Long Island production duo Party Supplies is sick in the head.
That’s not meant to be an insult; members Justin Nealis and Sean Mahon are the first to admit it. Instead, it’s meant to describe their warped style of thinking when it comes to making music.
“When we make rap shit, it’s just about how creative can we get,” says Nealis while sitting in the bedroom of his Brooklyn apartment. “People like Action [Bronson], Alchemist and us…we’re all on the same wavelength.”
That wavelength helped produce the wildly entertaining Blue Chips 2, which featured Bronson rapping over Party Supplies’ intricate beats, as well as Danny Brown’s standout track from last year, “Grown Up,” which Nealis and Mahon produced. On top of all that, it spurred the recent studio sessions between them, Bronson and The Alchemist, which took place at Al’s house in Santa Monica, Calif. Together, they smoked weed, played a shit load of instruments either bought or rented from the local Guitar Center, hung out with Baron Davis and worked on Bronson’s upcoming album.
But to truly understand the creative thinking behind Party Supplies, you have to go back to Long Island. That’s where Nealis and Mahon grew up together, learning how to play instruments in the hopes of becoming 1980s rock stars, like Jon Bon Jovi. It’s also where they discovered hip-hop; Nealis’ brother, who was a rapper, introduced them to New York MCs like Jadakiss and Papoose.
“All of our parents came from Queens and Brooklyn, so all our [dads] were hard-ass guys,” Nealis said. “You had a lot of wild kids who grew up on rap.”
While both guys played instruments as kids, it was Nealis who first started messing with the MPC. He practiced it so much that he often had to get its pads repaired (the same guy, a “Russian mad scientist” on 38th street, has been repairing them for years, he said). Eventually, one of his friends filmed him playing the sampler at light speed and put it on YouTube, catching the attention of some industry folk, including Dante Ross, Bronson’s manager at the time.
Ross introduced Nealis to Bronson and they immediately hit it off. The two decided to make an album together, titled Blue Chips (after the cult classic basketball flick), which would feature Bronson rapping exclusively over Party Supplies production. To help out with the project, Nealis brought in Mahon, who was a little more schooled in music theory. He’s been part of the group ever since.
“I felt being a one-man thing freaked me out a bit,” Nealis said. “[Mahon] contributes so much. We’re just too nice in the studio with it.”
Being nice in the studio is something Nealis and Mahon are quite proud of, and they should be; watching them bounce ideas off each other on their instruments is like watching two Dr. Frankensteins putting together a monster made up of funky guitar riffs, heavy piano chords and soul samples. When Bronson gets in the mix, things get even crazier; Nealis and Mahon will shout out random topics—exotic colors, the type of pants Nealis is wearing—and Bronson will spit it back out in a lavish ramble on the mic.
These sessions are perhaps the reason why both Blue Chips albums sound so fun and loose. But Nealis and Mahon are looking for something beyond fun—they want fame. Last August, they released an electro-pop album, Tough Love, on Fool’s Gold Records. The album features Nealis singing over catchy melodies and sounds like the lo-fi rock you might have heard on the radio a couple decades ago. Nealis said the duo is banking on this sound to help them become one-hit wonders—a dream that only a couple of guys wildly sick in the head would think to chase.
“What we do is rare. It’s too awesome to not share it with people,: Nealis said. “[We just want to] ride that one big record.” —Reed Jackson