BY FRANK DE BLASE
You eat your vegetables to get your iron. And you should dig comedy-rap duo Garden Fresh to get your irony. C’mon, it’s good for you. Garden Fresh’s lyrics alone are clever, milk-through-your-nose, pee-your-pants-funny, but this Rochester twosome’s music is also powerful, catchy, and completely legit. This group isn’t a joke. (Well, maybe it is. But it’s an intentional one.)
Professor Fizizizt (Chris Coon) and Tha Dome (Pete Johnson) started Garden Fresh after a serendipitous trip to the supermarket in early 2010. Sure, it’s goofy — Dr. Demento loves Garden Fresh, and has spun the group on his show. And the band’s YouTube presence is growing. But there’s also a lot of lyrical insight within the chuckles and yucks. Garden Fresh’s honesty, irony, and self-deprecation enables the group to call out aspects of hip-hop culture while simultaneously wallowing in its excess and fun.
The Professor and Tha Dome stopped by to rap about salsa, crackers, the new album “Foodborne Illness,” and their lack street cred. An edited transcript of the interview follows, yo.
CITY: What planted the seed for Garden Fresh?
Professor Fizizizt: The very genesis is when I went to Wegmans and bought a tub of Garden Fresh salsa, which is my favorite, because it’s the best. And when I checked out it rang up as “G Fresh” and I started laughing. “G fresh, that’s a rap group.” And it was thick/chunky style and I thought that sounded like an album name. So I told Pete.
Had you guys worked together at that point?
Tha Dome: We had this idea for a band called The Ball Peen Hammers. It was rock ’n’ roll in style and punk in concept.
Professor Fizizizt: But also very stupid. The only song we had was called “Fuck the System.”
Tha Dome: So The Professor mentioned the salsa thing and I said, “Let’s start a rap group. Wouldn’t that be great?”
Weren’t you afraid of joining the ranks of white artists working in a style that’s typically non-white?
Tha Dome: We said, we can’t do a rap group, unless we do everything opposite of what a normal rap group would do. We had no cred. He’s from Spencerport, I’m from Greece. I don’t have any street smarts whatsoever.
What was the first thing you tried?
Tha Dome: We thought, why don’t we do something like “My Adidas” by Run-D.M.C., but instead of being about nice expensive shoes, make it about cheap kicks.
How did it go over?
Tha Dome: It went pretty well, it was fun. We didn’t think much of it. But then we started playing it for people and they started freaking out, saying, “This is so good.” We kind of just thought it was funny, just for us. So we made another one, “Sitting Politely.”
When did you decide to make an album?
Professor Fizizizt: We had an EP’s worth of material. We only needed like 15 more minutes of material. How long is an album? How much comic rap do you want to listen to? For me, the answer tops out at about 40-ish minutes. You want it to stay funny the whole time.
Was it harder than you thought?
Professor Fizizizt: At first we said, “Let’s just make stuff. Let’s just get it done.” And then it didn’t happen. There were problems we had to go back and fix. So we ended up perfectionizing it as much as we could.
What was your first show like?
Tha Dome: I was wearing size 64 jeans in a parody of the baggy jeans. But nobody got it because they were so huge that it was just one big billow of denim.
At what point did you start taking this seriously?
Professor Fizizizt: It’s been serious for about a year. We worked on the album so much.
Do you think your lyrical humor gives you a pass with other, more serious rap artists?
Tha Dome: Definitely. The shoes I wear are from Payless, I don’t drink at all, we’re nice people. There are a few songs on there about just being nice. We don’t have “bitches” — it’s ladies. It’s more of a comedy thing that anything. I call it satirical rap. Like the line from the first song on the album: “I’m a bigger cracker than a 50 foot Saltine,” or “We’re more honky than a traffic jam.” If we didn’t say all that and were just sort of funny… I’ve yet to find anybody, any demographic, that doesn’t like it. That gives me a lot of hope throwing it up on the internet and getting it passed around.
What’s the hardest thing about what you do?
Professor Fizizizt: The hardest thing is, we’ll be sitting there, “OK, we have a concept, a lot of mini concepts… now we’ve got to make it rhyme.” And we sit there silently staring at the computer for a long time.
Hey, that rhymes. But seriously, is there an important message, something for the kids to learn, with Garden Fresh?
Tha Dome: I’ve decided retroactively that there is. But for the record, there’s not. However, I’ve come to realize now that everything we do is accidentally kid friendly.