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.
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.
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 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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