Tell us a little about your music...
My music is the soundtrack to my journey, the good bad, and the ugly. I have always used my music to make sense of the thoughts in my head and the emotions in my heart. My music crystalizes and lends color and sound to my truth and how I see the world. My last album "Light Years" was a prime example of that. Throughout that whole project, I am celebrating the amazing new space that my life is in, all the while, reflecting on where I come from and what I've been through to get to this point. I was people to see the transformation and the transcendence and be motivated by it.
What city do you represent?
I was born and raised in Washington Heights NYC, and that's what I'll always rep. With that said, I'm based in the Bay Area and also represent for Oakland, San Francisco, and all the surrounding cities. I focus on representing both of these cities when I create music. On my album cover for my last project "Light Years", you'll find both the New York and San Francisco skyline. New York will always have my heart, but the Bay Area is home and I'm proud to rep it.
How has being where you are from influenced your music and career?
I don't have a classic Bay Area sound in my music, but my content is still relatable to the people out here; conscious with a fresh sense of style. Purpose-driven lyricism, that's accessible to those who just want to slap something dope. My main focused is to make people feel the stories and experiences that I talk about. I'm providing a vibe, but also putting forward a message of empowerment for people to take something meaningful and inspirational away from what they are hearing. The Bay Area is a smaller media market, so the independent grind is deeper. A lot of artists out here trying to get it on their own because, for the most part, we're cut off from the larger markets like LA or New York. I love that independent spirit, at the same time, I want to find a way to give opportunity to underground artists to feel and live like rap stars.
How would you describe the music that you typically create?
I think my music is the perfect blend of what's going on now, paired with a classic hip hop feel. It's important to stay relevant but also give a nod to the era's that I grew up in and the sonic textures that make Hip Hop what it is. The main question I ask myself when recording is "Does this FEEL like Hip Hop?" The answer is yes, every time.
What is your creative process like before and during the studio?
It depends. Nowadays, I'm more into setting a vibe to be inspired than putting beats and songs together from the ground up. There's something God-like in creating something from nothing; pulling from the thoughts dancing around in your head to create a piece of art that articulates how you feel. For me it's about setting the right kind of lighting and mood and drawing off your emotion to create. Sometimes I'll start with making a beat, finding a dope sample on a record, to just playing some notes, adding drums until I have something that causes the words or the flow to come to me. Sometimes it starts with the words, like a mantra that enters my brain as the music plays. I've started to accept the process and the ritual of my studio sessions as a new way to access spirituality and convey my truth.
How much music do you have available online for fans and new listeners like myself?
Light Years was my 4th album posted on digital platforms. Before that, I had a heavy mixtape run during the mixtape era, followed by some really well-put-together EPs. Low key, I put out almost 10 projects before my debut album in 2015. All you have to do is type my name and you'll find a whole world worth of music, videos, interview, and other content to keep you busy in the UnLearn The World rabbit hole. It's been quite a journey I'm excited for the listener to go on.
Who are some of your biggest influencers or favorite rappers in the music industry?
I hate this question. I try not to focus on one artist or another to be inspired by. My inspiration is this culture. The entire culture. From how it started in the 70s to the billion-dollar machine it is today. That's what I'm inspired by. Anything that allows young Black boys and girls to think and speak their way out of poverty and oppression is an act of God and that's what influences me.
If you could work with any artist in the world (dead or alive), who would it be and why?
Another question I hate. I guess what I will say is that considering that I'm an older MC, I'm kind of sad I'll never get to work with some of my idols. The Biggies and Tupacs of the world. I wished I would have vibed with them in a studio and been witness to their energy. I'm blessed to have been around some of my other heroes since I was a kid. I've been in studios with Big Pun and Fat Joe, I've done shows with Jay Electronica and toured with KRS One. I've gotten to build and vibe with members of Wu-Tang, so I'm happy about that. I'm ready to hop on a track with anyone people say is one of the greatest, because I know I can hold my own and make a song that would create a moment for the culture.
If you could change anything about the industry, what would it be?
White Supremacy runs the Hip Hop industry. Artists are signing slave deals to perpetuate stereotypes and behavior patterns that ultimately hurt our communities. I want Hip Hop to be governed by those who love this culture and know its importance, not executives trying to ride a wave to catch a lick on an algorithm.
When it comes to branding and marketing your music, how do you distinguish yourself from another artist?
I'm not into the clout-chasing gimmicky shit that most artists are trying to do to get hot. I'm about building and engaging my community of supporters. I've had hard-core fans who've loved my music for years, I want to appreciate them, keep them involved and introduce myself to fans whose values and experiences align with mine. It's about making connections to fans on a human level, continuing to inspire them with my music and the work I do in the community, activism, Hip Hop education, and artist development. I think when people get a sense of who I am, they are fascinated by what I do and what I represent and that can hold more weight than the music. The goal is authenticity to my message and purpose. Everything else falls into place from there.
Do you feel the Internet/Social Media has impacted the music business for indie artists such as yourself? Which song from your music catalog would you considered fans to listen to that represent you as an artist?
My more recent songs like "Ya Favorite Rapper's A Liar", "Let There Be Light" or any song off the album "Light Years" I think clearly represent who I am and where I come from. These songs tell my story and also tell the story of Hip Hop. They tell the story of many young boys from the inner city who have a creative spark that they hope will get them outta their situations. I think these songs will give people a sense of who I am, but also give them insight into who they are as well.
Tell us about your recent release and what inspired you to create such a masterpiece?
I do feel like my latest album "Light Years" is my masterpiece. Maybe my first one of all the projects I've put out. I feel like it was the best received because I said exactly what I wanted to say, how I wanted to say it, and people who listen to me love and appreciate that realness. Even if there is some bravado or slick talk, they can appreciate the place that it all comes from, because they get a sense of who I am.
Light Years as an album was a celebration and reflection of my life from then until now. I pay homage to some of the eras that nurtured me and created a sound that's unique to me. Some rappers go their whole career without having a signature sound that they are known for and I think on this album, I tapped into mine. Now I'm focused on working with other artists to apply that sound to them as I continue to develop in my own world and bring in different collaborators to help me articulate my brand of music.
By any chance, do you have a video for your recent release or single? Tell us about the visual and the thought process behind the making of the video...
"Ya Favorite Rapper's A Liar" is my latest video and my best video to date. It was directed by my man Cracker Cookies, based in San Francisco. He's been a long-time friend and directed one of my first music videos and one of my documentaries. We have a good working relationship and rhythm. When I played him the song, I had some ideas about the video that I hadn't told him and when he heard it, he literally said everything that was in my brain, so I knew the vision was meant to be. In the video, we poke fun at the craziness of 2020, trump, covid, wearing masks, politicians, conspiracy theorist, but we also pay homage to some of my favorite rappers like Biggie and Ice cube as we recreate scenes from some of our favorite Stanley Kubrick movies, since we're both fit buffs. Right now we just passed 10K views on youtube, which is big for me. I'm looking forward to working with him on more videos this year.
Do you have any future projects you are currently working on at the moment?
I'm in the process of producing for a handful of artists for their next projects in addition to working on my next album, which will drop in the fall. I'm gonna spend the summer releasing more music and more music videos and as people can some outside more, hit them with all the dope things I've been working on, so we can enjoy them together outside.
Any plans on going on tour this year or the near future?
Since I also do Hip Hop education work, I was chosen to take part in the Next Level program which allows me to teach in another country for 3 weeks. I don't know what country I'm going to yet, but I can't wait. After this, I plan to work on putting together a small tour.
Tell us something you love to do and admire besides being a musician and entertainer?
Being a Dad and an educator, which I feel are kind of the same thing. I love the opportunities I have to teach the next generation about tapping into their creative spirit to literally change their reality and empower their community. With my artistry, I am stepping into the role of being a healer, but that first involves healing myself.
What’s next for you as a hip-hop artist and entrepreneur in 2021 and beyond?
The sky is the limit. Hip Hop culture is creating so many new opportunities we would have never imagine. I'm here for all of it. Whatever pushed the culture forward it what I'm excited about and however I can contribute will be my legacy.
Thank you for taking the time out to do an interview with us. We are looking forward to seeing your career expand and grow as an artist in the future.
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