The Ol’ Days: Crepes & Mild Sauce

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Photo courtesy of Mo Parker

Ki’ of NC and Rookie Chi are The Ol’ Days. Both men wear different hats for the group, Ki’ is a producer and Rookie is a videographer, but both play the role of emcee. Their music is lighthearted and fun –reminiscent of the “old days” of Hip-Hop. The group dropped their debut album, 1979 in 2014 and has returned with their sophomore album, Crepes & Mild Sauce.

Crepes & Mild Sauce features appearances by Boog Brown, Kwote, D2G, and Noble MC. The album is produced by Ki’ of NC, Kayo, Slone, NATEOGDETROIT, Laquan Backstreet Beatz, DJ Proof, The Daydream Sound, RST, Kenny Keys and Point 5 aka Navigate.

The Real Hip-Hop chatted with The Ol’ Days about the humor in their music, the harsh Chicago music scene, and their new album, Crepes & Mild Sauce.

TRHH: Why’d you title the new album Crepes & Mild Sauce?

Rookie Chi: [Laughs] So here’s the thing, man we were trying to bring out the sophomore album which was going to be Silver Alert but we kind of came up short on the crowd funding. We were looking for something else to do. We looked in our inbox and we had this influx of emails from producers from France that were hitting us up with beats. The beats were heat, too. The two guys that were on there most prominently were Kayo, and Slone, shout out to them. They sent us a nice amount of beats and we put them together and it was about an EP’s worth back then. We were thinking about doing an EP but we couldn’t think of no way that we could fuse the two cultures together. We chose food. We said let’s get a crepe and let’s put a condiment on the crepe. Nobody puts condiments on desserts so that would imply that we’re trying to be funny at the same time. It’s kind of the fuse of the food and us trying to be comical at the same time. Mild sauce is from Chicago and the crepe is from oui, oui France. That’s how we came up with it in a nutshell.

TRHH: Wow. That’s funny. It seems like you guys have a humorous tone to most of the stuff that you do. Does that come naturally? Is it how you guys really are or is it premeditated?

Ki’ of NC: I would say it’s natural. This goes back to the roots of how we started. Vibing in the studio and just having fun is how you come up with creative ideas. One of the groups that did this and inspired us was Slum Village. When you listen to some of their early stuff they had some funny skits where they were just wildin’ out in the studio. We believe in keeping that fun alive. We’ll be in the studio trying to come up with a concept, we’ll listen to a beat and start singing some random words and say, “Let’s make a whole song about this since you’re BS’ing.” The first album we did a whole song about ugly women. You see ‘em and think they fine then they turn around and you say, ‘UUUGGHHH.’ It literally happens like that. We sing whatever we feel to that beat and we go with it. We don’t fight it. It’s organic. We just have fun like that. Every session might not be fun. You come in here and you may going through it with your girl and you might make a song about the ladies. One week it might be about money. We go off of feel.

TRHH: How is this album different from 1979?

Rookie Chi: 1979 was weird because it wasn’t supposed to be our first album. Our first album was called “God Bless America” back when we had three members. Our third member quit when the album was at 90% so we pretty much had to scrap that damn album and start anew. I always bring up to Ki’ that this was a very scary time for me personally because I had no idea whether we were going to be able to find a sound or an identity or not musically. We started from a comical place. Hell I didn’t even know we were going to have a third member. Ki’ brought the third member on as a surprise to me. This dude pretty much taught us how to be technically better rappers and then he left before we dropped the album. It was like, “What do we do?! He just told us how to rock the fuckin mic!” After that we didn’t know if we had the confidence to keep it going. Thank God we did. I always give Ki’ a lot of the credit with that. Ki’s was searching for sounds.

A couple of those songs from God Bless America made it on 1979 and we didn’t even have a sound yet. We didn’t know how we wanted that album to sound, technically. I think we kind of got to the point where we were somewhere in between Pete Rock & CL Smooth Main Ingredient and Slum V Volume 2. Shout out to the dude that mixed our album, Leland Philpot. He had a lot to do with that sound, just as much as Ki’ almost. Those guys were going back and forth when we were making songs. We would make like two songs per sessions, sometimes three, and these guys would put it together in a way where it was sonically coming together and consistent. That’s the difference between Crepes & Mild Sauce. With Crepes & Mild Sauce we weren’t really searching for a sound. We were borrowing somebody’s beats and trying to sculpt stories around the sound that they had already made for us.

Ki’ of NC: The difference with the second album to the first is we dug more to try to be artists. I only did one beat for Crepes & Mild Sauce versus producing half of 1979. I’m not no egotistical producer. I don’t have to have every track on the album, I don’t think like that. I wanted to fall back more as an artist and get more into my writing and really dig into the words that I was saying. I’ve heard a few people say that they can tell we grew lyrically. We showed some growth on Crepes & Mild Sauce. We showed some depth and that we’re not a one trick pony. I know some people say we’re comedy rappers but we’ve rapped about every subject on the planet. I hope we’ve proved that.

Rookie Chi: We got lyrical, too. Give yourself credit. I snapped on a couple of tracks. I’m a writer.

Ki’ of NC: I can write but I wanted to get more into it. I know you did, too. After 1979 dropped I saw Rookie grow as an artist. I knew Crepes & Mild Sauce was going to be dope lyrically because we were taking the pen to new places.

TRHH: Why did Facey McFacerton leave the group?

Ki’ of NC: Facey at the time said he was going to med school or something like that.

Rookie Chi: We don’t really know totally but he was definitely making a transition.

Ki’ of NC: I think he was moving to the west coast and going to med school.

Rookie Chi: It was a lot of different reasons but the main thing was it was a life transition that he was making. It was bad timing.

Ki’ of NC: I don’t want to say bad timing because stuff happens to people at different times. You can’t stop nobody from what they got to do. It was rough because The Ol’ Days was a group that almost didn’t exist after that. Rookie was devastated. We talked a long time and I told him we could do this. I said, “Let’s strap up our boots, get back in the booth, and keep going,” and we did.

Rookie Chi: Hip-Hop is all about the damn DJ and the producer. They like 80% of Hip-Hop. If he said we can still do it then I could have the confidence. ‘Cause I wasn’t doing jack but writing. I do the music videos but I was just writing in the rap group. Ki’ said that and I rolled with Ki’ and that was all good for me, man.

TRHH: What inspired the song Passport?

Rookie Chi: [Laughs] That’s Ki’s inspiration there.

Ki’ of NC: Out of the two of us the only person in this group that has a passport is Rookie. Here is the thing I believe, I believe you can manifest your thoughts. You put it out there in the world and it’s going to happen. Our dream is to go overseas and perform the songs that we do. That’s creative writing – manifesting what you want to happen. I’m a firm believer in that. I got a lot of stuff happening in my life now that I had to manifest. Rookie believes in it, too — wanting to go and do it and putting it out there in the world so it will happen. I can imagine what it’s going to be like on a flight, missing my family, having to Skype my wife because I can’t talk to her all the time, that’s what we want to happen. We put it on a song so we can make that materialize in 2017.

Rookie Chi: The other thing is I came up with the hook but Ki’ put this unique spin on the hook. If you listen to it again you can hear the Captain Kirk in us.

Ki’ of NC: We couldn’t get the hook right. I don’t know if people will hear it but we were struggling saying the hook. I said, “I do not like the way we’re saying the hook.” I started joking like William Shatner. He. Does. Those. Commercials. And. He. Talks. Like. This. I said, “What if we do it like that?”

Rookie Chi: I was dying laughing. You’d be surprised how many damn joints we just try something and it sticks.

Ki’ of NC: That’s having fun in the studio.

TRHH: How did you guys originally come together to form The Ol’ Days?

Rookie Chi: The first time I met Ki’ was at a beat battle. We was at beat battles throughout Chicago. Before I met Ki’ I was in this particular beat battle, shout out to Custom, if it wasn’t for you we would have never met each other. We were doing so many beat battles around Chicago that were really picking up steam. It was getting all types of young producers that were very talented together. Little did I know Ki’ was a North Carolina implant. He had just came from North Carolina maybe a year before. He was still learning Chicago people. I was there as a job and I didn’t think I was worthy of judging a rap beat contest because I had never done a rap beat. I didn’t do but a couple of songs and I was just spittin’ on them. My claim to fame was I was broadcasting a TV show that was Hip-Hop and I was doing music videos. I didn’t think I could judge rap battles. Custom said, “Go do it, you’re good enough, we need you.” The battle happened, Ki’ was in the running for several rounds. He was really strong. His beats were strong even back then. The dudes’ drums are stupid sick. He only did one track on the album but it’s the last one on the album! He wanted to put his stamp on it. I know you’re humble but you wanted to put your stamp on that shit!

Anyway, I met him at this joint and ironically I voted for him for like two rounds and in the third round I voted for the other cat. He lost in that round. We got back up at a different place called Café Lure, rest in peace to that place, it’s one of the places in Chicago that gentrification took away from us as a venue. I was just small talking to him like, “Yeah man, I just put out this joint called The Wackest Mixtape EVER with my comedy troupe. It’s funny. Kind of like the skits you be doing.” I’d heard a couple of skits he did and I thought he was funny as hell. I said, “Yo, man we should do a collabo,” and he was like, “Cool.” I meet him with Ki’ and he upgraded the callbo to “Let’s start a group.” He had another dude there that I knew named Facey. He said Facey should be in the group and I said, “Wow.”

Ki’ of NC: I did meet him at the beat battle. I met a lot of dope cats. A lot of the prominent Hip-Hop producers in Chicago were at that beat battle. I didn’t win but I got to meet Rookie. He had me highlighted in two of the videos. That was love because I’m not from here. Moving on to the second time that I met him, I was on a beat showcase at Café Lure and that’s when Rookie approached me. I had gotten approached earlier by Facey. It was kind of like a double booking. Everybody wanted to get up with me so I said, “Hey, you meet me on this day and you meet me on this day.” I gave them the same date and that’s when they came through and met me at my crib. We was vibing. All of us had the same taste in Hip-Hop. We all loved Gang Starr, Slum Village, Tribe Called Quest, and Pete Rock & CL Smooth. We laid a track that day.

Rookie Chi: I just put out a podcast where I played a whole bunch of unreleased stuff.

Ki’ of NC: We recorded our first joint and that was the spark for The Ol’ Days. After that every session we was recording at least one or two songs. That is the humble start of The Ol’ Days.

Rookie Chi: We were freaking people out because we would tell them how many songs we’d do a session and they’d be like, “Damn, y’all do that many a session?” Cats don’t be doing that many songs per session.

Ki’ of NC: It was the grind years. When groups come together and its fresh and new and we’re getting better at the craft. I’m making the beats, you’re making the rhymes. It was a factory at the time. We got songs for days from that time. In that year we recorded like 40-to-50 songs.

TRHH: What’s your opinion on the current Chicago Hip-Hop music scene? Your music is different from what’s promoted and pushed to the forefront right now.

Ki’ of NC: Rookie has very strong opinions on this because of recent happenings so I’ll let Rookie handle this.

Rookie Chi: It’s funny, I would have probably still been broadcasting the TV show and doing all of the fan stuff in Hip-Hop if it wouldn’t have been for the way the Hip-Hop scene shifted here. I was looking at who was blowing up back in the day. It was 2006 or so when I started rapping and cats like Soulja Boy and all these “Young’s” and “Lil’s” was doing hella good. I was like, “Oh my God, the sound is changing.” I got scared and then I got cocky. I was like, “I can do better than them,” so then I started rapping. It’s funny because in the Chicago scene there are so many artists. When you have shows you have all of these artists there and instead of fans they’re there being critics pretty much. We had a few shows we did where we were rapping our hearts out and we were looking at a crowd that was looking at us like they were the judge and the jury on the Supreme Court. This is a Hip-Hop show and they were like, “Grrrrr!!”

It’s a lot of damn artists in Chicago. I don’t see enough fans. Fans usually come out when cats come from out of town. When Little Brother used to come they would blow it up. When Brand Nubian would come they would blow it up. Me and Ki’ saw our biggest numbers when we opened for cats like Slum Village and Talib Kweli. Cats come into town and the Chicago scene comes alive, but when you do your shows and they’re local if you get 30 you did terribly good. That’s how I feel about it. It’s hella fickle, but it’s tons more artists than it is fans here.

Ki’ of NC: When I moved here I was feeling the scene out and I didn’t know what to really expect. In North Carolina I felt like the scene was non-existent. Chicago is a bigger city and a bigger stage so I felt like I had more events to try to go to here. I was kind of blind to the city. I found out it was fickle. When we became a group and had a little bit of success Rookie said we were actually doing pretty damn good because he didn’t see groups doing the things that we were doing in their first two years. I had to rely on Rookie to be a gauge for the city.

Rookie Chi: I’m like, “Dude, do you know that don’t happen here?” and he was like, “Okay, let’s keep moving!”

Ki’ of NC: All I know is to keep grinding. I’m in a big city and I see these events and I’m going to do them. Rookie held it down with that. We did the Slum V show. We rehearsed it and got ready and pulled it off. Rookie’s eyes were big as hell and he said, “Ki’ do you know what we just did here in Chicago? This is unheard of!”

Rookie Chi: We finished the Slum V show and they were about to hit the stage right after us and they were still tripping. They were still in the crowd like, “Where the album at?” and “What’s up with that one song?” and I’m like, “Do you know Slum V is on the stage right now?”

Ki’ of NC: I’m happy being in a city with a grand stage but it’s still weird here. All I can say is Chance the Rapper. Look at Chance the Rapper, they’re hating on that guy. Why hate on this dude? He just made history. As a city I love it and hate it, I don’t wanna diss it though.

Rookie Chi: You know they love to hate here. Y’all just do! I’m from here!

TRHH: Is there something I don’t know about? Who is hating on Chance?

Rookie Chi: Nobody knows that. The Chicago timelines were going crazy when Chance won, man. People were like, “I can’t believe people actually believe he’s an independent artist,” and “Chance is this and that but he ain’t all that if you think about his music.” What the fuck? It ain’t coming from nowhere logically. Just last week y’all was tripping on mumble rap controlling everything. So we get this dude that represents everybody in Hip-Hop, and he’s from Chicago, and he’s not like a mumble rapper, what the fuck? Did we just not win that? We won! You sound like Donald Trump. You win the Presidency and you’re still a little sore. If you read my and Ki’’s timeline you might actually see a little bit of hate ‘cause it was all around us.

TRHH: I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by that because this is Chicago. I’m a little bit older than you guys so I remember when Common moved to New York and people were pissed off. He became public enemy number one. Same with Kanye.

Rookie Chi: With the Native Tongues! Dude, he was setting history in a different direction and all we can say is “Fuck Common, he shouldn’t have done that. He needs to come back.” What the fuck should he come back and do? I mean, now I think he should come back because he’s a lot more established and he could do a ton. Remember when Kanye came out? He did that one show at the Tweeter Center and he announced that he was with Roc-A-Fella and put the chain on – that was huge! And all I heard when I was doing interviews was about how Kanye wasn’t this or that and he stole beats. I couldn’t hear a positive interview ever and that’s when I was just doing interviews and TV. I don’t know, man, this Chi-Town hate thing really needs to change for the better ‘cause it’s crazy.

TRHH: What’s the ultimate goal for The Ol’ Days?

Ki’ of NC: We wanna put out quality music and keep the tradition going from our heroes. We spoke earlier about A Tribe Called Quest, De La, Slum, Gang Starr, Pete Rock & CL Smooth, all those Hip-Hop people we love who dedicated those years and that time to perfecting the craft – the beats, the rhymes, the promo, the videos – doing all that great stuff to make great music and leave a legacy. We wanna do the same. I feel like we wanna keep that flame or that torch going. A person once told me that if the world is lacking something maybe it’s meant for you to fill that gap. Not that there is a shortage of Hip-Hop, but there is something that we would want to hear if we put that out in the world. We try to rep Hip-Hop to the fullest and keep that going. That’s always been our core thing and that’s why every album you hear is crafted. It’s not like we threw it together. People complain that it takes us a long time, but it’s because we don’t believe in putting out shit. We’ll record until it’s right, the beats gotta be mixed right, and the album has to be perfect. Some people don’t care about that but we do. I’m not going to worry about what other people our doing. This is our brand and our contribution to Hip-Hop.

When everybody is listening to that classic Tribe Called Quest sound they’re not thinking about all those things, but we get it. We understand from the lyrics to the beats. Rest in peace J Dilla, the thing he did with beats I respect that the way Big L or Biggie took the time to write dope verses. Why try to rep all of that, man. We understand what true real Hip-Hop is, whether we’re being funny or sending a message. We’re just trying to keep that going along with the greats. Every now and then we’ll get a nod from our heroes and that’s cool along the way but we’re gonna keep doing it. We might be in our graves when people really appreciate our music. They’ll get it and see that we’re really about this. We weren’t playing around. That’s just a legacy thing. If you want to put a stamp on this thing we want to make a legacy for ourselves and show that we represent the greats and maybe possibly we can be a great too one day if we work hard and eat our spinach [laughs].

Rookie Chi: My bandmate is the wholesome guy. I’m gonna say I would like for one of our albums to get paid for. Paid for by what we do. People say they want an album and we put that album out and it pays for itself, that’s my goal personally. If we’re able to do that time after time again that’s how I’ll know we made it. Obviously there is a margin as far as success goes but that’s the main thing that I want for us. I want our art to pay for itself. I want for us to be in the black for once. Seriously we put everything on the line for this. We got families, we got jobs. We spend the first 15-to-30 minutes of our meeting every week talking about our jobs and families. Sometimes our meeting gets cut short because of family stuff. It’s real with us, dawg. It’s real.

Ki’ of NC: It’s not like we in our twenties, we’re The Ol’ Days [laughs].

Purchase: The Ol’ Days – Crepes & Mild Sauce

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O.C.: Same Moon Same Sun

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Photo courtesy of D.I.T.C Ent.

In 1994 O.C. came onto the scene with the hit single “Time’s Up.” The song was filled with so many quotable lyrics that have been repeated and sampled to this day. O’s debut album Word…Life followed and solidified him as one of the best lyricists in the game. Twenty-three years later, with numerous solo and group efforts under his belt, O.C. has returned to unleash a new chapter in the O.C. story, Same Moon Same Sun.

Same Moon Same Sun: 1st Phase is the first part of a three-part series available for free download on DITCEnt.com. The album is produced by Motif Alumni, Duck Dodger, Gwop Sullivan, Supa Ugly, DJ Manipulator, Soultronik, and Showbiz. Same Moon Same Sun features appearances by AG, David Bars, and Majestic Gage.

The Real Hip-Hop spoke to O.C. about working with his Diggin’ in the Crates crew, the importance of knowing your worth in the music industry, and his new album, Same Moon Same Sun.

TRHH: Why’d you title the new album Same Moon Same Sun?

O.C.: It’s self-explanatory basically. We all live under the same moon, the same sun. Everything that goes on under the moon and the sun happens with everybody. I just left it open for people to interpret it the way they want to interpret their life.

TRHH: Why did you release this project for free?

O.C.: Me and Showbiz felt it was necessary. We’re into this thing of re-branding D.I.T.C. It’s been quite a long time between albums. The Worldwide album was in 2000 as opposed to the D.I.T.C LP that came out last year. I’m just letting people know that we not playing. We really never left, we just wasn’t putting out an abundance of music. We just wanted to get people back in the mix and let ‘em know we appreciate them, so why not give it to them for free?

TRHH: What inspired the song “Good Man”?

O.C.: Just life in general. We aspire to be good people. It wasn’t just pertaining to men as a whole, it meant just men and women in general just trying to be good human beings, do what they have to do, do what they have to do for their families and for themselves.

TRHH: I saw you speak recently and you talked about how cats from your era take less than what they deserve as far as shows and stuff like that. Why do you think that is and how do you think cats can change that and get more of their worth?

O.C.: It’s a thing about your self-worth. People don’t realize, and I’m talking about myself, including D.I.T.C music I put out 17 albums. If you google my discography and really do your research my stock is what my worth is. I just feel like a lot of people shouldn’t let other people determine what their worth is. An example is promoters will get at me and throw names at me and I’ll just tell them, “Call ‘em back because I’m not doing this for that.” My worth is everything to me.

TRHH: I saw you perform in 97’ right after Jewelz came out at a little bar on the north side of Chicago and you were incredible. How much pressure was on you to deliver after Word…Life and do you feel like you came through with Jewelz?

O.C.: Thank you, brother. It wasn’t more or less pressure in a sense that I knew I couldn’t do it again, it was just the excitement type of pressure trying not to repeat what I did prior to that, meaning Word…Life. Trying to give people growth, this is what being an artist is about, growing. I get quite a few people saying they want Word…Life again but I can’t give ‘em that. That was a moment in time that just can’t be captured again. I was just looking forward to the excitement of people seeing what I was coming with for the next project, and excited for myself as well.

TRHH: Last year D.I.T.C. released the Sessions album and you did a lot of heavy lifting on that joint. What was it like recording that album?

O.C.: It was dope, man. For a long time as a collective we were all in one room. This includes Fat Joe with his busy schedule. Just being in the room together brought back nostalgia. It just felt good. For the most part we did most of the album in the studio. You have a few members that live out of town or out of the country. We tried to do as much as we can together as possible as opposed to e-mailing something to somebody from the beginning. We did the bulk of the work in the studio. Whatever we couldn’t finish or needed to be finished if somebody wasn’t there physically it left us no choice but to send it to ‘em. So if we had to send something to Joe, Diamond or AG that’s how it had to be done. For the most part it was dope, man.

TRHH: On the new album you have a song called “Real Life” that speaks on Big L’s passing. Was it difficult for you to write such a personal song?

O.C.: It was difficult to put it down and give it away so to speak. It’s something I’ve been holding on to for over 15 years. It wasn’t as difficult to pen it, but it was difficult to share it with people. It was just time, man. He’s gone physically. He’s not gone in spirit. People know who Big L is but I felt like for me it was time to let go and share it with the people. Share the experience of what actually happened that night. Everything I wrote about has always been in my head. It more or less took Showbiz by surprise because he was the one that gave the call to everyone on the actual night that he got killed.

He was on his way somewhere, made a U-turn on the George Washington Bridge, called up Joe and him and Joe went down to Harlem and physically seen him under the sheet. He confirmed it and locked it away. When I brought it back up it was like, “Wow, that’s what happened?” and I was like, “Yeah, you’re the one that put the call in.” He tucked it away but I didn’t. I tucked it away but it was like yesterday for me so it’s always been there I just had to put it in word form.

TRHH: I loved the Trophies album you did with Apollo Brown. Will we ever hear a follow-up to Trophies?

O.C.: You’ll have to ask Apollo about that one.

TRHH: Really?

O.C.: Yeah, it’s not even up to me. It’s up to him. If it happens, it does. If it don’t, we got one in the tank and it’s in the history books and I’m good with that. If we could work something out it would be dope, I’m sure.

TRHH: I know Same Moon Same Sun is just the first chapter, what can we expect to hear on the next installments?

O.C.: It’s actually two more installments that are coming through. Part 2 is called Same Moon Same Sun: Road to Peridition. It’s a journey. You’ll have to really hear what I’m doing to get a grasp of it and probably refer back to the first album. It’s like a big puzzle. A big story of a life journey. Part 2 will probably be in the end of May/early June. The third part, which will be the final installment will probably be before 2018 comes in. All those albums we’re gonna do the same format because we really believe that without the support we couldn’t do it. I don’t like calling people fans, I think fans will turn their back on you but with a support system if they don’t like something they’ll still hold up and give you that benefit of the doubt.

We feel like the support system deserves consistent music from us and whatever way we have to give it we’ll give it to ‘em. At the end of the day we’re giving out the projects on the D.I.T.C website, but it’ll probably be less short lived as far as being free on the second and third one. We’ll probably take it down after a short while and put it up. A lot of people were asking to buy it on iTunes, Spotify, and Amazon. I understand that in these days and times people wanna put it on their phone or their computer and not actually want the CD. We actually have CD’s and vinyl, too, for the purists. We’re just trying to accommodate everybody, man, and just give back at the same time, too.

Download: O.C. – Same Moon Same Sun: 1st Phase

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IMAKEMADBEATS: Better Left Unsaid

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Photo courtesy of Score Press

IMAKEMADBEATS is a mysterious character. He chooses to play the background personally but his music is far from reserved. His music is eclectic and sonically engaging. IMAKEMADBEATS has crafted beats for the likes of Planet Asia, Kinetic 9, Midaz the Beast, and Blueprint among others.

His music has also been noticed by important people in his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee. IMAKEMADBEATS’ music has been on display at the Hattiloo Theater, the Brooks Museum, and even Memphis Grizzlies basketball games. Continuing to entrench himself in the community IMAKEMADBEATS has partnered with the Memphis Music Initiative for a program called “Youth” that is geared toward aspiring teenage musicians.

IMAKEMADBEATS also recently released an 8-track EP titled Better Left Unsaid. The title pays homage to the EP’s content. Better Left Unsaid is an instrumental project that shows off BEATS’ abilities behind the boards.

The Real Hip-Hop spoke to IMAKEMADBEATS about his musical influences, working with the Memphis Music Initiative, his new Unapologetic World app, and the Better Left Unsaid EP.

TRHH: Why’d you decide to do an instrumental project instead of having people rhyme over those beats?

IMAKEMADBEATS: That’s a very good question. I wanted to do an instrumental joint because I’ve done projects producing other artists. In 2009 we dropped The Transcontinental, myself and the rapper Roc C from Oxnard – he’s down with Stones Throw. A lot of the reviews came back and a lot of people were telling me I should just drop an instrumental joint. Then I did IMAKEMADBEATS which was a producer compilation album that featured a whole bunch of amazing artists and I still got a lot of, “Man, you should drop an instrumental project,” [laughs]. To be honest that’s kind of where it all started in the beginning. When I was first making beats other producers would tell me that I didn’t leave room for a rapper. They told me I was making music, not necessarily beats. I learned how to scale back and leave room for an artist, and that was cool.

At the same time every time you produce a record for another artist a part of you compromises because you want to produce the artist. I remember going through all of that and feeling good that I learned to do that. That led to me making music for TV, movies, and other stuff. That was great but at the same that was also the rise of the beat scene. I started seeing producers like Flying Lotus and a lot of the other deep scene producers. Producers were coming out internationally who didn’t need artists. They were just putting out music. I just started wondering should I have compromised and dumbed down my stuff or should I have just kept going? I don’t regret anything, but when I had the chance to finally make something that truly represented my mind I took it, and that’s what Better Left Unsaid is.

TRHH: You’re from the south but your sound isn’t traditionally southern. How did you develop your sound?

IMAKEMADBEATS: I’m from Memphis but on my mom’s side I’m a first generation American. She’s actually Guyanese, which is a small country just north of Brazil. She migrated from Guyana to England, then from England to Canada, and Canada to the States where I was born. There’s a lot of broadened horizons at an early age on my part thanks to my mom and that family. It’s a lot that revolves around the idea of how I approach my music in a sense, like when you turn 18, turn 25, turn 30, all of us have gotten to these points in our lives and there are these requirements to be that age. So if you’re this age then you gotta be doing that or this, and if you’re not you don’t look like you’re successful. If you’re 25 you should be this or that. If you’re 30 it’s time to put away some of these things, because that’s what you’re supposed to be doing. I just decided early on in life that I don’t subscribe to any of those ideals. I don’t need a wife and kid because I’m a certain age. I don’t need to be like this because I’m black. I don’t need to sound like this simply because I’m here. I can define who and what I am and what I create. That’s pretty much where I get my sound from.

TRHH: Who are some of your musical influences?

IMAKEMADBEATS: Jay Dee, J Dilla, Pay Jay, James Yancey, some of those guys. Either one of those guys, they’re all cool guys [laughs].

TRHH: Dilla Dawg!

IMAKEMADBEATS: All day! Dilla Dawg, we can keep going [laughs]. He’s my biggest influence. I feel like a lot of people are influenced by Dilla and to them that means “sound like Dilla.” For me being influenced by Dilla means sounding like me. Dilla was taking those kinds of risks early on. Dilla was not quantizing drums, messing with crazy dissonant chords, just doing odd stuff. It’s funny, you go back and listen to The Coming and listen to the Dilla joint on there and the beat never loops — the whole track! We look back and say that’s genius, but at the time that’s a scary thing, that’s a vulnerable thing. That’s not what Premier was doing, that’s not what Pete was doing, that’s not what Marley Marl was doing, and that’s not what RZA was doing. It was a loop functional thing. That beat didn’t loop the whole beat. He’s got drums that are slightly off, crazy bass lines, he took a risk. It takes a lot of strength and confidence in yourself and who you are to do that. When I say J Dilla I’m not just talking about, “I’d like to make my drums just like his,” Nah, I mean the person. The things that I picked up from him as an artist.

TRHH: I want you to speak on that a little bit because I think that gets lost on the average Hip-Hop fan. I remember ?uestlove was on a show with Chris Rock and ?uest was saying Dilla’s the greatest. Chris Rock was like, “The Light was just a small hit. Dilla didn’t really have hits.” Some of my boys kind of feel that way, too. From your respective can you explain to those people what makes Dilla one of the greatest?

IMAKEMADBEATS: Let me just clarify, if we’re talking about my perspective Dilla is the greatest. I just want to go on record that that is humbly my perspective. If I were to go into detail, specifically discussing in the realm of hits, we live in this culture and Hip-Hop is super thick in these things that define us and give us value. These terms and conditions we use to determine who is good, who is bad, who won in a battle, and all of that crap, I think we’re belittling ourselves by using some of these things as measurements. Who won in the battle? “Well homie sold more albums.” Does that mean he won in the battle? Really? Is that really what we’re going to use to quantify? Our culture of Hip-Hop is based on units sold? We’re not going to base it on any sort of curriculum as far as technical ability, skill, and versatility? All of the things that if albums weren’t sold this would be the criteria. It’s just a matter of who’s bank account is bigger? I think we do ourselves an injustice and we devalue the craft and the art of what is easily the most powerful thing created in the last thirty years, Hip-Hop.

TRHH: What does your production set-up consist of right now?

IMAKEMADBEATS: Right now the center of it is my MPC Renaissance. Everything else is Pro Tools, KORG SV1 keyboard – that’s where I get all of my pianos and Rhodes and organ. Then I have a Moog Little Phatty. Turn table, a whole bunch of records, and a whole bunch of mixing and mastering stuff — Manley EQ, Prism Titan interface, recording through a U87 through a LA-610 preamp. I have a cart of a whole bunch of percussive instruments that I use all the time.

TRHH: Tell me about the Youth program and how you got involved with the Memphis Music Initiative.

IMAKEMADBEATS: We’re developing it now. Initially when I first moved back to Memphis I just stayed in my cave. I eventually started going out to shows and meeting people and realized that this place was amazing and I didn’t understand it the way I thought I did. I could understand it better. I started working with a lot of young guys coming up. Years later I was part of the planning for Memphis Music Initiative. I don’t even know what happened, I just continued to do what I was doing and built a company called Unapologetic. This is a real dumbed down explanation, but we specialize in helping creatives and people in general be themselves. We’ve done comic conventions, performed for the Grammy Pro Recording Academy, we’ve done a whole bunch of stuff. Last summer someone from the Memphis Music Initiative reached out to me to create a program that would help out the youth in the city. When I got the opportunity to even consider doing that the first thing I thought about was who would I want to help? How would my program help? The first thing I thought was I would be helping me at 16-17 years old. Me at 16-17 years old didn’t think that Memphis had anything for me.

You said it earlier in the conversation when we were talking about the traditional southern sound, growing up here when you’re listening to Prodigy “Fat of the Land,” various Wu-Tang artists, and various random underground stuff, but also Three 6 Mafia and “hard to define which genre of music it was” artists, you get picked on. Also when you sound like me, think like me, and want to try some of the things I want to try you get picked on. Especially if you’re living in parts of town I was living in. There was very little acceptance of much outside of what you were stereotypically supposed to like. If I had my headphones on I was supposed to be listening to Three 6, UGK, 8-Ball & MJG, all of that. I remember listening to Reflection Eternal and getting picked on about that. I thought about me and the fact that I felt like I had no chance to stay here. I had to leave in order to expand and be around people who had broader mindsets. They liked what they liked but didn’t dislike you just because you didn’t like it. They didn’t alienate you. In my travels as a kid I definitely saw people in places with more open arms accepted differences, in fact it excited them. Here in Memphis in my experience growing up that was not the case.

When I came back I realized what I initially thought of this place growing up wasn’t all the way true. What the problem was, was that there are other people who thought like this and wanted to try new and different things but they were quiet because they were also used to being made fun of. If you like Dragon Ball Z and a whole bunch of nerdy stuff that would have gotten you picked on, on the Orange Mound bus heading through the hood, you stopped talking about it. The next time you came across somebody that liked that same thing y’all didn’t talk about it because nobody mentioned it. So with the Memphis Music Initiative what I’m trying to do is establish this idea in the city that this is a place of progression. Yes, we salute B.B. King, we salute Three 6, we salute Stax Records, we salute all of the amazing history that this place has created from musicians, but we’re here now and there’s more to come in the future. This place is more than Graceland. There are a lot of new and innovative things happening here. I’ve seen this for the past three years a lot, every time I’m around somebody new and young and they have some new ideas and they’re amazing ideas, after about 6-to-9 months they come to me and they feel like they gotta leave. Not because of an opportunity somewhere else, but because of the lack of opportunity here. That’s what we’re doing. We’re trying to create a program where we take in kids and help them learn how to go about being an indie musician, surviving, thriving, and approaching it from a progressive standpoint. Not one built off how to sell records 10 and 20 years ago.

TRHH: Do you have a favorite song on Better Left Unsaid?

IMAKEMADBEATS: Probably the last joint titled Imakemadbeats.

TRHH: Why is that your favorite?

IMAKEMADBEATS: It’s probably my favorite right now. Three months ago it was not my favorite [laughs]. Right now it’s probably my favorite because I grew up a “hide behind the door, hide behind the person in front of me, play the background” kind of guy. This is a song called Imakemadbeats where the music for it is a robot literally saying, “I make mad beats.” It’s kind of like me standing in front of a whole bunch of people facing my vulnerabilities and screaming who and what I am. For a guy who for the majority of his life has not been able to even have this kind of a conversation because he was so shy, it means a lot to me.

TRHH: If you could pick one artist to produce an entire album for right now who would it be?

IMAKEMADBEATS: Man, that’s a real question [laughs]. Man, that’s a real G question! You know who I’d love to do an album with, Elzhi. I would love to do an album with Elzhi [laughs]. That would be a dream. Elzhi, all day.

TRHH: What’s next up for IMAKEMADBEATS?

IMAKEMADBEATS: We just launched the Unapologetic World app for IOS and Android. This app is essentially everything for us at Unapologetic. I developed it myself. What we’re going to be doing because of the mission statement that we have in terms of inclusiveness, in terms of finding those people who have felt like strangers or felt alienated in their own communities, we’re going to be focused on creating this place for people who are like me that they can go to and find other people and find other things to help push that idea and further our vision. That’s all in the app. Right now in terms of me creating music and me being an artist, we’re pushing this project. We got a lot more coming out with this project. I’ve also shot and directed a show called, “What You Doing, Nothing?” that will be part of the app. It’s kind of a talk show, kind of a comedy show. It’s going to feature some of the legends coming out of Memphis or coming through Memphis. I can go ahead and shout out one, Project Pat is on episode one.

This summer we’ll release my first signee, Cameron Bethany’s album. I produced it fully – I can’t wait for that to drop. Later this year we have some more projects coming from Unapologetic. For me it’s all about scoring. It’s all about creating audible emotion. I believe music is just emotion you can hear. We’re just getting started on those things. For us, any time we sit down and think to do something if it comes to us too easy we throw it out and try to do something bigger and greater. We got some pretty cool things lined up for the rest of this year. I’ve already finished the next project, it’s called Crazy Visions. Shout out to Ghost.

Purchase: IMAKEMADBEATS – Better Left Unsaid

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A Conversation with Lord Sear

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Photo courtesy of Jerry Graham Publicity

DJ Lord Sear wears many hats in Hip-Hop. He’s a DJ, producer, and vocalist. He’s worked with some of the most notable names in Hip-Hop like MF Doom, the Beastie Boys, and the late Big Pun. Sear served as a DJ on The Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito Show in the 90s and toured with Hip-Hop icon Eminem in the 2000s.

Lord Sear’s relationship with Eminem eventually led to him having his own show on Sirius/XM’s Shade 45 called “The Lord Sear Special.” The Lord Sear Special features a mix of music, comedy, and celebrity interviews. The show airs Monday through Friday from noon to 4 P.M. Eastern Standard Time.

The Real Hip-Hop spoke to Lord Sear about the evolution of deejaying, his relationship with Shade 45 founder Eminem, and The Lord Sear Special radio show.

TRHH: How much fun is it to do The Lord Sear Special on Shade 45?

Lord Sear: I’m not saying it’s something that I always wanted to do but when I started I was a DJ. I was a DJ for a rapper that was signed to Columbia named Kurious, he’s a good friend of mine. I was a jokester. I guess it grew quickly to being curious in radio through Bobbito. I was on the radio with Stretch and Bob, that’s how my career started. I didn’t know that I was actually going to have my own radio show. I really like doing my show. I have fun doing it because it’s what I wanna do. I play what I wanna play and I talk my shit, give people credit, and still have fun. Not to be dissing crazy people but it’s out of fun, not out of character. I’m not trying to disrespect anyone. I like having fun doing it. It’s good for me, it’s good for my heart, it’s good for my soul. I like doing it.

TRHH: The interview you did with London Keyes was crazy. Do you enjoy speaking to non-Hip-Hop people more than Hip-Hop people on the show?

Lord Sear: A little bit of a mixture. Dealing with a radio show that I had called The All Out Show we dealt with actors, actresses, and weird people. I was cool with that but I’m not trying to be a Howard Stern or a shock jock radio person. I just want to do my thing – have fun and play dope music. I like interviewing the Hip-Hop people sometimes. That’s why it’s called The Lord Sear Special because you get different aspects. I have a video game person that calls up, porn stars of course, maybe somebody weird, a DJ, a producer.

TRHH: Your relationship with Eminem goes back a while. How did you get linked up with Em?

Lord Sear: Through the radio show that I did with Stretch and Bobbito. His manager Paul Rosenberg dropped off music of his demo for me and Bob at Bobbito’s store back in ’97 or ’98. From there I got to get to know him and build a relationship. From there it went on to where I’m at right now. I never knew he was going to be where he’s at. It wasn’t like, “Hey man, I like Em, too.” Em was always a cool person. He’s a down to earth person. A cool cat, he was never fronting.

TRHH: Talk a little about how you hooked up with Ren Thomas and your involvement in his new album, I Been Nice.

Lord Sear: There was a spot called Vida in Jersey and everybody from rappers to DJ’s would come through. I met him out of nowhere. We just started talking. I just got to get to know him and wanted to work with him. I gave him some beats and stuff. That’s how we got cool a couple of years ago.

TRHH: You still deejay at clubs now and you’ve been doing it for a long time. What’s your opinion of Serato and how it’s changed how you can become a DJ?

Lord Sear: I’m not saying names but I knew rappers before that could actually deejay with vinyl – Lord Finesse, Redman, Rakim. I’m not saying Serato is easy but if you go to school for it at the Scratch Academy and you sit there and put the record back, turn it up, make sure the BPM’S work, they match, the sound effects, a lot of it is technology and what’s new. The 8-track could have been around forever, the cassette player could have been around forever, now they’re trying to destroy CD’s. There’s going to be new laptops with no CD player. You’ll just have a laptop with a USB. There are DJ’s that don’t even use Serato, they use USB’s. I think that if you really wanna be serious about becoming a DJ you should learn what was first, using vinyl. Learn it first before you’ll be caught out there and you ain’t got no vinyl and no nothing. It happened to a lot of DJ’s where they didn’t know what laptop to use, how much RAM or memory, and all that weird shit with technology. I think Serato is alright for what it is, to have fun with. I think it’s cool for some producers to do beats on it, too.

TRHH: What’s the hottest record in the clubs now and do you have a sure shot joint that you go to to light up the club every time?

Lord Sear: I can’t really tell you that because I haven’t really been a “club, club” deejaying in a while. If I was to go somewhere the Young M.A OOOUUU, but I’m not sure because I don’t really attend those clubs like that. You hear the same shit all the time. Drake is everywhere.

TRHH: Where are you spinning now and what kind of stuff are you playing?

Lord Sear: Sometimes on Wednesday’s I’ll meet G-Bo the Pro. He was known in the 90s for ill mixes and mixtapes. He’s from Spanish Harlem. He was your Puerto Rican version of Ron G with the ill blends. He has a party he does on Wednesday’s with me, DJ Cano, DJ Bambino, DJ Erika and Just. I’m playing old school Hip-Hop, 80s and 90s Hip-Hop and R&B. Maybe some 80s rock – white shit, breaks, it’s universal. That’s what I play.

TRHH: What’s next up for Lord Sear?

Lord Sear: I wanna do some more voice overs. I definitely wanna get some more gigs going. I wanna make the show more enhanced. I want to get some more guests, some more ideas. Have a little more funniness, some more seriousness, get some more good music, some more good blends. I’m the old so I wanna teach the young. Play some old joints, some seriousness joints and they’ll be like, “Wow, that shit got a dope beat. Maybe I can rhyme to it?”

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From the Vault: Sean Price (Random Axe)

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Photo courtesy of Tom Hawkings

This week we celebrate the birthday of the late Sean Price. Sean was one of my favorite people to interview in Hip-Hop. He hated typical questions and his answers were off the wall and honest. When I booked my first interview with Sean his publicist Matt Conaway told me, “Don’t ask Sean what he thinks the current state of rap is because he’ll say ‘Idaho.’” I knew then that I was going to enjoy talking to Sean P.

In 2011 Sean joined up with Detroit artists Black Milk and Guilty Simpson to form Random Axe. The album of the same name was gritty and raw, but allowed Sean to rhyme over production that he normally didn’t spit on. Black Milk gave us a different dimension of Sean without taking away the grittiness that was Sean Price.

Enjoy my 2011 interview with Sean Price. The interview displayed what kind of man Sean was. He was a man of conviction and extremely humorous. I miss Sean personally and Hip-Hop misses him as a whole.

TRHH: How did the Random Axe project come together?

Sean Price: I was on tour with Special Teamz a few years ago. I got a call asking if I wanted to do a song with Guilty Simpson and I was like, “Yeah.” Then the phone hung up and I was like, “Who the hell is Guilty Simpson?” The guy on the tour bus was like, “Yo, I got a lot of Guilty Simpson music.” So by the time we drove to where we were supposed to do the show I had heard a bunch of Guilty songs. I was highly impressed. I was like fuck doing a song, let’s do a whole project. I did “Run” for his album and Black Milk did the production. I was like, “Yo, this shit is banging, let’s do more.” That’s what happened. It turned into an album and here we are.

TRHH: How was recording with Guilty different from recording with Rock?

Sean Price: It was easier. I say that because we had one producer. I just shut up and took orders this time instead of trying to dictate everything. It was much easier. Black said, “Rhyme to this,” I said, “You sure?” he said, “I hear you on this.” I wrote the rhyme, Guilty wrote his part, and we just knocked it out real quick. Whereas with Heltah Skeltah me and son have a bunch of beats, he has a particular style he likes, I have a particular style I like, and we can take like three sessions just picking out beats alone. That’s the difference.

TRHH: The video for The Hex is dope. Who came up with the concept to have you cooking shit up in the video and what was it like shooting it?

Sean Price: I have no idea. I know I didn’t make it. Neither me, Guilty or Black made it. I think the guy Todd and Dru and them came up with the concept. It looks great but it was hours. It was boring as hell. Twiddling my thumbs, hurry up and wait. The initial guy that drove us up there crashed the van. He has no respect for the passenger side of the ride so he broke the mirror on a Verizon truck and he broke the mirror on somebody else’s car. We had a bad driver. It was a bad experience, man [laughs]. The video came out great though.

TRHH: Was this in New York or Detroit?

Sean Price: We shot the video upstate, a little past White Plains. We found a little hotel and did it there.

TRHH: You’ve toured the country and you’re working with two cats from Detroit, what are the similarities between Brownsville and Detroit?

Sean Price: Ain’t no similarities. Detroit is 100% fuckin’ wilder than Brooklyn, man. Straight up and down. Them motherfuckers ride around with choppers in their backseat. We don’t do that shit. Where you from, homeboy?

TRHH: Chicago.

Sean Price: Alright, well you got projects. You know how the projects are. It might be 18 floors with apartment A-to-H on each floor. They don’t have that shit in Detroit. You can’t really walk around with an AR-15 because it’s so many fuckin’ windows somebody’s going to tell on you. Out there they can do that shit. Them motherfuckers crazier to me.

TRHH: Brownsville is pretty crazy though, right?

Sean Price: I mean Brownsville is berserk too but we might have a .38 Special or a 9mm. The most you might have is a little TEC or MAC or something. Them motherfuckers got Johnny Rambo weapons out there. You can’t get away with that shit in Brownsville because like I said there’s too many windows. Somebody’s gonna tell on you.

TRHH: I interviewed you a couple years ago and I know you don’t like the basic questions so I’m going to go off on a couple odd questions here. Recently on Twitter Rhymefest and Jakk Frost have been vocal about Lil B making an album called “I’m Gay.” I want to know your opinion on the whole Lil B situation.

Sean Price: First of all I’m not homophobic. They can’t shake your hand and give you gay, you feel me? You can’t give me 5 and then I got gay on me [laughs]. I heard he uses the term “gay” as the actual meaning, meaning “happy.” So if he’s happy, he’s happy. Good for him. God bless him. I feel no way. He don’t mean it like he’s gay and sleeps with men, he means it like I’m happy. If that’s what you are, be happy, bro. I’m happy for you [laughs]. What he eat don’t make me shit so, whatever.

TRHH: Also on Twitter I saw you say that you wanted to work with Redman. Have you heard back from Red yet about that?

Sean Price: Hell yeah!

TRHH: What’s the status?

Sean Price: Now we’re waiting for Khrysis. We’re waiting for Khrysis to give us the beat and me and Red gon’ knock some shit out. I was just fucking with Red on Twitter to get a reaction out of him. Even my threats wasn’t no malice intent if you read ‘em. I was just like, “Yo, you better call me or… Im’ma call you again!” That’s my G. Redman is my GOAT, that’s my greatest of all-time.

TRHH: Really?

Sean Price: Yeah. So I definitely want him on a record with me, for sho.

TRHH: What makes Redman the greatest of all-time?

Sean Price: To me? Muddy Waters. That’s the best Hip-Hop album ever. In my world that’s the best Hip-Hop album ever. Nothing is better than that. No Chronic’s, no nothing! That’s my favorite album ever.

TRHH: Really?

Sean Price: Yes. I know every line verbatim on that bitch. I even know the skits on that bitch. That’s my shit right there.

TRHH: That dropped around the same time you dropped your first album, right?

Sean Price: Hell yeah. And he actually sampled Rock on a record too so that make it even more ill.

TRHH: Give me your top 5 emcees of all-time.

Sean Price: Redman, Buckshot, Brother J from X Clan, my man Ike Eyes, you don’t know this nigga. And my partner, Rock. I knew how to rhyme but Rock taught me the fundamentals. I would have pages of rhymes. My first partner, this other dude named Has and Rock showed me the ropes. They said, “Nigga you got four songs right here. That ain’t one rap!”

TRHH: What were you doing when you heard Usama Bin Laden was killed and what are your thoughts on the whole situation?

Sean Price: I had just flew back in from Edmonton, Canada. I landed in Newark airport so I had to drive back to Brooklyn. A car service picked me up to take me back home. We were getting on the Holland Tunnel and one lane was closed because somebody got killed in the Holland Tunnel. When that happened the driver was telling me about that and then he said, “You heard what happened? They got Bin Laden.” I was like, “Word? Wow.” I was buggin’ a lil’ bit. They had the TV in the car and I saw people celebrating. Granted he did what he did, but we looked ugly as Americans celebrating somebody’s death. I know people wanted him dead but it looked ugly. People were popping champagne like it was New Year’s. I didn’t like that. I understand why, but it was ugly.

TRHH: You’re Muslim too, right?

Sean Price: Yes I am.

TRHH: What’s your opinion on the way they buried him? They said it was under Islamic tradition but it really wasn’t. You don’t dump a body in the ocean.

Sean Price: You’re supposed to be buried in the next 24 hours.

TRHH: But not in the water!

Sean Price: But not in the water. I don’t know what they were thinking. You’re dealing with people that don’t respect Muslims…. they don’t respect Bin Laden! So I doubt they would respect his wishes for a proper burial. I don’t think they’re actually Muslim haters but they are Bin Laden haters. To a certain degree I can’t blame them. If I had real bad enemy like that and I got at him, you think I give a fuck about his traditional funeral? Fuck that nigga! I’m throwing him in the garbage. That would be me, personally. If I got beef with you and you believe in some certain shit I don’t give a fuck what you believe in. I’m throwing you in the trash dude, fuck you! I can understand that.

TRHH: I can too. He didn’t give a fuck about the people in the towers and their burial.

Sean Price: Ya’ know? Yeah! So why would they give a fuck about his tradition? Throw that motherfucker in the water. I wouldn’t give a fuck about my enemy either. A proper burial? Get the fuck outta here! Set him on fire. Give him a cigarette and a blindfold and pop this nigga. I don’t agree but I understand. It’s all fair in war.

TRHH: The last time I spoke to you, you said you might quit rapping and work at Costco. Do you still feel the need to get out of the game?

Sean Price: Yeah. Shit I ain’t rich! I’m making good money but I ain’t rich, B. I don’t have enough money to retire. Even if I don’t wanna rap I still gotta work [laughs]. Like I said, pride don’t feed the babies. Fuck that shit. I’m going to do whatever it takes. As long as my fingers and toes move Im’ma get money.

TRHH: Do you ever get tired of being on the road?

Sean Price: I’m tired of that shit right now. I even have religious conflicts with me and the music. My music is haram. Anything taking you away from studying your Qur’an is foul. But Allah knows in my heart that this is how I take care of my family. I have that conflict every day.

TRHH: Are you familiar with Yusef Islam? Cat Stevens?

Sean Price: Yeah.

TRHH: He still does his music but there are no instruments, it’s just drums. Can you see yourself taking that route and making halal music?

Sean Price: No, I can’t. Because I love talking the bullshit I’m talking. Im’ma be honest, I love talking this bullshit. I can’t see myself not rappin’ and not talking the bullshit I’m talking. I love that shit! I can’t lie. Once I stop I’m just going to stop all the way. I’m not going to Cat Stevens myself. Respect due to him, but I’m not going to do that.

TRHH: Random Axe will be performing at Rock the Bells this summer. What do you guys have in-store for the Rock the Bells tour?

Sean Price: I plan on bustin’ everybody ass that’s on the bill!

TRHH: Word!

Sean Price: Word! It’s all fair in war like we just said. Everybody is competition. I’m trying to crack everybody ass on the bill. When the people leave I want them to go, “Sean Price, Guilty, and Black bodied the show!” They’ll tell a friend and they’ll telephone. And when you’re on the telephone you’ll tell another friend and spread the gospel. Let ‘em know we ain’t playin’! Seek and destroy mission, that’s what that is. I’m coming to bust everybody ass on stage and have the best show I can give.

TRHH: Is there anybody on Rock the Bells that you want to see as a fan?

Sean Price: Nah.

TRHH: Nah?

Sean Price: Nah. I’m cool with everybody but I’m friends with no one. I’m cool with everybody but I’m friends with none of them niggas. It’s all competition.

TRHH: Not even Black Moon?

Sean Price: That’s family! Buck gon’ try to bust my ass too on stage. That’s what we do. Him and Steele taught me that. I’m only doing what I was taught.

TRHH: When are we going to hear that Mic Tyson album?

Sean Price: I’m putting the finishing touches on it now. Random Axe is done, we’re gonna do a Boot Camp album, and then I’ll wrap my shit up. Once I wrap my shit up I hand it to Dru and it’s on him when he wanna release it. He’ll release it when the time is right. I trust his judgment, everything has worked so far.

TRHH: Give me some insight into Mic Tyson. Who are some of the producers and guest emcees?

Sean Price: I got Beat Butcher on there. My man V.Don, Alchemist, and Evidence are on there. I’m about to go down south and work with 9th. I can’t do an album without fuckin’ with 9th and Khrysis. By the time I come back from there I’ll wrap up the album. As far as guest stars I don’t consider Boot Camp guests–that’s my family. Outside of Boot Camp I’m trying to get M.O.P. I spoke to M.O.P so y’all finally gonna get that M.O.P/Heltah Skeltah record.

TRHH: Did you come up with them? Y’all from the same area, right?

Sean Price: We from the same hood. We know the same people. We didn’t grow up together, but we’re both from the same hood. Those my niggas, those my niggas. I remember when I was first coming up [Lil’] Fame came to the crib, we smoked out, cracked jokes, and played beats. That’s family, they’re cool. I’m trying to find MF Doom. I want to do a Doom record and probably Bilal. After that I’m done. I don’t want a bunch of guest stars.

TRHH: The last time I talked to you I asked you about Nicki Minaj and you said “Who?” Do you know who she is now and what’s your opinion of Nicki Minaj?

Sean Price: Yes! I have none.

TRHH: Why should fans go out and cop that Random Axe?

Sean Price: Because if you don’t Im’ma get Hex to fuck one of y’all up [laughs]. Im’ma get Hex Murda to beat the shit out somebody.

TRHH: [Laughs] Alright, well talk a little bit about the Random Axe album.

Sean Price: Ah man, the shit is great. We got 15 joints on there. The shit is hard. We got Fat Ray, Fatt Father, it’s a bunch of fat guys on the album [laughs]. We have Danny Brown on there. We got some girl singing but I forgot her name. I just did my part and flew back to New York. Black did the whole album. I don’t even have thank you’s on the album. Black is the only one with thank you’s on there. He just took it and did his own thing. This is Black Milk’s album starring me and Guilty [laughs]. It sounds great though. It has different beats that I wouldn’t normally rhyme to, but they sound good. I just let Black take control. He gave the orders and I just followed them. It came out pretty good.

TRHH: Thanks for the interview.

Sean Price: Thank you too, man. Any time.

Purchase: Random Axe

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M-Dot: Ego and the Enemy

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Photo courtesy of Sybren Vanoverberghe

Massachusetts emcee M-Dot loves the art of rap. His passion for the game is evident in his lyrics and in his visual creations. Over the better part of the last decade the Boston Music Award winning rapper has stayed busy with tons of features and a handful of mixtapes in preparation for his recently released solo project, Ego and the Enemy.

Ego and the Enemy features appearances by Method Man, Dominique Larue, B.A.M., Tribeca, Camp Lo, Jaysaun, and Krumb Snatcha. The album features production by Buckwild, Marco Polo, KAN, Jon Glass, LX Beats, Khrysis, Hi-Tek, Whatson, Es-K, Soulplusmind, LP2, Snowgoons, Large Professor, and Marley Marl.

The Real Hip-Hop spoke to M-Dot about his new album, Ego and the Enemy, what it was like working with classic producers, the long process of creating the album, and part two coming in late 2017.

TRHH: Explain the title of the new album, Ego and the Enemy.

M-Dot: Ego and the Enemy is exactly what it sounds like. Ego is the enemy. Self-pride, over confidence, insecurity, there is no competition, it’s just you versus you. At the end of the day you’re really born alone and die alone in so many ways. The other people that you think are competition, that’s fabricated. I’ve used that my whole life. I’ve created chips on my shoulder. I’m from Boston where we have a lot of really good emcees, a lot of really good producers, and deejays. It’s a crabs in a barrel type environment because we’re not New York. New York is the home of Hip-Hop and we’re like right there – three and a half hours away. It’s dope, we do our thing, but we never really had a humongous industry artist. Edo.G sold a lot of units in the early 90s. Guru of Gang Starr, people thought he was from New York because he moved to Brooklyn. We haven’t had too much mainstream success.

That’s not necessarily my lane, but that’s where a lot of the chip comes from with me always feeling overlooked and left out. I kind of like it because it’s something I fed off of and built off of. I kept it low-key to myself and used it as fuel. I almost encouraged it in some ways – staying cool with everybody but at the same time feeling left out. “Why am I not on that album? Why am I not on that show?” Ego and the Enemy, man. Also, “M.D.O.T” is inside of that title. Each letter once, which is really creepy, too. Ego is part one and Enemy, which is already recorded is part 2. It’s coming out later this year. The first is pretty heavy with the lineup and the second one is just as good. Method Man is on it again, Large Professor is on it again, and Marco Polo is on it again. We want longevity and success. We’re gonna hit ‘em with the left, the right, and the uppercut – stay down [laughs].

TRHH: My favorite song on the album is Dreamscape. What was it like working with Marco Polo for that song?

M-Dot: I love that song. I like his drums in general. It just sounded like an evil song. The album has a lot of evil undertones to it. I just kind of zoned out. I’m sure you caught it but there is 64 bars – 32 bars in each verse. That’s four verses. I couldn’t stop writing. I was like, “Yo, can you set it up to where you set it to 32 bars?” and he was like, “Yeah.” He chopped it up and set up the lay out of the record. I just had these weird dreams and shit. That’s not a joke. I was pissed being left out and was like, “This is what you want? You want me to talk about shooting people? You want me to talk about killing people? Is that going to get you to buy the album?” It took a lot of dark feelings to bring that shit together because I’m not really somebody that talks about that type of stuff. It’s a dream, it’s not me saying I’m going to shoot anybody or kill anybody. I don’t promote that type of stuff – it’s not my M.O. I’m more blue-collar, an everyday regular person. I got three kids. I don’t promote violence. That’s a dream and something I had to get out of me. It felt good getting it off my chest. It’s one of my favorite tracks too, by the way.

TRHH: I remember hearing the song Shine with Meth and Dominique Larue a long time ago. How long did it take you to complete this album?

M-Dot: Man, start to finish? There’s some records on it that are 4-5 years old and there’s some records on it that I did a couple of months ago. The last three months I banged out the Hi-Tek song, the Snowgoons song, and the Marco Polo song. I saved all the big dogs for the end. The Large Professor song was one of the last tracks. He sent me some beats when I was wrapping up the album. 911 was originally going to be an album track with me and Sean Don. We had Es-K who produced it, he’s a dope producer, but that album never came to fruition. We didn’t finish it. Everyone did their parts but life stuff happens. I had another kid, and we didn’t end up finishing it. I love that song so much. I felt like it would be a perfect closer. All of the tracks have an alignment. I was recording that at the same time as Death to Raquel. They have an ebb and flow to it. At first it starts out dreamy and dark, then it gets a little light in the middle, and then it gets back to that dark place at the end like a roller coaster.

Shine took a while to do too, man. My homie DC sent me that. I laced my verse and said, “Yo, can I use that for my album?” We didn’t acquire Method Man on anything monetary, that’s Method Man. We just had to get his permission. He laid a couple verses. It was DC’s song but we got the permission. It took a long time, but we got the OK and let it fly like two years ago as a single. We couldn’t sit on that any longer. A Method Man song? Especially a song I think is dope. It’s not just a feature. It’s a good song. A long time, man, but I’ve been doing other projects. I put out mixtapes, I’ve been doing other music, but I’ve been stashing these records. Mind you, we have that other CD pretty much recorded unless I add other tracks to it. We cut 20 songs from this CD. It was a planned attack – strategic.

TRHH: How was doing this album different from doing Run MPC?

M-Dot: That was a feature-heavy album. I’m not really about features. I want the best producers. I want dudes that have produced on Biggie, Nas, and Jay-Z albums and that’s what this album is. Buckwild produced on Volume 1, Big L, D.I.T.C. Hi-Tek produced several records on the G-Unit album and Anderson.Paak. Large Professor did three beats on Illmatic. I wanted classic producers. Marley Marl, dog? That’s like the inventor of Hip-Hop. Run MPC was different. It was a lot of sending stuff because my man lived in France. That’s the biggest difference I can say. This was more like in the studio. There were so many verses on that album, but this is mostly just me. Verse, chorus, verse, chorus. There’s like four songs with features out of 17 at the most.

TRHH: The video for Give it to Me was dope. What was it like filming that?

M-Dot: Man that was so much fun. It was crazy weird too because I had a camera strapped to me. It looked like a pelvis camera. It was coming out of my crotch and like six feet in front of me. There were seven GoPro cameras wrapped around it and I’m walking through Oakland and San Francisco. It was dope. Shout out to my man Vic Keys. We planned that video for a long time. We went out to Cali for some shows and a radio interview in San Jose and we just kept on shooting. We dedicated a whole day to shooting and the other days we just shot some shots. We shot whatever I was doing. As they say out there it was “hella” fun to shoot. We were just having a blast. We got to go to G Coop’s studio. That’s my homie. He produced I Got the Keys for Jay-Z. That’s my man now. I met him through Victor Keys the director. That’s my dude now and he’s producing on the next album.

TRHH: Regarding the next album, you said did 20 songs for and it sounds like you have some more stuff in the making. When do you hope to drop the second part of Ego and the Enemy?

M-Dot: I’d like to have it by November. I’m a winter dude so that would be kind of dope. My birthday is in January. November would be kind of dope. It would give me enough time to space out these two albums. I’m probably going to cut a lot of those songs too and do some different shit. That’s the plan, to keep the momentum moving. We still have 4-5 videos in the can that we’re just sitting on. We’re trying to be forever. Lasting, something that’s special, something that people study, something that people appreciate on every level from the art, to the video, to the music.

TRHH: What do you hope to achieve with Ego and the Enemy?

M-Dot: I just want people to hear it. That’s it, real talk. If people give me a fair shot I think we’ll get even more respect. We were number one on UndergroundHipHop.com in sales in six days. We had the most sales in six days compared to anybody over the last thirty. There’s some good albums like Run the Jewels, much respect to them. That’s some crazy stuff, I didn’t know people still bought CD’s like that. That’s a trip for me. We’re trying to get more awareness to this music.

Purchase: M-Dot – Ego and the Enemy

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Mahogany Jones: Sugar Water

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Photo courtesy of Ray “Trilogy Beats” Rodgers

Mahogany Jones is an activist, an educator, and an artist. A former four-time 106 & Park Freestyle Fridays champion Mahogany Jones puts lyrics first, A Detroit resident, Jones’ music is consistent with the Motor City sound – soulful, thought-provoking, and unapologetic.

Last summer Jones released her critically acclaimed album, Sugar Water. The 13-track album displays Mahogany Jones’ versatility and growth as an artist and a lyricist. Sugar Water is produced by Mozaic, iRonicLee, and Darell “Red” Campbell.

The Real Hip-Hop spoke to Mahogany Jones about her Sugar Water album and its upcoming reissue, the role her Christian faith plays in her music, and her movement to empower women, A PURE Movement.

TRHH: Why’d you title your album Sugar Water?

Mahogany Jones: Oh wow. When we first started putting things together I want to say it had been Outkast’s anniversary. I was really thinking about their formula and whether intentional or not this is how it kind of fell down. It was this interesting mixture that made what they had to say and how they had to say it more palatable. It seemed like Big Boi always came with the raw what your everyday average Joe on the street was up on. Dre always had something that was always on some higher consciousness and just made you think. Their mixture made it that if you were about that street life you were gonna listen because of what Big Boi had to say and if you were on the aware conscious tip you were going to listen for what Andre had to say.

I thought about my own formula and I kind of previously had just been in your face, whether it had been my faith or different things that I stood on. The last project that I did was called Pure. It was very heavy in content with a lot of serious subject matter. Like Lauryn said, “Sometimes you gotta throw an MF’er in it so ignorant N’s can hear you.” That’s pretty much where it came from. People need this water, but sometimes you gotta put a little sugar in it so people get what they need.

TRHH: The song Dying Breed is incredible and speaks on our culture. Why was important for you to convey that message?

Mahogany Jones: Thank you. I think for a few reasons. I serve as a Musical Ambassador with the U.S. State Department and pretty much get to experience Hip-Hop globally and get to and see how certain countries are doing such a great job of preserving Hip-Hop culturally. It’s not just, “Oh, we’re out here making dope records and doing dope graffiti,” but truly the essence of the culture. Brazil actually has a department that uses Hip-Hop in its government. They get it. They get that Hip-Hop is really a tool that can be used for social change and to engage people. It just seems as if nowadays we don’t really get it. I’m not speaking about the differences.

I believe that Hip-Hop can be many truths. Sonically it can be different, the experiences that people have can be different — that’s cool. I just mean it’s essence of peace, love, unity, and having fun. The same way that rock music is passed down generationally, it’s something that we need to start taking pride in. We got so many people coming up but nobody is looking back to the roots of understanding where it came from or why it’s here, but people are making records sounding stupid and looking dumb. I feel like we need to understand it and appreciate it so we can continue to be vanguards of it. We need to continue to push out a culture that’s respectable and important.

TRHH: How did you become a Musical Ambassador for the State Department?

Mahogany Jones: It’s funny, it’s a program that actually has been happening since the days of Dizzy Gillespie. Now it’s a program that American Voices is over. Years ago someone who is my mentor, her name is Toni Blackman, she put me on to it. She was one of the first Hip-Hop Musical Ambassadors. She was like, “Yeah, it’s the program called American Music Abroad. You should apply for it so you can do what I do.” I scraped up a band because I couldn’t do it as a solo artist. It was me, a DJ, a drummer, and a vocalist. I applied in 2012 and they called us in for an audition, I auditioned and got it. My first tour was five countries in Africa. Since then it was kind of a snowball effect of individuals getting at me and asking me to come. I had my second American Music Abroad tour just recently. I was out on tour for about a month with my band in Madagascar, Pakistan, and D.C. this November. So far I’ve served about 16 countries since 2012. It’s been phenomenal.

TRHH: What role does your faith play when you go into the booth?

Mahogany Jones: I think the same role that it plays when I make decisions about how I date or how I engage with people. It’s a part of the fabric of who I am. When you listen to Kendrick or Lupe or Chance or when we think about a lot of the artists that we love we hear it in their music. And not because they have a dogma that they’re trying to shove down their throat but because it really is a part of who they are. That’s why I love music. I think about artists like Mary J, Stevie Wonder and you got their life. That’s what makes you love it. You’re sharing a perspective of your life that I can relate to. I think more as of late it’s less, “I have this agenda to share Christianity with you,” and more so I just want to share my life, I happen to be a Christian, and this is going to be my perspective.

TRHH: Tell me about A PURE Movement.

Mahogany Jones: A PURE Movement was birthed out of frustration oddly enough. It might have been 2006 when I was doing more Christian shows or events. I would get booked and people would come up to me and say, “We’re so happy you came here to present to our girls! They’re going to be blessed!” I would just be really upset because my male counterparts would come and share what they have to say and you’re not going up to them like, “We’re just so happy you’re here for our boys.” It’s, “We’re so happy you’re here and what you have to say is valid to our boys and our girls.” As a woman I would just go places and it would be like I only had something valid to say to girls. I always say this and it’s true, my brain or my spirit doesn’t have genitalia. I may be packaged as a woman but I’m having human experiences that are valid for whatever your gender. What I have to say is valid. I got to a place where I was tired of being selected or isolated solely because I’m a woman. I felt like God was saying, “You need to do a project just for women and it’s going to be called ‘PURE’.” I was like, “Eh, I’m not doing that.” I ran it by my producer when I got the epiphany and he was like, “No, you have to do that.”

Listening to him I couldn’t do a project for women and it’s just me so I invited other women to the table. I also couldn’t do a project for women and not invite men to the table so I had a few of my bros feature on the album. The album turned into a movement. I didn’t want to put out a piece of music and not have tools for people to have a conversation. I’m putting it out with a purpose for people to engage in conversations that shift the paradigm or will help create a culture where people really respect women. We did a social media campaign, I do two annual events long with my partner Get Jayne Consulting, which is now Get Jayne Sounds, and we do something for Sexual Assault Awareness Months which is in April. We do Denim Day Detroit, and we do another event called Pure Purple which is for domestic violence and that happens in October. I also have a curriculum where I mentor young girls in self-esteem and body image. I’ve been doing that for the past two years. That’s pretty much what it is.

TRHH: Keeping with the theme of women, what’s your opinion on the Presidency of Donald Trump and the reaction by so many women throughout the world to him being in power?

Mahogany Jones: It’s so funny because as soon as I was saying I really want to be in a position to create a paradigm shift on how we treat and engage women his face just popped up in my brain like a hologram [laughs]. I’m just really saddened by a lot. My personal belief and stance is I’m definitely pro-life, but I believe that women should have the choice. I don’t believe that abortion should be a contraceptive, ‘cause it’s not. I think being responsible is really important, but again, who am I to judge? I don’t think we as a government should legislate morality, so when I see all these crazy decisions that he’s making it’s very disheartening and very sad. Especially knowing that he has no regard for women and the fact that little boys are on the bus telling girls, “Trump says I can grab your pussy,” it’s like wow, really? It’s no bueno, man. It’s all bad. I don’t even know what to say.

TRHH: Me either. Back to the music. What inspired the song Home?

Mahogany Jones: Again, I think it’s a very compromising situation for me as someone who is a U.S. Musical Ambassador and has worked with the State Department and seen great things come from our country and seen how in a lot of ways the U.S. does really help a lot of countries in regards to foreign policy. But in a lot of ways we’re also pretty foul [laughs]. Being a woman of color and living in the country I’m definitely pushed to the edge in society, I’m definitely marginalized in a lot of ways. Our bodies are disregarded. This recent rash of police brutality is crazy. I live in a predominantly white neighborhood and the things that come out of people’s mouth sometimes just blows me away. I just realize that in a lot of ways we’re definitely displaced and we don’t have somewhere that feels like it’s ours. It’s very compromising because as much as I am African, I’m more American. I’ve been to different countries in Africa and it’s like, “Oh yeah, you’re an American,” and I’m like, “Wait, I’m African!” and it’s like, “Not really, shorty!” It’s rough.

TRHH: I’d never left North America until recently – I went to England. When people heard me talk they’d go, “Oh, you’re an American!” For some reason I never identified as being an American. Does that make sense?

Mahogany Jones: Oh no, it does! That’s so loaded, “Oh, you’re an American,” is so loaded with disgust, awe, it’s a lot that comes with that but it’s true and you feel it. Did you feel that for the first time that this country in so many ways doesn’t embrace me, but in so many ways I am so much a part of this country?

TRHH: Yes. The people in Europe made me feel that way. I don’t feel like an American in America, but they made me feel like an American over there. It was definitely noticeable. I had mixed reactions from people. They were all positive but it was like, “Oh my God, you’re an American! Where are you from? That’s so cool!” and then, “Are you voting for Trump?” [Laughs] The funniest thing is I told everybody that he’s not gonna win. I was literally like, “Don’t worry about it. There’s no way he can win.” I didn’t think it would happen.

Mahogany Jones: Again, I wonder if there’s someone who listens to the stuff I say and is like, “We’re not sending her anywhere anymore!” [Laughs] It just makes you wonder if there is some massive diabolical plan in the works. Sometimes it’s like, is this a conspiracy theory? It makes me believe more so in the whole idea of Armageddon. Is this some crazy social experience? Are you doing this to push us to the edge to see what will happen? Are you trying to make another Civil Rights Movement happen by putting us in the throes of the most doomsday situation? Did you put out Hunger Games to set us up to get us ready for what’s coming?

TRHH: Your style is a little bit aggressive. How do you balance your aggressive style with keeping it clean and delivering a message at the same time?

Mahogany Jones: [Laughs] I don’t know. It’s so funny. I just feel like I’m a life mixologist. I’m the kid that was like, “I wonder what chocolate and potato chips is gonna taste like?” “I wonder what happens if I mix this with this?” I get my Punky Brewster on. Everything in my life is mixed up. I like colors mixed up, I like food mixed up, I like genres of music mixed up. Just how I am as an individual is a very strange balance. Even as an educator my kids are like, “Oh my gosh, I have so much fun with you but you’re so mean!” [Laughs] I don’t mean to be, but it’s in love. I don’t really know. I don’t know if I’m always successful that’s why I intentionally hold myself and say, “Just do an album where you aren’t talking about anything heavy.” I don’t know how successful I was when I go back and listen to Sugar Water. I don’t know if it always works ‘cause that’s just what it is.

TRHH: What’s next up for Mahogany Jones?

Mahogany Jones: Wow, I’m working alongside Versatile Entertainment, which I’m really proud to say. One of my heroes that I look up to as a lyricist, J-Live, is a part of that collective. We’re working together to actually put out a deluxe edition of Sugar Water this summer with a few remixes that I can’t leak yet, but I’m excited. One of which will probably be with J-Live on Dying Breed. The deluxe version of Sugar Water will be coming out but I’m working on new music as well. I have two projects in the works. One is with a trumpeter and composer whose name is Kris Johnson. We’re working on doing a live album. I’m pretty stoked about that. Then I have an album called “Blurred” which is basically talking about once physical niceties have exchanged it kind of blurs the ability to properly see or make good choices or decisions when it comes to being with somebody. Those are the three things that are in the works.

Purchase: Mahogany Jones – Sugar Water

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Vic Spencer: The Ghost of Living

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Photo courtesy of Perpetual Rebel

One of the best lyricists in Hip-Hop currently is Chicago’s own Vic Spencer. His music is not reminiscent of Chicago’s drill scene or its conscious movement — Vic has his own lane. His rhymes are full of wit and depth, while being very much hood.

Vic’s latest release is a joint project with an equally eclectic artist, Big Ghost Ltd. The duo teamed up for an 11-track album called The Ghost of Living. The album is produced entirely by Big Ghost Ltd and features appearances by D. Brash, Q. Grav, Goose, and Alex P. Keaton.

Vic Spencer recently spoke to The Real Hip-Hop about The Ghost of Living, how he hooked up with the elusive Big Ghost, getting props from the late Sean Price, and his upcoming musical releases.

TRHH: How did you and Big Ghost link up for The Ghost of Living?

Vic Spencer: I hooked up with Big Ghost through a tweet. Somebody suggested my music to him. He went and listened and I guess he liked what he heard. I guess he was waiting for me to reach out to him. It was so quick. I saw somebody say something and then I heard the Griselda Ghost album. I liked dude’s production so I wanted to put it out there that I’d jump down on some Ghost production if I had the chance. He saw that, hit me up and was like, “I’ve been listening. The music is heavy. Let’s do something.” I just started recording instantly. He started sending me beats, I started recording, and we finished the joint in like two and a half months. It happened that quick and I didn’t think he was going to release it this year but going deeper into the project, the last few songs that we recorded made it sound real wintery. We wanted to make it sound like some “winter body bag slap box with polar bear” music.

TRHH: Big Ghost is a mysterious guy so what was the process like going back and forth while you were recording it?

Vic Spencer: We had a few phone conversations and a lot of it was through text. We’d dialogue through text what he’d like to hear. I was actually looking for him to be a critic to the work but just from working with him on this project he already has the self-belief in the person already that he works with. I’m looking for him to critique each song that I send him a reference to but he’s just excited with how fast I’d done the work and how effective it is. He was like, “Ah man, this is so cold!” and I was like, “Man, ain’t none of the songs wack?” [Laughs] That’s what’s up. It was just a process – sending him joints after I’m done recording. I would record a joint for our project every Saturday for two and a half months. I’d send him a reference and he was just going crazy. He mixed and mastered the project so he formulated everything – the track listing and how the tracks should flow. He did all of that and that’s a first for me because I’m normally the guy that does that. He has the same belief and faith that I do so we shared that. We have a lot of things in common – the music that we listen to, the age – the old villains win [laughs].

TRHH: Why did you release this project so soon after St. Gregory?

Vic Spencer: I wanted to have something like a quick strike album. I never did that before. I came out swinging early last year with Chris $pencer, the album with Chris Crack. Then I came out with a Best of, but it really wasn’t like a Best of. It was more some of my recent recordings that didn’t have a position on any album so I put a lot of those songs together. Some of my songs from previous albums are also on there. I put out St. Gregory as my main solo album. I didn’t think it was going to come out but Ghost really believed in dropping it this year. He hit me out of nowhere like, “I’m going to drop another artist’s project before ours,” and this was in between me recording so I wanted to knock all these songs out and get them out the way so I wouldn’t have to worry about it. That’s how I work. I’m sitting on 3-4 albums. With that it was easy for me to go ahead, finish, and knock it out. By the time I finished all the joints he was like, “You finished it so fast. I believe in it. I’m listening to it thoroughly, it sounds like a murder on Christmas album. Let’s drop it this year!”

We were really behind the scenes wondering if we could get it done. I said, “With the position of power that you’re in, your opinion is stronger than mine, I say yes. You go out there and put the word out and it’s going to do some numbers.” He believed in that and I’m glad that he did. St. Gregory got slept on, too. It got slept on kind of hard. I wasn’t expecting anything big from St. Gregory, but just coming off The Cost of Victory, the album that made it to Rolling Stone, so forth and so on, when I dropped this album I believed that it’s better than The Cost of Victory, it just didn’t get any of the publicity that The Cost of Victory did, so when Big Ghost hit me about dropping it this year I thought maybe this will be able to slap ‘em in the head and put a foot on their neck since they didn’t want to give me the praise that St. Gregory deserved. Maybe some people will go back and check out St. Gregory as well. It’s a double edged blade, it just happened so quick though.

TRHH: On Vicente Fernandez you kind of sent some shots at some rap cats. Do you feel out of place amongst your peers?

Vic Spencer: Absolutely, absolutely. It’s definitely speaking to that and I don’t have no problem with that, actually. Last year it came to me that I’m an individual, I’m not just a Chicago rapper. I had to stop looking for the respect from these new artists from Chicago and start building with legends that I believe in from Chicago or outside of Chicago. I don’t look at Chicago artists that I look up to as “Chicago artists” I look at them as legends. I started to put myself in that position and that form. It’s me getting it out of my system that I don’t need these young guys’ respect. I’m still gon’ chin check ‘em, and of course that’s what Vicente Fernandez did.

Also it’s just a sign of me moving forward in my career as a legend. It’s something that I’m trying to go after. You never seen none of my albums with none of these young rappers on it. You only see legends on there. That’s why I’m trying to move forward and not even think about or listen to what these artists are doing, because that’s what kind of got me off track and going at rappers in 2015. That’s definitely what Vic Spencer do, but Vic Spencer wasn’t made to come in the game and try to do publicity stunts and all of that. Vic Spencer wants to be a legend. I want to be around when you talk about Eminem, Hov, Westside Gunn & Conway, Sean Price, and Redman. That’s where I want my name to be mentioned, not with these Chicago rappers.

TRHH: Your rhyme style is different from almost everything coming out of Chicago. How did you develop your style of emceeing?

Vic Spencer: Right. I developed my style of emceeing from listening to a lot of off the grid rappers. I listened to Redman, Yukmouth, and Sean Price and started to formulate something that I could call my own. The beats do a lot of talking for me, too. If the beats fire and it touches my soul then I’m all over it. My style is not to be focused on one thing. When people listen to one of my songs they should learn more than one thing. I have no conceptual songs so I try to stay away from doing that type of stuff and teach things in the music. More conversational. We don’t talk to each other no more. We’re always on the phone or on social media. Humans don’t talk to people how they should or how they did when I was growing up. We had telephones. We had to run home if we wanted to talk. We met up with our friends and did stuff. We talked at the lunch table about different stuff. That stuff ain’t going on no more so I’m just trying to keep that alive in some sort of sense when I’m creating a record.

TRHH: On Adventures of Vic Spencer you reference how Sean Price gave you props before he passed. What was it like working with Sean and how much did his words mean to you?

Vic Spencer: Me and Sean Price developed a real good relationship before he passed – the last three years. I remember him calling me and telling me that I inspire him and that just did something to me, man. I didn’t let it resonate for a legend to look at me and listen to my music on a level that I listen to his. I took it serious but the words he was saying were way beyond me. He always was the type of guy that would spit a rap to me, tell me 1000 jokes, and then drop the real bombs on me. Sean Price was one of those guys that was telling me to rap over trap beats, believe it or not [laughs]. He would tell me, “Man, you need to jump on some Young Chop beats,” and I’m like, “Naw cuz, What? Are you kidding me? I’m not finna jump on that shit after listening to 5000 Sean Price songs. Come on, bro!” We dialogued back and forth about it and what his thing was, was, “Yo, you can be better than me.” He was one of those kind of guys. He said I didn’t need his co-sign. He said, “You’re the type of dude that can jump on a Twista beat and be rapping just like him.”

His whole metaphor behind it was, “I want you to look at it like I’m an old school car and you’re one of the euro cars. You can still drive around, I’m the car that pulls up on the block, get out, posts up, and everybody respects it. But you, you can move around out here. You don’t need a tune up every 3-4 months.” I thought it was pretty dope to get that kind of advice and push from an artist that I respect and looked up to. For one of my all-time idols to tell me that is amazing, man. I always hailed that high to my career because having a person like Sean Price back you is like finding a real diamond in the dirt because he don’t like nobody! He glorified it and people respect him for that. When he starting bigging me up, people respect that too. I’m going to always have Sean Price in my blood. That’s why he wasn’t on St. Gregory because he was there in my spirit when I was doing that album.

TRHH: You said you have four albums worth of material, so what’s next up for Vic Spencer?

Vic Spencer: I’m finishing up the second album with my brother Chris Crack. We go by a group called Chris $pencer. We got the tracks all done, we ain’t got a title yet, we ain’t got the art, but that’s what we’re working on right now. We’re just mixing and mastering. So that’s the next thing that I’m gonna drop. I plan on having an album with super-extraordinary producer A.Villa. He’s from Chicago as well. He put out a compilation with all of the Hip-Hop legends – Noreaga, Sean Price, Skyzoo, everybody was on his album. It was like a Kid Capri mixtape. He’s a DJ but he produced it, it’s crazy. I got an album with him on the way. I got an album with my boy Dr. Mindbender. He produced 4 or 5 joints on St. Gregory. He produced a lot of joints for me throughout my whole career, from the Walk Away music on down. He did a lot. I got my next solo album. I’m like 25 joints in. I’m going to pick like 12 joints, but I like to have 40 to 50 joints to pick from. That’s how I work, that’s how I get down. I’m halfway done with the recording process of my next solo album. Big Ghost said he wanted to do a part 2, but we ain’t started working on that yet. We’re gonna keep that under the wraps.

Then I got this other album called Women’s Bathroom. It’s basically me, one producer that goes by the name of O’Bounjour, and I just went and picked the dopest female rappers and put them on my album. It’s like 25 features with different women on the album. It’s narrated by a woman in the bathroom talking about what women talk about in the bathroom. We’re not accepted in the bathroom. It’s sort of like a manipulation for guys. That’s sort of how the concept came about for the album. The whole album is just about being accepted by women. It’s pretty dope, man. I’ve been working on that album for about seven years, man [laughs]. I ain’t gon’ even front. Every year I put something into it. I want people to care about female artists, especially female artists I rock with. I’m working on that. That’s a real deep project that you want to impress the teacher with, so I’m holding on to that. I’m just working, man. That’s what’s going on for Vic Spencer. It’s a working year and I’m just going to keep it flexing how Sean Price would want me to do it.

Purchase: Vic Spencer & Big Ghost Ltd – The Ghost of Living

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Intelligenz: Feature, Don’t Follow

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Photo courtesy of Cam Thomas

With a name like “Intelligenz” you know before you hear one lyric that you’re going to hear something of substance. Intelligenz is an emcee from Chicago, now residing in the DMV, who takes pride in delivering conscious content. Don’t mistake her femininity for a lack of ferociousness. Intelligenz’ music masterfully combines consciousness and her Christian faith without losing her aggressiveness on the mic.

In 2012 Intelligenz won MC Lyte’s Next Top Female MC Competition which led to a mentorship with arguably the greatest female emcee of all-time. A military veteran who is no stranger to discipline, Intelligenz continued to hone her craft in the studio and on the road and her hard work resulted in a deal with underground independent Hip-Hop label, HiPNOTT Records.

The Real Hip-Hop spoke to Intelligenz about her relationship with rap legend MC Lyte, the importance of consciousness in her music, and her upcoming project on HiPNOTT Records.

TRHH: How’d you get the name Intelligenz?

Intelligenz: I actually kind of stumbled upon it when I was in Vegas having a conversation about the state of Hip-Hop. I felt like we were getting away from the conscious state that I was familiar with Hip-Hop being in. I just said, “How come people don’t rap with more intelligence?” When I heard the name I thought it was pretty dope and I asked my friend who was there if they thought it fit and he was like, “Yeah, I think it’s you.” My first concern was does it sound arrogant and he was like, “No, it works,” so I ran with Intelligenz.

TRHH: You’re originally from Chicago and on the second verse of your new single Welcome to the Grind you use that Chicago flow. Would you say you learned the importance of the grind from growing up in Chicago?

Intelligenz: Absolutely. Not to take anything from anywhere else but I feel like Chicago is known for being able to make it through the struggle, the hustle, and that includes tragedy, poverty, and success even. The winters — It may sound a little funny but winters are harsh, especially when you’re struggling. I just think it toughens you and it definitely is a grind at all times.

TRHH: How did you make the transition from being a Military Police Officer in the Air Force to being an emcee?

Intelligenz: I’ve always written. It was just kind of my way out, I just more so kept it to myself. When I came into the military I could remember being at my first base and being at technical training school and this group of guys were around freestyling. That was my chance in a new world to branch out and say, “Here’s what I can do.” I was horrible at first freestyling [laughs]. The fellas quickly let me know that. It was pretty much battle rap style – they talked about you head to toe. They also motivated me and treated me like a little sister but when it came to that everybody went in. That’s how I got my courage to step outside the box a bit and speak up, but I was still very hidden. I didn’t necessarily pursue it. My focus was the military and giving the military 100%. At the time I was around a lot of people who wanted to pursue music and it was kind of swaying them toward some decisions that I wouldn’t necessarily make.

I enjoyed my time in the military so once I got out, I was married at the time, I would always write and write and my ex-husband said, “Why don’t you just go for this? You’re out here writing like you’re putting out an album.” I always feared the stage and the spotlight. I didn’t want celebrity, I just wanted the music. I decided, you know what, it’s time. I’ve loved this, I’ve tried this, I’ve tried a couple of open mics in the military and I enjoyed it. I appreciated the applause but I still didn’t feel comfortable on the stage. When I got out the military I decided it was now or never. Either I was going to live with regret or live with at least knowing that I tried.

TRHH: Talk about your relationship with MC Lyte and what is some of the best advice she’s given you?

Intelligenz: I think some of the best advice I’ve received from Lyte is probably some of the unspoken advice. That’s not me trying to navigate from some of the things that she has shared, which I’m willing to share, it’s just how she carries herself. I was just referencing her the other day. She moves with such a state of class and excellence. The biggest thing that I’ve learned from her just from observation is she treats every single person that she encounters like a person who is deserving as they are of respect. There is no ego, there is no arrogance, there is a certain type of kindness and positive energy that exudes off her and you can’t fake that. For me, I like to be around genuine people regardless of whatever celebrity status you feel you have or have been confirmed. It’s about how you treat people and that’s one of the things I appreciate, and how I treat others, learning from her.

Some of the best advice that she’s given me is to stay true to who I am as an artist. If I’m an emcee, be an emcee. Don’t be afraid to speak about something that’s conscious and also don’t be afraid to step out into different areas and tap into other talents that you may have. Overall be true to the craft. The biggest thing I’ve learned from her is stepping back and observing as an emcee, as a daughter, as a woman in this industry to treat everyone with respect. I can’t express that enough because I’ve seen quite a bit. It’s nice to see someone at the top of their career, at the top of their game, with longevity, still have a sense of sincerity to everyone that they encounter – it’s humbling.

TRHH: You mentioned being conscious twice. Why is it important to you, and why do you think it’s important in music to have a level of consciousness?

Intelligenz: I think because there’s power in consciousness. I don’t necessarily like to say “woke” because I think that’s a term that’s becoming exploited. I mean conscious on any level, and that includes having the right to choose music. We’re now in a place where we are so conditioned that if someone isn’t co-signed by someone who is famous we don’t even break new artists anymore. We haven’t even opened up our minds to say, “You know what, I really like that record. Nobody knows who that is, I’ve never heard of them, I’ve never seen any of their shows but I heard this song and I loved it.” On the reverse side of that is, I didn’t like that song at all, but this person just co-signed them and they’re going on tour with this person so because the industry has stamped them we have determined that the music that they put out into the world is now quality. Conscious to be able to make our own decisions, conscious to take our power back as our own consumers, the power that came with Hip-Hop as far as unity. Although there was a period where we had gangsta rap and there are things that we can always improve, we still had people like Lyte, people like Queen and U.N.I.T.Y., we had The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, we had Eve speaking about women being abused — we had variety. In that variety was consciousness. Today we just kind of have this one lane.

Consciousness is important to me because it’s a part of who I am, it’s not all of who I am but it’s an aspect of who I am, and I would like to always be honest with that. Also because I think it’s time we get back to diversification in music. That’s what I think is frustrating for a lot of listeners. We’ve maybe lost 5-to-10 years of an audience of people who felt like they lacked being fed in music. It just became here is the blueprint: club music, turn up. If you have to rewind the track today and you couldn’t pick it up the first time it’s considered a task to people. Some have been so mentally conditioned to get it the first time around and not have to evaluate what’s being said. It’s only about the beat, and while that’s nice in one aspect to want to hear great chords and great drum kits, if that’s what your music renders, at the same time words are so powerful and can last for so long, especially with them being repetitious, just like a melody. We’re just not giving our audiences that. We’re no longer giving them the variety. For me, being conscious is staying true to the music that I like to put out without being apologetic about it, even if in the beginning it takes me just a little bit longer to reach the masses. They’re out there, we just have to keep fighting for them back.

TRHH: What inspired the song Round of Applause?

Intelligenz: Round of Applause was kind of me saying I’ve been grinding for so long, nobody really knows, but it’s okay for me to pat myself on the back. It was a long time and a hard time for me accepting God’s gift. I didn’t know how to balance being confident without feeling like that confidence was a form of arrogance. As a result deep down I think I doubted my talent. When Round of Applause came around it was my way of saying, “It’s okay. Yes, I deserve this and I don’t necessarily need that validation from everyone.” Even though I’m saying I need a round of applause that round of applause begins with me inward and then outwardly next. I speak on a lot of things.

That third verse is dedicated to Lyte. I start it saying, “See Lyte gave me the light and the lesson that’s understood/When a legend lends you a message it’s a blessing for what is good.” I’m just talking about how she takes me underneath her wing, she tells me that I can be unstoppable, which is also the name of her book. In the beginning I talk about my relationship and dynamic with family – the ups and downs, the loyalty and lack of loyalty, family can be by blood, by friend, associate, extension, there’s a lot that’s in there.

TRHH: When can fans expect to hear your full-length project?

Intelligenz: I pushed it back. A lot of stuff was brewing underneath. I just came off tour with the legendary Slick Rick. There’s a lot of great things happening as a result. People are reaching out to me, I’m getting better production opportunities now. At the very latest we’re looking at April, no later than that. Just because of some of the timelines that are coming up after that. My first EP with my label HiPNOTT Records is going to be called Feature Don’t Follow.

TRHH: What’s the meaning behind that title?

Intelligenz: Even going back to the comment on conscious state and everybody following one blueprint, everyone is starting to have the same sound. While it’s okay for similarities and a trend I didn’t want us to get into a place where we lose our own sense of artistry and creativity and begin to blend too much. When I have my first official album I want to be one of the first females in quite a while to put out a project where it’s only me. I’ll have a singer but as far as an emcee I will be the only person rapping. The singing parts I will be writing every hook, every verse, and organizing every melody. That also limits the opportunity of people that I respect as emcees that I would love to work for.

That’s what’s going to happen on Feature Don’t Follow. I’m saying be who you are, collaborate with people without necessarily picking up their sound. Like I said, you’ll always find similarities with emcees because most of what you’re trying to do has been done, but what I’m saying is don’t be afraid to tap into what you bring to the table. Whether that’s lyrically, swag, or creativity in how you deliver your verse. I will have featured people on this project but the goal is for us to bring our own talent to the table and not necessarily follow each other so, Feature Don’t Follow.

TRHH: What’s your ultimate goal in the music business?

Intelligenz: My ultimate goal I would say number one more than anything is to break every barrier and stereotype about what the female emcee is supposed to be. I want to bring a form of class and dignity that I feel like I had when I was growing up. It was okay to be clothed. Or if your choice is to lead with a little more sex appeal, I was also welcome even if I’m clothed. I got to choose from many different women and pick which one I wanted to be as an example. My representation and how I carry myself, I hope that other young women subscribe to it. I hope that I influence them in a positive way. I hope I lead the trail to say that it’s okay to do Hip-Hop and also speak Christ’s name.

I hope that I’m able to reach and influence other females to say that it’s okay to write, to literally have words that matter and power, and it’s okay to look something up. You do not have to subscribe to this blueprint of us being overly exposed, or six inch heels, or tights or we won’t be seen. If that’s who you are, own it. No matter what I say or the next person. But if you feel pressured and think it’s the only way to get there I hope that my path and how I’ve carried myself brings someone else a little bit of influence, positivity, and hope that’s it’s possible. That they can see my journey and say, “She did it, it’s possible.” Maybe I won’t get there to that Grammy, but I hope if somebody is watching me that they feel like for whatever their level of integrity is they feel confident enough, secure enough, ambitious enough, risky enough to jump and trust their dreams and be exactly who they are as they pursue it.

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Jabee: Black Future

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Photo courtesy of Benji Sukmanee

Photo courtesy of Benji Sukmanee

Jabee is an Emmy-award winning emcee from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. His music is thought provoking, inspirational, and from the heart. Jabee unapologetically gives listeners a glimpse of what life is like for a young black man from OKC. Jabee’s most recent full-length release carries on that tradition.

Titled “In the Black Future There’s a Place so Dangerously Absurd” or “Black Future” for short, Jabee’s 20-track album features appearances by Statik Selektah, Najah Amatullah, Meant2B, Deus, Allie Lauren, Hannibal King, Miillie Mesh, Cookie Turner, CID, Ashliann, Adam Ledbetter, and Chuck D. Black Future has production from Sardash, Chris Cutta, Phen, DJ Semaj, The Jake, Jonathan Cloud, Halo Hitz, and Todd Beats.

Public Enemy front man Chuck D has been quoted as saying, “Jabee’s music has the potential to change the world,” and that’s heavy praise coming from the likes of Chuck.

TRHH: Explain the title of your album, Black Future.

Jabee: It’s based on a friend of mines poem. Whenever you think about the future, not only the future of our people, but anybody, you want a bright future, we want successful lives for ourselves and our children. That’s where the title comes from. It was originally written for a Black History program. My friend who wrote it said that Black History has become passé. We’re just so used to hearing it and you pat yourself on the back during Black History Month. She was like, “What about the black future?” That’s what the motivation was behind it.

TRHH: Given the current state of black people in America, what’s the ideal vision of our future that you have?

Jabee: It’s a lot of different things. I guess for me it’s about taking care of each other, loving each other, and making sure each other is safe and protected. That’s all we want. I think that if we did that for each other the future is bright.

TRHH: Yeah, man. Have you heard of the book Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome?

Jabee: I definitely heard about it but I haven’t read it though.

TRHH: I just started reading it and the author, Dr. Joy DeGruy, talked about how she went to South Africa in 1994 and everyone greeted each other with, “How are the children?” It was kind of like if the children are okay, we’re all okay kind of thing. In America her son was about to get beat up by a bunch of boys who said he was looking at them funny. She was saying how do we go from “What you looking at?” in America to “How are the children?” in South Africa? I think that speaks to what you’re saying about if we just cared about each other more.

Jabee: Wow. Yeah. I need to read that. That’s exactly right. You hit the nail on the head. A lot of that is we’re so used to and conditioned to only be concerned with our wellbeing and how I’m doing. If I’m good that’s all that matters. There’s so many slogans and phrases that are exclusive and it’s all about me, me, me. Part of my mission is to try and change that. That’s where we get lost because it’s not just about you. If I’m straight, it’s my job to make sure somebody else is straight. If I’m civilized, it’s my job to civilize the uncivilized. If I got it, then it’s yours. We’re so used to bragging about us having and you not having. To me that’s wrong.

TRHH: What inspired the song Tried So Hard?

Jabee: I was going through some stuff with close friends. I’m from Oklahoma and a lot of musicians, artists, bands, and rappers try to make it out of Oklahoma. I’m not anywhere where I’d like to be by any means, but to a lot of people I’m doing a lot. People don’t realize that you’re still sacrificing so much. You’re sabotaging so much of your life. I’m on tour right now. I have two young daughters that I’m not getting to be with because I’ve been on the road for weeks. Somebody back home who has not been able to tour may look at me and say, “He thinks he’s all that,” no, I’m working hard for this and I’m sacrificing so much to be out there. Not only that, I’m doing shows but I’m not making anything. I’m using my own money and I’m borrowing. It’s not about who is the dopest, it’s about getting out and doing it and fighting for what you want. At the same time all the negative things that come back when all you’re trying to do is do you – that’s where it came from.

TRHH: Do you feel pressured to leave Oklahoma? I’m from Chicago and I’m old enough to remember a time when nobody cared about Chicago Hip-Hop. Nobody cared about Chicago Hip-Hop until Kanye. Common and Twista were here for 10-12 years and they did okay. Common didn’t blow until he moved to New York. That was the thing, Shawnna moved to Atlanta. Everybody had to leave to be somebody. Do you feel that pressure to leave home?

Jabee: I used to. I used to a lot. Not so much no more. I feel like a lot of my story lies in the fact that I am from Oklahoma. I feel like just by me being there it makes things easier. I can just live there, hop on a plane, be in New York for two weeks, and come back home. As opposed to moving to New York, jumping in the scene, struggling to pay bills, and everything that comes along with it. Not so much no more, but I did early on because the culture in Oklahoma was small for Hip-Hop music. I feel like now they’re kind of opening more to a Hip-Hop scene and it’s growing. It’s easier to be there and have opportunities at home for rapping.

Before you couldn’t get a show so you try to go to Houston, Dallas, or Kansas City. There are still places like Atlanta and L.A. where there is a music industry for urban and Hip-Hop music, but I feel better just going and visiting for a couple of weeks, recording, meeting with people, and setting up stuff. Then they make it a point to take time and see me because I’m only there for a couple of days. If I moved it would be like, “I’ll get with you next week,” but I’m only here for a couple of days so we have to do it now. I think it’s gotten better, at least for me, to be in Oklahoma because I can do a lot there whereas years ago I couldn’t and it was necessary to leave. I love it. I don’t ever plan on moving.

TRHH: How is this album different from Everything Was Beautiful and Nothing Hurt?

Jabee: Of course production wise. Everything Was Beautiful I put out with MURS. It was put out under his name and he didn’t want any samples so the production I got to have a little bit more freedom with. With Everything Was Beautiful I only had two weeks to record the album because he wanted to put it out on a certain day. And I was just in a different place in my life. I was at a place where I wanted to stop rapping. I had just had my first baby, that’s why I put her on the cover of it. Because I was at that place in my life I wrote that album as if I was writing it to her in case something happened to me, they could play it for her and she could say, “Okay, I see what my daddy was like.” With this album I kind of was more about the message. It wasn’t about being super-lyrical, having the hottest bars, and trying to kill cats. It was just about getting the message across and expressing how I was feeling, what I was going through, and what I was seeing around the world.

TRHH: What happened with your relationship with MURS?

Jabee: Nothing, we’re still tight. I was just on tour with him last summer. I think when he started doing the label thing he had just signed the deal with Strange right after. He didn’t really shut it down, he just kind of passed it off to somebody. He was still going to be involved but the guy he passed it off to kind of dropped the ball and didn’t really want to do it. I think it kind of left some cats hanging, but me, I was already on it before I met MURS. It was nothing for me to pick up the pieces and keep going. That’s still my bro. I call and talk to him even if it ain’t about music – just advice on life. That’s someembody that’s genuinely my friend and a big brother to me.

TRHH: How’d you link up with Statik Selektah for Exhausted?

Jabee: I met Statik at South By one year. We talked for a little bit and he was like, “When you get home send me a track so I can check you out.” I think he had missed my performance but somebody had told him about me. When I got home I sent him a track and he said, “When you get to New York hit me up, we’ll work.” I went to New York, he invited me to his house, he made some beats, we recorded, we watched the Mayweather fight, and just kicked it. We’ve been cool ever since.

TRHH: Why is it important for Jabee to speak on issues that pertain to black people?

Jabee: Because I’m black [laughs]. And I feel like it’s a responsibility of mine being black in America. I feel like our culture has been invaded so much, especially with rap music. We kind of lose our identity in a lot of ways. What’s ours isn’t even ours anymore in a lot of ways. I just want people to know that a lot of the things that we see, a lot of it’s wrong. Being black it’s a part of my responsibility. Not only that, I’ve dealt with it and seen it in a lot of ways. Whether it’s police brutality or black on black crime or racism, I’ve dealt with a lot of that stuff. I’ve had situations in all those areas. It’s affected me so I speak on it. I know if it’s affecting me in Oklahoma City it’s affecting so many people all across the country.

TRHH: What was your opinion when you heard Lil’ Wayne say he never experienced racism and was dismissive of the Black Lives Matters movement?

Jabee: Even though he came back and apologized and said he was high – he might have been high – he was just being real. He’s not a normal, everyday person. For instance if Lil’ Wayne walks in a bank they’re not going to look at him the same way they look at me. If Lil’ Wayne walks in a room full of white people they aren’t going to look at him the same way they look at me. He’s not an everyday black person. He’s not dealing with the same things an everyday average person on the streets deals with. He doesn’t know what it’s like to be an average black man in America because he’s not an average black man in America.

I think in a lot of ways he needs to be humbled. The same kids who are dealing with those things, getting pulled over, and having all these things happen to them in the streets are the same ones that support, believe in him, and buy his music. To say you don’t believe in it is one thing, but to say, “I don’t have to deal with it because I’m a different kind of person, class, and individual. My circumstances are different, but I definitely believe that it happens,” that’s one thing. But to be like, “I don’t believe in it, it’s not real ‘cause I don’t deal with it.” that’s wrong. It’s definitely out here.

I thought he was just being honest. He don’t know what it’s like. You go to a Lil’ Wayne concerts and its thousands and thousands of little white kids, so to him white people love him. That’s the reason I don’t use the word “nigga” in my song because of situations like this. The same kids who are at the Lil’ Wayne concert rapping every lyric and thinking it’s cool might be the same ones who are at a private school in the suburbs and when they see a real n-i-g-g-a in 7-11 then they act different than they did when they saw Lil’ Wayne at the concert. Or they’ll go to a party, try to fit in, and think it’s okay to say nigga. People like that don’t know because they aren’t around real people all the time. They aren’t actually in society the way we’re in society.

TRHH: Yeah, but how can you not know? That’s my thing.

Jabee: I think he shouldn’t have said he doesn’t believe in it. He should have said, “I don’t experience it, but I know it goes on.”

TRHH: Definitely. I don’t know much about Oklahoma, but I know they’ve had two black people in the past year who’ve been killed by police, right?

Jabee: Yeah.

TRHH: I know that much! If you watch the news you know what’s going on in Chicago. You have to know!

Jabee: Exactly. You gotta understand he’s not a real person. He’s a musician and some musicians we can’t look to them for their social awareness or their political views because they just don’t know. They’re not there for that. I remember watching Lil’ Wayne when I was in middle school. When you watch somebody grow up in the spotlight, you watch them go from one person to another, for instance, I grew up around gang culture and I have family members in gangs. Where I come from you don’t just become a gang member just because you hang around people. You gotta be put on. You don’t just become a gang member because you decide to one day and that’s the colors you wear. You gotta legitimately get put on. It’s not something that you can put on and take off like a costume. That’s not real people to me. I think he’s a dope rapper, but that’s it. I don’t pay attention to him for anything other than him rapping. His opinion on rap or politics I don’t listen to because it’s not real. It’s not coming from somebody who is experienced in life like an average person.

TRHH: Let me ask you this then, the backlash that Kanye has received for supporting Trump, is that different than the Wayne situation because Kanye actually used to speak about things?

Jabee: That’s a good question. I don’t know. I feel like Kanye, I hate to say it, I feel like Kanye is on drugs [laughs]. I feel like there’s some part of him that’s still there. One moment I’ll be like, “Man, what’s wrong with this fool?” then I’ll see a video where some kids stopped him in the street and he let him rap for him. I still see glimpses of the old Kanye, but again when you get so high up I think it’s possible to forget where you started, where you came from and what you’ve been through. It can make you who you really are or who you really wanted to be at the end. We never know, he could have just been pimping that whole conscious thing just to get in the door.

TRHH: Conscious rap hasn’t worked for too many people [laughs].

Jabee: Yeah, that’s true. It hasn’t. I don’t know, man. That’s a good question. I saw that he met with Trump but I don’t know if he said why. I read different things about him wanting an autograph and he was speaking to him about stuff in Chicago. I was listening to a 2Pac interview the other day from like 94-95 and he was saying how, “It’s crazy how we sell 5 million records and no politicians reach out to us. The President hasn’t reached out. We’re the voice of five million people in our country and not one President has spoken to us.” When I think about it like that I can kind of appreciate it. I think it’s one thing to say, “This is our President, I want to holler at him and let him know what’s going on,” but at the time he was saying he would vote for him, I don’t know. From what I could tell anybody with money wanted Donald Trump to win. Kanye got money so it might make sense for tax reasons to support him.

TRHH: Totally. What’s your ultimate goal in the music business?

Jabee: My ultimate goal is just to share my story, try to inspire some people, make a living, and continue to do it for as long as I can. I want to be on the road and take my kids with me and have fun. I want to try and be there for people and help change lives. I don’t want it to stop with music. If I’m on tour and I get to your city during the day we can do a workshop or a conference and do the concert at night time. During the day we do a class and in the evening we do the concert. That’s my ultimate goal, to be able to do stuff like that. During the day we go to a high school, spend all day at the high school with the students whether it’s speaking or teaching, and at night we have the concert. That’s the kind of things I want to do.

Purchase: Jabee – Black Future

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