HHF Interview: Flyboi Rich & Shakk Sport

Interviewed by Warnell Jones

Despite all the questions about hip-hop’s future (is hip-hop dying; has it been dying since its emergence?) and those claiming that the art of rhyming has died because of a lack of syncopated rhyme, let alone the rising popularity of “mumble rap”, there are many artists who say no and argue that hip-hop is as strong now as it’s ever been. And that lyricism, style, and originality still exists, even if media outlets say otherwise.

 

Enter Flyboi Rich, a native Detroit MC, who is determined to show the hip-hop world that real rap, real lyricism, real hip-hop is prevalent and on the rise. Hip-Hop Forum Digital Magazine’s Warnell Jones sat down with Flyboi Rich, and his lyrical partner, Shakk Sport to talk about their endeavors and hear their take on the culture.

Hip-Hop Forum: First of all, I wanna thank you guys so much being here, kicking it about hip-hop. I’ve listened to your music, which is rife with similes, metaphors, and other literary tricks. What’s your approach to rapping, do you write?

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Flyboi Rich: Yeah, I still write rhymes. As far as rapping, for real, a lot of times it just depends on the beat. When the beat is nice, I usually get done with the song quick, like quick as hell.

HHF: Who’d you listen to as a hip-hop youth that made you feel like you wanted to rap?

Flyboi Rich: I’d say who I listen to now, like J. Cole, Fabolous, Jay-Z – I like all the lyrical people really. I was listening to Lil’ Wayne for a while, like ‘04 – ‘06 Wayne. Then Fabolous came out with the “no competition” joint – that’s what made me say, “I gotta step my bars up.”

HHF: How long have y’all been spitting for now?

Flyboi Rich: We’ve been playing with it for a minute, but like, I don’t know, what you think? (looks at Shakk Sport)

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Shakk Sport: Seriously? We’ve been serious about it for like, two years now, as far as pushing it. We was always doing it for our people, but we never thought about putting it out on our own until a few years ago.

HHF: What’s the business side of music like for you guys as artists?

Flyboi Rich: Man, it’s the promo. The promo is crazy. Here in Detroit, it’s hard to get on the radio because they latch on to their “people”. But the whole thing is about promo. I actually tried to go outside of the city – Memphis, Philly – they was showing more love than here. I don’t know, maybe if they hear it from outside, it’ll catch on. I feel like that’s how it’s gotta go. Kanye West, Eminem – happened to them the same way.

Shakk Sport: I think the city overall supports, but it’s the hoods, the people listening to the music – they not listening to nothing really lyrical. They used to the same stuff from the radio and the clubs.

 

HHF: So do y’all fit the stereotype of “Detroit Rappers”? I know people that write off Detroit artists, like, “They’re all the same, they talk about the same stuff.” Do you fit the “Detroit” style of hip-hop?

Flyboi Rich: It’s so many different Detroit styles, though. J-Dilla and Slum Village got a different sound than Eminem & D-12. All real rap, though.

Shakk Sport: But that’s hip-hop overall. A lot of people get overlooked for one reason or another. Like Fabolous, J. Cole – even though Cole sells and drops radio singles – still overlooked. I feel like the only thing people listen to is what’s playing on the radio or in the clubs. It’s like alot of lyrical shit you don’t dance to, so it gets curbed.

HHF: In lieu of that, how did it feel when 97.9fm & 107.5fm was playing your songs as “Unsigned Hype”?

Flyboi Rich: It was cool…it was nice, but really, man I wasn’t even really feeling those tracks like that. They were “radio tracks”. People was calling me, and that was cool. I had just been submitting everywhere. Those songs really latched on. I had people from London hitting me up. Overseas, they was with it. I see that, like, alot of overseas artists come over here and get love, so why not vice versa?

HHF: How did DOPEish Records get started?

Flyboi Rich: Alright, DOPEish Records started as DOPE – shorthand for Da Ones People Envy. I wanted the original name to be DOPEshit Records, but ASCAP wouldn’t let us put the “shit” in the title, so we changed it to “ish”, so you have DOPEish Records. We put it together because we make dope music.

HHF: So what’s next for Flyboi Rich, Shakk Sport, and DOPEish Records?

Flyboi Rich: Well, we’re shooting the video for “In My Mind” tonight. Vevo wants me to open a page with them, so I’ll be shooting more videos. I just finished my tracks for my new EP, but I got like 10 tracks, so I gotta narrow it down. After that, we’re doing a mix tape, and just promoting heavy. I’m in talks with XXL and Fader. I submitted a track to Sway, and he got back to me, so I’ll be with him soon. Just pushing.

HHF: Thank you so much for taking out time to kick it with us, brothers.

Check out Flyboi Rich and Shakk Sport on Soundcloud:

 

 

 

 

Detroit writer, Warnell Jones is a hip-hop enthusiast and all-around music lover and  loves to write about hip-hop culture, music, love and society. Warnell 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.

 

HHF Interview: Fleetwood of “Da Cotton Pickas”

Interviewed by Big Momma ‘Miz’
Hip Hop Forum digital magazine’s Big Momma ‘Miz’ talks politics and music with Fleetwood of “Da Cotton Pickas” from Oakland, CA and also the ‘Homeboy Hotline’ – an organization he set up 16 years ago to help people make a successful transition to life in the community after time spent in jail.

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Hip Hop Forum: First off, tell me this, as a Niner’s fan; how do you feel about Kaepernick’s stand, do you think it’s right on time, or long overdue?

Fleetwood of “Da Cotton Pickas”: It’s long overdue, but it’s also right on time. It took a whole lot of courage to do what he did in that limelight; I’m trying to connect with the brother.

HHF: You know what I thought was kind of strange, all the backlash that he received from it; especially from US (black people). You’d think he have more support giving the current circumstances of the culture and the point he’s making. Not just from other football players, but any of them that’s in the spotlight talking all the time.

Fleetwood of “Da Cotton Pickas”: Well, you know a lot of them are scared to risk their financial stability, and losing endorsements. That’s what makes Muhammad Ali who he was; that’s the difference between a real hero and a person just involved for the entertainment. They not on OUR team, like Jordan & Barkley, they never been on our team. I’m kinda glad when those Unlce Tom’s speak out, it lets you know who standing right beside you and not really with you ya know!

HHF: Most definitely, I heard a brother speaking the other day that I agreed with; all these ma’fuckas were so quick to bash Kaepernick for his actions towards the flag, but not acknowledging the root of it, but then don’t run to the mic or media when bodies are dropping in the street left and right! I felt that was some real coward shit right there.

Fleetwood of “Da Cotton Pickas”: I love my people, and it’s not easy to sacrifice your career for what you believe in and stand for. Even the people that Harriet Tubman went and rescued from the plantation, some of them niggas tried to turn around, she had to pull a pistol on them. It’s always been house-niggas and field-niggas; and a continuation of white supremacy, always will be, it’s part of the mathematics.

HHF: You right, like it’s embedded in our DNA or something. When I watch certain documentaries about our history, or read certain books, I can see the same spirit/actions in our people today!

Fleetwood of “Da Cotton Pickas”: I’ll never apologize for being black, I love my people, I’m blessed to be able to visually grasp a concept and think it would be selfish of me not to use my platform as a way to speak out against the injustices. This country was built by people who committed crimes against other people.

HHF: Ok, tell me about your platform, and what it is that you strive to express to everybody.

Fleetwood of “Da Cotton Pickas”: We use art, film, the music and books as an opportunity to talk about bigotry and racism. Two things that always rub people the wrong way and create a difference of opinion and perspective; is race and religion, so most of our music is surrounded by those two. Hopefully you can find a solution when you get into these conversations of the things that affect people.

HHF: Let’s talk about one of my favorite expressions of opinion and perspective; your song “Bang On ‘Em”.

Fleetwood of “Da Cotton Pickas”: “Bang On ’Em” represents the frustration in America from the Urban community, you got people that’s posing as police officers that are really gang bangers, and most gang bangers eventually get banged on and get their heads busted, people get at’em! That’s what we mean by banging on ‘em.

These people are running around and getting away with murder, and one thing for certain, and two things for sure it’s only one way to deal with bully; its bust the in the head in front of everybody, 9 times out of 10 they leave you alone. So that’s what we mean by “Bang On ‘Em”, they took an oath to disrespect our human rights, and they love doing it, but supposed to be getting paid to protect us.

With technology today, we are now seeing what black people have been talking about for years, and even though it’s on film and tape, the justice system is showing that they are part of this corruption because they continue to find these people “not guilty”, sending them on a paid vacation while the trial is going on.

HHF: Hell yeah!! They not for US, never have been since the beginning. Remember back when they released us from slavery, all uneducated and the only employment experience was in the cotton field, Congress funded a plan of colonization to send our asses back to Africa because they didn’t know what the fuck to do with us, they got scared and wasn’t prepared!

We were an asset as long as we stayed slaves, we’re a liability when set free. Over and over they tried to implement plans to wipe out our race, but had to be politically and socially correct about it. They came up with something called the Eugenics Movement, which is basically black genocide, with the help of Margaret Sanger, who was the force behind “birth control” aka dropping our population. We still see it happening today.

Fleetwood of “Da Cotton Pickas”: That’s why it’s very important that we educate our youth about these situations. My first documentary is called “I just Wanna Ball” about 4 high school girls from a championship basketball team in Oakland. I covered the triumph off the court, overcoming single parent homes, parents that were abusive to drugs and physically, and that breeds a certain element of violence.  

If you remember the movie The Mack it was true, there is two sides to Oakland, the pimping/hoeing and the revolution. There aren’t any strip clubs in Oakland, never have been, so all the young girls are on the corner, human trafficking is big in Oakland; Too $hort didn’t make that up, all that’s real. A lot of these young girls are dealing with sexual predators, young teenage mothers are out on the hoe stroll, and it’s a bad rap on our little sisters.

I’m proud say I’m from the Bay Area, Oakland & San Francisco, so I want to show the true essence of Oakland. It was the sistas; the black women that held the household down when Huey Newton and all them was in the streets, not giving up or giving in and that’s what those 4 sistas represent. They are all in college right now, a lot of people say they want to ball, but these sistas are doing it for real with a real ball. I have another documentary about a fella who picked cotton for 18 years and never got paid; Bishop Henry Williams.

HHF: Interesting!

Fleetwood of “Da Cotton Pickas”: Cotton Pickas is a film series and also our band, were coming out with a new documentary “Gimme Mines Reparations” about that mule & 40 acres; why they killed Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War, basically what we gotta do to get these reparations. We use art to create dialogs that instill self-esteem to the youth, so they understand they come from hardworking people that never gave in.

HHF: Dope! Im loving it. When I left you a voicemail, I heard you mention something about the “homeboy hotline”, tell me what that’s about.

Fleetwood of “Da Cotton Pickas”: The “Homeboy Hotline” is an organization that I created in the year 2000 as an opportunity for people to have resources when they get out of any form of incarceration. Most times people want to change, but going around from pillar to post can get frustrating and can lead you back to what got you incarcerated in the first place.

So what I want to do, is find all the resources I can find from housing, resume preparation, job leads, getting records expunged, help with child support, legal aid etc. all on one website and see everything you need right there. We wanna keep the motivation going, and keep that fire lit that people have when they first get out, instead of putting them back into the cycle of what got them down in the first place. That’s what we do! We offer resources.

HHF: Beast! So in 16 years, how has it been progressing?

Fleetwood of “Da Cotton Pickas”:  Its doing pretty good, we started in California, and we got resources in New York, New Jersey, Texas, Arizona, our goal is to get nationwide and just build in every state. Actually I was talking to James (HHF’s C.E.O) about putting together a youth empowerment conference, bring out books keep our youth towards the literacy, maybe shoot a film and talk about the business of music.

HHF: Now it’s a whole mob of yall right? I know of Mr. Zo, who else?

Fleetwood of “Da Cotton Pickas”: Yeah, Mr. Zo is on the song with me “Bang On’m” with me, we got a video show in Arkansas that reached Oklahoma, Texas, & Louisiana it’s called ZONE 24 TV the contact is Buddha Ali.

HHF: Ok, so far this has been one of my most interesting interviews; is there a motto you have, or words of advice you want the readers to remember?

Fleetwood of “Da Cotton Pickas”: Nothing works unless you do.

This interview was done by Big Momma “Miz” a North Philly native, out of Harrisburg Pa., She is now the C.O.O for an indie label ILL CRE (Illustrious Creations of Entertainment) where she is also signed as an artist under the moniker “Penelope”. The 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 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.

HHF Interview: André de Quadros , Professor of Music, Boston University

Interviewed by Omi Muhammad

Boston University Professor of Music, André de Quadros is a conductor, ethnomusicologist, music educator, and human rights activist has conducted and undertaken research in over forty countries. Professor de Quadros also holds affiliated faculty appointments in other BU departments: the African Studies Center, the Center for the Study of Asia, and the Institute for the Study of Muslim Societies and Civilizations.

In this interview with HHF digital magazine Professor de Quadros talks about his political work in the realm of music education, asking questions about how musicians and music educators can use their work to challenge existing power structures, with a particular focus on his Music in Prisons program and Empowering Song project.

HHF: Thank you so much for agreeing to speak with us at Hip Hop Forum digital magazine, Professor de Quadros. To begin, I saw you have been working with refugees in Sweden, was it a part of one of your programs?

André de Quadros: With Afghan refugees, yes. I teach a conducting course over in Stockholm. As a part of the project, the people I was working with, we went to three different locations; a young women’s prison, the second was a high school with lots of issues of demographics and so on, and the third place was where they would send Afghan teenage boys who were refugees.

HHF: When I had looked at your bio, I’d seen some of the other work that you’re doing so I was actually pretty interested in that, it’s very diverse.

André de Quadros : Well my background is in conflict in different places, my bio is very out of date, I haven’t updated that in over two years but I’ve been doing a lot of work in the Middle East and other places dealing with displaced peoples and incarceration.

HHF: So it sounds like you do a lot of work across the board dealing with people in conflict situations. Can you give us a little bit of a background on your Music in Prisons program and your Empowering Song approach?

André de Quadros : Sure, well we’ve been working, I and three other people that I work most closely with, in two prisons in Boston; one is a men’s prison which is a medium security prison, and the other is the only women’s prison in the state. In both prisons we work as part of a University program that allows students to take a course in music while they are incarcerated. It is offered as a college course.

There is no selection process to be a part of this course, we don’t audition. Some programs only work with people who are going back into the community, we work with a lot of people who are never leaving the prison. In the women’s prison we’ve had relatively smaller groups of ten and twelve and in the men’s groups we work with about twenty-six or so.

With the Empowering Song approach, we believe fundamentally  in creating conditions for personal power, personal expression, community transformation; a lot of experimentation and improvisation. I also use Empowering Song approach in the Middle East with refugees, teaching and performing in my own ensembles and so on.

There is no high ground for any particular style of music; in the prisons for example, a lot of the men rap and that becomes part of the work, there’s classical music in there or pop or music of the Muslim World. It’s pretty inclusive, it’s about potentially reconnecting music to the body. We not only reconnect the music as in moving in time with something but we use the body to get inside the text and to portray the text.

Say there is a rap that might have a text about being in prison or missing one’s family, so we might create a series of body pictures that relate to that. So I don’t like calling it theater, I don’t like calling it drama because it’s actually much deeper than that. But it is essentially theater school exercises.

How can the body tell the story, how can the body be part of the story. So there is a lot of story work that we do in the prisons, in other words they write narratives to rapping to writing poetry to writing song text to writing about genres. We have an unrivaled unequaled archive of papers that they’ve produced. There is also a lot of visual art that is produced, we take into the prisons a lot of people that practice visual art to work alongside us.

HHF: So you have found this connection between music and social change; what sparked your desire to do this? What made you think to connect the two in your programs?

André de Quadros : I guess when I was in college in India, I became very influenced by text and books and other writings that talked about asymmetrical relationships of power within societies, within communities, within countries. Oppression is so systemic all over the world; from within a country  like the oppression of black people in the United States, to the oppression of whites to the third world through colonization and so on.  

So I fell under the spell, if you like, of important writings such as the Pedagogy of the Oppressed (by Paulo Freire) and other associated authors. So I was motivated by that, how can we overturn the existing power dynamic? How can we displace them? How can we interrogate them? And to what extent can I as a musician contribute to displacing power as existed and as it exists? How can we speak truth to power? How can we use this as protest, how can we move the world forward?

I think music has immense power but on the other hand I don’t think we have fully understood its capacity in contemporary society. We see music as something to listen to or something to make, but at its full capacity; it can mobilize a people, console a people, change lives in ways unimaginable for people who are forgotten in society. We allow the forgotten to become consumers but never the makers of music. So in the prisons we have men who have never rapped before, who’ve never sung before, who’ve never written poetry before; now they’re writing, they’re singing, they’re moving, they’re rapping, it’s incredible. Just listening is not enough to experience the power of music as a human being, its more fully realized by active participation.

HHF: If you could send a message to artists specifically or even the community at large, what would you say to them in regards to music and the work that you do?

André de Quadros : I would say it like this, What kind of world do you want to live in? I don’t think anyone is entirely satisfied with the state of the world. I think they’d say, I don’t think we are heading in the right direction. I would say to musicians for example, What kind of a world do you want to live in? How can your art making, or music making change the world and move it into the direction that you want it to go?

HHF: Wow, yea that’s a good question.

André de Quadros : Let’s say I stop someone on the street and ask them a question. If they were to say, I can’t stand all those black people protesting, what are they protesting about? I would say, how can music help you to understand their problems, and how might you seek to build a better world through music? This is not to suggest using music to give voice to your whining or complaining, but how will music help to achieve greater understanding?

 And of course I’m giving an opposite example, I’d be very disappointed if someone said why are all those black people protesting. The history of black oppression in this country is not even fully understood if you read a whole lot of the texts on that.

But to someone like that I would say what kind of fair egalitarian, democratic America do you want to live in? How do blacks, whites, Latinos etc. negotiate their world of equality and democracy? And to what extent can your music making contribute to the discussion of a world in which we can all live in? What does that mean to you?

I think all music making has got to be political in the sense of engaging in these difficult discussions. We think about what it might mean to  be of a different background and find ourselves the same. Some of it might be protest, nothing is wrong with protest. Music has been a part of protest since the beginning of time. Hip Hop’s origins are in political protest, social protest. You know I’m not an expert on Hip Hop but I’m certainly mindful of it.

HHF: In listening to you talk about music and the creation of it, its almost obvious that your musical journey didn’t start in college. So how far back does it go, do you come from a musical family or culture?

André de Quadros : Interesting question, first off, I’m Indian. I grew up in India, attended university in India and so on. I started learning the violin at the age of four and my mother came from a very musical family as did my father. They were not professional musicians, my mother was an elementary school teacher and my father was a physician.

I grew up before the digital world, there was no television in India, at all. There was no television even when I was a teenager. Some people say yea well we didn’t have a television at home but it’s not the same thing, we didn’t have a television in the country.

So I grew up in a world where it was an acoustic world essentially. There was very little technology in the form of radio or anything. So I grew up in an entirely different acoustic world that some can hardly imagine. People made music as they worked, as they sold things and so on.

HHF: So music was a huge part of the culture.

André de Quadros : Yea but I don’t even like calling it music, because it wasn’t necessarily music as we see it. We talk about beats, we talk about genre, about composers. I’m talking about someone is pulling a rope and they’re chanting. A lot of that wouldn’t even be called music because of vernacular etc. I mean I would call it music but the western music, whether its rap or pop or another genre; its about the piece, the beginning, middle and end, the composers. Those kinds of definitions and parameters of music do not apply in the kind of music that I’m talking about. It was a sonic landscape and an acoustic world in which I grew up in very different from that of the United States.

HHF: Wow, I love that; a sonic landscape and an acoustic world. Are there any final thoughts that you would like to share with our readers before I let you go?

André de Quadros : Nothing that comes to mind, It was a pleasure speaking with you.

HHF: You as well, thank you for taking the time out to sit down with Hip Hop Forum Digital Magazine.

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To find out more about André de Quadros and his work, please visit his website at http://www.andredequadros.com/.

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.

HHF Interview: Ajawavi Ajavon, ‘Every Man Counts’

Written and interviewed by Warnell Jones

If you’ve been paying attention to life over the last thirty years or so, you’d come to notice that the fabric of the traditional family has been tearing away ever so steadily. Now, that doesn’t mean that single parent homes cannot work, but rather that the optimal situation of two-parent homes seems to be fading away.

In many cases, fathers are not an equal part of their children’s lives – sometimes, even dictated by the judicial system to be this way. Many single mothers have taken the task of attempting to be both mother and father because there was no proper resolution to the relationship, nor proper mediation within. It is an issue within our society that has changed the “norm” when it comes to family.

In the wake of her own family troubles, Ajawavi Ajavon found a true calling in the field of family re-attachment – focusing on FATHERS. Her company, DAB Mediation, has spawned an organization called Every Man Counts. It’s through this organization that she, along with others, have created hope and confidence for men in the areas of child support, co-parenting, and relationship mediation.

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HHF: Thank you so much for taking sometime today to talk to us about your great organization, Every Man Counts. How did this awesome thing get started?

Ajawavi Ajavon: Ok. Every Man Counts started from my own personal experience. I was married for eighteen years, and when I filed for separation, my ex-husband separated from not only me, but also our children. I saw my kids go through heartache, and now I had to take on the role of being “mom” and “dad”. I was the “den mother”, the “cub scout mother”, the “girl scout mother”, and the “basketball mom” – I had to split myself three ways, one for each of my kids; one a cheerleader, one a basketball player, and one a Cub Scout. I saw that they appreciated what I did – sometimes they didn’t want to make me go out of my way to do things, but I enjoyed it – but I could still tell they missed that “father figure” in their lives.

So, I started working with my ex-husband to help him understand how important it is to be in the children’s lives; not only as married, but especially when we separated. I didn’t want him to take out his frustration against me on the children. He’s still coming around – it’s a work in progress. The kids are 24, 21, and 15 – they were 15, 12, and six when we separated.

I was a certified mediator for the courts in Delaware and New Jersey, and I seen that so many people would come into court unprepared. Same as my ex-husband, when I took him to court for child support, he was dumbfounded, like, “What? Why do you need child support?” So, I took my experience, and what I would want for my children, and created Every Man Counts. I knew it was important to educate the fathers. Through my experience with my ex-husband, I had something to teach the fathers, so other mothers wouldn’t have to go through what I went through. I’ve noticed it’s not just in our community – it’s in every male community, black, white, Asian, Hispanic. Every Man Counts, because when we build better dads, we build better lives.

HHF: What type of things do you do in this organization?

Ajawavi Ajavon: I educate fathers, from the early stages – changing diapers, breast milk feeding – all the way to the adolescent stages – what to talk about with your daughter during her first menstrual cycle, and her first boyfriend. Some of these things I help educate fathers on because I know fathers that are afraid to talk about these necessary subjects.

We hold lots of workshops. Financial literacy, entrepreneurship, activity ideas for the fathers who have their kids in joint custody, healthy food choices, co-parenting. We also have a program for those that need assistance with re-entry, and those needing assistance with court proceedings. It’s called CourtSmart. In addition to our workshops, we have events to promote unity, and it also gives the men in our program a chance to commune and share their experiences. I was actually purchasing trophies for our annual Dads fishing trip. This year is our third.

We invite fathers and sons, but I also invite children who don’t have a father or a mentor, and give these men the opportunity to be a part of their lives. We even did a Father-Daughter Tea Party, where we had fathers and their daughters come and participate in a dressy tea party event. We had girls aged all the way up to 16. It was sold out. So beautiful. We also have an event called the Barbershop Conversations, where we actually go to a barbershop and have open conversation about the issues pertinent to the community.

HHF: How do your clients initially react to a black woman making such a grand effort to help fathers?

Ajawavi Ajavon: At first, they’re like, “OK, she’s a woman. What does she know about fathers?” (Laughs) I stress that I don’t teach fathers how to be fathers. What I do is teach fathers what mothers and children need and want from an absent father. I’m not gonna teach you how to pull your pants up and be a man, no. I’m teaching the basics of being the better dad for the child. And what is special about my program is that the fathers that have been through my program come back and become teachers and presenters in the program – they give back by mentoring other fathers. Financial Literacy, Entrepreneurship, all taught by our own fathers. The only classes I teach are the early stages parenting and the co-parenting classes. The fathers love to encourage each other, “I’m a single father just like you – if I can do it, you can do it.”

HHF: What is the most common problem that you come into contact with in your clientele?

Ajawavi Ajavon: The common issue I have with clients is that they’re not confident enough. They’re not confident enough that they can win their case. They’re not confident of the judicial system. They often have a view that the court is “for the women”. It’s hard but necessary to change this mindset. The core values of my program are integrity, perseverance, accountability, and discipline. I can’t service anyone that isn’t able to adhere to these core values. I don’t allow my clients to play victims. We must be accountable for the portions of this situation which we are at fault. I can’t hold your hand. I can help you, but I can’t do it for you. In our CourtSmart program, we show these guys how to have all paperwork prepared, signed, stamped, dated, and arm them with the confidence backed by our core values, not only are they empowered to do well in court cases, the judicial system often shows respect and favor for their efforts. In fact, the courts refer clients to us because we teach the specifics that the courts want to see – at a cheaper price and more efficiently than many lawyers in these areas.

HHF: This is clearly a needed program across the nation. What is your current jurisdiction? What are your future goals?

Ajawavi Ajavon: We are currently in four states – Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. I could see this everywhere. I want to take my company to every city. I want to get government-funded. Right now, we exist from private donations, along with efforts from my for-profit company, DAB Mediation.

HHF: Thank you so much for this time! We are looking forward to your program spreading like wildfire through the nation!

Ajawavi Ajavon: Thank you so much!

Aja

DAB
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.

HHF Interview: NTG

Interviewed by Big Momma ‘Miz’
Hip Hop Forum digital magazine’s Big Momma ‘Miz’ meets half of the quintessential Philly ‘power couple’ – NTG – who speaks about her latest release ‘I’m real’ and recent collaborations with indie artists from Russia, Africa, California, Texas, Tennessee, Louisiana .. and, of course (bringing it back home) Philadelphia.

NTG2

 

HHF: So how’d ya day go today?

NTG: Good, ya know, always working & promoting, how about yaself?

HHF: That’s wassup, today was a chill day for me. I got a lot of work done yesterday, so we just did some family stuff today.

NTG: That’s always good

HHF: Yup, soooo getting right into it, tell me a little bit about NTG the artist, the MC, the DJ!

NTG: OK, well actually it’s me & my husband, we do our thing together.

HHF: That’s’ wassup!

NTG: Thank you! Yeah it’s important to us, we wanna represent black unity, showing positive examples of couples together, in love, putting out feel good music, and other music representing how I’m feeling at the time, but for the most part we try to keep it positive.

HHF: I like that, I like that, I was watching your latest video ‘I’m Real’, I was kinda digging that part in  the hook, “recognize when you talking to a G” I know that’s wassup!!

NTG: I appreciate that, and thank you for checking it out. I definitely been pushing that jawn hard, its actually in the charts right now, we check up on it every day, because as an artist you want to make sure you stay up on promotion and see where you are as far as digital tracking for radio airplay. Right now, were #35 for independent artist out of the top 100, for any genre. For the majors, were standing at #191, that’s with Drake, Rihanna and all of them, so were pretty proud.

HHF: As you should be, that’s your hard work paying off.

NTG: Yeah we’re trying, it’s a lot, but we’re trying.

HHF: That’s good! Can you tell me what’s message behind the song ‘I’m Real’, what are you trying to say?

NTG: That song is a feel good song, it’s a song that you put on when you tired of everybody putting you down, putting you in a box, you just wanna be like, look, this is who I am; I’m real, I know how to go out and get it if I want it and I can do what I wanna do, having confidence in yourself. Also, it’s just about having fun.

HHF: That’s good, you said the message is for those putting you down, do you encounter that a lot in this industry? If so, how do you deal with it?

NTG: (scoffs) YES! Coming up as a kid, I always considered myself standing up for the underdog, the ones that weren’t picked in the game’s first, or picked for anything, so I’m saying; if I can do it; you can do it. Its ways to feel good about yourself without selling your body and selling your soul. That’s the message that we’re tryna represent.

HHF: Alrighty! So what do you think you are coming to the game with?

NTG: (pauses for a sec) Aww man, it’s a lot. It’s definitely more than just tryna make money off of music. I mean everybody wants to be successful, but my husband and I want to be a good examples. We don’t have children, but I have a little brother, nieces, nephews, & lil cousins, so at the end of the day I want to be able to look in the mirror and feel good about what I’m doing and my message.  A lot of music today is detrimental to our youth, and I hate to see the kids getting caught up in a lot of crap believing what they see and hear is real, and it’s really not, the artists are just doing it for the money and since they don’t know that, they try to go out and emulate what they see in the videos and what not, so we try to put out a different message without the drugs and guns.

HHF: Right, I noticed that. So what would be your message to people about supporting local indies, I like the billboard challenge that you had, how did that go?

NTG: I appreciate it, it’s still going, and it’s ongoing. She laughs and says, a lot of people have been sending me fake pictures, you’d be surprised. Even when you’re giving away, it’s very hard to get support. I would say it’s very important to support local artists, indie artist in general.  When Beyonce drops an album, everybody goes out and grabs it, but if ya cousin, sister or friend drops an album, they’re like whatever, I’ll get the bootleg, it’s important to support the people that you know so they can be successful!

HHF: I always wondered why that was, I see that a lot too. People seem slow to support you on the indie level, but let you blow up and be on that Rihanna & Beyonce status, they’ll swear they was riding with you the whole time.

NTG: Yeah, that’s why a lot of celebrities cut people off because they aren’t grass roots. If you’re not shooting with me in the gym, why should you be chilling on the yacht with me?

HHF: Real talk, that’s right.

NTG: Support!  it can help people that have different messages come out, the reason why we have so many people with the same kind of music is because they are getting support from the industry, and the industry wants to degrade us, especially black people, they want to make it look like the women are loose and the men look like drug dealers, they don’t want you to see the positive side of hip hop, or the positive side of our music period! So you gotta support those local people that are trying to be positive, it’s important.

HHF: I definitely get that, do you do a lot of collaborations with other indie artists?

NTG: Absolutely! We have collaborated with people from Russia, Africa, California, Texas, Tennessee, Louisiana, Philadelphia which is where I’m from, my husband Draw is from Chester, and we’ve collaborated with artists all over, to me it’s the best thing because you can blend your talents together, and build new fans, it’s really a good mix.

HHF: What are some big names that you can say you’ve had the honor to work with?

NTG: O.G. Tweed Cadillac (Penthouse Playas Clique) he was under ruthless records back in the day, he knew Tupac, he does radio now, kinda moved past the rapping part, now helping other artists. We did a performance with one of the pioneers of hiphop; Curtis Blow, and that was really exciting, we actually got to spit with him, everybody was digging it, and from there we kept doing shows and performances trying to build and expand to let people know who we are.

HHF: Off the subject but on the subject, as a black woman what’s your opinion about what’s happening today with the police and our men, as quiet as its kept, the attacks on us as black women are starting to surface now, what’s your opinion if you have one?

NTG: I totally do! It’s hard, because every day you just don’t know what’s going to happen because you don’t feel safe. I don’t’ want to get to deep because I may seem a militant, but the bottom line is; I believe as a race we really have to unify, and if we don’t we’re in so much trouble because it’s obvious these officers aren’t getting any type of punishment for their actions, so the only way we can sustain and survive as a culture is if we start putting the dollars back into our communities, making our own businesses, supporting and uniting with each other otherwise were gonna be extinct. It’s so important to support black businesses and grow our community. Also, when you see another brother or sister, stop being mean and start speaking to one another so we can gain that connection that our ancestors once had before they were invaded. Unity is definitely needed in this culture.

HHF: I agree to the fullest, kill that crabs in the barrel mentality…

 MOB OUT ENTERTAINMENT PRESENTS LADIES FIRST VOL. 2, what’s that about?

NTG: That was a CD that I hosted, shout out to MOB OUT, they have me DJ different cd’s for them, and ladies first is important to me because it’s an all-female mixtape, so it was great to mix it down with females from all over the world. Currently I’m working on a compilation with artists from all 50 states, so everybody can get the same type of exposure and radio play as the major artists but on an indie level. That’s also a goal.

HHF: Tell me about SFR Radio.

NTG: That’s the radio station that I D.J. for, shout out to DJ Ize & the whole crew.  Also, I want to plug in the Fathers Stepin Up Organization, they’re talking about fathers taking care of their kids and doing the right things, so if anybody wants to donate make sure you hit up SFR RADIO 24/7, a very good cause.

HHF: Are there any last words, message or motto that you wanna have on print?

NTG: Power couple; NTG we wanna represent something different and new. We want it to be about real hip hop, not to discount anybody else’s music, but I do think we are over saturated with the same sound, so we want to be that refreshing music that makes people feel good again, for every age and everybody. So make sure y’all stay updated with what’s up with us, it’s so much going on, there’s a show on 8-18-16, Coast 2 Coast Philly edition, performing our new single ‘I’m Real’, it’s on hiphopDX, allhiphop, getyourbuzz, probably over 100 sites. It’s pushing up the charts, grab it off of iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, Tidal. Just keep supporting us and support your local artists, and we appreciate all of the support.

HHF: Okay! Well Natalie it was certainly a pleasure talking you!

NTG: Thank you for calling it was a great interview, I like the questions, gave me a chance to talk some.

NTG 1

 

This interview was done by Big Momma “Miz” a North Philly native, out of Harrisburg Pa., She is now the C.O.O for an indie label ILL CRE (Illustrious Creations of Entertainment) where she is also signed as an artist under the moniker “Penelope”. The 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 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.

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. 

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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HHF Interview: Will Porter

New York MC Will Porter speaks on the state of NYC hip-hop, his track ‘Mecca Audio Chant’ feat. Sadat X (Brand Nubian) and Dres (Black Sheep) and his mixtape produced by Ron G.
Interviewed by Madeleine Byrne

HHF: Now you’re from East Harlem I saw this quote from one of your rhymes, ‘They always said that a rose grew in Spanish Harlem, with the cracks I have emerged from, I am surely destined to break out ..,’ talk to me about the hip-hop scene in East Harlem and what it’s like living there.

Will Porter:  Where I come from, you grow up with a sense there’s a dark cloud over, you know (Porter says hi to someone, he’s walking through the streets as he speaks on the phone). A close childhood friend of mine died last night, so I’m still mourning, It’s not pretty like how it’s portrayed, you know a rose in Spanish Harlem, there’s a lot of adversity, sometimes it gets to you, you know. You walk around and all you see is drug scenes and you’re like, Damn. I don’t know, it’s definitely a place where you got to overcome adversity to grow.

HHF: How has this informed the local hip-hop scene?

Will Porter: There really is no hip-hop scene coming out of East Harlem – A$AP Rocky, maybe. He’s from 116th. But there’s really not that many, there’s Dave East, he’s cool, but nine out of ten people from East Harlem they don’t know who he is. (Porter greets someone else) I don’t really know him to say he is from East Harlem. The only one we got is A$AP Rocky. There’s so much talent in my neighborhood that’s the purpose of my mixtape: I put some people who I think should be on right now.

If you weak-spirited it definitely will break you down. You look at the hip-hop scene you don’t see nobody from East Harlem.

HHF: Let’s talk more broadly then, as you say on your mixtape you’ve got people from Harlem, the Bronx, Queens, but I didn’t see Brooklyn mentioned there; I was curious about that. Do you think those first three locations are where the energy is now in the city?

Will Porter: No, oh no, I love Brooklyn first of all (laughs). I don’t know what was going on when I wrote that, but the energy is there is Harlem, let’s say you’re an MC, you know you think you nice and you walk down the street and there’s some kid nicer than you, and you’d be like, wow, he’s just a kid. There’s a lot of energy as far as music.

As far as Queens, I never really been to Queens at that much; I been to Jam Master Jay’s studio I like that energy, it was fun. I reach out to Queens, and yeah I definitely reach out to Brooklyn, you know that’s where it’s at. Brooklyn’s got more of a buzz than Harlem – they got Maino, Brooklyn’s got it on, always.

HHF: You know some people are negative about what’s going on in New York these days, they say it’s kind of quiet or it’s dying or something, what’s your assessment of hip-hop in the city; both at the community level and the more mainstream guys?

Will Porter: It’s not the lack of community, it’s not the lack of us trying, my answer is not politically correct, but I feel like there’s an agenda in the industry right now: you see a lot of the famous rappers, they’re wearing dresses, it’s kind of like they look like females – they’re feminizing the MC in the industry right now. That’s what they’re doing and it’s not cool. You see all the artists, Young Thug and all these guys – I don’t even know their names; I just look at them and I’m like, Damn man really? It’s like they’re feminizing the MCs basically, now dresses are cool, they look like cross-dressers that’s what’s going on in the industry.

Unless you know somebody that’s big, you got to look like that, you know what I mean? And it’s sad, you watch XXL Magazine Freshman Class, and you’re a hip-hop fan, you’re like really? These are the people they’re putting out? Sad, man, that’s what’s going on.

It’s not that people in New York ain’t trying, or people in New York don’t rap no more. There are so many nice MCs who’ll probably never make it in New York cause of that simple fact, they’re really feminizing the MCs that’s what I feel is going on.

HHF: Talk to me about your influences, I saw you mentioned KRS-One, Kool G Rap, Wu Tang, Big Pun, can you choose one and talk about how they influenced your style?

Will Porter: Wu Tang influenced me because first of all in that era, it was 10-12 kids being together always, in the 90s it was all cliques, you know. It wasn’t gangs, it was cliques. You’d have the 10-15 kids at the same time, hanging out together, growing up like family on every block. When the Wu Tang came out, it was like oh shit, that could be us you know.

It was like I related to them, it was like the tribe, or family. Wu Tang that’s why they’re big on me.

HHF: That’s interesting, cause with your track ‘Mecca Audio Chant’ I can see the connections with what you’ve just said; it reminded me of that collective spirit from the 90s – and includes some stars from that era (Sadat X from Brand Nubian and Dres from Black Sheep). What were you aiming for?

Will Porter: Basically what’s that about is it’s me, Dres from Black Sheep and Sadat X from Brand Nubian and Kyss Major and we’re just paying homage to the song, the original. And what it is my manager, Unique he used to own Club 2000 in 1980s/90s, it was like the biggest club in New York. And he’s been gone for 23 years, he comes home this year.

What we were doing is raising funds in a campaign. We’re trying to get Unique out early, trying to get the President to pardon him. That song was basically just us paying homage to him and trying to do something positive and help him get out early.

 

HHF: What were you trying to communicate in your verse?                  

Will Porter: My verse, well my verse, in the reality of it when Club 2000 was going I was just a little kid I couldn’t get into it (laughs) that was when Puffy used to try to sneak into Club 2000 that’s how Unique know everybody. I really couldn’t get into the clubs at that age, so in my verse I say what I used to do, I used to take trips to Brooklyn and hang out with people totally different to me. That was my era, I was like a wanderer, so when you hear my verse it’s everywhere, because while everyone was in Club 2000 that’s what I was doing (laughs).

HHF: How did you get Sadat X and Dres to guest on the track?

Will Porter: Well, with the mixtape some people I grew up with, some people I know from the area and I told everybody on social media to send me the music, not so many people did this and I was like, okay this is your chance to be on Ron G’s mixtape – Ron G is a DJ legend. I gave a lot of people in my community the chance and the few that replied I put them on.

HHF: Brand Nubian and Black Sheep, they’re classic New York acts from that era.

Will Porter: Definitely, but if you ask nine out of ten nowadays about them, if you ask ten out of ten young kids out here, they’d be like. Who? But that’s how far different hip-hop the culture was different when I was coming up, it’s not the same. It’s feminizing the MC, like I said, wearing dresses, I don’t know man. I have no problem with gay people, you know, I’m saying the culture we know the real MCs – the Rakims, the Kool G Raps, they don’t know who those people are, the kids these days.

HHF: What can be done about all of this?

Will Porter: Hip-hop has to come full circle, because when the real hip-hop come back that’s going to open the door to the old: let me hear this Brand Nubian, let me hear KRS-One, let me hear Rakim, let me hear NWA (well, NWA did that movie so they’re mainstream, everybody knows them) but let me hear the groups that were real hip-hop back in the day. Hip-hop will have to come full circle for that.

HHF: What do you mean by ‘full circle’?

Will Porter: Right now I feel that hip-hop is in a phase where it’s dumbed down, you know, there’s no MCs out there, I mean the nicest rapper is Drake and he doesn’t even write his own rhymes. I love Drake, I love his music, but that shows you how far hip-hop has gone – back in the 90s, the early 2000s, the 80s you couldn’t be an MC and not write your music. Hip-hop is in a totally different era, right now they need to go back to an era where the real MCs and there’s music of substance and it’s conscious rap, if it goes back to that era – like the ‘golden era’ – people will be more open to learning about the history, but right now the MCs are just worried about what’s the next dress to wear (laughs).

HHF: How about the female MC on the track, Kyss Major, she’s fantastic.

Will Porter: That was the first time I was introduced to her, she’s an old friend of Unique’s – my manager – she has some good music, she’s going to be on my second mixtape too. I like her man, she raps, she sings. She’s good people.

HHF: It’s produced by Ron G, who you mentioned just before, for people who haven’t heard of him, can you talk a bit about him some more?

Will Porter: Ron G is to hip-hop DJs what Hulk Hogan used to be to wrestling. Like when Hulk Hogan was out, and in our prayers and we were looking in the mirror trying to be Hulk Hogan – Ron G is that for hip-hop and DJ-ing. Ron G was the pinnacle DJ to get on his mixtape, he was the biggest, there was no-one close to him. There were lots of nice DJs, no question, but Ron G was it. He was the pinnacle, the top-notch: Ron G was it, as far as hip-hop culture, the streets and the community. Everyone wanted to be on a Ron G cassette (laughs) not CD, cassette. He was just the biggest.

This was early- mid 90s, after 96 when CDs started coming out and cassettes, well the DJ era (pauses) once the CDs came in, people like DJ Clue took over; now it’s a different DJs for today than when Ron G was out there. Ron G was doing everything, doing clubs, he was everywhere.                     

HHF: Let’s talk about your other track ‘Take a pic’ who produced that?

Will Porter: Rich Lou produced that, he’s out of East Harlem. He’s doing pretty good, God bless him, that was one of the first beats he ever made. I used that, that’s my banger right there. I perform that whenever I perform, they go crazy.

 

HHF: Okay about the mixtape, as you said you wanted to include different acts from New York, why is it important to be putting out mixtapes now?

Will Porter: Right now, it’s what I got to do with the biggest DJ, Ron G – for me personally I think mixtapes are kind of a waste of time, unless your signed already, because you can have all the neighborhood MCs, you’re going to see maybe 1000 downloads and 1000 mixtapes and nobody’s downloading the stuff anyway, but then if you look at Fabulous – he’s going to have one million downloads by afternoon. The artists who are mainstream are still doing mixtapes and that’s what’s killing the mixtape culture, for the artists coming up, that’s for them the mixtapes.

If Jay-Z is dropping a mixtape, what chance does my mixtape have? If Drake drops a mixtape, what chance does a regular guy coming up have, nothing, cause everybody’s going to be downloading Drake’s mixtape. Mixtapes are the new albums for the industry rappers and they make a lot of money out of them, but it hurts the up and coming artists, because our mixtapes don’t stand a chance against them.

HHF: How would you like to see things change?

Will Porter: I don’t know what can be done, honestly. You just got to stay strong to your spirit and you just got to keep punching. Treat it like a fight as a boxer in a boxing-ring, you just got to keep punching and don’t give up, And that’s it, man, you’re going to get that lucky punch in and you’ll win; as far as it changing, I don’t see how it can change.

It’s all digital now, so if Beyoncé get the itch, Beyoncé can put six songs together (laughs) and do a mixtape and go diamond and there’s nothing nobody can do about it, you know what I mean. It’s hard. The industry is totally screwed up as far as the way it used to be.      

HHF: How do you place yourself in terms of a broader tradition of Latino MCs in New York – I know you mentioned Big Pun as an influence …

Will Porter:  Well, like I’m a different case, I’m Puerto Rican but I grew up around Black people my whole life, if you listen to my music and you don’t know me, you’ll say, he’s Black and then you see me, and you think, oh he’s Puerto Rican, OK. I have more black influences than Puerto Rican – I live in Spanish Harlem, but it’s more black here than you think. I really gravitated more towards them than my own kind, and as I got older and older it became a stronger influence.

Now Big Pun the reason why he just brought all the Latinos together, now the Latinos believe, wow we can have an MC that’s nice. He shook the world and woke up a lot of people and they come close to that. Greatness brings people together, you know what I’m saying? Big Pun’s greatness was, oh man, I wish he were still alive, yes he brought us all together. Before him, everybody hung out with their own crews; besides Pun there was no Latin influences on my rapping.

HHF: How about your future plans?

Will Porter: I’m planning on being out there, I want to be out there (pauses) You know who is a major inspiration for me, Flo Rida, he was on it for years and years and never made it and then he turned 40 and all his peoples were saying, give it up and then he came out with one hit (laughs). And Flo Rida is a legend now for one hit, he’s life has totally changed. You got to pay thousands and thousands to see him perform (laughs) you know what I mean.

My manager knows everybody, I tell you LL Cool J was 16 popping bottles in his club, Puffy was sneaking in his club, he knows everybody literally. To be blessed like this (to have him working with me), he called me today and the things he got lined up, it’s going to be crazy. It’s going to be crazy and everybody’s going to be like how the hell did Will pull this off, I just want to show you all, that’s all.

HHF: Great, thanks so much for talking with us at Hip Hop Forum digital magazine today.

willporter

Will Porter: You’re welcome, any time.

Paris-based Madeleine Byrne is editor at Hip Hop Forum digital magazine, to read more of her writing on hip-hop and other music, go to madeleinebyrne.com.