Jake Palumbo: Plant-Based Libtard

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Photo courtesy of Jay Plutoo

Emcee, engineer, and producer Jake Palumbo kicked off 2022 with an album hilariously called “Plant-Based Libtard.” The Cambridge Dictionary explains that “Libtard” is a word “used by extreme right-wing people to refer to someone who believes in personal freedom and that money, property, and power should be shared fairly.” Libtard is a combination of the words “liberal” and “retard” which is ironic coming from the political party that claims to love Jesus.

Nevertheless, the self-professed Plant-Based Libtard created a 14-track album that combines humor and heartbreak seamlessly. Plant-Based Libtard comes courtesy of SpaceLAB Recordings and is produced entirely by Jake Palumbo. The album features appearances by Craig G, DJ Dainja, Lex the Hex Master, King Magnetic, Nutso, Rim, DJ Evil Dee, and Jarvis Waterfall.

The Real Hip-Hop spoke to Jake Palumbo about white fragility in Hip-Hop, coping with tragedies in his personal life, and his new album, Plant-Based Libtard.

TRHH: Why did you call the new album Plant-Based Libtard?

Jake Palumbo: [Laughs] Every album that I’ve done up to this point I tend to start with the title. The title tends to kind of summarize the concept. When you go back to some of my previous albums like Jobber to the Stars, Jake it Till You Make It, and even The Hundred-Thousandaire Hobo, all of those titles kind of summarize the theme of the record. With that said, I spent a lot of 2020 on the internet arguing with weirdos, conservatives, and white supremacists, especially during the election season. A lot of my social media posts got a lot of shares and they attracted some of the worst comments known to man and all kinds of weirdos and death threats. Any time I would take up for basic human rights on the internet it would tend to attract a lot of people in sun glasses and MAGA hats. So, I’m saying that to say, in the process of all of that I got called a “libtard” about 500,000 times. I’ve always had a lot of self-deprecating humor in my music. Anything you can say about me I’m going to say it first. Tying that in with the “plant-based” I’ve been a vegetarian for about four or five years.

So, calling myself a plant-based libtard while making an album that is very outspoken and aggressive, by presenting myself as a little bit softer it makes my punches hit a little bit harder, I guess. It came from a line in a song. There is a song on the album called “Same Dollar Buy A Muffin” which was originally a feature I did for this kid Jarvis Waterfall. In that verse I said, “Alfred Lord Tennyson/Plant-based libtard, I don’t want venison.” So much of my rhymes are inside jokes to amuse myself. I just kept laughing about “plant-based libtard.” After I had laughed about ten or fifteen times it stuck with me and I asked him, “Do you mind if I take this back for the album?” And it just became the theme. To summarize, a lot of my content is inside jokes taken entirely too far and that’s one of those things.

TRHH: At the beginning of the album it says that you’re “A gun loving alpha male that does not take kindly to snowflakes or cancel culture.” I want you to expound on that because I’m a person who doesn’t believe that snowflakes or cancel culture are real things. I believe that people express their opinions and keep it moving and no one is really ever cancelled. So, explain what you mean by not taking kindly to snowflakes or cancel culture.

Jake Palumbo: One thing that’s important to remember is that so much of what I do is said with snarky sarcasm. It’s not always meant to be taken directly literally. That’s basically a poetic way of me saying I’m a peaceful person who stands up for human rights and generally conducts himself in a live and let live manner. But at the same time, I’m from Tennessee, I’m a bit of a knucklehead, and I don’t mind escalating the situation if the situation calls for it. To me that’s just a funny way of saying it. While I am sharply liberal, I don’t always agree with all of the lefties on the internet. I say in one of the songs, “Liberal as fuck, I don’t identify as Democrat.” Joe Biden doesn’t represent my political views. That particular line and so many of those lines are snarky satirical ways of painting a picture of who I am. I don’t come across as a threatening individual, but at the same time I have a knucklehead history in my life and I do let people know I’m not the one to be tested either. That’s just a literary way of me getting that across.

TRHH: On the song “Soy Boy with a Gun” you say “underground rap is full of white fragility.” Give me an example of what you meant in that line.

Jake Palumbo: Because underground is full of white fragility. In the song “Exit Stage Left” the last four bars of the song say, “Sipping hot brew in a thermos/I have never been slighted for the hue of my dermis/I just try to make a valid contribution, do my best/Knickerbocker, Times Square, I’m a five-star guest.” That is acknowledging the fact that I am a guest in the house of Hip-Hop and I am completely 1000 percent okay with that and try to be a respectful guest. I acknowledge the fact that I’ve been given a comfortable guest room, food in the fridge, and a clean towel. So, I’m saying that to say, going back to some of my internet posts getting heavy shares, I posted a pic on Instagram one day and it was a picture of an empty crate of records. I don’t remember the exact quote but it was something to the effect of “this is what my crate would look like if you took out the black artists.” I posted that because I agreed with it and it’s true.

All of a sudden, all these local white rappers from Anytown, USA started popping up in my comment section wanting to riff about it. I’m saying that to say I do feel that way. I feel like a lot of times when I do speak out on things like that it has unearthed some feelings from the locals. Not any of the cool people that I’ve messed with in the industry, I’m talking about the local yocal rappers who do make up the comment section and sometimes are fans and supporters. It’s something I felt strongly about and felt the need to mention it. If I can work it into a fly rhyme where I can make a quick aside but I got my point across then I get back to my rhyme, that’s how I write.

TRHH: I’ve only noticed this online, it’s like an influx of conservative white rappers. Where did they come from?

Jake Palumbo: Right! They really started appearing and bubbling to the surface. To the point that you’ve got rappers out there waving confederate flags and getting their numbers on the internet. It’s really not bizarre when you think about it. In the last couple of years, it’s really been bubbling to the surface more. Because the underground is generally perceived to be more tolerant and worldly, when in reality it’s susceptible to all the same problems that the rest of humanity has, it’s just something I felt the need to speak about. Again, if I can work it in a fly way into a rhyme I’m gonna do it.

TRHH: You produced all of the album and on the song “Country Boy, City Kid” there’s some fiddle playing at the end. Is that a sample or is it played?

Jake Palumbo: That is a sample. I like to joke and say I play six instruments poorly. I can pick up a few instruments and work with them. My production is 60-70 percent samples. I do have some joints that are sample-free. Even when I use samples I’m generally playing some type of instrumentation on top of it. I’m either adding keyboards, bass, guitar, strings, or something. I’ve got a wide range of influences, so I try to show all the different sides, whether I’m rhyming over a fiddle or guitars.

TRHH: What does your production workstation consist of?

Jake Palumbo: A lot of different stuff. It literally depends on what mood I’m in. Sometimes I make beats in Logic, sometimes I make beats on the MPC, sometimes I make beats on Maschine, I’ve still got hardware like the ASR-10, and sometimes I’ll make beats in Pro Tools. It really depends if I’ve got an idea musically if it’s something I want to play out or if I’ve got a sample. That kind of depends on if I’m going to chop the sample in micro pieces and play something new. If that’s the case I’ll do it on the MPC or Maschine – something that I’ve got pads. If it’s a thing where I’m going be taking a loop and playing on top of that, I’ll maybe use Logic or Pro Tools. Whatever it is we’re gonna make beats with it.

TRHH: Based on your rhymes I know that you’re a wrestling fan; how did your fandom begin and what’s your opinion on the current state of wrestling?

Jake Palumbo: Growing up in Tennessee wrestling was just part of culture. Growing up in East Tennessee Jim Cornette had a company for a few years called Smoky Mountain Wrestling. I lived right in the heart of that to where I could go to shows locally. My dad would take me when WCW or the WWF would come to town. I just grew up with it and was really into it. As time goes on I became what you call a “smart fan” learning all the behind the scenes stuff and listening to podcasts and reading Wrestling Observer. Unfortunately, I don’t want to say that I fell out of love with it, but watching wrestling on Monday night was such a huge part of my life, but in the last 7, 8, 9 years it’s kind of not. I still tune in to the major pay-per-views and certain specialty shows. There’s some degree of magic that’s not there for me right now.

The consolation is being that we live in the content era, if right now I want to watch USWA wrestling from ’94 I can pull it up and watch it. With the influx of all the good podcasts with Conrad Thompson, Jim Ross, and all the different people, it’s a good time to be a smart fan right now because there is so much access to cool behind the scenes stories. Today that’s kind of how I get my wrestling fix. I don’t keep up with a lot of current wrestling. I do still watch old wrestling all the time for leisure. Today it’s mostly podcasts and listening to stories from back in the day of what really happened behind the scenes.

TRHH: I keep up with it, but like you I mostly listen to podcasts. It was our era. It was a different time.

Jake Palumbo: Right.

TRHH: On the song “A Lot to Unpack” you speak on your girl leaving you, your mom passing, and other horrible situations. How have you managed to maintain through all of these tragedies?

Jake Palumbo: It’s hard, man. It’s truly difficult. I would say that the only consolation, and we’d be here all day talking about it so I won’t go down this road, but basically every career level-up that I’ve experienced in my life has been preceded by some type of tragedy. From the very beginning. Right before I pressed up my first CD my dad committed suicide. From there, every time my career level-ups a little bit it’s been preceded by tragedy, so I’m used to that to some degree. In the midst of everything that’s happened in the last year and a half, just the fact that I’ve managed to keep going up. It’s hard to be sad when I’m getting phone calls from artists that I look up to and respect and they tell me, “Jake, I love the mix, man! We’re gonna send you some more records.”

Not for nothing, releasing the “Solving Cases” album with El Da Sensei was a big booster for my morale because that album was very well received and at the time it came out I needed something to keep me occupied. Getting such a great response off that and new people that never knew I existed getting turned on to what I do and getting on board, it’s my work that has kept me going the entire time. My personal life may have been on fire, but my professional life has remained fulfilling. That’s kind of what I’m hanging on to at the moment. Like I said, my work has remained meaningful.

TRHH: Not on your level, but there is a parallel with my life. Every time I’m doing good some shit happens. It’s been that way for so long that in my head I’m like, “Don’t do too good! Some more horrible shits gonna happen!” That’s rough, bro. You’re very positive. I don’t know if I could be as strong.

Jake Palumbo: Onward we push.

TRHH: Who is the “Plant-Based Libtard” album made for?

Jake Palumbo: For me. Ultimately, it was made for me, but oddly enough it’s the record that has connected the most with people as far as my solo stuff. As far as getting a bunch of streams in a short amount of time. I forgot what Christmas movie it is, but it had something called The Island of Misfit Toys. My fanbase is kind of The Island of Misfit Toys in a way. I’ve never fit into one particular demographic. I’m not exactly boom bap, I’m not exactly southern rap, and I’m not exactly comedy. I’ve always fit into this weird part of the Venn diagram that seems to attract the type of people that seem like they’re also in that weird part of the Venn diagram. That’s the only pattern I can find in my audience really.

I seem to attract people that are unique. There are very few casual Jake Palumbo fans. I tend to have people that really dig it and completely understand it, or people that it’s just not for them. And that’s perfect. I’d rather be where I’m celebrated. It’s made for anybody that wants to consume it. At the end of the day, when it comes to my pen and the things that I’m actually saying on wax, that’s all for me. That’s for me to get my pain out and make myself laugh. The jokes are to amuse myself and hopefully other people get ‘em. It’s me and my Island of Misfit Toys, I guess.

Purchase: Jake Palumbo – Plant-Based Libtard

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About Sherron Shabazz

Sherron Shabazz is a freelance writer with an intense passion for Hip-Hop culture. Sherron is your quintessential Hip-Hop snob, seeking to advance the future of the culture while fondly remembering its past.
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