Interview With Finale
Beneath Detroit’s withering economy and problematic infrastructure the city’s musical reputation is the only thing that continues to grow. Hip-Hop reached a zenith in the ‘90s with Awesome Dre, Esham, Slum Village, D12, and Eminem who became a major pop culture fixture. The 2006 death of J.Dilla founder of Slum Village and described as a “drum god” by Kanye West for his masterful production morphed him into a musical deity. Dilla worked with various artists within in his hometown using his rhythms to elevate their style. Someone complained and said it is a trend for so many artists to say they are applying a posthumous Dilla rhythm to their project. But the proliferation of his music is the testimony of his influence within the beat mines of hip-hop. Finale is another rapper who crossed paths with James Yancey and had the blessing to pick a beat from the man while he was alive. But Finale is not projecting his importance to the audience with references to Dilla because the native eastsider is too concerned with autobiography and the condition of the city. He is not uncommon for rapping about his adept facility like most of his ilk but it is the absence of profanity, his no-frills persona and unfaltering alliance with Invincible, a superb female rapper also a Detroit native that individualizes him. “Locusts” was their response to gentrification in the Motor City represented by a film clip directed by Kareem Edouard Song that served as a music video and documentary with mini interviews from residents in between performance footage. Previously he worked in the auto industry and left before he received the inevitable fate of downsizing. He promised himself that he would commit to no more than six months in the music business if he found no success. However, constant victories within every cipher he entered through the years earned him a confidence lifting stage name. Last month he released his second official album, A Pipe Dream And A Promise which follows up ’07’s Develop with Spier 1200. The project is already a critical success and fans have found one more reason to follow Detroit’s scene. Finale’s flourishing buzz is happening as a third wave of hip-hop artists are emerging including his rhyme partner Invincible, Black Milk, a solo Elzhi,Illa J, veteran Royce Da 5′ 9″ and Guilty Simpson. In this interview Finale tells his story and builds anticipation for an upcoming song with Bahamadia, a CD produced by Houseshoes and reveals the obscure fact that a member of The Cold Crush Brothers lives in Michigan.
Why did you give up your job as an automotive engineer to rap full time?
The industry was in a downward slope but the main factor was I wanted to give six months to focus on music. The job was good but there were a lot of things I was the youngest person there it was a lot of things I was not familiar with. A lot of people at my job were getting laid off so I kind of felt like the chopping block was coming for me. I had to hustle to get it together but music seemed like the right direction to go in. So it just kind of worked in my favor.
When did you start rapping?
I started rapping I would say like ’99 but I didn’t start pursuing it and put records out until like ’01.
What’s different about Detroit’s hip-hop scene when you started and now?
It’s still the same circle the same people I was rapping with in ’99 it’s amazing to see cats like Black and Guilt making names and so it’s the same scene to me we just kind of stepped up and it’s good to see the whole scene kind of taking advantage of the genre or the platform that’s been given to us.
Do you feel Detroit gets it’s recognition for hip-hop?
I feel a lot of things the backbone of music is Detroit whether you go from Motown to hip-hop now and it’s not just Dilla. We have artists here who were doing it but never got their just due like Fuzz or like you have underground artists this whole city as a whole we’ve been doing music like ghostwriting or ghost producing it’s I don’t want to say it’s bigger than Dilla but the course of like this whole city’s musical history I just think we’ve been involved in a whole lot of major musical contributions just to the world and just now people are starting to pay attention. It’s sad but it’s also a blessing a benefit that people are giving us this opportunity to be heard.
Does Detroit hip-hop have its own sound?
Definitely. I definitely think we have our own sound us being in between we have a mixture of different sounds that we put together. We have different sounds in the city period you can say Big Herc doesn’t sound like Em and Em doesn’t sound like Royce and you know Royce doesn’t sound like Phat Kat. It’s just like in certain cities you can tell by the distinct slang and the distinct voice exactly where they’re from. Like I know NY rappers but like in Detroit since we’re like in the middle we got so many influences coming from everything from Bone to Biggie to Pac it’s just like those things just kind of get mixed-up mishmashed together.
How did you meet Dilla and what kinds of things did you learn from him?
I met Dilla a situation where I was working with a New York distribution label to put out a single I connected with Dill through people here through DJ Shatari, Waajed, Knox when they heard that Fat Beats out of New Yok wanted to put out a single with me through everybody they just started passing the word on to Dilla. So DJ Shartaree went record shopping with Dilla and was like’ There’s this rapper from Deroit you really need to mess with him’ Dilla was like ‘Word?’ ok’ The Fat Beats thing didn’t work out but me and Dilla kept building over the phone and everything. I met with him a few times before he passed and we ended-up working on three joints. One of those joints is on the album. You know it was an honor to meet him and he actually showed me loyalty and humility go a long way in this industry. He never really understood how big he was. If I was talking to him on the phone it was kind of like nothing mattered but the music so that’s what I live by.
Was this a song you did with him before he passed or after?
I did that song with him before he passed when I ended-up working with him he sent me beat CDS it didn’t come from his mother or anything. I ended –up picking three or four beats and working on those three or four beats before he passed and recording it before he passed. Everything added to the track after is like footage just after he passed the chant at the end and everything that’s from a show I did in Traverse City, MI.
What is a Pipe Dream and A Promise?
That’s my definition of hip-hop or just the way I look at it I hope other artists can relate to it but that’s my definition of what we do I think coming up in the industry especially the whole thing about me leaving my job I left on an off day and it was labeled a pipe dream people thought I was retarded for doing that. I really just wanted to follow my dreams and the promise I made to myself was to give myself six months to pursue this so as artists we either come up with our with our crafts being labeled as pipe dreams but on the other hand we come up making promises to our loved ones, to our girls to everybody that we’re gonna blow-up and all this and that it’s just two sides to hip-hop that’s why I named it that.
You and Invincible work together a lot how did that start?
I met Invincible through Quality Control we did a monthly event called Quality Control and when we found out that Prince Whipper Whip was in Michigan in Romulus and we was like ‘How the hell is someone from The Cold Crush Brothers is living in Michigan and we don’t know?’ He would always drive up to host the event and he would be so excited to be a part of something in hip-hop. So to build with him and hang out with him is amazing it always trips me out when he calls my phone. He called me before I went to Austin and he told me he wanted to know if I wanted to do this show he was doing with Chubb Rock and I’m like ‘Yeah I’m there.’ It’s amazing to hang out with him. With him and Awesome Dre a Detroit rap legend they decided to come over I just cut the mic on and I interviewed them and we laughed for two hours. The stuff you can learn from people that came before you is what’s gonna help you take your music your career to the next level.
How do you feel about women in hip-hop in general?
I just did a song with Bahamadia or every time Jean Grae comes to town we get up with her. I think females in hip-hop don’t get their just due I don’t even class ify Invincible as a female emcee I will classify her as one of the illest emcees I’ve ever heard gender has nothing to do with it but if you want to break down about females in hip-hop I think they overlooked a lot by biased ears and individuals who just write them off because they are females but females have been running hip-hop on the low for a while. MC Lyte influenced a lot of people that’s my two cents on that.
Is that coming out?
Yeah it’ for my homie DJ Static part of Ill Vibe out in Philly it’ll probably be out on his mixtape soon. They did their verses a while ago but I just finished my sixteen in Austin but the joint is me Invincible and Bahamadia. It was supposed to be me and Invincible we did it and Bahamadia heard it in Philly and she was like ‘I want to get on that’ and when I heard that I was like I gotta hurry up and finish my verse.
I noticed that the ‘B’ word is nowhere on your album?
I chose not to speak that way I wouldn’t speak that way about my mother or my little sister so why would I put that in my music? I won’t address women like that period. And then plus I rap with a female almost 24-7 why would I hop on stage with her and say the ‘B’ word like in the middle of her set?
Is there anything else you want to add about your album?
I wanna say my album is from the eyes of a person who grew-up in Detroit who came up struggling on the eastside of Detroit and growing-up in a single mother household in Detroit is very unique and it’s different growing up in Detroit is different from any other city when other people come here somebody from France came over to do an interview with me and I took them around the city and they were like’ Take me to where you guys shot “Locusts”‘ I took them that was my neighborhood where me and Invincible shot “Locusts” I took them to the eastside where there’s only like two houses on a whole block like demolished houses one cleaned up and stuff like that like wow this looks like a war zone this is the city this is how I came up it’s like I choose not to glorify the messed up parts but I do expose it and also to show that the one quality of Detroiters through it all is that we still have hope we still have a bright outlook that things can change even with the worst situation we still for ways out of it where some people would normally give up in different cities.