Viktor Rasiia: Lightning Flashes, Thunder Crashes

Share Button
Photo courtesy of Yana Bee

Photo courtesy of Yana Bee

Baltimore, Maryland rapper Viktor Rasiia is always hard at work. He released two projects in 2014 and wasted no time following them up with his latest release, Lightning Flashes, Thunder Crashes. Available for free download, Lightning Flashes, Thunder Crashes is as versatile as it gets, musically and lyrically.

Lightning Flashes, Thunder Crashes features appearances by Gov Mag and Evon Rasiia with production from Tone Jonez, G Money Baby, Mr. Kooman, Rob Luna, and Cartier Jones.

The Real Hip-Hop spoke to Viktor Rasiia about his diverse musical background, being mentored by the Wu-Tang Clan, and his new album, Lightning Flashes, Thunder Crashes.

TRHH: Explain the title of the new album, “Lightning Flashes, Thunder Crashes”.

Viktor Rasiia: If you think about the description of lighting and thunder it’s noisy, it’s loud, it’s emotional, it’s attention grabbing, energetic, and it’s power. It’s so many things to describe it. That was how I felt about the project. It came from a very emotional and energetic space. That’s kind of where I was. With every song I was in a different emotional space and I just tried to pour that into each track. After it was all said and done I said, “This is like lightning,” hoping that I catch it in a bottle, you dig? [Laughs] Lightning is power, it’s energy, it’s all those things. I don’t want to get all philosophical but there is an Orisha god by the name of Shango. They say he’s the god of thunder and when they describe him they describe him like he’s an entertainer. He likes to be in front of the crowds and get attention. The lightning part is just symbolic of how he would say and do certain things that would strike a nerve in the blink of an eye. When I read that I was like, “That’s dope. I like that.” I kinda put all that together and that’s where it came from.

TRHH: How is this project different from your 2014 releases, The Legend of Natty Bohnz and The Viktor Rasiia Show?

Viktor Rasiia: Natty Bohnz was more based on where I’m born and raised, Baltimore. It’s funny ‘cause right where the Freddie Gray thing went down my mother grew up a block from there. I spent a great deal of my childhood there because my grandmother and my cousins still live around there. Pennsylvania Avenue is where it used to pop in the city. It used to be Main street way back in the day. I went to visit my grandmother and she had some newspaper clippings talking about Pennsylvania Avenue, the Chitlin’ Circuit, how Duke Ellington and other famous artists would be there performing all the time. It’s a statue of Billie Holiday on that same block. It’s a lot of beauty around there but after the Martin Luther King riots it got all fucked up. It’s sad to see the riots occur in the same area that was starting to come back a little bit, but not much. They burned it down and fucked it all up again. Even before all that occurred I delved into the history of the music of back then – the soul sound, the jazz sound. It inspired me to make Natty Bohnz. Natty Bohnz is a play on “Natty Boh” which is a beer brewed in Baltimore. It has a cult following out there. With VRS there really wasn’t no plan. I just made a bunch of songs and put ‘em all together [laughs]. It was just creating, there was no vision at all for that. I think it’s dope that people who heard it feel it. I was just getting back into music. I had walked away for a minute. That’s what that was.

TRHH: Tell me about the single, “36 Chamberz”.

Viktor Rasiia: That’s me paying homage to the Clan. The reason for that is when I first started rhyming they introduced me to the music business. Inspectah Deck’s cousin lives in Baltimore. Cap [padonna] actually lives in Baltimore now. Me and Deck’s cousin got real close. We’re like brothers. I connected with the Clan through him. We started our own group and started doing our little thing in Baltimore. Deck was giving us beats and showed us how to work the beat machine and imparted a lot of wisdom into me. That was my introduction to music as a business and as something I was going to do for a living. Before that it was rapping on the corner with my homies in a circle [laughs]. I had never been in the studio before. I owe them for that. I got a long way to go before I get where I wanna be, but I owe them for that. That was when I saw it was possible to make money at it and do it for a career. Shit got real and I got real focused. I’m gonna always have love for the W. On the Rage Against the Machine tour I traveled with them on one of the shows. I saw the business from that standpoint and it opened me up to a different point of view. I wanted to do something to capture that sound and energy that made them so powerful. I got Gov Mag and he’s nasty. The truth is the vision for the song was I wanted to get an artist from every major state on East Coast. I reached out to a lot of dudes and they wasn’t really feeling it. Gov was like, “I’m with it, let’s do it!” The result was we came out firing like the Shaolin Knights would do.

TRHH: What’s the best advice you’ve received from Inspectah Deck?

Viktor Rasiia: That’s a good question. I don’t know if it was advice. It was actually him teaching me how to work the beat machine [laughs]. It was a black ASR-X. That was the most valuable thing. Something specifically that he told me was we were all in the back smoking and he was telling me how they all came together and put the money up to buy the first piece of equipment to make Protect Ya Neck. It wasn’t a whole lot of money, it was just hunger. They didn’t go into a top flight studio to record that. It was really grimy. If you listen to the white tape with the W on it, that shit sounds grimy as fuck compared to what you listen to now. That was the first tape I ever bought. He said, “That was just a recorder and a microphone.” That’s real and that came out of his own mouth. He told me a lot of stuff about the Nation of Islam and the Nation of Gods & Earths. That’s probably the number one thing and it wasn’t even musical. I came from a Christian background so I was like, “What? The black man is God? What!?” They gave me that knowledge – they gave me a lot of jewels.

TRHH: Were you initially receptive to the Nation of Gods & Earths coming from a Christian background?

Viktor Rasiia: Absolutely. My Christian background is unique, because I was kinda like the nigga that got cast out the Garden of Eden. I was in there, I was a top basketball player in the school, and I was messin’ with the bunnies [laughs]. They really didn’t like me because I was a little hood. Even though I was out in the suburbs at school I’m from the hood. I got kicked out the school. That gave me the feeling that these motherfuckers is full of shit. They talk all that Christian shit but when it comes down to really helping people and doing what Jesus did, not what you say he do, y’all not ‘bout that. That made me turn a blind eye to it, so I was open to another religious teaching. They came with some shit that was empowering. It wasn’t about being low and weak, it was about being strong. I could feel that. I was very receptive to it. I study many things now. I’ve studied Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, and all the isms. I’m a little beyond any religious teaching at this point in my life, but back then that was the first thing that got me outside that “he died on the cross for me” shit. They stuck. You try to talk to them they’re gonna get angry with you and that’s real. The first thing that broke me away from being me open-minded to something other than what I was told as a child was that. That was valuable as fuck.

TRHH: Your sound seems like it’s taken from different eras…

Viktor Rasiia: It is. Absolutely.

TRHH: Explain that and tell me who inspired you to want to be an emcee.

Viktor Rasiia: I’ll go with the second part first because that came first. It wasn’t even inspiration. I was in that same private school. I was in a mega-church. They be having satellite churches all up and down the East Coast. They had a sister church in Virginia Beach that was like a few thousand strong. Congregations from around the country that was part of this network would come together and have a talent show, a basketball tournament, or whatever. The priest came to me like, “You should write a rap,” and I had never rapped a day in my life. I’m not thinking he’s only asking me because I’m the only black kid in the fuckin’ class. That’s the furthest thing from my mind. I’m thinking about getting on stage, doing my thing, playing basketball, and all of that. It wasn’t until I got older that I looked back and saw that motherfucker was racist as shit. He just wanted me to get on stage and dance and jig and shit – motherfucker. It’s funny ‘cause it turned out to be the thing I fell in love with and means everything to me. It shows you that God does work in mysterious ways because he took something that was meant to be a slight and turned it into my destiny, my passion, and my everything. It’s what wakes me up in the morning, among other things. I got babies, I love them [laughs]. The hunger, the ambition, the drive to make me want to provide for them, Hip-Hop is all of that to me.

My sound comes from so many places. My mother is a gospel singer. She never went pro-level but she recorded in studios and performed concerts all over the place. Gospel music definitely plays a heavy part. That’s soul when it’s done right. Some of that gospel music I don’t be fuckin’ with. When you’re talking about the Winans, Mahalia Jackson, when you listen to their vocals I don’t think there is any more passionate music in the world. Growing up as a kid Hip-Hop was what my friends listened to, what I heard on the radio, and my culture. The soul music also came from my mom. She would be sitting around the house playing Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, and the Motown movement. I heard that my whole life, which most black kids did, but she was a major lover of music because she sang. She had a huge collection and when I first started making beats I used to steal her records and start sampling [laughs]. After that it was just me researching. When I get into something I take it serious. I really started reading up on artists and listening to classical music and rock music. I’m not gonna say I hate country music, because I respect what they do, but that’s the only genre I can say I’m not really tuned into and checking what’s going on. Maybe something will grab me one day. I could go to Gun ‘N Roses, Metallica, even Megadeath and crazy head banging devil worshipping music and I appreciate the anger and aggression in it. All of that influences me. It just so happened it came through Hip-Hop. I love music and I love to make music, but I can’t sing and I’m real good with words so rappin’ is what it was. That’s my shit though.

TRHH: What will fans hear when they listen to Lightning Flashes, Thunder Crashes?

Viktor Rasiia: My emotions, my points of view on certain things, really talented lyrics, and really talented vocals. Really the only person to feature on the album is my little sister, who is a vocalist. She comes from a gospel background and you can hear it in her vocals. Her range is insane. There is no choir, it’s all her. All the layering, the soprano, the tenor, the alto, from top to bottom that’s her. She is extremely talented. We worked together in the past but never where we put something out and had someone ask about it. She came in the studio with me, I wrote some lyrics, and she captured them perfectly, in my opinion. They can expect to be touched – I think that’s a good way to describe it. People hear music, but they ain’t really listening to music no more. It’s not all bad. Kendrick is a monster, J. Cole is a monster. There are great artists out there that are getting buzz and doing their thing, but there is a segment of Hip-Hop, and it’s too big in my opinion that is very much about what I think is making a mockery of the genre. Not just the culture, that’s a whole ‘nother subject, but the culture. When you think about rock music you’re never gonna see white rock artists making a mockery of rock music. Even when they had the hair band phase with the colorful shit, them motherfuckers could play the guitar, and them motherfuckers could write lyrics! The imagery might have been stupid, even the content might have been stupid, but the quality of the instrumentation, the recordings, and writing was good. You ain’t gonna tell me Motley Crue didn’t make some good fuckin’ records, yes they did. Poison made some good fuckin’ records.

I’m going off on a tangent but it’s relative because Hip-Hop is unique in that. I really believe it’s racist minds behind that. I don’t know if they’re black or white, but I think it’s on purpose that they take artists with no talent, get a writer to come up with something funky and catchy, and then put millions of dollars behind it. Every year there is a new crop of ‘em, that’s how you know it ain’t real. Why Young Joc don’t have a third or fourth album? Why Trinidad Jame$ don’t have a third or fourth album? Some of them sustain it, but 90% of them are one and done. Next year there’ll be a new trap king or whatever. Future is an exception. I don’t hate that music. It’s a representation of a particular part of the country, a particular culture, I respect it, but it’s too much of it. Hip-Hop was always about lyrics. That’s what made it what it was, these niggas was poets. That’s what separates it from every other music genre – its poetry and its rhythmic poetry. When you take that away and it becomes a joke and a fad to a lot of people it’s disappointing, because I love that shit and I need it.

Download: Viktor Rasiia – Lightning Flashes, Thunder Crashes

Posted in interview | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Awon & Phoniks: Knowledge of Self

Share Button
Photo courtesy of Mason Strehl

Photo courtesy of Mason Strehl

Two years after the release of their debut album, Return to the Golden Era, Awon & Phoniks are back with their sophomore release “Knowledge of Self”. Released on their Don’t Sleep record label, Knowledge of Self carries on Phoniks and Awon’s tradition of delivering thought-provoking lyrics over a classic boom bap soundtrack.

Knowledge of Self is produced entirely by Phoniks and features appearances by ADaD, NorCal Nick, Heeni, Ivan Ave, Rodney the Soul Singer, Hex One, and Dephlow.

Awon and Phoniks spoke to The Real Hip-Hop about their aim to rhyme for a reason, plans to take their act overseas, and their new album, Knowledge of Self.

TRHH: Was there every any doubt that you two would get back together for another album?

Awon: Nah. Not at all.

Phoniks: Shortly after we recorded the first one we started putting together our record label, Don’t Sleep Records, and it was just assumed that we were gonna release our next album under our label.

Awon: That’s basically it. We just immediately got to work. There was great chemistry and that evolved into business.

TRHH: How is Knowledge of Self different from Return to the Golden Era?

Awon: For me Return to the Golden Era was darker. The vibe is different with Knowledge of Self. We basically wanted to create an album that wasn’t centered around myself or past stories completely. We wanted to make an album that was more conversational and open for anybody to experience. Instead of making an album with a direct fine-tuned concept, we wanted to make something that was positive, palatable, and enjoyable for people. We wanted to talk to people instead of talking at them. Sometimes you listen to Hip-Hop and feel like you’re being chastised.

TRHH: Did you convey to Phoniks that this was the direction you were going in, or did you just get the beats from him and that’s what came out?

Awon: Nah. We talk about a lot of things, actually — especially musically. When we collaborate it’s a full collaboration. We recorded it together so he and I were in the same space to have that energy bounce off. We definitely wanted to bring a different vibe.

Phoniks: Also with some of the songs I’d give Awon a beat, he would record verses to it, and I would get the song back and build a different beat around the lyrics to fit the vibe of the track. It was kind of both ways – we’d do the lyrics and the beats first.

TRHH: How’d the single “Summer Madness” come together?

Awon: That was a record that I had the concept for, for years. Right now it was a great time for it with violence up in Chicago, Baltimore, and Detroit. As well as all the police violence that’s been going on since 2013, well, really before then. It caught national attention in 2013 and we started seeing more incidents of that. That’s what inspired that record. The summer times brings along a lot of bodies when you’re in the inner city as well we start to see a lot of violence around the country. I wanted to just talk about it and have an open discussion with people just to see how they felt and it resonated. I’m happy about that.

TRHH: I’m from Chicago and I remember being a kid and dreading the summer time. Most kids look forward to the summer because school is out, but where I’m from it means people are gonna die. Why is that?

Awon: I had an older brother tell me a long time ago that in the summer time violence is regional. It’s concentrated in certain places and in places that are more aggressive with more aggressive climates and contrasts, the violence is more prevalent. You look at the northeast and the concentration of violence during the 80s – it’s cold and rigid. You look at Chicago – it’s cold and rigid. Then the summer time comes and the weather is perfect and people get crazy. They come outside and when people come outside in the third largest city in the country it’s gonna get wild. So many people, with so many attitudes, so much competition to survive, and it’s also an epicenter of poverty.

You have extreme wealth where you have stadiums, and then you have slums where people can’t even afford to go to those stadiums around them. It creates anger and frustration and it spills onto the streets. The news almost perpetuates it by almost kicking people when they’re down because in those communities where there is violence there are also people that are working hard, every day folks that don’t oblige it or condone it, but they kind of get tossed into one group based on the way it’s reported on. I think it’s very cyclical. Look at New York – a couple bodies, end of the summer, Indian summer, and Labor Day parade. It’s just not anybody getting hit, you got somebody that works for the government getting hit. It’s everywhere and nobody is immune to that cycle.

TRHH: Concrete Confessions is one of my favorites on the album. I appreciate the line about Chicago in there. Talk about the inspiration behind that song.

Awon: That song was a beat flip. It became one of my favorites as well. The inspiration behind the lyrics was just retrospective looking at all of the people I lost and looking at the loss of the drug wars. When you think about the war on drugs you think about the glamorous side of things. You might think about Freeway Ricky Ross, but what about those guys who are just out there on the streets hustling? I wrote it from that perspective of the bottom-level dealer who is just trying to get money to have fun and to validate himself but it comes at such a high cost that he’s like, “Yo, it ain’t for me.” It’s like the innermost thoughts of a guy who made the decision to hit the streets and made the decision to get out because he saw that damage that was coming to other people. It’s that full 180 of when somebody participates in the negative behavior but comes out a better individual. That’s why I wrote that joint and I hope that people come away seeing that there is a lot of positivity to it. Phoniks actually structured that record to be more positive and uplifting.

Phoniks: I think it was originally three verses. On of ‘em was more from a negative perspective and we ended up moving that to give the track an overall more positive vibe. The Mic Geronimo sample on the hook was something that I wanted use. I just love the way that loops so I wanted to use that on the record.

TRHH: Listening to you talk about it almost reminds of Reasonable Doubt. Jay-Z would give you the glitz but in the end there is a moral to the story.

Phoniks: Right. With most of Awon’s songs he might say some wild shit in his lyrics but almost always at the end there is a positive message in it. If he’s talking about some wild shit that he did back in the day the ending verse would be like, “But don’t do that. Learn from my mistakes.” It’s usually a positive flip on a negative song.

Awon: Yeah, that’s something that I got from the era of Hip-Hop that I grew up listening to. You always learn from that era or generation that’s older than you. All of my friends are older than me. I came up listening to my uncles and aunts, as well as my parents. You learn from those emcees. I learned from Rakim and Kane and I learned from Jay and Nas as well — even B.I.G. When you listen to those records they felt the same way. Listening to “Everyday Struggle” from B.I.G. it was real and you felt like you learned something. It’s like, he went through a lot and I might not wanna go through that. His girl ends up getting killed and he ends up going to jail – it’s real somber. Even though that record has energy on the beat it was somber and a reminder of the game. I came away from that always wanting to convey that same type of thing. When you look at Reasonable Doubt and a song like “Regrets” Jay is divulging his innermost thoughts about something he was doing. Jay went on to be that way his entire career. A lot of people don’t recognize that. I appreciate you recognizing that.

TRHH: No doubt. I saw Jay-Z on the Howard Stern Show years ago and Howard asked him, “You must have made a lot of money selling crack?” and Jay was like, “Nah, I actually didn’t’ I would have been better off working at McDonald’s.”

Phoniks: Really?

TRHH: Yeah.

Phoniks: That’s funny ‘cause I heard people say shit like Jay was already a millionaire before he sold any records.

TRHH: Well, he’s said that in records [laughs]. On the show he said it wasn’t worth his time. The time you put into it, the fear factor, and the amount of money he made wasn’t worth it. I wanna hear somebody tell that story on a record. That’s the life of the average drug dealer.

Awon: On average you make about 8-9 dollars an hour. At the most $13 per hour. It’s not like the 80s. The 80s was a time when people did come up. I feel like drugs was the scapegoat for all the black community’s suffering. It’s like the bone that was thrown at us like, “This is destructive, but it’s also payback because y’all gotta be a part of this economy too.” Drugs ran the economy of the U.S. Miami was built on drugs. You look at Detroit and BMF – if you take away BMF from Detroit, you take away BMF from Atlanta. Now you have economic peril. When you take away drugs along with political corruption you have whole cities crumble. That’s the problem that we’re having in America today. I’m not advocating drugs, but with gentrification they’re saying they don’t want that type of undercurrent in their cities.

Now everybody wants to conform to this new way of life which is millennial’s. The millennial generation wasn’t brought up with the same harsh conditions as the generation that preceded them. Crack babies had it real rough. One day their mom and dad is home and the next day they’re gone for a week on a coke binge and you’re getting raised by grandma. Millennial’s are a part of mom and dad being home and having their shit together. They’re a part of the economy and they might have bought a house. The late 90s saw a great increase in communities now everybody got Jordan’s, microwaves, poverty looks different. You go through the hood and there’s flat screen TV’s and all types of crazy shit during Christmas. They got the most boxes. They realize that consumerism is a way to keep people down and keep the economy going. We’re much stronger consumers now than we ever were, so you don’t need the drugs.

TRHH: You’re going real deep on this. Does that play into the title of the record?

Awon: For me it does. Golden Era was the perspective of a young wild cowboy that was just out there. Knowledge of Self is just me today as a married man and a father. I just want people to know that they can be themselves completely and not have to conform to norms to feel validated. That’s what Knowledge of Self is about. It’s always mathematics to it. It’s no secret I was born in Brooklyn and a lot of my influence comes from the Nation of Gods and Earths in my rhymes, but it’s also about people being people. One of the things that I have is younger brothers that are 10 and 13 years younger than me. Their perspective is different from mine, but because they’re my little brothers I get to understand them a little bit more. They had it a little bit better than I did so they think differently. My parents were established with them, so they don’t know a lot about the hardships that I incurred in my earlier life. So I wanted to make something that could reach a person like that and say have some knowledge of self and for them to wonder what is that, how do I get that, how do I achieve that? It’s a record about individuality and not conforming. We continuously stress the independence. We don’t want your record deals, we don’t wanna be a part of your industry, we wanna do our own thing. I think that’s gonna be the new economy – people doing their own thing and breaking away all of these chains. In order to do that they end to understand their identity.

TRHH: Speaking of the label, you guys released some pretty cool vinyl. Talk a little about the vinyl release of Knowledge of Self.

Phoniks: Since I’ve been 15 and started making beats it was always my dream to have my stuff on vinyl. Now every release we do it’s definitely a focus to get it out on wax. What we’ve been doing is collaborating with other vinyl labels. We’ve done three releases for our label so far and we’ve collaborated with a different label or distributor each time to do the wax. This time we did it with Dusty Platter which is a jazz-hop kind of label out of the UK. They did some cool stuff, it’s gonna be transparent blue vinyl.

Awon: The jackets are done heavier to accommodate Phoniks’ artwork because he designs everything. Throughout all of our projects there is also that personal touch of his design which is a very important part of what we do. Don’t Sleep, in our releases have similar themes embedded throughout the art work. Phoniks is the mastermind behind all that so I credit him a lot when it comes to the way our physical merchandise and products look.

TRHH: What’s your background in art, Phoniks?

Phoniks: I went to the University of Maine and I focused on graphic design there. I’ve just been into art and a computer nerd since I was 12 years old. I’ve literally been using Photoshop since I was 13. Since we started putting out all these records two years ago and I started doing art a lot more I feel like I’ve gotten a lot better.

TRHH: Are you guys gonna try and tour with this record?

Phoniks: We’re trying to. We’re getting e-mails pretty steadily of people saying, “Hey, we like your stuff, would you be interested in coming out here?” We get offers out of Europe; it’s just a matter of planning out the travel. It’s a little more different with me and A being in different parts of the country.

Awon: It seems to me that that’s going to happen. I’m confident about that, it’s just getting the right situation and getting with the right people and dealing with the travel. It’s something that we wanna do.

Phoniks: We definitely wanna make it over the Europe in the next year.

Awon: Yeah, because that’s where we have a lot of fans and our style of Hip-Hop is received well over there. It’ll definitely probably be Europe first and then try to break through in the states. The States is more festival-centric now as opposed to the individual shows. That’s something that I’m noticing as well – I wish it wasn’t that way. Usually everything is jumping out west – the Midwest and the West Coast. The East Coast is very uptight and corporate right now. We gotta get things back to an independent, innovative front over here. Everybody is just poppin’ in the Midwest and the West for some reason. It goes in cycles, you know?

TRHH: Yeah. I talked to Redman maybe five years ago and he was saying how it’s so much better for Hip-Hop in Europe.

Phoniks: If you talk to DJ Premier or any of the 90s cats they all say that Hip-Hop is best preserved overseas. That’s where they make all their bread now. That boom bap style is what’s prominent over there.

Awon: Especially in Germany. Germany is doing that to death right now. It’s just poppin’ over there. Paris too. Red Bull just did a documentary on the new scene in Paris. It’s a lot of creativity coming out of Europe and good music. We have our first European feature with Ivan Ave from Oslo, Norway on the album.

Phoniks: That’s like my favorite emcee right now, honestly.

TRHH: What do you hope to achieve with Knowledge of Self?

Phoniks: We want the record to be respected by fans. We want it to be critically acclaimed and we want to continue to grow our fan base and our brand.

Awon: I would second that. We’d like to receive critical acclaim from our fans, our peers, and critics alike. We’d also like to see growth and development. That’s where my expectations lie – making great music for people to enjoy. That’s the whole reason why we do what we do. We’re public servants, basically.

Purchase: Awon & Phoniks – Knowledge of Self

Posted in interview | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Denmark Vessey: Martin Lucid Dream

Share Button
Photo courtesy of Rappers I Know

Photo courtesy of Rappers I Know

Denmark Vessey is one of Hip-Hop’s most creative artists. His music integrates humor and humility while still being hot. Vessey drops knowledge without being preachy, and makes the listener look beneath the surface to unearth his many gems. Vessey’s latest EP, “Martin Lucid Dream” continues that trend.

Released on the Rappers I Know label the EP features appearances by Guilty Simpson, Tanya Morgan, Black Milk, Mosel, and Stretch Money. Exile, Azarius, T-White, and Denmark Vessey himself produce the project.

Denmark Vessey spoke to The Real Hip-Hop about the humorous nature of his rhymes, his writing and producing aspirations, and his new EP, Martin Lucid Dream.

TRHH: What’s the meaning behind the title of the new EP, “Martin Lucid Dream”?

Denmark Vessey: Everyone thinks it’s a post-racial society and we achieved Martin Luther King’s dream, but in my opinion it’s an alternate universe where things look like they’ve changed but they haven’t. The “lucid” part is that I’m very aware that things look like they’ve changed but they haven’t. That’s my whole take.

TRHH: That’s interesting. We’ve seen more blatant racism during President Obama’s administration than I’ve ever seen in my life. Why do you think that is?

Denmark Vessey: Yeah. It’s a lot of reasons. One might be because of the internet. The anonymity that it gives people and allows them to say and do things that they always really wanted to do without any repercussion. Also, the blatant racism from Donald Trump, Ben Carson, or from anybody, I just think everything is so extreme and in your face right now – everything – beautiful stuff and horrible stuff, too. I think that’s the nature of the time. Everything is right in your face and you can’t escape it, or you can really escape it. Right now seems like a very extreme time. If you are racist you can be super-racist [laughs]. If you’re jaded, then you can be super-jaded. It’s just the nature of the times right now in my opinion.

TRHH: Tanya Morgan joined you on the albums title track; how did you link up with those guys?

Denmark Vessey: Basically through Quelle [Chris]. Quelle is the homie. He did some stuff with them. Quelle is always like, “Check out the homie, Denmark.” We have a mutual respect. I rock with what they do, and they rock with what I do. I did the song and thought who could be dope, relevant to this, funny, and best reflect that song? Donwill and Von Pea, man. They always come with some witty material. I sent it to them, they knocked it out and the rest is history as they say.

TRHH: You touched on the funny aspect and you throw some humorous lines in your rhymes sometimes. Is that something that comes naturally or is it premeditated?

Denmark Vessey: I like to have fun, man. I think the world is funny. A lot of stuff is funny. I have my own type of sense of humor. I’d much rather be laughing and joking around than thinking about horrible stuff. Since horrible stuff is definitely a real thing how can I lighten up just for me? Or maybe make somebody else chuckle a little bit, too. I’m not trying to preach anybody’s head off because I got a lot to learn myself. Whatever inconsistencies that I peep I try to throw that in the music. That’s the type of person I am, that’s why I try to inject that in the music.

TRHH: You produced half of the EP and I had no idea you made beats. Do you enjoy producing as much you do emceeing?

Denmark Vessey: Yeah, man. I kinda wanna do that more than anything. Opportunities present themselves where someone else raps and I do the beats and we go to a label and see what we can do. When that presents itself that’s cool. I’ve been producing as long as I’ve been rapping. I got stuff from Danny Brown — I was on The Hybrid album. I’ve worked with a number of people. I think I make beats as good as I rap, honestly [laughs]. Maybe better. I came out with The Gift, the House Shoes joint. House Shoes released a series of beat tapes. It was me and a couple of other cats. It was like ten volumes and I did one. I enjoy producing a lot. Expect some more from me in the future, too.

TRHH: What’s your set-up like? What equipment do you use?

Denmark Vessey: Just a laptop, an Akai MPK mini, nothing crazy. I just started messing with Ableton, I was on Fruity Loops.

TRHH: Do you prefer Ableton to Fruity Loops?

Denmark Vessey: I love both of them. I’ve been on Fruity Loops for a long time. I used to be on the MPC, then I moved to Fruity Loops. After all the clatter about Ableton I started messing with that. It’s really dope. I like to be as versatile with as many interfaces as possible.

TRHH: Speaking of versatility, you did some singing on the song “Chemtrails”, which also surprised me. Is that something new for you?

Denmark Vessey: As far as letting people hear it, yeah. I’m not a crazy singer or anything like that. That was just me being like, “Why not?” It’s tons of people out here who really can’t sing that good [laughs]. Why not? I really do want to be a producer and I feel like I can write songs, so that was kind of like a demo for me to write a song for somebody in the future. It turned out how it turned out. I think it was an honest song, so that’s the most important thing. I was trying to challenge myself. I’m not known for singing so I was just trying to challenge myself.

TRHH: You did a good job, man. It was dope.

Denmark Vessey: Thank you, thank you.

TRHH: You’re welcome. The song “Think Happy Thoughts” is inspirational. Do you struggle to think happy thoughts?

Denmark Vessey: It was a point. It was a definitely a point. I don’t want to seem like I’m crazy or anything but everybody has really wack thoughts sometimes like, “What the hell? That was a horrible thought!” When I was in my late teens/early 20s I started reading books about how it’s a normal thing and you can control and master your thoughts. I started thinking a little more positively about things. Be real with myself about things that are going on but also there are things that I can control and things that I can’t control, so think positively about things that I can control. Everything else is back to the humor thing where you kind of just laugh it off. Think Happy Thoughts was like it being a fire everywhere in the kitchen and I’m in denial about the fire with a smile on my face. It’s like somebody saying, “Relax and think good about this stuff,” even though there’s a whole bunch of shit around me. It’s more like an appeal or someone saying, “Think happy thoughts, regardless of what’s going on. It’ll be okay, just think happy.” That’s what that song was about.

TRHH: What’s next up for you? What do you have coming up?

Denmark Vessey: I got a lot of stuff coming up, man. I got some feature work with this group called “Buy Muy Drugs” coming out that’s pretty dope. I got a project coming out with somebody from Mello Music. I don’t wanna spill the beans too much, but it’s pretty dope though. After that I got another EP coming out next year with this cat named Soul Theory. Me and Quelle got some Crown Nation shit coming out. I got about three projects in the pipeline right now. I’m trying to stay busy, bruh.

TRHH: Will there be a sequel to Cult Classic?

Denmark Vessey: Perhaps, man. I talked to Scud [One] yesterday. Me and him spoke briefly. Maybe it might be a Cult Classic II, I don’t know, man [laughs]. We’ll see.

Purchase: Denmark Vessey – Martin Lucid Dream

Posted in interview | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Conversation with Daddy-O (Part 2)

Share Button
Photo courtesy of Odad Truth Records

Photo courtesy of Odad Truth Records

During part 1 of A Conversation with Daddy-O the Stetsasonic front-man discussed the origins of his crew’s critically acclaimed stage show, his return to wax, and why he wanted it with everybody, but KRS-One.

In part 2 of The Real Hip-Hop’s conversation with Daddy-O he discusses Stet’s extended stay from the rap world, re-making a 2Pac classic, and his hope to educate Hip-Hop.

TRHH: Why did Stet originally disband?

Daddy-O: We didn’t really disband. What ended up happening was after In Full Gear Frukwan went his own way. We had success with In Full Gear and had successful touring. We went back in the studio and made Blood, Sweat, & No Tears without him. It’s the only album without Frukwan. We did okay with the record – it sold decently. We really didn’t disband, we just kind of went off into our own thing – primarily me and Paul. I got into the production thing and then I kinda slid into the music executive thing and went over there with Hank Shocklee to Universal. After De La Soul Paul started doing his own thing like Handsome Boy Modeling School. It wasn’t really a “disband”, it was more like cats got other jobs. DB[C] and Wise moved into more of a family oriented thing. DB started doing stuff with animation –he’s a phenomenal inventor. He just showed me a power source that he made that needs nothing. He built this thing! The Tommy Boy thing wasn’t in place no more so we didn’t feel this strong obligation to make records. We kept it open and from time to time we would do records. I got a guy I’m talking to from overseas that does 6-song vinyl things and he wants to do some unreleased stuff. We got a ton of that!

We got all these records that we made that are just sitting. We could not see each other for two years and link up and cut a couple of records. We wouldn’t do nothing with the songs [laughs]. Keith Shocklee had a studio out in Long Island and I’d come up with an idea and we’d go cut the song. We’ve been doing stuff throughout, but nothing really solid. I’m probably the spearhead and if it ain’t all the way I really don’t like to mess with it like that. Once some of these things started to come together we had to make sure everything is right. We had to make sure they got everything that we need because we gotta do the full band, the rider’s got to be right, drum sets, all of that has gotta be right. It was right so we put it together. Now we’re talking album again. We got some great ideas for some new songs. I think we may go in and do a single soon. It might even be sooner than I thought, ‘cause me and Bobby got this dope idea for a single. We got a show coming up in Europe in November and It would be hot to open up to this song ‘cause the track is bananas! Coming out to that could be crazy. Just coming out to the music could be crazy, but if they hear us rhyming when we come out, it might even create a little demand. So now we’re starting to talk records again and it’s kind of cool.

TRHH: Is the single “Psychedelic Sally” an extension of the Stetsasonic classic “Sally”?

Daddy-O: No, it’s the prequel. It’s actually when I met her and after that the group met her, but I met her first.

TRHH: On the album you cover the 2Pac song “Hail Mary”. Why’d you decide to remake that one?

Daddy-O: [Laughs] Rich Nice, most peole know him from Sway in the Morning, but Rich had a solo record out on Motown some years ago. Rich Nice and I some years ago started a group effort called Escapism. What we’re gonna do is called B-Boy Rock. If you look at Run-DMC you’d probably say that’s “rap rock”. B-Boy Rock is taking it back to before rap was on record. It’s a whole bunch of that “yes, yes y’all” stuff. If you listen to Hail Mary you hear a lot of that, “Sound check, 1, 2, 1, 2.” We want to do this B-Boy Rock thing, but lyrically we want to make it very loud. Rich was like, “Yo, we should probably do a remake.” I said, “Well Rich, rap remakes don’t really make a lot of sense.” He said, “What if we do a 2Pac joint?” and I’m like, “What 2Pac joint?” He’s like, “Hail Mary,” and I’m like, “Loud?” I was with it. We put it together. We wrote probably half of the Escapism album already. I’m getting a lot of good response on the Hail Mary record. People are liking that so much that we may just stay in that direction. We wanted to do something eclectic and it ended up being Hail Mary. I wouldn’t have chose it but when Rich chose it and said what he wanted to do I knew exactly how I wanted to attack it. I knew how loud I wanted to be. I like screaming, man. If you listen to “Just Say Stet” I’m screaming. This gave me the opportunity to step about a foot away from the mic and really get it in.

TRHH: You have one of the best voices in rap history…

Daddy-O: Thank you, sir.

TRHH: You’re welcome. Is there anybody that you listen to and go, Oh, man this guy has a dope voice?

Daddy-O: Melle Mel is the greatest emcee of all-time. He’s not in particularly my hero, but he is my vocal hero – voice wise. I don’t know a better voice than Mel’s. I wish I could tell you one. I know some dope voices in Hip-Hop, but Melle Mel is the greatest emcee of all-time. He’s been able to do some ill stuff and maintain bass and a clarity that’s stupid. I know where it comes from. Even right now if he grabs the mic right now he still sounds the same as if he was 17 – That’s just bananas. Style wise I listen to a whole bunch of people. I got some of the styling on this album from listening to Travis Porter. I listen to everybody, B. I’m getting ready to do this lecture series called “What Happened to Hip-Hop”. I’m revealing this to you, but people are going to think I’m going one way and I’m not saying nothing [laughs]. I’ll go through a whole bunch of stuff but at the end of the lecture it’s really going to be nothing that happened to Hip-Hop. It’s pretty much still in the same place that it’s always been. There are some other underpinnings that happened that are weird but there’s some things that we need to take control of.

I listen to everything. There’s Andre Nickatina in Sacramento… Do I listen to [E-] 40? Yes, but I listen to The Click more than I listen to 40. I’m listening to them as a collective. Even though D-Shot is not the greatest rapper, but listening to what Shot is doing up against what Suga-T, up against B-Legit, up against 40 and Ton producing that, I’m listening to that! I’m all over the place. I listen to some New York cats. I don’t listen to a whole bunch of old school Atlanta, but I listen to new school Atlanta. I like that kid Cool Breeze a lot. Andre 3000 wins, of course Big Boi wins. Killer Mike is my favorite Atlanta emcee and will always be. I listen to everybody, man. I’m just ingesting it. To me the best beginning, middle, and end record ever in Hip-Hop is “Train With No Love” by Andre Nickatina. A lot of people have probably never heard it, but I’ve never heard a more perfect record than that. It’s perfect. It’s so perfect it could make me cry. It’s so good! Taking it back to your original question, voice wise it’s gotta be Melle Mel.

TRHH: You provided the voice for Dead Mike in the film CB4. What was that experience like, not only being a part of a film, but also writing rhymes that were funny and not typical of an artist like Daddy-O?

Daddy-O: It was dope because of the team – Bill Stephney, Nelson George, Chris Rock, Mike D of the Beastie Boys, and Hi-C who was doing the Gusto voice. It was a team thing. Ultimately it was encased in an experience. It was in L.A., I’m a New Yorker. It was done in a very L.A. movie star way. It was a dope studio, we had anything we wanted, any mic we wanted, great engineer, all the time in the world, and no pressure. It was fun. It had its degree of challenges because we worked strong on inflection. Honestly, sometimes you gotta pull me back. If I can go aggressive I’ll go aggressive so a lot of times I’ll go in there a little too hard for them, believe it or not. Once we got it, balanced it out, and heard it, it was a lot of fun. When I think of CB4 I wonder why we don’t do more of that. I’m not a movie maker, so I can’t speak for movie makers. But I look at that movie and it’s funny, it’s not foo-foo like some of that other stuff, it has a redeeming value at the end, you have real rappers doing voices, why aren’t we doing a little bit more of that? That’s the one thing about CB4 that always bugs me. I’m not talking about remaking CB4, I’m saying why is that kind of storyline and some of that other stuff is just not there?

TRHH: I heard Chris Rock say they’re going to do a sequel.

Daddy-O: That might be cool. I’m not a big sequel fan of any movie, ever. I guess the only one that really worked was the Godfather, for me. It’s a whole bunch of movies I loved and by the time that second one came I’m like, “What the hell did they do here?” Exorcist II was trash, Omen II was trash. If he wanna do it I know he’ll hit me up for the voice and I’ll do it. Hopefully it can be real dope.

TRHH: Tell me about the hash tag #EDUHipHop.

Daddy-O: My partner Leslie Greene did a TV show. She’s a good friend of mine. She came to me and told me she had this idea. I did it because she’s my friend, I didn’t think she would really pull off anything. When I got there it was a six camera shoot, sound people there, everything. We shot a full episode of a show called 1 Mic Cypher. If you’ve ever seen Project Runway I play the Tim Gunn of the show. I’m the artist development coach throughout the whole show. We issued two challenges in the first episode of the show. One was to write the theme song of the show and the other was a crew battle. Out of that experience we began to really see that the largest “A-Ha” moment out of the whole thing was the lack of understanding and education of Hip-Hop, even amongst people that wanted to do it. There was a lot of people that had talent but it was like, “Damn, if they could just look at Fantastic tapes, or listen to Mel when he first started, or check out some KRS-One Latin Quarter freestyles,” that guy would get who he really is. We just started this effort to kind of usher in some of that stuff.

We did some stuff online where I asked questions on Twitter and Facebook. We started doing it more on Instagram since it has the 15 second thing going on. We would ask questions like when Remy [Ma] wasn’t home I asked, “What should Remy do when she comes home?” or “Who is the best fast rapper?” What we’re going to do is ultimately build it into a course. It’s going to be a little different than Lamont Hill and some of the other people that are out there. I respect all those people – I know most of them that are classified as Hip-Hop professors. I know who they are, but they’re kids to me because I’m over 50. They’re kids that went to school and understand Hip-Hop. Me and 9th Wonder are real cool. He’s like, “Daddy-O, I gotta take my hat off to you. I’m at Harvard doing things, but you was there!” It’s a whole different experience. We’re pairing that with another effort called “Hip Hop Speaks” which came out of that weekend hanging out with Moe Dee and a bunch of guys. After we had our little argument, this frickin’ guy is like a damn computer, man. There is nobody like him. There is nobody like him in terms of the way he remembers dates. He broke down dates when everybody’s record came out. When Super Rhymes dropped, when this dropped, what was happening, and all of those particular things. We started saying that we need to think about taking Hip Hop Speaks maybe to a South by Southwest panel, and taking it around and running it through that #EDUHipHop effort.

I got this from 9th Wonder, not to say I wouldn’t have got it, but 9th gave it to me clear, but this is American history now. This is exactly who we are – we are American history. Lamont Hill can’t do this. Some of the professors can’t do this. They can’t lay down the line of what it was like for Stetsasonic and Public Enemy to share a bus and the lessons that came out of that. They can’t talk about the lessons of one producer named Hurby Luv Bug that happened to grab a few people from his neighborhood and create a sound. There is no way for them to get their head wrapped around that ‘cause they just wasn’t there and they just don’t know it. They can go interview Hurby and they still wouldn’t have as much as I have ‘cause I was there. The easiest way to describe it is the way they give people honorary degrees. It’s like, “Yo man, we know you didn’t sit here and study this course, but we also know that you were right there to experience it, so we’re gonna give you a degree.” That’s kind of what the #EDUHipHop effort is. We’re kind of figuring out how we can build some courses out of it. We’re debating on if we’re going to do any online courses at all – we may. What the lesson is from as early as we can start. If we can start from Pete DJ Jones, and Grandmaster Flowers and Flash getting his name from that and what that means, what it means for the culture, what you learn from that, how you build from that, what it meant for Flash and them to be Grandmaster Flash & The Furious 5, what some of the gangsters meant, what the Gestapo Crew meant at that time, and moving into our era and all those particular things, the lessons that can be learned through it is what the effort is about.

TRHH: What do you hope to achieve with #EverybodyButKRS?

Daddy-O: This is what I said when I started making this record, “I don’t think I’m a radio dude,” meaning I don’t think I’m a commercial radio artist. We as Stetsasonic never looked at ourselves as commercial radio artists. God bless Red Alert, Mr. Magic, God bless the dead, Pinkhouse, God bless the dead, Greg Mack out in L.A., and I could go on and on. God bless all of these people that actually promoted our records on these underground shows so much that it seemed like it burst at the seam, and daytime radio had to play our record. We never looked at ourselves like that. We looked at ourselves as a band that was kind of there for the people, you could say the street, but it wasn’t what they call the street now because there was no crack and all that at the time. We were for the street and for the people. I still see myself as that kinda emcee. Let’s just say getting on the radio is level 8, I think I’m a seven and a half. If Kane was to do what I’m doing he’d be a 9 – it would be easy for him.

What I look to achieve with this is to create a blueprint for my peers. First I’d get ‘em riled up with the competitive stuff and hope they come at me with stuff because I got records for people on a mixtape level. I hope they get riled up and we start some competition on that level, but then kind of realize, “Whoa, listen to this emcee record that he did. I see where he’s trying to go with this thing.” And for them to know that it’s me, my dream is for them to say, “Man, I wanna beat Daddy-O,” then I accomplished my goal. We would again own a portion of radio, and I’m talking about regular commercial daytime radio – we’ll get ‘em. If Kane beats this album, if Rakim beats this album, and you can grab your other three, if they beat this album, we’re back. And when I say “we’re back” all of us are back!

Purchase: Daddy-O – #EverybodyButKRS

Posted in interview | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Conversation with Daddy-O

Share Button
Photo courtesy of Odad Truth Records

Photo courtesy of Odad Truth Records

In 1988 on the Public Enemy hit “Night of the Living Baseheads” Chuck D famously rhymed, “My man Daddy-O once said to me/He knew a brother who stayed all day in his jeep/And at night he went to sleep/And in the morning all he had was sneakers on his feet…” Twenty-seven years later the front men of Public Enemy and Stetsasonic still have a relationship.

Their current relationship is a business one. Daddy-O’s new album, “#EverybodyButKRS” is his first release in over twenty years. It is released on Odad Truth Records and distributed by Chuck D’s RCS Music.

#EverybodyButKRS is produced by Bobby Simmons, Bamba Nazar, DJ Infinite, Wynton Montgomery, Siba Giba, Bean One, JJTheProdigy, and Jimmy Da Beast.

Daddy-O spoke to The Real Hip-Hop about his return to rap, the future of Stetsasonic, and his new album, #EverybodyButKRS.

TRHH: Explain the title of the new album, #EverybodyButKRS?

Daddy-O: I had a long time to think about where we were. A couple of things happened and today is even more special because Iron Maiden is releasing an album that I got an advance of. But looking at Iron Maiden, U2, and Led Zeppelin who just released an album, it makes me think about us. When I say “us” I’m kind of talking about true school artists. Maybe it goes back to Melle Mel and them, maybe not. I mean the crew that came in around 87-88 with real classic material – the Stetsasonic’s, the Eric B & Rakim’s, the Nice & Smooth’s – all of those people. Even though I’m an emcee I’m a big fan of the music, how we felt about that stuff, and why we felt the way we felt. A lot of the reason we felt the way we felt was because there was some incredible lyrics there and there was some phenomenal voices there.

You fast forward to 2014-15-16 and I’m like, “Why can’t we make that anymore?” Led Zeppelin is making it still and even though the U2 record that they just put out is not the big classic U2 record, it’s U2 and we all enjoy it, understand it, and understand that it’s progressive. Why can’t we make that anymore? The first thing I thought about was just making it. The second thing I thought about is competition is the cornerstone of Hip-Hop. The only reason any of us was ever as good as we were was because we know that somebody was on our heels. My classic story is I produced “Top Billin’” for the Audio Two and Erick Sermon walks up to me and says, “Daddy-O,  you beat me on the single, but we’re gonna crush y’all with the album.” If you listen to the first EPMD album versus the first Audio Two, they crushed the Audio Two. It was always this level of competition going on so my thing was challenging my peers. I thought about challenging all my peers, but it was one guy that stood out that I wouldn’t stand a chance against and that was KRS. Everybody else is fair game.

TRHH: Wow. Have you talked to KRS about this?

Daddy-O: I haven’t, I haven’t. And you know [Kool] Moe Dee is really funny right? I accosted Kool Moe Dee and Grandmaster Caz in the dressing room when Stetsasonic did this show the other week. I just went in there and told him, “Hey man, here is a copy of the album and I’m just letting you know I’m challenging all of y’all. You too Caz if you want some. I know you go back a little further, but all y’all sound crazy to me right now.” They wasn’t really heated because Moe Dee is real funny. He said, “Oh, we’re having a mid-life crises moment. It’ll be over in a minute.” But I was going in on these guys. I told them the short version of what I just told you, why can’t we make these records anymore? It’s dope that you got records in the past that you’re able to hold on to, but why can’t you make records anymore? They started to make the argument that it wasn’t about records, but once we cross that line to make records now we’re in the game. If we were just freestyle rappers and never made records, Rapper’s Delight never came out, none of those records ever came out on Sugar Hill, none of those records ever came out Paul Winley, and none of those records ever came out on Enjoy, then okay. But we crossed the line and became recording artists and when we did that we didn’t do that to lose. We all was looking to be number one.

When does it get to the point that you get old and say, “Well it’s not about being number one anymore. It’s a promotion game, there’s an Illuminati,” man get outta here with all that! You make heat, somebody is gonna hear it. To your point Moe Dee teases me and is like, “I’m gonna call KRS and put a spin on it and make it seem like you’re against him!” KRS’ll get it. He’s my man. Ultimately I’d like to do a small little, almost coffee house tour with KRS. No arena’s, just small venues and I’ll do what I do and he’ll do what he does. He’s a little more expansive in his emcee game than me.  I just think I make great records at my age and I don’t think none of them make records like this at their age. I’m trying to give them a blueprint to say, “Look man, it can still be done if you leave alone ‘I’m back,’ ‘I used to be here,’ ‘you should learn from me.’” If you leave all of that alone and just rhyme then you’ll be okay. I just can’t understand you being an emcee and not having anything to say, or everything you have to say is predicated on what you did before. That’s wack to me.

TRHH: I was thinking about this when the Dr. Dre album dropped. He’s not considered a lyricist or whatever, but he’s a Hip-Hop artist that dropped a relevant album at 50-years old.

Daddy-O: Oh yeah, absolutely! I think it can be done over and over. My position is a little different than Dre because they look at Dre different. He’s in a superstar-ish position. I think that it can be done. More than that, when you’re a guy like me, [MC] Delite, or Bobby [Simmons], we talk all the time, but we’re pretty spread out. When I talk to them they say, “People say they miss us and miss our voices,” that tells me that there is definitely an audience out there. If we don’t fulfill that space then they put other things in that space. I’m not saying that jazz, old school, and R&B are not good things, but none of us are making records. Radio One just did this BOOM format. All over the country these classic Hip-Hop stations have been popping up. It’s cool but it ain’t no doper than satellite radio. It ain’t no doper than Rap Station. No disrespect to Radio One, but it’s just commercial radio trying to take a shot at it. I do think that there is an audience of people that wanna hear their own music. A few of my friends have given me feedback on this record and it’s been exactly the feedback that I’ve wanted. For them to call me and say, “Yo, man this is my joint,” or “My favorite line on that album is ‘Holla at your boy, I’m a grown ass man,’” or “I get it, this is for me.” I want them to have something. I can never be Future, Young Thug or Wayne. I can never be it.

I listen to everything. I don’t like all of it, but I like some of it. I deejay so if I can find a way to mix it in I’ll do it. I listen to all the rap records because that’s what I am. I can’t divorce myself from Young Thug in particular. I just have to look at him as a young person, try to figure out his flow, and if I meet him try to talk to him and throw a little something his way. But I can never be those guys. Neither could we be those who preceded us. It’s just the way things are in music all the time. Barry White is not Luther Vandross and I can keep going on and on in every genre – it’s the same thing. Even in reggae you might be able to mimic a little but Bob Marley can never be Toots and the Maytals. It’s always going to feel a little different as it succeeds. I got a lot of this from studying black Caribbean music, not only reggae but Haitian culture because my wife is Haitian. I notice that those pockets still exists for those classic artists. The young people come up and do what they gotta do, but the pocket still exists for classic artists. The same thing with reggae, the pocket still exists for the guys that are older and ain’t nobody stopping them from doing what they do. You’re gonna get a Baby Cham and any of those dudes that are gonna come up and they’re gonna do what they’re gonna do, but if Yellowman wants to do a show, he does it, and ain’t no problem there. I just think that we should be the same. There is no other way for me to express it but to just make it and hopefully they take the lead and I do something explosive. I wanted to come up with a title that was at least catchy enough to them. I’m not ruling the fans out at all, but I think the fans will listen to good music regardless of what it’s called. If it was called “Red Apple Daddy” they would listen to it, but I think my peers would definitely be a little shocked by the title and that’s exactly what I want.

TRHH: It’s been 22 years since your last solo album, You Can Be a Daddy, But Never Daddy-O. Have you had the itch in between that time?

Daddy-O: I been rhyming the whole time. I got a bunch of records, man. I rhyme all the time. If I can get in the studio I do it, if not it just sits in a book. I got a spoken word record done. I been rhyming the whole time. The itch? I don’t know. It’s tricky to answer that. I will say this, the itch for the stage never stops. That’s one thing that I can say never stops, especially watching people! You’re always itching when everybody was good, when everybody was throwing down, and everybody had a dope show but man when I see some of these dudes nowadays I be looking at them like, “Yo, are you kidding me right now? Are you really on stage harmonizing with the record and you’re four octaves above the octave that you recorded it in the studio and you really expect the fans to just follow you with this?” That’s crazy. The itch for the stage has never ever went away, the record thing kind of came and went. Chuck was really the one to push me. You remember back in the day when somebody pushes you into a fight [laughs]? I was sitting on a bunch of these records and Chuck was like, “Yo, what you doin’ man?” I said I wasn’t sure and he said, “Daddy-O, that’s now how we do it now, man. We’ll put it out and you just promote through.” Within a week of hearing the album he came up with a plan and said, “We gonna premier it on Rap Station on Tuesday and we’re gonna release it on Friday.” For once in my life I had no resistance – there was none. I had no reservations. I just said, “OK” and did it.

TRHH: Going back to the beginning of Stetsasonic, how much work did you guys put into your live show?

Daddy-O: We just did a show and we killed it. A lot, man. A lot. Stetsasonic may be a little different than everybody else. We are a performance band first. The reason we are a band is because we just didn’t want to be able to go on stage and not be able to duplicate what we did in the studio. So we said, “Every piece of equipment that we have here in the studio we’re taking on stage with us.” That’s kind of the philosophy around Stetsasonic being a band. We didn’t want to do all this stuff in the studio and then just get on stage with Paul. We felt that was really cheating. Where is DB in all of this? Where is Wise in all of this? Where is Bobby in all of this? We couldn’t see it. We’re a performance band first so for us even going in the studio every song, and we haven’t performed every song which is kind of cool because we have all this room now for future dates to do songs that we never performed, we went into the studio thinking about how we would perform it. Stetsasonic goes back to maybe 79-80 just rehearsing five times a week with no show – just being ready for a show. That’s our tradition. Our tradition is rehearsal is where we cut our chops and figure out what we wanna do and what we wanna say.

We can’t even wait to get back in after that show. Even though we killed it, we see all the holes and all these other things we want to try so we can’t wait to get back in the rehearsal studio and just do it. I think a larger point is how much should be into it. In the very beginning it was really a strong feeling of us against the world. No disrespect, but R&B hated us because we were the new kinds on the block and a couple of songs were pushing them out of rotation. They’re listening to what we’re doing and they’re trying to figure out exactly what it is we’re doing. It’s not the Last Poets, this is a threat. Last Poets was never a threat to any R&B group. Ask the O’Jay’s if they were threatened by those Poets – they never were. These R&B singers were totally threatened by us because it was rhythm there, it was off the heels of disco so there was a beat there. We mastered the 4/4, and the get down part that Herc and Flash and them talked about. We started making these records that were impacting these neighborhoods but we had no support. Chuck wasn’t lying when he said, “Radio, suckers never play me.” We had these great records and we’re beating up the clubs. Red Alert……you’re from Chicago, right?

TRHH: Yep.

Daddy-O: Pinkhouse, God bless the dead, and all these people were playing our records on the mix shows. But we’re not getting no daytime play. We we’re inching into it. It felt like us against the world. When we started putting together these shows it was based on that. We gon’ end up being on a show with Meli’sa Morgan and Luther. Yeah, they gonna make us open but they’re gonna have a hard time coming back after what we do. I think the epitome of that, whether people wanna believe it or not was M.C. Hammer. Hammer said, “Look, you are gonna recognize who the hell we are and I am gonna blow all of y’all away! I don’t care if you’re a pop artist, I don’t care what you are. By the time I’m done I dare you to try to follow this!” The show was really important because we had to connect at that arena, club, or wherever we played super-duper strong. Almost twice as much as artists of other genres because we didn’t know if we were gonna get another shot or not.

TRHH: What prompted Stet to return to the stage recently?

Daddy-O: We’ve been talking about it for a while. One thing I love about my band is there is a bunch of us and you almost have 3 factions. You got the old guys, the middle guys, and the young guys. There’s two young, that’s Bobby and Paul. Those guys stay active all the time. The younger guys really became over a period of time the largest Stetsasonic fans. Me and Delite started the band. I’m not saying we’re not big Stet fans, but these guys have a different appreciation because they’re honored to be in the group. I’m not saying I’m not honored, but I started the group so it’s a different feeling. As time goes on the kind of props that they get from being down with us is like, “Damn!” I didn’t know it was legendary status like that. Those guys, especially Bobby, being an advocate that way, we talk about it all the time. A couple of people were putting together some dates so we said let’s do it. We did something 5 years ago at the Knitting Factory in New York. That was hot. We killed the show, but it was a small stage. This one was a little different because Lady B does this Basement Party every year and it was the type of stage that we really, really enjoy. You give us 30 feet, we’re gonna try to use 31. With us being who we are and being able to use that whole stage it made a big difference. And Philadelphia made a huge difference because they’re such big Stetsasonic fans. By the time we did “Sally” it felt like the walls was gonna cave in.

Check out part 2 of A Conversation with Daddy-O

Purchase: Daddy-O – #EverybodyButKRS

Posted in interview | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Illmaculate & OnlyOne: Only & Ill

Share Button
Photo courtesy of Dunn Deal PR

Photo courtesy of Dunn Deal PR

Two members of the Pacific Northwest collective Sandpeople, Illmaculate and OnlyOne have recorded together for years. Each emcee appeared on each other’s solo projects in addition to group releases, but have never released an album together – now they have.

Illmaculate & OnlyOne’s first album as a duo is appropriately titled, “Only & Ill”. Only & Ill features appearances by Crooked I, Bigg K, J Rome, C Plus, Neka Perini, Sapient, HANiF, Yukmouth, and Chase Moore. The album is produced by Chase Moore, DJ FlipFlop, Hippie Sabotage, and DJ Epik.

Illmaculate and OnlyOne spoke to The Real Hip-Hop about the Portland rap scene, their penchant for intoxicants, and their new album, Only & Ill.

TRHH: Why’d it take so long for you guys to release a full-length album?

Illmaculate: It’s been in the works for a minute. We put out several singles, we had a weekly going, but at the end of the day we just wanted it to be right. We weren’t quite happy with it until we got the album that we have now. We went through four different drafts of it over the last year or two. It’s good to finally put it out.

TRHH: What did you need to hear to know it was right?

Illmaculate: There was a couple times were we thought we had it, then we just sat on it for a second, listened to it and tried to look at it objectively. There was just something missing. Once we had this batch of songs and we whittled a couple down, there were bangers that we loved but it just didn’t fit within the context of the record. Once we put these songs together in a playlist and bumped them front to back, that was it, it was ready to go.

TRHH: The new single “Can’t Take That Away” is a pro-drugs song to say the least. What specifically was the inspiration behind that song?

OnlyOne: It’s definitely a drug anthem. The inspiration is self-explanatory. Definitely hallucinogens, marijuana, and alcohol played a big part in the making of that song. Also the past that we know of with our friends and family and everybody else. The drug culture is a big part of our music – the positives and negatives of it. We felt it important to make a song that empowered both the positives and negatives of drugs.

TRHH: Weed is legal in Oregon, right?

Illmaculate: Right.

TRHH: Have you guys taken advantage of that?

Illmaculate: There’s not like recreational facilities yet. They’re still getting the legislation right. I think by January it will be fully ready to go. We both take advantage of the medicinal use as far as having cards and going to the dispensaries. Shops haven’t opened up yet as far as being able to go in and buy some recreationally.

TRHH: Angel’s Bathwater is a dope name. What does it mean and how’d the Angel’s Bathwater tour go?

Illmaculate: The tour has been great. It’s been fun connecting and finally performing some new material. As far as the origin of Angel’s Bathwater, it’s basically Jameson’s Irish Whiskey. Goldini Bagwell who is on the tour coined that a few years back. We have a lot of references in our songs to angel’s bathwater and it’s really just referencing Jameson’s Irish Whiskey which is our unofficial sponsor of this tour [laughs].

TRHH: I spoke to Myke Bogan a few months ago and he said the Portland Hip-Hop scene doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. Would you agree with that statement?

Illmaculate: Yeah, I would agree as far as talent. There is an abundance of talent – it’s crazy. It’s pretty incredible when I think of my peers from Portland. I could name ‘em but I’d definitely forget someone and get heat about it. I’ve been a lot of places and I always come back and say “We have some of the best emcees out here, period.” I think the market and the economy isn’t there yet and that’s where I think the lack of recognition comes from. That’s on the side of fans, but it’s also on the side of industry and money and investors that are willing to invest in building a long sustaining culture of Hip-Hop in Portland. It also kind of gets stifled by the city to some degree. It caught some recognition on the negative side from Buzz Feed and Vice articles. I’d put the pure raw talent in Portland against any city in the nation to be honest — pound for pound.

TRHH: That’s a big statement, man.

Illmaculate: I stand fully behind it, man.

TRHH: Battle rappers get tagged with not being able to make good songs. How did you overcome that to excel in song writing?

Illmaculate: To be honest I was writing raps for years before I ever freestyled or battled. I was in the studio for 2-3 years before I ever got involved in battle rap. I was a part of groups and learned song structure. That was there first — that was my first love. I feel like a lot of people, especially battle rappers, get involved with just freestlying at parties and their homies say they’re pretty good when they’re drunk so they think they should make songs. That was never me. I took writing raps, and recording songs seriously first before ever delving into freestyling and battling. I don’t look at myself as a battle rapper as much as a lyricist, an emcee, and an artist that happens to battle. That’s where the difference is.

TRHH: I have to ask, who is the girl in the “Gattaca” video?

OnlyOne: That’s just a model that the director of the video, Kyle Gray chose.

Illmaculate: Yeah, I miss her.


OnlyOne: She’s just a model though. No we didn’t have sex with her during the video shoot. I’ve gotten all these questions. Young kids are like, “You must know that model!”

TRHH: It’s unfortunate you didn’t have sex with her.

OnlyOne: [Laughs] It’s disappointing. Every time I watch the video I’m disappointed. What could I have done better?

Illmaculate: If we could go back…

OnlyOne: If I could go back I wouldn’t wear the gas mask.

TRHH: The song “Audiobiography” has some personal information in it regarding your families. Were you apprehensive at all about releasing that song?

OnlyOne: Ill wasn’t but I was. It was actually my idea and my concept. I came to the Chase beat and had been thinking about doing an audiobiography song for a while. When I wrote it and laid it down I knew I had to get Ill on it. Once the song was done we knew it was a keeper and wanted to put it out. Since marinating on it I’ve actually been apprehensive to perform it for smaller crowds or if I don’t feel the venue is right. It’s just a really personal song. We knew we were going to put it out as soon as we made it.

Illmaculate: As far as the content of it being personal and being apprehensive about putting it out, that was never in the equation because this is what we do. This is our art and our music. That should be reflected in the music. Like Only said, once it was done we knew it was going on the album and it would be a pivotal song on the record.

TRHH: Who is the Only & Ill album for?

Illmaculate: I think the album is made for anybody who appreciates raw lyricism. I feel like everything is in there. People always say, “There’s something in there for everyone!” I think from the standpoint of the people who appreciate substance, questioning authority, but also partying, smoking, having a good time, and appreciating dope lyrics, that’s who I think this is for. I think most people fit into that and would fuck with the record if it was put in front of them.

OnlyOne: Adding on to that, the record is also a really good sign of the times. If you pay attention to the time that we’re in, in Hip-Hop and in our society there are a lot of younger kids that are starting to rap. Rap is still really young and exploding in a lot of circles that it wasn’t in decades ago. In our album you can see a culmination of a new kind of Hip-Hop that’s political and is this and that. As long as the beats are there we’re happy with it. We’re always trying to push to a new level. I think the record is a good sign of where the times are at as far as making music that is more tech in the rap aspect for people that do rap, and also for the people that do just listen to it still.

Purchase: Illmaculate & OnlyOne – Only & Ill

Posted in interview | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Anti-Lilly: 91 Regal

Share Button
Photo courtesy of Drake Lilly

Photo courtesy of Drake Lilly

Remember when “keeping it real” was a thing in Hip-Hop? It’s become commonplace in Hip-Hop for artists to rhyme about material things regardless of if they owned them or not. That’s not real, nor is it keeping it real. The average person can’t relate to bountiful riches and bitches, and that narrative only alienates the bulk of your audience.

An emcee who continually keeps it real is Houston, Texas’ own Anti-Lilly. The 23-year old rapper’s latest release is a homage to his Buick titled “91 Regal”. 91 Regal is a 7-track release that tackles the issues that your everyday average Joe experiences. The project is produced by Phoniks, G. Cal, and Tommy Blunts.

The Real Hip-Hop spoke to Anti-Lilly about his new album, 91 Regal, the ups and downs of working a 9-to-5, and his career goals in the genre of Hip-Hop.

TRHH: Do you really drive a 91 Regal?

Anti-Lilly: Yeah. One of the inspirations behind the project is believe it or not it’s actually my very first car. I bought it with my own money a few months back and that was like a real big accomplishment to me. In life you have to set certain goals for yourself and that was one of the ones I wanted. I’ve kind of been out on my own since I was 17, I’ve had my own apartment for a few years but it’s been an issue getting back and forth to work. It’s been days where I’ve had to walk, days where I had to try to find a ride, or catch the bus. Getting that 91 Regal was like getting over that hill. I really wanted to dedicate a whole project to me reaching one of the goals. It’s one of those moments where you can finally breathe, Sherron. It may not mean much to a lot of people, but me getting my very first car with my own money that I worked hella hard for [laughs], that’s the inspiration behind the project. That was actually my first car and I still have it.

TRHH: It’s significant. That’s what life is all about. Achieving these things as you go.

Anti-Lilly: Word up. Exactly.

TRHH: I got a somber vibe from this album. Did this come from a place of depression?

Anti-Lilly: I wouldn’t really say depression so much. You gotta kinda watch what you say. I don’t think I suffer from depression or anything but I do believe as humans we all go to that dark place every once in a while. We all kinda go to that dark place. I will say out of all of my projects this is probably my darkest one. It brought me out of a dark place at the same time. It was therapeutic to get that out. I just turned 23 on September 21st. It was really the past 23 years of my life, the good shit and the bad shit, being released. It was like release therapy almost. That’s the only way I felt like I could get it out was through expressing myself. I didn’t get an appreciation for the project until I got to hear every track all together.

TRHH: The song “Company Cigarettes” was beautifully written. Is it based on a true story?

Anti-Lilly: Very, very true. I don’t really want to get myself in too much trouble, but it’s 100% accurate. Everybody has a dream growing up, whether you wanna be a doctor or a ball player. Most people don’t say, “When I grow up I wanna take calls all day and have people bitch at me all day.” They don’t dream about being acclimated to the 9-to-5 lifestyle. With the job I have I got into some trouble and I just needed a job, but I didn’t see myself working there for 5 years. You don’t see yourself being there that long. I knew that I was going to be this artist that made music for a living and that was it. There comes a time where you look yourself in the mirror and you’re like, “I’ve really been here for 5 years?” You grow a little sad that you’re still there.

I’ve seen plenty of people make reference to that first verse, shout out to Ms. Cameron, she literally never picked up a cigarette. That’s just what those environments do to you. Certain environments force you to change and it’s just not at work, it’s life in general. I wanted to take that picture and put it in a different perspective. You hear the raps about people going through it, but I haven’t really heard too many raps about what you have to go through working a 9-to-5. People appreciate their jobs, I definitely appreciate my job because it pays bills for me. But you don’t really wake up and be like, “I get to go to work again! It’s so awesome!” You appreciate it, but it’s not ultimately what you want to do with your life and the environment itself. I’m a pretty small guy so it’s not like I’m lifting 100 lb. boxes all day, but it mentally weighs on you, hence cigarettes.

You see people stressed out and what do they do? They smoke cigarettes. That’s what that environment does. I go on my break and half of the building will be outside. It’s just something I wanted to bring to the people – just another perspective. I know a lot of folks can relate to what I’m saying in that song. It may not be that direct situation, but they can see where I’m coming from. That’s something I really wanted to tackle, but I wanted to make sure it was put together right. It just felt right when I recorded the song and that’s how it came out I guess. That’s where Company Cigarettes came from. You work long enough at a corporate spot, you make it long enough to get a company car or a company trip or something. I just wanted to put a twist on it that if you work here long enough you get company cigarettes ‘cause you’re so damn stressed out. I thought it was pretty cool to talk about.

TRHH: Do you think it’s the environment or the person? I relate to the song totally. I work a day job and it’s hard for me to go in every day. But my supervisor absolutely loves coming to work every day. She’s like, “What do I have to complain about? I’m alive, the sky is blue…”

Anti-Lilly: Yeah. Like I said I’m totally grateful to be in a position to have a job, especially where I came from. Where I’m at now I’m totally grateful. Yes, we get put in certain positions but that doesn’t mean you have to accept it. I’m not accepting what I have right now. I’m grateful for it but that’s now all I want out of life. When you think about where you want to be in life compared to where you are, yeah, it’s motivational for you to get there but at the same time you wanna hurry up and get out of where you are now. I got supervisors that I love. I got love for everybody, truthfully. Sometimes it’s a chain of command thing. You gotta think about it, it’s a business. Let’s say the business isn’t performing properly, ‘cause it’s really all about numbers. That’s something I don’t like. I don’t like being micro-managed.

Think about it like this, you come to work and you’re a full-time employee, so that’s at least 40 hours per week, that means you’re going to be at your work environment more than you’re at home if you do the math. I feel like since that’s the case you should have a work family. Sometimes that’s not the case because you get corporate involved and all they care about is, “Are we hitting the numbers?” When that chain of command rolls down to my supervisor, yeah, we’re cool and on the same page but I know he gotta do his job. I’ve been in management before and I’ve had to fire people and that shit sucks, man. I gotta send you home to your kids with one last check and good luck after that. That shit sucks. I don’t like being involved in that environment. I see where I am now and where I wanna be in life and that’s all the more reason.

Any day that I wake up I’m 100% grateful to be alive. Like I said in my description, life is a gift. None of this is promised. You should make the best out of your situation but you shouldn’t be content at any time. I’m just not content. That song is inspired by conversations with co-workers. Certain situations force you to get those jobs, whether it be kids or you had to go to jail or prison or something. You don’t get all of the opportunities that were once presented to you. Some people are just stuck in that type of job environment. They’re grateful that they have it, but that’s not what they ultimately want to do. You have some people where it’s absolutely what they love. They love the fact that they can go to work. I appreciate that I can work too, it’s just that I see so much more for myself at the same time. That song is for the people who see much more than what’s in front of them and they refuse to settle. We’re gonna play the cards that we got, but we can’t wait for that next hand.

TRHH: Do you think you’re cut out for a 9-to-5?

Anti-Lilly: [Laughs] Naw. I’m a hard worker, man. I don’t want to get that misconstrued at all. I hold a pretty good position at my job, not because of my tenure. My dad taught me that whatever you’re gonna do in life, even if you don’t wanna do it you have to be the best at it. Now, with that said, yeah, Im’ma play ball but I totally don’t think I’m cut out for a 9-to-5. I know what I’m cut out for. I’m meant to be a musician and to touch the people. I truly believe that that’s my God-given talent and I believe that where I’m at now is just a stepping-stone. If we’re being realistic, I don’t go to a big studio and record. I record in my closet, but I have to get it mixed and I have to get that money from somewhere. I gotta pay for production so I need that money. At the same time I don’t see myself doing that in the next 5 years. Not even in the next 2 years. Not even in the next year, truthfully. That’s how much belief I have in myself. While I’m here I’m going to give it my best but that’s not my dream. It’s not my ultimate goal. I adapt to my environment, but I don’t believe this is what is meant for me.

TRHH: How would you compare the struggles of work versus the struggles of rap?

Anti-Lilly: [Laughs] That’s a great question. I think they’re similar but they’re different at the same time. With the rap game I don’t see it as a struggle. I see it as a process. Whatever is meant for you is going to happen. I’m a very firm believer in that. In Houston with the style of music I make and the politics involved in everything I’ve totally run into some roadblocks, but I’ve never lost faith in myself. I know what I’m able to do, I just gotta keep pushing. It’s a lot easier dealing with music than it is with my job. They’re both a challenge. It’s a challenge for me sometimes to go to work and deal with all that bullshit. Not only from the customers calling and complaining about everything, but certain members of management that want things to be a certain way but they’re never open to my opinion about something. I feel like if I’m in the field really doing it I can give you better advice than someone who is just looking at numbers all day. In that aspect it’s frustrating.

With the music, sometimes it can be frustrating trying to get love from your city but I never get discouraged. If you know it’s for you, you just gotta stay on it. Don’t get off that horse. It’s been a slow grind but I think it’s going to be worth it because I’m only building my catalog as I go. So the people who aren’t so much in tune to me now they can go back and look at all this beautiful music I’ve released through the years. I think it’s only going to make me better in the long run. With anything in life it’s a struggle, but it’s however you take it. If shit knocks you down you can stay down or you can get up. That’s the difference between making it and not making it. Like I said, “It’s all about your recovery.” Everybody gets knocked down but it’s about how you get up. You can just stay down or you can get your ass back up and try to figure it out. That’s with anything in life. If you want to be the next Allen Iverson, Tracy McGrady, or Kobe or you want to be the best burger flipper in the whole world, you’re gonna have some situations that knock you down. It’s all about finding a way to adjust and adapt.

TRHH: You worked with Phoniks again on this project but you also worked with some new cats. First off, my man Tommy Blunts

Anti-Lilly: Yeah, shout out to Sherron, man! Shout out to Sherron.

TRHH: [Laughs] Thank you.

Anti-Lilly: This was around the time I was looking for some newer production. I had a few beats from Phoniks and from frequent collaborators. I really wanted to work with a new producer. You introduced me to Tommy and it was instant. We shot each other some e-mails and those were the first two beats he sent me. I was like, “Yes!” We’re still working on stuff together. This won’t be the last you hear from us. I actually got something from you too, man. I wanted to ask how long have you been working on producing?

TRHH: The roles are reversed, I never had nobody ask me a question [laughs]. It’s something I’ve been dabbling with for a long time but nothing I ever put my all into. I work, I write, I go to school, I really don’t have time for anything else. Beats is something that I just started dabbling in seriously this year. I asked Phoniks for help and I actually went to Tommy’s house in August and he showed me a lot of stuff. I’m not anywhere near those guys. I’m trying to be on that level and learn everything. It’s something I’ve been seriously doing for about a year, but it’s been over ten years that I’ve been off and on messing with it.

Anti-Lilly: I really didn’t know what to expect but when I heard it I was taken aback. I didn’t use it for the project but that doesn’t mean it may not be used in the future. It was dope, man.

TRHH: Thank you. I appreciate that.

Anti-Lilly: No gas, man. I hear the potential. People say they’re too old or it’s too late, it’s never too late if it’s a passion. I understand you get tied up and shit but I can tell your love of Hip-Hop. We can talk about music all day so eventually that is going to translate into something. It’s something that you love. I think it’s hella cool that you’re dabbling into production. I would love to hear whatever else you have. I say go for it. You never know where it can take you.

TRHH: Definitely. I appreciate that. You also worked with another Midwest producer G. Cal, who gave you something different than we’re used to hearing you rhyme on. Why’d you pick that particular beat?

Anti-Lilly: No reason in particular, man. I don’t wanna use the Houston excuse but it’s a sound that I personally grew up on and was inspired by so I wanted to give that back to my city and give that back to my fans at the same time. I’m not just influenced by jazz or classical sounds, I just love music. It’s something about that Houston sound. I always wanted to give that back to my city. I gotta let ‘em know I can get down at the same time while staying true to myself. All that shit is true, man.  That’s what it’s all about. That song is Houston in summer time on a Sunday. You got your slab parades – you’ll be on the south side, or on the north side or downtown somewhere and you’ll see these fuckin’ Cadillac’s, Buick’s 84’s, fuckin’ 5th wheel in the back, that’s just some Houston shit. It’ll be a random parade out of nowhere and we’re out there barbecuing and reminiscing about the good times and the bad times. That’s what life is all about in its truest essence – being around the people that we love and appreciating the little bit of life that we all got left. That was sort of a dedication to my city, while at the same time I just wanted to show my people another aspect of it.

TRHH: Earlier you talked about the 9-to-5 and not seeing yourself in that situation too much longer. Are you happy with where you are in life right now?

Anti-Lilly: Man, I am so happy. It may not appear that way compared to previous albums. I don’t go to a therapist I go to my microphone. Everybody got problems, it’s just all about how you deal with it. I always got a smile on my face. It ain’t all good, but it’s always good at the same time because I have an opportunity – I woke up this morning. That’s one reason to be happy right there. Shit happens but you gotta play the cards that’s in your hands and give it your best. No matter what life throws at me I’m always smiling because it’s only there to improve me, make me stronger, and provide growth. That’s where some people get lost in the mix, they just see the bad shit happening to ‘em. Sometimes when you go through those situations you lose appreciation for all the good things that’ll happens to you.

I was telling my girl the other day, if life was easy anybody could do this shit. You wouldn’t see people committing suicide and all these other things. That’s the thing about life, you may think you have the answers but nobody really has the answers to this shit. I found beauty in that. It’s like, man I get another opportunity to really figure this shit out. In any of these situations if it don’t kill you, you can only grow from it. Either you don’t make that same mistake again or you’re more aware in the future. I appreciate all the good shit that happens to me equally as I appreciate the not-so-good stuff that I’ve gone through whether it was personal loss, being back stabbed, or being cheated on. I don’t have envy or hate for those people in those situations. I just understand I had to go through it because if I didn’t I’d probably be even more of a sucker [laughs]. It’s all good, man. I’m happy as hell right now.

TRHH: What’s your ideal situation career wise?

Anti-Lilly: I just wanna be able to support my people while I’m doing what I love. Whether that be me at the Grammys or me being the dude that’s always on tour. I just see myself being involved in music and being around some beautiful people. Only God knows where I’m headed, truthfully, but I know this is my path. Whether it be on a super-huge scale or not so big, I just want to be able to support myself and my people. It’s not about the money. I have a great core of fans now, but if I can be able to build on that and travel the world and meet these beautiful people that are sending me these thought out messages on Twitter, Instagram, and e-mail about how my music inspires them, that’s what I wanna do. I just want to continue to be an inspiration, continue to get my story out there and do it professionally – meaning that I want to provide for myself and my loved ones. That’s any man’s goal to be able to provide for his, it’s just a different profession. This doesn’t even feel like work, it’s just something I’ve always loved to do. That’s what I want. I want to be able to professionally do what I love while at the same time take care of mine and go out and see the world, man. That’s where I wanna be with it.

Purchase: Anti-Lilly – 91 Regal

Posted in interview | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Enter to win tickets to the 2015 Freaky Deaky Festival

Share Button
Photo courtesy of React Presents

Photo courtesy of React Presents

The Real is giving you the chance to celebrate Halloween in a major way by entering to win one pair of 3-day passes to the 2015 Freaky Deaky Festival in the Chicago land area.

The event takes place October 30-November 1 at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Illinois and will feature performances by Bassnectar, Big Gigantic, Armin Van Buuren, Markus Schulz, Gesaffelstein, Richie Hawtin, and Pretty Lights.

Hip-Hop acts slated to perform at Freaky Deaky Fest are 2 Chainz, Carnage, Action Bronson, Joey Bada$$, Mac Miller, Vic Mensa, Logic, Riff Raff, Keys N Krates, A-Trak, CL, GoldLink, and Flying Lotus.


For more information, visit

Like and Follow Freaky Deaky on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

Purchase tickets for the 2015 Freaky Deaky Festival

Posted in contest | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Devine Carama: A Vintage Love Supreme

Share Button
Photo courtesy of BC Photography

Photo courtesy of BC Photography

Hip-Hop always seems to get press when something negative happens. Beefs between rap artists, arrests, and acts of violence are front page stories on rap and mainstream outlets. No one ever promotes when an artist does something positive — and it happens all the time.

One such artist that consistently gives back to the community is Devine Carama. From Lexington, Kentucky, Carama’s lyrics are full of substance. The conscious emcee has an extensive discography of music that makes you think. His latest effort challenges the listener to give back.

A Vintage Love Supreme is a 17-track concept mixtape produced by DJ Well Blended with guest appearances by Allen Poe and JK-47. Carama is offering fans the opportunity to receive a free digital or physical copy of the mixtape by doing some form of community service, taking a photo of said service, and tagging Devine Carama via social media.

Devine Carama spoke to The Real Hip-Hop about his philanthropic ways, the importance of making music with a message, and his new mixtape, A Vintage Love Supreme.

TRHH: Explain the title of the new mixtape, A Vintage Love Supreme.

Devine Carama: The concept is a relationship between an aging but an aspiring emcee in Hip-Hop. It kind of reads like a love story, but it’s actually between an emcee and Hip-Hop. It was originally going to be called “A Vintage Love” but we added the “Supreme” in to pay homage to John Coltrane. That’s one of my favorite albums, period – A Love Supreme. It’s only 36 minutes long so it’s like a love story but it actually moves like an action flick. We got a lot of minute and a half to two-minute songs on there. It moves quick and it’s a concept. It’s not really one of those you can listen to like, “What’s the best song on the tape,” it has a flow to it. Artistically that’s pretty much it.

I’m big on messages and substance. This is probably my least substance-driven album just because I tried to stay true to the concept. We still have a song on there called “Black Love Matters”. Even on the songs that don’t really fit into the concept they’re acting out the concept, if that makes sense. We got a joint called “X Factor” and on the two verses I’m talking about my ex-girl which is gangsta rap and my other ex-girl which is rappity rap. That’s saying in the past I was using the gun bars, and trying to be the dopest rapper alive, but neither one of those relationships worked. So my new girl and my soul mate is making music with a message. That goes into the Black Love Matters joint. Even though Black Love Matters doesn’t play into the concept, it exemplifies part of the concept.

TRHH: Do you personally have a love/hate relationship with Hip-Hop?

Devine Carama: I do. It’s kind of different now. I wouldn’t even say love/hate with Hip-Hop per se. It’s just as I get older I’m transitioning. A lot of people think I’m younger but I’ll be 35 next month. When I was coming up it was cool to be an emcee, but now it’s so over-saturated. Everybody and their momma rap. Now when you say you rap or do music people roll their eyes. I talk about that early in the project. I don’t rep Hip-Hop like I used to because I know it’s not as accepted and people automatically assume it’s going to be some garbage. I more have a love/hate relationship with the balance. It’s a lot of good music out there you’re just not going to hear it on a mainstream scale. If I have a love/hate relationship my hate part is in the mainstream representation of it. When I was coming up you had balance on the radio. You had your twerk songs, gangsta records, conscious records, street records, everything. Now you turn on the radio or go to the club and it’s like one long song almost. I’m kind of fighting for that balance to come back in Hip-Hop on a mainstream level.

TRHH: Why do you think there is an imbalance in the type of music that radio plays?

Devine Carama: I battle with this because I don’t want to be a conspiracy theorist. I speak to kids a lot here in my hometown. Here is a question I ask them, “How many times have you heard a song on the radio and when you first heard it you hated it, but by the end of the summer that’s your joint?” The kids are like, “Yeah, that happens all the time!” I wonder does the radio play what we wanna hear or do they play so much of it that we begin to like it? I don’t know if it’s a systematic strategy put in place to hold us back or keep the music small. You kind of have to blame the artist too because a lot of artists aren’t really taking chances. At this stage of the game Drake could drop a true Hip-Hop album. Will he do it? No, but he could afford to and he’s probably going to go platinum anyway.

You just don’t have a lot of the bigger artists taking chances. They still feel the pressure to stay with the times. Then you have the younger artists trying to be like the bigger artists so the sound becomes repetitive. Let’s say a cat like Add-2 or Lecrae really blows up in the mainstream part of Hip-Hop, some people feel like that will threaten the status quo. Maybe if Rapsody blows up then maybe people will side eye or second guess what Nicki Minaj is doing. I feel like there are people who are benefiting from the current wave of the culture and if anything else blows it up it might threaten that. I feel like it’s a lot of things that come into play.

TRHH: You have a couple of projects where you pay homage to Nas and Raekwon, it made me wonder who your influences are?

Devine Carama: I got into Hip-Hop kind of late, when I was in middle school going into high school. I was more of an R&B and a jazz dude growing up. The Purple Tape was the first tape I bought with my own money. I saved up lunch money for The Purple Tape. Being into poetry and jazz I was geared more toward the lyrical Hip-Hop style, which was the East Coast sound. I was into Wu, Nas, B.I.G., I really wasn’t into Jay until later. I was a big Canibus fan. I tell these young dudes that at one time Canibus was that dude. The way they look at Kendrick was the way we looked at Canibus for a small time. I was a big Common fan, Mos Def, Black Thought, anybody that I felt really focused on the pen and pad and had some type of substance. Being in Kentucky we liked the Midwest and the South. We loved the Dungeon Family. I was just more of a lyrical and substance drive type person.

TRHH: What’s the Lexington Hip-Hop scene like?

Devine Carama: We’ve got a lot of talent. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with Nemo Achida, he was signed to 88 Key’s indie label. CunninLynguist’s is one of the biggest indie groups. They’ve done songs with Big K.R.I.T. and some other people. We got a lot of talent, I think the problem with our area is that we don’t get a lot of support. Being a mid-major small city if you’re not on the BET Awards people kind of laugh at you if you’re a local artist. It’s still kind of the Bible belt. It’s a real conservative state so there aren’t a lot of venues that open the door to Hip-Hop so we struggle to get a foundation. I’ve actually been doing an event for the last eight years called Brown Sugar. That’s kind of the one monthly Hip-Hop showcase that we do have.

It’s tough, man.  A lot of our people kind of left. Nemo went to New York, CunninLynguist’s went to Atlanta, and I’ve been the only one to stay here. We had cat named Rob Jackson from the early 2000s who had a record label. He had a song called “Boom, Boom, Boom” with Lady May, he had a situation with Jermaine Dupri. We have a whole lot of talent we just don’t really have a scene if that makes sense. A scene that can really nurture the talent. Cat’s don’t really know how to e-mail mp3’s. They don’t know how to upload songs to Bandcamp. It’s just not Hip-Hop culture here, but we got a lot of talent.

TRHH: You have a unique way that fans can get a hold of A Vintage Love Supreme. Explain how people can get a hold of the project and why you decided to take that route?

Devine Carama: You can stream the project for free on Bandcamp or Audiomack. In order to get a digital or physical copy of the album you have to do some form of community service. I did it like that for two reason. One, to do something new and fresh to release the album. At this stage of the game with every release I’m trying to find a way to give back. Every time I get on Facebook there are fight videos and twerk videos – some of the twerk videos are cool sometimes. It’s just so much negativity that I kind of wanted to balance that out and see people doing something good for each other. There’s been a lot of stuff going on in Kentucky – a lot of shootings and this Kim Davis chick that doesn’t wanna give out the marriage licenses. All of the local news is so negative I want to give something positive circulating through the news cycle, but also just positivity in the community, period. I’m heavy into the community here. I got a non-profit, I do a lot of work. People in Lexington are not really surprised by this, but I know a lot of people were wondering what the angle was.

I’m always trying to find ways for people to give back. I thought it would be dope to lead by example because it’s a sacrifice. Being in Hip-Hop culture it’s not cheap paying for studio time and pressing up the albums. I just wanted to show people, usually an artist gets their return by selling an album, but I’m sacrificing that to try to promote something good. I’m just trying to lead and get some positive vibes going through the city and in Hip-Hop, too. I want to show the artists that you can do your 1, 2, thing but you can give back at the same time. That’s kind of the extent of it. The response has been good. We’ve had hundreds of people engaging and I’ve been re-posting them on Instagram. That’s worldwide, man. We’ll ship the albums out. I got fans in different places and they hit me up asking can they do it there, too. Yeah, man, it’s a worldwide initiative.

TRHH: Why is it important to you to send out positive messages in your music?

Devine Carama: I think that number one, everybody has a gift and it’s important that everybody use their gift to give back, somehow. That’s the only way we keep this thing going. You can’t take everything with us because when we leave the Earth it’ll be over. We gotta give it back. Secondly, for me I feel like it’s too much negativity in Hip-Hop culture right now. It was a point in time where underground and indie artists preserved the other side of the culture. But now even in the indie scene it’s poppin’ pills. This white kid, Slim Jesus, did an interview with VladTV. He has a song called “Drill Time” that was big for the last few weeks. He’s holding guns in the video. He does an interview with VladTV and said he don’t even live that life. I feel like you got a lot of that going on.

We gotta have balance. I don’t want Hip-Hop to be all conscious Hip-Hop. That’s what I do, but that’s not what I want. I want to enjoy myself and I want to be entertained, too, but I feel like balance is important. I see a lot of kids from my neighborhood without a pops and mom is working two jobs. Hip-Hop is kind of all they got to show them the way. It’s important that they’re getting balance. That’s what motivates me and I feel like it should motivate all artists. Big Sean’s got a record called “One Man Can Change the World” and he’s got all the turn up records in the world. His biggest song right now is that one. I think that’s important and big ups to him for dropping that as a single.

Posted in interview | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Cannibal Ox: Blade of the Ronin

Share Button
Photo courtesy of MAC Media

Photo courtesy of MAC Media

Vast Aire and Vordul Mega are Cannibal Ox. In 2001 the duo released their critically acclaimed debut album “The Cold Vein” on the Definitive Jux record label. Since then Vast and Mega parted ways with the label and its founder and Cold Vein’s producer, El-P. Both members of Cannibal Ox released solo material and appeared on each other’s projects over the years, but an official Cannibal Ox album wouldn’t materialize until 2015.

Cannibal Ox’s eagerly awaited sophomore album, “Blade of the Ronin” was finally released in March of 2015. Blade of the Ronin is produced by Bill Cosmiq and Black Milk. The album features appearances from Elzhi, U-God of the Wu-Tang Clan, Artifacts, Kenyattah Black, Double A.B., Irealz, Space, Elohem Star, Swave Sevah, The Quantum, and MF Doom.

One half of Cannibal Ox, Vast Aire, spoke to The Real Hip-Hop about the group’s current North American tour, their relationship with Def Jux co-founder, El-P, and their new album, Blade of the Ronin.

TRHH: Why’d it take so long for you guys to drop your sophomore album?

Vast Aire: We both wanted it to be on our terms. We did a project that pretty much took off. It’s not supposed to overshadow our other ideas, plans, and things of that nature. It’s pretty much like us waiting on The Purple Tape. We all want Ghost and Rae to do a whole album again. We all been waiting on that, but they’ve given us music together because they belong to a crew together. That’s the same thing that happened with me and Mega. We’ve given consistent music, it just hasn’t been a full-length. Around 2012 the idea came up to do the full-length. This was literally after we did the joint with Raekwon. Everyone was amped, we were in a good energy and it was like, yo, let’s start building a new record. Building a new record on our terms was around a couple of years ago. The fans wanted it two weeks after Cold Vein [laughs]. I think it was just about the timing. It was more about the timing and being in a good creative space, and being able to sit back and say this is what we wanted as a follow-up to that.

TRHH: Explain the title of the new album, “Blade of the Ronin”.

Vast Aire: It’s close to our dominant metaphor which is a blade. Our dominant metaphor has always been something sharp, or a blade, an ox. In the hood a blade is an ox. We might as well be saying “Ox of the Ronin”. We always had an affinity with sharpness, being on point with the lyrics. It’s a lyrical sharpness. The tongue is a sword. We try to come with that metaphoric energy. The Ronin is the ill samurai that doesn’t have any allegiance to any clan lords anymore. But they still have all those skills so they would become mercenaries, ninjas, drunks, or savages. We’re part of that community where we have civilization and we have the skills to maneuver the weapons. We just happened to be the good guys. We’re the good Ronin, we’re the good outcasts. Blade of the Ronin is the blade of the outcast, or the tongue of the outcast.

TRHH: How is this album different from The Cold Vein?

Vast Aire: I think maturity and I think experience. We’re more experienced on how to make albums. They’re both going to be great in their own way. I feel like Cold Vein is more of a prodigy, a hunger. We were running on such hunger. Blade of the Ronin is a comfortable, mature, so much experience – it’s less blind. We know exactly what we wanna do and where we wanna go.

TRHH: On the single “Harlem Knights” you spit the rhyme about Jibril in the cave — that was dope, man.

Vast Aire: Good lookin’.

TRHH: Tell me about the song Harlem Knights.

Vast Aire: Harlem Knights is pretty much again, us playing with a double meaning. It’s night time, but it’s also the night of the warrior. We’re the warriors of Harlem that hang out at night. It’s like a double meaning. It’s just us on the block playing dice, playing dominoes, smoking joints – doin’ us. It’s just a real good vibe. Harlem is a special neighborhood. Out of all the neighborhoods that I grew up in, in New York, Harlem is a unique special area. It’s where I became a man. When we were doing the song we just had the vibe of going back to our old neighborhood and feeling it out and having fun with it. That’s why there’s fun lines in there, there’s serious lines in there, and we’re going back to our childhood in certain lines. We’re just reppin’ our hood, Harlem Knights, and we just do it in our creative way.

TRHH: What led to you guys leaving Def Jux?

Vast Aire: Just bad business pretty much. And a lack of respect for us as a team who helped build. I didn’t wanna be a part of something that had lack of respect. At that point I saw the ship sailing and sinking. I didn’t want to be a part of this. A few years after it fell apart, so it was best.

TRHH: Do you still have a relationship with El-P?

Vast Aire: Yes. Minor, very minor.

TRHH: You guys are currently out on the Blade of Ronin tour. What can fans expect to see when they come to the show?

Vast Aire: Just live raw Hip-Hop. Honest performances. Everybody that knows us they know that we come hard. We come from the heart, we come from the soul. There is a genuine vibe. I think the live show is what really brings our music across. That’s what makes people fall in love with us, when they see us live. The tour has been a blast so far. We’ve been working real hard and just knockin’ ‘em out. It’s beautiful to see the kids come out, the new fans, and the old fans. It’s just dope.

TRHH: Who is Blade of the Ronin for?

Vast Aire: The Blade of the Ronin album is for the real Hip-Hop head. It’s for the real head that basically grew up listening to the realest stuff from the KRS-One’s to the Wu-Tang’s to the Nas’, to the Jay-Z’s, to the Brand Nubian’s – all of that. That’s who Blade of the Ronin is for. It’s for the real Hip-Hop head. That’s all I can really say. There is no beating around the bush, this is a real head-nod record. It’s very introspective but it sounds like an animal. You can just zone out to the beats and then end up paying attention to what we’re saying and be like, “Yo, what is goin’ on?” It’s an experience. It’s a ride. It’s for the car. If you love the car this album is crazy in the car. You get to zone out and really enjoy the mix. We busted our ass with the mixing and mastering. It’s just layered for the headphones and the car systems. It’s powerful.

Purchase: Cannibal Ox – Blade of the Ronin

See Cannibal Ox live on the Blade of the Ronin tour:

Sep 28 – Cervantes’ Other Side | Denver, CO

Sep 29 – The Urban Lounge | Salt Lake City, UT

Oct 1 – Dante’s | Portland, OR

Oct 2 – Fortune | Vancouver, BC

Oct 3 – Barboza | Seattle, WA

Oct 5 – The New Parish | Oakland, CA

Oct 6 – The Catalyst Atrium | Santa Cruz, CA

Oct 8 – Los Globos | Los Angeles, CA

Oct 9 – Soda Bar | San Diego, CA

Oct 10 – The Rebel Lounge | Phoenix, AZ

Oct 12 – Sidewinder | Austin, TX

Oct 13 – Club Dada | Dallas, TX

Oct 15 – Gasa Gasa | New Orleans, LA

Oct 16 – The Masquerade – Hell | Atlanta, GA

Oct 17 – Local 662 | St. Petersburg, FL

Oct 18 – The Backbooth | Orlando, FL

Oct 19 – Snug Harbor | Charlotte, NC

Oct 20 – Cats Cradle Back Room | Carrboro, NC

Oct 21 – Metro Gallery | Baltimore, MD

Oct 22 – The Studio @ Webster Hall | New York, NY

Oct 23 – Johnny Brenda’s | Philadelphia, PA

Posted in interview | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment