Friday, March 19, 2010

Interview With Raashan Ahmad

This guy is a shining light for underground hip hop music in the U.S. I was honoured when he took time out of his busy schedule to talk to me. Below is one of his videos followed by the interview.

1 Your music has a distinct nostalgic feel to it, how do you feel the music of today compares to the hip hop of the old school?

I think it's pretty much the same but way more of it. Hip Hop back in the day wasn't as separated as it it today. You had artists like Kid-n-play (fun rap) touring with Public Enemy (political rap) and Ice cube (gangsta rap) (btw I hate labels but i just need to prove my point) Today we have just as many styles of hip hop (if not more) but they don't seem to cross pollinate. There's "underground rap" and that doesn't mix with "street rap" and that doesn't mix with "mainstream rap". I think the experience of our culture is becoming more one dimensional because people have been backed into a wall and forced to identify with a section.

2 You recently toured Brazil and received mad love, why do you think that some of the audiences back home can often be less receptive to your style?

I think a big part is the amount of control the media and record labels have on the exposure of music which in turn has shaped the culture for alot of people here. In Brazil no one is making as much money as the top selling artists in the states so the option to "go pop" isn't as pushed. Also there is a big tie in to hip hop music/culture and community outreach and activism so the artists have a real sense of doing right and setting positive examples for the youth. They take the passion and culture seriously and make sure everyone is representing!

3 If you weren’t an emcee what do you think you‘d be doing?

Photographer, or dancer, or bike messenger or astronaut or writer

4 Now that mega-album sales are declining right across the industry as a whole, do you see touring and the Internet as the way forward?

YES! I stay on the road and use the internet as much as possible to promote myself. This is my full time job (and passion) and one of the only ways to make money is to do shows. It also lets me stay up with the folks who actually support me. I love it!

5 Can you see a day when MTV play Raashan Ahmad or do you think you’d have to water down your style to achieve that?

Yeah I can see that, Every once in a while a song slips thru that is not only bouncy and fun but has a message as well. Plus I definitely wanna make music that people dance to and can get wide open without being overly preachy or so full of complexity that nobody but me gets it. I think it's important to have a balance, it can happen.... :)

6 Some of the lyrics on your debut solo-album “The Push” were extremely personal, what made you take this direction as opposed to making the standard party records?

When my mom passed away I wrote "cancer" I didn't mean for it to be a song I just needed to get it out. After I wrote that song was when I started writing my album, it was my therapy to make "The Push". It chronicles a pretty intense time in my life, honestly its still kinda hard to listen to all the way thru.

7 Do you find it more fun to record with the Crown City Rockers or to try out some solo stuff?

Both! Crown City is my Family and getting into a room with them is laughter, tears, headaches, and love but in the end its so much fun! When I'm solo I can go wherever my mind takes me without compromise which is fun too. I'm super blessed that I get to do both.

8 Have you any advice for people wanting to get into Hip-Hop?

Find your own voice! I know people say it alot but really...I'm not uber famous but I make my living travelling around the world and rapping. You don't need to sound like ______ to "make it". If you do you the best nobody can do it better.

9 Creativity is regularly being stamped out of artists by the industry; by not signing with a major do you feel you can reap the benefits of full artistic control?

Yes. It's good to know when I sit in front of a beat I can go wherever I want with it. Sometimes having limitations can be the death of creativity.

10 One of your most critically acclaimed pieces was your appearance on the Jazz Liberatorz album “Clin D‘oeil” how did you manage to get involved with that project & can you see yourself doing anything similar in the future?

The Jazz Liberatorz hit me up and sent me the beat. those dudes are super dope! I'm always up for a good collaboration there's definitely gonna be more in the future!

Raashan Ahmad thank you for your time!

© (interview by Paddy Lane)

Friday, March 5, 2010

Interview With Frederick Lazarus

Freddie Laz is an unsigned New York emcee who started rhyming at the age of 15. I think he's a good example of an artist willing to work at his craft. I expect us to be hearing a lot more about this guy in the future!

1. So ”Frederick Lazarus” the first thing that surprises me about you is your unusual name, how did that come about?

Well, back in 9th grade I was just sitting in class, writing rather than learning, and I wrote a line that went something like "Etch in the gravel, scratch the rhymes in the sheet rock/ See, L smooth like Pete Rock, this is detox/ Dre know(Drano) what I'm talkin bout, I'm cleaning what they clogging out". I stopped and thought, my name doesn't have an 'L' in it. I was Frederick King back then, trying to say that I'm trying to bring people together(Martin Luther King) with my intelligence(Frederick Douglass), but I flipped the message to I'm trying to resurrect(Lazarus) intelligence.

2. Your style is rare for someone so young, when people hear of a “teenage rapper” they might be inclined to think of the likes of a Soulja Boy or Little Bow Wow, but your more of a lyrical emcee, what got you into the more soulful side of hip hop & who are your influences?

Well, really I started off probably at a level lower than that of Soulja Boy. First bars were "In case you ain't know nigga, you rocking with the best/CigaRet's the dude who devised the fucking test", but I left that level of ignorance when my 8th grade English teacher introduced me to my love, which is writing, and I became inclined to learn. I just incorporated it into my lyrics

My influences are little unorthodox, and more current. While Rakim for his lyrics, and KRS for his philosophy are on the list, I've also been influenced by Blu, Folk & Stress, Atmosphere, Aesop Rock, MF DOOM, and many others as well as some other traditional ones like A Tribe Called Quest, Black Thought, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, and Common.

3. What do you think is responsible for your brand of hip hop being more or less froze out of the mainstream? & can you see a day where cats like you gain more exposure?

I honestly think our lack of exposure is due to a scheme, but I'm not going to go into that. I really can't see a day where we get too much exposure unless someone finds that sweet spot between underground and the mainstream like Common. Exposure's not really an objective of mine though.

4. Being an mc from New York makes for tough competition, why do you think your “the illest”?

I don't really focus on the competition, I'm just in it to write, but I get better by looking at what my fellow emcees do, and basically bettering myself by either adopting an aspect, or avoiding an aspect of their package. I'm not the illest yet, but I have been called a prophet.

5. Your first mixtape was called "J Dilla Changed My Life", if you could work with any other producer dead or alive who would it be and why?

I'd definitely have to say Exile. His work always gives me chills when I hear it, and I'm always finding different parts of the sample that he may have included in chopping it up. I just think there would be great chemistry.

6. Have you got any plans to release some new material soon?

I will be releasing a few projects in the coming months which information will come out on soon.

Well we look forward to hearing from you in the future.

Peace out Freddie.

Freddie was nice enough to include a download of a hot new freestyle he's done over "Thieves In The Night Instrumental". Plus he posted up the lyrics for you to check out.

Thieves In The Night Freestyle


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