Band of Outsiders

Bay Area hip hop trio Foreign Legion has no use for gangstas, hos, or stale beats

Design's production style could also be called thoughtful, especially considering that he refuses to slap together soft rock samples and overused 808 bass tracks. On "Meanwhile," he crafts a clacking, syncopated beat that recalls hip hop's early classics, with horn stabs playing off Prozack's rhymes. For "You'll Never Be Number One," he uses a tinkly organ reminiscent of The Price Is Right theme music. Design's tracks manage to be catchy without being clichéd, utilizing distinctive scratching that punctuates funk-, soul-, and soundtrack-inflected licks.

"I don't try to develop my sound as much as I just try to develop my songs," says Design. "A lot of producers just sound like [they use] a bunch of throwaway beats."

Prozack concurs. "Production-wise, there's a lot of people who haven't found their style and they're so easily influenced by whatever is on the radio. I don't think Keith does that. It would be more productive if we could be like, "We need a dance song or we need a hard beat,' but it's a lot more natural the way we go about doing it."

Stretch explains that he and Prozack take a similarly freestyle approach to rapping, trying to make their lyrics jibe with the beats at hand. "The music carries a vibe and our responsibility as writers is to bring that out," he says. "We spend a lot of time just listening to the music before we write the lyrics."

Since the release of Kidnappervan, the bandmates have been working on projects outside the group. Prozack has completed a solo album, while Design is producing instrumental hip hop tracks and running his club night, "Gather Round," on Wednesdays at Fuse.

Design says that DJing has inspired his production work, since he sees how crowds respond to the music. "Before I was just playing records and having people stand there. Then [there was] the whole turntable thing where people just stand and watch, and I started thinking that I never see black people at hip hop shows anymore. It's all white people. And I thought, "Why is that?' It's like a fucking freak show now. You just have this guy up there scratching and it's over the same old hip hop songs you've heard off of Eric B and Rakim's first album. It's awful.

"And then I'm noticing that girls actually have so much influence on music," Design continues. "They're the ones buying the damn CDs and they're the ones that get into it and get people to dance. They get that feeling going where you feel good to be at a club -- they're all grooving, and the guys try and get up and start dancing. All of a sudden everybody's in a good mood."

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