monkey Bar and Wednesdays at Minc while DJ Frantic molests the decks on Thursdays and Saturdays at The Jungle up in Lake Dallas and every Wednesday and Friday at Chaucer's out in Addison (and is also available for weddings, natch).