rap journalism

100s Interview


Originally published at Passionweiss

100s (pronounced “hunnids”) was born in the wrong era. The 20 year old has been fascinated by the ‘70s since being exposed to American Pimp, Iceberg Slim’s autobiography and nuclear levels of hair spray. His parents moved him to the Ivory Coast due to failing grades and his last two years of high school were spent in a three-bedroom house with 15 others. During this time, 100s heard Mac Dre’s “Gumbo” and decided to make music for pimps, pushers and paper-chasers.

Three years after returning home to Berkeley in 2010, debut album Ice Cold Perm was released. With the same stony-eyed stare and a cover inspired by Snoop Dogg’s Tha Doggfather, 100s embraced his influences with rhymes about running game, retro cell phones, Cali beaches and floor length jackets.

He quickly gained a fan-base and Fools Gold records picked him up after noticing the music industry was missing immaculate hair. Earlier this year, 100s followed his debut with the purple-tinted IVRY. The eight track EP focuses on retro R&B crooning and synth-heavy production, but still packs the essential freaky raps.

I spoke to the half Black/half Jewish rapper about whether he prefers The Mack or Superfly, his musical heroes and why he’s open about never actually being a pimp. Despite being quite reserved during our conversation, 100s mentioned his time in the Ivory Coast was one of his favourite things to discuss so we also covered topics including culture shock, catching Malaria, and realizing how lucky Americans were with their living conditions.

What made you decide to go a little more melodic with IVRY?

I guess, it’s just growth. I’ve always liked more melodic music than traditional rap so I guess it was just a matter of time. The more you do something, the better you get at it. There’s just different kind of songs that you learn how to do as you get better at what you do. I aimed to kind of do that [make more melodic music.] I have this whole concept behind IVRY. It was actually a concept album. I never really explained the concept.

Can you tell us a little about the concept now?

It’s kind of abstract of course, but it chronicles this person in this other dimension in the future or in a different time or whatever. It was meant to be almost like a story. If you really listen to it all the way through and you change the tracklist around it would have been a different story with different events in life. It just takes you to a place, to a time.

You were talking about a project named Sex Symbol, before IVRY dropped. Are they the same thing?

Nah, Sex Symbol, I need to chase down everybody I said that to. That’s no more, that’s not happening. That was just a phase. I was kind of hot off some shit, but that’s not happening. I guess, what it would have been is now IVRY.

You often collaborate with Joe Wax. Can you tell us about him?

He’s been producing for maybe five or six years. We went to the same middle school and we both got sent away at the same time. He got sent to some boarding school in the middle of nowhere and I got sent to Africa, so we bonded over that. Then we came back and started making music.

Even if he’s not necessarily producing the song or whatever, he helps me create. He’s my guide and my homie. He’s always involved in what I’m doing. He has really good taste.

You like to be heavily involved in the creative process?

Yeah, IVRY was the first time I’ve co-produced.

We’ve talked about some of your rap influences, but what about other artists that had an impact on IVRY? Prince?

Yeah, I love Prince. Hell yeah. Prince, Rick James, all of these people.

Rick James had quite a flamboyant style as well.

Exactly, he was a genius you know. If you really listen to his catalogue, the stuff that not everybody knows. If you really dig, he’s a genius. He probably played bass and fucking electric guitar and whatever, super talented dude.

What do you love so much about the 70s-80s? What exactly drew you to that era?

I don’t know, I don’t really think it was a conscious decision. Ever since I was younger, I was fascinated with that era and identified with it.

Do you prefer The Mack or Superfly?

Honestly, I would pick another one. I would choose Willie Dynamite. I really like Willie Dynamite. I guess after that film, I like The Mack better than Superfly. I’m a movie guy.

You’re influenced by people like Too $hort, Mac Dre, Snoop Dogg etc. But can you also tell us about Dre Dog?

I’m big fans of them. Dre Dog, who is now known as Andre Nickatina, he’s a Bay Area legend you know. I mean he’s a legend period. It’s hard to describe what he is and what he sounds like, you’ve just got to listen. He’s super different.

Have you met any of your musical heroes?

I met Andre Nickatina. I brought him out in San Francisco. That was some dream come true shit, know what I’m saying? [laughs.] I’ve been a fan of his since I was about 13 year’s old. I opened for Snoop one time but I’ve never met him, this was like a while ago.

You’re a comedy fan as well, who’s your favourite comedian?

Eddie Murphy. Well Eddie Murphy now, ahh you know… but Raw or Delirious Eddie Murphy, that Eddie Murphy.

Do you think your interest in comedy also effects the music? A lot of people said the video for “1999” was pretty tongue in cheek.

I guess since the music is a reflection of me. I enjoy comedy and that’s part of me, so maybe it does bleed into it, but I wouldn’t say I purposely do that. I take what do seriously, you know. It’s about perception, some people get the music and some people don’t.

As a 16 year old, were you scared when you landed in the Ivory Coast? That’s quite the culture shock.

Yeah, now that I think about it, it’s kind of surreal. It’s like, did everything happen? But it did. It was hard to adjust because it’s like night and day. When you’re over there and you think there’s this whole other world, it’s like another planet exists.

You had Malaria five times? What’s that like?

I probably had it more. When you’re from America or whatever, you’re fragile. You’re not conditioned for those types of diseases. Back there people are conditioned, but when you didn’t grow up with it, your body doesn’t know what to do. How I would describe is like you’re cold and you’re hot, your body aches, you have nausea, no appetite. It’s just like… shit. [Laughs] It feels like “this is the end.” It’s horrible. I feel like as you get it more you get over it faster though.

Did the Ivory Coast change your perception of the world? I bet you came back with an idea of how lucky you are with the living conditions in America.

Yep, one hundred percent. One hundred percent. I tell my friends that all the time and I always try to get that across. The same way that Jewish people have a birth-right to go back to Israel. I think African people should have that too. It gives you a wider understanding of what’s going on and makes you realise that all the petty shit that you worry about or deem important really isn’t.

I’ve heard there’s a lot of internalized racism over there and white people get special treatment over their own culture.

Definitely, of course. That’s just part of it. I don’t really know what it stems from, but you always see that. It’s maybe because they were colonized by white people or whatever. Some African people think that white people are better. It’s really insane.

How long did it take you start making music after you returned from the Ivory Coast?

When I came back, I wasn’t really fucking around you know. I had so much time to think and visualise what I wanted to do when I was there, that when I came back I didn’t waste my time.

Have you been back?

Nah, I want to go back. I want to go back soon. Hopefully I go back soon. I think there’s a festival over there next year so I’m going to try go to that.

You’re proud of your African heritage, are you equally proud of your Jewish side?

Yeah. I would say that I’m not as in touch with my Jewish heritage as my African, but I am proud of it.

Ice Cold Perm was a reasonably polished project. Were you working with labels behind the scenes at the time?

Hell no! [laughs] It was me, my friend Joe and our friend Oliver, who is Joe’s big cousin. He has a website called dreamcollabo.com, which initially put it out. Me and Joe just recorded it in his bedroom. We would all talk about what would make it and what wouldn’t ya know, and then we just dropped it.

What made you decide to sign specifically to Fools Gold? I’m sure there were also other labels that approached you.

I just liked what they had going on. I knew that I was moving towards that kind of melodic sound, at least at that time. It felt like a good fit.

Were you nervous about performing on some of your earlier tours? You gained an audience quite quickly.

Not really. I recall I was nervous the first show I ever did. After that, once you kind of realise that this is your passion, everything comes out on stage. As soon as you touch the stage and you realise that this is your time, you forget about everything.

I know you’ve toured Australia before, how was that?

It was amazing. It was weird for me to just see that I had reached people out there and they embraced me. It was super cool, I loved it and would love to go back.

Where do you see your sound going next? Maybe into Funk?

Ah… no. I guess that will all be revealed in time, but I am working on new things. I’m working on a lot of stuff. I’m not going to talk about specifics, but it is coming and you’ll see.

Have you collaborated with Danny Brown?

No, it hasn’t happened yet.

You’re in an iPhone 5C commercial. How did you get involved with that?

My friend the same guy who put out my mixtape, Oliver, he was doing the casting. I wasn’t going to do the ad. I was trying to help him find people to do it. I think it was last minute and he was like: “Dude, I can’t find anybody. Just send me a picture of you or some shit. “ So I sent him a picture and they liked me, so I did it. It was fun.

When did you start growing your hair?

Shit, I would have been 10 years old or something. It was Fifth grade.

Why did you do it?

I don’t really know. A lot of the people I was fans of had long hair. Whether it was from rock music or whatever. I used to really like wrestling when I was younger and all these old wrestlers had long hair, so that’s what I wanted to do.

How would you rate your hair in comparison to DJ Quik’s on Rhythmalism?

Ah, I don’t know if I’ve seen it on that particular album cover. He’s got a hell of a perm or whatever it is [laughs.] I mean it’s nice or whatever, but I like mine more.

I watched some of the Hollywood Shuffle film you sample on “My Activator.” What’s your favourite type of Activator?

[Laughs] I don’t even know any different types. I don’t know shit about them. I just love that movie.

You obviously like the 70s look and you’ve got the hair, did people ever call you gay?

Of course [laughs]. Of course. Yeah. I’m not an insecure man. I’m chilled. I don’t get caught up in that shit. If you want to call me gay or whatever you think, that’s your opinion. I can just be me. I keep it moving. I don’t think anybody necessarily is meant to be understood.

I heard a rumour that some classmates of yours claimed you were pimping girls at 16 years old at Berkeley High?

Ohhh no. No, what the fuck! [laughs] See I didn’t even go to Berkeley High.

Sorry I’m asking some tougher questions.

No, it’s all good. I like these questions. I get tired of the weak-ass ones.

You’ve also said previously when you’re talking about “hoes,” or whatever, that doesn’t necessarily translate to real life and real people. Can you tell us about that?

To me it’s clear, but I’ll explain it. Not every record is necessarily about a pimp and a hoe or whatever people think it is. It could be anything. It could be a metaphor, it could be taken however. That’s why I said it’s not meant to be taken literally. If I’m talking about that, it could be something else. It could be what’s going on in my life or whatever. It’s just abstract as it comes. When I’m writing I’m not always thinking about that type of shit.

You’re pretty open about admitting you have never been a pimp and you’ve never claimed to be one. What do you think about people who criticise your authenticity?

It’s only an issue of authenticity, if you view it as one. If you view it as expression and it’s not meant to be taken literally, there’s no issue of authenticity. When it comes down to people judging it as if it’s meant to be taken literally, then yeah the issue comes into play. If it’s pretty much any genre other than rap, then people know not to take it literally. It’s just an expression, you don’t know what the fuck they [the performer] are talking about. On some level, I would compare it to that. Of course I’m open about it [not being an actual pimp], because I don’t want you to take it literally.

You see yourself as a performer and musician first?

Yeah, one hundred percent. Honestly, I have two projects out and I’m always growing and doing stuff, so people will see what everything turns into.

Run The Jewels - Run The Jewels Review


For the annual Passionweiss Top 50 albums of 2013, I wrote about Killer Mike and El-P's excellent "Run The Jewels" EP at number six. Read the rest of the feature here. 

32 minutes. 10 stick-up kid salvos. Two great artists bludgeon the rap industry with skull-cracking rhymes, stealing diamonds while they do it. At first glance, they make an unlikely combination: the fiery avatar of old no-bullshit Brooklyn who made “independent as fuck” a war whoop, with a Dungeon family strip club connoisseur. But Killer Mike and EL-P are built tougher than the leather on Run and Paul Pierce’s jacket.

Instead of focusing on production like their first collaboration, 2012’s R.A.P Music, EL-P picks up the mic and matches his partner verse for verse. There’s an air of competitiveness and genuine friendship as Jamie and Mike swoop in like your favorite anti-heroes. This is lyrical, but there’s no preachiness or by-the-numbers wordplay. These guys have mastered the art of shit-talking and combined with some extremely listenable aggression, their wit stays cutting. Killer Mike “Shyne Po’s a ho.” His partner in crime does the cleat Riverdance on your face.

When the coolest duo of 2013 are rapping about kicking over your son’s fort and taking grip plyers to your feet, it’s hard not to pay attention. If a project makes you feel like enough of a badass to mean-mug the elderly whilst on public transportation, it’s a winner.

Note: You can check out my previous interview with Killer Mike here. 

Dj Khaled - No New Friends ft. Drake, Lil Wayne, Rick Ross and Future

By Jimmy Ness and originally written for Passionweiss

DJ Khaled should worry about new ideas, instead of new friends. He needs a crew that brings creative criticism to the studio rather than codeine. The “DJ” has used the same technique to make music for seven records- cram a bunch of relevant artists on a track with a “cinematic hook” and let the power of their popularity sell the record. Khaled’s first release Listennn…the album had an intro with over 24 guest features in less than two minutes. Who really needed to hear a song featuring Pitbull, Nas and Bone Thugs N Harmony performing together?

Seven years later, Khaled bin Abdul Khaled still hasn’t learnt his lesson. “No New Friends” sounds like a b-side to “Bitches Love Me,” and was probably made during the same session. Drake sings the melodramatic hook over traditional understated production from BFFs “Boi-1da” and Noah “40” Shebib. He mentions “Bitches Love Me” specifically during his bland raps and tries to drop a hot line by saying “If I had a baby momma she would probably be richer than a lot of you.” This line falls flat because a) It’s not very good and b) Drizzy would never just have a “baby momma.” I bet five Birdman handrubs he would be shopping for maternity underwear in the blink of an eye.

Rozay comes along secondly and grunts a tepid verse, which only women’s rights groups will bother paying attention to. Weezy also appears to drop a few throwaway verses and the cycle of mediocrity is complete. Just in case there wasn’t enough star power, an unaccredited Future pops up during the last few seconds of the track. If Khaled is so concerned with keeping old friends, he should have thrown T-Pain a scrap and let him sing the Gucci astronaut’s part. It’s not as if this song could get any less memorable.

Four of the most popular current artists, and still not a single reason to replay this track? Blame Khaled. The true reason he has “No new friends” is because he’s always shouting WETHEBEST and no one likes a braggart, especially if their claims are blatantly untrue. If all of Khaled’s music is a movie like he claims, this is definitely the Baby Geniuses 2 of rap.

I'm travelling again!

tulum photograph

Greetings. In case you didn't know/care I'm currently in Mexico dodging organ harvesters before heading to America, Iceland and London. I'm falling asleep on the beach and forgetting what day it is, but give me until late March and this website will be updated as per normal. If you want to pay me big dollars to write about music for you, I'll be checking my emails with a naive sense of hope. Peace and congratulations for surviving 2012.

Nardwuar Interview

Written by Jimmy Ness and originally published at Passionweiss

Nardwuar the Human Serviette is a squawky voiced, tartan-wearing Canadian who knows more about his interviewees than they do. The man previously called John Ruskin uses his encyclopedic knowledge of music to shock, impress and enlighten. His unorthodox approach includes asking his targets who they are, giving them presents and freezing in a wide mouthed grin until the camera shuts off. This pulls the humanity out of media-trained celebrities who are usually surrounded by yes-men and unprepared for the baffling torrent of obscure questions and non sequiturs. Pharrell thinks it’s the best interview he’s ever had, Alice Cooper hung up on him, Kid Cudi left mid-way through and Snoop Dogg invited him to his house.

The controversial Canuck also works as a guerilla journalist and has questioned several world leaders, including former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien who said he didn’t know what pepper spray was, instead claiming “for me, pepper, I put it on my plate.” Finally, Nardwuar plays in several bands, hosts a show on campus radio station UBC CiTR and has more interesting stories than the bible.

After months of trying to pin Nardwuar down for an interview, I caught up with him at Vancouver skate shop Antisocial before his band The Evaporators performed. A group of veteran punks in their 30s and 40s chatted as he rushed around setting up merchandise while wearing his trademark Scottish cap. I watched him while looking for anything that would signal a difference between his on-camera persona and the real Nardwuar. Although I didn’t come much closer to unraveling his true identity, he was a genuinely nice guy, doubled his interview time with me and spoke in rapid-fire mode at all times. We chatted about his research methods, this infamous interview with Blur, Sean Price imitating him, the freeze technique and Canadian rap.

What interested you in music journalism? I heard Sound Proof, a punk and new wave video show, had a lot to do with it.

Yes indeed, thanks for remembering that and thanks for the shout out for Sound Proof! That was a TV show on the North Shore where I lived. Unfortunately, I didn’t get cable, but a whole bunch of other kids at my high school did and they would always say there was some cool stuff on Sound Proof. I was able to actually get videotapes of episodes and was able to check it out. Finally, I actually participated in Sound Proof and that’s when I started doing a lot of interviews.

I couldn’t do Sound Proof until I volunteered at the local cable company though, so I had to volunteer filming council meetings and if you film council meetings then you were allowed to help out with Sound Proof. You had to do some community service, but I was so bad at filming council meetings that I started to laugh and the camera started to go up and down so they said “okay, you can go help out with Sound Proof.”

Around the same time, I got involved in UBC CiTR Radio [University of British Columbia’s campus radio station.] So I was doing a radio show and I was doing the radio interview thing, and then I started doing the video thing. So I decided I would film the interviews, take the audio for CiTR and take the video for stuff like Sound Proof.

Journalism is in your family too. Your mother was a history teacher, but she also wrote a book about a Vancouver bar owner and hosted a television show.

Yes indeed, thank you for digging so deep into the archives. That’s amazing you know that. Well yes, my mom was a member of the North Shore Historical Society. She would drag me to all her meetings, so as a young child I would attend these meetings where all these local writers got together to talk about local history. I got into local history and then as I got into Punk Rock, I got into Punk Rock history. So it all sort of came together. My mom was doing stuff on local Vancouver history so I thought why not do stuff on local Vancouver punk and that got me interested in the roots of punk.

How did you get into other genres?

At first it was only punk rock. I would only interview punk bands and people said to me “hey man, metal is kind of fun why don’t you get involved in metal?” So I was like ok I’ll try metal. And then people were like “you’re stupid to only do punk and metal, why don’t you do rap?” and then I got into rap. And then people were like “there’s electronic music, why don’t you do electronic?” While I was at CiTR UBC radio, there were all different DJs there playing all different genres of music and they would come up to me and go “you’re so stuck in your ways.”

So I guess it was the influence of other people at CiTR UBC Radio, where I still do my show. Also when you do a radio show once a week every Friday, you can’t really discriminate. You eventually run out of punk things to talk about so you’ve got to do metal or you’ve got to maybe interview some politicians. So I think part of it was people telling me. But also having a show once a week you’ve got to interview everyone and you can’t just stick to the punk.

I heard you actually collect and create scrapbooks for artists you’d like to interview?

In the olden days anything that was in the newspaper about punk rock I would clip it out and put it in a clippings file. So I do a similar thing if someone’s coming to town. I open a file on my computer and I jot down information thinking maybe one day this person will come to town and I’ll have all this information ready. Or I dig through my files and stuff that I may have collected previously.

How long do you spend researching an artist? Do you have a team that helps you out?

I do my radio show once a week on CiTR, so generally during that week I have one interview and I think about that interview. That doesn’t mean I spend the whole week doing preparation for that one interview, but I do think about it that entire week. And sure around a radio station, I’ll go like “hey, I’m talking to this ska band called The Toasters from New York City, anything I should ask them?” or “what do you know about ska?” So yeah I do always run things by my friends as well.

How much of Nardwuar is a persona, and how much of it is who you are in real life?

Well every time I get on stage I do get excited and I jump around and I sing in The Evaporators crazily and when I do interviews I jump around and do interviews crazily. So I do get excited once I get on stage, once I’m doing interviews or once I do my radio show. Generally, I kind of think about it in the sense of when you go to a rock and roll gig.

I always was inspired by people like Jello Biafra of The Dead Kennedys. He gets up there and he jumps around so I figure when you have the chance to be able to do your music, jump around as well. I guess you can concentrate on singing, but maybe do it secondly. The same thing when you’re doing an interview. Also you should go full out, because you don’t have much time. You’re only limited to 20 minutes or 10 minutes or whatever so you gotta go in there, ask your questions and get the hell out! But if I had four or five hours, sure I’d love to just sit back and relax. Generally, it’s because I get excited, I get nervous and when you get nervous, you get pumped up and you gotta go fast, fast, fast!

I’m nervous……

So am I!

What about your clothing, your name etc? Do you use this stuff as a special tactic to draw the real personality out of your interviewees or did that just kind of happen by accident?

Well Jello Biafra of The Dead Kennedys is called Jello Biafra [a combination of the brand name Jell-O and the short-lived African state Biafra.] So I thought I could be called Nardwuar, the Human Serviette. So everybody sort of had fun names like that. As for what happens I don’t really plan anything. If it happens, it happens. I don’t really think of it as what you’ve described, I just kind of go and do it because every interview is different. So you go to an interview thinking it’s going to go this way and it never ends up being the way you think it’s going to turn out. So I just keep doing it because I just love it!

During your interview with the band Blur in 2003, drummer David Rowntree throws away your glasses and constantly physically intimidates you. Was the worst interview you’ve ever had?

Well that wasn’t the hardest interview I’ve ever had or the worst because the tape survived. When I interviewed the heavy metal band Skid Row and the heavy metal band Quiet Riot, they didn’t like the interview so much that they destroyed the tape from the interview. So I would say the Blur interview was a success. First off, because the interview happened and the tape survived. Years later actually, Dave of Blur apologized to me because quote “he was on cocaine.” It took him eight years to apologize to me but he actually did… so we can blame it all on cocaine.

[You can read Dave’s apology toNarduwar here. He says he keeps a video of the interview on his phone to remind him to stay drug free.]

I read that you’ve previously been banned from interviewing artists on labels like Geffen and Warner?

Yes, because when I interviewed Sebastian Bach of the hair metal band Skid Row and he destroyed the tape I was using for the interview. He stole my favorite Tuque, that’s why I wear this Tam [Nardwuar’s traditional Scottish hat.] He [Bach] was on that record label, so the people from that record label said “you can never talk to anybody on that record label ever again.” It lasted a few years and then well here I am back. I just interviewed Ed Sheeran the other day and he’s on Warner.

who is nardwuar
Nardwuar, artist and musician Tim Kerr and myself. 

Do you read a lot of music journalism and is there anything about contemporary music journalism you don’t like?

Oh I love the music journalism that I read. The only thing I would say is make more online blogs printable, so you can actually read them, like on the toilet. But I love reading what other people do because I know what not to ask and it’s fun reading interviews so I can get little tidbits here and there. Every interview that is done, even if it’s for a mainstream top 40 outlet, I’ll listen or read it because sometimes there’s tidbits of information out there. So I love all writers. I love all interviews and I get information from them all as well.

You were booking gigs for a little while yourself, but I heard you stopped because they were pretty disastrous. One of the craziest ones was the show at St David’s United Church, can you tell me about that?

Yes. Thank you again, amazing you’re bringing up these relics from my past. That was put on by a guy called Grant Lawrence, he’s my friend. He was in a band called The Smugglers and he managed to get a hold of the church, it wasn’t me. I was co-presenting with him because his mom knew people at the church, and we hired some skinheads to do the security. They did a good job, but unfortunately at the end of the evening they stole the money because they were working the door and they stole the amp for the church organ. So the next day when the people showed up for the church there was no amp to project the organ, that was sort of bad. Plus after the gig we didn’t go into the washrooms to clean them up and we later found out there was shit on the walls. I learnt quite a bit from there. After you do a gig, you should clean up.

I learned kind of the hard way because I thought you just leave. But then I learned when we left the parking lot – it was covered in beer bottles and stuff like that. The gig was a band called The Gruesomes from Montreal and they totally inspired me too because they covered a lot of bands in their set. Like they would cover obscure 1960s bands from Montreal and I was like “wow there’s cool obscure 1960s bands from Montreal?” That got me into ‘60s Canadian punk so that gig was a big turning point for me in 1988.

Did you see Sean Price pretending to be you while interviewing Pharaoh Monch? There was also someone dressed like you in Korn’s Twisted Transistor video.

You’re one of the few people to actually acknowledge that. I say to other people, “hey man I was in the Twisted Transitor video” and they are like “NO!” So thank you for acknowledging that. I am really there. Although, they never told me. They got a Nardwuar lookalike there.

How do you feel watching that stuff?

Well I was honored because Sean Price has a song that goes like “SHUTTHEFUCKUP!!!!” Kind of like the Juicy J song and I think that’s amazing. Pharaohe Monch, just to have him reacting to a fake me was out of this world. I just could not believe it, like this is Pharoahe Monch. I would love to speak to him myself. I guess I did it right there. So it was just something that I don’t think will ever happen again. I was just totally honored.

You’ve interviewed everyone from Jay-Z to Iggy Pop. Do you have many names left on your interview wish list?

Well, originally it was Neil Young, Bill Clinton and Kurt Cobain. I spoke to Kurt Cobain. I’ve tried Neil Young twice, failed both times. I guess I could try again when he comes to town in the next few weeks. Bill Clinton I’ve tried, but didn’t get close to him and was escorted out by other members of the media. It wasn’t like the authorities or anything. It was other members of the media saying “get that guy out of here, he’s Nardwuar, he’s going to cause a disturbance.”

So I really would love to do another presidential United States of America-ish interview with another political figure. I’ve interviewed some of the other prime ministers from Canada, but I’ve never interviewed a president that’s been in office. I’ve interviewed Gerald Ford, ex president of the USA, but I’d like to do some more presidential ones. So those are pretty much on my wish list still. I guess I’m still kind of hoping for Neil Young, but still Bill Clinton. Also if we bring it into the 21st century I would still like to speak to some of the legends of rock and roll like Little Richard or Jerry Lee Lewis. People that may be passing away soon. Hopefully they don’t, touch wood, but I’d like to speak with them because all this history is dying and you have to document it before it all disappears.

Do you personally find time to listen to music and what are you enjoying at the moment? Any rap?

In Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, there once was a rap artist who I’m still listening to called MC Terror T. I still listen to her and I listen to old school Vancouver rap. There was a group called EQ, which was one of the first groups that ever came out of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. So I’ve been listening to some of the old stuff. As for other groups I do my radio show every Friday on CiTR, so there’s tons of music to listen to and I listen to CiTR as much as I can to find about new music. I’m constantly looking for it because I have no idea where to find it myself, that’s why I have to have CiTR direct me on where to look because all the different shows play at night and I can find out what I like.

I basically don’t know much at all. I have to find out what goes on, it takes a little while to find out. Yes even when I’m doing my radio show, as pathetic as it sounds, it takes me hours and hours to figure out what music to play. It’s so difficult.

At the end of every interview you completely freeze in one pose and stop blinking completely. Tell us about this technique.

I have no idea how the hell that happened. I think it happened originally because I was having so much fun that I didn’t want the interview to end. So I was like “ahhhhh!” I was just having fun. I don’t know how it happened!

You always mention Vancouver in your interviews. I just asked you about rap music and instead of talking about American music, you bought it back to Canada. Why do you love it so much?

I guess it goes right back to your first question, my mom. She was in the historical society. When I got into music, I got into local music and I love local scenes. However, if I was in Seattle I would be obsessed with the Seattle rock or rap scene, like Kid Sensation from Seattle or Criminal Nation from Tacoma. Anytime I go to a different city I’m interested in the local scene.

Looking back at your career, you seem to be a big advocate of the D.I.Y ethic when it comes to releasing and promoting music or even doing your radio show?

Yes because to begin with nobody would put on a gig for my band The Evaporators, so the only way to put on a gig is to put it on yourself. Same thing when you do a radio show. You’re doing the radio show, you have to program the music. I was doing my radio show for a little while and I was like “won’t it be cool to put out a record?” So I was inspired by a band in Vancouver called No Exit and they put out the first punk LP in Vancouver and I was given a copy of that record and I thought they can put out a record and they did it totally low budget.

What they did was they took the first Clash record and put their faces over the guys in The Clash so it was kind of a play on the first Clash record, it was totally do it yourself. So I thought I could do a record label, so Nardwuar records started in 1989. Then I thought I can put out a DVD, I can put out a CD and they can have Nardwuar t-shirts. So it started I guess because I saw other people doing it and also in Vancouver in the 1980s, I was inspired by the people that put out records. Because in Vancouver, people were like “ok we’re in a band let’s put out a record!” In other cities, they are like “well, we will put out a record but I don’t know if I want to put out an LP because I want to wait for the big major label deal.”

But here, there was no big major label deal to actually help you out, so you had to do it yourself. And a lot of things with the gigs too – there’s no place to play, there’s no place to do an all ages gig. I wanted to go to the bars, but I couldn’t go into the bars because I was too young, I looked like too much of a nerd. I could have grown a beard, but I still looked like a nerd. I still am a nerd now so I wasn’t allowed in there. You had to organize your own all ages gigs. If I lived in another city, it might have been different. There might have been a regular place to put it on, so you might not have had to do that but it’s different here in Vancouver. That’s why some of the best music is in Vancouver because people work hard. If you can do it in Vancouver you can do it anywhere in the world, because it’s so hard.

Do you have any advice for people looking to pursue music journalism?

I heard Green Day’s Dookie album and I didn’t hear one hit. I had no idea. In other words, my ideas are probably different and totally wrong compared to other people. So I’m trying to learn myself. I’m still trying to get to the top of the rock pile. But I would say what has helped me in my opinion has been being part of a community organization. You mentioned right at the beginning, Sound Proof. The local cable company, going right down there and volunteering for the local video show. Volunteering at CiTR UBC radio, the local campus community station. So I would say that in everyone’s town there usually is a local cable access TV show you can volunteer for or there’s a local campus community station and if you can volunteer and hang out at those places then you’ll learn a hell of a lot about journalism and you’ll meet so many people. I’m still learning. In fact, every time I show up to do my radio show I learn something. I always say, the minute you think you’ve learned everything is the minute you should quit.

What are you hoping to achieve with your career? I know that you were rushed to the hospital with a brain hemorrhage in 1999 and once you came out you felt a lot more determined and focused.

Originally, it was to be pool side with Heather Locklear. However, that’s dating me a bit so I will update it. To be poolside with Heather Graham. Roller girl from Boogie Nights, right? Not Heather Thomas, but Heather Graham. I guess my goal still is to get my own show. I didn’t have my own show on MuchMusic, I was a freelance contributor but I’d still love to do my own show. I guess also, like you say, after being in hospital your goals change and right now actually I’m just happy when I wake up in the morning and I have a pulse and I can breathe. So my goal is to get through the day as you get older.

Well thanks so much and Doot doola doot doo…

Doot Doo!

Check out Nardwuar's video channel

The PotW Staff Remembers Their First Favorite Album

Music listeners are essentially dopamine addicts. The chemicals are secreted every time we hear a song we love.  We all remember the CD that changed us from casual listeners into audio fiends. Maybe we enjoyed the smooth grooves of a boyband or decided Sisqo had some street cred, but there’s nothing quite like discovering that life-changing album. Even if it was Creed’s greatest hits. Allow us to wax nostalgic for a second.

My introduction to music had an uncertain beginning. As an eight year old, I went through the painful process of being forced to return several albums by god-fearing parents. Targets included: Coolio for explicit language/bad hair, The Bloodhound Gang for poo jokes and boy band All-4-One, of “I Swear” fame, for sweetly harmonizing sex metaphors.

Months after letting Bryan Adams and a Christian rap tape gather dust, I sat watching Space Jam in a small theater. During the scene when a young Michael Jordan dunks, my eyes watered as I pictured myself also soaring through the air. I was blissfully unaware of a future in which I would a) still be white and b) only grow to the height of Big Sean. However, as soon as I could convince my family I wasn’t about to turn into Satan, the Space Jam soundtrack was in my uncoordinated little hands.

It was a crash course in rap and R&B, featuring everyone from Jay-Z to D’Angelo, to disappearing acts like Changing Faces and my former musical brethren All-4-One. Before his underage rendezvous gained interest, R Kelly sung his anthem “I Believe I Can Fly,” Coolio gave inspirational life advice which he clearly didn’t follow on “The Winner,” and Biz Markie met the Spin Doctors on “That’s The Way I Like It.” There was also a mysterious artist called “feat”or “ft,” who seemed incredibly prolific and appeared on almost every song. I distinctly remember telling people they were my favorite artist, until I discovered months later that “ft” was actually short for featuring.

“Hit Em High” was the album’s posse cut and undoubtedly my personal favorite. Somehow it managed to sound hardcore despite featuring no swear words, a feat even that the mighty Lil Romeo was unable to achieve. I listened to the soundtrack almost every day and could rap the lyrics word for word. My perception of music was forever altered and although my basketball career tanked, my obsession with everything audio had begun. It wasn’t until years later that my musical taste regressed to Limp Bizkit and Kid Rock. Oh the follies of youth.


I'm going to Hawaii!

Not that anyone cares, but I'll be drinking out of coconuts, getting sun burnt and playing tiny guitars in Hawaii for the next week so if this website isn't updated for a minute, you know why! Also speaking of Hawaii, have you ever seen Jay-Z's early video "Hawaiian Sophie"with his mentor Jaz-O? It's terrrrible. 

Gangsta Boo Interview

Gangsta Boo Interview

Gangsta Boo ain’t no Barbie. As one of the south’s few premier female MCs, Lola Mitchell, spit vicious rhymes as a part of legendary Memphis crunk pioneers Three-6 Mafia. Her tough attitude and witty lyrics backed by her trademark “Yeah, hoe!” ad-lib earned the respect of peers, fans and white New Zealanders named Jimmy. Boo appeared on five Three-6 Mafia projects and released several popular solo albums before leaving the group in 2000 due to financial disagreements. But her career hasn’t become any less interesting – she briefly converted to Christianity, renamed herself Lady Boo, was accused of armed robbery, and has since affiliated with producer Drumma Boy.

Gangsta Boo is also highly opinionated and doesn’t take any shit. She expressed annoyance over constant Three-6 Mafia questions, had some advice for women and was critical about the mixtape era. We also chatted about possible retirement, friendship with Drumma Boy and Kreyashawn, collaborating with Eminem and her new mixtape.

Jay Electronica’s Act II: Patents of Nobility (the Turn)

Me and the guys at Passionweiss did a parody review of Jay Electronica's new album, which was supposed to be released two years ago. It features absurdly grandiose song titles like "10,000 Lotus Petals" and Jay takes himself waaaaay too seriously. He also looks like the twin brother of NBA player Mikael Pietrus.

Anyway I contributed this tiny spiel:

Nights of the Roundtable (first draft skeleton)

Elec ingests Amazonian frog secretions in the hopes of gaining lyrical superpowers, but instead records an imaginary roundtable discussion with his some of personal idols including Rhonda Byrne, writer of “The Secret” and once and future King of New York – Papoose. Rhonda instructs Jay that if he really wants to make an album he should create a wish board with crayon, macaroni and glitter drawings of himself in a recording studio. The track remains a draft as he eagerly awaits a verse from Fonzworth Bentley.

You should definitely check out the rest here.

Roach Gigz - Going Off

Originally published at passionweiss

by Jimmy Ness

For better or often worse, 2012 is the year of the white rapper. Roach Gigz joins the ranks of the chosen few who rhyme without catering to college bros, performing at the Gathering of the Juggalos or sounding like this. The San Francisco native was named “Roach” after the Caucasian character in Next Friday who feeds weed brownies to his dog, and for this effort he deserves a baker’s dozen of the finest space cookies.

“Going off” is simple and direct. Gigz rhymes over a mechanical beat and drops a few bars. But this isn’t a rappity-rap song by a mean-mugging street poet. Roachy Balboa is a versatile wordsmith with a sense of humor. He rhymes “I got neck two times, like a fat face” and chubby fans get their feelings hurt. With his official debut, Bugged Out coming next month, the lyrics also introduce Roach to those who aren’t part of his core Bay Area audience. We learn he’s a hippy, had a kid too early, likes Spanish girls and owns two houses. Gigz would also like to date Nicki Minaj. She would probably be terrible dinner company and speak in cartoon voices the entire time, but whatever man. 

The video is equally uncomplicated with Roach as the central figure, stop motion editing and few distractions other than some ladies and his son’s juicebox. Gigz might look like Baby Bash, but he rhymes well enough to help Kid Rock become a distant memory. The white rap OG MC Serch would be proud.

DJ Burn One interview

By Jimmy Ness and originally published at Passionweiss

DJ Burn One’s country rap tunes emerge from a cloud of smoke vapors to warm the soul. His blues and funk-inspired sound adds an acoustic dimension to Southern rap, one reminiscent of classic UGK and Dungeon Family records.

At 26, the Atlanta beat-smith makes the rest of us look like severe underachievers. Burn One sold mixtapes at a CD store during his mid-teens, hung with T.I in twelfth grade and later dropped out of college to spend two years touring with Bubba Sparxxx. He’s since used live musicians and his ear for impeccable beats to help launch the careers of Yelawolf, Gucci Mane, Pill, Young Dro and Starlito.

Burn One spoke to me from Nebraska during the 32 date Revival tour with Rittz. We covered several topics including meeting T.I in high school, white rappers, Goodie Mob’s new album, teaching Gucci Mane about mixtapes, Gangsta Boo, working with A$AP Rocky and more.

You’re from Atlanta originally?

Yeah, I was born and raised in Atlanta. Actually a spot a like a little bit south called Hapeville. I was raised there till I was like 10 then I moved out to the suburbs, so I got a little taste of everything in my upbringing. 

Was your family musical?

My mom was really heavy into like all 80s music, pretty much everything you can think of. My dad was just heavy in country, that type of stuff. They put me in the choir when I was four. I was in the church choir for a couple of years but outside of that they weren’t really musical. There was always music playing, but nobody played any instruments or anything like that.

How did you come up with the name DJ Burn One, is it just a drug reference?

Man not even really. At the time I was putting mixtapes out around my school and I was looking to change my name, I had a really lame DJ name. Actually I worked in a retail store in Atlanta called Supersounds, a mom n’ pops shop, and we would get albums in early. Two or three weeks early, like real actual copies sealed from the distributor and this was before everybody got online and figured out how to download stuff early.

So when I’d be in school and selling these CDs I’d have them for like $20-25 dollars. I’d have like T.I’s Trap Muzik and stuff like that. I tried to sell them and say “hey I’ve got the new T.I album it’s $25 dollars” and everyone would say “oh man come on just burn me one, burn one, burn me one.” So literally as long as I would work at the CD store people would just tell me “burn one.” All day all I’d hear is “burn one.” No one wanted to pay full price or whatever. They just wanted me to burn some copies of it, so after a while I was like you know what? It’s kind of got a ring to it.

You met T.I in high school?

Yeah, he had a group, it was two girls called Xtaci. They were signed for a while to him and they were actually a couple grades above me and went to my high school. I was working at the CD store and one day they came back a couple of years after they graduated, it was the year I was about to graduate. They were like “we got signed to Grand Hustle” and I was like “it’s cool I’m doing tapes, ya’ll want to host a tape with him with me?” 

And you know, they got some drops and from then on I started hanging out with Grand Hustle. That was my first real experience in the music game, just kind of being around there and watching them record. I remember being in Grand Hustle and seeing Big Kuntry (King) show me a Pro Tools file like a beat tracked out for the first time and I was like “yo, what are those colours up there?” And he was like “that’s a high end, that’s a snare” and I’m like “what the fuck is that shit?” I was just a fan of music you know. It was really just the beginning of me cutting my teeth, being around Grand Hustle and trying soak up game.

Were you star struck? That’s pretty crazy considering you were still in school.

T.I was still getting bigger, but in Atlanta he was definitely pretty established at the time, even though the album didn’t do well. He had already put out “24s.” This was right around when Trap Muzik came out. It was kind of like the perfect time. So it was interesting, just watching how people even treated me in my own high school before I did the tape with him and then after. I was still in twelfth grade when I did the tape with him. The people that were just kind of like “whatever” about me, it was funny just watching the human nature of everything once they see you hanging around with someone famous. A lot of new friends. It was cool meeting him and then through there I met a lot of different people up at Grand Hustle. I met [Young] Dro, P$C and everybody, Paul Wall, a lot of people through that so it was real cool.

You studied history for a year in college? What’s your favorite ancient civilization?

Yeah, I was a history major. Man, I’m just like a history junkie. I love just watching the History Channel all day. It’s either ESPN or History Channel. I just love learning about different civilizations and stuff like that man. I think the Romans were probably the most interesting. Just the empire, everything that went along with that whole period. To be around in that whole time would have been really cool.

But yeah, I studied that for a year and I realized I would rather go and see the pyramids in Egypt than sit in a classroom and talk about it all day. It really wasn’t my thing. I have a really shitty imagination. It wasn’t doing it for me. I’ve got to be able to touch it for it to be interesting. I had like an A average my whole first year. Then the second week in the next semester in the new school year, I was sitting there in class and I just thinking this shit is not for me. I just got up literally right in the middle of class and walked out. Two weeks later Bubba Sparxxx called me to go on tour and I was like “hell yeah.”

You also wanted to be president?

Yeah definitely. I still do, but I think I smoke too much weed. I’d be a great president though man. I’m a political junkie too. I’m definitely just a news junkie period.

How do your parents feel about you pursuing music? Do they understand the mixtape hosting etc?

They don’t understand any of that stuff. They are a lot more accepting now that I’ve been on the cover of Spin magazine, New York Times, been on TV a couple of times. They thought I was selling drugs at first. I was on the road. They didn’t know what the hell that was, I’m out there picking up a lot of money and they were like “where the hell are you getting all this money at?” The only way they know is from the streets or whatever. They have finally come around. I think for a while they were slightly disappointed cause I had a chance to be the first from my family to graduate from college. I kind of walked away from it, but that wasn’t my path anyway. They’ve always been supportive and they’ll mess with me. My dad will call me like “I see your boy Gucci Mane’s in jail again!”

What influenced your sound? It’s very unique, a bit bluesy and funky not just the typical trap sound.

I think a little bit of everything. The 80s stuff my mom listened to. Like the synthesizers, that’s what always stuck out in my mind. The melodies and song writing were really dope, but really with the synthesizers they were always looking to try and find new sounds. And my dad he would always play country music like Montgomery Gentry, Conway Twitty and stuff like that. Even if I didn’t like the music, I could appreciate the song because you could feel it. It evoked emotion, you know? It made you feel a certain way and I think just blues music period has always stuck out to me.

When I found people that were making music like that – Organized Noise, Pimp C, 3-6 Mafia, Dre with G Funk, the Funkadelic stuff back in the day, it just all made sense. I feel like all the music I make is just stuff that I’d want to hear. When I make a beat, I just want to make some shit that sounds cool that I’d want to listen to.

It sounds pretty simple, but I really don’t try to think too much. I feel like every time people say “I’m going to do a girl record or make a club song or this or that,” it always just ends up just sounding contrived. I just want it to sound authentic and natural.

What do you think of the trap music sound? Is it a fad that will go away or something that will endure?

It’s more than fad because to me, snap music was a fad. It had its summer like a year or year and a half and then it was gone. Trap beats, ever since Shawty Redd and DJ Toomp really started eight to 10 years ago that’s kinda been an Atlanta sound. It’s just now with these programs, which are so much easier to use like Fruityloops and stuff like that, everyone can recreate that sound a lot more. I feel like that sound is really stagnant right now because before you had people like Shawty Redd and Toomp that were pushing the envelope. It was trap, but they were inventing it as they were going. Every time they would do a record it would be a little bit different. Constant innovation.

Now it’s like a lot of people are just replicating what they’ve heard before, so it’s really stale. I feel like that’s where I come in, just to kinda give that breath of fresh air and to bring the live instrumentation. Everything’s not perfectly quantized. To me it’s more emotional. I want when you hear a record from me to walk away with a feeling. You can be happy, sad, mad whatever. You walk away and it evokes some type of emotion. You didn’t just hear it, turn it on, nod your head a couple of times.

How do you create your songs? Is there a live band playing?

I have a production crew. It’s me and three other guys. Walt Live, he was a producer and I used to manage him before. We met up through Da Backwudz Project. They were a group in Atlanta a couple of years ago. He did the Playaz Circle “Hold Up” record and “God In The Building” for Killer Mike. He plays keys, sings, raps, does a lot of the melodies and produces as well. Ricky Fontaine plays a lot of the electric guitar that you hear. He also played the main riff for “Party Like A Rockstar.” And those two guys together are called iNDEED. We put out an EP in January and people have been pretty well responding to it so we are working on a follow up. We all perform together, but as far as just an actual group, that’s their thing. They rap, do all the vocals and sing.

And also The Professor, he’s part of the production crew too. He plays bass, engineers and produces as well. So we all got together and spent like a full year getting it in, five to six times a week, 12 hours a day. Just getting it in and working on beats. The initial vibe was just me coming in and playing samples like this is the vibe I want, this is the feel of the music I love. I was playing 50s records, 70s records, whatever. I was playing a wide variety of stuff, but I just wanted to get all of us on the same page.

Tell us about working on Gucci Mane’s first mixtape Chicken Talk. How did that come about?

I don’t know if you remember, but Dem Franchize Boyz had the “White Tee” record out talking about snap music. There was a record label called Never Again that came out with a remix called “Black Tee.” It was like a response record. He was actually one of the guys rapping on the song. When I called to holla at him about who was on the song or whatever, he was the one that picked up the phone and met with me. He made the whole remix by himself with all these other rappers you know Bun B and all these people. Like took all the other guys off the song, which I thought was hilarious but he played me “Icey” that night and we just kinda got talking. I think he put out “Icey” and stuff was going good, then I think he ended up going to jail for beating up the promoter with a pool stick and all types of crazy shit. So he finally got out and just kinda fell out of love with the label he was with at the time. I was telling him about mixtapes, like “yo, you can book shows.”

So you told him about doing mixtapes?

Yeah, definitely. It was around the time 50 Cent and all of them were doing it. Drama was slowly building his name but he wasn’t like that around. Rappers knew about mixtapes but they just thought it was a song on a mixtape. They didn’t know they could do a whole original album and it put out themselves and get it to the fans. That right there was a new concept. 

To them they only knew going to a label or putting out a real actual album just conventionally. I told him about doing shows and that kind of peaked his interest and like I said, when his relationship with the label soured he was like “yo, I’m ready.” So it took us like a month. He had a bunch of songs together already and I helped put it together like the tracklist. I even took the picture for the front cover. As a joke I put “Burn One Photography” in the background. So that was like the beginning of all that.
That mixtape really was the one that kicked off both of our careers. “Icey” was a big record for him but that made both of us like a household name. I can go to any hood, I can go anywhere and people will be like “yo, you did Gucci.”

What is he like as a person? He seems like such an interesting character.

He’s crazy as fuck. He’s like a modern day Rick James. He just does what he feels. I feel him on that too. He’s really fucking dope though, like a lot of people sleep on how dope he actually is. He’s a real lyrical guy. I’ve been in the studio with him and he’s freestyled, like pulled up a beat and rapped the entire length of the beat for four or five minutes. Not mess up one time freestyling and pull up another one and do it like six or seven times. Dropping amazing rhymes like you hear now, killing it. Very intelligent man, but he just flies by the seat of his pants kinda like how he feels in the moment too. So I feel that gets him into hot water sometimes. I’m sure we’ll definitely be chopping it up soon. I’ve been getting a lot of people hitting me up about doing something with him and I’m sure he’s been getting the same.

Gangsta Boo is featured on your Joints tape. How did you link up?

I met her probably like a year and a half ago. I was working with Jackie [Chain]. I gave him beat for that “Don’t Violate.” I came up with the idea to put the hook on there too and he had laid his verse and was trying to figure out who to get on it. He was the one that actually thought of Gangsta Boo. I think he had known her before and he called her to the studio. We just chopped it up. She was real cool man, she smashed it. I know she was just on Yelawolf’s album on the record with Eminem. Now I know she’s doing some mixtapes and other stuff right now, but yeah she was a big influence on me growing up. I loved all of 3-6 Mafia’s stuff, but definitely her first solo album was super dope.

She’s great.

Yeah she’s really dope. To me she’s probably my favorite female rapper. I mean there’s other talented ones, but I can’t think of one I’d rather listen to.

You also worked with A$AP Rocky for Live Love A$AP, what do you think of him emulating the South?

I think it’s dope, because I think with him it’s more of paying tribute and something he’s inspired by. Just like how I was inspired by 80s music or whatever else. It’s just where he drew inspiration from and I think that’s kind of what makes his stuff unique. If he was just hardcore on the hip-hop boom-bap shit who knows what we would we be saying right now. It’s just he found his way to put a twist on it. Some people say it’s biting, I don’t think it’s biting. It’s paying homage. He got real Southern producers, me and Beautiful Lou on the project. He reached out you know. If he had just done a bunch of East Coast producers it would have been whatever but I think its dope man. I really enjoy it. It’s a real enjoyable experience listening to the album, going to their shows. He’s just a real cool guy.

Cee-Lo reached out to you to work on the new Goodie Mob album?

My partner Cavi from LA, he’s actually working on it. He had played them some records I did for him and they really loved the records so I’m supposed to be going there with them pretty soon. That should be dope. I’m looking forward to that.

The other week you Tweeted “Cee-Lo said white people think 808s are offensive.”

[Laughs] That was just something I heard that I probably shouldn’t have Tweeted. But yeah man, that’s how it is. Probably to a certain point it is but I don’t even think it’s that deep. I think when you start thinking about certain sounds or whatever you’re just over thinking it. To me “Yeah” is the biggest white people song ever and that’s 808ed out, the Usher record with Lil Jon. Maybe its cause what they are trying to do now is totally different, like the live band, and I can respect that.

You’ve collaborated with a lot of white rappers: Rittz, Yelawolf, Bubba Sparxxx etc. What do you think of the increasing prominence of white people in rap?

I think the audience is just so much bigger now. There’s just so many kinds of audiences. I just think it gives more chances for more people to get their foot in the game and be accepted. In ’94 when gangsta rap was popular it probably wouldn’t have been as easy. There’s more exposure, hip-hop has become more mainstream, which just gives it a different audience. I think it’s really cool man, just gives the game more diversity.

What is Bubba Sparxxx doing right now? He kinda dropped off the map.

Bubba’s still out booking shows and he’s working on his new album now. I just talked to him probably about two months ago about doing some new stuff, so he’s probably going to lock in with me. That should be really dope. I think people really sleep on Bubba. I think it’s kind of a what have you done for me lately, kind of thing. He’s one of the dopest rappers ever to me.

Is there anyone in particular you are proud to have worked with or met?

Actually man, this is really a random thing. Have you ever heard of Dion? He was signed with Aftermath and he was on Game’s first album. He used to be signed with Hi-Tek. He was a singer. I’m going to say he’s from Detroit. He was on the “Ridin” song on 50 Cent’s first album, whatever the Hi-Tek record was on the second album. He’s done a bunch of other stuff. He was really one of the most gifted singers I’ve ever met. I truly think he has the chance to be the next Al Green, but I think he’s just floating around doing his thing right now. He’s amazing.

What is your Five Points brand?

I originally started it to be my production company just to do beats with and just to be our brand that we were pushing. But after the first year that we were doing beats together, Ricky and Walt would stay after our sessions and just do songs. One day they just played me like six or seven records and I was like wow this is really dope. You know, it’s different. I haven’t really heard it before. It’s definitely got its influences, but it’s an own thing by itself.

I ended up signing them as a group, as the first act on the Five Points music group. And then working with Scotty, I was kind of looking for a straight rapper cause iNDEED is definitely something different, they are instrumentalists. They sing, they rap as well but they do their own thing so I wanted just a pure rapper.

After I put out the Summer Dreams project with Scotty last August, just the vibe that we had, how people responded to the music, what the critics were saying, it was just a really good feel. It just kind of fit, like we were really a good match. I think he realized that too, so we decided to link up and have me come on as a producer and really take reins of his project too. So he’s in the family too. I’m not trying to be a big record label and sign everyone and their family, but I just really wanted to put out some stuff that I thought was dope and just kind of show the world my perspective of what I think is dope music.

What’s next after the tour?

I’m supposed to be going in with Big Boi as soon as I get off tour. Big Boi and Jeezy, those are like the main two I’m going in with. I’m sending more stuff to A$AP. They just reached out for his album. I’m working on Scotty and iNDEED, both of their new albums. Those are coming out crazy. We just dropped the SL Jones Paraphernalia project. I produced on that as well. After the Slumerican tour we about to start working on Rittz’s new album, which I am super excited about. Just stay tuned. We got a lot of new stuff coming. Oh, and I’m doing another instrumental album like The Ashtray!

Future ft DJ Infamous - Itchin'

 By Jimmy Ness and originally published at Passionweiss

Future’s best friends are his cash, calculator and accountant. The Dungeon Family affiliate joins Mike Will Made It for another hypnotic victory lap and their money multiplies. You know how it goes. As rap’s auto-tune flame keeper, Future favours charisma and song-writing over lyricism. Heavy bass and sharp keys support lyrics about his mom telling him to hit the streets, neighbors from hell and having guns/drugs as his two main hoes. The track’s not quite as hot as jams like “Magic” or “Parachute,” which have converted non-believers (myself included) into disciples, but it’s still catchy enough to be memorable.

The video is oddly cinematic and Future’s robotic vocals work well with the paranoid concept of hustling under surveillance. FBI agents follow him as he goes about his shady dealings, raps outside a dog cage and visits the Blue Flame strip club instead of remaining inconspicuous. Ludacris has a brief cameo in the video, but he needs to stay in the studio until he creates something which makes us forget about several shit albums in a row. A Birdman hand-rub would have been 100 times more powerful.

Despite only a minimal appearance, this is actually a song by Michigan’s DJ Infamous. He does whatever rap DJ’s usually do on tracks, which is pay for them and for that we should be thankful. There’s also an “Itchin’ Remix” floating around that features a motley crew consisting of Jeezy, Young Gotti and Fabolous. Their verses aren’t anything special and Jeezy probably feels weird about Gotti impersonating him on the same track. Plus they can’t swag rap better than Juicy J or Dos Chainz so stick to the original until one of them shouts some new similes.

Killer Mike Interview

By Jimmy Ness and originally published at HiphopCanada

Killer Mike destroys outdated clichés that Southern rappers are terrible lyricists who mistake swag for talent. The Atlanta MC covers strip-clubs, Reaganomics and police brutality without losing any of his ferocious delivery. Mike’s potent lyrics push the listener to improve themselves, and it’s tough to ignore his wealth of life experience.

After being taught the intricacies of selling drugs by his mother, Mike was making a living hustling until issues with the law forced him to turn his efforts toward music. His first break came from OutKast’s Big Boi and he’s since worked with numerous third coast legends including UGK, T.I, Three 6 Mafia and Dungeon Family.

At 37, Mike’s an outspoken individual with a passion for church, family and politics. But he’s no ageing hip-hop scholar reminiscing over dusty boom-bap records. His newest release R.A.P Music is a strong contender for album of the year and shares similarities with the Ice Cube classic AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted. Mike’s bellowing social commentary is backed by production from Brooklyn’s EL-P, who is a renowned underground rap figure himself. HipHopCanada spoke to Killer Mike before his Into The Wild Tour with EL-P, Mr Muthaphuckin eXquire and Despot,which touches down in Vancouver on Monday 2nd July. We chatted about meeting Notorious B.I.G, his new album and his friendship with Pimp C.

EL-P produced your latest album R.A.P Music, which is an interesting pairing considering he’s known for an underground East Coast sound and you’re from the South. How did you two link up?

I met EL-P through Jason Demarco, who works over at Williams Street Records and is a mutual friend of ours. He also had done some business with us, like putting me on a single, matching me up with Flying Lotus to do a song. He just asked if I would be willing to do a record over there. To do a record over there would give me the kind of freedom you don’t really get with other record companies. He asked if I wanted to do some cool experimental stuff and I said yeah.

The first producer he put me with was EL-P. I just quickly kinda fused with El and we started working on a whole record. Within that we became friends and made a classic record. We are probably going to continue to make music for most of our careers. 

Tell us about the creative process between you and EL-P making this record.

I had rented an apartment close to where he lived. I went to his house every day. We smoked our weed, he made beats and whatever came into my head I stood up and said on the microphone.

Your grandmother marched with Martin Luther King and your grandfather was a union member. Is politics something you’ve always been interested in?

I’d say from the level of social politics. Just doing what’s right for the community, so yeah in that aspect. My grandparents weren’t shmoozers in any aspect to any particular politicians, but they were very supportive of African American rights, worker’s rights. They made sure that we were politically aware and that my sisters and I were into voting, being part of the political process. It just made me more aware of the world around me.

One of my favourite quotes from R.A.P Music is “I believe that government should fear the people and not the other way around.” Tell us a bit more about this idea.

I honestly believe that unless the government is scared about the will of people, their moral compass is always off. I’m not saying that the people always have the right answers but I definitely think that the government is a representative of the people, for the people. If it’s only working on the behalf or for the interest of a small group, I don’t see the value in that government.

I believe the people should always be vigilant, making the government aware that at any given time a vote could happen. Revolution could happen. It doesn’t mean everybody picking up arms and wilding out, but it does mean we will vote for someone else. It won’t be the typical we will choose between the lesser of two evils. So I’m interested in seeing people grow that and just focus more on liberty instead of making a choice and joining political parties and their ideologies.

You also mention some unique subject matter like your father being a cop and loyalty to your wife, that’s not something the typical rapper would put in their music.

Well it should be. You know, I’ve never really learned how to be the personification of something I’ve created. I’m just me. I’m lucky enough to have people interested in me. And they like me. It interests people that my wife and I smoke weed, do business, take care of our children and still find time to go to the strip club and fuck around with girls and talk shit. You know, that’s some cool shit so people are interested in that. I don’t have to figure out a weird ass persona or other shit to give you. It’s just easier for me to give you me. I’m a man of complexities and contradictions and people are always looking to see how I balance it, because I believe everyone has certain inclinations that I have. I don’t hide. I just put me out there for people to see and it interests them, I’m fortunate in that.

What happened on the first night you recorded with Big Boi from OutKast? I heard you also met Gucci Mane.

We went to an old strip club. I had a homegirl that was dancing out there. She was helping me get the demo money and shit together. We all just went out there together on one of the first nights we hung out. They saw that I got treated like a man of respect. We got cool after that and I think I did “Snappin and Trappin” with Big that night and then later we did “Funkadelic.” Those were the first songs two we did together.

Gucci was there, he was rapping too. I mean everybody was in the streets but everybody was rapping too, trying to get out of the streets.

You decided to pursue music because your crew was facing major criminal charges?

I was a hustler, they were robbers. They robbed people. They got caught with someone in the trunk and they spent a year and half fighting the case. And they beat the case, it was like 40 years to life. I just used that time to get my mind sharp, start grinding. Forget about everything around me and get busy. It was at that point that I wanted to get out of the streets. I just knew that while they were gone, it wouldn’t be long before I ended up in someone’s trunk, you know.

OutKast, Bun B, Three 6 Mafia, Dungeon Family you have worked with some of the South’s most famous talent, was there anyone you were particularly impressed by?

I would just say you know being able to call 8 Ball, and being able to call Bun B and reach out to Pimp C and have MJG acknowledge my verse, it’s dope. It’s just an amazing feeling. It’s what I sat at high school and day dreamed about, rap. For me, getting that opportunity to be in the studio with Paul and Juicy and seeing the process of making a beat and putting cuts on records was just an honour for me.

I just feel like I’m a very fortunate fan and I’m a very capable MC. I brought a lot of honour to the South and I appreciate the slang, and I appreciate the respect I get because of that. Basically I’m just a rap fan and I get to compete, contest, to make music and to have fun with my heroes. That’s an amazing feeling every day.

You met Notorious B.I.G when you were younger?

Yeah like standing at the back of a warehouse when they were walking back. I was literally just like “oh shit, Biggie! What’s up? What’s up?” He gave me the blunt roach before he went into the club. I had to be like 17-19 maybe. It was at like the end of high school and beginning of college. It was before he had like all the way blown up, you know what I mean. It was when him and Nas were talked about in interviews, Puff was running around with Faith then. It was around the same time he was at one of the barbecues. He had popped and had a presence in Atlanta.

[Killer Mike is referring to a performance Notorious BIG did in Altanta in 1994 at OutKast’s Atlanta Barbecue music festival. Mike would have been 19 at the time.]

You also wrote to Pimp C while he was in prison and he visited you when he got out?

Yeah I wrote him while he was in prison and he wrote back and he visited me. He gave me a verse, but I don’t know if I’ll ever release it. I really felt love from him. He gave me some advice. I asked him “do you have any advice from me?” He just said “whatever you do man, it’s about how you rap. Rap like a drowning man fighting for air. You just gotta be on it. Be cool and all that. Nothing else matters, not your age, how long you been going or any of that. What you gotta do is just keep at it and keep going.” I appreciated him for it you know, I really do. He took time to talk to me. He helped me.

How do you feel about the growing popularity of the South? Earlier it was considered the downfall of rap music and acts like OutKast were famously getting booed in New York during the Source Awards.

I’m just glad that hip-hop is open to all possibilities. When that was going on in the South, it was like that hurt. It definitely hurt your feelings, but we knew what we were doing was dope. Same for the West Coast, same as I imagine for New York kids who started hip-hop when they were rallying up under disco. I’m just glad that some of the regional differences are gone. But with that said, I think it’s important that we maintain some of our regional differences so we don’t have this one homogenous style. We had to honour our greats and we did, and now we’ve reaped the rewards.

You haven’t been on a major label since your first album with Columbia in 2003, how was the transition into being independent? The internet wasn’t quite the music marketing success story it is now.

I’m happy. What I’ve been doing has been working for me so I’m fortunate. I don’t really put a lot of thought into what I was or how that experience was. I was what I was and I am what I am. What I am is respected and revered and in control of my own destiny. Rapping like a motherfucker. I like where I am, I appreciate it.

You decided to invest back into your community by opening a barber shop. What made you get into this business?

I think that the music is there and that our culture and society is there, so what better place. Rappers need to do something other than making new rap records and music, and start reinvesting in their community. And part of that reinvestment is owning things like barbershops, car washes and small stores. Paying back to where we are from. I’m very proud to be part of a group of people who has done that.

Tell us about the Into The Wild tour you’re bringing to Vancouver?

Yeah, the Into The Wild tour is Wild! Despot, Mr Muthaphuckin eXquire, Killer Mike and EL-P. We are just having a ball, we are all good friends and just going from city to city. I know that we just love the audiences out there and they get a chance to see, touch, taste and smell the music that they love.

What’s next after this tour?

Relax with the family and put out another album!

DJ Premier Live

bumpy knuckles

Rap's greatest producer performed in Vancouver last night. I was pretty pumped to see the man who helped to craft Illmatic and it was a steal for only $15 bucks. Unfortunately, he started way too late and by the time he came through at 1am most of the audience excitement had morphed into mumbles of frustration. As the liquor flowed, people started either fighting or groping each other for entertainment. Premo blamed getting held up in customs, but that was 24 hours earlier so unless he was being waterboarded in a detention center there’s no excuse. His set wasn't overly creative or impressive either, only one Nas/B.I.G track and the usual influx of Gangstarr titles. Negativity aside, it's still a blessing to be in the presence of greatness and Premo’s holy appearance in the rap canon prevents me from further criticism.

Freddie Foxx performed as Bumpy Knuckles later in the night too, I'm not overly familiar with their collaboration project and I kind of assumed it would be dusty old-head boom bap but it was decent live.

P.S Does anyone know what happened to Afu-Ra?

Hit the jump for a few more (low quality) pics. Also look out for my interview with Killer Mike in the next few days.

bumpy knuckles

bumpy knuckles