Valid is tossing around beats, ideas, and memories in JMAC's crib like a game of pong. The Dearborn Heights basement serves as JMAC's beat production playground, as well as the duo's private Cerebro, where they seek, connect, and build most of their musical concepts. After several years individually dripping their creative stains on Detroit's hip-hop scene, a failed project brought the two together for a new partnership.
"We were supposed to be featured on this compilation album that never came to fruition," says Valid. "But we had already worked on some beats and music and just decided to do it ourselves."
In 2013 they formed the duo Beyond Physics, a name heavy in meaning and purpose.
"Beyond Physics came from the idea we believe music in itself is a supernatural/metaphysical thing that comes through an artist just as much or if not more than coming from an artist," says Valid.
Valid, born Mihajlo Peric, is the emcee and the most animated of the pair. He talks as much with his hands as he does his mouth. He's first-generation Serbian and was introduced to hip-hop through his uncles and older brother. "My uncles are in Southwest Detroit, and there was hip-hop music and graffiti around all the time, usually Breed, Tupac, or whatever," says Valid.
By the time he was in ninth grade, he was writing rhymes at Crestwood High School in Dearborn Heights by day and reciting them to downloaded instrumentals from Napster at night. He also found more kinship with the African-American students than with the white kids.
"I pretty much hung out with the kids whose parents were using somebody else's address to go to the school," he says.
By his sophomore year, Valid befriended Londarious Wright, another student who loved hip-hop as much as him. "He was the only other kid I knew that was into Talib [Kweli], KRS One, and all the other same rappers that I liked," he says.
Wright adopted the moniker Kid Boombox (which he still calls himself to this day), and Valid chose the name Powda (after his pale complexion). The two were mainstays at school talent shows and cipher circles. Valid admits his skills needed work, but what he lacked in experience he made up for with passion. "In the early days I wasn't the best at rapping in front of people," he says. "But I got better."
Valid also received a fair share of criticism for his rapping aspirations. "I was called a wigger," he says frankly. "My story was 8 Mile's in reverse. I had friends and family that said hip-hop wasn't for me because I was white. I have certain cousins that I don't even talk to anymore."
By 2008, Valid was three years removed from high school, working three jobs, in a serious relationship, and depressed. "I met a girl, stopped doing the music thing, and I started getting depressed because I wasn't doing what I wanted to do," he says. "I wasn't following my dreams."
Valid decided to dump the girl, build a studio at his crib, started writing rhymes, and became a student of hip-hop music. By 2009 he was doing shows at the Bullfrog and the New Way, and he dropped his first mix tape in 2010. Along the way, he befriended and recorded with several local artists, including DJ Butter, Eddie Logix, and Supa Emcee, with whom he collaborated on the epic track "The Competitor." In two years, Valid succeeded in what's called getting your name out there. He pressed up and gave away hundreds of mixtapes, and thousands more were downloaded.
"I was having a good run," says Valid. "But based on the response I got from the mixtape, it wasn't good enough. So I spent another year and a half just grinding out shows at Simons, the Shelter, Blondies, Tropical Hut, and others."
In 2012, he signed with Titan Records, released The Maria EP (named after the girl he dumped to pursue his music career) and met JMAC. "J was spinning some Gang Starr, Talib Kweli at Randy's Bar in Dearborn," says Valid. "I asked him if he had any J-Dilla, and it was on for the rest of the night."
Born John McIntyre, JMAC is mellower than Valid, but his road to being a hip-hop producer and DJ is similar. He grew up in Dearborn Heights but graduated from U of D Jesuit in 2002 with several friends who loved hip-hop.
"I went to a Jurassic 5 concert when I was 17, and I walked out of there a changed man," says JMAC. "I was working at Dearborn Music, and I started scouring the hip-hop section for all I could find."
JMAC's interest was piqued. But he wasn't ready to drop everything because he had a chance to play professional soccer. "I made it up to getting a developmental contract for a pro team, but then I dislocated my ankle," he says. "That's when DJing took over."
JMAC began to work tirelessly on his skills in private and made a name for himself at local bars and pubs like the Corktown Tavern. In between the mixing and scratching, he also bought software and a drum machine.
"I was at the Old Miami and he was spinning and he asked me to come over and listen to some beats he made," Valid says. "I didn't just like them; I fell in love with them."
In November 2013 Beyond Physics released their self-titled album, which was spearheaded by the single "Lonely." That led to shows at the Magic Stick and a headlining gig at the BlueCollar Gentlemen hip-hop showcase. The duo moved over a thousand units of the CD.
"The project did what we needed it to do," says Valid.
The two are both hip-hop heads, and their music reflects that. No matter what the music topic, the discussion always returns to boom-bap beats and lyrics. Valid's lyrics come across as a Detroit version of Action Bronson, and there's a definite East Coast influence in JMAC's beats.
JMAC is currently getting set for the release of his first beats album, Night Before the Fish, under the alias Bro Louis. "It's chill beats, just cruising music," he says. "It's relax ya' mind type stuff; it will be out in November."
Valid has been busy, as well. The single "Vintage" (featuring Keith Murray) off his first official full-length album, Reach High, has been making the rounds. The album will be out this year and will feature production from DJ Head, JMAC, Fresh Kils, and G-Unit producer Nick Speed.
"This is damn near my whole life on a compact disc, Valid says. "There's a lot of things and concepts I've been saving for my new album; it's going to be crazy." — mt
Kahn Santori Davison is an art maniac and lover of all machines that produce sound.