Song Premiere: Koncept & J57 – “The Fuel”

Music Video Koncept & J57

NYC’s Koncept & J57 are gearing up to release The Fuel, their debut EP as a duo, but the two are already scene veterans. Having made their reputation with indie hip-hop collective Brown Bag AllStars, they’ve also worked with heavy hitters such as Joey Bada$$, Wu-Tang’s Method Man & Raekwon, Doomtree, The Roots, DJ Premier and dozens of other influential and critically acclaimed artists.

The title track—and second single—from The Fuel (out Nov. 20 on KON57 Records) premieres today at Paste. It’s a feel-good, organ-driven anthem that finds Koncept riding high over J57’s persistent beat, his flow gruff and urgent, the voice of experience pondering what drives us to greatness. For good measure, the duo’s frequent Brown Bag AllStars collaborator Akie Bermiss contributes an instantly memorable chorus hook. Like several other tracks on the new EP, “The Fuel” has a massive sound that wouldn’t feel out of place echoing off the walls of Madison Square Garden.

Koncept & J57 met in 2008 while working at Fat Beats, the West Village record store that was the launchpad for so many underground rap artists while it was open from 1993-2010. Later, along with several other Fat Beats co-workers, they formed Brown Bag AllStars, eventually turning heads while opening for Ghostface Killah at Atlanta hip-hop festival A3C. In the wake of this performance, Red Bull Music chose Koncept as part of its artist development and discovery program. With this platform in mind, Koncept & J57 refocused their energies on music that would resonate with a wider audience. The result is The Fuel—a riveting underdog tale told as if the duo is looking back on its legacy a la ESPN’s SportsCentury. As Koncept details his inspirations in rap and life, each of the EP’s eight songs sound revelatory, thanks in no small part to the vibrant sonic canvasses of J57. These aren’t the dusty, soul-sample-driven tracks of typical ’90s-rap-channeling throwback artists; they are sonic cathedrals, complete with ceremonial organs and soulful backing vocals. And they’re fit for the arms-outstretched choruses of The Fuel.

“It feels like you just won the league championships for your softball team,” J57 says of the EP’s pumped-up title track. “Everybody’s going crazy, and you just got Gatorade dumped on you.” With The Fuel, these rising artists are building on their underground hip-hop success, proving that in addition to being technically proficient, they’re also capable of adding a strong emotional core, and an eclectic appeal to their music.

“I grew up on hip-hop,” Koncept says, “but I’m also inspired by Radiohead and The Mars Volta—good, meaningful, powerful and emotional music that just gives you a feeling. It’s what I’ve always searched for in my sound, and what I’ve finally found in these new joints with J57.”

You can pre-order The Fuel here.

(Above, L-R: Koncept & J57. Photo by Matthew Sorenson)

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