Interview: Arshad + Zaidoon = Times X Two

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Auckland duo Times X Two say Hip Hop is healthy right now. Last week they made number one on the Ayebro/3 News top 5 with their new video ‘What Am I Supposed To Do’.  The pair aim to build long careers and show an intellect in their music that will make NZ hip hop interesting and certainly more diverse. They say, “MC’s nowadays need to come correct or else they won’t have long  jeopardy. We have hopes of standing out when the time comes of the second Golden Age.”

HH: Describe the kind of music you guys make:

TT: We like to venture into all of the different sub-genres of hip hop, because we love it all. Most of the time, we find ourselves making ‘old school’ 90’s inspired hip hop. We never hesitate to hop on a dope beat with classic samples.

HH: Where are you both from?

TT: Zaidoon was born in Baghdad, Iraq. He moved to New Zealand at the age of two, and grew up in a half Arabic, half NZ culture. Arshad is from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. He came to New Zealand when he was 8 years old, and not too long after, the two met.

HH: Describe how a Times X Two song is born:

TT: One of us will usually have made a beat which he would then send to the other. We would then develop the beat together and get it to the point where we’re able to start writing. We mostly write our verses separately, and write our choruses when we’re together. We each have to be in our own comfort zones in order to write to a high standard. We will then meet at Zaidoon’s house where we have a home studio set up. There we will record, master, and mix the song. After that, we sit on the song for at least two weeks, and add changes if needed. We also like to email it around to a few close friends when it’s at the final stages of mixing to get some feedback.

HH: What generation of hip hop would you explain yourselves as?

TT: We believe that golden-age hip hop will be making a return to the commercial market very soon. With artists such as Kendrick Lamar and Joey Bada$$ gaining popularity, they’re raising the bar, and MC’s nowadays need to come correct or else they won’t have long jeopardy. We have hopes of standing out when the time comes of the second ‘Golden Age’.

HH: What/Who are your musical influences?

TT: We’re inspired by many artists and groups and would probably fill up pages answering this question. If we had to name a few, the ones that would come on top of our list would be, A Tribe Called Quest, Pharrell, Black Star, Outkast, Michael Jackson, George Clinton, Kool & The Gang, Nas, Eric B & Rakim, Lana Del Ray, and Rage Against The Machine.

“With artists such as Kendrick Lamar and Joey Bada$$ gaining popularity, they’re raising the bar, and MC’s nowadays need to come correct or else they won’t have long jeopardy.”

HH: What’s the first hip hop tape or cd you ever owned?

TT: The first CD that Zaidoon ever bought was 50 cent’s ‘Get Rich Or Die Tryin’. Almost everything on that album was perfect, from Dr Dre’s production, to the mixing, and the lyrics and themes. Arshad’s first CD was Murphy Lee’s single ‘What The Hook Gon’ Be’, which was given to him by his older sister. Catchy hooks such as that one are what shaped the way we write our hooks today.

HH: How do you feel about where hip hop’s at right now?

TT: Hip Hop is healthy right now. Everyone is out there creating original music, and what used to be perfection is now seen as normal. The tracks keep getting better and the standards keep being pushed. The future is looking bright.

HH: What’s the plans and goals for Times X Two?

TT: This year, we hope to release high quality music regularly and do as many live performances as possible. We’re looking to expand our fan base, not just around New Zealand, but globally. We’re working on one big project throughout the year that will consist of original, perfect music. All we can say is expect to be ‘wowed’.

HH: In the video for ‘Not The Way To Do It’  you sample a guy talking about there being nine elements of hip hop, different to the traditional four…who was that?

TT: That was KRS-One

HH: Can you guys explain why you think these extra elements have become so prevalent in the hip hop culture?

TT: The world loves hip hop. There is definitely money to be made from the culture. Hip Hop is now about the fashion, and is about the look just as much as it is about the sound. Trends come and go, and the ones who understand how it all works will be successful.

HH: And finally when did you fall in love with hip hop?

TT: Zaidoon always liked hip hop from a young age. But only really fell in love with it after hearing Commons’ ‘I Used To Love H.E.R.’. When he said the last line – ‘Who I’m talking about to y’all is hip hop’, it gave him chills. Soon after that, he found himself going through albums and albums of artists such as Mos Def, Nas, Rakim, and started rapping over beats produced by DJ Premier, J Dilla, Pete Rock, and 9th Wonder.

Arshad fell in love with hip hop in Zimbabwe when Nas’ ‘If I Ruled The World’ played in his cousins BMW. The chorus was melodious, and Nas’ raps fit perfectly with the beat. It attracted him to this new-found love called hip hop

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