LYRICS BORN: CALLING OUT


Photo by Orlando Diaz
courtesy of solesides.com
Have you seen a live show recently that has really blown you away?

Wow… I liked the last Blackalicious show I saw, that was really incredible. You know I've been on the road so much my damn self I haven't seen a lot. I'm on the road a lot, like seven or eight months a year, and when I get home the last place I'm trying to be is at the club.

I feel that. Now I work for JamBase which is sort of a rock-based website - you know, mostly white kids who are just learning about hip-hop (if we’re lucky) - and I’m curious how you feel about that audience embracing your music.

Well you know, I love it. As a musician you want as many people as possible to embrace your music. I would love to have equal amounts of everybody in the world coming to the shows and embracing the music. I think it's just a beautiful thing when you're out there playing--and I'm still kinda stunned that people will actually pay me to play. It's pretty amazing, and that it keeps growing, I love it.

So I would assume that you would have interest in performing for that demographic at summer festivals?

Absolutely. I really think the true test of the artist and performer is to be able to win over and connect with any crowd.

I couldn’t agree more.

And I think very few artists are able to do that. You know Prince can do it, James Brown can do it, Jurassic 5 can do that. If you connect with all these people and all you're doing is just being you, that's an amazing statement.

Do you think hip-hop is politically active enough?

I think it is, but I think the stuff that really has a voice is not heard in the mainstream. A lot of people refer to hip-hop's golden age of being socially conscious and political was like the Public Enemy era. And I think there are exponentially more records available now than there was back then. So I don't know that the ratio or amount has decreased, I just think that there is a lot of other stuff out there also. So just to give a simple example, if ten records came out in '92 and eight of them were political or socially aware, now there are 100 records in 2004 and maybe still maybe 20 of them, the same percentage and the same eight are still there, but now there are a hundred other people talking as well, other topics. So it's there but the difference between then and now is that Public Enemy was the biggest group that there was at the time, and Dead Prez is not, unfortunately. So it's just different. It's all there, and it's all necessary, I just think that there needs to be more balance in the mainstream. Hip-hop is more diverse, and more un-definable than it ever has been, but I think that needs to be reflected in the mainstream.


Quannum World Tour 2004
Photo courtesy of solesides.com
And how do you feel about the politics of the day?

Well I think in a lot of ways I think the country is pretty screwed up right now. I think rich and poor is becoming more and more polarized. And this was always there, but I think there is too much emphasis right now on acquisition of wealth and not so much put no actually being truly healthy human beings. And I see this more than I've seen in recent years. And maybe it's because I'm an adult now and these things become more obvious to me, but I just don't think we are putting emphasis on the right things in this country.

Definitely, bombs instead of schools.

Yeah, to me that is just a travesty. To be spending that much money. But you know politics is a business, and I see our power structure using the ultimate business model right now. They are going to war to acquire new investments. They are using other people's money, namely the taxpayer's money, and other people's children to go fight the battle. None of their children are out there with guns in their hands--that's a business model. You use other people's money and other people's labor to get what you want. And I think that is unfortunate, it just sends the wrong message. What does that say when you are spending billions of dollars to go steal somebody's oil?

And you look on the street and there are homeless people and schools with 50 kids in a classroom that's falling apart.

It's just terrible. And the government really shows its ass when it does shit like that. It really shows you where the priorities are.

Perhaps you just answered this, but what could America use more of?

I think we just need a little bit more compassion, and some focus on actually making the country better.

And less of?

Greed.

And moving back to you a little bit, what do you think your greatest strengths and weaknesses are?

I think my greatest strengths are my resilience, my persistence, and my individuality. I think my greatest weakness is that I am perfectionist and sometimes these things take too long. I can become very obsessive over music.

Which in some ways can be a strength sometimes as well. What do you think is most important to mental and spiritual health?

Just awareness. Being aware of yourself externally and internally. Being aware of what's going on around you, and just being in tune.

Could you say who has been the biggest influence on you musically and otherwise?

You know that is so difficult because you take cues from so many artists at different points in your life, you know what I mean? I would say any time I’m getting ready to make a record I always listen to a few artists just to check in with them. Those artists are Bob Marley, James Brown, Buju--older Buju--just to make sure I'm still doing the right thing.

And how about personally, outside of music?

My fiancé, my family, just to make sure that I'm still who I always was. And my peers. I just love going out and observing.

Are you still as close with you crew as you were when you started?

Yeah. I mean we’ve grown up, we’re not 17 anymore, but definitely.

Can you name an experience in your life that has been monumental in shaping where you’ve been and come from?

Musically I think when I was in the photographer B Plus's basement; B Plus is a guy who shot a lot of stuff. I was in his basement one time about ten years ago and I was sitting there having a conversation with a drummer named JMD from L.A., the guy played on like the Pharcyde records and the Freestyle Fellowship records and so forth. And I told him, "Look, I have all these things I want to do musically, with rap, I want to make rap songs that are rock influenced, reggae influenced. I want to talk about this I want to do that. But I just don’t know how to go about doing it all, get it all going. Where do I start?" And quite simply he said, "Look, just do it all." And since that day on that's all I've ever done. I've never censored myself. If there was something I wanted to do I just did it. Whether it fell into the genre or not, whether it was easy to categorize or not, I just went in and did it. I think that was a real turning point for me, because that spoke to me, and not just musically. Why shouldn't you go out and try everything you ever wanted to do in life, why shouldn't you just do it all?

Do you have a favorite book or two?

I really like Forces In Motion. It documents a tour of Anthony Braxton, who's a jazz musician. A really interesting book.

How about if you could have dinner with three people, living or dead, who would they be?

My father. I'd like to be able to talk to him. Curtis Mayfield. And Bob Marley.

If you could change one thing in the world what would it be?

I'd make the wrongs right.

Hmm, I like that. How about if you could change something in hip-hop?

I'd make the wrongs right.

OK, you're on the desert island, what five albums do you take with you?

Ooooh. Mine, I'd take Later That Day. Best Of Sade. I would take Kind of Blue, Miles Davis. And Catch a Fire, Bob Marley.

And last question for you my friend, where would you like to see yourself in 20 years?

Still doing what I'm doing. Still making music.

The Kayceman
JamBase | San Francisco
Go See Live Music!

http://www.lyricsborn.com

[Published on: 5/10/04]

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