They Hate Change: “The way the industry works now is, ‘What can you do for free?’ For us, that doesn’t quite sit right”

Each month we ask an artist or group to share three musicians they think have gone under appreciated and three new names who they hope will avoid a similar fate. Tampa hip hop duo They Hate Change discussed their selections with Theo Gorst

Tracking They Hate Change’s influences is like unspooling a tangled ball of yarn. Their vibrant electronic hip hop defies easy categorisation and frequently darts in divergent directions, often inspired by British underground music, not all of it grime and rap. The self declared “musical omnivores” are prodigious sonic consumers and their new EP Wish You Were Here… revels in the duo’s eclecticism; starting with an ode to new-age minimalism before bursting into the hard edged and club-ready ‘stunt (when i see you)’.

During my conversation Vonne Parks and Andre “Dre” Gainey are barely contained inside the screens of our transatlantic Zoom call. It’s best to imagine exclamation marks littering their heavily emphasised sentences, as they hit their three underrated older musicians before moving on to their new names


D: The blueprint!

VP: We got into them really via another of the artists on The Rates, Curren$y. We were listening to him and he was talking about being such a big fan, and he rapped on one of their tracks and stuff like that. All through high school we were listening to Camp Lo’s debut album, Uptown Saturday Night, and just loving it, like, “Yo, this shit is fly, it’s fly as hell, it’s jiggy, it’s sick!” They’re the illest.

TG: It seems like they were a big deal for you when you were making your debut, Finally New, and as much as channelling the sound you were channelling an attitude of theirs.

D: For sure. Even when we saw them in person; and we ain’t never think we would see them. They came to a brewery and played in Tampa and it was amazing to see the full on skill that was on display. Just hearing ‘Luchini aka This Is It’ live, it sounded like the record. I mean the clarity… they’re gooood! They’re repping for each other and hyping each other up and that’s another thing me and Vonne took from them with what we do.

VP: Yeah we really like repping for each other. They’re a duo but a duo of actual friends so they’re mainly saying things to impress their friend. Or coding things in a way only you would understand because that’s an in-joke you’ve had for a decade, but it somehow makes its way into a rhyme.

If you listen to it and really break it down, and really break down the verses every time, every bar is like 13 or 15 syllables, on the dot damn near. Every. Bar. And it’s super encoded in this slang, and they’re storytelling at that. They have the diamond heist story thing, the ’70s lingo that they’re adopting, and they have 15 syllables coming at your head every bar. It’s amazing they never had a gold single.


VP: We first heard ‘I Got Somebody New’ a long time ago and it’s really sick. Why does Georg Levin have one album from 2003 and another from 2010? One joint from 2003 that’s better than any 2010’s disco funk revival attempt ever. You put that on the radio today and it would go nuts.

Certain stuff exists out there and isn’t served to a particular audience, so it doesn’t exist as there’s all these barriers to music reaching people. That’s what causes a situation like Georg Levin where the heads know, but not only the heads should know, cos it’s not heady music. How many times have we put this shit in a DJ set, Dre?

D: You’d have thought it was on Billboard’s top top 100.

VP: Almost every DJ set. And that’s in front of every crowd; whether it’s at the house shows for the punks or the wine bars for the stush uppity motherfuckers and everywhere in between; and everybody loves this shit!

Vocally too with Georg Levin, we feel he should get more credit. His voice is the voice of an era; you know when you hear that voice everyone’s dancing.

D: It’s high-fi music, music for the radiogram!


D: Unsung hero!

VP: He had a verse – it was a mixtape verse – from 2006 maybe, where he was rapping on ‘Dead Presidents’ with Lil Wayne and he had a line about going through a drive thru and telling the person at the window what sort of sauce he wanted. I was like, “Yo! Nobody is saying that in a song! Nobody is rhyming that way, he is the greatest of all time!”

That was around the time I moved into the apartment where I met Dre. We were super geeked off of sneakers and all these things Curren$y was talking about at the time. They weren’t super mainstream concepts yet. If you were reading sneaker blogs at this time you were kind of a fucking nerd. Wild nerdy like, “Did you know this was fashioned after an Italian boot?” but Curren$y was rapping that way also.

D: The detail from Curren$y or even, like Rick Ross, is so vivid. They can paint a picture to you, even if you may not have [the item] you can feel it. So Curren$y is talking about Bapestas with the camel print before they put them in pictures, so you’re like, “Oh, I know that”.

VP: Exactly. Our spirit comes from there, for sure. It was one of the first places we were hearing it, or at least hearing it in that way. A lot of rappers get into the minutiae. Jay-Z for sure can get into the micro-details of his Maybach, but Curren$y is getting into the micro-details of his shoe box. Or how he hangs up a bicycle on his wall; shit like that. We’re definitely inspired by that. As kids we were super geeked off of everything he was talking about and we followed him from there; everything he dropped we were on it. The day [third album] Pilot Talk actually came out we were just so geeked off of every moment. That track ‘Breakfast’; we could talk about that infinitely.

In a just world he would be whatever people consider to be “the top guy in the industry”, but equally he’s not starving. He’s still that guy. If you know, you know, even though everyone knows. It’s an interesting position to maintain. I think he might have invented that spot almost.


VP: Oh man, Turich Benji is new. You can’t necessarily say underrated yet cos he’s still active and he’s getting active. We saw him at SXSW, he came out as a guest at another show and did a full split and jumped up from it like he was goddam James Brown. Obviously this is the guy.

D: It was amazing, like, “Yo, what the hell!?” He has a project called Basquiat, which is amazing in itself, and there’s this song ‘Gucci Slides’ that should be on Billboard, or whatever charts there are. It’s a jam. Recently he did a fashion show – around Cincinnati – and it seemed pretty cool, it definitely seems like he’s a hometown hero. He just released a joint project with Pink Siifu too.

VP: You see it live and you’re like, “Cool. Get this motherfucker a truckload of money today.” That is our view and it’s maybe an idealist type of view of what people should receive in exchange for their creativity. This shit shouldn’t go unnoticed. It’s crazy, make it viral now; you want viral memes? This motherfucker is doing it now, talking about Tony Hawk and Gucci slides. Y’all are talking about ‘Taking a Walk’ to Poland and you got all the Spongebob memes and that shit, but this song is actually good! He luckily got people waking up, it’s not just for the heads, they don’t need to talk about it in a hushed voice. Nah, it’s up!


TG: Have you met Cakes Da Killa?

D: Ooooh yeah [chuckles]. Oh man, we were in New York’s Boiler Room and we knew Cakes Da Killa was gonna be there, but we didn’t know we were all gonna be in the same vicinity. Cakes walked in; crazy outfit on and dancers behind him. I was like, “Vonne I think that’s Cakes.” [We] started busting out raps. Cakes was like, “Oh, you guys are for real.”

VP: Exactly. Cakes was giving us our props and we were like, “No, it’s you! It’s you!” We started bringing up old ass songs and he started bursting out laughing and we were like, “You are the one. Genuinely.” Cakes was showing so much love after watching us perform and we were like, “You don’t understand this is a dream to see you.” When his record Svengali came out [2022] it was the best record of the year. Here’s the thing, our record came out that same year!

[On his first record, Hedonism, there’s] ‘New Phone (Who Dis)’ which is aggressive stunt rap. It was like some shit we would have did, but we didn’t do it. Or some shit we would have wanted to do, but it wasn’t us. We were like, “Yo, somebody else is on this shit? Okay, cool!”

On that Svengali project there’s so many songs that would have smashed in a just world.

TG: What do you think prevents these tracks from being smash hits?

VP: I think the industry as a whole is fucked up.

D: That goes without saying, it’s true.

VP: There’s an interview with Carrie Brownstein of Sleater-Kinney. She says that off of their first record [S/T] they had a regular split profit deal and off of that deal they were able to live on their own, and live a middle class existence. [All this] off of selling not that many records, like 10,000 records, because the industry worked a particular way. Even them existing on college radio afforded them a full living off of music.

The industry does not work that way anymore. A certain amount of people engaging with your music via critical acclaim doesn’t mean you’re going to make any money. You probably won’t make any money if all you have is that critical acclaim.

TG: To go back to Curren$y, he’s interesting because he has survived various eras of the music industry. When he started, in the mid noughties, there would have been that sustainable model but then he would have seen the internet bottom out the industry. Though as you say, he’s obviously doing alright now.

VP: Yup, the way the industry works now is, “What can you do for free? What can you do without seeing or wanting anything out of it?” So Curren$y does 7 free mixtapes and then he puts out a retail album and then another retail album and then more mixtapes and then a retail album, and then, and then, you know what I mean? High profile, high quality work and giving it away, and that’s cool and great for us the listener but you have to do so much of that before somebody is like, “Cool, you’re able to mobilise people around the free things you’re doing. We’ll give you a million dollars to do that for us.” For some people – for us – that doesn’t quite sit right, to do hella work for free, only to mobilise the fan base for somebody else. But that’s how it works now, unless you’re a viral star. Do a bunch of shit for free or do a bunch of crazy dances to mobilise people online.

TG: Have you found a way for it to morally work for you guys, or is trying to find a way around the current model a constant source of frustration?

VP: Morally, we have found a sustainable way, but that does not mean to sustain us in other ways. We’ve done a shit tonne since 2022 and this is what it looks like with us standing by our morals. Imagine if we weren’t. I’m telling you, Theo, you would not believe the things that have come across our desk. You would not believe. We could be sitting here on a diamonded out Zoom call.


VP: [We heard 96 through] Local Action Records and their subsidiary 2 B REAL. Being tapped into that and hearing this artist we were like, “Ooh shit, this dude is crazy, we hear everything else, but did you hear this guy?” This dude is shitting on everyone else, musically. This dude is insane. So that was a priority for us to link him up when we first went to Manchester, just as a fan. He dug our music too so we went to a pho restaurant for lunch. Then afterwards we went to a great pasta spot, and Dre, because that restaurant is rebranding, they posted the recipe online.

D: Screenshot! Send it over!

VP: Seasoned pork shoulder and beef shin, like, yo it’s basically a really nice ragu and nduja.

D: Gotta bring out the dutch oven!

VP: Exactly. Then we went to his house and he’s showing us all his tracks.

D: We’re on tour with Shame, shaking from being tired.

VP: It was early last year and was our 7th tour in 12 months. We saw he had every track in his Ableton folder numbered, that was how he saved tracks, no names just numbers. We were like, “What? What do you mean?”

D: He’d got to 100124, 100145 and that was just from early in that year.

VP: Literally the number is 100324!

D: How can he remember certain things? How can he remember which is which?

VP: 100324, that’s the track that became ‘Wallabies and Weejuns’ [last track on Wish You Were Here…]. He played that and 100326 for us, and Dre was like, “Put those together!”