“I would describe my style as laid back, realistic, and honest.”
The battle over the soul of hip-hop is always a pessimistic one. Questions of authentic prescriptions to folk art get posed and then disposed by the dominant argument that capitalistic imperatives have to be the ultimate concern. But the human spirit will never tire of the need to hear stories that speak to the heart. Signif the Gift is answering that question with her brand of no-frills hip-hop that recalls the early days of MC Lyte with a timbre in line with Jean Grae. Her video for “Drifting” is a pared down aesthetic sustained by her coherent rhyme style, self-affirming lyrics and the background of New York City. The former Milwaukee resident has laid down her music manifesto with her Beautifully Flawed EP from 2009 and 2010’s The Transition. Unsigned and free to follow her creative whims, the artist is looking to make her sound translate to hip-hop’s conflicted mass of fans.
Where are you from?
Born and raised in Milwaukee, WI.
How did you start rapping?
After watching my brothers partake in rapping I decided to try it. I was already writing poetry so I tried converting some of my favorite poems I had written previously, and it sounded awful. So I figured I better start from scratch. I quit more than a few times it was frustrating knowing what I wanted to say but not executing it on paper properly.
Nottz wants to restore the boom-bap in rap. He misses the kind of hard-hitting bass patterns that formed the undercarriage of so many of hip hop’s no-frills golden moments before Diddy added glamor to the street and took it mainstream. As a beatmaker he has stuck to that creed in his productions of artists like Snoop Dogg, Kanye West and Busta Rhymes among countless others, both radio popular and underground. But this year he entered the club of producers who rap with his solo artist premiere You Need This Music. It is a minute group peopled with such luminaries as Dr. Dre, Kanye West, J.Dilla, Diddy and Q-Tip who have all had different levels of success being able to direct the mic and hold it as well. The artist role may be new to him but the lack of compromise that all great artists possess is already in his DNA. In this interview he explains why maintaining his vision is necessary, the creative process and why you really do need his music.
Why the transition to the artist slot?
There’s a lot of wackness coming out right now to sum it all up. Too much trash coming out right now, my kids listen to this music. You got dope talk, you got gun talk, you got gang talk and all that and kids look at it like it’s cool, and it’s not cool.
How does it feel to have finished your first solo album and to now promote it and take on the duties of the artist?
I’m starting from the beginning. I really started out rapping and how I got into beats is no one would give me beats so I started doing my own thing. I like it and then I don’t like it because a lot of people don’t know who you are. They know my music as a producer but they don’t know what I look like. But being an artist, it’s hard for a new artist to come out being a producer. It kind of gives me a big push on everything. read more
“A good music video should really translate the song on one level. And then on another level it should translate the artist.”
Little X’s urban music visuals look like portable action films and gratifying musicals. Whether capturing Usher’s elaborate footwork or Nicki Minaj’s amorous kung fu dreams, X has been able to stick to the storyline and make a song something fun to hear and see. This year he announced a minor name change from Little X to Director X and an immediate focus on shooting commercials. He has a reticent temperament in regards to his exact moves preferring to take Sun Tzu’s advice to never let your enemy know your design. But he is ardent and acessible when he discusses the music video trade and the creative capacities of artists like Minaj. The director’s 10 plus years in the fickle entertainment business gives his words the authority of a media sage.
What’s the difference between Little X and Director X?
A name. I changed my costume. I had the red cape and now I got like a black one. My red and blue costume didn’t translate well into movies. Besides that everything’s the same, same super powers.
What should a good music video do for the artist and the viewer?
A good music video should really translate the song on one level. And then on another level it should translate the artist. Take a really good video like Missy’s “I Can’t Stand The Rain.” Here’s an artist who especially at that time did not fit the mold on a bunch of different levels but the video and the song brought those together. People were like ‘OK it works’ and just embraced her they embraced the music and it made a megastar out of Missy. Who’s to say what that would’ve been if the video had gone a different way. Really out of the box thinking created that new megastar.
“There’s something about the vibration of music that brings you back to the spirit.”
Avery Sunshine’s burnished soul that is slowing rising from its submerged status is one of 2010’s biggest secrets. The singer, songwriter and keyboardist who has made Atlanta home for almost two decades belts her tunes with a sensual ferocity straight out of R&B’s inception at the crossroads of blues, meter and gospel. It is the classic contradiction of several soul giants to split the fever between flesh and faith. But Sunshine, government name Denise White, has no conflict because to her God’s omnipotence denies any divide. Unlike the tugs-of-war that Marvin Gaye, Prince and Al Green battled for years and resulted in good sounds Ms. White’s music acknowledges the tangible world without guilt to the spirit. The choir director and would-be sitcom actress from Pennsylvania produced a singular debut that has been an exciting ride for online soul fanatics that only started earlier this year. She has charted well on iTunes and is currently touring the east coast now that her run with I Dream, a musical about Dr. King has ended. Affable and smart, Ms. Sunshine is ardent about living as a working musician forever and doing some serious shoe shopping in between taking on the world.
How did you become an artist?
I had moved down to Atlanta to attend Spelman College and major in piano. I was directing choirs and I was always performing but being an artist that happened after I graduated. Once I got out of school I started writing music and through my closest friend in the world she’s a Spelmanite as well. She was a vocal major and I was a piano major and she would sing and I would play and we just started writing music and we decided to start a group called Daisy Rue compiled of her mother’s name and my mother’s name. She ended-up leaving to go on Broadway and do Rent. That left me here and I’m telling you if she hadn’t left I don’t know what I would have been doing. Of course I was heartbroken it really pushed me into taking life seriously and becoming an artist and next thing I know seven eight years later here we are. You know how stuff will happen to you and you’re upset and the way it happened but you know I guess that’s why we’re not God. I had no idea that it would become I’m happy it turned out the way it did I’m so happy.
“What drew me to rap was the rhythm and the rhyme, the flow, the messages, the feeling that it gave me.”
Twenty-one years ago Youngest In Charge became an iconographic piece of hip-hop’s Golden Era to be learned from and followed by all lyrical worshippers. Edward Archer’s debut as Special Ed did make him the youngest in charge at age 16 since LL Cool J’s Radio in 1985 and “Roxanne’s Revenge” from a 14-year old Roxanne Shante in 1984.The pure synergy between Ed and producer Howie Tee harvested one of hip-hop’s most celebrated works, which keeps renewing itself with each next generation of hip-hoppers. “I Got It Made” and “I’m The Magnificent” have both been referenced by every other capitalist-loving rapper for their prominent boasts and being the theme song for future rappers who would get richer faster. Last year Rick Ross covered “I’m The Magnificent’ and used it as one of his many mantras and odes to his dubious street king image. Despite’s Ed’s appearance on the remix and a segment in D-Nice’s True Hip-Hop Stories most fans have wondered, Where did Special Ed go? The former Crooklyn Dodgers member has released his last CD, Still Got It Made in 2004 but has spent the bulk of his time making sure that other people have it made. A self-appointed obligation to helping youth and others become personally and economically empowered may have turned him into the most charitable rapper alive. A new album called The Specialist is slated for release next week and he is also touring with an old school party called The OSSE. Ed was kind to speak with me about his past, present and future projects in a voice that had its most passion when he spoke of his need to serve others.
So what’s been going on with Special Ed? We saw your episode of True Hip-Hop Stories last year, we heard you on Rick Ross’s remix of “Magnificent” and you were on Mo’Nique’s show with Big Daddy Kane, Chubb Rock and Dana Dane a couple of weeks ago?
Special Ed has been up to a lot. Many many divisions of what I’m trying to accomplish. One major thing that everyone is looking for is the album.
I have a new album it’s called The Specialist. The Specialist is slated for release this summer end of July and it’s a great album. I’m a loyal dude I’m still working with Howie Tee I’m working with Mark Sparks who’ve I’ve worked with on two previous albums and I also found a lot of new talent so I have new and upcoming producers that I affiliated myself with. They’re featured on my new album one is Jay P one is named Nineteen and DR. So pretty much like from the original to the brand new I got it all like that. I have some vocalists, some features, you know I’m not really a name dropper I don’t think that that’s necessary I think if you’re going to do what you’re doing do it let them see what you’re doing show me don’t tell me you know that’s my philosophy. It’s more of a pleasant surprise when I hear a collaboration I didn’t even really know about.
‘I mean for us even though there are times people just try to be yeah whatever whatever I’ve heard enough from Souls Of Mischief or Hieroglyphics inevitably they always come back to the fact that our shit is real.’-Opio
Souls of Mischief are legendary Bay Area stalwarts of hip-hop that have managed 17 years of unity only rivaled by Public Enemy’s longevity. Unlike the colorfulness of the Wu-Tang Clan, the tragedy of The Fugees or the fickle whims placed on Outkast by Andre 3000, Souls’ low-key eternal grind have made them one of few lasting hip-hop groups. ’93 Til Infinity magnetized a loyal underground following with lo-fi soul jazz samples and gasp-free breath controlled wordplay. Their Hieroglyphic collective of Del The Funkee Homosapien, Pep Love, Casual and newer members Musab, Prince Ali, Knobody and Chosen Few has released over a dozen albums and retained a peripatetic lifestyle that keeps them away from home the better part of each year. Souls as a unit released its last album in 2000 with Trilogy: Conflict, Climax, Resolution another piece of three-dimensional storytelling worthy of a Native Tongue litmus test. Montezuma’s Revenge has appeared as the dexterous return to form audibly shaped by the production finesse of Prince Paul. Opio and Tajai spoke with me about the blessing of having Paul on the album, longevity and why they must get to China.
Why is it called Montezuma’s Revenge?
Opio: Well basically we rented a house to do the album so that we could kind of get away from you know we have our own studio and recording space in Oakland at the Hiero office there’s a lab and everything but this is our hometown in Oakland and we have a lot of friends that come by all the time so we needed an area that wouldn’t have any distractions. So we rented a house about an hour north of the Bay Area and just like laying in the cut the street that the house was on was called Montezuma.
Has anything changed about Souls as artists?
Opio: I think life experience played a big part in our lyrics so having a lot more life experience a lot more things to draw on in terms of the types of things we have to draw on creatively. We have a lot more options and what we can talk about has expanded a lot more since we dropped our first records even before that when we were recording our first demos and what we were talking about just travelling the world and all the things we’ve seen and done kind of helped us grow creatively and lyrically. So I think definitely that’s changed over the years but we have stayed the same as well, the fundamental the foundation of how we actually believe in hip-hop and how things should go we stuck to that even since before we put out albums so even though some things do evolve some things do stay the same.
I always have seen you guys as like a west coast Wu-Tang Clan. A lot of groups emerged when Souls did and afterwards. How have you all been able to stay together when so many groups have fallen off?
Opio: The Wu-Tang Clan are definitely a pillar in hip-hop. Souls of Mischief was there at the very beginning. Certain things that we were first to do I think the reason why we’ve been able to stay together and be together so closely because we are actually truly friends and it’s beyond just my man and I’m down. We were brothers our friendship was so strong we were brothers earlier on before anybody was ever exposed to Souls Of Mischief outside the Bay Area. And our little demos our bond was strong and we weren’t like a group that was just put together by the producers we came together and all my brothers are like real stand-up dudes. We would get into fights and argue but you know it’s not something that at the end of the day someone’s going to turn around and say ‘I hate you ‘ or a little kid. This is grown man business men handle themselves accordingly. No reason for us to go to a magazine and ‘Yo man so and so punched me in the face ‘ we do get into our little squabbles brothers will fight but we just always maintain that love it’s a mutual love and respect for us but it’s true brotherhood.
How long were you guys working on this project before you put it out?
Opio: It didn’t really take too long to complete I think we spent like a month up at the house then like another three weeks for something like that here at the Hiero lab we worked closely with Prince Paul. We kind of did some stuff on our own he mixed and mastered and did all that so I mean the whole project the whole project I’d say probably took about two or three months or something like that not including the artwork and all the other final touches.
What was it like working with Prince Paul this time out?
Opio: It was an honor Souls Of Mischief are not only fans of hip-hop but also students Prince Paul is in terms of what we envision for ourselves being progressive, avant-garde kind of going against the grain with stuff that is different from everybody else cutting edge Prince Paul is definitely the architect for that and so he’s such an important part of hip-hop and its development so for us to get an opportunity to work with such a talent and to be on equal footing with him you don’t get many opportunities like that. It’s almost something that you have to earn just the fact that we’ve been around Prince Paul stepped to us like ‘Yo man I’m a big fan of Souls Of Mischief I’d love to work with ya’ll’ he’s one of the greatest minds in hip-hop of all time.
Hi Tajai I was just asking Opio about what it was like to work with Prince Paul and I was going to ask next if either of you have any favorite songs from the album that may have more significance for you than others?
Tajai: I would say for me my favorites are I like “Won1” because the sound is so raw. I don’t know it sounds like the Death Star entering the atmosphere and it just sparks it off like it’s straight lyricism and just the way it moves. I like “Postal” because of the way it deals with relationships or the disillusions of relationships. A little more seasonsed perspective than say when we were younger when it would just be like ‘ah forget you I’m out of here.’ You know it’s kind of like dealing with emotions but it’s still lyrical it’s still cool the chords is cool and I think a lot of people relate to it. A lot of women are hitting us up like ‘Yo you guys really captured both sides of it’ which is interesting because we’re all coming from a male perspective. And I like “Proper Aim” that combined with the video is to me it’s like a serious display of skill. The guy who made the cover showed how his skills are kind of comparable it’s sick because it lets you know that art is universal and it comes in all forms.
What’s the story behind the Morgan Freeman skit?
Tajai: (Laughs) That’s Morgan Freeman wiling out right about now he’s going out with his granddaughter he’s got all type of stuff I guess when you’re an OG like that you want to get some youth. No but really no Prince Paul is the master of skits he’s like a real funny dude subtle funny in real life and just like hilarious when he starts doing these sort of characters and scenarios. That’s a lot of people’s favorite track on the album.
You guys have been independent for over a decade what have been the benefits of going that route?
Opio: I think that as an artist how we try to do things is not trying to just go along with the status quo and do what everybody else is doing to have anything to do with what is popular at the time. We always steer clear of that from early stages if Tupac went too mainstream normally nine times out of ten it was something wrong with it. It wasn’t all the way true and that’s what labels try to do they just try to make you be like this it’s more like a machine than an instrument. The way that we create it we’re trying to do something different than everybody else that’s to me the main benefit from us being able to be on our own label is that we keep the key of what we do musically and we get rewarded for that.
Who made the Hiero logo?
Tajai: Oh Del made that up. We started out as a mad circle and he put the third eye in there and just switched it up. It’s crazy cause we found out it later it’s the Mayan symbol for eight but it turns sideways and it’s the infinity sign you know like the line is the five and the three dots are ones. It turns sideways and it’s the infinity sign is eight it’s like the symbolism goes beyond just a cool sort of logo. I never knew that we found out all that stuff later as people started gravitating towards it and letting us know what it meant.
“Never No More” is one of my favorite songs if someone was going to do 2010 remix on it who would you want it to be?
Opio: People definitely have with that song it’s hard for me to choose somebody but it’s always kind of an honor if you hear some of the talents that actually have went to that song like Kanye West John Mayer and all these different people that we like show that song a lot of love.
Tajai: There’s a lot of dope rappers I like the way Guilty Simpson’s voice is but I don’t know about “Never No More.” You know we never really thought about it like that it’s a compliment when somebody does it but we’re on the make something new vibe so remakes are cool but we really like brand new stuff.
Speaking of new I read in another one of your interviews where you said the biggest challenge being veteran rappers is that you’re not new.
Opio: You know I think the way hip-hop was when we first came out it was like almost better to be new. People judged you with more opportunity like a give and take type scenario. In this day and age it’s kind of it’s almost not as good to be brand new. It’s just so many artists I have seen come and go in a hurry where they made a big deal like you this is the next coming and it never really materialized. I mean for us even though there are times people just try to be yeah whatever whatever I’ve heard enough from Souls Of Mischief or Hieroglyphics inevitably they always come back to the fact that our shit is real. And one of the benefits for us is that we haven’t really just been force fed to people. It’s like you’re going to have to search out Hiero and Souls Of Mischief to get a full bar.There’s very few cats out there who really truly have followed our music and listened to it over the whole seventeen years. Such a vast amount of great music that never gets played on the radio you never hear it on your television or whatever so when people actually turn their microscope towards Hieroglyphics or Souls Of Mischief after a while because the names are just so synonymous with underground hip-hop it’s like eventually you’re going to end up talking about us when you analyze what we did and what we’ve accomplished. I think it’s a lot more than what people give credit to and so luckily our fans and the people who have actually supported us they do have people check us out. That’s what has kept us relevant over all these years and to be able to go out and consistently rock shows and travel across the world. The competition between us and like newer acts out it’s always healthy for us to be prepared for the future and new stuff. Like for instance when the hypy movement started out here in the Bay people was coming from all over the world to come and interview and talk about the hypy movement but at the same time they had to seek out Hieroglyphics because of our legendary status out here and who we are and what we represent to hip-hop if you don’t talk about and don’t mention us it’s like you’re doing yourself a disservice. And at the same time if you really analyze what we really do you would understand that we don’t only have one song or whatever we have a huge body of work.
One thing that you’ve been able to do with your label is have success with an R&B artist Goapele. Are you looking to expand the roster and if so are you interested in more R&B artists or hip-hoppers?
Tajai: We sign cats that we think sound lyrical and within the vein of Hiero. It’s hard because our family and don’t really understand how we came up with A Band Called Pain or Goapele or the R&B stuff. But we have a new group coming out called Chosen Few they’re out of Dayton, Ohio that are really sick we put out a guy named Prince Ali, we put out a guy named Musab from Rhymesayers and also this brother name Knobody from out here. So of course we’re trying to sign a lot more sort of lyrical rap you know just true school lyrical rap but it’s hard to get people to understand that hey underground is more than just backpack rap music. I think we all stay in our lane with regard to signing people who their aesthetic is in tune with what our fans are looking for and then you know we put up other labels and other distribution stands to put out other type stuff. We are definitely interested in more than rap music but it’s hard because our fanbase is looking towards us for a certain you know if you go to the health food store and all of a sudden we start selling Easy Mac or something so different or we start selling cars. People are like ‘Damn I’m not trying to buy a car from the health food store I wanna buy a car from a car dealership.’ We just try to keep it within our vein to really serve our customers what they want from us and the things we sort of recommend like the same way Amazon kind of might recommend something after purchase.
Is there anything you want to do that you haven’t already done?
Tajai: I want to rock a show in China. I know we have fans in Hong Kong I know we got fans in Kuala, Lumpur. We’re not hitting Asia like we’re supposed to we go to Japan and that’s really it. I wanna hit Asia think of how raw Chinese B-Boys like they probably a Circque Du Soleil rebel. I just wanna get the hip-hop moving in Asia. The crazy thing is we’re young dudes and we’re from Oakland so sometimes maybe we don’t aim as high as we should but we’ve done everything we wanted to and more. You would think seventeen years after dropping our first single you know like this dude sent me a picture today he just tatted up his arm with Souls Of Mischief and the other guy sent me a Hiero tattoo. You never think about getting to that level like a Grateful Dead or the Rolling Stones or something like that. I mean maybe we missed out on a lot of the fortune that comes with that but that kind of love you can’t buy that so we’ve done so much. Asia is an untapped market for us and I know we have hella fans out there because they always email.
Opio: One thing that I think we could benefit from doing is this like our first time working with another producer like Prince Paul. We did a lot of stuff in house just because we needed to get it done organically just for me I could see us working with there’s a lot of talented producers out there that would love to work with Souls Of Mischief . I think it’s a good time right now for us to try to branch out and work with these other cats that’s something I would like to see more of with Souls Of Mischief.
Can you name names of anyone you want to work with or anyone you have an upcoming project like that with?
Opio: There are a lot of artists out there that I have respect for. I mean Jay Electronica, Guilty Simpson is real dope and I like Slaughterhouse. There’s a lot of cats out here that are really lyrical I like Black Milk, Blue In Exile and older cats too like Pete Rock that’s who I would love to work with.
So what’s next for Souls Of Mischief?
Tajai: Well we have a European tour coming up probably do the US and Canada. We’e really trying to work on some new projects. We have sort of a top secret remix project coming out plus we have the solo records coming too. Opio’s got Vulture’s Wisdom Volume two Phesto’s got his debut solo album it’s called Background check . I got a record called Rap Noir and I think A-Plus is coming with The Return Of Guitar Charlie so you know it’s just like we really just want to supply our fans with what they’ve been asking for.People don’t realize recording a record on tour is hard you very creative but also your voice is shot you can’t get the right acoustics in your hotel room and you’re driving all day and certain things are going on. In order for us to eat and in order for us to maintain visibility since TV is Viacomed out we gotta be on the road all the time. People are always waiting for us to drop these new records it’s like we’re perfectionists. My motto is it may take forever but it will forever we’re not trying to give you microwave music. I’m really just trying to have these dudes in there creative as always it’s really the studio, being at home like regular people so we can draw from our regular people experiences so that it’s universal music not just music that rappers like or people of the industry like. A lot of rappers once they become they start rapping about oh and the press and oh I got this money it’s like can’t nobody relate to that. The people who are trying to relate to that maybe can afford that but the average people which is kind of who we represent they wanna hear what your life is like and who you are and all that kind of stuff. . So we gotta live normal life and really have real-life experiences in order to draw from that. That’s hard when you’re on a stage 200 days out of the year. I think that’s why we’re winning because the everyday person just loves music not necessarily the everyday hip-hopper. But the everyday person who loves music will gravitate towards what we’re doing because the stories we are telling and the way we move it speaks more to them than somebody about they’re buying champagne and dollars fall from the sky everytime they walk down the street.
“It’s so easy to say well societies had slavery yeah but not American chattel slavery where you lost your name, you lost your religion, you lost your language, you lost your family ties you lost your culture you lost your identity as a man and as a woman and as a group you lost everything worldly all your connection to everything in the world that never happened before.”
Two years ago while America was still perched in a war called the second Vietnam mainstream hip-hop sustained a mill of narcissistic internal battles and fickle beefs.Arguments over rap’s rigor mortis, ageism on both ends of the spectrum, women as vulgar ornaments, the perpetual exaltation of material excess and weary claims of street authenticity dominated most of the content. Rappers used the internet and the last of hip-hop’s print publications to instigate a corporate influenced culture of honor assigned to finding a realness that has evaded the genre since Dr. Dre wore eyeliner during his World Class Wreckin’ Cru days. On the underground scene a snowy white rapper with albino features made a song holding the government and Americans responsible for the situation in Iraq and called it “Uncle Sam Goddamn.” The rapper’s fluorescent appearance was a shocking contrast to a moniker that immediately connotes Blackness. Brother Ali’s lifetime of kindred relationships with African-Americans humbled his potential for bigotry and made hip-hop an organic choice of expression. A nomadic life in small towns in the midwest and his eventual settlement in Minnesota were experiences lived without a traditional family foundation that only stabilized with Black people. When he heard Chuck D, who has a guest spot on Us, in the ‘80s and KRS-One his relational point with them was more politically aligned with Teena Marie than Justin Timberlake. Those feelings produced disgusted diatribes against America’s historical oppression of its people delivered with the inflection of a Baptist minister. Hip-hop was outlaw culture and being a white male rapper critiquing whiteness makes him a gadfly among gadflies a Michael Moore of rap with the abolitionist spirit of John Brown running around and through him. Us is his fifth outing with label home Rhymesayers Entertainment and his passion for an egalitarian America and upholding the standards of the Golden Era have not waned. In this interview he explains Us, his politics and why he became a Muslim.
I heard your new song “Us” for the album with the same name tell me about it?
This is like my fifth project and everything that I’ve done up till now was really autobiographical and really just about my life and stories from my life and the way that I feel about things. I’ve developed a particular style of writing songs that’s really personal and it’s kind of my own and it’s not that other people don’t write personal things or don’t write about their life. A lot of artists in hip-hop and outside hip-hop but the particular way that I do it is kind of mine. And so I wrote these really personal songs all these years and my story is kind of unique in that I don’t really belong in any particular social group whether it’s race or economic or religious or whatever but kind of equally accepted and rejected by all of ‘em. It’s kind of like get in where I fit in and so my story being embraced by people the way that it was really gave me a lot of faith, that if you just really stick to the personal side of things, the human side the emotion and the mood and the feelings that you have when you’re in these situations if you really focus on telling stories that way people hear themselves in your story even if the details are not the same.
And so I pushed that further and further and further with all these things like and say ‘OK can I make these people accept me just me being myself?’ And telling my story and just saying whatever I really feel and it turned out that for the people that listen yeah. So I said OK let me test it a little further how can I push this even further. And people that come to my shows haven’t had the same experiences where they know me in a lot of different situations. It’s a lot of kids who have had access to the mainstream part of American society whether they’re in college whatever it is that wasn’t my experience but so the question started to become for myself like can I tell the stories of the people that I love or the people around me if I do it in that same kind of personal way where I talk about the relationship I have with them. Can I connect the listeners with those people now you know what I mean try to stretch that connection a level further say well, Ok Chad you may never have known anybody that had to sell drugs to live then got murdered but my best friend was in that situation. So many of these stories might not have been close and personal and dear to your heart so you may think that they have nothing to do with you but, if I can tell these stories and talk about the pain and the fear and the frustrations and the celebration and the love and everything and the strength and the courage and all these things. Saying it in way that you see yourself in my friends maybe you don’t feel so separate from them anymore. So that’s what this album tried to do I’m not saying I did a LeBron James with it but I did the best I could do.
“I really don’t believe jack of all trades master of none I believe if you study that craft you can do it well”
MC Lyte never believed that rappers were not able to multi-task even though her life as enduring hip-hop legend would make people think otherwise of her intentions. Her first album Lyte As A Rock from 1988 established her as a preeminent rhymer, another Brooklynite maker of the canon. It was songs like her “10 % Dis,” Roxanne Shante’s “Roxanne’s Revenge” four years earlier and the entrance of Salt N Pepa in 1986 that established women as integral members of the rap world instead of temporary fads long before Foxy and Kim showed us their g-strings. In 2009 the female rapper is mostly an underground marvel read Jean Grae, Eternia, Invincible, Bahamadia, T-Love, Lin Que and others I have not heard of to date. Fans of Lyte wonder why she does not take her rarefied nine album status to reestablish female rappers in the mainstream and dedicate herself exclusively to music. The film successes of Queen Latifah, Will Smith and Ice Cube validated the rapper’s ability to be a crosstrainer and created new opportunities in an industry that has become eager to hire anyone with a brand name. A budding filmography and televison roles in “The Playa’s Ball” and “Half and Half” never made her love for music ebb because her passion for each discipline is equal but not greater than the other. Prior commitments to a major label in the ‘90s made it difficult for her to fulfill the obligations of her music contract and venture deeper into acting. A new professional alliance with James DuBose who has a history as a producer and executive producer of several TV shows including Run’s House, Keyshia Cole: The Way It Is and a host of other projects with Spike TV, HBO and Fox has given Lyte a new gig as the Executive Vice President of his entertainment group and the flagship artist of his DuBose Music Group. The new situation allows her to run the company, act and make music in the same building.
Musically speaking she released a spontaneous video for “Brooklyn” earlier this year to recreate an apetite for her work. Last year she introduced Almost September, a hip-hop soul group consisting of herself and songwriters Jared Lee and Whitey that quickly intrigued fans but never received a suitable release because of time restrictions. As a solo artist she just released “Rocking With The Best” from her upcoming album in 2010. In addition to her new VP job and music she is doing voiceover work, collaborating with David Banner on a talent contest, prepping a new radio show and community building among women in the industry.
What’s going on? What’s the reality show “Hollywood Treatment” with Mary J. about?
It is a reality show and Mary J. Blige is on the first feature so I’m hosting the show and the one we have in the can is in face the one Mary did the show is just chilling. The show in itself is about young folks who are trying to get from point A to point B and really don’t know how and they’re asking for help so what we do as the show is team them up with the best foundation that has been started by a celebrity. And with this particular episode that young lady really had a lot in common with Mary with regards to Mary’s upbringing so we thought that would be an appropriate match.
“My mission statement is to put out feel good music and to uplift the R&B lovers”
K’Jon’s meditative “On The Ocean” is quelling the inner turmoil of an R&B nation dealing with a dire economy, health care issues and a new Black president. Hailing from Detroit, a city of tall musical merit going through severe political and economic ignominy he wrote his hit song came from a place of peaceful resilience in the face of his own personal challenges. Oddly enough the song’s soothing qualities almost conceal the rolling rhythm underneath that has snared the feet of ballroom dancers around the country. The so-called urban adult contemporary music slot never had this much life in a song and exceeded its usual watery expectations with a sound politically analogous to Lionel Richie’s crossovers. Earlier stints as an independent artist and songwriter produced the Latin tinted “Miami” on the 2 Fast 2 Furious soundtrack and got him gigs opening for the likes of Ludacris, Ginuwine, Ne-Yo and T-Pain. Interest in his artistry reached a nadir this week with the release of his first album I Get Around and K’Jon spoke with Kickmag about his journey into a fulltime music career and why “On The Ocean” means so much to him.
“I’m a rapper that’s coming after corporate America I ain’t rapping against my brother I’m not coming against my man I’m not gonna say ‘Fuck this rapper’”
In the debate over the state of New York hip-hop most criticisms amount to blaming the region for being “too soft” and filled with hometown DJs constrained to a payola system that has unfairly pushed tasteless southern rappers to the top. Nationally speaking the auto-tune is on trial because the successes of T-Pain have become a trend in a number of rap singles making some cry that it is a bastardization of Roger Troutman’s memory. When pop-free purists like Buckshot who became a VIP of New York City’s underground rap circles for the stark boom-bap poetics of Black Moon and the development of the Duckdown brand rightfully critique the rigormortis of lame chart attempts the typical charge of covetous ageism disappears into the credibility of his dual occupation history. The ‘90’s brought about the formation of his various crews like Boot Camp Clik and Heltah Skeltah but in the 2000’s he has worked in collaboration with 9th Wonder twice and now the Blastmaster. It is something on the order of déjà vu when Black Moon sampled “My Philosophy” for “How Many MCs” and now both artists have performed the latter song most recently on the popular Rock The Bells Tour. “Robot” is their first proper song and video from their hip-hop directive Survival Skills and they do make fun of all the autotune biters without malice but with frustration. Buckshot clarifies that the gripe is about upholding the essence not attacking individuals because rap’s dark history of violence never gets replicated in the white-collar corporate world. But corporations have never had a problem making war on the community, which is how hip-hop started when the Bronx became victim to urban blight. In this interview Buckshot gets to the core of Survival Skills, his new entrepreneurial ambitions, hot emcees under 30, bio-civilization, working with KRS and the ongoing Rock The Bells tour.
How did hip-hop get to the “Robot” stage that you and KRS are referring to in the song?
I don’t know because it’s really messed-up the hip-hop game is messed-up not to the point that everybody’s robotic but most people wanna be robotic it’s like right now me and money brown are right here just grooving to me it’s about being human and we’re in the terminator stages I feel like I’m John O’ Connor because even though I’m here to stop the terminator I’m a part of the creation of them as well.