Impulss: My name is Impulss. Born and raised in Michoud. Been MCing for a very long time and chances are your favorite MC has given me dap for how I do my thing at least once.
SH: Indeed, one of the things I've always appreciated about you is the fact that you often infuse various New Orleans references within your lyrics. In essence, what does New Orleans mean to you?
I: New Orleans is the epicenter of everything that has made America cool and interesting. It is the original U.S. bohemia. Beyond music, just the ambiance of the city is what led writers to come here and get creative. Painters, musicians. New Orleans has always been the place creative people come to get their chops up. Not for competition's sake, but rather for the sake of expression which only leads to greater creativity and soul fulfillment. So many people that live here don't understand the freedom of self that one can let loose here without judgment. A place like New York, with all respect, you can let yourself loose because no one is going to see you due to overcrowding - no one has time to look at you. But in N.O.LA. you will get seen and judgment will not come to pass. That's why this is the only place you can have a celebrated gay rapper scene with straight fans. Try doing that anywhere else. Won't happen.
SH: Very true and a helluva point. Mos Def said something to a similar extent about our city when he said, "what would America even be without Louisiana?”
I: They'd be still whistling Yankee Doodle Dandy out their asses. Think about it. Rock ‘n’ Roll. That was the soundtrack to how many revolutions of thought across the world? How many times did it morph? They weren't doing anti-Vietnam demonstrations to Bluegrass. Feminism didn't have a voice in classical music. That all came as Rock and Roll, a New Orleans musical form…took hold of the nation and everyone else took it and ran with it.
SH: In a recent interview I did with artist, Lyrikill (http://bit.ly/bRv27h), he stated similar sentiments about the South. Most importantly, New Orleans not getting credit for our various influences on present pop culture & the music heard today. What are your thoughts on this "shake and bake" tactic?
Impulss: I think we get lumped into the whole South. When I first got to Atlanta, I met Lil' Jon and he was a DJ at this club called The Phoenix. We got along with each other and he always played DJ Jimi and T Tucker in his sets. The South has a lot of hot artists right now and at the forefront of that is Atlanta, but anyone with any attention out there knows they were heavily influenced by Bounce. Jon did with Bounce what The Rolling Stones did with Rock and Roll. But we get lumped in, even though I can show a million differences between our culture and the South. I think Jay Electronica said out loud what everyone with an open eye down here said amongst ourselves about jacking our slang and the rest. I think it's all coming to light. People have been taking from New Orleans since the Louisiana Purchase. It's nothing new. But I don't think it's necessarily a terrible thing.
Understand that New Orleans culture has permeated every segment of society for over 200 years. Not only our bohemia, but our business, what comes through our port, department stores, the first movie theater, we have a lot that started here and moved on
SH: As they say, the light will find its way to the surface all in good time. I think light is slowly but surely being shown more prominently on the city we all know and love.
I: Light's been on us. Go to Japan and ask them to name 3 U.S. cities. They'll say New York, Los Angeles (maybe) and New Orleans.
SH: Let's switch gears and focus that microscope on what many are seeing as a Hip-Hop renaissance in New Orleans. Your thoughts?
I: I got a lot to say about that. I don't think Hip Hop ever left New Orleans. Think back to before there was Bounce. You had Tim Smooth, Bustdown, Gregory D...there were lyricists. Battles. Cyphers everywhere you went. People beatboxin' in The Plaza bathroom because the acoustics were crazy and all the cold rappers knew each other. People used Bounce when it came out as a springboard to get out there but as soon as they had the opportunity to rhyme they did it. At some point I think the focus got lost. But when you would talk to those cats one wouldn't necessarily consider within their pre-set tunnel vision of what Hip Hop is supposed to be, that cat would start naming names like Kool G Rap, Big Daddy Kane, etc, as their influences. Then you had a whole new generation that's around K. Gates' age that grew up on a new wave of lyricists like Biggie that had them trying to spit because a new bar was set. They got radio play down here. No one that was lyrical could get on the radio and influence minds here. Plus there was no internet for them to get new music like recently!! What happened to us is the same reason why in Japan, with all their wonderful culture, they try to do things like Americans. I also think Katrina changed our patterns. People were displaced, a lot of young dudes were 16-17 in '05 and now are 21, 22. While they were in ATL, Chicago, wherever, they got influenced. And when they got back home they started to look for the Scene. Then they saw a Soundclash flyer. Done.
SH: I guess a better word to use would be “reinvigorated” more than a “renaissance,” so to speak. For those still looking to pursue a career as Hip-Hop emcee or just starting out, what advice would you give them?
I: As a career, I would advise them to read some books on guerilla marketing. And don't ever think someone is going to put you on. You are not going to make it in the music industry without a healthy appetite for rugged individualism. And don't be scared to spend a few dollars. Never follow what is the perceived path to success. When you see one guy successful with what he does, he did it. He has all the money that style will allow being earned. Why would they listen to you when they can listen to Jay-Z? They will listen if you have something else to offer. Prosperity equals drive + talent. You can have all the talent in the world, but without the drive you will only get so far. Conversely, you can have all the drive in the universe but without talent you'll hit a ceiling. Now when you have both, you get a megastar. You have people with extra drive that makes up for a lack of some talent, and that will carry them, but eventually they will hit a wall and can't go further. Be aware of who your market is. Know your audience. Don't try to be everything to everybody. Narrow your focus. What does your customer like? What do they talk like? What do they drive? DO they drive? What is their worldview? You can do all of these things well and remain true to yourself as an artist. Then work 20 hours a day.
SH: All very pertinent parts of the game. As always, being an artist/emcee/rapper/performer is about putting out a quality product. Take us through your discography over the past couple of years and how each was crafted.
Impulss: I started releasing material in '04 with The Lagniappe Mixtape. Just stuff that fell on the cutting room floor while recording Impulss' Beats and Lagniappe Social and Pleasure Club, my first LP, which came out in '06. They were both the accumulation of material done between '02 and '06, in N.Y. and N.O. I had features like Bionik Brown, Mr Khaliyl from the Bush Babies, Akon, N.O.R.E. I was really into how De La, Black Sheep and the like would have really funny, inventive skits in their music so that influenced me. And I like the idea Kevin Smith, the director, had about having recurring characters in his films that all told a story. They all were interwoven with each other. So I had Pookie Ray, Charmaine Juicy Juice, Charles St. Charles, etc. After that I had some time for reflection and decided I would grow up a bit. A lot of subject matter changed. Category Shybe came out in '09 and was fun, but not as wild as the former records. Then The Lagniappe Pt 2 - The Pressure Principle mixtape came out 4 months later. And I put out an instrumental CD called Music Inspired By Timecode:NOLA, which is a TV show I did the music for on Cox 4 which is dedicated to the independent film industry down here. Now Marie Laveaux's Hustle is arriving and I have two more in the chamber, like this LP with Bazooka Joe, Bronx, New Orleans: Respect Where It Started...
SH: The proof is in the pudding. The listeners will definitely find a wealth of N.O. knowledge, some comedy, plenty of creativity when it comes to subject matter and variety. That answer brings up two things I wanna touch base on...the first being Pookie Ray (as one of my more popular aliases is Pookey Malibu). How did this specific character come about?
I: Pookie Ray is a real dude. The name, at least. When I was in ATL, there was this dude from New Orleans, Demaris, who did funny exaggerated NOLA accents. I started to do them with him, too. I'd pull it out of my pocket from time to time. When I was doing The Lagniappe Mixtape, I started clowning on the mic alone in the lab one day and I brought Pookie's name up and that voice together in a skit that clowned on that which people did, but was unacceptable to young Pookie. It went over really well so I made him a recurring character. Now I do Pookie on every record I do. I ran into the real Pookie in Slidell one day in McDonald's. I was like wow...he has no idea I used his name and gave it a very small cult following. I'm waiting for him to hear it one day on his own and be like bruh...
SH: Right, Pookie usually steals the show (at least the skits) on your projects. The second person I would like to touch on is someone who I'm sure will be spoken about for many, many years to come when any of us converse about New Orleans Hip-Hop: Bionik Brown.What has his friendship and presence in the underground scene of the Mardi Gras Mecca meant to you personally?
I: Nate was/is an exceptional lyricist and person. His charm and aura filled any spot he was at. When you went to PoZazz or any other place you, for some reason, always knew if Nate was there or not. And he was an in-and-out kind of guy. He'd get on stage, do his thing and you'd turn around and he'd be gone like freakin' Batman. His friendship personally meant a lot because a lot of people weren't his friend. He'd do music with people, go to poetry spots, roommate, whatever and still keep a distance. So when he expressed what we were really friends I think I allowed myself to be influenced by how he did his thing more and there was mutual respect. He always came to me for beats and would lift my confidence as an artist. Most people don't know I made at least half of the beats for Platinum Thoughts Aluminum Budget. I knew him for a long time. Even my mother liked him, and my mom doesn't like hardly any of my friends. So that says a lot. Bionik Brown laid a lot of the foundation of what Hip Hop scene all of you enjoy today. I'm waiting for a wall-sized mural to be erected in his honor. Or just take that statue down in Lee Circle and throw up a Bionik Brown Statue. Through everything he did with music or otherwise, Nate wanted to help you be the better you that you could become. He wanted to better the city by being a better example. He wanted us all to be better examples for society and he'd do what he could to help you with that. His overall movement was for the advancement of society.
Look for part two of my interview with Impulss, where we touch further upon his music, family and more later on this week. Impulss will be performing along with Black Sheep's residential dj, Bazooka Joe and live band, Fo On The Flo this Saturday at the May edition of Uniquity at Dragon’s Den. 10pm. $5.