Over a decade after Heltah Skeltah dropped the classic 'Nocturnal' in 96, the rap game has since changed, dramatically. Paying dues and getting props are now a thing of the past, and have been replaced with distracting bling and flashy videos. The fans have gotten older, and the younger fans have a much shorter attention span with instant access to media, social networks and blogs making it harder for artists to stay visible. One thing older emcees have as an advantage is the the fan base. Having put in 15 plus years in the game, countless tours around the world, a long catalog of music, Sean P has an international fan base. A base of hardcore rap fans old and young who know they can trust Sean, and the rest of the BCC, to preserve and consistently drop hard Brooklyn boom bap rap. I had a chance to catch up with Sean at the studio just before his latest album, Kimbo Price dropped.
Josh D: What the latest and greatest with Sean P?
Fuck Interviews. Ha ha ha! Not yours of course! You know, heads taking your words and twisting them around. ( In reference to an article where Sean P is misquoted in regards to his future at Duckdown Records --- Which of course is solid).
But on the music tip, ah, man! I just dropped that Figure Four shit. Have you heard it?
JD: Naw, not yet.
YO DAN, MAN! Play figure four! So I have Figure Four, I just dropped that causing a lot of controversy based on some shit I said. I have Kimbo Price dropping October 27th. I'm going to Detroit in November to finish up the 'Random Act's' album. That's me, my man Guilty Simpson and Black Milk. I got that group, then I have my album M-I-C Tyson dropping soon. Word, the album is dope, I got production by The Alchemist, Evidence, Sid Romes, my man Seez Words, and of course, 9th wonder and Kyrsis.
JD: How will Mic Tyson be different from your last two albums?
It's going to be the hardest album. I'm the hardest dude out. No Bruno, no Brokeback. Hahah. I'm going to prove it with this album.
JD: Tell me something funny that happened on tour.
Ah man, it was a while back. I think it was the first 'For The People' tour. There was some dudes in a room with some girls. They were all passed out and shit. Me and Rock sneaked in to look for some papers, you know to roll up some trees. We got the papers, and for some reason I picked up on the dudes boots, and threw it at him, for no reason.. We jetted out in the hall, trying to find a place to hide and shit, ha ha. It was funny, but I guess you would have had to be there.
JD: How do you feel about the economy and the state of America? How does that influence your raps or not?
Well, humm, Ive been in a recession all my life, so it's not going to fuck up my music, know what I'm saying?! We talking about the world right? Well in my world I have always had money problems. But I've been able to maintain, it is what it is. As long as my kids eat, and my family is taken care of, everything else is extra after that. That's how I feel about it.
JD: How do you feel about all the negative news these days?
I try not to watch the news. I don't believe in Presidents. Black guy, white guy, brown or green, I don't care.
JD: Hip Hop has changed a lot since 'Nocturnal' dropped in 96. What do you think is next for Hip-Hop? And what will the cutlure need to do to stay relevant?
Well, the way its going now, its going to be Bruno rap. I don't want nothing to o with it. As long as I'm here you are always going to have that hard core rap to fall back on, know what I mean?
JD: What is on your iPod these days, what's in your rotation?
I don't have an iPod right now, my man Ari Green, lost it. So I have a PSP. Let's see. I have Ghostface Killers new album. The Blueprint Vol. 1. More than a Dream soundtrack, haven't listen to that yet. I have the best of Sean Price, ha. DJ Foodstamp, some Jadakiss, Prodigy..Humm some Rick Ross songs. Got Kamal the Abstract- that's a good album. Bilal, I'm a big fan of, --- and of course! Mary J Blige. I listen to hardcore rap, and May J. Oh, And I got that new Cuban Linx 2, for sure.
JD: Any survival advice for the youth today?
See what I do? Never do that. Whatever I do, do the exact opposite, except when it come's to this rap shit.
Monday, 30 November 2009
Sunday, 29 November 2009
Once known around the world for it's steel business and lucrative mining operations, Pittsburgh PA aka The Steel Town has changed a lot. These days it's better known for it's long history of amazing sports teams, hall of fame athletes and most recently the G-20 Summit. Pittsburgh is not a name that comes to mind for any music, or major artist of any genre, including Hip-Hop. But that is changing too. This year the worlds leaders met at the G20 Summit in downtown Pittsburgh bringing with them a lot of attention and news coverage. In attendance amid the madness and anarchy, with lots to say, armed with a video camera and a rhyme book was local emcee/activist Jasiri X.
While in town, I had a chance to catch up with Jasiri on the 16th street bridge.
JD: Tell me about your blog, the Real Talk Xpress, and how that came to be.
The Real Talk Xpress came about from me writing about things that I was passionate about. It started with me writing blogs, and sending them out via email. At the time the Presidential campaign was going on, so I took John Mcains, Straight Talk Express, and flipped it to The Real Talk Xpress - with an X. Then it went to another level, when I did a blog about Hancock, who I called, "The First Nigga Super Hero". That blog went viral all over the internet, and it blew up crazy. It made me see that, maybe I had the ability to write in a certain way that people would react to. So when it came time to do the blog, we called it Real Talk Xpress, and it's where I write about different things, politics, rap, and news, also where you can watch my series on You Tube, This Week with Jasiri X.
JD: On This week With Jasiri X you get right into the subject with no filler of filter. How much does the 24 hour news cycle and the internet play apart?
Where do you get your news from and how do you filter it?
The 24 news cycle and the internet cycle definitely play apart in how we digest, and how we view media daily. Because it's constant. The news plays apart to me, when I see all these minor stories, or the Tiger Woods scandal, that could be a massive story. Because you have all these outlets broadcasting or publishing new, then there becomes an necessity to fill up all these hours with programming. Also different channels put a spin on the story. Fox is going to spin it one way MSNBC is going to spin it another way. So I thought that This Week with Jasiri X would be for people, who don't have the opportunity to, or just don't like the news, or not up on what going on in the world. And they have the opportunity to watch a three minute video and get caught up on some of the relevant news in the cycle. Of course I put my own personal spin on it.
I get my news from everywhere. I wake up in the morning and hit the internet, or a local Pittsburgh newspaper. Whether its Huffpost, Drudge Report, CNN, or Yahoo news, I try to get it from as many places as possible because I Know that there is always going to be a spin on it. I love to listen to Rush Limbaugh, and Sean Hannity, because they way that they are able to spin things and make it how they want you to see it. I find it humorous, and at the same time genius. If you listen to them all in a row for long enough, they all jump on the same topic, at the end of the three hours, you begin seeing President Obama and his crazy ways. There is definitely a science to what they do.
JD: What do you do to separate news writing from song writing?
When it come to news writing vs. song writing, the news it what I use as a theme.
This season of This Week with Jasiri X is more focused on song writing. Whereas the past two season I would just write a rhyme based on current events. But with this season we wanted to create full songs, songs with hooks. Good songs, that dealt with some of the major themes of what was happening in the news that week. What I began to do was use the news as a theme, but then really focus on making a good song. Because at the end of the day if it's not a good song, its not going to have the impact. The cool thing is that what we are seeing with this season is, songs don't just have a week self life. You can go back after a week and listen to 'Dear Deborah', 'Silent Night' or 'Why Rapper's Don't Watch the News' and it has a longer life than just that week.
JD: How has the local response been, and what is the scene in Pittsburgh like?
The local Pittsburgh response has been kind of interesting. Because of the kind of artist that I am, a little different that an artist looking for main stream success, when people see me on the Allhiphop or other sites they don't know how to react. They say, 'wow, that's cool', but at the same time, it's not like I'm making these song like, every hood and everybody in Pittsburgh stand up. I'm doing something different and people don't know how to take it. But I get my props. The scene in Pittsburgh, we have so many talent artist and producers, the list is long. But what we are missing is good managers, agents or a radio station at plays local Hip Hop. So what myself and a couple of other artist are doing is trying to create a unified group where we can pool our resources and talent to begin to develop the scene, and make it what it could be - a viable scene. Like the artists did in Minneapolis/Minnesota (Rhymesayers).
JD: What's next for you and what can we look out for? Will there be a season 4 for This Week? if so will there be any-changes?
Whats next for me is my album, "America History X'. It comes out December 15th. I hope everyone can grab that. It's kinda my first album. And what we are saying is, if you want to see "real Hip Hop", if you want to see a change in Hip Hop, or rap with a message, then we have to support artist who do that type of thing, like myself. When we take the risk and put out material like that, it shows support from every one who gets a copy and listens to it.
After the album comes out, I'm going to hit the road. I'm heading to Rhode Island Detroit, San Fransisco, then San Antonio. If you like the videos, I hope people can come out to see the live show. I'm excited about being able to connect with fans live.
There will be a season 4. And what I want to do is incorporate the artist that I am working with, and do more on the scene, location type of thing. Actually go to the where the news is happening. I'm also working on a mix tape called 'The City of Steel'. To give people a better idea of what Pittsburgh is like. When people hear of Pittsburgh they think of the Steeler's. But they don't have an idea of the poverty that exist in Pittsburgh and the inequalities that's going on here. So we are going to bring that to the table with the 'City of Steel'.
Be on the look out for American History X.. anyone out there who's feeling what I'm saying reach out to me and lets do big things in 2010.
Monday, 23 November 2009
Wednesday, 11 November 2009
The Fresh Air Tour breezed through the Big Apple this weekend to a packed Filmore. Bringing to the stage DJ BK-One, Toki Wright, Dilated Peoples emcee, new Rhymesayer Evidence and headlining the show Brother Ali.
Consistent with other Rhymesayers events, the show started on time with BK-One on the ones' and twos' while Toki Wright hit the stage to showcase tracks from his debut album "A Different Mirror". With a very positive response from the often critical NYC crowd, Toki stayed on stage to introduce and back up the vocals of the very animated Evidence. Dilated Peoples are known for hype live shows and high energy songs, which Mr. Slow Flow had no problem maintaining while solo. Hitting the stage with back to back up tempo tracks, Ev slowed things down to to exhibit his breath control and diverse flow over tracks from "The Weatherman" and "The Layover".
Being no stranger to big crowds and stages, Brother Ali causally took the stage to his name being chanted by the audience who was still hype from Ev's set. With BK-One backing him up, Ali picked up the mic, found his place on stage, getting right into his set. As the beat to "Victory(Come Forward)" began to build, it was enough to set the crowd into high gear before steering the show down a catalog of solid anthems, that was no problem for the crowd to identify with a sing along.
I had a chance to catch-up with Ali after the show for a few questions;
JD: Your new album is called 'Us', and the tour is called Fresh Air. It seems very positive and communal. Whats it all about?
The name of the album 'Us' is trying to connect and relate as humans' first, what makes up our human identity. First and foremost before anything else. I try to do that by telling stories of different people from different walks of life, in their human way. Talk about their emotions, feelings mood and their human reaction to life's challenges, from highs to the lows and being together. So that's the movement, the push we are on right now for the third album.
The Fresh Air Tour is about newness, fresh air represents new life. New album, obvious thing. Evidence is a new signer to Rhymesayers. We are all very excited about that. Toki put out his first album. Bk has a new album. So it's new thoughts, new creativity, new ideas. It's almost a new approach to touring as well. We put it together as a group. The whole presentation is new, where there is no down time, no breaks, short breaks between sets. Everyone does their set and it ends with all of us on stage bringing it together. I don't know if I've I've seen a show like that.
JD: I have noticed that lately shows have been starting on time and running smoother that rap shows are know for.
I think that there are very few people in Hip-Hop that have toured the way Atmosphere toured. Atmosphere taught me how to tour. And that is a more rock approach, not doing the traditional Hip-Hop shit. You know, show up late, no sound check, cut as many corners as possible, party on the road everyday. That's the old Hip-Hop way of doing things. Atmosphere did something similar to what Run DMC did. Present the music as art, but still being Hip-Hop, with a more rock like business model. So, since 2000 Atmosphere has been touring and going on these long tours. It takes a good solid tour manager, solid business people, good solid crew. Reinvesting the money your are guaranteed from the show, back into the show. Making sure it runs well, being very professional. That is something I learned from Atmosphere early on. People used to rely on getting money from an advance on their album, but that money has dried up. And now they are trying to play catch up on the road. Well we have been laying the groundwork for years now.
JD: I couldn't help notice at the show how many fans were mouthing the words to so many songs. What does it take to make song that connect with a wide variety of people?
Really writing in a very human, versatile way. Our details are not the same, our life stories aren't the same, backgrounds are different. But the way that we feel, how pain is pain, vulnerability, and the truth are always very attractive to the listener to connect with. People always connect with the raw truth. It's true in business, music, art and personal relationships. The truth really connects with people. The truth is undeniable. So I try and write songs' that are my real true feelings. People make a connection with that. People believe in that, appreciate it and respond to it. and see their own truth, in being connect by truth.
JD: How do you go about making a new album? What goes into the process?
I start out with thinking about what I want to say. What I want the vibe to be. What I want the feel to be. I have this pool of experiences and stories that I want to tell. Me and Ant kind of talk about how we want it to sound, But a lot of it has to do with the vibe that me and Ant have when we are making the album. The music that he brings me, creates the mood that I end up writing to match the sound scape.
JD: I read that you had some have some issues over lyrics with sponsors over 'Uncle Sam Goddamn'. How will that change your writing process, or not?
It did not change it at all. It was more the video that the lyrics that was the issue. I think, I lost some opportunity's. Any time you do something that is directed at leadership, there is always reaction to it. It's when your doing things that don't get any reaction at all is when you are in trouble. Some corporations may have stepped away from me for 'Uncle Sam', but that video was huge for me. It got a great reaction from actual people. Corporations have to be careful, they cant do anything that may damage their brand image. I understand that, but that video did a lot of good for me, way more than it did bad.
JD: What's next for Brother Ali?
I'm going to be touring 'Us' for the next year. I've been doing it for the last three months. WE are going to do Europe, Austrailia,the States again, Canada.
I have two projects that I'm working on in my in between time, I have a few weeks in between tours so work. And i have a few ideas that I'm really working on, I don't want to just announce yet, because I haven't started working on them, but it something that I'm really excited about.
Tuesday, 10 November 2009
I had a chance to see the Still High Tour featuring Snoop Dog, Redman & Methodman and Devin the Dude that came through NY last week. It was a great show. Devin the Dude was straight chillin' on stage and kicked tracks from albums new and old. Red and Meth exploded on stage with crazy energy and jokes and kept the crowd extra live with tracks from the Blackout 1 & 2, solo classics and hilarious freestyles. Snoop batted clean up. After a 10 minute holy music driven build up, the Yankees clad Snoop blessed the stage and brought the Dogg Pound with him. The stage was lined with large brothers in suits, a three piece band and three female dancers who changed their outfits three times to match the sets. The concert started on time, had short breaks between artists' sets, was very high energy, and the sound man was doing his job very well. The venue was crowded, and from the back row it looked like the crowd was on fire from the smoke rising from the very high audience. It was my first time seeing each artist live, and I'm glad I did. They all know how to rock a show.
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