HHF Opinion: Manslaughter; We have a charge, will there be a conviction? 

Written by: Warnell Jones

Call me crazy, but I think I just witnessed America showing some form of guilt and remorse. I may be losing it, but did the mighty US of A take action against a white police officer for the unjust murder of a black man?


Perhaps good old America is coming to its senses, realizing that it’s not (never, ever was) acceptable for police officers to use deadly force against situations that don’t call for such. We hope that someone in our judicial system came to see this (and every instance like it) for what it is – a crime.


Allow me to catch you up on current events.


Terance Crutcher

On September 16, 2016, in Tulsa, OK, Officer Betty Shelby killed Terence Crutcher – an unarmed; or otherwise innocent, black man – after shortly being tazed by her fellow officer during a traffic incident. She later gave the press the excuse of Crutcher not following orders and possibly reaching through a closed window for a weapon (that was never in the vehicle). Now generally, these claims are coerced and allowed as fact in these cases. However, multiple videos of the incident have made this case different.


Betty Shelby

On September 22, 2016, Officer Shelby was charged with Felony 1st Degree Manslaughter – punishable up to life in prison.


This is an anomaly in modern-day American society – history tells us that no matter the offense, the powers-that-be (the judges, in this case) choose the side of the lawman against the side of the victims. So often, the officers that commit these crimes are sent on paid leave, while the system “investigates”, only to determine that the officers in question will not have charges brought against them.


In 2014, 100 unarmed black men & women were killed by police, notably including young Tamir Rice & Michael Brown. No convictions of murder or manslaughter for any officers.


In 2015, 102 unarmed black men & women were slain by police, notably Sandra Bland while in police custody. Of those cases, 2 convictions of manslaughter were found.


This year, the names range from Alton Sterling to Philando Castile, from Korryn Gaines to Keith Lamont Scott. Now Terence Crutcher. This is the 1st charge for manslaughter this year. That staggering statistic means that if the police have a similar number of unarmed killings this year, and Officer Shelby is the only officer convicted this year, the rate would be 1%. Over 3 years, 300 unarmed people killed by police, 3 convictions.  3 / 300 = 1%.


Certainly, in an America where “all men are created equal”, that idea doesn’t fare well for anyone in possession of melanin-heavy skin.


Perhaps I am somewhat elated to see that black people of America are getting a chance of an apology, of recognition, of acceptance.


But then again, history shows me different. That 1% number only happens if a conviction is handed to Officer Shelby. Right now, she’s only been charged……


…….and we know a charge and a conviction are two different things.

Source of statistics: http://www.mappingpoliceviolence.org. 

HHF Opinion: Can Hip Hop Die?

Written by James “Nobodee Jones” Horton


It’s a funny thing, me being an atypical cat, Midwest rural born and southern deep fried upbringing. I been into hip-hop music since the era of the fat boys back in the gap. Over time I have seen the good bad and ugly.  There are artist that I try to keep tabs on and I have seen them grow and in fact they’ve helped me grow or at least gave me things to consider.  So consider this? Is hip-hop dead?

Not that old of a horse to beat since so many have an issue with calling trap hip-hop. (That’s another story). Yet hip-hop music, rap, wasn’t ever dead per se.  The craft didn’t die and ‘naw the industry couldn’t and wouldn’t kill it, too profitable. (Sidebar) The industry just gained more control but that’s been in effect since the mid to early 90s.  Industry built on catering to the dreams of folks who got less  and want more in the culture and playing advocate for that “I want that too, going to get that” mentality.  The truth of it all was that many mainstream artists don’t own a quarter of what they say they have or what the industry reflects they have. Didn’t the Tribe tell y’all about rule #5080? 

Anyway, to stay on topic; the heart of hip-hop flowed back home in the underground, it just flowed back to the hunger and desire that birthed it and away from the industrial issues with “successful” mainstream artist.

What I mean is so many cats get the game misconstrued. The ebb and flow of hip-hop has never been one of confinement or alignment. In the core of the art is that need; need, hunger, drive, experience, or that fire. That’s not even mentioning skill, know what I ‘m talking about. A cat gotta have skill in the game if he expects to play.  Yet the game gets a little throw’d when you speak to that need and skill because that need and skill changes with each individual.

That’s why the sound can change but the heart never does.  Nothing makes a cat go after his scratch like necessity. When the only dream you have is tied to a mic then by any means necessary (that’s where the hustle can come in). However that passion is reflected in not just the sound but the thought process.  

You cannot tell me that in a year’s time a cat went from po’ to paid and still has the same mentality.  It goes the same with artist; folks act like they aren’t people and subjected to the same laws as all us. Success has its way of changing perspectives and in hip-hop that can be detrimental to an artist work.  Then you add in the influence and pressures of the industry and when that next work drop it’s weaker and so forth with each generation of work.  

“I will never be able to top what my name is.” Eminem stated that and love ‘em or hate ‘em but the truth will set you free. So many mainstream folk lose there potency but through their name alone they can ride a good beat and still sell.  This is a good business plan in the mainstream industry because money is made. Why you think there are so many DJ and Producers now a days?

The point is the essence of hip hop is not found in the well fed. The essence, lies’ as that ish always has with the hungry, in the underground. So I can only reason that’s why it was said to be dead. Or maybe its mainstream hip-hop is dying.  I mean I expect maybe 2 or 3 dope albums from a good mainstream cat. That’s why if the cats do have some skill in the art their albums represent strength because them cats still hungry. In fact many need more scratch ‘cause the industry just reintroduced them to debt; which means it reintroduced them to control.

However the Underground are unsigned, unfiltered, and are always hungry; each body of work is a testament to the heart.  Shid, that’s why weak cats (mainstream or underground), weak in character, skill, hunger, delivery don’t last long. Hell in the underground, it’s a bit different. Mainstream artist, through name can often ride a smooth tune but underground artist will get murked by the same tune.  The hunger is there, the mind frame for most of the cats in the underground in still in that perspective of “gotta get it” and many, many of these cats are holdin’.  

It was just recently that I began to really dive in to the underground/unsigned genres. What I see is impressive but what I worry about is the industry getting a foot hold in the culture, the culture that represents the root of the culture. Chance the Rapper wants the Grammy’s to open the floor for mixtapes, for the underground. That may lead to the death of a culture.  

Nobodee Jones

James “Nobodee Jones” Horton, co-owner, online broadcaster, personality for RAWR Radio based in Ardmore, Ok. Born in Ardmore, OK raised in Atlanta, GA. Pays homage to hip hop culture through RAWR Radio weekend Show cast via Mixlr.com online. RAWR Radio itself grew from a personal need that mainstream hip-hop is failing to produce. Although still in the early stages the shows continue to see growth. We feature Unsigned Underground artist. Real radio, just like you like your Hip-Hop! From the heart but not for the overly sensitive. Check out the RAWR website and stay connected with Nobodee Jones and RAWR Radio on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Soundcloud, Google+.  RAWR!

Personal Response: Officer Nero judgement, Freddie Gray trial By Omi Muhammad

Personal response Article about the Officer Nero judgement, the officer involved in the Freddie Gray trial.

Written by: Omi Muhammad


May 23, 2016 11:13 AM

CBS Alert reads “Baltimore Officer Acquitted in Freddie Gray Case”.

My phone screen goes from red to blue and back to red again. I knew that it was due to a glitch in my filter app but all I saw was the symbolism. I stared at the screen, numb, not shocked just numb; I realized that in the back of my mind I expected this. I absent-mindedly logged onto Facebook where I saw all sorts of different reactions to the verdict. People were outraged and calling for blood. Parents were pleading for possible rioters to be mindful of their children’s safety. Some people agreed with the verdict. I know how I wanted to feel but in all honesty, the pain was too much for me to allow myself to feel at all.

Freddie Gray was another life lost at the hands of justice; and yet, no justice.

Over the years, countless minorities have been abused and even killed by police hands; and yet so few are mentioned. The numbers dwindle even further when asked about justice. The problem isn’t just police brutality or that this one officer was acquitted; the problem is the system that allows it. The system that enacted and later amended the Three Fifths Compromise. Over 150 years later, why are we still fighting to be considered human?

Minorities are taught as children how to survive before we even begin to learn how to live. Imagine being told that you and anyone who looks like you is a target, for anything from a mean look to death. Imagine being told to talk, dress and behave a certain way just so that you don’t arouse any more unwarranted suspicion. Think of the worried glances at the clock when you are late coming home. Tears dripping onto clasped hands as someone prays fervently that you’re one of the ones who makes it. We need a paradigm shift in this country; one that doesn’t create an ideology of selective humanity.

We need to reclaim our humanity. As a human being, I have choice words for the officers and the judge; but that doesn’t bring anyone back or prevent these situations from occurring. It doesn’t help us cope or build for the future. This is why I’m especially proud of the Baltimore youth. They have yet to lose their ability to feel, that was made evident by the explosion of art following the riots. From murals to national slam poems, our youth have been re-establishing their power. To Freddie Gray and all other lives lost, we honor you and will continue to reclaim our humanity.

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


Omi Muhammad
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 Profile Interview: Changa Onyango, Executive Director at Community Mediation, Baltimore, Speaks following Officer Nero acquittal in Freddie Gray trial

As part of its community focus, Hip Hop Forum Digital Magazine reached out to Mr Changa Onyango, Executive Director at Community Mediation to hear how people in West Baltimore felt about the Officer Nero decision on May 23rd where he was acquitted of all charges over his involvement in the death of Freddie Gray in police custody. At the same time, we took the opportunity to speak to him about the importance of giving the local community a voice via mediation and his work with two local non-profits, OBI and Group Harvest.
Interviewed and written by Madeleine Byrne
Photo of young woman in Baltimore, keeping a smile on her face.
Photo of young woman in Baltimore, keeping a smile on her face.

‘Apathy is the word I’d use,’ Mr Changa Onyango replied via email when asked how people in West Baltimore responded to the decision that saw Officer Edward Nero cleared of all charges. ‘The people don’t hold out hope for justice in any tangible ways any more. Mainly they were happy to see that the world give them a nod for 15 seconds.’

Twenty-five year old West Baltimore native Freddie Gray died on April 19th after suffering a ‘high-energy injury’ an autopsy report said came from the sudden deceleration of the police van in which he was travelling, shackled and handcuffed, but not restrained by a seatbelt. As a result of his injuries – a severed spine and crushed voice box – Mr Gray fell into a coma and died a week after his arrest.


Baltimore’s former Police Commissioner Anthony Batts said the officers stopped three times: first, to put Mr Gray in leg-irons, second to ‘deal with Mr Gray’ and then to put another prisoner in the van. He also acknowledged that: ‘We know our police employees failed to get him medical attention in a timely manner multiple times.’ After a medical examiner’s report ruled Mr Gray’s death a ‘homicide’ six police officers were indicted on charges ranging from reckless endangerment, manslaughter to 2nd degree depraved-heart murder.

Last December a jury failed to reach a verdict regarding one police officer. During the most recent May hearing, Officer Nero was cleared of all charges (two counts of second degree assault; misconduct in office and false imprisonment). Legal commentators claim that the reasons for the acquittal provided by Judge Barry Williams might indicate a higher chance of a conviction in the remaining cases, especially in that he argued Officer Nero’s role was ‘secondary’ so he was not responsible for the fact that Mr Gray was not restrained properly.

The case of the officer driving the van, Caesar Goodson, begins next. He faces 30 years in jail if convicted of a murder charge. Considering the evidence that show Mr Gray’s injuries were caused by the van’s sudden stop and a proven history of ‘rough rides’ in police vans in Baltimore, many believe that the case against Goodson is strong.

And yet, as Mr Onyango explained this raises difficult issues for the local community. ‘A lot of people see it as a color issue or race issue and one of the key defendants is black. People don’t want to see at the end that their protesting etc ends up sending a black person to jail – cop or not.’ Caesar Goodson, the driver of the police van, is African-American.

During the first Freddie Gray trial, Mr Onyango organised a series of open mics across the city so people could speak and be heard. ‘A big part of the violence (following Freddie Gray’s funeral on April 27th) happened because people had no place to fellowship. Churches weren’t open,’ he said. ‘There was nowhere you could take refuge from all the negativity. Having places open their doors and posting a sign up that says…”no judgement zone…speak your piece” was a way for us to be cultural relevant in our response.’

Mr. Changa Onyango

With more than 20 years experience working in West Baltimore, Changa Onyango is the Executive Director of Community Mediation and also helped set up two other non-profits in the city: OBI and Group Harvest. He explained the importance of his work this way:

As a mediator I facilitate tough conversations when people have a hard time getting themselves heard. The main thing we do is modelling the active listening skill in the context of conversation. We know through research that the best chance for peace is when both sides feel heard and understood. We train volunteers to do the mediations and we use local spots like conference rooms or churches to have the mediations in the community. Our mediators are trained not to input information or restate people’s position.. we only reflect, listen… listen, reflect. It’s the key to people feeling like they own the solution.

OBI is a non-profit that provides training to local boys and was founded after Mr Onyango travelled ‘around the country doing the training for other groups on contract through the United Way and Youthbuild USA’. While Group Harvest ‘came as a collaboration between myself and Rodney Powell who is now an administrator in Connecticut public schools.’

As he explained: ‘We decided to create a company that would go around and teach teachers through professional development workshops and also engaged directly with students to help build climate that over time could change the culture of student teacher relationships.’

In a series of YouTube videos, Mr Onyango has offered up some interesting perspectives on the best way to motivate young people via a concept of ‘leverage’ without returning to harsh discipline, or physical punishment that can entrench a sense of disengagement. He describes how he tries to motivate his own children to strive for better, while reinforcing a spirit of collaboration, rather than a winner take all mentality.

I asked him to speak about this more:

‘My theory is there are three main ways to motivate people; the first being to influence their preference the second being to introduce a logical idea and the third being violence. If children are people then we have to use one of these three to get them to make decisions that are in line with what we think they should do. If children are not people and they are instead property, then we can just pick them up and manoeuvre them however we wish.’

He continued: ‘I don’t wish to treat my children as property so I have had to retrain myself to treat them as humans regardless of their size I’ve had to retrain myself to respect their logical processes and to introduce to them the reasons behind my decisions and actions as well as the reasons behind what I wish for them to do. I’ve also have to convince myself to be okay with the fact that this will not always work. In our society external influence is pervasive. In poor families it’s even more so.’

The neighborhood where Freddie Gray lived in West Baltimore faces a series of issues, Mr Onyango explained. One of the most important being the lack of good quality housing. This problem is not new. Indeed, Freddie Gray’s mother won a court settlement after laboratory tests in the 1990s found Gray and his two sisters had double the level the State of Maryland defines as the minimum of lead poisoning. The lead came from squalid walls of the home where they lived. While a 2014 Maryland Department of Environment report found that more than 2,600 children in Baltimore had dangerous levels of lead in their blood.

‘West Baltimore is a very complicated set of circumstances. There’s a lot of history that still effects and informs policy at high levels as well as individual decision-making at the lowest levels. There is still plenty of bigotry and hatred between disparate groups,’ Mr Onyango said. ‘The roots if you follow them deeply enough usually go back to resources and territory or property. Everyone wants to build a legacy and in America there’s really only a few ways to do it.’ And yet, ‘the problem with trying to build a legacy (…) is that you must own the means of production. In this case that means of production is usually space.’

‘Baltimore is one of the highest concentration of dissing franchise black folk in terms of real estate meaning that the ratio of people who own is extremely low,’ he explained. ‘The fact is that this was intentional and very evident, yet no effort has been made to reverse the very real and lasting effects so this is the biggest reason that the hate endures.’

In conclusion, Mr Onyango said: ‘Poor education, Black Afluenza, discriminatory hiring practices, and media stigma are all also real contributors to the current climate,’ but in the end, the ‘housing/space ownership dilemma is the biggest piece of the puzzle for Baltimore.’

To find out more about Community Mediation Baltimore, go to http://communitymediation.org/

Thank you Omi Muhammad for organizing this interview.

Thanks to Omi Muhammad!

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HHF Interview: DJ Shaun Hilltop

In this interview, DC-based DJ Shaun Hilltop talks about the “Hilltop Radio Show”, the art of being a DJ, and the three major tours he’s been working on under the “Hilltop Radio Show Entertainment” name.

 Interviewed by Michael ATG


HHF: Thank you, Sir, for taking out of your day to be a part of this interview. Starting off, you’ve been a DJ for over 20 years and grew up watching DJ’s such as Red Alert, Chuck Chillout, but were majorly influenced by your uncle, DJ Eric Thomas. Now my question is, how exactly did your uncle influence you to begin your career?

DJ Shaun Hilltop: (pauses) He influenced me because I used to go to radio stations at that time and load his albums up. Back in the day, the DJs at the radio stations, used to have the turntables. I would load the albums on the turntables for him that particular night, you know that he’s DJ’ing. And that right there kinda … kinda grew a passion, and a love for just watching him, you know DJ, and you know playing old school music from way back in the day. That’s what influenced me to be a DJ today.

HHF: So you basically just put everything in motion for him. You helped him get everything set up.

DJ Shaun Hilltop: Yes, yes sir I did. Sure did.

HHF: OK, years later, when you started off your name was DJ Big Daddy Shaun, right?

DJ Shaun Hilltop: Yeah, DJ Big Daddy Shaun was the DJ name I used in high school and when I got into college, in the college scene, I used that up until I took a break. And I went into officiating college football, high school football, and then I recently – and it’s about ten years now, I came back into DJ’ing, and changed my name to just DJ Shaun.

HHF: You’ve been all over with it and taken every outlet you could possibly take.

DJ Shaun: Yes. Weddings… family reunions… park jams… just little, little events. Anything I could get my hands on, I did it.

HHF: Now, I know of course in the DC Area, and the underground scene you’re a legendary DJ among the airwaves, and off the airwaves. I can say, from what I’ve seen, and what I know, the drive you have is impeccable, to say the least.

DJ Shaun: Right.

HHF: How do you keep it all together? What drives you the most to go so hard, and stay so focused, all these years that you’ve been in the game?

DJ Shaun: (pauses) People man. The artist. The real artist, that are real to the game, currently hip hop. So, so you know, they keep my drive, and my passion, and keep me motivated to be able to, you know, do my radio stations, go on the air and play the music that everybody wants to hear in the clubs, you know clubs, park jams, things like that, etc. The artist, you know, the listeners.

HHF: Ok, just the art of the music fuels you, I understand.

DJ Shaun: Exactly!

HHF: As an artist myself, I 100% understand that the music keeps you going man. It keeps you wanting to keep pushing, I definitely understand that one Sir.

DJ Shaun: And artist like yourself, that’s motivated, and putting 120% into your craft makes MY craft, even better because I know I’m getting good, positive music that the listeners, love, listen, and gravitate to.

HHF: We really bounce off of each other. You know, like, as you get fueled by us and that we push you… The DJ’s pushin’ our music and givin’ us those spins, that only motivates us to go even harder.

DJ Shaun: Exactly, exactly.

HHF: Right, it’s all one big vibe man, that’s how I look at it. And uh, speaking of….

DJ Shaun: (begins to speak)

HHF: I’m sorry, go ahead.

DJ Shaun: And let me jump on this thing. I don’t know if you’re gonna get to this question, I’m probably jumping a little forth, while it’s on my mind.

HHF: You’re fine, go ahead.

DJ Shaun: The art of being a DJ. Being a DJ is just not two turntables, a mixer, a microphone, speakers and a headphone. Being a DJ is you have to tell a story, while you’re mixin’ and scratchin’. You get what I’m sayin’?

HHF: Right, right.

DJ Shaun: It’s like you writing your lyrics, your lyrics are coming from your mind as an artist.

HHF: Yeah, from the heart.

DJ Shaun: And you’re writing it down, and you’re perfecting a story. You’re perfecting a craft. So people can be like, you know when they’re listening to your music, they can close their eyes and be like “Damn, you know I’m feelin’ him, I’m wit’ him on what he’s writing.” And that’s the way that I take my profession into the turntables, because here’s the thing. You wanna keep the crowd pumped up, you wanna keep the crowd on the dance floor.

HHF: Of course, of course

DJ Shaun: By all means necessary. When you know play that one wrong album, or that one wrong song, and people start walking off the dance floor… It’s hard to get them back on the dance floor. So it’s the same thing, DJ’ing is a craft. You have to tell a story with your music.

HHF: Right, you gotta make sure you keep they attention, keep ‘em tuned in.

DJ Shaun: Yessir.


HHF: OK now I know you manage a slew of quality, underground artist as an A&R for IMG records, under Universal Records.

DJ Shaun: Yes.

HHF: A couple of the artist includes; Patricia MyTime, who wrote for SWV, which is one of my favorite old school groups. Now with you managing those artist, you basically gotta, you know, help them along their way as to continue to perfect their own craft, so what’s really the main thing you try to teach your artist, while they’re under your watch to help them succeed?

DJ Shaun: The keyword on that… is patience.

HHF: Yessir. Yes sir.

DJ Shaun: Have patience… Have patience, patience, patience!

HHF: Right, cause that goes a long way …

DJ Shaun: Listen. Listen to what your management is telling you. Understand the music that you’re in. Understand the culture that you’re in. Learn about what you’re doing, then YOU perfect the craft. It’s not all about sitting – of course you know, you’re an artist – it’s not all about sitting down writing a rhyme, going to the studio, and putting it all on an album. It’s all about understanding why you’re writing …

HHF: Yeah, it’s much deeper than that.

DJ Shaun: (continues) what you’re looking for, your purpose. Your purpose, you’re creating something and waiting, and having the patience to get to the next level. You got some artist that rush, and once they rush themselves …

HHF: They wind up flopping.

DJ Shaun: They wind up flat lining. And once you flat line… it’s hard to get back up there again.

HHF: That’s 100% right. That’s 100% right.

DJ Shaun: And make sure you quote me on that…

“The key element of being a talented artist under good management is having patience.”

HHF: Understood. I’m definitely quoting you on that one, Sir. I got you. (Both laugh)

HHF: I’ve already named a couple people, who you felt helped you become the highly respected DJ you are today, who exactly are your Top 3 influences since you’ve been in the game?

DJ Shaun: First one would be, Steven Russell-Harts, of Troop. He’s the number one guy, because we have, a bond and a connection with one another that can’t be broken. I’m his manager. And he believes highly of what I’ve been doing, and I’ve been taking his career to the next level.

Even though, he’s been in the game for 20 plus years, he allows me to come inside his circle, and push him even more. So when he’s being pushed, he’s pushing me also to be the best manager, the best DJ I possibly can.

HHF: Right.

DJ Shaun: And my second one would be Gymini. He used to be formerly of the 69 Boyz. He’s another one. I push him to a higher level. He pushes me to a higher level. I also manage him as well.

HHF: OK. You bounce off of each other.

DJ Shaun: Yes. And my third, the third one I would say, is my business partner – she’s an artist as well – and that’s Rayn Jackson. She the kind of artist, that believes in what we can do as a tag team. And she pushes me, as far as with management, and my DJ. And I push her, as far as management, and her singing career. So they would be my top three, that I would honestly say, yeah.

HHF: Alright, I’m glad you did bring up Rayn Jackson. Because I seen that you dabble into the fashion industry and that you two are in charge of the Entertainment for the Ebony Fashion Fair, in Los Angeles, CA, as well as the “Real Fashion meets Real Music” Tour. What made you wanna get into the whole fashion industry?

DJ Shaun: (pauses) A good friend of mine, Kenneth Sampson, out of Philadelphia. We became friends on Facebook. He inboxed me, and said “DJ Shaun, would you mind coming to Allentown, PA, and DJ’ing this fashion show?”. And I’ve done fashion shows, quote unquote, but nothing to where this fashion show I was particularly involved. I really loved it… enjoyed myself, and everybody enjoyed the music that I was playing, which was old school music like back in the day, you know like Bel Biv Devo… you know, “Percolator”… All those… (pauses)

HHF: The classics, the classics!

DJ Shaun: The classics. They allowed me to come into their house, and that’s the music that I played, and they loved the selection – why? Because it’s like I said earlier, they never left the dance floor. Actually they were coming up to me… (saying) “Can you play this, can you play this, can you play this?”. So the more, and more that you get request, the more and more you can become a better DJ. But that was the reason why I got into fashion, because of Kenneth Sampson. Coming out of Philadelphia.

HHF: That’s very interesting. Alright, I also see you guys are doing big things with the tours and everything too. Speaking of the tours, I want you to break down your current three major projects. You currently have all three projects currently touring the US, under “Hilltop Radio Show Entertainment”; “Silence The Violence”, “Grown And Sexy” and the “Classic 90’s” Tour. What’s your vision behind these projects, how did they really come about?

DJ Shaun: OK, the “Silence The Violence” Tour came about last year, in October. When a couple of young kids I knew, from refereeing – a long, long time ago – got killed.

HHF: Mm. Ah man… R.I.P.

DJ Shaun: It kinda like bothered me a little bit inside. But then I was like you know, I have to do something to not be the ones that talk about… I have to be the ones that’s gonna be about it. So I reached out to Gymini, and I reached out to Bonecrusher. I reached out to JT Money, which are all, you know, mainstream artist and spoke with them about the idea that I had. They took their idea, and now we’re starting our… Our first adventure, with these three in Chicago. What better place to start than Chicago?

HHF: That’s a blessing… Yes. They need it the most, to be honest. They really do, and I haven’t heard from Bonecrusher in a while. So to hear that he’s out here doing positive stuff as well, that’s a major blessing too; that’s a major blessing.

DJ Shaun: Yeah. Bonecrusher, and JT both have two hot singles that are out right now. Which is really, really good and Gymini will be in the studio come next month, and working on his new single. It’s gonna be nice and fun for everybody to tune in and listen to.

As for the “Grown and Sexy” Tour, it’s made up of artist Troop, Public Announcement, Hi-5, and now I added another young group from out of Atlanta called Emerge. These visionaries named Emerge are the up and coming Bad Boys of R&B. And what I mean by “Bad Boys of R&B”… I mean they have that Silk, that H-Town, that Jodeci, that love… The girls will gravitate to them, and love the music that they’re singing.

HHF: OK. That classic R&B feel to ’em.

DJ Shaun: That classic R&B, putting these guys with classic R&B artist. And Steven Russell-Harts will be debuting his new – one of his singles off his new upcoming album in August called “60’s Baby”.

HHF: Do we have a date in August for that?

DJ Shaun: We haven’t really projected a date yet, but it will be launched in August, and “60’s Baby” is the title of that track, of that album. Yeah. And the “Classic R&B” Tour. That again, will be Troop, Hi-5, Public Announcement, Men At Large, and Rude Boys. So we’re bringing back classic 90’s, to everybody that enjoyed the 80’s and 90’s music from these groups.

HHF: Light, that’s gonna be real interesting.

DJ Shaun: Yup, and it’s crazy that I had started promoting this and we already have four cities that wanna buy this package deal with these groups.

HHF: Ah man that’s big.

DJ Shaun: And their all different states, all southern states: Alabama, Georgia, Florida, and Mississippi.

HHF: Shew, the south when it comes music overall – I can’t even just say Hip-Hop – they really been holdin’ it down, and showin’ a lot of support, and they all support each other. I think that’s what really keeps it together, down south. So yeah, that’s major, that’s definitely major right there.

DJ Shaun: Yessir!

HHF: Well I pray all tours go successful, they seem they’re all going real good right now. And as far as all your other ventures, I pray all of those continue to, you know, go well. And everything continues to go good in this career that you’ve already built. I really wanna thank you for your time today.

DJ Shaun: Thank you man, I appreciate it. Just know, Hip Hop Forum Digital Magazine, Number One Hip Hop Magazine in the world! And remember all you artist that are trying to raise to the top… Remember to have patience, and listen to management before you move on. I appreciate you, young man, for taking time out of your schedule, and even considering me to be apart of this awesome magazine.

I also just wanna give a shout out to Tash Porter, you know for getting you guys to contact me as well. Thank You.

HHF: I thank you, Sir. You make sure you have a good one, and God Bless.

DJ Shaun: You do the same, God Bless you as well brotha.

Interviewed by Michael ATG (AttackTheGame), an MC out of Dover, Delaware (born in Long Island, New York), who performs positive, upbeat hip-hop with a message in his lyrics. Following up on his last release, ‘Faith’, Michael is now working on a project called ‘The Journey.’
Michael 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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April Ma’lissia, Texas Poet, Writer, and Motivational Blogger, talks with HHF

Interviewed by Madeleine Byrne

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

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

HHF: Why do you love that track so much?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

HHF: Can you remember when you started writing poems?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interviewed by D-Boogie

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

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

HHF: How do you feel about your time there?

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

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

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

HHF: Now back to the Geto Boys.

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

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

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

ready red 2

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

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

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

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

HHF: Talk about how funky the industry is.

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

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

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

HHF: – And everything good has been pushed underground?

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

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

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

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

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


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

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Donate To Help The Family Of Tamir Rice

Written by Madeleine Byrne

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

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

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


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

HHF Interview- Philli Producer Harry Metz AKA Rolled Gold

Interviewed by Madeleine Byrne

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rolled Gold, Ali, Henry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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