EWTYI is a love letter to Philadelphia that includes “Joey,” a meditation on gentrification inspired by Geno’s Steaks, and a lush cover of Soul Survivor’s “City of Brotherly Love.” Birdie says it was important that the project replicate the “romantic quality” she experiences when bringing home a new, old vinyl score for her ever-growing record collection.
“Even the way the type is laid out” is part of the experience, she says. “Then you’re listening to it, and it’s cyclical, you’re looking and listening. That doesn’t exist when
you only own music as a file.”
A relatively expensive and time-consuming endeavor, the project makes little sense except, of course, to Birdie. And that’s just fine. “As time goes by … I’ve learned what I like and value, and I need to be the guard of that,” says Birdie one recent morning over coffee near her home in West Philly. “I don’t expect anyone else to do it.”
Intuition has guided Birdie from the beginning.
“I started to play [guitar] and a week later I told my parents I had this feeling that this was what I was going to be doing for the rest of my life,” she says. “It made as much sense to me as anything else.”
It’s worked: Birdie Busch is probably Philly’s most beloved female musician, and her records have been critically acclaimed in the Village Voice, the Nashville Scene and publications in between.
Fred Knittel, WKDU Folkadelphia DJ and co-founder of Be Frank Records, says he became infatuated with her music on first listen to 2007’s Penny Arcade (Bar None Records). “We love Birdie’s music and attitude,” Knittel says. “Birdie loved our Philly-centric attitude … it just clicked. We love the city we are in and found a creative way to show it.”
Birdie laughs when she recalls getting shy for a split second early on when she first started playing with trained musicians. “I thought, ‘Oh my god, I didn’t go to music school,’” she says. She got over it. “To me, that’s what rock ’n’ roll is.”
The Bird spreads the word about finding and doing your own thing. A couple years ago, she guest taught at South Philly’s Music & Mentorship Program, where underprivileged kids learn about music and songwriting. She tried to give them a little something that would take them further than another neat chord progression.
“I wanted to connect with them, so I was referencing pop culture this and that, whoever they’re into,” she says. “But after that I let them know: None of that shit matters, man.” (Tara Murtha)
It wasn’t even two years ago that 19-year-old Chiddy Bang principals Noah “Xaphoon Jones” Beresin (he’s the DJ) and Chidera “Chiddy” Anamege (he’s the rapper) first met as freshmen at Drexel University. Fast forward 20 months and the Philly electro-rap duo has a bona fide hit single and viral video to its credit—the MGMT-sampling “Opposite of Adults”; plays sold-out shows in both the U.S. and Europe (particularly in the U.K., where their star shines especially bright); has toured with the likes of Clipse and Passion Pit; and has been working with such hip-hop luminaries as Pharrell and Q-Tip on their debut LP The Swelly Life , out this fall on Virgin/EMI.
Not too shabby.
“It’s crazy how fast it’s moving,” says Newark, N.J.-born Chiddy over the phone from a recording studio in London. “It’s really hard to grasp.”
Chiddy Bang’s formula for success rests on Chiddy’s exuberant, accomplished flow and Xaphoon’s creative beats and innovative, indie-rock-friendly sampling—he’s drawn from the likes of Sufjan Stevens, Radiohead and Tom Waits tunes, among myriad others. Energetic and alive, their songs first turned heads last November when they issued their Swelly Express mixtape online—it documented their attempts to break into the music business and featured early mentor/supporter Black Thought of the Roots on one track.
Well before that, though, Chiddy Bang went through a rocky patch. The group started out in early 2009 as a four-piece live band with a guitarist and a drummer, but as the Germantown/Mt. Airy-bred Beresin explains, “There was a period over the summer last year where everyone was kicked out and it was Chiddy’s solo project. The problem was that we all felt it was a band and Chiddy thought he was a rapper with some production and a live ensemble. And he was right. I was writing all the beats and he was writing all the lyrics and the other dudes, they worked hard as far as the shows, but they weren’t writing anything.
PW's Music Issue 2014