Silibil 'N Brains: The Fake 'American' Rappers Who Fooled Everyone Unable to break out of the local music scene, Scottish rappers Gavin Bain and Billy Boyd adopted American accents and new identities as the rap group Silibil 'N Brains. In his book California Schemin', Bain tells the story of how an elaborate lie led to a $350,000 record deal and falling apart after five years of pretending he was someone else.
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The Fake 'American' Rappers Who Fooled Everyone

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The Fake 'American' Rappers Who Fooled Everyone

The Fake 'American' Rappers Who Fooled Everyone

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(Soundbite of music)

SILIBIL 'N BRAINS (Rap Duo): (Rapping) (Unintelligible).

GUY RAZ, host:

Here's a story about another Scotsman influenced by American culture. For two years, Gavin Bain posed as an American rapper, and he managed to get a major label record deal out of it.

In 1999, he saw an ad for an open audition with a well-known U.K. record label called Polydor, and it asked: Are you the next Eminem? Now, Bain and his friend Billy Boyd thought they were. So they hopped on a bus to prove it, and the story of what happened next is told by Gavin Bain in his new memoir. It's called "California Schemin'."

Mr. GAVIN BAIN (Rapper): When we arrived, you know, it's a 13-hour bus journey down to London from Dundee. So we were pretty tired, and we just went straight to the audition. And there was a queue right up the street, you know, like, there's, I don't know, 10, 15 blocks. It was just mammoth, absolutely mammoth.

We kind of just joined the back, and we battle-rapped our way, skipping the queue, right to the front. Eventually, we come across the I guess you can call them judges, right...

RAZ: Right.

Mr. BAIN: ...in this day and age.

RAZ: You start rapping for them.

Mr. BAIN: Yeah, just started doing one of our songs. They were just kind of laughing.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BAIN: They just started laughing. Within about 30 seconds, it was like someone laced the room with nitrous oxide. It was they were just, like, no, that's not going to work. You sound like the rapping Proclaimers.

RAZ: Like the rapping Proclaimers, the Scottish band, of course, The Proclaimers, best known for "500 miles."

Mr. BAIN: Yeah, I'll walk 500 miles, yeah.

RAZ: Right.

Mr. BAIN: So we were not walking. We were taking a bus a few hundred miles back up to Dundee.

RAZ: So you guys go back to Dundee. You're crestfallen, and then you guys come up with a plan to actually make it as American rappers. First of all, why did you decide to do that?

Mr. BAIN: We didn't really make the plan until I saw "The Secret of My Success," you know that old classic movie.

RAZ: Oh, yeah, with Michael J. Fox.

Mr. BAIN: Michael J. Fox, and you know how his character, Carlton, you know, gets into this company, and he basically cons his way that he's an executive. He wants to get to the top. And then at the end, this all comes clean, and it's a happy ending. And I just think: Why don't we do that? We can throw on American accents.

You know, and we were really into acting and playing parts. So we could play characters and then get in the door, and as soon as if we got a record deal, if we got a record out, then we can come out clean on, like, a TV show and say look, we were never American, and this is our story. For us, that would explain everything. That would inspire young Scottish artists and artists all over the world to, you know, keep going if they were ever turned down.

(Soundbite of music)

SILIBIL 'N BRAINS: (Rapping) (Unintelligible).

RAZ: So you guys came up with this elaborate backstory. What was it?

Mr. BAIN: We didn't really know much about American culture apart...

RAZ: You'd never been to America, right?

Mr. BAIN: No, I'd never, ever been. Billy had cousins in Hemet, California. So the backstory basically was we were raised in Hemet, we were, you know, bad asses at school. We always got kicked out of school. Our dad worked in insurance.

We, you know, we started saying that actually, a certain age, we moved to Huntington Beach. We were battle rapping at the (unintelligible) tour in '96. We were at Scribble Jam in '97. You know, all these events happened, you know.

RAZ: And they happened in the U.S., obviously.

Mr. BAIN: Yeah, in the U.S. So we were just kind of saying we were at them, and that's where we got noticed doing this, and eventually, we just came on tour, and when we got to the U.K., we were out of cash. So now we're trying to make it over here.

RAZ: If I was interviewing Brains McLoud right now, and I didn't know that you weren't American, what would you sound like?

Mr. BAIN: Look Guy, I'm not liking this interview. Why don't you put your boss on? I'm not talking to you anymore. I'm getting tired of this. I'm in control here. You're not. Put your boss on the phone.

RAZ: So that's basically what you started to do? You started to speak that way?

Mr. BAIN: Yeah.

(Soundbite of music)

SILIBIL 'N BRAINS: (Rapping) (Unintelligible).

RAZ: So you started to work on this scheme. It took you about two years to get it down.

Mr. BAIN: How did you end up getting an audition with a major label in London?

Mr. BAIN: The first weekend that we were in London, we bragged our way on to the show. We called up a promoter and said, look, you've got to get us this show American accent, of course, now and we just said, look, if we were on this bill, then it's going to be an amazing show. You need to have us on that bill.

And we convinced the guy to put us on one of the headline slots. This is the kind of moment, you know, of deciding this is it. We're going to stay in character. And as soon as we went onstage that night, the performance never stops.

(Soundbite of music)

SILIBIL 'N BRAINS: (Rapping) This is Brains, and I'm sorry that you couldn't through. If you're a guy, get lost. If you're a girl, leave your number, then maybe I will comfort you. (Unintelligible).

Mr. BAIN: Straight afterwards, there's a guy there from Ireland Records, and he comes up, and he says those words: Where are you guys from? And we were just, like, Christ, there's no turning back now. So we went through our backstory.

Yeah, we're from Hemet, California. Dad works in insurance. Mom, you know, mom neighborhood watch and works with the church. You know, yeah, we got kicked out of school. We went through all the backstory, and straight after that, it's, like, okay, cool, well, come to my office tomorrow morning and we'll talk, and we'll go from there.

RAZ: So you ended up signing with Sony U.K.

Mr. BAIN: Sony U.K., yeah.

RAZ: And you signed a deal with them as American rappers.

Mr. BAIN: As American rappers.

RAZ: A deal worth about $350,000.

Mr. BAIN: Yeah, if you did a conversion, yeah. I mean, in the end. I mean, when you add the amount of endorsements on top of everything, you know, tour support, record support, we eventually recorded three albums' worth of music.

(Soundbite of music)

SILIBIL 'N BRAINS: (Rapping) Well, you know, we came here (unintelligible).

RAZ: I'm speaking with Scottish musician Gavin Bain. He's the author of "California Schemin'," the story of how for two years he pretended to be an American rapper.

Gavin Bain, when did it all start to crumble? I mean, this lasted for two years.

Mr. BAIN: We never knew it was going to last that long. We just got carried away. There was so much money involved. The plan was originally to come out, but then as soon as we wanted to release the record, we realized if the record came out, and there was anything different that compromised the sales of the record, we stood to be sued.

RAZ: In other words, your contract said that if you guys misrepresented yourself, you would be held liable.

Mr. BAIN: Yeah. Of course, yeah. Eventually, the lies we were caught up just kept you know, I don't know how much more we could've taken, but it was more down to the personal relationships that Bill and I had that we were best friends, and we were at each other's throats every night, the drinking and the drugs and everything had just gone so far.

We blamed each other for it. Eventually, we couldn't come out of character. At first, we had to stop talking to our parents and our friends back home because it was hard to stay in character, but at this point, we were so in character, so in love with these characters, we couldn't get out of the character. It was complete insanity.

RAZ: He decided that he wanted none of this anymore. He wanted to get out of this and left.

Mr. BAIN: Yeah. We had a pretty bad fight when he told me that he was going to go back and marry his girlfriend up in Scotland. And I just thought, you know, I hate giving in. I couldn't quit.

So we had a massive fight, and to be honest, we nearly killed each other. Once you have a fight like that, there's just no real way of coming back. So I guess, you know, and I went to the store the next day to get some breakfast, to make some breakfast and kind of apologize, and I came back, he was gone.

RAZ: You continue to sort of live on as Brains McLoud for about two more years, right?

Mr. BAIN: Yeah. In total, it was five years that I was in character of Brains McLoud. And for me, I still thought this American character I was playing, it was more beneficial to be him than me. That's how little I thought of myself and how much I thought of this Brains character.

It was me playing my greatest hero. And why would I want to end him, you know? But not realizing that he caused all these problems. It was him, you know, and actually the good stuff was actually just me. It was me playing it, you know?

RAZ: Are you still in contact with Billy, Billy Boyd?

Mr. BAIN: We've tried to kind of put our friendship back together, and that's kind of where it's at now. We haven't gone any further than that. We're talking on Facebook.

(Soundbite of laughter)

RAZ: Did people react badly when you eventually confessed? Do they think you betrayed them?

Mr. BAIN: Some did. Some didn't understand it. Some thought it was incredible. Some laughed. Some slapped me. It was really mixed. But I have regrets about certain things.

I mean, anyone who doesn't have regrets probably is a bit naive and doesn't really, you know, realize what they've done. But I know that the message of what I was trying to do was good, and everything I'm doing now is good, and the book and the movie and everything that I'm doing, the music, it's all to convey one message, and that message is just be sure of yourself. Never give up. That was what it was supposed to prove.

RAZ: That's Gavin Bain. For nearly five years, he pretended to be an American rapper under the pseudonym Brains McLoud. His book about the experience is called "California Schemin'."

Gavin Bain, thanks so much.

Mr. BAIN: Oh, it's been my pleasure.

RAZ: And Gavin Bain is still making music without the fake accent. His new band is called Hopeless Heroic. This is a confessional song. It's called "The Getaway."

(Soundbite of song, "The Getaway")

HOPELESS HEROIC (Band): (Singing) (Unintelligible).

RAZ: And for Sunday, that's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz. Thanks for listening and have a great week.

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