This is part of CP's Music issue — check out our other profiles of Philadelphia musicians like queer hip-hop duo Sgt. Sass, harpist Gillian Grassie, Cinderella's hair-metal comeback kid Tom Keifer, and London-born bassist Anthony Tidd.
The muted thud of skull on concrete is enough to give pause to the rowdy crowd outside Union Transfer. A teenage girl who was just vomiting into a trash can has tipped over. Her head bounces once. Police and friends converge. The throng, mostly drunk, underage and white, takes stock, then gets back to the bawling and brawling of its mini-riot, until the cops start yelling “clear the sidewalk” in their not-fucking-around voices. Another hometown OCD: Moosh & Twist show just got shut down.
“Music makes us happy, so we’re going to make happy music,” says Oliver Feighan, aka Twist. This is as close as you’ll get to an OCD mission statement. It explains a lot: Why, with few exceptions, they don’t curse in their music, why these 20-year-old MCs insist on keeping it “positive,” why they’ll cop to being “cheesy” when they say things like “music is magic” or admit that it’s important to them that “our fucking parents can listen to our shit without telling us to turn it off.”
Bros at first sight, Twist met his boy DeQuincy Coleman-McRae III, aka Moosh Money, in the first grade at The Philadelphia School; as eighth-graders, they recorded their first song with their Spanish teacher, who convinced them not to curse on their raps. It was a remix of the oft-remixed Rich Boy hit “Throw Some Ds,” rendered by the newly minted OCD: Moosh & Twist as “Throw Some Vans.” Moosh laughs, “It was so whack. You couldn’t pay me money to let you hear it now.”
We meet up in the North Philly bedroom of their touring DJ, Brady Ettinger, aka Sylo, where they play some new tracks from their fourth mixtape, Back to the Basement, due March 12. The trio developed its rapport on the road — stuffed into a Suburban with their equipment, manager and merch guy on a sweaty summer tour in 2011 — and their following on YouTube, especially after they released “City Kids” late in 2010. When it comes to beats, they want them radio-ready, and their flows are as exuberant as their performances. The duo landed a spot on the main stage at last year’s Roots Picnic and created instant energy, livening up a crowd that was diverse in age, race and taste.
Moosh raps the way he talks and moves: in the pocket, trying to ride the beat. “The smooth operator,” says Sylo. Twist wants to do acrobatics on it, rhyming “lonely now,” “Nickelodeon,” “owe me one,” “load a gun” and “Obi-Wan” with his bust-a-blood-vessel delivery.
The two are clearly in the uplift business, and they hope it’s big business. “I want a number-one record,” says Moosh. He mocks those who think their sound is too poppy. “Pop means popular, why would you not want to make popular music? … That’s the point of being an artist, you want the most people to hear your stuff.”
“If that’s what you want,” adds Twist, “and that’s what we want.”
Twist tells me about a fan tweeting him that “a bunch of people are going to your show on Friday just to get drunk and have fun.” That’s cool with OCD. What they love most is performing, where the unresolved contradictions of commercial necessity and authentic expression come together in a “gratifying” alchemy, where you can mean and feel this, that and the other with impunity. “I don’t remember nothing while I’m up there,” says Moosh, “That shit is magic.”
Not if you don’t get to do it. The love at 7:45 has crossed the thin line by 8:45, and the last sounds of the night are teenagers yelling (from rented school buses, no less), “Fuck OCD, right, bro?” “Fuck them, dawg!” This show got shuttered because of all the drunk kids. Their Dec. 29 gig at First Unitarian Church got shut down when someone pulled a fire alarm (the sort of prank that screams high school). “We’re just good kids, man,” says Twist finally. Smart too, smart enough to go places the city kids might not be able to go.
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