April Ma’lissia, Texas Poet, Writer, and Motivational Blogger, talks with HHF

Interviewed by Madeleine Byrne

Twenty-six year old poet/writer/ and motivational blogger, April Ma’lissia (Texas) is an internet phenomenon, clocking up thousands of views for her videos, with fans across the globe who appreciate her clever rhymes and determination to create art that will ‘uplift women’. 

Before the interview I asked her to nominate a hip-hop track, or artist that has inspired her style and overall creative approach. Her choice: Tupac’s ‘Keep ya head up’ …..

HHF: Why do you love that track so much?

AM: I like ‘Keep ya head up’ because I feel like Tupac was half psychic or something, like he saw what was about to come. Everything he said in that song I see now, like that part where he rhymes: ‘Be real to our women And if we don’t we’ll have a race of babies That will hate the ladies that make the babies …’ I feel like that’s what it is today.

Women, especially Black women are (pauses) I don’t want to say hated, it’s more disliked, not valued. The song really touches me, I relate to it and feel like Tupac was ahead of his time.

HHF: What do you think it was about Tupac that gave him such a different perspective?

AM: I feel like Tupac was a very open and diverse individual. He wasn’t one thing. A lot of artists today do one thing: if you’re a gangster rapper, you’re just a gangster rapper (Tupac wasn’t like that). Tupac was super way ahead of his time, that’s why I respect him so much.

HHF: Is there anything about the way that he rhymes that is inspirational for you?

AM: His passion. When Tupac delivers the message you can clearly hear it and it’s that passion I incorporate into my art, my poems; the passion. You can feel him. With his work, he can make you angry; he can make you sad. He can make you happy, you know. He was powerful; you can feel him with his words and I think that’s important for any type of art, for people to be able to feel you.

HHF: Now let’s talk about your work, can we start with your poem ‘Black woman …’

AM: Well, ‘Black woman’ is basically about the stereotypes that we fight against as black women. It’s like we have this stigma attached to us, we have to watch what we do so we don’t come off as ‘ghetto’, you know. We have to watch what we say; or how we wear our hair. There’s so much criticism. If we wear a weave, for instance, that’s not natural. But despite what a lot of people say about natural hair and embracing natural hair a lot of individuals really don’t like that (either).
It’s like a Black woman is in this maze and she’s trapped; so that’s what the poem is about.

HHF: Can you now choose part of the poem and talk about it more?

AM: Okay, let me think. ‘Lose the attitude, bitch, why the fuck are you so mean?/Miss can’t keep a man, food stamp Queen.’ At the beginning of the poem I’m coming at her, like the world is coming at her: ‘Lose the attitude, bitch. You got an attitude, why you so mean?’

Like the negative comments that people throw at black women I address that at the beginning of the poem because I want people to get enraged, to get offended by what I’m saying. I want them to feel it, because that is the pain we go through on a daily basis and a lot of times its from our brothers. People we look to, say things to hurt us.

HHF: Where do you think that racist stereotype of the ‘Angry Black woman’ in the US comes from?

AM: You know that’s society and the world we live in. People have got this idea that the US is based upon Christianity and in the Bible it speaks about how submissive the woman is supposed to be to her man, so we come from a Bible-based setting and the woman is supposed to be submissive, quiet and calm so when I speak up and get all passionate people mistake that as being angry.

Even the way I’m talking right now can intimidate somebody a lot. It makes them feel inferior like I’m too strong and a lot to handle, but that’s not the case. It’s all about society and what we were taught. The man is supposed to lead and the woman is supposed to follow so when I speak up, it often offends people and I don’t mean to offend anybody. I find myself apologizing a lot, saying I don’t mean to offend you.

HHF: Let’s talk about your work then in this context, you have lots of fans and supporters on Facebook, who do you think your audience is do you think?

AM: Women and a handful of men. And they’re from everywhere: I’ve got people in Europe, in the US, Canada, Africa – everywhere.

HHF: What kind of feedback to you get back from them, what do they like about your work?

AM: They say that I empower them, I inspire them to say the things that they’re afraid to say I say. I’m like a voice for women to speak their true feelings about everything, even the weak parts that we don’t like to admit.

HHF: That’s true you have a wonderfully strong, clear message about the need for women to love and respect themselves. Why do you think young women today aren’t as confident as they could or should be?

AM: They used to blame it on TV, but it’s all about social media now. If you look on social media what do you see, you see Kylie Jenner – she’s a beautiful woman, don’t get me wrong – and all these celebrities and they look perfect. In reality, even she doesn’t look like that.

We base our self-worth upon a picture and the amount of likes I get. If I get three likes as opposed to 300 that’s going to affect my self-esteem. So we’re basing our self-worth and our appearance and our beauty on pictures and likes and shares and it’s killing us. It’s killing the hell out of us, it’s hurting us.

(…)

HHF: Now let’s talk about how you work, how do you begin; what’s the process for you in terms of putting a poem together?

AM: There’s no specific way, I just think to myself like the way I’m talking to you right now, I just want to make a rhyme. A lot of time people don’t understand poets, I speak in their (my audience’s) lingo – I speak the language. It comes from my heart and it comes from reality. I’m not painting no pretty pictures, this is all reality.

HHF: Can you remember when you started writing poems?

AM: I was thirteen and in a classroom, the teacher was like we’re about to read this book and I want you all to tell me how you felt about the book in a creative way. And I said, okay, I’m going to make a rhyme, cause at the time. I used to listen to Jay-Z a lot and I was like I’m going to do it like Jay-Z do it, I’m going to tell my feelings but I’m going to make it rhyme.

HHF: What are your future plans, are you going to start publishing books as well?

AM: Definitely I’m going to start publishing, I’m working on a book right now – it’s a book about empowerment for young women and it’s going to appeal to young women and put a sense of hope into them and make them feel beautiful. I do the videos like a rapper, or an artist to put out videos or tracks to sell an album, I put out spoken-word videos to sell the book.

HHF: Just to finish can you talk about more of your poems, ‘Second chances’ and ‘The Butterfly affect’?

AM: ‘Second chances’ starts with ‘I’m tired of ignoring you, and I cant seem to get you off my mind/We done been through this too many times/I flip second chances, like it’s tax season/count it out like 3 4 and 5 and the thought of catching you on a 6th lie blows my high and I don’t know how to roll one so I ignore you soberly like “ahh nahh’

It’s basically what you go through in a relationship, I’ve given a man chance after chance after chance and I still can’t let go because I’m not a man-basher, a man is a good thing to have: a person who loves you and you love back is a good thing to have, so you go through these trials and tribulations and you have hope for the man that he could be for you at the end of the day.

It’s raw, it’s not about being all strong, I’m done with you, it’s about forgiveness and moving forward. You know we try to put on this front for our homegirls, yeah I’m done with him, but we texting him on the low asking when you going to come back home. That’s the reality and I think that’s why so many women relate to it.

As for the ‘Butterfly affect’ I came up with this title from the transition of the butterfly, it starts out as a caterpillar and then transforms into this beautiful butterfly. Basically that is a woman who starts out as a caterpillar, the lines are: ‘I read an article today, it said that plus size, is a size 8. Baffling to me but I read it was normally true in the fashion industry I should’ve registered it false but I cashed in for supplements that read fast weight loss.’

And she’s struggling with society, but in the end she has made up her ‘mind today I cannot leave Earth unmade so to the bully who seems to be never pleased with what he sees here’s what I have to say’ – at that point she is owning who she is and saying I’m going to be me and if you like it, or don’t doesn’t matter, I do.

HHF: What is the key message you want to give to the young women through your work?

AM: I would like young women to know, somebody can tell you that you’re beautiful all day long, but until you really get it in your head, in your soul, in your heart, until you do that, you’ll never understand just how beautiful you are.

I want to help you to do that. I feel like God created me to empower women: daughters, mothers, grandmothers; your sister, your cousin, that’s what I want so bad is for women to rise up and embrace who they are.

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CEO/Founder of First Family Productions, Terrell Johnson Interview

Written and Interviewed by: Madeleine Byrne

HHF: Let’s talk about your company, you’re the CEO of First Family productions, talk to me about what you’re trying to achieve.

TJ: The logic of the game is to turn artists into businesses. We do the things record companies don’t do any more – we teach stage presence and how to do interviews and how to perform. A lot of artists think that each time you record a song, it’s a hit, so we’re trying to teach artists different things to identify in music; we try to keep them relevant by making music about relevant situations that are going on in the world. We take the time to develop our artists; photo-shoots and brand management … We treat our artists like a product, you’ve got to maintain that product and when you hit that level it’s about distribution of that product to the world.

HHF: Just tell me about why you decided to set up the company, I mean why did you feel there was a need for it?

TJ: Well, I had the group AMN and we were travelling a lot, doing a lot of performances, we were meeting a lot of record labels. We’d meet with a label and they’d be like, yeah, we like the songs; we like the performances, you’re talented, but we don’t know what to do with you all. We’re not really sure how to market you guys – and this happened so many times. And I was thinking to myself, I don’t even know the name of the person I’m talking to, who are you? Who are you to tell me that you don’t know how to take my music to the next level? I don’t need you. So I figured, man, I could do this myself. I then decided to take my career into my own hands at that point.

HHF: This is one of the really interesting things in hip-hop at the moment, there’s a real movement towards artists representing themselves, setting up a collective ethos. Do you think this is something that’s happening more broadly across hip-hop now?

TJ: Yes, but I have way, way bigger goals for the company. Right now I just figure if I take the time to do the little things myself. I’ll be responsible for my career to the point where I’ll find guys to do something I can’t do. I’m not going to get someone to do something I can do myself. That doesn’t make any sense. The object of the game is that my kids’ kids’ kids’ kids’ have money so I have to cut out a lot of middlemen.

HHF: So you’ve got the guys associated with AMN with First Family, have you got any artists who are up and coming?

TJ: I’ve got a singer, a female singer called Mars – she’s very talented, she’s a great writer; we got her in the studio working. We’ve got other artists that we’re working with, who we haven’t officially added to the company. At this point I’ve got four, and I don’t see the need to add 50,000 artists; the whole point of the game is to take the time to develop. And working with four different personalities (laughs) is very time-consuming.

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HHF: Are they all in Philadelphia, or where are they based?

TJ: Yes, everybody’s from Philadelphia. That was intentional, I intentionally work with people from my area.

HHF: Let’s talk about Philadelphia now, how would you describe the city in terms of its hip-hop scene?

TJ: We have a very strong underground scene in Philadelphia. Obviously we have a lot of great, great artists coming out of the city. We have strong musical roots in Philadelphia – anyone who knows anything about music knows this. Our underground scene is very active now, but it’s not the place you’d come to if you are looking for a record deal. If you’re looking for anything big, well we don’t have that kind of energy here.

I love this city for what it is, but (pauses)…

HHF: So you’re saying that if an artist in Philadelphia wants to move to the next level, get a record deal perhaps with a major, you have to leave the city, is that right?

TJ: We have a lot of artists that are like famous in the city, who’ve been famous 10-15 years and its like, how far do you want to go? How far do you want to take it? Anything you do you’ve got to broaden your horizons. You have to think bigger than your city, bigger than your neighborhood, bigger than your corner. (…)

HHF: How does it compare with another city, say for example Atlanta, in terms of the hip-hop scene?

TJ: I lived in Atlanta for a little while, and in Atlanta their energy is different. In Atlanta they give you chances. People will work with you; people will help you; people will partner you. The thing about Atlanta is that everybody is from somewhere and everybody moves to Atlanta for the greater good of the cause so people understand the basic concept of team-work.

HHF: Maybe we should say something positive about Philadelphia, though, because this is going to get published …

TJ: I love my city. I feel like my city is the best city in the world. I wouldn’t trade from being from nowhere else. I love it here. Its home to me. I love everything about it, it’s just that I understand that to do better, I have to move on. I love it here though; I love the way we dress, the love the way we talk … I love my city. I don’t think there is no city better in the world than mine. Thank you for what she’s given me so far, but it’s time to leave.

HHF: So you’re from Philadelphia, originally right? Tell me about the kinds of music you were listening to in terms of hip-hop when you were growing up?

TJ: My older brother is in his mid-30s, so growing up he played music like Method Man, Wu-Tang and music of that nature. My music though is 90s R&B, this is the music I play when I drive, when I’m at home, because it relaxes me. I’m not too big on listening to other hip-hop artists, honestly I might catch singles that come through the radio. But I always like to have my own thoughts, my own opinions and my own ways.

HHF: So what you listen to now and when you were younger is R&B, right?

TJ: Yes, I love it.

HHF: How do you think R&B has influenced your music; what’s the connection there?

TJ: It’s definitely influenced my music, but more than that it resources me; I use it to get away from my everyday life. I use it to get away from what’s going on in the streets. So when I get a chance to be alone; I listen to R*B music but it relaxes my soul. It keeps me in a better mind state. It helps me to be calm, when I’m with my son and when I’m with my girlfriend. It just calms me down as a person.

HHF: Let’s now think about AMN – Any Means Necessary – you’ve taken a name that seems to refer to one of the most famous maxims from Black American history, why did you choose that name?

TJ: Well, I was sitting around when I was younger and my friends were sitting around thinking of a name for the group. We were thinking, thinking and thinking; just talking. I just responded to something one of my friends said with, we’re going to succeed by any means necessary.

HHF: It’s a great name. Talk to me about your career with AMN.

TJ: We started the early 2000s, about ten years ago and it got to the point we had like 15 people in the group: we had singers, dancers, rappers … It was like a lifestyle, we made a thing out of it. Over the years, things changed – we lost members, left and right; the AMN now, well it’s my third time building the group.

HHF: Let’s talk about the AMN track ‘Famous’ when was it released?

TJ: February 2013, I believe.

HHF: You’ve said it was the story of everybody; can you talk more about that? What do you mean by that?

TJ: In the video, you can see Vino came home from the military and he had to go back to regular life, but it was hard for him. It was hard for him to find a job; he’s married with a kid, it was hard to find a job so he struggled financially for a while. Chris was in high school, I think he dropped out, you know he went from check to check, job to job thing, being homeless and having nowhere to stay, trying to get back and trying to figure out ways to survive. And me, well I was on the streets before I tried to do music so I ended up being in prison for a while. So coming home, we all decided – you know what, you’ve been through what you’ve been through, I’ve been what I’ve been through; how about we just take this and turn it into something positive. So the object of the video is that no matter what you go through, don’t forget there is always something to look forward. You do have direction.

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Dj Ready Red of the Geto Boys Speaks With Hip Hop Forum

Hip Hop Forum Digital Magazine interview with former “Geto Boy,” Dj Ready Red

Interviewed by D-Boogie

HHF: How did you become a Geto Boy, and where are you from?

Red: Well let’s see, I am from Trenton, New Jersey. It all started when I fell in love with hip hop, after going to a family reunion in 1979, and hearing the dj spin Grandmaster Flash and Grand Wizard Theodore. So I decided that I wanted to see if I could become a dj. I was not very talkative back in those days. There used to be a dj, who I called the Kool Herc of Trenton. His name was Kenny Beal and he was my inspiration. So it was a couple of disco twins, named Joe and Henry, (may Henry R.I.P) that I used to play hooky with. The twins lived right next to my uncle so that right there was pretty risky ha-ha. One time I was inside, and the twins showed me a lot of the technical aspects. This was late maybe late 79, early 80. So right around September I asked my mom to get me some turntables. So she came up and got me two Technique SLB 101s, from a place called Silos. So I got a little Gemini mixer, and it was on. I kept quitting for years though. I would start and stop, but I also wanted to play football. In my junior year, I ended up getting hurt so I started to dj more, and I started getting the hang of it, and decided to stick with the DJ thing. So I hooked up with a group called the Mighty MCs, but they had this female MC named Queen Equality She was my first Mc. Then I started working with the Mighty Mcs which consisted of Prince Johnny c (who would later become a Geto Boy), and Radee. Through about 1981 through 1986, we stayed in jersey battling crews. So in 86, my next oldest sister asked me to come to Houston to help her out, so I did. I decided to stay in Houston after I won a battle of the Djs and I ran into NC Trahan and Jukeboxx, along with Raheem, and K-9. So we started going through negotiations, and I became a Geto Boy.

HHF: How do you feel about your time there?

Red: Well let’s rewind, I first got to Houston in January of 87, and I ended up in southwest Houston. That was when I ran into John and Lee, two brothers from Brooklyn and Philadelphia. Their father, Dr. Freddie Brown, was a dj for WKPSU, he was the jazz guy. He had a lot of records so I made a demo tape called “Outlaw”, with a TR- 909 drum machine and took it to rap a lot records at this car lot. J said he wasn’t interested in a group at the moment, but who makes the beats? So I told him, man I’m down with the Def 4.(Originally known as The Casanova Crew) So I talked to the 4, which they knew I was kind of raggedy, and doing a lot of craziness out there, and told them huge opportunity. So the next day me and J went to a pawnshop and got some equipment ( 8 channel mixing board, tr-808, technique turntables, and 2 speakers, then hooked up system up on top of the car lot and stayed there.

HHF: Would you agree that the 808, 909 etc. helped to shape your sound?

Red: It played a big part because I didn’t know how to sample at first. I wasn’t that technical back then. I mean all I could do was run the record along with the beat. On the “Making Trouble” album, I was doing a little something, but I didn’t know how to sequence yet. That wouldn’t be until the next album. My first drum machine was the TR- 606. The 808 and 909 make a good combo. I liked the 909 but it came on to become the go to machine for house music. The 808 plays a big part and is a cornerstone in hip hop and many different genres. Now to me, that’s what everyone went back to now today. That would be the trap music. So I could be one of the first trap producers if you want to call it that, even though they keep changing names. I had to figure out, what is trap music, and I noticed that the only difference is the high hats. There is no set way of doing this. That’s why I tell a lot of young cats to come mess with me. I never knock, I always try to inspire others because a lot of cats encouraged me along the way.

HHF: Now back to the Geto Boys.

Red: So I went thru the bases with K-9 and Raheem, who was the first rap artist to be signed to A&M records, and then they signed Jukeboxx. So, 1 by 1, k-9 went to jail, Raheem left, and it was just me and Jukeboxx. J started looking for replacements, and I was not happy with who he was looking at. So I said hey, I got my boy Prince Johnny C I’ve been down with now for 6 or 7 years, and he came down to Houston. By that time most of the “Making Trouble” album was already written. So Johnny C wanted them to show what he could bring to table that he would feel good about. So he wrote the song “Assassins”, and about the time he wrote that, Ronnie Mac (R.I.P) introduced us to Bushwick Bill, who became our dancer. So one night at my crib, we were watching the movie Scarface. We had the VCR going through the mixer, the turntable going through the mixer, as well as the 808, and Bill sat down on the start and stop pedal. Right at the time Scarface says “Hey Sosa, all I have in this world…” and then the beat kicked in at the same time, and I heard something. I went to work and that’s how I came up with “Scarface”, made in the Geto Boys image.

HHF: So did you meet Scarface or Akshun as he was known then through Bushwick Bill?

Red: Nope, we met Face at the club. He always would come up and say “yo man I can rap”, and kept on to the point of irritating your ass. So J finally heard him rap. There was a battle over my house between k-9, who had just gotten out of jail, and Scarface basically blew him out the water. K-9 said, “Yea I see what you talking about.” Scarface was still Akshun at this time, so I said yo just be Scarface. So they wanted me to remix the original Scarface from Troy Records, at first I said hell naw. Then looking at it in a business perspective I agreed to do it. So at first I took some common break beats like, “gimme what you got”, and a couple other joints, put my touches on there, and it came out a nice way to where I liked it, and that’s how Scarface was born.

ready red 2

HHF: Now back to your time with the Ghetto Boys, how did the G-E-T-O spelling come about?

Red: Before that, Willie D came in and joined the Geto Boys, and I did Willie D’s “Controversial” album. I say Willie D is the true definition of a “get ya ass in a minute” 5th ward motherfucka. He was true about his shit. It was fun working with Willie, He was great, very talented. He still is, but ask me and I don’t think he is at his full potential. He is the original mouth of the south. So anyway, we put out “Grip It On Another Level”. That did well and that got us out of Houston. We went all over the country and all that. Then Rick Rubin gets involved. He is the one who suggested we change the name to the “Geto Boys”. I wanted to make a new album, and Rick says ” No, we are going to re-do the “Grip It” album. I said, “Man that’s not good for the fans”. So we ended up going to work with Rubin, who mixed it and brought out a lot of sounds and I liked it, especially because it was Rick Rubin. I thought we were on his label and things would get good. Then I called up there one day, and next thing you know we are back with Rap a Lot. Around that time I started to see some things, like yo where is this money at, what’s going on? I deserve and I thought everyone else deserved some decent compensation. It was around the time we were working on the “Can’t Be Stopped” album, which I did most of that album and did not get credit for it. So I decided I’m not going to keep doing this if I keep getting fucked. Then that was it that was it. Closed that chapter, which was in 1991. I got mad right before “Mind playing tricks on me”, which me and Brad did at my house, and you know what happened to that, it became the signature song of that Geto Boys….And uh, I’m still here! Yeah, that is the short version.

HHF: Do you have anything to say about J Prince?

Red: I have no hostility toward J at all. I did not allow him to make millions off me. He probably did though, but I didn’t stay long enough for him to do that. I can say some millions was made, but I have not been around him in over 27 years…I hear something now and then, and the courtesy call, that’s some funny shit ha-ha, but you know, you see nobody aint fuckin with me. I fuck wit J, but about my money I think he should be able to break bread with me. If he can buy pews and chapel steeples for churches, he can surely break off a piece to some of the people that helped him make it. Other than that, I really don’t got nothing to say than what has already been said.

HHF: Talk about how funky the industry is.

Red: I’ll tell any young artist this, before it gets bad, know your business. You can only have done to you what you allow to have done. Trust no one. Go get you a lawyer. Read everything that is on that contract, and make sure he tells you exactly what is going on so there is no surprises in the long run. Oh and if anyone u dealing with ever says “man aint no need to sign this, it’s just for when we got to show it to folks,” do not believe that shit, that’s how I was tricked. I was too trusting. At the same time, do not sign no manager contract if u aint got nothing to manage. If you do, do it project by project, don’t lock yourself down. You never know, you can make a hit and contracts will come out the woodworks. That’s the music business, take care of it, (your business) and with all this social media, you should know your business so you aint got to kill nobody out here for ripping you off.

HHF: As far as the Prison Industrial System and the secret meetings in hip hop, what do you know or have to say about that?

Red: Well you know the biggest trick of the devil was what? To show that it don’t exist. A lot of people don’t think that Illuminati and all that other stuff is there man. I happened to be a part of the meetings. They, and when I say they, I mean J and Cliff, went out to LA, and came back. Next thing I know we being told like, “yo man this what we got to do, this what we going to do, this how things going to be, we going to talk about bitches and hoes blah blah whoopty woo.” If you watch that Unsung episode, (about the geto boys) it plays out just like it. So there it is. That is the proof, its right there. Hell yea there was a secret meeting. Nobody wants to admit to that shit. You know back then before that meeting in 91, you had an even playing field. You had conscious, you had reality rap, everybody had they little part of what was going on. Now all of a sudden it’s just dark. It’s about rims, about bitches, about 9s, and about drugs.

HHF: – And everything good has been pushed underground?

Red: Pretty much. So when CEOs are telling you “yo man they don’t want to hear that good shit, come up with some of that gangsta shit and we will put u out.” So you got your good artist, and I aint saying they not good at what they do, but man after a while, after 20 something damn near 30 years, of being one of the head niggas behind this shit, I want to hear some new shit, I wanna hear some solutions. I already know that you hard. I already know you got rims, got bitches. Do you have any solutions for all this shit? If you got all this money, what you mad for? We need to save the youth man. As for me, I’m just sitting back working on some new records with some of the original Geto Boys, but it won’t be under the name Geto Boys. We have a name, we just have not released it yet.

HHF: What do you think, or is there a solution to change way the main stream is?

Red: Well you as a consumer, your dollar pulls a lot of weight, so stop buying the bullshit. Demand better. That’s what I would do. Tell the CEOs you don’t want to hear this bullshit. I want to see some happier shit, Sometime I want to hear some conscious shit.

HHF: So if you threaten a company with the dollar, it is more powerful than threatening with with a weapon

Red: Pretty much, got to hurt em in the pocket man.

 

Currently, Dj Ready Red is still making music and recently formed a group with a few former members. So be sure to look out for him!

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Donate To Help The Family Of Tamir Rice

Written by Madeleine Byrne

Soon after Christmas, Timothy McGinty the prosecutor overseeing the investigation of the police officers involved in the Tamir Rice case announced that the two officers would not stand trial.

Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start with this case. With the shocking event itself (a child is shot and killed by a police officer, when playing in a public park with a toy-gun) or the investigation (the officers were never cross-examined, reports favouring the officers were publicly released) or last week’s final Grand Jury decision not to indict the officers.

Hip Hop Forum digital magazine stands with the Tamir Rice family and his courageous mother, Samaria as she continues her battle for justice. This is the reason why we urge you to donate to the Tamir Rice Justice Fund,

https://www.youcaring.com/samaria-rice-494325

(a fund set up by the Rice family, supporters and their lawyers). Please give generously.

HHF Interview- Philli Producer Harry Metz AKA Rolled Gold

Interviewed by Madeleine Byrne

Philadelphia’s Harry Metz aka Rolled Gold talks with Hip Hop Forum digital magazine about his just released Ep, Salty, that features a mighty line-up of local talent: Uncle Nate, Visto (ex the Bronx) Uncle Crimson, Rhetoric Wallace, Al Mighty (ex Camden NJ) Ai-Que, The Bul Bey and representing the Bronx, KO-P.

 

HHF: So the title ‘Salty’ what’s that about?

RG: I thought of it a long time ago when I first started making beats, I guess. It’s related to Rolled Gold as a pretzel company but also a slang word, so it ties everything together. The next project is going to be called ‘Extra Salty’ and the third one is going to be called ‘Extreme salty’ (laughs).

It’s a Philadelphia slang word, like ‘Ah he’s salty, he’s missed the bus.’ It’s also to do with food, you know snack food, maybe munchies. It has a meaning but it’s also kind of meaningless; just throw it out there, you know.

HHF: Talk to me about the overall mood of the ep – when listening to it I hear two distinct moods in the record – how would you describe it?

RG: You’ve got the hard, aggressive intro and the second song and then you’ve got tracks that are kind of cartoony, especially the tracks with Rhetoric Wallace, those tracks have that kind of weird, trippy cartoon vibe to them. I think it’s a good balance. I’m always about having a balance; if you do an ep you have a chilled track, a hype track, an old school track: it brings out a lot of colors in my mind.

HHF: It’s a very dynamic record, it’s really lively, especially at the start it’s got this energy to it, but for me it’s also got this Blaxploitation feel, an over the top sound. You know I did an interview with another Philly rapper, Crazie K!d AnonYmous and his music had a similar feel, do you think any of this connects with the city you come from?

RG: Yeah, for sure. Philadelphia like any major city has had its ups and downs; but definitely there’s that aggressive sound, especially these days and before this we had Beanie Sigel and Black Thought (The Roots) and they had that grimy edge to everything they do. But I also think it’s my job to show the opposite as well. We have the chill side, a jazzy side too; it’s a contrast in the city that goes throughout our history. Sixties Philly was very doo-wop Barbershop, singing on the corner, just like how Motown came about and then there’s that soft sweet sound. I love when you mix that with the hard, aggressive rap sound.

HHF: What you really hear is the ‘cartoony’ – to use your word – all those samples from 60s pop and TV, which made me think of Doom and then as you say the darker material as well. That track ‘Paisley on the drapes’ is a perfect example of the two elements working together. The pop elements, but the emcees’ delivery is straight, can you talk about that song?

cartoonish

RG: (laughs) Yeah. That was the first track we actually recorded. I had just met Uncle Crimson, Dante a few months before; I knew Rhetoric Wallace here and there throughout high school and from hanging out downtown. My plan was for the guys to come over, do something on the spot; let’s just make something by the end of the night.

Some of it was written previously and Dante literally, I’ve got these paisley drapes on my windows (laughs) just started going off; I was like, damn that’s actually kind of dope it doesn’t have to mean anything, but it could mean everything. By the end of the night we had everything recorded.

HHF: Could you also talk about they way you used 60s pop elements for contrast?

RG: Yeah, that one was like a lounge Hawaiian set I sampled. I love to take weird stuff like that, probably influenced by people like Madlib and Dilla and Doom, just way out there. I’d heard Rhetoric Wallace and Uncle Crimson rap before and I was like, I got to make the wackiest beat. That was the word I thought of, let me make something wacky and then Dante came over and he was like yes, this is the one. I just wanted to have that contrast of the boombap – the kick and the snare – and have this Hawaiian, tropical cartoon thing going on with it.

I like the way he’s not really describing, or talking about anything in particular but the energy comes through. But it also describes Philly, but it’s like you’re kind of walking around seeing crazy shit.

HHF: The other emcee on that track, Rhetoric Wallace, tell me about him?

RG: They both grew up on the same corner, in north Philly. Those dudes are pretty out there. Rhetoric Wallace has been getting a lot of press lately. He did some work with Ohbliv, a producer from the South and he’s got a big Soundcloud following. I think he’s going to be at the next South by Southwest.

HHF: You could say maybe that your ‘signature style’ is found in the track, ‘The Speakeasy’ (featuring Ai-Que, Visto, The Bul Bey) very musical, expressive, with a party feel, do you think that this style of production is something you’ve become known for?

RG: Yeah, but I’m definitely expanding from that, I think it was necessary to start there, so now people say, ‘Harry, he’s always got the soulful samples, the jazz samples’ and then they want to work with me for that. It can bring in old heads who listen to jazz and soul and they’ll listen to some hip-hop though they normally wouldn’t, which is one of the things that I like best about sampling, honestly.

You’ve got old heads who don’t like the aggressiveness of rap, or they don’t think it’s real music it’s just somebody talking. But if that old head listens to soul from the 60s or jazz and I play them a piece they might like it, they might like the way I’ve reworked one of their favorites from back then. On the other hand, you’ve got young kids who listen to radio rap, or hip-hop and they don’t like the old music, they think it’s nerdy and stupid and old. But if I play them a song that Kanye or Jay-Z sampled, they’re like yeah I do like this, cause I get reference of from the music I like.

It’s a tool to bring old and young together and reminding people to step outside the box every once in a while, not everything (you like) needs to be what you listen to everyday.

HHF: Let’s think now about this moment in hip-hop production because I think it’s a really interesting time with producers becoming stars in many respects; now there are lots of underground producers making names for themselves. How would you describe the current time in terms of hip-hop production?

RG: I think a lot of things are coming to light more; people are realising that they like the song because of the beat and not so much because of the lyrics and that’s okay. That creates a vibe. People are paying more homage to producers and producers are realising that they don’t need to be behind the scenes and organising their own careers in the way they want.

HHF: What do you think the role of the producer is?

RG: Well, a lot of people think, I make beats so I’m a producer but that’s not exactly the case. There’s a big difference between someone rapping on a track and turning it into a clear, illustrative actual song.

Rolled Gold, Ali, Henry

HHF: Are you putting out the beats generally, or approaching people individually?

RG: A little bit of both; I send beats to people, but now what I’m doing with my most recent project with singers is having them come over, talk a little bit and then develop a song together: that’s starting from scratch without samples. It’s a pretty, natural organic process.

HHF: Speaking more generally now, we’ve talked about producers gaining more prominence, do you think that there is a particular sound now in the underground hip-hop scene?

RG: In underground hip-hop I think it’s always the same thing that has interested people since the 90s, a lot of people are getting into straight samples these days: the way Madlib and Dilla did back in the day, not adding stuff, just letting the sample be and that’s great.

HHF: In the future though you’re going to be moving towards a mix of sampling and live instrumentation is that right?

RG: Yeah, I am a drummer, first and foremost; so I’ve got drum-breaks that I’ve recorded so now I’ve uploaded them up. I want to keep it separate: I do a sample one day, and then the live instrumentation the next day – bass, keyboards, guitars, trumpets, flutes, singers. And then if I want to use samples, I can sample my own material as well.

It also goes for other people, I want other people to sample my material. Basically I want to be a Philly version of Adrian Younge, but also playing the drums. This is a long-term goal; to be a composer and a conductor, obviously it’s going to take a bit of money.

HHF: Just to finish you told me that you were a huge fan of Mingus, why is he so important for your work?

RG: He’s an enigma. I read his memoir three or four times, his music has the contrast: he can do straightforward jazz, but also do something so far-out and trippy that you don’t understand what’s going on. Overall his energy is honest; it’s passionate, it’s outside the box. No other jazz artist sounded like him. He wasn’t as far out as Sun Ra maybe. But what I like best about him is how my favorite songs of his paint these amazing pictures and take me on a journey.

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Mad Skillz Rock The Bells MIX Live In Richmond Va

 

Mc, Songwriter, and Dj, Mad Skillz shows his “Skillz” on the wheels of steel doing his “Rock the Bells” routine Live at The National in Richmond, Virginia during a KRS-ONE concert on January, 28 2016.