A.I: On being creative artistically to groupies and which rappers should quit!

Dance group Artistic Intelligence is on a mighty grind that has caught HYPE’s attention. An endorsement deal with Adidas is among the many fruits of the group’s hard work and talent. And oh, it would be nothing short of hate not to mention that they were the first Red Bull Beat Battle dance competition winners, and they continue to have a close working relationship with the energy drink brand. Moza had a chat with this 5-member crew to get to know what they really are about.

How did you guys meet, and where are you from?
Two guys called Darim and Paul started the crew, and they slowly began bringing in new faces that shared the same passion and ideas. Nabeel and Flip were introduced to A.I through Darim. Tumi was introduced by Nabeel, and Sakhele came in the picture at a later stage through Paul. We come from different areas and countries, we have one guy from Zimbabwe, guys all the way from the West Rand and the South, but the crew is based in Bryanston, at Dance Web Studios.

What type of dances do you specialise in?
A.I is a street dance crew, so we try and keep up with most of the ‘street styles’, mainly hip-hop, funk styles, house, and breaking dancing.

In what way does dancing inspire you?
It inspires us to be ourselves. Originality is vital in the world we live in. It inspires us to do different things and not just to think ‘out of the box’ but to create an even better box.

How much time and effort do you put in to rehearse and prepare for shows?
It depends on the show or performance. For competitions we usually rehearse five days a week, and for shows and performances usually three times a week, and each practice is about two hours. We put in a lot of effort; we never go half way with our practice sessions because that is where you make all the mistakes that the audience does not see in the final performance. Dancing is different from other activities such as sports. With soccer, if the other team scores, you have 90 minutes to make up for that goal; in dancing, if you make a mistake during a performance you can’t really fix it.

What have been the most memorable experiences of your career to date?
Among all our achievements, stamps on our passports and shiny medals, the best part is that we have been together for seven years! Oh ha-ha and being the first winners of the Red Bull Beat Battle dance competition, 2011, as well as the Red Bull Beat Battle Tour in 2012. That gave us another platform of exposure, not only in Joburg, but throughout South Africa.

Tell us how it was opening for an internationally renowned superstar as big as Kanye West?
Like any new experience, it was great. It was not only about the actual performance, but the process of creating the show; from watching the creative directing to the stage managing and sound and lighting. All in all it was a learning package for us, in case we would one day like to throw our own concert. Most of all big ups to the local artists that held it down!

The competition in the dance industry is at an all time high, with new dance crews popping up everywhere. How do you guys ensure you stay getting booked in such an increasingly competitive space?
Talent and skill is not enough if you want consistency regarding bookings. Dancers, especially crews, need to stop looking at themselves as back up dancers, but as artists. Just like any other artist we have the basics: a manager, a publicist, a social network promoter and an agent. All these guys make sure we are professional at all times, getting gigs, expanding our brand, and most of all that the next person who doesn’t know the name A.I hears of A.I.

Who do you think is the best local rapper, and who should hang the microphone and look for a 9 – 5?
We have a few: Tumi Molekane, Khuli, Reason, and we’re loving the sounds of Malumkoolkat, Boyz N Bucks and Dirty Paraffin. We would love to hear a collab with Zubz, Selwyn, Amu, Tumi, Zola, ProVerb and Prokid, something like the track “Heavy 8”. Let’s make it possible HYPE please. Ohm, we don’t listen to any rappers that need to hang the mic and look for a 9 – 5 job, and it should stay that way. Everyone in the industry is in it because they did something correct.

Do you guys have groupies, and if so, what’s that like?
No, fans only, fam. No groupies, not that we know of at least.

Looking at your name – Artistic Intelligence – it says a lot about you guys. Would you say you’re displaying any “artistic intelligence” at all?
All the time! All that you see is in house creations, from our routines to our photo shoots, our music mixes to our illustrations and dance videos.

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