The Great Hip Hop HoaxWe at HeyUGuys first saw Jeanie Finlay’s The Great Hip Hop Hoax back in June when it played at the 67th Edinburgh International Film Festival.

The documentary reunited Billy Boyd and Gavin Bain, two Scottish rappers who fooled the music industry (and everyone else they met) into thinking they were Silibil ‘n’ Brains — hip-hoppers from California.

It is now due to be released theatrically on September 6th, ahead of its DVD release later in the month, while Finlay, Boyd and Bain will be attending a screening of the film at Dundee Contemporary Arts, which they will follow with a Q&A.

In the meantime, the film’s stars agreed to answer a few questions of our own…

Whose idea was it to finally bring your story to the big screen?

Gavin: My idea. This is exactly how it happened: when Bill split I stayed in character until 2007 when I finally came clean on stage. Dan Miller told me to write the story the next morning; I started writing, and I told my family and closest friends that I want to write the book, make a film and release an album.

Billy: Director Jeanie Findlay approached me about doing a documentary and I’ve always thought it was a fantastic story. I’m not going to lie, I know how these ‘creative projects’ work and until I was sitting in Texas at SXSW with a packed-out audience watching the world premier I still had the ‘I’ll believe it when I see it’ attitude [laughs].

Were you reluctant to delve back into the past, or was it something you had been wanting to do anyway?

Gavin: I had already gone there in the writing of my autobiography, California Schemin’, that broke the story and led to the film. It was an odd form a self-therapy, but allowed me to be at ease with the past.

Billy: Like I said, it’s a fantastic story, and to me that’s all it was ever going to be. Silibil ‘n’ Brains to me was the past and I never thought we would have a film — and album — coming out again [laughs]. 

How  did you find working with Jeanie Finlay?

Billy: I think I got on with Jeanie a lot better than Gavin might have. We both have a lot of similarities creatively, and a mutual respect for our creative projects. I found her great to work with and we genuinely had a good laugh and relationship throughout the creative process. 

Gavin: I loved Jeanie’s past work, but I feel that she had a personal bias against me on this film which leads the viewer down the road of blame, which was unnecessary and not really the case. Any positive thing anyone said about me was removed with only the negative elements of my character left on display; even my own answers were used for other questions to make me look really bad, which was really unfair. I felt disrespected by Jeanie throughout the process, which tainted the experience slightly so it was no surprise that she made me look a lot less successful than I am at the end of the film.

Make no mistake, this story is fantastic and I love the way the animation and the footage we handed over brings Silibil ‘n’ Brains’ past to life, giving the viewer the opportunity to see exactly the position we were in. I just feel that Jeanie let her unjust opinion of me affect her film, maybe because I turned down working with her at first. We got there in the end. Not even a personal vendetta from the director can stop the S ‘n’ B train from motoring on.

The film gives the impression that you were interviewed separately. When was the first time that you were actually in a room together, and what was that like? 

Billy: There was a magical moment at SXSW when on our first day the three of us met with a couple of journalists. Half-way through the interview Jeanie stopped and stated that it was the first time the three of us had ever been in the same room, even though we had been making the same film for a good few years. Gavin and I met in January to discuss recording a couple of tracks; we spent two weeks there and made a new Silibil ‘n’ Brains album which will be released in October.

Gavin: I had done all the production already. It felt like pure fire. The film had inspired us to prove to people that there was no hoax when it comes to the skills.

In many ways you seem to have been ahead of the curve in regards to video blogging, there must have been an abundance of footage for the filmmakers to choose from. Is there anything you wish had made it into the film?

Gavin: There was a lot of footage that would have prohibited the film from being released. We filmed everything but I only handed across the footage I was happy for them to use.

Billy: There was a load of funny things that we actually had on our website when we signed to Sony but I’m not sure if we still have them or if there were quality issues. We filmed something more recently for the film of me performing solo at the Edinburgh Hogmanay party. The footage is great as it was a huge show but they decided not to use my solo stuff so as not to confuse people.

How easy have you found it to balance your current jobs not only with the reformation of Silibil ‘n’ Brains, but the demands of promoting a documentary film?

Gavin: Very easy. I’m a full-time musician and writer so I’m having a laugh doing exactly what I want. I wake up, roll out of bed into my studio, make a beat, write songs for myself or others, sell beats, market my record and help fans and other musicians. Then I skate, freestyle, battle rap, train and have a laugh – it ain’t no big deal to take a few minutes out to answer some questions about the past and future, or turn up to a screening and blow minds with killer rhymes.

Billy: For me, I’m in a great place right now. I’ve still been very creative since London, and have a completely different ‘electronic’ project that was supported by Radio 1 a lot last year. I have a great balance of family, work and creative time. We will both be back where it started in Dundee on the 6th of September for a Q&A, plus a live Silibil ‘n’ Brains performance. Here we go again.

Now that you’re performing again, do you think the music industry has changed? Or how would you like to see it change?

The music industry has and hasn’t changed. I think the labels need to have people running them who actually care, and are living and breathing music so that they can understand what fans want and how they can help artists do it. Artists  have to know themselves and be really honest and determined as to where they are going and what they want to achieve. Whatever your skills or talent you will have an audience, but you’ve got to be willing to go the whole nine [yards]. 

Billy: It became ‘trendy’ to sing in your own dialect and bands like The Arctic Monkeys, The Streets and even Biffy Clyro started changing their own accents. The power of social media has also changed the game in a major way; it’s become so easy to create your product and be able to reach anyone, anywhere, at any time. 

Gavin: I still think the big problem is that labels are run by people in it for the wrong reasons, creating a disconnect from the audience. Too many musicians are still about fame, celebrity and money resulting in weak songs — good looking people with cool images making crap and playing into the wrong people’s hands. The hope lies in those artists who don’t wait around to be saved, but get up and get out there. Silibil ‘n’ Brains prove that if you are truly talented and believe in yourself that nothing will get in your way.

THE GREAT HIP HOP HOAX is out in cinemas and VOD on 6th September, and DVD on 23rd September.

The pair’s new track, Eat Your Brains, is out now.