PLAYING CINCY: Introducing Cincinnati Rap Trio Patterns of Chaos

Patterns of Chaos is a Cincinnati hip hop trio creating positive and sometimes head-banging hip-hop emphasizing heavily conscious messages about to bless your life. Cellist and rapper Christoph “Toph” Sassmannshaus, producer Alexander “Stallitix” Stallings and rapper Jay Hill met at Off Tha Block Mondays, a collaborative hip-hop showcase that Stallitix launched at The Mockbee. The group has had a busy year, releasing their latest album Freedom in June and brand new single “Sleep Paralysis” last week. Right now, they’re gearing up for some big things in 2019, including a monthly residency at Revel OTR Urban Winery, a collaborative studio networking effort they’ve named the Nervous System and another full-length project. Here, get to know the guys, their album and what to expect next year.

AF: So the single that you just released, “Sleep Paralysis,” came about really organically; can you tell me more about that?

T: We all record at my house—I have a studio set up where everything can be recorded constantly all the time. [Alex] was making a beat, I was making a bass line, Jay was writing a rap and then Gabi (Ladi Tajo) just started singing and we were like, ‘Get in front of the microphone!’ So she got in front of the microphone and jammed for like ten minutes.

J: I actually wrote like the first eight bars of that verse before that night. It was about self-preservation, but in a healthy way, as in trying not to waste myself. It’s basically like what sleep paralysis feels like—you’re just watching it unfold.

A: It’s a smooth song, but it has a very cryptic theme to it. I think sleep paralysis is something anybody over the age of 18 has dealt with, and like figuring out what it is to be an adult. Feeling like you’ve got to make an impact on the world, but also loving thyself.

AF: Your album Freedom came out this year – what were some of your inspirations going into the album and what were some of the messages you were trying to convey?

A: We’re different people, but we have similar stories. I think our approach was we were trying to speak a story to people in high school, where you have all these different friends—there’s the nerd, the gamer, the cool one—but in that same breath you still feel alone. Our second song, “Amorphous,” came from how you can fit into all these constructs and yet nobody can put you in a box. And then also dealing with problems of the past that keep coming up, like racism.

J: Systematic oppression—we were born into this war that we have no choice but to participate in and it’s already my kid’s problem—and I don’t have kids! And I think it’s really weird how a lot of the world’s issues are based on millennials and they try to blame us for things that we’re not even old enough to influence because that’s just not how the government works. Watching this all happen again, after they told us these exact issues were solved when we were young—it’s kind of a shock. Being told you can do anything, you can be anything, and then accessing the Internet like, ‘These motherfuckers lied to me!’ More than anything, I feel angry. Feeling like we shouldn’t have had to worry about it—thought it was dead gone and forgotten.

AF: That theme definitely shines through the song “MMM.” Do you guys each have a favorite song off the record?

A: “Free Your Body Your Mind” because I get to push more buttons.

T: My favorites are probably “Amorphous” because of Gabi and “32 Love” because I like bars.

AF: Toph, when did you learn how to play the cello?

T: I’ve been classically trained and I’ve been playing classical music for most of my life. About two years ago I was going to shows while I was in music school and seeing these really experimental acts and one day I saw somebody make loops and somebody else rap over it and my mind was blown. I was like, ‘I want to do that!’ So I got an electric cello and a looper pedal and I started making beats.

Credit: Patterns of Chaos

AF: Very cool. Where did the idea for the monologue at the end of “Let’s Talk Freedom” come from?

T: It’s kind of our thing to have a little break where Alex can talk because I get to talk, Jay gets to talk, so it gives him the floor. And he used to do spoken word.

A: Yeah, back in Sacramento I was part of a youth [poetry] slam team, Brave New Voices. When I came out here I started making beats and stuff like that; they’re trying to get me back into it.

AF: You should! It adds a unique texture. Who are some of your musical influences?

J: Kanye, but also Das Racist is my favorite group ever. Rage Against the Machine. Utada Hikaru, she’s a Japanese singer. I like her music, it’s healing.

A: J Dilla, John Coltrane, soundtracks like Kill BillStylistics, Al Green, all of Motown, Sarah Vaughan.

T: [Johannes] Brahms, MF DOOM, Gentle Giant.

AF: Who are some artists you’d love to collaborate with?

T: “Weird Al” Yankovic [laughs]. We’ve been trying to collab with every Cincinnati artist.

Credit: Patterns of Chaos

AF: You guys have a single in the works. What else is coming up?

T: We have a bunch of unreleased music in the works.

AF: Are you looking at releasing a full project in 2019?

T: Yeah, we’re looking at a full project and we’ve got some music videos coming out.

A: And we’re doing a few shows in California in January in San Francisco, L.A. and Sacramento.

AF: Cool! So what can fans expect from you guys next year in terms of shows out here?

T: Costumes!

J: We’re gonna make the shows a bit more showman-like.

AF: Matching costumes? Maybe capes?

T: I don’t see why we couldn’t do capes.

J: Picture The Incredibles on stage.

A: No capes!

T: It’s two against one, so we’re gonna come out with capes [laughing].

J: We’re gonna up the showmanship while maintaining the rawness of the music. Just a little sugar to go with the medicine, without decreasing the potency of what we are trying to say.

Credit: Patterns of Chaos