HHF Interview: Loe Louis, Laswunzout 

Interviewed by Madeleine Byrne
Loe Louis, MC with Detroit’s legendary Laswunzout talks about how the group scored two major label deals, after he travelled to California with 57 cents in his pocket in 1995 and how his group and Slum Village bridged the divides in Motown, while also introducing the world to the Detroit sound. 
This interview originally appeared on madeleinebyrne.com

MB: Your group, Laswanzout was and is really important in terms of the Detroit hip-hop scene, I see you were offered two record deals with major labels in 1995, was that right?

Loe Louis: Yes, it was 1995, we moved to California from Detroit, we stayed there for about a year, and in that time we accumulated two record deals one with Sony Records and one with Cypress Hill’s record label, Immortal records (There was also a demo deal with Loud Records for Laswunzout member GRM Reefa R.I.P)

MB: And it seems that your big hit from that time is ‘Just to be famous’ talk to me about that track and the record it came from.

Loe Louis: We put the record together as we were recording the demo in Michigan, then recorded the song ‘Just to be famous’ for the compilation and that’s how it came about with all the MCs from Laswunzout. It was our first major record release.

MB: I’ve been looking around a bit in terms of research on Laswunzout and seen the comment that ‘this group is essential if you want to understand the hip-hop history of Detroit … (and) essential for understanding the vibe of hip-hop in the city’ what do you think about comments like this?

Lou Louis: (pauses) Accurate, they’re very accurate. When we started out kids were scared to be hip-hop, you know, Detroit was more harder-edged. Some of the kids were scared to be hip-hop, or act a bit different or rap a little different. Other people as well, but we were like at the forefront, if you will, the mascot of it: we shed blood for it, you know.

MB: Talk to me then about the scene in 1995, that’s an amazing year for hip-hop across the US, can you try and recreate what was going on in Detroit then?

Loe Louis: I was out in California in 1995, I left in January and came back in December of 95. We put out ‘Just to be famous’ there were so many things coming out – it was just booming. We still had St Andrews, we had four or five different clubs, it was at its height – at its peak. We were getting a lot of notice from the underground cats, not just the mainstream cats; a lot of groups in Detroit were doing really well in 95, we were starting to get heard.

I just moved to California to chase things, we obtained a record deal. If you look back on it now, we sort of created a bridge between the Detroit underground and California. People would ask (about us) and we’d say we’re from Detroit so it was always Detroit. You know, we’d say we’re like the Last Ones Out, we’d always been talking about the scene, saying we’ve got Slum Village, J Dilla. We was always pushing it – we kind of created a little camaraderie between the LA scene and this scene – one of the members and I moved, he remained out there. I was the first one to go to Cali, caught the bus to Cali with 57 cents in my pocket.

MB: How were the two scenes different?

Loe Louis: To me they wasn’t that different at all. I mean the underground Cali scene and the Detroit scene were so similar: they had crews of MCs like we had, they were into the rap battles … The underground scene was actually similar, not musically but rapwise in terms of what we do – our rap battles were more aggressive in Detroit, compared to Cali, I can say that was one way it was different. There’s was more friendly, ours was for blood.

MB: (laughs)

Loe Louis: That way it was a little different.

MB: That’s how also people often talk about the California production sound, don’t they? It’s a bit sweeter there maybe.

Loe Louis: Yeah, cause you’re in the sunshine. Sunshine all day, feeling good: we’re out here, getting cold, five feet of snow: it’s just a different vibe.

MB: And a different musical history too, I mean we’ll get on to Detroit as a subject in itself a bit later, as that’s what interests me too the way the musical history of Detroit informs the hip-hop as well.

Loe Louis: Right, right. And then a lot of Detroit cats went to Cali too.

MB: Motown did in the end …

Loe Louis: Yeah, they did.

MB: Can you talk to me about when you started out and also the early days in Detroit, say back in the 80s.

Loe Louis: I started rapping when I was six years old, I used to read Dr. Seuss books and tried to make my own rhymes like that. We had a show here called ‘The Scene’ in the 80s and maybe for half or one of the seasons, we did the theme song of the show. We had a little group and did the theme song to ‘The Scene’ so I met a lot of older hip-hop cats from a young age, I was always part of it.

I been there, I witnessed, I was part of it (the early scene) I was born in 1975, and this is 82, or 83 and I was on TV and rapping and doing stuff like that, so I’ve been doing it since I was six years old. I experienced every decade of hip-hop in Detroit.

MB: Did you come from a musical family, did your parents encourage you from that early age?

Loe Louis: My uncle, he sang and my other uncle was a DJ, but it was all around me. My mom and dad got divorced when I was six or seven and my mom took a job in California and I stayed down in California for maybe half a year. That was my first experience of break dancing, so first it was just break dancing, it was in the Hollywood Hills.

I started listening to Run-DMC, listen to the tape/cassette and stop it and try and write down all the lyrics, know all the words before everybody, twisted the words around and everything (laughs). In the early 80s I was in it in it and now when I think back it was Cali too that early influence of the break dancing, you know.

MB: Everyone knows about Dilla and that era of Detroit hip-hop that came later, but we don’t talk or hear much about what happening before that.

Loe Louis: Right, right.

MB: Do you think there are any acts from then that we should be thinking about as well, remembering?

Loe Louis: Cause it was so hard here, you understand? All our music was gangster rap, you wouldn’t hear all the hip-hop: on the radio, gangster, on the streets, gangster. Cats would laugh at you if you were hip-hop, you know what you doing with your hair all twisted up, or you smell like frankincense, you wearing these big-ass pants. You actually get laughed at, it wasn’t cool, it wasn’t cool at all.

Our group was one of the first groups to walk that line, hard people liked us and hip-hop people liked us, but we were hip-hop. Our hip-hop was so cutting edge, we’d do anything. Most hip-hop cats would be like, I’m not rapping to that … We’d make our own beats. We’d do a song acapella, we’d rap with a band, when cats wasn’t even doing that. We was always different like that and that’s where the name Laswunzout came from, because we thought we’d be the ‘Laswunzout’ of everybody (…) We wouldn’t sell ourselves for anything, we would be in our own little section. People would have to adapt to us, we don’t adapt to people.

MB: When talking about the early 80s hip-hop or rap being gangster rap, was it a basic boombap sound,or?

Loe Louis: Yes. It was very basic, it wasn’t lyrical at all. And you had 50 kids do it better, who could do it better, making stuff in their mama’s attic than some of the guys who were making it in their studio, you understand what I’m saying. We had like gangster cats who call themselves gangster rappers, you know, who you would consider hip-hop – like we had Detroit’s Most Wanted who was dope, KAOS & Maestro who was dope. We had 5th Chapter, we had Merciless Amir. We had Smiley, and Awesome Dre, and Dope A Delic, so our hip-hop was a little harder, but some of the harder rappers were lyrical and did have skills on the mic but a lot of them didn’t and that was a battle for a long time on the rap scene, the hard guys and the hip-hop cats.

I think our group, Laswunzout and Slum Village kind of put an end to that, where it was pretty much music after that. We put out a tape called Emixo and then Slum Village put out their Fantastic tape and it was dope, they had hard songs, hip-hop songs, you know it was similar and it made a mess (of what had happened) and every started making music after that. The hard cats and the hip-hop cats started to come together.

MB: Is that true, really it changed after those releases?

Loe Louis: It’s true. It was like a fight, it was like a war; the hip-hop club, St Andrews was right next door to the gangster club, Legend’s. Sometimes we would fight even before we went into the hip-hop club, we’d be fighting we fighting the gangster cats at Legend’s Club, cause they’re talking about us – look at these funny-looking cats, just cause we dressed different, like that didn’t mean we were any less, any less Detroit than they were (laughs).

Couple of nights we got into fights and a lot of these younger cats they don’t even know about it, or they might know about this, that we had to physically fight cats just to be there.

MB: It just surprises me. I can’t imagine these ‘hard cats’ or gangster rappers listening to Slum Village, did they really …

Loe Louis: (interrupts) Everybody, everybody did. It was the music. The music and the vibe, it was something like the Motown sound, there was just something about Dilla’s sound, that everybody … I can remember one night at St Andrews one night when Dilla he played the whole Fantastic album. Everybody was in unison bobbing, music that cuts through everything. It was just the music, everybody: the hard cats, the hip-hop cats, grandmama, grandad

MB: (laughs)

Loe Louis: Everybody was moving their ass to Slum Village. Yes, it was really like that.

MB: So how many records have you released as part of Laswunzout?

Loe Louis: We did hundreds of records, we were a group from 92 to today. It’s like a collection of MCs and groups inside Laswunzout and over the years and we’ve grown but the original seven or eight member group we’ve released over 100 songs, this year I’ll release sessions from my first record in 95 and sessions from my solo record in 97.

MB: You’ve talked about Laswunzout as being a kind of bridge between Detroit and California and one of the key groups bridging the different groups within Detroit itself, what was the key quality of the group that enabled this?

Loe Louis: I can say we standout in the way we battle, we started that. We started the aggressive hip-hop, if you can understand that. When we used to battle we used to battle for your name. If you lost you couldn’t use that name anymore. It was that aggressive battle-rap style dates back to Laswunzout – aggressive, in your face rap style.

MB: What do people mean when they’re talking about the Detroit sound, do you think?

Loe Louis (pauses) The aggressive sound from the lyrics, it’s the aggressiveness. From the music side, it’s getting all the sounds in one pot and making it work, making it work with what you’ve got, that’s what the Detroit sound is – making it work with what you got.

MB: Maybe that represents life in the city as well … The desire to create seems unstoppable.

Loe Louis: It’s in our blood. It’s in our blood. Motown’s grandkids. It’s not the rap, it’s not the hip-hop, it’s the soul. It’s the soul, the hard-working people, how hard it is here, if you make it here and impress the people, everybody’s impressed. It’s in our soul.

MB: Can you talk about your next release, I especially liked the track, ‘Going in’ …

Loe Louis: ‘Going in’ that was one of the first song when we started back up, it was like the second song we recorded, it was just letting cats know we’re back, you should think twice about saying anything about us, or counting us out as irrelevant or whatever cause we’re still around, still doing it.

MB: Is there anything else you’d like to add at the end?

Loe Louis: No, just Detroit stand up. Detroit stand up.

MB: Thanks, I appreciate your time today.

Loe Louis: No problem.

Loe Louis’ next release with Laswunzout will be released through their label Laswunzout Entertainment the end of August, beginning of September.

Paris-based Madeleine Byrne is editor at Hip Hop Forum digital magazine. To read more of her writing on hip-hop (interviews with Marco Polo, Black Milk and more) go to madeleinebyrne.com
 This interview originally appeared in her recent ‘Detroit project’ published at madeleinebyrne.com that featured interviews with Nametag Alexander, BenOfficial label boss, Jay ‘Pauly’ Lovejoy and Nappz Julian, Maj James and Nate OGDetroit. 
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HHF Interview: Theotis Joe

Interviewed by Omi Muhammad
Philly MC Theotisjoe sits down with Hip Hop Forum digital magazine to talk about his upcoming ep Ship It Out, his collaboration with a Jamaican artist, Nelson Williams and how he’s passing on his passion for hip hop to the next generation …   

Theotis Joe

HHF: Hey, so tell us about the new ep Ship It Out, what do we have to look forward to; are there any collaborations?

Theotis Joe: Mmhmm, the current ep right now is entitled Ship It Out, the features I have on there,  are DA Lez, he’s on the actual song ‘Ship It Out’, and Nelson Williams, he’s on the song entitled ‘In My Town’. Nelson’s from Jamaica, yeah awesome voice.

Starting with ‘Ship It Out’, DA Lez and I actually recorded it a few years ago but it didn’t really turn out the way I wanted it to, fortunately we met a guy who is a dope producer,  who goes by the name of DJ Lez. He produced the track and when I heard the track I was like yeah, yeah … let’s do that.

I started spittin’ a verse, you know the chorus and what not, set up some studio time and we knocked it out. It became pretty awesome, at first I wasn’t going to put it out, you know, but Lez, he also shot the video as well as produced it. We shot the video in a couple locations here in Philly and a location in Princeton, NJ at a radio station. A friend of mine named Phil Jackson, a radio DJ/ Host up at Princeton University, and also he’s a host on the radio station for the Philadelphia Eagles.

And Nelson Williams (…) I just wanted to recorded a new song. I met Nelson about a year or so ago right, at my brother- in-law’s barber shop. You know choppin’ it up, talking about music and hip hop and stuff like that. I happened to have a couple of beats in my phone and the person that produced the track for ‘In My Town’, his name is Andrew D-Boogie from Virginia and he’s actually a part of Hip Hop Forum. Yeah, you know him?

He produced the track and so I had it in my phone and I pulled it out and I spit the chorus. I said ‘Nelson, hey listen man, can you sing this’? Because I love his voice you know Jamaican sound and what not, and he dove right into it  man and it was awesome. I said  ‘ Yo you the missing link to this puzzle right here’, you know because I was going to do the whole chorus myself.  

But when he spit that part (Theotis Joe starts singing a part of the chorus, Nelson Williams style), I was like yeah, yeah let’s do it, I said ‘you gon’ get on this song with me. We didn’t record the song until about maybe three four months ago. I called him up and I was like are you still interested in doing that song with me? He was like ‘yeah my brotha’, he came through, he was on time, we knocked it out and it became a hit! Everybody that I played it to loved that song so you know, it’s going on the ep. Basically that’s the only collaborations. As far as producers; I produced a few myself, I’m a producer as well, Leslie Howard/DJ Lez he produced a couple, and Andrew/D-Boogie.

HHF: Your love for your city shines through in your music especially in the song ‘In My Town’, what was the intended message behind it?

Theotis Joe: Well you know I see a lot of young brothers out here pretty much being slaughtered in the streets. Young and old, whether it be by law enforcement, by their peers, accidental or something like that, or just jealousy … enemies in the streets. I grew up in quite a few urban areas and I’ve seen drugs and I’ve seen drug paraphernalia pass by and come through at an extensive rate. You know, people being on drugs and stuff like that, fights break out at any moment.

Basically ‘In My Town’ is for every town across the world, not just here in America but across the world. When you hear that song ‘In My Town’, you know it has a combination of hip hop and also reggae vibes in it because I used my man Nelson Williams on that song. He actually took that song over to Jamaica; he was over there for like twelve days and they loved it. So that song is for every town across the world. You know, you can be anywhere and you just might get bust in the head. Look what just happened in Florida, you know hat I mean, in that nightclub; nobody was expecting that, everybody was just having a good time but shit can pop off at any minute. Basically that was the inspiration to the song.

HHF: Do you think its possible for the message to be misunderstood?

Theotis Joe: People can take it how they want to but I think probably maybe … But if you listen to the chorus, listen to the lyrics, its for every town. It’s through my eyes and what I see and what I’m about. How I handle my business, and I will, if I have to. I believe in protecting myself you know, I don’t want to get bust in the head. Don’t run up on me with that bullshit, you’ll be having some problems. Even with the law enforcement, these guys man I don’t know what they’re thinking, thinking they can shoot an innocent young boy down in the street you know, unarmed, on camera, and get away with it.

That shit is wrong, it’s not right. It’s not cool, I read stories … and on the news where you know where they run up in someone’s house and shoot a seven year-old girl, a young boy with a toy gun in the park. They get out shooting, don’t even ask no questions you know what I mean? Twelve year old boy, eleven year old boy just gone. That’s crazy to me, you know that’s why I had to put a mixture of that in there as well because I feel really strongly about that and that’s not cool.

HHF: In the track ‘Ship It Out’ you hint at your work ethic, can you talk a little bit more about that?

Theotis Joe: You get what you put out; you know if you work hard then you’re going to get great results, if you’re lazy  and don’t really want to do nothing then you’re going to be in the same position you were in when you first started. A lot of folks want to sit back and have somebody wait on them hand and foot but it don’t really work like that. You got to get out here and grind, you got to hustle.

Me personally, I produce beats, I build a network of producers across the world. I built my own website. I’m my own manager, I book my own shows. I do my own tours. You just got to be pro-active in your own business and really not wait for anyone.

I’ve always been the type not to want to have someone wait on me hand and foot or wait for somebody to make a move. Like I rock with a live band, I’ve rocked with a few live bands throughout my career. Trying to pull everyone together at one time is hard and a lot of people had their own agendas. Which brought me to the realization that man I need to focus and concentrate on me, I need to build me up instead of trying to bring everybody on board at one time.

My next move is to finish completing my own studio, right now its a pre-production. Right now I really have to rely on going to another person’s facility and it kind of sets me back a bit which is one of the reasons it took me so long to put this album out.

As far as pre-production go I got it going on in the basement, been teaching the kids. I got a five year- old and a seven year-old, by the names of Zion and Jaden, teaching them how to produce and they’re dope. Jaden, man, he just helped me produce a track called “I” and we were going to record it today, you know I was going to have you meet me at the studio.

HHF: So that work ethic that you were talking about, you’re in the process of instilling that in your children. (…) I think it’s so dope to have the children involved in the process, they’re not going to be stuck someday trying to figure out what to do and how they’re going to eat.

Theotis Joe: It starts with the parents, you send them to school everyday for however many hours and then they come home for a couple of hours and go to bed. Nah, it starts at the house, you set it up so when they come back, even if its the weekend, we doing something productive, you know that’s going to be instilled in them that can carry on and pretty much if they need to make money then they got that.

HHF: Did you have any influence in your life like that growing up; what were like some of your musical influences?

Theotis Joe: Yeah well as far as musical influences, I’ve always been into like just music period. I use to listen to a lot of old school, R&B, because my pop he use to play stuff like James Brown, Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding, a lot of blues. Hip Hop of course, I mean I grew up listening to that late 80’s early 90’s hip hop, I wish that could come back.

As for hip hop, I was kinda influenced by NWA, Too Short, De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, I grew up on that, Eric B & Rakim, KRS-One, stuff like that, Big Daddy Kane. As it progressed, then it was Wu-Tang, The Pharcyde, man, I could go on forever.

HHF: So about your sound, if I may, you have these hard-hitting lyrics like NWA but with a more laid back delivery. Where does that come from? I think you referred to it in ‘In My Town’, when you said “… sport a fedora, but got a southpaw…”?

theotisjoe

Theotis Joe: “You think I’m soft cuz’ I sport a fedora, hell nah I got a southpaw that’ll rock a hole in your jaw…”. I guess just experience, I love being in rap cyphers. People get together and just spit rhythms and stuff  like that, coming up with new stuff and I even rap to myself while I’m making beats and stuff. I guess it all depends on how the beat makes you feel, I learned to rock with the rhythm and just flow to the track like a cowboy on horseback, just flow with it.

(Theotisjoe begins to nod his head to the background music)

HHF: Oh are we about to start freestyling?

HHF: Where can we find the new Ship It Out ep and also the After Hours album?

Theotis Joe: Starting with the Ship It Out ep, its going to be released on August 16 on cdbaby.com and will be available on I-Tunes, Amazon, Spotify, all the digital download sites across the world, even my website, TheotisJoe.com. After Hours is already available on I-Tunes and Amazon and you can find the music on YouTube, I’m on Soundcloud and ReverbNation.

HHF: Thank you so much for sitting down with Hip Hop Forum digital magazine today.

Theotis Joe: Thank you for having me.

omi 2

West Baltimore native Omi Muhammad is an artist and writer, now based in Philadelphia. To see her work, please go to http://www.urban-gypsy.net/index.html

Omi is part of the New Black Writers Program, managed by Hip Hop Forum Digital Magazine, to support, nurture and develop the talents of Black American journalists of the future.

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HHF Interview: Kodac aka M80

Interviewed by Warnell Jones
Originally from Pontiac, MC Kodac aka M80’s career is stretching out internationally, working with producers from France – most recently releasing an ep with a Paris MC with Sky High – here he talks about his many releases, how he got to work as the emcee for the Harlem Globetrotters and the motivation behind setting up his company, GFG Entertainment.

Kodac

It’s a comfortably warm Monday afternoon in Detroit, Michigan. In the Corktown district of the city nestles Bucharest – a middle-eastern cuisine carry–out joint, mostly run and operated by Black people.

A gentleman pulls up in a Mercedes – Benz SUV. He steps out, clean–shaven with a canary polo shirt and navy flat-front wool dress pants. His cognac brown belt matches his dress wingtips. His glasses are gold-rimmed and his watch is silver with gold accents. His occupation? Lyricist.

Matthew “Kodac aka M80” Caffey is a man of determination and talent. Hailing from Pontiac, Michigan, Matthew is the founder of G.F.G. Entertainment, where he works with other artists in the music scene. He’s traveled around the world, gaining recognition and respect for his positive and uplifting flow. Kodac is one of the few artists that’s had the pleasure of being an emcee for the world-famous Harlem Globetrotters in 2014. Kodac is still an artist, has a book series on the brink, as well an independent movie release coming in 2017.

Kodac honed his lyrical and business skill in the “pre-Internet” era, so he learned the values of interpersonal skills and branding the hard way. He was a member of the Subterraneous Crew, created by One Bee-Lo. He’s performed in many shows and venues, including the Detroit Electronic Music Festival, The Warped Tour, The Bring It Back Tour, and the Madison Hip-Hop Conference.

On this excellent Monday in the city, I got a chance to talk to Kodac about his business, his success, and hip hop.

HHF: I’ve listened to your Foreign Affair album, as well as your S.O.A.P. (Stamps On A Passport) ep. Both are excellent. I notice that your music has so much intellect. Where do you draw your inspiration?

Matthew ‘Kodac aka M80’ Caffey: Yeah, that S.O.A.P. ep was slept on. You know first of all, the music that I make is like…I don’t even wanna say – its just different than what’s here. See, my parents used to make me write dictionary pages, right? So writing dictionary pages made me notice all these words, then I started learning rhyme patterns and writing styles, like alliterations.

HHF: I see that you have people from many countries – France, Uganda, Tanzania, & Ghana to name a few – all involved in your music. How did these relationships come to be?

Matthew ‘Kodac aka M80’ Caffey: I call it ‘network-to-connect-work’. The response I got from overseas was humbling because they really were loving what I was doing musically. Producers was calling me, asking me to get on their tracks. With these connections, I was able to do Foreign Affair and S.O.A.P. (Stamps On A Passport) which was really an extension of Foreign Affair, and just recently, I got to do an album in both French and English called Sky High.

Kodak

Listen to “Pass Da Mic” prod. PLK feat. DJ KB on Bandcamp

HHF: How did you come across the opportunity to be an emcee for the world famous Harlem Globetrotters?

Matthew ‘Kodac aka M80’ Caffey: Long story short, I had to create my own lane. So I had started putting on my own shows, and connecting with Grand Rapids, Pontiac and  Detroit. I started bringing artists here. Capadonna, Homeboy Sandman, Bronze Nazareth from the Wu-Tang Clan, Lazarus from North Carolina, King Magnetic, and other artists to do shows. One of the shows I got to do was the Warped Tour – now I didnt really know what to expect then, but when you see 20000 people in a parking lot, I was like, “damn!”. I was on the only independent stage at the Warped Tour, and a guy from Pontiac who had worked with the Globetrotters hit me up and asked me if I ever considered announcing. I said nah, but he said I should look into it because the Globetrotters are looking to expand their announcing roster. So I got some high school gigs announcing basketball games, and for me, that’s what I do – emceeing.

Call and response, its just like a freestyle of what’s going on. I’ve got great voice projection, and I’m able to make metaphors on whatever I see around me. After doing that for about a year, I got a call one day. The guy said he was from the Globetrotters and he wanted to speak to Kodac. I’m like, man, stop playing on my phone…he was like nah, we checked you out, you’re highly regarded, we’ve seen what you can do, and we would like you to audition for the Globetrotters. I’m like, yeah, right, send me an email. He emailed me the information and they sent me to Long Island, NY for training camp.

I was going up against the Tampa Bay Bucs announcer, the Phoenix Suns announcer, & the Brooklyn Nets announcer. What I had that they didnt have, was crowd interaction. I would go, “when I say Globe, you say Trotters, Globe -, Globe -“, call & response. As we went on through this week-long training camp, I would notice that the other announcers would copy my stuff. So every time I noticed them copying my stuff, I changed up – which showed the Globetrotters that I was the original one of the bunch. Long story short, after that I was signing my contact to be an emcee/announcer for the Harlem Globetrotters, as part of the ‘Fans Rule’ tour. It was an amazing experience.

HHF: When did you establish GFG Entertainment? How did that come about?

Matthew ‘Kodac aka M80’ Caffey: When I was around 21, I was templating what I was doing alongside of what Bill Cosby did. Bill Cosby came into the game as a comedian, but he knew there were other ways to expand his comedic expertise – to do Fat Albert & the Cosby Kids, and his (stand-up) shows, and his records, and the Cosby Show…its not a guarantee that I’ma make it in this, so you gotta have a plan and make sure you know where you going. I made this song that says “if you don’t know where you going, you’ll end up anywhere” and you cant be mad that you ended up anywhere because you didnt have a plan. In the midst of that, I came up with GFG Entertainment, which means Gift From God Ent. Its based on the parable in Matthew 25, regarding the talents. Our concept is not me, not you, not him, not her, but “We all have a gift.”

HHF: What do you feel distinguishes your music amongst other Detroit hip hop?

Matthew ‘Kodac aka M80’ Caffey: My music – its not Detroit, its not Michigan…see, I’m from Pontiac. I came up around Binary Star. I came into the game through One Bee Lo, who created Subterraneous (Crew) and gave me an opportunity. I never fit in here, bro. The music that we did when we was younger, they said, “Aww man, you sound like you from the east coast.” Then I got up here, and they was like, “All your stuff is positive.” Then cats started realizing I was on some Rakim stuff like, “This dude never cussed before!” Being not able to fit in, I was able to gain a God-fearing confidence of self.

HHF: What is hip hop to you?

Matthew ‘Kodac aka M80′ Caffey: For me, hip hop is still a culture – its not just “I’m just rappin’.” So I think, what do I represent? Who am I? And what is the end result that I aim for? I read somewhere that there’s more music made in this time than any other time in history…so there’s like an over-saturation. One thing is creating quality music, then the next step is how do you get people to get access to your quality music. In all honesty, I’ve realized that the majority of the music community is not making music because they feel like its a gift.

They don’t feel like this is something that God gave to them and its something they supposed to give to the people, and that there was a message and a purpose for their life and an intent with the things they go through, and that that message should be shared with others so that others could relate to it, so they could know that they’re not the only ones going through it. You gotta find out what your gift is – are you a DJ? Are you an emcee? Are you a graffiti artist? Are you a b-boy/b-girl? Or are you a person that respects the craft and is one of those elders, or youthful smart people that’s gonna gain wisdom, and impart that wisdom into the people in the community, so that we have all the five elements, so we understand what the culture is about?

Warnell

Warnell Jones has always been a writer at heart. He often writes about music, love, and society (in no particular order). He is a part of the New Black Writers Program, managed by Hip Hop Forum Digital Magazine, to support, nurture and develop the talents of Black American journalists of the future.

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HHF Interview: HooNoz

Interviewed by Big Momma ‘Miz’
In this interview, Chicago-based MC HooNoz talks about his motivations for keeping on with his music, what he thinks is behind the excess of so-called trash music these days and his role in the Harvey Finch movement.

HooNoz

HHF’s correspondent, Miz answered the phone with a greeted melody “HOONOZ” similar to the way Ice Cube says “WEST SIDE” …

Yes, Ma’am” says HooNoz in a bass tone, Chicago accent.

HHF: How was ya day, how was the video shoot?

HooNoz: Actually it got cancelled, there’s a heat advisory going on, it’s been hitting over 100 degrees.

HHF: Tell me a little bit about the song and video.

HooNoz: My music is what I like to refer to as reality music, some Joe Average human being trying to get through their struggle it’s called the ‘Best I Can Be’, I’ve been getting a lot of feedback, online radio stations been pickin’ it up and spinning it, I’ve been trying to do a video for it for the last year and a half, it took a while find a location.

HHF: What was special bout that particular spot that you finally chose, did it correlate with the video, did it enhance the message in ‘Best I Can Be’?

HooNoz: I appreciate the architecture of what it is, it’s a very old cemetery that closed down, after the owner passed, his wife built a big wall around his grave stone, on top of a hill, it’ll have a real nice look on the backdrop of the video I think.

HHF: From flipping around on your website http://www.hfemovement.com I can see that style in Harvey Finch’s dark music, what’s the album going to be called?

HooNoz: Reloaded, for several reasons, I kinda toyed with my style for a few years, slowed down my lyrics and it was like the game kept slowing down, it’s almost like chopped and screwed and on drugs. It’s my first full length album that will be released since my company got digital distribution, and it’s also my tenth solo project released.

HHF: Tenth?

HooNoz: Tenth, yes ma’am, my 9th solo project drops the same day, it’s a mixtape, and the album comes out on the same day, so that’ll be my 9 & 10 projects, to date I got 10 videos released off the mixtape, and 8 off of the album …  

HHF: What’s the motivation behind all of that?

HooNoz: Honestly my passion for music, I’m motivated because it’s hard to find good hip hop.

HHF: What do you think is the cause for some artists that don’t push it to their full potential?

HooNoz: In my opinion I see it as categories, you got rappers and then you got artists, rappers they rap cause they think it’s cool, some of them actually can, some just do it because everybody else does, and if it doesn’t blow overnight like they thought it would, they start bs’n.

HHF: Regardless of not getting that instant fame, would you always encourage artists to keep on pushing no matter what?

HooNoz: You never know when things can work out for you through your passions, if you got a passion for it you should do it, but I also believe this game ain’t for everybody.

HHF: What do you think of the state of hip hop and rap now, where do you feel like Hoonoz fits in? I like a few club bangers, but I can’t call myself a fan of it, I can’t grasp anything from today’s music that works for me, what about you?

HooNoz: (in a sincere tone) When I promote my music, you’re the kinda person I look for, I don’t try to fit in with what’s going on, the hip hop on a major platform is very lights, camera, action, Hollywood entertained, scripted like wrestling, it’s like the state of hip hop is messed up, the majors lyrically are the minors and the underground is where you’ll find real the music, real fans, I’m trying to give the real listeners good music, and it’s hard, because it’s so much not good music out here.

HHF: How do you connect to or find your target audiences that you want to relate to, since the emphasis are on the lack of a better word, trash music?  

HooNoz: Aside from being in the street and word of mouth, the Internet.  I’m not a big fan of the Internet, but it definitely finds those people, every time they share it, I know people from where they are from are seeing what I’m doing too, and it may never pay off financially, but if my time was over tomorrow I had an opportunity to do what I love to do, it’s like you live forever, as long as the Internet don’t shut down and people can still pull up ya music, 10 years later you’re still here, you left something.

HHF: I was listening to a podcast the other day about the type of music taking over and flooding do you think this wave of music will die and the styles of Nas and Ghostface will be in the mainstream again, or will it stay underground?

HooNoz: Call me conspiracy theorist, this is probably one of the reasons I may never see major status, there’s a lot going on behind closed doors… ’bout 20 years ago they seen the pride that hip hop gave people of a struggle..you know ‘Keep Ya Head Up’ – we come from nothing which makes us stronger, we survive, we progress and embrace that struggle, don’t shame yaself like society does, hip hop gave us an inner strength at one point, I feel like the powers that be, the one that pull the strings, they’re the ones putting all this BS into the game, so it’s hard for me to say we’ll ever see the good hip hop at an amazing level, in hip hop’s messages, no matter how negative it came off, it almost always had a positive energy to it.

HHF: I agree, I was showing my kids a few videos, ‘Brenda Had a Baby’ being one of them, and the messages that they portrayed and when we rapped along, we were saying something.

HooNoz: (He interrupts with an apology, I encourage him to proceed) I just wanna say two things real quick that relate to that, people have to learn you are what you eat, that is mentally and physically, it almost seems cool to be uneducated today.. and second of all … Damn I lost my train of thought already, that quick …

HHF: Don’t dwell on it, it’ll come back when you’re not thinking about it, so let’s keep talking … Switching subjects, one song I liked was called ‘Other Zones’ do you want to speak on that, what influenced it?

HooNoz: When I wrote ‘Other Zones’ the lean was becoming real popular, so I figured I’d make something pertaining to it, that joint was produced by Johnny Julianni, he become popular during Wiz Khalifa’s rise, he was one of his main producers. I leased a beat from him, and when I sent him back the song he actually liked it, and told me he was gonna give me exclusives to it.”

HooNoz- Other Zones on SoundCloud

HHF: I forget the name of the song, but in a verse I heard you say ‘some say I sound like Pac’ – do you remember what song that was?

HooNoz: Yeah, I love that song, and to be honest, I’m not a big fan of my own music because I hear a lot of my flaws in it, that actually is one of my favorite songs, and the song, ‘Everywhere You Turn’ I had built a bond with the production team from Germany, and they were helping my get songs on the radio there, people were saying, I listen to your music, I hear more reality in it, you’re not rapping bout the bullshit rims, and the big booty girls at the strip club, or the kilos that you never sold, I hear real struggle, I hear pain, I hear realness in the music, and a lot of people were saying that it reminds them of 2pac.

HHF: I was wondering if it was intentional to sound like him or you feel like you share the same spirit and it flowed naturally?

HooNoz: I grew up to Pac & Biggie, I was lucky enough to see (I hate to say it) the demands of hip hop to know that what’s portrayed in hip hop’s society today, is not real hip hop,…Ohhh, that’s what I was gonna say, You were right, we continue talking and I would remember it.

HHF: Yup!

HooNoz: (he continues) It’s hard right now to name five popular rappers in the game that was in the game 10-15 years ago, music has become so trashy that you get your moment and then you’re gone, The music isn’t everlasting anymore, just momentary trash.

HHF: In your opinion, why is that?

HooNoz: Well, it goes back to my conspiracies, the guy that owns MTV, CBS, BET, the white man who brought it from him, even Bob Barker, who is a huge investor of the prison system, that takes me back to … take the positive message out the music and feed them negativity, a lot of these major record labels are also prime investors of the American prison system, and it’s not just music, they do it through the movies and video games, they constantly feed aggression and violence and ignorance to the youth, You might hear me talk about violence in my music, and the artists that I associate with, but it’s because we came from it, there’s nothing cool about killing another poor person from your broke ass community, because you think they got more than you do.

HHF: Right, I understand that.

HooNoz: I’m blessed, I usually try to tell these younger dudes, I know they keep telling you that you gonna die or go to jail before you’re 25, but truth be told, a lot of people wake up at 30, and they’re not dead, so what are you gonna do with a Tech 9 and a promethazine bottle tattooed on the side of ya face at 30 years old?

HHF: Yeah, good message. Ok, but before we’re done, I want to shed a little light on the Finch Mob, the whole Harvey Finch movement, I want you to say a little about that, what is the Finch Mob?

HooNoz: The whole company is owned by Harvey Finch, and the goal from the beginning was always independence, showing that we can do what the majors do, we can purchase, film, record, and release our own. Before a project drops we put like 6,7,8 music videos out, prior to promoting it. I can’t say you’re gonna drink the water, but I know when we get done, you’re gonna leave with enough water that you can bottle it and sell it”

HHF: Yeah I hear that, so you guys must have a dynamic team over there.

HooNoz: We get that a lot, but to be honest with you, it’s mostly just me and my wife, she seen my vision, she got behind it, learned everything she could to keep everything moving, it’s 10 of us working, but it’s two of us physically.

HHF: I’m gonna wrap it up, any last words, motto or a message that you want to say that reps you and what you stand for?

HooNoz: Yes, I just want to say, people need to stop saying hip hop is dead, it’s alive and well and producing some of its best music in the underground, you have to give unknown artists a listen. Just because a person is mainstream doesn’t mean they aren’t trash.  If you say hip hop is dead and you don’t support or listen to unsigned artist, then YOU are what’s killing hip hop, get off the band wagon, and follow your own ears. If you are not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem.

HooNoz

 

Big Momma “Miz” a North Philly native, out of Harrisburg PA., She is now the representative/manager for an indie label ILL CRE (Illustrious Creations of Entertainment). Hip Hop culture is embedded in her style & personality; she likes to compare her persona to Shock G & Humpty Hump”, meaning its two sides to the coin. Big Momma Miz handles the biz, while Penelope handles the mic!

Miz

Miz is part of the New Black Writers Program, managed by Hip Hop Forum Digital Magazine, to support, nurture and develop the talents of Black American journalists of the future.

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