“Call me a pyromaniac, when I’m lightin’ em up / Call me a Quaker when I’m spicin’ it up,” recites James Pickering under his rap moniker OG Pick on “Cycle,” an icy joyride anthem on Huff’s debut mixtape, Huff Tape: Vol. 1. The track hits the ear as a cunning millennial’s take on a single from Watch the Throne, replete with witty double entendres and savvy cultural references backed by an entrancingly cyclical piano-laced hip-hop beat. Huff (also known as Huff Sucks, Huff Gang, Beluga Gang, and many more) is a rap collective based in Philadelphia, PA. The group consists of GFS students James “OG Pick” Pickering, Noah “NxG” Gansallo, Thomas “Primo” Primosch, Daniel “Yung Soybean” Stassen, and newcomer Dylan “Plan C” Yachyshen. Stylistically, this motley hip-hop crew has a musical sound one could only relate to a speaker-knocking potpourri of the West Coast lax of Odd Future, the gilded North Atlanta lyrical braggadocio of Migos, and the production mastery of Metro Boomin’. Earthquake‘s Zaynab Sanogo ’19 had the opportunity to sit down with 3/5 of the group during a bus ride to New York, during which the members gladly recounted personal anecdotes, fond memories, and plans for the future of Huff. Spoiler alert: it’s bright.
Zaynab Sanogo: Who does what? Who makes beats? Who does the lyrics?
James Pickering: Noah writes for himself, I write for myself, and Daniel [Stassen] and Thomas [Primosch] make beats. Dylan’s been writing his own bars. Reesh Wang is sort of an overarching figure for the group. He directs all of our videos. He actually made a beat on the new Huff tape. Me and Noah actually make beats, but they don’t get used.
Noah Gansallo: They’re kind of bad. We’re still in the primary stages. It’s like, if this were a pregnancy, we would be the zygote. We’re not there yet.
JP: We’re not out of the womb yet, so to speak.
ZS: How did each of you get into making music and hip-hop, if there was a pivotal moment?
JP: In the fifth grade I made a song. It’s a long story. Let me tell you the story of when I first rapped. There’s this thing called Odyssey of the Mind, where you have a group of five to seven people, and you make a skit or something like that, and you gotta be extra creative. In the skit, we had a rap, and I rapped it. Then I was like, ‘Wait, I can make a song!’ And then I came back and made “You Can’t Catch Me.”
ZS: What about you, Noah?
NG: After Made in America. I saw Earl Sweatshirt. I got inspired.
JP: Noah was also inspired by me. He asked me for help.
NG: Yeah. I did ask James for a lot of help. But it’s funny how the student turns into the master.
Dylan Yachyshen: I just became friends with them. They’d be recording and I’d be like, “What can I do?”
ZS: Where’d the name “Huff” come from?
JP: Noah was inspired by Harry Potter, and not by any of the houses that people cared about, but by the one single house that people did not give a [thought] about. Hufflepuff is just made up of like, the so-so people. Noah would just turn down any name we suggested and say “Huff” over and over again. And he also handled all of our social media accounts.
NG: I just made [the accounts] all what I wanted them to be. It was good because we would never have agreed on a name. Actually, our list of names is actually kinda long. We have Huff Gang, Huff, Beluga Boys, Cake Squad…
ZS: So you’re like Odd Future?
NG: No, it’s not Odd Future. We are not like Odd Future in any way.
JP: Our name is Huff, ignore everything that he just said.
DY: Oh! There’s an offshoot called Blimax.
JP: Blimax is an offshoot of Huff, consisting of the two leading vocalists of our generation: Fung Shwae and Nirvanna, me and Dylan. Beatles had four, Migos has three, Blimax has two. See the pattern? Blimax is considered the new Migos. Migos is considered the new Beatles, and we’re the new Migos.
ZS: Who are your biggest lyrical inspirations? Who are your musical ones?
JP: I’m not gonna say Migos. The reason I’m not gonna say Migos, even though Migos is the greatest, is that they’re not who I vibe with the most. It’s like someone in the rock and roll days liking a small-time band even though they’re recognizing that The Beatles are iconic. They’re just not their favorite artist. Same way that I recognize that Migos is top-notch, my favorite artist is a little bit lower: Kendrick Lamar. And also Chance the Rapper.
DY: Kendrick. But I feel like everyone says “Kendrick, Chance, and Schoolboy Q”.
NG: I don’t think anyone says Schoolboy Q. My biggest inspiration is myself. And Earl Sweatshirt.
JP: Probably also Tyler, the Creator. If you’ve heard “Reemad,” on the tape, it’s inspired largely by a song by Odd Future, where there’s a lot of screaming and gun sounds.
ZS: What’s your dream collaboration?
JP: Migos, Migos.
NG: I’d just like to show up Kendrick Lamar on a track. Or, my dream collaboration would be with Tyler [the Creator], because you wouldn’t know the difference between our verses. Except his voice is a lot deeper than mine.
JP: I’d love to do a track with The Beatles. I’d love to do a track with Frank Sinatra. Or any great jazz artist or musician.
DY: Meek Mill. Because it’s something that you wouldn’t expect.
ZS: Is Vol.1 what you expected it to be?
JP: We thought of Vol. 1 about a year ago. Its evolved to be so much more.
NG: You sound like Apple.
JP: The ingenuity and the intuitiveness of the transitions between each song is just otherworldly. It’s something precious. The one song that has survived since before the beginning of the conception of the Huff Tape was “Cycle.” We’ve rewritten and reworked it seven or eight different times.
NG: We’ve been writing it for two years.
JP: But I think that Vol. 1 is a very interesting thing, because it’s none of our styles.
NG: I think that’s a good thing.
JP: Nobody has any of their favorite songs on there. It’s not our strong suit to make bangers.
NG: We’re not trap boys.
JP: Right, no guns. I’ve never seen a gun in my life.
NG: I have, it was terrifying. But I like gun sounds. Every time we use them, it’s an ironic call for world peace. Because that’s what Huff believes in.
JP: For the most part, we don’t believe in what we say, unless it’s a positive thing, then we believe it 100%.
NG: That actually sounds so funny, but it’s actually true.
ZS: Would you change anything about the tape?
NG: We would’ve made it longer.
JP: We would’ve made it better. I would consider it a “meh” project, for what we’re capable of. We’ve grown so much, but we wanted to give the fans something that they could have before our individual mixtapes came out. If we spent two more months on this, it would’ve been fantastic.
NG: I absolutely disagree. I was tired of that music.
DY: I wasn’t on the tape, but I think they have a bit of a reputation that precedes them as “Joke Artists.” I was talking to one of my friends yesterday, who was telling me that she didn’t expect anything from the Huff tape, which is a fallacy. She admitted that she liked “Intro” and “Boulter St.”
JP: The intro was meant to be a nod to our goofiness but also a nod to our seriousness. There’s a lot of hidden meaning there, and when we put up the Genius annotations, you’ll understand what we mean.
NG: I’ll also find out what we mean.
ZS: Are there any easter eggs in the tape?
NG: On this one song, “Reemad,” I reference this rapper named Mr. Moe, who’s actually James in fifth grade. When James was in fifth grade he had this one character, Mr. Moe. Mr. Moe had this one banger, called “Hello.”
JP: It’s a fantastic record, it’s from an album called I’m the B.O.M.B. It’s an acronym for something, which is yet to be figured out.
ZS: What are your plans for after you graduate?
ZS: Where do you see Huff in five years?
JP: Huff itself won’t live on, but its legacy at GFS will live on. We’re actually getting a plaque installed. But Noah and I will also continue to make records. We want to change the world. We want to perform at the Berlin Wall. We want to be at the inauguration of the first woman president. We want to be there when countries unite, and there’s no more rivalry, and the heat of the world is brought down.
Huff’s debut mixtape, Huff Tape: Vol. 1, is now available on Soundcloud.