“What ya’ll know about Fight Night 3?!” Ninjasonik’s Telli yells at me as I situate myself on a black leather couch in an almost immaculate mixing studio somewhere in Midtown Manhattan. His girlfriend has just delivered to him a package with the video game and some new suspenders. “Remember when you were in grade school and you would bring the book from the new video game you got to school?” he asks me. “You know, just to show off to everyone what you got and they didn’t.”
I’m in the studio to hear some of the unmixed tracks for the group’s upcoming album, Peter Pan Syndrome, set to be released in June. After finishing a celebratory dance with his new game, Telli tries on the new suspenders. His girlfriend approves. Jah-Jah, the other half of the hip-hop duo, comes in from the vocal booth where he was laying down the chorus for one of the tracks. “It’s a track that we’ve had for about a year. We just decided to redo it because we’ve been in the studio so much making new stuff that we decided it needed to be upgraded,” Telli explains, “and why not? We like making music.”
I first met Telli and Jah-Jah at Music Hall of Williamsburg, and both of them now are wearing almost the same thing that they were during our first encounter. Telli’s rocking a black v-neck with a matching bowler hat, and Jah-Jah sports a hoodie and baseball cap with a raccoon tail hanging from his belt. Just like our meeting in Williamsburg, the two are accompanied by many friends moving in and out of the room while we talk. Telli breaks up all conversations to get to the matter at hand: It’s time to show off some of the new tracks.
The two members and the studio worker with his Alec Baldwin-style haircut begin rapidly naming off the tracks that I’m about to hear, making it hard to remember all of the titles. The first one played is “They Don’t Give A Fuck About Us,” a play on Michael Jackson’s “They Don’t Care About Us.” This immediately leads to a discussion on The Wiz, which obviously leads to Telli, in typical high-energy form, to start singing one of the movie’s songs.
The new songs have a higher production quality than the group’s past albums and mixtapes. There is also a greater focus on creating sing-along-style hooks about topics like overcoming personal problems or people trying to bring you down, and less on how the group loves the uncombed hair that art school girls wear or advice on not getting girls pregnant. Instead of big, nasty beats, a lot of the songs are backed by nightclub-style electronica. Telli commented on this by saying that he’s been sending the new songs to a lot of his DJ friends in the UK hoping for a successful remix. With this slight change in sound, I begin to wonder how this could alter the band. Will this be the end of the partying times of Ninjasonik? Will they start to take themselves too seriously with this new sound?
As I leave, Telli stops me and asks if I’m going to be at SXSW. I say that I will be, and he responds, “Well, get ready because I’m gonna be parachuting out the plane ready to land on that shit so I can go buck wild. Get your rage face on.” I guess I don’t need to worry about too much changing.