Earthquake Q&A: Huff

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?

NG: Burnt.

ZS: Where do you see Huff in five years?

NG: Negative.

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.


Book Review: Self-Discovery in “The Sun Is Also a Star”

Young adult books filled with adventure, romance and self discovery have dominated bookshelves and bestseller lists for years. Nicola Yoon’s 2016 novel The Sun Is Also a Star tells the story of two teenagers who meet on the streets of New York and fall in love. After reading Yoon’s debut novel, Everything, Everything, I had high expectations for this, her latest book, and was ecstatic that The Sun Is Also a Star met all of them. It has a very modern Romeo and Juliet vibe, with two random teenagers meeting by chance in a world that seemingly doesn’t want them to be together. Aspiring poet and hopeless romantic Daniel and analytical, scientific Natasha are drawn together by fate, each with their own baggage and beliefs. The clash of their ideas and personalities exemplifies an “opposites attract” relationship. As the young lovers’ story takes them across New York City, The Sun is Also a Star tackles racism, immigration and the unlikely possibility of falling in love. In a time when illegal immigration tops headlines of major newspapers nearly every day, this book gives a refreshing perspective of what it is like to be on the other end. In a world where teenagers obsess over college and their futures, the book gives an insight into the pressure of a teenager’s life. The Sun is Also a Star launches the reader into an epic love story full of sadness and exuberance, with protagonists that you can’t help but fall in love with.


Photos: Women’s March in New York


On January 21st, Earthquakes Kate Kearns ’19 took photographs at the women’s march in New York City.


















Waymo Aims Big with Self-Driving Cars

Steve Jobs famously told former Google CEO Larry Page that his company “did too much stuff.” Google, a company that is today worth $498 billion dollars has never revolved around a single product or idea. Their most known product, Google Search, is only a small piece of their always-growing portfolio. In 2010 Google X, Google’s “moonshot” project incubator, was created and became the home for some of Google’s most high risk, high reward projects, the most known of which is the Google Self Driving Car. Google researchers developed the idea for the car in 2009, and planned at the time to have a fully autonomous car built by 2020. Google’s fleet of self driving cars have since driven over two million miles around the West Coast and Texas. In late 2016, Google’s parent company Alphabet announced that they were forming a new company called Waymo that would turn the Google Self Driving Car Project into a possibly profitable business.

Self driving cars have brought forward a host of new questions about the dangers of entrusting your life to a computer. Many industry giants have data that they hope will reassure people of the increase in safety that self driving cars will bring. In 2016, Google published data from their self driving cars that showed optimistically low crash statistics. Over 1.8 million miles of autonomous driving the test vehicles were only involved in 13 fender-bender accidents, with no injuries reported. Nationally, automobile safety is a very large but ultimately solvable issue. In 2015 alone, 35,200 people died in automobile accidents. 94% of the crashes were caused by human error. This number is staggering, but automobile accidents have steadily risen year after year. This is in part due to the increase in drivers multitasking while driving. A survey done by AT&T in 2015 found that 70% of respondents used their phones while driving.

Manufacturers in the self driving car market like Tesla, Google, BMW and Toyota have proven through the millions of miles that they have driven in fully autonomous cars that self driving technology can save tens of thousands of lives through the artificial intelligence and machine learning technology that will hopefully become standard in future vehicles. Tesla, BMW, Infiniti and Mercedes Benz have all released cars that include some or all of the technology needed to become fully self driving vehicles. Tesla took a large step towards producing self-driving vehicles by building all of the sensors and computing devices needed for a car to be fully autonomous into their newest Model S, Model X, and Model 3 cars, which have themselves already reached some customers.

Although these cars are capable of being fully autonomous, many of the features have not yet reached vehicles. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has assured customers that all of the features will roll out via software updates in the coming weeks, although around 1,000 customers have already received the “Over The Air” update. In late 2016, Tesla proved the usefulness of autonomous cars when the assisted braking technology built into a Tesla miraculously avoided a possibly deadly collision. This is just one of many examples where self driving cars have proven to be lifesaving. Although the general consumer may not be ready to accept self driving cars at a wider level, it is clear that they have the potential to be very impactful when it comes to how we use pre-existing technology.


When Kardashians Feel Better, We Feel Worse

From scandalous sex tapes to complex divorces, Americans are united in recognizing the “KarJenners” by their dramatic lifestyle.  Kim Kardashian, the first celebrity in the family, has an immense social media presence and therefore affects millions of lives. In this technologically advanced generation, it can only be hoped that those who influence the world around them, especially those who have impact on the mindset of younger people, will adamantly promote body positivity and confidence. Does Kardashian fit this criteria?

Kim Kardashian has spoken out about body image many times. Much of the time, her comments can be viewed as empowering, but almost everything she says has a tone that is less positive towards body confidence. The topic has made an appearance in almost every one of her interviews since her pregnancy. In a post on her app she stated, “After I had North, there was a part of me that was nervous about whether I’d be able to get back to anywhere near my pre-pregnancy weight and feel confident again, since I was now 50 pounds heavier. I knew I had to put in a lot of work, but I got there. After 10 months, I felt like I was even better than before.” This could potentially be analyzed as a quote encouraging working out, meeting goals on being fit and being happy with yourself, if it weren’t for one word: better. If Kardashian had said she had felt even “happier” or “more confident” after losing 50 pounds, the whole message of her response would have changed, but because she said she felt “better than before,” Kardashian has implied that it is better to lose weight than to accept yourself for who you are. This is an ultimately negative message to send out into the world, especially for someone as powerful as Kim Kardashian.

Kardashian has a condition called psoriasis, a skin disorder that causes red blotches and inflammation all over the body. She has revealed multiple times that because of her psoriasis she gets frequent injections. “I’ve learned to really live with it…I’m just accepting it as a part of who I am,” said Kardashian in an interview with Cosmopolitan. This is a powerful quote that expresses positive body images, but on an episode of her TV show Keeping Up With the Kardashians, she referred to her psoriasis multiple times as her “big flaw,” which is not a positive sentiment to project. She also said, “people don’t understand the pressure on me to look perfect,” implying that her psoriasis makes her somehow less good-looking. Many psoriasis patients had a negative reaction to these comments and attacked Kardashian on social media.

Kardashian’s journey through weight loss is what comes to mind when people think of her body positivity. After she had Saint West, her second child, Kardashian’s public announcements of her weight and how rapidly she was losing weight increased. She began to post her goals for losing weight and her methods for doing so on her app, for millions of people to see and follow. She gave out recommendations on how to lose the most weight. Recently, Kardashian posted a video of herself playing with a choker on her snapchat story, captioning the post, “Guys, we’re having real problems here. See my choker? Look how big it is! My neck even lost weight. Is that wild or what?” She rarely speaks publicly about becoming a better person or having good morals, but mainly about being “better,” in this case better-looking. Although she inspires young women to have confidence and love themselves because of how she flaunts her body on social media, it’s not fair to show the world such insipid, contrasting messages.

Some may make the argument that Kim Kardashian’s body type alone is enough to make her a role model for body positivity. It is true that Kim Kardashian defies many beauty standards by showing people that you don’t have to be unachievably skinny to achieve fame and to be confident, but Kardashian has made many comments implying to others that although confidence is important, losing weight is the best way to feel empowered. In the age of technology, it’s important for everyone to know that being happy with yourself is more important than losing weight, and Kim Kardashian’s message certainly does not help.


Audio: First “Coffeehouse” of 2016 A Success

This November the Hargroves Center hosted the first Upper School Coffeehouse performance of 2016. Will McQuillan, ’19 sat down with student leader Evan Gorski, ’17 and Upper School Student Activity Director Andrew Lee to discuss the show in Earthquake’s first ever audio news story (listen below).