New Orleans' No. 1 kick- copper
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
New Orleans' No. 1 kick- copper
Saturday, March 20, 2010
Slangston Hughes: so... without further adieu, introduce yourself to the people who MIGHT not know who you are…
Lyrikll: I am Lyrikill, which in my native language means "he who purchases many shoes"…emcee, promoter, hip-hop culturalist dedicated to reforming southern rap music
SH: Without question. In terms of being a culturalist dedicated to reforming southern rap, I’ve been doing a little research and found a quote from you that says: "the New South Movement is about putting our art and culture back in the hands of the people who care about it and aren't just out to make a dollar."
SH: Care to elaborate or take that further when it comes to your place in the New South movement?
L: It just seems that in the 10 years or so, the southern region has made many advancements in the music industry. However, many critics, myself included, would say that the South's business acumen has not resulted in the body of musical work that the region should have produced. Many people got lost in the shuffle of making a living from music and forgot the principles upon which the culture was original built. I am in no way disowning the business achievements, but I am spearheading a local movement to make and promote roots hip-hop culture. That movement starts in New Orleans and expands globally.
SH: Word, that's something that any true fan of Hip-Hop––whether it be a listener, fellow emcee or culturalist––can appreciate (including myself). In addition, I'm assuming when you say our business acumen, you might be inferring various dance moves, flows/rap deliveries, etc. being absorbed by non-Southerners & then taken on as their own, right?
L: Absolutely. The southern region is the birthplace of culture. It’s no secret that New Orleans is so thick in culture because with it being a major port during the transatlantic slave trade, it was one of the first places in America that Africans gathered to sing and dance. All of these qualities still exist in different ways today. My mission is to let people know and understand the authentic side of southern life and how hip-hop is interrelated. I'm definitely not disrespecting either coast or any other region, I just want southern people to be known more for hospitality, cooking, and celebrating than cars, rims, and 808 drums.
SH: True indeed, I think that's something we ALL can appreciate. With that said, give us a little history on your beginnings within the rap game...
L: I began rapping when I was in 6th grade, that was '91...that was the first time I ever wrote a rap. I would record on this tape player over these horrible keyboard beats but I always maintained a message. I always used rap as a means to express the things that I wanted to say but would be super boring if I just talked about them. When I came to Dillard University in '98, I had been doing talent shows, ciphers, battles and the like in high school. I was always true school, conscious, and heavy into the culture during a late 90s era of Death Row and Master P. I would say this made most other rappers feel like opposition. But when I moved to New Orleans to attend Dillard in '98, I linked up with some other talented emcees from the Southern region and formed the group Euphonetiks. We did a trilogy of campus-based mixtapes, getting other emcees around the campus. We took the mixtapes wherever we went and battled and ciphered with anyone who would rhyme with us, and that’s how I met Truth Universal at a cafe on Xavier's campus and he gave us a shot to start performing outside of campus at local venues. From there we did an album called Sick? Muse. Entertainment and performing and selling albums. We were all solo artists, so soon after releasing the group album, I started working on solo material and just took the natural
SH: No doubt. Anyone should be able to see the time & energy invested. You bring up Truth Universal, who in my opinion is "the godfather of New Orleans' Hip-Hop" presently. Tell us how the joint collab of Soundclash came about, what it means to you personally & what's on the rise for the crew this year?
L: Originally, my music company Eupham consisted of 3 producers and 3 emcees, so I was trying to think of an event or situation to be able to promote the artists I was working with. I went out to DC to record 10 songs with my producer Zach, who was in Euphonetiks with me. Zach is from DC and we met while we were at Dillard. SO, while I was there, my manager, who lives there too, tells me to check out this Redbull Big Tune beat battle. I go there with my man Words Axis and my producer Zach. We have a great time and I am in awe at this event. I ciphered with some cats in the line, met Oddisee (a very talented producer/emcee from Maryland) and Nick da 1da (who did a couple tracks on Truth's Self Determination album). I just kept imaging how great an event like this could be in New Orleans. It combined the production, with emcee performances during the intermission and served as a great venue for networking between people in the industry. I came back to NO and wrote a proposal and shopped it to a few venues that all either refused to meet with me or threw out ridiculous prices. So I hit up Truth, like "what do I have to do to get a venue?" Truth told me that his brother, DJ Def D, had been to some events in Atlanta (where he moved after Hurricane Katrina) and had a similar idea. I finally caught up with both of them at a Grassroots! event and we put the wheels in motion, and we haven’t stopped. This year, we are taking the event to the next level by bringing in record label executives and influential producers to continue to build a growing scene in New Orleans. In February, we had legendary New Orleans producers Ice Mike and Crack Tracks in March we will have world renowned producer/DJ Pete Rock and executives from the Blacksmith label (owned by Talib Kweli) [NOTE: PETE ROCK RESCHEDULED TO LATER IN THE YEAR]. The entire focus is to build an internationally recognized independent hip-hop music movement in New Orleans.
SH: Understood, Being a cultivator, firm believer in the talent of New Orleans & previous Soundclash performer on several occasions, I definitely support the movement.
L: I recognize that and appreciate it greatly. It would not have grown without the support from people such as yourself.
SH: Chu dat. Support next to notoriety & profit are more than likely the holy trinity when it comes to having a Hip-Hop career. What does support mean to you and how do you think aspiring emcees get more of it?
L: Support can mean a variety of things and can vary in its levels. There are people that support by posting an event online, promoting it via blog and/or retweeting. I think the most important form of support is the kind that forces one to make a sacrifice in time and/or money. As an artist and promoter, I take risks weekly in organizing events to promote the scene, culture, and local artists. The only way to continuously present these events is by the target audience attending and buying tickets/merchandise. So, to me, if you don’t attend, buy a ticket, buy a drink, buy a shirt, buy a cd, etc., you are saying that you don’t care if this type of event is presented in future. Most of the people in our area of business are not financially capable of consistently losing money. As far as artists garnering that support, they have to be in tune with their target audience and present the type of situations that their target audience sees value in. I think artists have to remain consistent in their work and take time perfecting their craft. The have to invest in themselves, take risks, and take themselves seriously as business people and public personalities. As an artist, you should always plan to be where you want to be, and work towards your goals as if you have already achieved it. When you take yourself seriously, you know what type of level of support you will need and how much of that support will keep you in business. From there you can develop goals and objectives to get you on the path to being successful according to your standards.
SH: Rapbiz 101 for the up & comers...
L: I didn't mean to be so thorough on the topic, but it is one that it very dear to me.
SH: No prob on that. It should be of great assistance to many rappers who want to make this a career. In addition to that, I often speak with DJs, artists and promoters on the scene who would agree that there is a stigma of sorts attached to Hip-Hop in New Orleans where many venues & venue owners see Hip-Hop and instantaneously think “rap,” with the bad connotations associated. How do you think we go about changing that ignorant perception?
L: I don’t really separate rap from hip-hop as some people do. Hip-hop is a culture and rap is just an element of that culture. KRS-One said it best: "rap is something you do. Hip-Hop is something you live." There are so many subgenres of rap music, I can't really keep up with them...so I know a club owner/promoter can't. I just try to focus on myself and other likeminded artists that are serious about their craft and pay respect to the culture. I think it’s more about all of these types of artists combining their reach and resources to be able to compete with the major label artists--I see the divide being more indie vs. major label. I think out main mission should be what WE bring to the table...putting us in a TAKE mode instead of an ASK mode. I don’t care too much about bargaining with a venue...I'd rather tell them, I have 5 groups that are serious about promoting and performing, we will bring out 300-500 people and there will be no violence...these are all measurable and not opinionated statements. From there, we build our names as not only being talented and creative artists, but also business minded and consistent. I look at it as changing the negative stigma starting with myself and those around me.
SH: Gotcha. Let's talk music for a sec. Who or what would you consider your greatest influences for not only picking up a mic but also stepping into the booth?
L: I was very heavily influenced by Wu-Tang, Ice Cube, Nas, early music like Too $hort, NWA, even local cats like Bust Down & Juvenile. I've been into hip-hop music and shoes for as long as I can remember, but my 9th grade English teacher Mrs. Howard developed me into a public speaker. I don’t think I would be able to do what I do without that element.
SH: That's wsup! Shout out to Mrs. Howard & all the cats on that list. Your ability to craft material & projects swiftly is something to be admired. Changing directions…what's the process you undergo in attacking a beat?
L: I write to metronome mostly, or I might hear a beat on a CD, like I heard the first beat on Freeway and Jake One's album yesterday and song just came out of me. From there, I will go into the studio and either go through beats to find one that matches or help create one that works. I do write to beats in the studio, but mostly, I come in with a notebook full of writtens and flow over beats to find a match...Prospek makes beats pretty quickly, so there are times when we just create from scratch.
SH: Speaking of Prospek, he's definitely one of the hottest producers in the city at the moment. How did one of 09's most slept on releases (Heart & Sole) come into fruition?
L: I was invited to his studio by DJ Skracthmo after a show I did with Prospek's crew GPC and Soapbox, who I've known since like '99. A mutual friend who was working with Eupham with me had been doing music with him and we went over to the spot. He put on a track and I wrote two verses on the spot, we dropped Bred Winner, he gave me some beats to take home and I came back and laid those and we just started hooking up every couple weeks and laying out songs. It was just a mutual agreement that we came up with like "this should be an album." I had recorded many of the tracks earlier over another producers beats that was leaving Eupham, so we just relaid them over Pro's beats and started gigging and pushing the album release. Our chemistry came easy because we are both no frills, just good beats and rhymes. We both work fast and like to record and move on to the next one, so we would drop 3 or 4 songs in the span of a couple hours easily.
SH: Can't knock the work ethic there. So Heart & Sole dropped last fall followed up by Dope Music with DJ Mike Swift at the top of the year. What's next for Lyrikill?
L: More Heart More Sole is the follow-up, produced totally by Prospek again. We've done maybe 30 tracks since H&S [Heart and Sole] dropped. Me and my man DaiN are doing a short album called MLKTKRS, me and DaiN on vocals, DaiN on production, and me and DJ Jay Skillz have a mixtape entitled A Time to Kill. First single from MHMS is “Treat Her Like A Lady” featuring Suave. We're going to shoot a video for that one in the next couple weeks, it going to be fun.
SH: To say things will continue to push & progress for Lyrikill would be an understatement. Since we're talking kicks, what would be your top 5 purchases & how does kick copping influence what you write about & your everyday life?
L: Top 5 purchases this year...2000 Infrared Jordan 6's...Laney Jordan 5s...Copper Foamposites...25th Anniversary Jordan 1s...Bo Jackson Trainer 91s Retro (OG Colorway). That’s 5 I already have. 5 that I will get: Eggplant Foams, White Cement Jordan 3s, Cool Grey Jordan 11s, OG Jordan 2s, and a random pair of dope SB highs that I haven’t seen yet. The shoe thing is just me, so many people are doing it for the fad, and that’s cool but I 'm always searching for that "first day of school wearing new kicks feeling" and I get it whenever I rock a fresh pair, so that’s just my life that comes out in my music. I had Converse Weapons in first grade. Who was thinking about shoes in '86 at 5 years old? Me, thats who. OG Black Jordan IV's in 3rd grade.
SH: Ha. I can still remember coming to class in 7th Grade with those navy & white Grant Hill Fila's w/the strap. Good times...
L: The homie Skipp Coon said this rap game is just high school, we get fresh & spit raps to impress our friends.
SH: It's definitely a part of the equation, bigger to some than others, but I can relate to that statement. On to upcoming appearances…being Uniquity's next featured artist, how do you feel your music and rap prowess relates to a live band performance?
L: It’s a chance to vibe with different energy during a performance...my DJ, DJ Tony Skratchere, makes me take my performance to different level with his turntablism, so it'll be a chance to vibe with multiple people and present that energy to the crowd...it’s truly great for all parties involved and I have really enjoyed the twist that the band has provided for so many talented artists. I am really looking forward to it.
SH: Fo sho though, I'm excited as well to observe what Fo On The Flo [band] does with Prospek's production & your rhymes. In closing, how can the peeps stay in contact with Lyrikill?
L: Find me at www.thesoundclash.com, on fb, twitter, myspace, all under Lyrikill, and you can definitely find me in New Orleans at all the hip-hop events...I'm at Grassroots at Dragon’s Den every first Saturday of the month, Howlin Wolf, Soundclash every second Saturday of the month, our shows at SXSW, and of course, the upcoming Uniquity show.
Catch Lyrikill performing at this month’s Uniquity showcase:
Saturday, March 27th, 10 p.m., $5
Vaso, (former Hookah Cafe location) 500 Frenchmen Street
www.tinyurl.com/UNIQUITY32710 (Facebook RSVP)