"C'est la vie, c'est la vie. N****s better know that we never comin' weak. Ohtwo comin', but we a group of three... plus, one more—that's BYSON on the beat," Xavya tactfully rhymes on "Intro" from Ohtwo's BYSON-produced Session One. Ohtwo consists of emcees Faust AKA Old Man Faust, Thrilla, and Xavya, as well as producer and beat-maker BYSON. BYSON, as well as Ohtwo, is signed to Florida-based label Illuminated Paths (IP) run by Josh Rogers AKA Broken Machine Films Presents... I've been in touch will Mr. Rogers since IP released PASSAGE's March 2017 album, WORKED ON/RE-WORKED ON. PASSAGE's ULTIMATE WORKED ON BUNDLE and WORKED ON LIVE CASSETTE MIXTAPE featured appearances from Skyrider, Emceein' Eye, theclosing, Eze Jackson, Height Keech, and Hemlock Ernst AKA Future Islands' Sam Herring. Illuminated Paths have released a whopping 68+ genre-blending releases since the onslaught of 2017 and Ohtwo's Session One is amongst the latest—although, a whopping seven albums/EP's have been uploaded since Ohtwo's Nov. 27 release. Ohtwo's Session One, to my well-trained ear, at least, has sonic undertones evocative of Chance The Rapper, Kendrick Lamar, The Roots, and Jurassic 5 emcee Chali 2na; lest we forget, slightly more "cartoonish" fare, such as Jaylib, MADVILLAINY, and Quasimoto. I recently got in touch with Ohtwo producer BYSON, through Illuminated Oaths founder Josh Rogers, who, in turn, got me in contact with emcees Faust & Xavya. I'm happy to present to you: a Session One-centric interview with Ohtwo's BYSON, Faust, and Xavya. Session One is currently available in both digital album and cassette formats from Illuminated Paths' Bandcamp.
Matt "The Witzard" Horowitz
Your Hip-Hop Hanukkah Host
I. Prior to Ohtwo's Session One, you (BYSON) previously released 季節 (The Season) [SPECIAL EDITION], REFRESH, SUSHI BEATS, and Central Florida - Nowhere on Illuminated Paths; but how and why exactly did you fellas decide on IP to issue Session One?
BYSON: It was mostly because Illuminated Paths has always done a great job with my work in the past and does an awesome job supporting the local scene. I wanted to make sure that this project was subject to the same support that I've had for all this time.
Xavya: Yeah, a lot of the release/distribution "discussion" was already pretty much decided, when we were starting the project.
II. How did Ohtwo's members (Faust, Thrilla & Xavya) initially come to meet BYSON and decide to bring him into the fold as part of the group on the production end for Session One?
BYSON: I met Faust at an event I played at The Geek Easy. Sputnik Yuri, who booked me that night, came up to me mid-set and was like, "yo, my friend over here was wondering if he could freestyle; is that cool?" and I was like, "sure, why not." He did an awesome freestyle over my beat, "sticky rice" and afterwards, I told him we should work together. We exchanged numbers and a week or so later (I think) we organized a recording session. On the day he was going to come out, he texted me and was like, "hey, I’m gonna bring a friend; is that cool?" and I said, "sure." When he pulled up, he actually had two people with him: Xavya & Thrilla. That night, they mainly freestyled and I knew this could be something pretty cool.
Faust: We linked when my friend, who puts together DJ events in Orlando, invited me out to one of his nights and BYSON happened to be playing there. We were introduced and [BYSON] was told I rap, so he asked me to freestyle some over the last of his set. I think we sort of naturally said, "we should record" and we set something up. The day of, I asked, "can I bring a friend?" and I showed up with Thrilla & Xavya. The three of us had been rapping together in parking lots and backyards for a few weeks prior, but Ohtwo really started [right] then and there.
Xavya: I remember being at work the day Faust told me, "we're making a Rap album," which was dope as Hell, for sure. From the jump, BYSON has pretty much, been in the fold for [the] conception of Session One. Anyone remember when it was "Mushroom Cashmere?"
III. Would any of you mind speaking a bit about Ohtwo's recent Grumpskulls Photography & Sputnik Yuri/Nate Yelle-directed video for "Oh Baby?" It is a fun-loving, interestingly-formatted video!
BYSON: Yeah, I'll just start by giving a shout-out to Lucky Straws Boba Tea of Winter Garden. Binh & Amanda are the owners there and they're amazing; they've been allowing me to sit and their shop and produce music for years now and they let us use the shop in the video for hours, after closing time. The video itself is awesome. I didn’t have that much [of] a part in the creation of it, other than the Lucky Straws Boba aspect. Yuri, Nate, Faust, Thrilla, and Xavya did an awesome job with the whole thing.
Faust: A total race against time. I was surprised at how the people helping us came through. Shouts to Grumpskulls, Sputnik, Nate, and the rest.
Xavya: That whole process was really fun. BYSON had the boba [bubble] tea shop idea for a while, so it went over pretty smoothly. A lot of the other shots around town were more impromptu, which was dope, as well.
IV. What were your typical beat-creation, rhyme-writing, hook-assembling, recording, mixing, mastering, etc. processes like behind Session One?
BYSON: We had lots of workflow changes throughout production, but the one we settled on in the end is that I'll just make a bunch of beats and send them over to the guys. They'll hit me up and say what beats they want to work with and then, we'll pull all the stems into Ableton and start recording vocals. I both arrange and mix in Ableton, but I produce with my MPC Live. For mastering, a good family friend of mine, Nick [Gardiakos], did all the mastering, which saved Session One, in my opinion, because my master of the album sounded terrible, lmao.
Faust: A lot of problem-solving; we built "sound booths" in bathrooms and bedrooms out of anything we thought would work, at the time. If it sounded good, we kept it and kept moving. For most of the recording months, Xavya and I were roommates and the three of us rappers were around each other constantly. It was a process of gassing each other up with ideas, drumming on tables, and writing bars to what BYSON sent us, before showing up to the studio to create something and then, we would start all over again, after each session. We all wrote a lot, but practically every decent hook that stuck was formed on-the-spot with collaborative ideas. After a while, it was polishing tracks that we already laid down to sound the way we wanted them to.
Xavya: We made "La Cienega" and "Farrah" the second time we met up. Those were probably easiest ones, in retrospect. A lot of the hooks were on-the-spot, except for the title track and "Whatta Day" was originally a song I wrote that turned into that lil' refrain ("oh man, oh man.") The verse for "Summer" was spoken-word piece I would do live along with "Xavya Talks." Throughout all of the changes and what not, the one thing that stayed consistent was the exact sound we were all going for. The recording process was a learning experience in itself, but I'm glad that we figured it all out AND made the album we wanted. Faust and I had talked to a couple of audio engineers and studio folk, only to realize that they [were] going to wash out a lot of the rawness in the vocals.
V. What might you likely cite as some of your greatest sources of individual and group inspiration and influence, while recording Ohtwo's Session One?
BYSON: I'm sure the other guys are sick and tired of me mentioning [Enter The Wu-Tang] 36 Chambers. That album, and Wu-Tang Clan as a group, is my Bible, when it comes to the organizational, recording, and business aspects of this group. I would constantly listen to that album and think, "how did they record this?," "what would their workflow be?," and "what was going through RZA's mind, when producing this?" Other than that album, I know that we drew inspiration from Injury Reserve, MADVILLAINY, Lil' Ugly Mane, Earl Sweatshirt, Danny Brown, Kendrick Lamar, Anderson .Paak, Wiki, Nujabes, and a bunch more artists, throughout the production of the album.
Xavya: Personally, [Ghostface Killah's] Bulletproof Wallets, 2009-10 Nicki Minaj verses, Nxworries' YES LAWD! and definitely, Frank Ocean's Blond(e). MADVILLAINY was the album I know BYSON had in mind, during the mixing and mastering.
VI. There really seems to be a strong Asian influence on "Oh Baby" and the entirety of Session One; where do you suppose that comes from and who exactly can be attributed with bringing that element to the table?
BYSON: I've had a pretty strong Asian (specifically Japanese) influence on my music, for a while now and that just sort of bled over into the Ohtwo project. I listen to a lot of Japanese music from artists like Tatsuro Yamashita, Mariya Takeuchi, Hiroshi Sato, Creepy Nuts, and Nujabes, which all influence my music in many ways. "Oh Baby," itself, contains a Chinese Bossa Nova sample that I found and as soon as I heard the strings on it, I knew I had to chop up the sample for Ohtwo. There's actually another track that we scrapped that had another Chinese sample, as well as samples from the  film Iron Monkey and the 1997 anime for Berserk, which is one of my favorite pieces of Japanese animation and one of my favorite stories of all time. "So Far" contains a pitched-up Japanese Bossa Nova sample and "Get Gone" has a sample from a Japanese piano trio, if I remember correctly—might be wrong on that one, since it's one of the oldest beats on the project!
Xavya: Haha you don't have to look too far into BYSON's production to know that he has lots respect for Japanese culture—Anime, art, etc. It honestly, didn't factor in too much for me, until I was watching the "Oh Baby" music video.
VII. Whats next for the Ohtwo Session One album roll-out? When can we expect to hear "Sessions Two, Three, Four," and so on and so forth? (haha)
BYSON: As for what's next for Session One, we have a remix tape in-the-works and we’re also planning a special signed edition to be sold, at some point. As for Session Two, its on hold, at the moment, but will be made one day. In the meantime, we have a couple ideas that we're ready to work on and I'm taking a more deliberate Bossa Nova route, in terms of production, for the next tape, so stay tuned for that. It shouldn't be too long before more Ohtwo music is out there!
Faust: Hopefully, another video, but we are coming quick with new music... maybe even albums and other projects. However, the namesake, "Session Two," won't be made for a long time.
Xavya: There is more Ohtwo to come, for sure! Session Two anytime soon? Nope.