Nothing is lost in translation when it comes to the raw vintage style that has become a trademark of Chicago-based hip-hop duo Bonelang.
I had the pleasure of sitting down with the “lang” half of the pair, Samy.Language. Apart from style, Samy brings the dulcet, fluid tones of what can only be described as soulful spoken word to the artist’s tracks. The sounds of Bonelang expertly blend together the sensual beats of hip-hop with nuanced electronic melodies, perfectly complemented by the honey like vocals of Matt Bones. These elements fuse to produce a truly unique sound that creates an involuntary musical imagery you won’t mind having stuck in your head for the whole day, hell, the whole year. As he walks in to meet me for the interview the first thing to catch my eye is his abundance of curly hair, then, of course, his forest green Doc Martens.
High Fashion Living: I’m glad I could catch you before you left on tour, when are you in New York?
(click the links to purchase tickets for Bonelang’s upcoming tour)
High Fashion Living: Tell me about your “other half” Matt Bones.
Samy.Language: We’re just guys that have been working really hard, making music. We’ve been doing this for forever, Matt and I have been working together and playing music together since we were 13 years old. My relationship with Matt is the most important one in my life, me and Bones always kid that it’s a sexless marriage. He’s my best friend, he’s my brother.
High Fashion Living: How did your interest in creating music get started?
Samy.Language: Matt and I met in the 8th grade, my older brother was a freshman in high school and I was like his duckling, anything he did I wanted to do. His freshman year he started a band, so I started a band. Matt was the only kid I knew at the time that played guitar, we had nothing in common at that time, and I went up to him and said, “let’s start a band.” We ended up playing our 8th grade talent show together and that was it. Since then we’ve never played in a band without each other.
High Fashion Living: Where did the evolution of Bonelang’s unique sound start?
Samy.Language: I was always into poetry, I started to make a name for myself in the slam poetry scene in Chicago. I was, like, doing these Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Awards, reading at the green mill, and then that kind of turned into rap. And then Bonelang was this gradual unfolding, but it was this gradual unfolding of Matt and I’s relationship and now we’re 26 years old and we’ve been working together since we were 13 years old. Matt’s an evil genius, he works on his stuff and I work on mine and that comes together and that’s how our sound really started maturing.
High Fashion Living: What’s next for Bonelang?
Samy.Language: Well we just released a new music video for our song “Mushroom Moon,” So right now, we’re at a really interesting place, we’re at the most exciting place we’ve ever been. We’re getting into rooms with the musicians we’ve worshiped here in Chicago and we’re catching the attention of the people that we’ve been fans of. Artists like Makaya McCraven, he was just voted best jazz musician in Chicago 2 years running, and Kiara Lanier, she does amazing work, we just had a session together the other day. I’ve followed her work since 2014 and now we’re in the same room recording together. Those are things that make you feel like “man my life has achievable goals, everything is within reach”
High Fashion Living: What has the journey to success been like for you guys?
Samy.Language: Bonelang isn’t about blowing up overnight, Bonelang is going to hit every rung of the ladder on its ascent, it’s not going to be able to skip any of the steps, we want to put in the work, we want to experience everything this journey has to offer. We don’t make easy music, and we like that about ourselves, and we’re going to stay true to ourselves. We believe so wholeheartedly in what we’re doing right now.
High Fashion Living: Where do you pull inspiration for your music from?
Samy.Language: It comes from a lot of different places. We’re writing a lot of dark music, like Venn Diagrams is a pretty bleak album. We’ve both dealt with depression in varying ways, and we wrote a lot about heart break and addiction, but right now, in our current process, we view our work as “looking for the ladder.” We’re not wallowing in self-pity, we’re writing about the deep dark hole we dug ourselves into and this music is us looking for the ladder to climb our way out. We’re still writing a lot about those bleaker topics but it’s in a constructive way. That’s where Venn Diagrams came from, ya know, we were both in ruts, and now I feel like we’re not anymore.
High Fashion Living: Tell me about your involvement with the fashion world, trends you like, designers you like.
Samy.Language: I can’t say I “keep up” with any designers, I did love Vic Mensa for Alexander Wang. That was really cool, I really like Vic Mensa’s place in the fashion world, I think he has a really interesting eye and aesthetic, and that he’s young Chicago. And that’s what I like. Fashion is really important to me, the way I display myself is really important to me.
High Fashion Living: Tell me more about that.
Samy.Language: Clothes are wearable art. That’s a cliché I understand that. But I believe in being 3 dimensional with this shit, I believe in being top to bottom. I always talk about how Bonelang strives to be a 3 dimensional and create an environment with its music, and that doesn’t stop anywhere, it’s what you look like, what you’re wearing, how you present yourself. I love to dress to the nines, just do it all up in vintage stuff. Bones is pretty classic with his look but I like to craft myself, we spend so much time on writing these songs so it’s like why wouldn’t I care about how I look when I’m performing them.
High Fashion Living: What’s your style inspiration?
Samy.Language: A lot of what I wear, a lot of what I’m into, is vintage, I love to thrift really heavily. I spend a lot of time at village discounts, haha. I buy a lot of used denim and cut it myself. I wear a lot of my friend’s clothing lines, my friend George Clark, he works at RCA records but one of his side hustles is he curates this brand called Up To Know Good, and I love the work he’s doing. There are some other stores here in Chicago and I love what they’re doing with street wear, like Jugrnaut and RSVP. I don’t wear a lot of brands with logos, but I like to support local and their philosophies and what they’re doing for Chicago. I get a lot of inspiration of what to wear from the Alt bands like Twin Peaks and the Orwells. I believe in owning, like, 12 really great vintage pieces and building a look and a wardrobe around that.
High Fashion Living: How would you define the difference between style and fashion?
Samy.Language: Style is subjective to the individual, fashion is tied to a paradigm, and tied to the state of the world. Style is a person’s understanding of that paradigm.
By Kit Royce