Posts tagged ‘interview’

Ill Tarzan swings again: Fresh Daily interview

This man needs no introduction, not really. Fresh Daily hails from Brooklyn and has been releasing fresh cuts for a couple of years. Founding member of the A OK Collective, he’s one MC who stands out from a crowd of your average mic slingers.

Mainly because he comes with a whole lot of bare-faced cheek and heaps of lyrical imagery. Fresh has worked with top-drawer producers such as Illmind, DJ Spinna and Exile to name just a few. Back in the day he went by the name of Ill Tarzan and was swinging his way through New York’s open mic spots. A lot has happened since: Fresh Daily, all day, every day.

In his own words: “I’m an emcee. I’m a graphic illustrator. I am Brooklyn. I am 1996 seen thru ’89 Cazals rocking a dookie gold rope chain. I am the Blackstar video for “Definition” riding in a van with Jay-Z and Slick Rick. Get creative.”

Creative he definitely is: a colourful persona with the tilted hat and dope sneaks to match…no further ado: it’s all about beats, rhymes and breasts in the BB interview.


What’s your philosophy on hip-hop? Is it all about wordplay, politics or just plain fun?

My philosophy on hip-hop always will be dope beats and dope rhymes. You know what that entails. KRS-One said “a dope emcee is a dope emcee”. That old adage rings true still. There’s obviously more to it than that. But the general gist is that. And it definitely has to be fun.

You’ve lived in Brooklyn for a long time. Can it be a blessing as well as a curse sometimes to come from a place that has brought us so many artists that have made an impact?

There’s been obviously a blessing in the sense our environments shape us in our growth oftentimes. The only down side to it possibly is the amount of dope emcees that come from Brooklyn. We definitely have an oversaturation in regards to musicians with a similar mindframe.

Can you tell us how you first got exposure as an MC? I believe you came up through a few open mic nights, what was that like for you at the time?

The NYC open mic scene when I came into it was a definitive launchpad for the careers of alot of emcees. The arena I came up in had emcees like Immortal Technique and Jin and then later down the line, rappers like Mickey Factz and Theophilus London.

How much of a rivalry is there still between MCs in New York’s five boroughs? Do you strongly identify with being a Brooklyn MC, or a NY MC? Or do you not give a damn about being either?

I’m definitely a Brooklyn MC but not out of a sense of rivalry but out of pride. I rock with all NYC emcees. Each borough of New York has SUCH a distinct flair and style and culture that rivalry is inevitable.

What are you playing on your music player right now?

Drake’s “Thank Me Later” and Flying Lotus’s “Cosmogramma”. 2 Hungry Bros & 8thW1 “No Room For Dessert” & Homeboy Sandman “The Good Sun”.

I read that you’re a connoisseur of street fashion and a bit of a sneaker addict. How many pairs of sneaks have you got and what are some of your favourite fashion items?

Sorry to disappoint. The kids kinda ruined sneaker and streetwear culture for me. I’ve given away alot of sneakers and sold alot of deadstocks and rare pairs. I’m alot older than I look and my tastes really refect my maturity. I enjoy tonal Nike air max’s and trainers, Vans classic and Chukkas and Clark’s desert boots and Wallabes.

These days I enjoy Ralph Lauren, Sebago, Red Wing, Visvim and Sperry footwear as much as I enjoy my Nikes.

(editor’s note – to any of the brands mentioned: if you read this, pay me!)

Who do you think are some of the best-dressed MCs in hip hop history?

Definitely Slick Rick, Grand Puba, Jay-z, Kanye West, T.I and of recent, Rick Ross.

You had a car accident a while back that you talk about on your track ‘Break a Leg’ – how did that happen? Did it change your
perspective in any way?

In Feb 2008 a Suburban SUV sped thru a red light and struck me as I was riding my bicycle to the train. My tibia and fibula was snapped almost in two. It took 2 months in the hospital and 2 months to walk again. God is good though, I’m walking and running and recording. It def taught me patience.

What’s the theme or concept behind the “Gorgeous Killa” album?

Initially it had a theme musically. It had a concept. Along the way that got lost. Now it just stands as a conversational piece and a title from an observational perspective about the dichotomy of creating art while working a real job.

Your recent release “Tomorrow Is Today” has a distinct electronic feel to it – who made the beats? Do you like experimenting and take new directions in music?

Most of my music is just a direct reflection of what I’ve been listening to. Alot of the music on Tomorrow is Today was produced by either Benamin or The Milkman. There were Flying Lotus beats and remixes of other bands like The Gorillaz and Telepop Music. My new project “Mothership/LAND” sounds similar in sound but deals with more social/relationship issues.

Your work ethic: is there anything that can distract you from working or writing…big breasts or other lol?

Anyone who knows me knows I am fond of buxom women. Nothing is a distraction though. Unless I NEED a distraction.

What have you got in the works right now?

Currently I’m promoting my latest project, “Mothership/LAND”. I’ve got 2 videos out and more coming. (peep here: “In The Stuy” and “Thanx“) 

Any last words or shouts?

Shouts to BenAmin, Pacool and Jinesis.

thanks; (download the A OK Winter Fresh Mixtape)

August 12, 2010 at 15:04 Leave a comment

The artist formally known as…Cloudy October

What’s in a name, what’s in a phrase? Alternative, left-field hip hop…maybe, but when the first chords of ‘The Aviator is Dead’ hit, you might feel like you’re sitting in a caravan in the middle of a volcanic landscape and all you can hear is the wind and the sound of hot lava bubbling under your feet. The man who created the album, Cloudy October, has nothing to do with volcanoes and lives in an ancient building somewhere in Portland, Oregon. He’s somewhat secretive and has had more name changes than Prince or Puff Daddy.

Sometimes, he visits the library and has a dig around his local record shops for a few good sample chops. Cloudy October isn’t in the music game for money or fame cause only art can break your heart, but Kitsch can make you rich…I was intrigued when he first wrote to me saying: “note to self: All my female cousins have become women out of no where. I decided to document this phenomenon in my song Two Rude Dudes. I had this beat for years and it always made me smile and laugh so I decided to rhyme on it…The plot takes place at my grandmother’s house in Atlanta, most the song. I hope you can find time to listen.”

The result of our chat in the bungalow is an interview about names, living for the moment, racism, and also about long-lost Thundercats action figures and library cards…


What’s good – can you introduce yourself?

This might be the hardest one to answer hahah. umm, my name is Cloudy October, sun of Carolina. I am a half-american producer/songwriter living in Portland Oregon currently. I am a participant in the arts, currently music being the main one I put most of myself into. Right now not working a nine-to-five is real good and having an opportunity to be questioned and raise attention towards my work is mighty fantastic. How are you?

Cloudy October – is it a feeling, a certain sound or just a name?

I was given the name Cloudy October because it is a time of the year in most places that people really disregard. It is a time that people are regretting the departure of summer even. I am a person who is always attempting to be in the present moment so even a cloudy day in a gloomy month cannot really equate to a bad day for me. My current title is a reminder, for me and others, to ensure anyone who encounters me, has an extra reason to accept the present moment. Or maybe even look into books that are written about being in the present moment, after our encounter.

Cloudy October – the legend, the secrecy…You’re rumored to have been born in Atlanta, had facial surgery and have gone through several name changes. what’s the best thing about having a new name, does it open certain doors? can you reveal some of your previous names?

Having a new name is great. Depending on the reason I guess haha. I think for many people, weather a name change comes from Marriage, Divorce, or a personal emotional decision, like myself, can be beneficial. I have many female friends, one being my mother, who often keep last names of men who have done horrible things. All so they can have yet another connection to their offspring. I heard that Flying Lotus used to be called the Piano Overlord or some shit. Switching names probably allowed him to break away into some new sound.

For me, being a black man without a eurocentric name gives me all sorts of extra room in my day to inform people about the importance and meaning of a name when my current title raises interest. There is so much history in our names, interesting and painful shit. I have had many rhyme names as well; Kid Hype, Kwondo The Red Eyed One, and Pineapple Jack are a few.

This is a line from your track Vagabondage:

“born in the land of the raped and the used, I guess that makes me nameless too.” The name theme crops up again, can you elaborate on that?

What frame of mind were you in when you wrote the lyrics to that track?

Man when I wrote those lyrics I was in my usual; ‘america is racist as shit’ moods. The more I discover about current systemic racism and the recent history of racism within U.S. policy, the less american I feel. Half american actually. Most African-American names, especially last names, are often directly connected with previous ownership from the transatlantic Slave trade. Vagabondage is about homelessness from a few perspectives, and about racism as well.

To know my first given name is connected with such horrible and ignored events, that mirror the present inequalities between whites and non-whites, makes me feel as if I have never had a home or a name.

Who are some of your favourite musicians?

All of them. just kidding. Stevie Wonder, Prince, LL COol J, KRS-ONE, Busy Bee, THE COld Crush Brothers, The Treacherous Three, Run DMC, Pete Rock, Aesop Rock, Mark the Forty Five King, Marley Marl, Edan, Rakim, Poor Righteous Teachers, Musiq Soulchild, Heavy D, The Funk Brothers, Michael Jackson, Juice Crew, The Alkaholiks, Freestyle Fellowship, Hiero, Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, Quincy Jones, Rick Rubin, Fiona Apple, Zero 7, All the rappers rhyming under Native Tongues in the mid 90s. Nas. Jay Z. Eminem. I could go on haahha. so many great mutha phuckas.

What do you do when you’re not in the studio, the Action Office II? what can you tell us about your studio, what’s it look like in there?

I have the very typical, 5000-dollar home studio that took me years to slowly acquire all the gear to complete. It’s like an adult vintage dorm of sorts I gather. Being that I live in a very old building, it has its charm. I am surrounded by organs, chord posters and sheets for curtains. There is really never a time when I am not in the studio. I had a huddle with three other Portland artists recently who, like myself, make no money with music but work more on music than we do for other people. That’s that Portland Oregon shit for real. If I ain’t at the Action Office II, I am usually doing a show, hanging with Mr. Jeigh, or hanging out at the Library or at 99 cent Records.

Who did the cover art for the ‘Aviator is Dead’? Is it a concept album?

My brother Nicholas Graham of Sheetfort via Pinball Publishing, built the whole design. He did an excellent job. We are really proud of it. It looks so so good. For a debut, this album makes rappers bleed for days. You should see the blood trails around the city here.

When I hear the term ‘concept album’ I always think of more elaborate efforts, like Edan’s ‘Beauty and the Beat’ or any Rupert Holmes record. I don’t think ‘The Aviator is Dead’ is a concept album. I do feel that it is a small album with a great concept. Aviation in hip hop is somewhat dead because anyone can record music and over saturate the already over saturated market.  On the contrary, the Aviators, the Pioneers blueprints are so available using the same tool that also makes music kind of suck, the fucking computer. One can choose to study up and come correct, or regurgitate and ignore the present moment with some nostalgic bullshit.

You say you like watching Knight Rider, how do you like the A-Team or Thundercats?

I was never really into the A-Team. I would like to see some more of it to see what its all about. Now Thundercats…Super into them as a kid. I still remember losing my Mum-Ra and Lion-O action figures after a ‘show and tell’ in the first grade. Come to think of it, this is the first time I have come to the realization that they may have been stolen, thanks Beat Bungalow.

What have you got to tell about Portland, Oregon – what are your favourite places to hang out?

Portland has many of the same negatives any city has. but the positives are kind of one of a kind. FOr a person who is aspiring or already and artist, its a key place to be. Many spots to live at for cheap. A transit system that would be beneficial even in a larger city, so no need for spending money to use and maintain a vehicle. There are many cool spots to chill at and so many live shows its ridiculous. I like to hang out at 360 vinyl, 99 cent Records and the Library for sure.

Anything else you’d like to say?

I just want to say thanks again for this opportunity. Its a first for me. Normally I only do local radio interviews. Also I would like to remind all who like anything regarding myself to download my debut album ‘The Aviator is Dead’ for free.

Please keep in mind that joining the mailing list of an artist you think is dope is almost as good as buying his or her shit. Also, If you want to make sure I eat, I am on itunes and amazon and damn near every site you can think of and will be on Pandora in a few months.

Last but not least I would like to mention that I am about to make what I foresee as being an incredicle second album before the year is through. stay tuned, pretty please.


June 23, 2010 at 08:53 1 comment

Burning strong: reminiscing with Freestyle of The Arsonists

Six years ago, parcel service dropped off a package from Canada at my house: inside was Freestyle’s ‘Etched in Stone’ LP, his first record without fellow members of underground legends The Arsonists. I played it lots, and lots…and a little more. Having been in touch with Free on and off ever since, I’ve been following his releases over the past few years. One thing I can say for sure: this man operates internationally, networking like a conference…he’s non-stop when it comes to touring and getting his message out there. In the process, this Brooklyn native has done shows and worked with everyone from Wu Tang, James Brown, The Roots, Kraftwerk…shit, even with Ozzy Osborne.

It’s not just because I’m biased that I say this: he’s a versatile lyricist who’s jumped on battle joints, done meaningful tracks, or more upbeat party bangers. Hear it, believe it – Freestyle’s done it all. He’s the MCs MC, the man who’ll carry on doing a dope acapella show, even though the sound system got sparked…

But enough of the bigging up: this is the conversation we had inside the Beat Bungalow.


Can you introduce yourself and tell us how you got into making music?

Wdup wdup! The name’s Freestyle, and I’m part of a family called The Arsonists. I didn’t get into music…Music got into me! I’ve been singing & rapping since I was a child. It just came to me naturally and I’ve been doing it ever since. Living in Brooklyn made it impossible to not be influenced by hiphop music. Friends of mine were Deejays, MCs, breakers, graff writers, etc… So it was only natural that I did my thing as well.

That old question about influences: what kind of records, artists and styles of music have left an impression on you…when did music first hit you?

Music first hit me when my parents used to play records in the house on our old school record player. I explored the records and began playing them myself. I must have been 2 years old when this started. Reggae, salsa, merengue, soul, r&b, disco, etc… My parents had it all! Michael Jackson was the first big influence on me as a kid, then after that Rakim came into the picture and that made me decide to start rhyming.

How did you get started with the Arsonists? What kind of experience was that for you all as hip hop heads in the 1990s?

I met D-Stroy at an event in the Bushwick / Ridgewood area of Brooklyn on Myrtle Avenue. He was hosting and I was rapping. DJ Evil Dee & Tony Touch were there as well if I remember correctly. I must have been around 16-18 years old or so. Then D-Stroy was dating a girl and I just so happened to be dating her cousin, and we met again that way. At that time he was trying to start a crew of mcs, breakers, and friends, so he asked me if I wanted to be a part of it.

So I joined Bushwick Bomb Squad, and from there we took the core members and formed a hiphop group called The Arsonists. The early 90s were some really good times. We were trying to preserve the fun because we could feel it slipping away. So we danced and rapped in the park, on the block, on the train, etc… We maintained that as long as we could and in the meantime we recorded demos. Then came “The Session”, and the rest is history…

You’re from Brooklyn. What was it like growing up in New York at time when Hip Hop started to get big and was still in its raw form?

BK ALL DAY, BABY! Hiphop was EVERYWHERE. You couldn’t go anywhere without seeing it or being a part of it. It was in the streets, in the clubs, on the radio, on TV, on the walls… EVERYWHERE! Those were the days… So much fun. Hiphop kept a lot of us out of trouble, kept us entertained, brought out talents we didn’t know we had, etc… etc… It did a lot for us and it continues to do so.

I heard that the first tour you ever did was with Wu Tang. That must have been crazy – what was that like for you as a young artist?

It was amazing. Shabazz the Disciple brought me on the GZA tour and we linked up with the rest of the Wu along the way. This was right after the Wu album, “36 Chambers”, came out and then GZA’s album, “Liquid Swords” was coming out as well. So things were HECTIC! The fans were amazing, the stages were overwhelming, and the lifestyle engulfed my soul. I never looked back from that time on. I swore to tour as hard as I could.

Tell us more about your next album: what’s it called, what are some of the songs about? When’s it out?

I actually don’t know the name of my new solo album yet. I had a name for it, but I’m changing that because the music is going in a different direction than what the title conveyed. The name of my greek group album is “I AM HIPHOP”. My partner in that, his name is Logos Apeilh. He’s one of the illest MCs in Greece at the moment. We just released a new video for the album intro, called “Countdown”. You can see it here. Keep an eye out for my solo album. I’ll be posting news & updates about it on my website. It should be released around the end of this year.

How big of an influence was Biggie Smalls on you as one of the most famous MCs from Brooklyn?

Biggie was an influence on hiphop, not just Brooklyn MCs. I’d say he influenced me very little. He showed me that someone like him could make it, so that gave me that little push. My style and rhymes don’t come from him at all… I’m influenced by Rakim, Public Enemy, Michael Jackson, Kenneth ‘Babyface” Edmonds, other music genres, movies, life, etc…

I know you’ve travelled a lot and taken your music to new places, Europe etc. What are some of your favourite places?

I’ve been everywhere except Africa, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, China, Russia, and most of South America and the Middle East. People think I’ve been everywhere, but as you can see I have a bunch on my list that I still need to touch. My favourite places was Brazil. My favourite places in Europe are Sweden & Switzerland. Brazil is AMAZING… If you haven’t been there, I recommend you visit it at least once in your life. The people, the beaches, the food, etc… It’s GREAT.

What does Hip Hop mean to you, are you into other aspects of the culture as well?

I started as a breaker, MC, then graff writer. I tried to DJ, but I wasn’t good at it, so I stuck to rapping. Hiphop means everything to me. I’d die for hiphop. It’s the voice of the youth. There’s no such thing as a world without hiphop now that it exists. It has too much to offer, therefore there’s no way it could disappear or die. It will continue to evolve and expand. There’s no other genre as diverse as hiphop.

What do you make of US Hip Hop at the moment, the tracks that make it big in terms of sales and the development that’s seen Hip Hop become a multi-million industry?

Hiphop in the states is kinda fucked up right now… I mean, it’s good that it’s doing well as far as sales and stuff like that goes. But the fact that really good stuff doesn’t get to see the light of day is sad. That’s the part I hate the most. A lot of people complain about what makes it commercially, but I personally think that can be blamed on the labels and the fans. The majority of the masses are ignorant, so they rather digest stuff that doesn’t take any effort to swallow.

The labels know this, so it’s basically supplying the demand. It only makes sense… We just need these labels to put money into real music, music that has real talent behind it, so the masses can get accustomed to eating healthy music. I’m glad hiphop is now a multi-million dollar industry though. Without that, it wouldn’t have survived.

It’s ironic that a few years ago Nas made an album called ‘Hip Hop is Dead’. Would you agree: is it a dying art form, or not? Is there too much media hype with some artists?

Na… It isn’t dying AT ALL! It’s strong and growing. What Nas meant is the 4 elements part of hiphop, the real side of hiphop, lost its steam in the states. Otherwise, you see real hiphop flourishing in places like Europe. Hiphop’s tentacles are long and wild. They’re everywhere and there’s no stopping it. There’s definitely too much media hype on some artists, but that’s due to the labels paying for this promotion. Once they’re promoted like this, the fans eat it up and it becomes its own monster.

What music are you feeling at the moment, any peeps that you think are good listening to?

D-Stroy, Jise, Q-Unique, Shabazz the Disciple, Snowgoons, Eternia, Looptroop, Ludacris, Diamond District, Ill Bill, Little Brother, Lupe Fiasco, Fabolous, Eminem, Slaughterhouse, Drake, etc… As you can see, I’m pretty much not too limited and I keep an open mind and ear. Some people may hate on some of the names I’ve said here and others might not have heard of some…

What about Battle Axe Records, the label you’ve been working with? It’s based in Canada and they’ve released some great music in the past. What’s it been like working with them?

The Axe released my first album, “Etched in Stone”. It was dope releasing my album with them. I respect what they’re about and they had some really good artists on their roster. I was honoured to release my album through them! It was a good experience.

It’s too bad that they stopped releasing other artists, besides Swollen Members. I hope they come back! I’ve linked with too many mcs/producers to list… If you really would like to know, you can see the entire list here
To name some names: Arsonists, Looptroop, Shabazz, RZA, Gravediggaz, Papoose, Ma Barker (Kool G. Rap’s wife), Omen (Flatlinerz), Curse, Torch, IAM, Logos Apeilh, etc…

What do you do to chill out and in your spare time, do you get much spare time?

Of course I get spare time! I’m a PC gamer, so that takes a lot of my spare time. I fix, build, and maintain computers. Been into computers since the mid 80s, and on the internet since the early 90s. Yes, I am a dinosaur! I love world travel. I love the great outdoors, so I do things like camping, hiking, etc… I love helicopter rides. That’s my new hobby when I travel to new places. I’m big on movies, so I’m always watching something when I find the time to, be it in the theatre, on my laptop, or on the nice HD flat screen in Big Lou’s crib. (Big Lou is my best friend. Wdup, Lou!)

What else are you planning for the near future, any new projects coming up?

Album in Greece, new solo album, and another group album which will be a surprise…Then another 2 albums next year as well. Busy, busy, busy!

Anything else you would like to say to people?

Make sure you stay tuned. I have a lot coming up…and tune into Arsonists Radio

If you’re trying to book me or contact me for a collaboration, hit me at

Feel free to comment on my pages. I respond to everybody!


May 27, 2010 at 20:17 Leave a comment

Supa time: a little deepness from MC Tek D

Obba Supa have been making music together since the early 2000s. Quite often, the London duo are on a philosopical, transcendental tip and you’re in for a surprise if you haven’t heard them yet.

Obba Supa’s music is atmospheric, sometimes sinisiter, other times soulfully deep. Heyzeus and Teknikal Development always try and push that envelope: there’s a message in the music, listen closely…especially to those Billy Paul-inspired tunes.


Your home city, London town: which five words would you use to describe it?

Monotonous, Unbalanced, Tense, Corrupt, Secretive.

What part of London are you from? How do you know each other?

I am from North London Edmonton N9, we from the same area…we tudied at the same college & knew the same peoples.

What’s your philosophy when it comes to making music & writing lyrics?

You gotta listen to what the mind is saying. Express WHAT YOU WANT. There is no limits to what can or cannot be put on a piece of paper. Just write the words man, someone will resonate with what you sayin…somewhere.

Which records do you never get sick of hearing?

There’s a whole load of records to mention, most of all that 90s era: Wu’s 36 Chambers, Xzibit’s ‘At the speed of life’, Nas ‘Illmatic’, GhostFace Killah ‘IronMan’,

you know where the list is going…

You’ve been to Berlin, haven’t you? what did you get up to and what were your impressions of the city, music etc.?

Yes, we chilled out in Berlin, hit the radio, done a set…we took a little look around the city, it was all live. It seemed life was slower in Berlin and we had a lot of quiet times. It was kinda old school, graf still posted up on run down parts of the city…keep it going peoples.

Do you like Killah Priest’s ‘Heavy Mental’ by any chance? Any other ‘deep’ lyrics that you don’t get tired of?

Killah Priest is always droppin jewels… there’s so many dope lyricists who bring a touch of ‘deepness’ to their work, but to name a few: I never get tired of what peoples like Herrotics, Wu Tang Clan, Dead Prez, 2Pac, Vague, KRS One, Masta Killa, DNT, Last Emperor or Tesla gots to say…

What UK talent is worth checking right now, apart from yourself?


Anything else you’d like to say? shouts?

Would like to say PEACE TO ALL PEOPLES…shouts out to: RDL that’s the family, Project Mooncircle, HHV, Evil Ed, Hiphophypedog (HHHD), Suspect Packages, Sleaze, Gallant, Tom Brown, OB…….list goes on.

Shouts to ALL who are down with what OBBA SUPA be doing. PEACE

May 17, 2010 at 21:27 Leave a comment

What’s the sound of a city? Oddisee has the answer.

(photos by Oddisee)

It is the capital of the USA, but it’s never been the capital of hip-hop.

Washington is famed for White House politics and Martin Luther King’s Million Man March for civil rights. But when it comes to music, the sounds of New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and LA forever drowned those from D.C., also known as the Diamond District because of its octagon shape. This multi-faceted area is like a diamond in the rough that has not had a chance to shine – at least not recently.

In the 1970s and 1980s, two sounds were born here that could not be more different from each other: rugged hardcore punk à la Minor Threat and the syncopated go-go jams played by Troublefunk or Chuck Brown & The Soulsearchers. In fact, go-go music has arguably been Washington’s biggest musical export, alongside bluegrass from the 1950s.

But that’s about to change, if you ask homegrown hip-hop beat smith and MC Oddisee. The Sudanese-American wants to secure his city a place in the cultural hall of fame with help from the Low Budget Crew and his group, Diamond District, also consisting of rappers yU and XO.

“We’ve got a lot of stories that need to be told about the district and there are a lot of different perspectives that the masses are not aware of,” says XO.

“We’re a very unique city and now is the time for us to be acknowledged. Back in the day, all the music that we fell in love with came from outside of our region. Now we have something more to be proud of. We’re not only go-go, we’re hip hop too.”

New era?

Diamond District spread the word about their home turf on a recent European tour with dates in Italy, France, Austria and Germany. Among the things they experienced were a drug bust in Berlin, gigs in Italian squats and carnival in Cologne.

Their first album ‘In The Ruff’ is a record that continues in the vein of 1990s Golden Era hip-hop veterans such as Pete Rock or EPMD – of course, with a D.C. edge to it. But tracks such as ‘I Mean Business’ and ‘Make It Clear’ show that the group are after more than just making a retro album.

Oddisee, aka Amir Elkhalifa, explains: “We’re not necessarily against titles like ‘Golden Era’ or ‘BoomBap’. It was a theme record and we designed it to sound like a Golden Era record for the District of Columbia Metropolitan area.

“Because when that sound was popular and dominant in music, we didn’t have one of those records. So it was almost like ‘What if you had a time machine and go back, what would a D.C. Golden Era record sound like?’. That’s why we did one and we’re going to keep it moving.”

The 2006 Red Bull Music Academy participant is multi-talented: he makes beats, writes lyrics and also has a knack for photography. He first blew up in 2002 when friend and fellow Low Budget member Kev Brown passed one of his tapes to DJ Jazzy Jeff in nearby Philadelphia. Jazzy Jeff liked it that much he used one of the beats on his ‘The Magnificent’ album and helped to promote Oddisee’s first longplayer ‘Foot in the Door’.

Collaborations with artists such as Talib Kweli, J-Live, Finale and Parliament  / Funkadelic guitarist Gary Shider are part of his back catalogue.

More recently, the jet-set producer released an instrumental album entitled ‘Traveling Man’ on which he slipped in inspirations from cities including Tokyo, Philadelphia and San Francisco and made his version of the sound from each of these cities.

“I’m a real big fan of regional rap and regional-specific music,” he says “Music that sounds like London, or the way Kardinal sounded like Toronto when he came out. I’m a big fan of putting a song on when I’m in a city while I ride through because the cities make more sense. I love that.

“I’m like a sponge. I just absorb the cities I’m in and do my best to always marry what I see visually with music to try and give the cities a sound.”

He’s definitely succeded in doing just that.

May 11, 2010 at 22:57 Leave a comment

No faking Jacks: Shawn Jackson interview

What can I say, this man seems to have a plan. Cali resident, part-time chef & a well-kept secret for several years…don’t shhhh about Shawn Jack’s music any longer though: tell your friends & check the mixtape which just dropped – it’s a teaser for the new album “Brand New Old Me” (tres records).


Tell us about yourself: where are you based, what are you up to these days?

What up ya’ll…I go by the name of Shawn Jackson a.k.a. Angelo Mariani based out of Lost An Jealous, CA but can easily be found sleeping on a couch someone near you throughout my travels. As far as what I’m up to…well, basically just getting my apparel together to hunt some ducks in the game. I think it’s the season so I’m gearing up to drop some nu nu on ya’ll real soon entitled “Brand New Old Me”.

Do you remember the first record / mixtape you got when you were younger? What are your memories on the time you first heard music?

Man, I grew up on so much soul music as a kid being that it was just me and my moms and that’s mainly what she was into.  But at the same time I grew up with hip hop so I’ve always had that balance and walked with a hip hop soul mentality throughout my journeys.  The first record I remember moms buying me was Tom Tom Club “Genius Of Love”. I used to dance back then..I was pretty good too!  Dancing was mainly what introduced me to hip hop as a child since it was such a NY thing at the time.

What kind of music can you never listen to, under any circumstances? Anything that gets on your nerves?

I really couldn’t pinpoint a particular genre or style of music that I wouldn’t listen to. I used to say country until I got put on to some classic country music that was dope. Those artists are pretty honest..haha. I can’t say all bad music because so many of them become guilty pleasures as well as fit in certain social settings. I guess pointless music of any genre is pretty unbearable to me. There’s way too many people that get the opportunity to get on a microphone but don’t hold themselves responsible enough to express artistry.

You’ve moved from different places (Inglewoood, Rhode Island, L.A.) – are you a travelling kind of dude?

Yeah man…I’ve definitely trotted the globe throughout my life. It definitely provided me with a balance. I grew up in the inner city within a large metropolis, small towns with only one market and 2 gas stations to offer, and lived off of chicks in the burbs throughout my life…so needless to say, my unbalanced lifestyle has become my balance. It’s cool because so many places have so many traits and I’m familiar with a lot of them in regional terms. I no longer live off of girls by the way.

What’s the furthest you’ve been away from home? What were your impressions?

The furthest I’ve been from home was Ireland…they were so chill and just genuinely nice people. It didn’t seem real. I can normally find at least one asshole in a crowd of people but I had no such luck there.

What do you like best about living in Cali and why?

I love the options in Cali. You can make everyday an adventure there. You can get on your plastic shit or you can even risk your life and stumble in the wrong hood if you’re ballsy to test out your new sneakers. Either way there’s always a story to tell. I wanted to say the weed but I figured every MC from Cali you ask will have that on their list. The greenery is amazing though.

What can you say about your new record? Quite a few producers got involved, new directions for Shawn Jackson?

The new album is definitely a new direction for me. It’s dope though because I actually had the gonads to just go for it. I have a lot of new producers on the album with new sounds mixed with a few producers from the first album so there are still certain elements that create a bridge from “First Of All…” to “Brand New Old Me”. No matter how new the sound is though you still get that same Shawn Jack…just a little more perfected.

Tell us something people might not know about you…

Something people may not know about me…hmmmm…..well, I can cook pretty good and I love doing it. I like cheffin up something new because it’s still creations that people can sit with and enjoy. Only difference is I’m not hoarse afterwards.

Anything else you want to get out there?

Your boy is back…get ready for some treats. “Brand New Old Me” dropping in a hot minute.


May 11, 2010 at 09:44 1 comment

On-tour diary: MC Trek Life rhymes within reason

This is a tour diary entry, I suppose: it’s an interview I did with Trek Life who repped L.A. on this year’s Diamond District European tour. It was one of the last gigs of the tour and we had a chat before a wicked performance in Berlin, still pretty cold outside at the time (Feb.)

I decided to blog the whole thing as Trek Life said and meant it: basically, alongside some impressions of the tour with Oddisee, XO, yU and DJ Quartermaine, the main focus is on what it takes to be an MC.

As you can tell when reading this, Trek Life is very outspoken and passionate about this – I’m sure that comes across (podcast to follow soon).


“What up y’all, this is Trek Life, LA. Innsbruck is the funniest thing that’s happened on this tour. Period, point blank. All due respect to getting drunk and apologizing for this not happening to me, but I don’t I’ve ever invited anybody to go to the club and eat pussy. That’s what one of the promoters did – sometimes that’s what  happens!

“This will be the fourth year that I’ve been to Europe, but I guess the first year that people knew I was out here. From the first moment everybody clicked up it was just like a crew and we ran the streets in every place we went to. You develop a family relationship and you’re like ‘Now I kind of know this person because I’ve travelled with him and hang out with him every day. I’ve lived with him.’

“We all get along and that’s the thing: I’ve been on tours where people didn’t get along but it happened with ease with us.

“What does a lyricist do on tour? I’ve definitely written out here kind of project-specific. My writing experience has changed over the last year, I’ve been writing a lot more personal. There’s a dark side to this tour that’s going on back home so I’ve been trying to curb it and not necessarily write about it so much, so I think the larger portion of this experience for me has been, being able to freestyle again on stage.

“What does it take to be a good MC? Do it with your fucking talent. It’s not as though all the bells and whistles aren’t part of it. You definitely need to have positive press, good press photos. You definitely need to be able to speak well in interviews and able to take good pictures and wear really, really nice tennis shoes and shit. But the most important thing: learn how to fucking rap, you’re not going to get your licence if you can’t drive. But if you do get your licence you’re gonna kill somebody.

“You’re going to have to learn to be the best rapper you can be. I’m sorry to be so blunt, but I’m the teacher that will give you an ‘F’. You need to be able to do your craft. There are a lot of sucka DJs out there, there are a lot of producers that don’t even know how to IQ their own snares, their own kicks. Kev Brown had to tell people ‘Stop taking my drums’.

“You need to know your craft. It’s cool that you take pictures and I like the photography and shit you have on your websites, shit is cute. But don’t call up promoters and converse with them as if you’re Jay-Z. You’re nobody at this point.

“You need to learn the terminology from top to bottom and be good at what you do before you jump out there and get turned around by this industry and then try to blame everybody else. ‘Oh, it must be the tide that’s changing’, ‘It must be the fact that people don’t listen to music anymore’. Fuck that, it’s the fact that you don’t know what the fuck you’re doing. You need to get out there and learn your craft first. Period. Disclaimer: my peers don’t necessarily have to take the brunt of this message, I’m just saying it straight up.

“A lot of times when people talk directly, they get pegged as upset or angry or whatever. I’m definitely not mad, I want to make sure that people understand that. I’m talking generally, the reason why I’m so aggressive about this point is because I don’t care if everyone is a millionaire off of this shit. To me, that would be the greatest thing to ever happen: if everyone who puts up a twitter page could be successful, that would be the best thing in the world to me.

“If we could all share this shit, that would be perfectly fine. It’s just that you can’t swindle your way into this. You’re completely setting yourself up for failure, if you’re trying to sucker your way into things.

“The straight-away way is the way that will feed your children for generations off of your music. Learn to play the guitar like Jonny Guitar Watson learned to play the guitar, learn to rap like Rakim, Big Daddy Kane or Ice Cube did it. Try to be the best at your actual craft, it doesn’t make any sense to try and wear the nicest clothes if you can’t rap. It’s not that I’m hating on anybody. If you find a side door, then more power to you. I would just like to see you all to be better and I would like you all to want me to be better and check me as well. Period.”

May 10, 2010 at 23:16 1 comment

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