Interview: Debaser & Sneak Peak of Peerless

Recently I had a chance to shoot a few questions over to Debaser, the two-man wrecking crew out of Portland. If you aren’t aware, Sapient and Ethic One have been rolling with the Sandpeople crew for many years now, putting out a slew of fantastic projects all the while. With that, we get word that Debaser will be dropping Peerless, their full-length LP, available May 4th! Hit the skip to check out the interview, along with a track-by-track breakdown of their new album, including some exclusive clips!

You two have been working together for some time now. How long exactly has it been? Explain the chemistry between the two of you.

Ethic: We started Debaser in late 2005, but began working on music together in 2003 after I had returned from living in Australia.  Sape and I are family friends, so we’ve known each other for almost two decades.  The fact that we were friends before we starting working on music together has really helped the progression of the group.  If we didn’t share a similar perspective on what we want to do as artists, we probably would have just stayed homies and not formed Debaser.  So, in that regard the chemistry of the group has always been fine tuned and not something we ever really needed to worry about or put much effort into.
Sapient: Yeah, we made some songs together and did some shows back, back, back in the day, but when we really decided to make a group, we felt it was game over. I always put my favorite beats into Debaser shit, and despite the gaps between projects, we’ve been steady working.

You guys represent Portland pretty hard, what has that scene done for your musical careers?

Ethic: We’ve been embraced by Portland and treated very well by the local media and crowd.  As a hip-hop artist in the Northwest, you kind of get overlooked a little bit in the wide scope, but the community up here definitely supports their own.  This is our homebase and having it as a foundation has really enabled us to start focusing on promoting the Debaser/Sandpeople name in other regions.

Sapient: We’ve put in a hard days night to prove ourselves, but things are easier now that we have the city behind us.  When we’re on tour it seems almost like every stop that someone is at the show because they have a homie from up here in the NW that told them about us.  So, yea, that support and word of mouth promotion not only fuels us in our hometown, but has also spread to support away from here too.

Talk about the features on the album. What went into the choice to include Cage and Grouch? What was it like working with them?

Sapient: Cage has a specific sound we respect and such a crazy history, we thought he’d be a good fit to grace the album .  The sound and niche he’s carved out on the East Coast is somewhat the equivalent of what we do over here in the Northwest (with less tracks about PCP of course).

Ethic: We first worked with The Grouch on the 2007 Sandpeople album Honest Racket.  He came up and did our release show with us in Portland and we have just stayed in touch since then.  He’s another artist that both of us have listened to for awhile and is someone we respect for his work ethic and that he can be entirely self-sufficient given that he’s also a producer.  He was in town while we were working on Peerless, so we all just met up and got him on Don’t Sleep.  I think that is probably one of my favorite tracks on the album as well.

Eyedea is one of those dudes that has been pivitol to the success of the indie hip-hop scene.  I remember back when he won the Blaze battle and was out on the road with Slug as Rhymesayers was in its beginning stages as a label and a movement.  You don’t really see too many Eyedea features out there either, which was a definite incentive in wanting him on this album.  He’s such a high energy artist that we knew he’d round out Peerless’ group of guest appearances perfectly.

Sapient: It just worked out that we have the East Coast, Midwest, and West Coast covered in the indie rap cameo department.

Talk about the title for the album, Peerless. Where did this come from?

Sapient: The title is def on some braggadocio shit, and that’s not really fueled by our arrogance, more just pointing out the inferiority of everyone else. So much basic music, dumb rappers…they are not our peers. Not all of our music is on this tip, but Debaser is definitely an outlet for that. There’s a time and place for everything, here and now is for Debaser.

Ethic: It definitely fits the swagger we try to bring to the group, so there was little debate once Sape brought it up.  We were initially going to call the album Throne Together to kind of follow-up our debut Crown Control.  But, that idea was short-lived and soon became a song on Sape’s solo album Letterhead.

You have a wide array of subjects amongst the songs on the album, yet you keep a sense of continuity throughout. Take us through a basic song development between the two of you.

Ethic: The development of a song typically starts with Sape’s production.  We almost always use that as the driver for concept, style, etc.  When you have an in-house producer as talented as Sape, you’d be stupid not to take full advantage of that.  There are a couple songs that were born out of a concept and Sape molded the beat around that, but not a ton.  From Peerless, I think Curseless Gift & My Brain are the two cuts where the beat was created around the song.

Sapient: I really wanted to make the opening track (“Curseless Gift”) constantly build and change throughout, so with this in mind, I took two “already made” beats with the same tempo and proceeded to eff around with the sound of attaching one to the other. This posed an obstacle because the two are in totally different keys, and don’t sound good blended in or even back to back. That’s where being a handsome genius came in handy, I created a chord progression to fuse the two and hired my midi orchestra for the day… this is all a lie, I got blackout drunk one night and woke up the next day, turned on my computer and found “Curseless Gift” in the Debaser folder, didn’t even know Ethic was over!

Ethic: Haha, once Sape had everything put together and the verses recorded to the two beats, we thought it needed rapping over the transition too.  I spit a sparse 8 bar verse to it and then Sape further produced the track, which turned into the final version.  It has become one of our standout cuts that we later filmed a video to.  (The Curseless Gift video will be dropping over the summer.)

What does the future hold for Debaser? Solo projects? Sandpeople?

Ethic: Sape is always going to be working on solo projects.  He’s one of the most prolific artists in the game, so there is rarely a moment that he isn’t building some new dopeness.

Our crew is kind of taking a backseat while we all work on side projects and solo material.  We’re looking to release another Sandpeople album in early 2011 (probably around May).  Until then, there will be plenty of crew-related albums for our fans to peep.  We think it’s important to use the past 4-years of working on Sandpeople stuff to give people a more in-depth view of its members individually.  The crew is made-up of extremely talented artists and we all feel right now is the best time to start showcasing it.

As Debaser, we’re gonna spend time working on Peerless post-release and see where that goes.  Sape & I will definitely hit the studio again in the near future, but we don’t have an exact timeframe in mind.  We think that Peerless will be a good baromoter for when that should be.  Most likely we’ll work on a couple of shorter projects (EPs & free downloads) and then look at doing a full length just before or after the Sandpeople one.  But, again, that could all change based on how Peerless is received.

Sapient: Ethic pretty much covered it. I have alot of other new stuff coming out soon too – a solo album not yet titled aiming for mid July, new album from The Prime titled Fade, and a rock album titled Slump, with a tentative release of Oct. 2010! I’m hyped about this genre shift, this album will be not a rap album, it will be like a grip of songs that you’d find on the end of Sandpeople albums, or like the last track on Peerless – “High Priceless”.

Song Breakdowns:



This is the title cut (obviously).  It’s a short song, but one that conveys the message we aimed for with the entire album.  That we work hard at being as good as we possibly can at what we do and if another artist isn’t doing that, then we don’t consider them peers of ours.  There’s a level of professionalism that is lost on a lot of artists these days, which has only been compounded by the accessibility of home studios and the ability to get music in respected outlets like iTunes & Amazon.

It used to be if you were a local artist that made music for fun or just plain weren’t very good, then your options and reach were limited.  You were pretty much only going to be as big as your skill and ambition allowed you to be.  Now just about anyone can put their music in front of fans (i.e., iTunes) and promote openly on social networks and that has contributed to a diminished quality coupled with a staturation of the indie music scene.  So, we feel like even if all artists have similar access to the same tools that doesn’t mean all are on the same level.  In that regard, we feel our peers are only those that invest the same into their craft and have the self-awareness to know if they are good enough to keep at it.

Tree Of Life


This track is about Judaic mysticism. Don’t study the lyrics until you are 40 years old, so that you can dedicate your time fully.

“My Brain”


As I mentioned, this is a cut that started as a concept.  We had a song called Sugar & Spice on our album Crown Control that was a light-hearted girl song (we say light-hearted, others say most offensive song about women they have ever heard).  It has actually become probably the most discussed song that we’ve made as Debaser.  We wanted to include something similar on the new album, but also not just mimick that song.  My Brain is kind of an opposite viewpoint as the one we had on Sugar & Spice.  You’ll have to listen to both to know what I’m talking about.

“Don’t Sleep” feat. The Grouch


The hook for this song is pretty much our mantra as indie musicians – “if we don’t make, then we don’t eat, so we don’t sleep”.  Our songs are our livelihood.  If we’re not constantly working, then we are missing opportunities.  We wanted The Grouch to feature on this cut largely because that is how he has approached music from the start.  He’s probably one of the hardest working rappers out there and exemplifies the concept of the song.  The beat Sape laid down for this is also one of the album’s sickest (besides every other beat on the album).

“High Priceless”

Sape hates that money is the deciding factor of life and death and it shows sometimes in his music. Sape played guitar, drums, keyboard and sang. Oh yeah, he found out 2 days after he recorded this that he had had strep throat for the past 9 days.

3 thoughts on “Interview: Debaser & Sneak Peak of Peerless

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  1. I can’t wait for this album!!!!
    Debaser NEVER disappoints and everything Sapient touches turns to gold, that cats a modern day alchemist for sure!
    Endless respect to the whole SP crew.

  2. I’m glad to see my donation went to a dope new layout. Well deserved! This blog is easily one of the best.

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