Name: Ron, aka "Ronald Grant"
Web Site: http://muzikrevyze.com
Bio: Ron Grant is a freelance writer originally from Detroit and currently residing in Orlando. He is a senior contributor to BrooklynBodega.com and runs two independent music blogs. Follow him on Twitter @RonGreezy."
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The financial woes of celebrities and some of our favorite music artists being splashed across popular print publications, music websites and blogs is nothing new or groundbreaking. As a society, we get somewhat of a sick kick out of seeing these difficulties played out in the court of public opinion, as well as in the real courts. But there’s something especially stinging and cautionary about seeing one of the greatest voices of a generation in Lauryn Hill try to grapple with the reality of staring down potential financial ruin.
There was a time when Ms. Hill seemingly could do no wrong when it came to crafting timeless Hip Hop and R&B music. To a generation of music fans in the 1990s that experienced a vast collage of styles and genres in black music, from thugged-out East Coast Hip Hop to Teddy Riley-esque New Jack Swing, from coffee house Neo Soul to raunchy, sexualized R&B, Lauryn was a steadfast constant, but was always a surprise. She helped to helm some of the music of the era that is most recognizable and most loved and respected.
From songs with a Pan-African, Caribbean twist and influence that introduced us to musical heroes of the past (“Fu-Gee-La”, “Turn Your Lights Down Low”) to those that made us believe wholeheartedly that we could upset the system and change the world (“Everything is Everything”), to R&B concoctions that gave inadvertent relationship advice that young women would listen to for hours on end in their college dorm rooms (“The Sweetest Thing”, “Ex-Factor”, “Killing Me Softly”), our Lauryn was untouchable. She was a super woman with a mic, a voice and a flow that could move mountains with a simple inflection and transition in her tone.
But eventually, it seems that what happens to all of us eventually happened to Lauryn too: life. Between the peak of her musical success with The Mis-education of Lauryn Hill and the release of her MTV Unplugged album, Lauryn seemed to suffer a pretty public yet carefully concealed breakdown. And between birthing six children, a relationship with Reggae royalty Rohan Marley that was long rumored to be abusive on many levels, the back-and-forth, on again off again drama between herself, Wyclef and Pras, several failed attempts at a Fugees reunion, continuous erratic and disturbing behavior in her few and far between public performance, and even fans learning of her long time affair with Wyclef, the years would go by and Lauryn would become more of a mere mortal with each passing day.
But as of late, Lauryn’s biggest challenge has seemed to come in the form of Uncle Sam knocking incessantly at her door and coming to collect. Earlier this week, it was reported from several news outlets that Hill just narrowly avoided potential jail time on charges of tax evasion. In 2012, Hill pleaded guilty to not paying federal taxes on $1.8 million earned in 2005, 2006 and 2007. At that time, her attorney said she would pay restitution at the time of her sentencing. It was revealed Monday in court that Hill has paid $50,000 of a total of $554,000.
Hill was originally scheduled to be sentenced on April 22 after pleading guilty, but has been given two weeks by U.S. Magistrate Judge Madeline Cox Arleo in order to make restitution, with the new date of sentencing set for May 3. Hill has claimed that her reasoning for not paying said federal taxes is from having to go into solitude due to threats made against her family, to protect her children and, from a statement made by the entertainer on her Tumblr page, to avoid “being manipulated and controlled by a media protected military industrial complex with a completely different agenda.”
At this point, Lauryn Hill’s story is equal parts history lesson, cautionary tale and cliffhanger/mysterious thriller. But the most important thing that we should take away from Hill’s example may very well be financial literacy case study. The truth is that we don’t know why Lauryn Hill avoided paying her taxes, and it’s truly not any of our business. If she had to go underground to protect her children, then that’s what she had to do. Or, if she’s just a former music star that didn’t feel the need to give the government, it’s supposed slice of the pie, that’s her prerogative, as well. But too many times we’ve seen artists and musicians with just as much talent as Hill that have had to go through a similar set of circumstances and have had to pay the price, no pun intended.
To some, this might just be a case of an irresponsible artist getting her just due. And to others, this is probably pretty painful and saddening to watch, knowing that Hill was such a musical beacon of light for so many of us at one point. But regardless of who you are, where you come from or what your opinion is on this situation, Lauryn’s example should give you these takeaways: handle your business, have your house in order and know where your affairs stand. Otherwise, you really could be singing the blues…and I don’t mean on stage in front of a capacity crowd.
In 1973, a lot had changed, and was changing, and pretty rapidly. Not that I can claim to have been alive for what many consider that last of the hippie years and the unofficial beginning of the “Me” decade. As a staunch music nerd with a voracious and unquenchable thirst for knowledge in the area of all things music, I’ve heard stories, read books, watched movies, listened to and collected tons of albums, watched YouTube videos, you name it, all in the name of learning about the cultural and societal impact of music during out times. And April 13 will mark the 40th anniversary of one of those moments. Arguably, one of the most important musical moments of that year, of the 1970s and in modern music as it’s known today.
These days, music fans worldwide celebrate Bob Marley as an unquestioned music icon that popularized a genre of music that, at the time, was considered everything from progressively revolutionary to incomprehensible and downright strange in Reggae. But in 1973, as the story goes The Wailers were yet another struggling band from Jamaica that had toured Great Britain with American pop star Johnny Nash and were trying to find money to make it back home. By a stroke of luck, a promoter that had seen The Wailers perform contacted Island Records owner Chris Blackwell, who would eventually finance the album’s creation and promotion.
Catch A Fire was not the official debut album of Bob Marley and The Wailers, or more properly at that time, The Wailers. It was actually their fifth album. But it was the first to be released on a major label by Blackwell, and considered by many to be the album that introduced them to music fans in the Western world, especially the U.K. It’s simultaneously no secret and part of music folklore that Chris Blackwell knew that he wouldn’t be able to sell Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer and their band to the expanding African American music-buying public simply because they were black, so he decided to market them as a progressive black rock group to the counterculture, Rolling Stone magazine crowd. And with songs gurgling with a rebellious outlaw swagger, searing and militant melodies and lyricism, a heavy Biblical undercurrent and the reproduction of previously recorded hits in Jamaica made to fit the tastes of American and British ears, Catch A Fire was their first official attempt.
And many of the qualities and elements that would make Bob Marley an international superstar years later and crystal clear throughout Catch A Fire: the raspy, rhythmic desperation in his voice on “Concrete Jungle”; the pounding, fat-bottom bass and Marley’s world-weary combativeness on “Slave Driver”; his overtly raunchy, innuendo-fueled singing on “Kinky Reggae”; his delicate plaintiveness on the slow groove of “Stir It Up”; and his stalwart references to the book of Revelations on “Midnight Ravers”. All of these characteristics and many others would go on to define Marley and his musical mission on later albums like Natty Dread, Rastaman Vibration, Exodus, Survival and Uprising, and put him on the same level as Jimi Hendrix as a posthumous musical and cultural icon.
And beyond just the obvious, Catch A Fire was the album that would set the stage for the solo careers of Marley, Tosh and Wailer, as they would record only one more album together and eventually break apart. Both Tosh and Wailer would go on to have legendary careers of their own, but with the band eventually being rebilled as Bob Marley and The Wailers and Chris Blackwell’s confidence and belief in progressive black music, Marley’s star would burn the brightest, collaborating and touring with the likes of Stevie Wonder and having his music covered by rock & roll royalty Eric Clapton. Further, Bob Marley’s music would go on to influence widely diverse generations of artists like U2, Sinead O’Connor, The Fugees, Wyclef, Lauryn Hill, Snoop Dogg, Movado, Rihanna and Bruno Mars.
Truthfully, it’s harder than we think to imagine popular music without the influence of Bob Marley and The Wailers. And it’s even harder to imagine what Bob Marley would have been if he and The Wailers had not created Catch A Fire 40 years ago. The Wailers were certainly not the architects or creators of Reggae, nor was this album the first Reggae album. But in many ways, Catch A Fire is without a doubt one of the most important and indispensible albums in the history of music.
When many of us think of Hip Hop, the first thing that comes to mind isn’t usually Tyler Perry. After all, Perry has made a distinct and powerful name for himself in the movie and entertainment industry for making movies that, at times, seem to be the antithesis to Hip Hop culture. From his famous “Madea” series to his latest project, Temptation, Perry’s films undoubtedly chronicle the black experience, at least in their own way. But rarely do we get exposed a Perry outing that celebrates or even touches on Hip Hop.
It looks like that’s about to change, and soon. On the heels of his success with his latest Hollywood blockbuster in Temptation, Perry has announced that he is teaming up with The History Channel to create several mini-series’ that chronicle the African American experience. It is reported that executives at The History Channel were thoroughly impressed with how Perry breathed new life into the 1975 stage play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide: When the Rainbow is Enuf with 2010’s For Colored Girls.
And now it has been confirmed by several sources that the first collaboration between Perry and The History Channel will be an epic mini-series on the birth of Hip Hop. Many of you out there are probably scratching your head vigorously and letting out a collective and congestive, “HUH???” And trust me: I did too the first time I read the story. Tyler Perry…doing a mini-series…on Hip Hop? That’s one hell of a curve ball if I’ve ever heard one.
But ponder this for a moment, if you will: in 2000, filmmaker Ken Burns put together a sweeping and exhaustive mini-series/documentary chronicling the history of jazz music, simply titled Jazz. For both Burns and for PBS, the mini-series was an amazing success. It was played on the station several times and is still available for sale today the shopPBS.com website. This was mainly because Burns created a mini-series/documentary that appealed to the generation that grew up with jazz music and remembered many of the stories, legends and artists that were highlighted. The film also appealed to music fanatics and cultural historians, and held a certain air of historical significance and import.
I suspect that Perry would be served well by following a similar pattern. True, Tyler Perry is no Ken Burns, and vice versa. He’s managed to carve out his own niche when it comes to making films. But we are talking about what is arguably the most important musical and cultural movement of the 20th century, and it deserves to be treated as such.
Tyler Perry is a talented, formidable and successful filmmaker in his own right, and I’m sure that he already has an artistic vision in place to give us the history of the humble beginnings of Hip Hop. And this project has the potential to be his Jazz…if done the right way. As always in these situations, we’ll just have to take the wait and see approach. Personally, as a music fanatic and aspiring historian, I’m keeping an open mind to see what the TV gods will bring from this one.
Recently, SoSoactive.com caught up with Christian emcee Bizzle, who gained much in the way of notoriety and YouTube hits for his song and viral video “Beware”, where he flips the track “No Church In The Wild” by Jay-Z and Kanye West. With his latest project Martyrs In the Making available now online, Bizzle did not mince any words in his interview with us, touching on his background, his genre of music, the recent Grammy win by fellow alternative rapper Lecrae, how he sees the industry, and what he plans to do to shed light in the dark that he sees Hip Hop as constantly casting.
Your popularity is steadily growing, but what do you want potential fans and people that may not be familiar to know about Bizzle as an artist?
I’m a believer first, but I also share some of the same struggles and I come from the same background. I’m just doing my best to talk about the same struggle but from a different, Christ-like perspective. I’m going to rap about my flaws and my triumphs, but at the end of the day I’m going to do my best to keep it 100% authentic.
You grew up in the Los Angeles area but now live in Houston, TX. Have both the West Coast and the South had a big impact on your music?
Coming up I was influenced by East Coast music. But I think all three have influenced me. I naturally have a West Coast demeanor because I’m from there. But moving down to Houston made me more versatile. If I get on a down south record, I don’t sound like a West Coast guy trying to do a down south record. Coming out here made for a lot of versatility.
Who are some of the artists that have influenced your music?
The music that I do now? No. My influences growing up for the most part were the ‘Pacs, the B.I.G.’s and the Jay’s, and once I got saved, I just started doing if or Christ and never really put another rapper back on that pedestal that I had back in the day. I try to just be me, but because I am a Christian, because I am trying to do me, I’m going to spit Christ-like material because it’s what’s in my heart. On this side, my influence is Christ, really (laughs).
Can you talk more about your latest project, Martyrs In The Making, and how it compares to your past music?
Martyrs In The Making is a mixtape that me and my artist Bumps INF put out. It’s really about being anti- the game, or what the game represents, all the negativity and all the lies. It’s about being able to take a look into the music industry from the other side and getting to know how much of it is a façade, how much of it is fake, and how much of it is compromised. Finding out about how many people rap lyrics that they don’t really believe just to get a check. Some don’t care and hate what they do and still do it. It’s really just trying to shed light in a game that I feel is so dark right now. We look at it as being “not so bad” because of just how bad it’s gotten.
You also have your own label, God Over Money. Can you talk about some of the goals you have for the label in terms of supporting artists and releasing new music?
As a label, I want to put out good music that can not only compete but also dominate the music that’s out there today. I call my genre truth music, and we speak about the streets and lots of the same stuff, but from a Christian standpoint. If I’m talking about chicks or about being in the club, I’m talking about the struggle of being around all these chicks or how hard it is to try to stop smoking.
I just want to present an antidote to the poison that’s out there and give other artists the chance to get their stuff picked up. The goal is for them to eventually operate on their own. I try to set it up where they get 100% of the money from their physical copies. I want it to be a label that won’t sell out because lots of people start out with a righteous intent, but as soon as the checks come, they not only fold but also convince themselves that it’s ok. I tell all my artists that right now I don’t have a lot of light shining on me, but once more light starts shining and the message gets out there, hopefully we’ll all be good.
Your song “Beware, Pt. 1” has gotten a big response and lots of views on YouTube. Overall, do you believe there has been a positive response to the song and its message?
Yeah. I’ve been getting a lot of positive responses to the record. As long as the truth is on my side, I don’t feel that anything can stand against the truth. Not for long, anyway. So it’s definitely been getting a good response. You get your haters that are Jay-Z and Kanye fans, but most people, even if they are fans, if they can separate themselves and look at what I’m presenting, they can’t call what I’m saying a lie. Everybody won’t agree but I’m at peace with whatever comes from it.
What are your thoughts on an artist like Lecrae winning a Grammy for his album Gravity?
For one, I feel he should’ve gotten a rap category Grammy. When you look at the people that he was in a category with, they’re all singers. Christian rap is the only genre to get separated by the content you speak of and not the style of music. I think that it has the potential to open doors, but that potential is slowed down by the fact that when ‘Crae got the opportunity, he said that he’s not a Christian rapper. Even though people still label him as that on websites and other things, so I think there are some doors still opening, even though that might have hindered it.
What are some of the biggest issues that you see in Hip Hop and in the music industry currently?
I think Hip Hop has been separated from reality. People can say whatever they want, do whatever they want, and feel good about it at the end of the day because they see it as a job. Much of the content is negative. None of it promotes commitment in any area. I think it’s setting up the next generation for failure, and lots of people don’t realize how influential Hip Hop is. It’s definitely helpful for a few, the people that make money off of the records, but it’s at the cost of a whole generation, and I don’t think the trade off is worth it.
Do you feel that Hip Hop can get back to a place where it is uplifting and more positive?
I pray that it can. I believe that it can. It just seems like it had to get to the bad before people could start embracing good music. As of lately we haven’t had light to compare the darkness to. It seems like the “good” music talk about drugs and death, but the “bad” music just talks about it more. Up until now there hasn’t really been an alternative. But hopefully people can get an alternative where they can go towards the light rather than darkness. I definitely can’t tell the future. All I can do is play my position.
The annual music festival season usually doesn’t get kicked off until the public has had a substantial dose of news about SXSW, arguably the biggest and (not arguably) the most influential music festival/conference/trade show/street fair in the country. 2013 was no exception, as downtown Austin, Texas and it’s outlying areas served as one huge chef’s stew of as many music artists, genres, events and seminars that one can think of.
This year, I was lucky enough to attend on behalf of this very website to cover some of the main activities. Did lots and lots of networking and talking, business card giving and receiving, demo and mixtape taking, venue hopping, and a whole lot of walking. Met tons of up-and-coming artists from many spots around the map (Texas, Louisiana, Michigan, Georgia, New York, California, and even some places abroad, as expected). Here are just a few of the overall highlights from this years’ SXSW:
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
PANEL DISCUSSIONS50 Years of The Beatles
Black Women in Rock
How Indie Labels Survived the Record Biz Apocalypse
Breaking Barriers: The Climate of Music in Latin America
Raise Your Fists: Music Meets Activism
Music Festivals Powered by Tech Innovation
ARTIST SHOWCASE PERFORMANCES
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Sir Michael Rocks
Gary Clark, Jr.
Trae the Truth
The Kid Daytona
And just for good measure, here are a few observations from a first time attendee that took some very good advice on how to prepare for the madness that can ensue from SXSW, but that can be tamed if you’re prepared:
CARGO SHORTS AND A BAG ARE YOUR BEST FRIEND.No, they’re not all that fashionable, but some excellent advice I took was to take comfort over fashion, and I went ahead and added convenience to that mix. You’re going to get LOTS of free stuff, from CDs to maps and pocket guides to other freebies; so compartmentalized clothing can never hurt.
TALK TO EVERYONE.The truth is, there’s so much going on in Austin for SXSW that you never know who you could be talking to. Be courteous, receptive and open as much as you can muster. True, you’ll be tired, a bit dehydrated and mainly looking for your next music venue, but take the time and make an effort. This is the music and entertainment BUSINESS after all, and realizing a great opportunity could be a just sentence away.
CURIOSITY IS EVERYTHING.Whether your goal is simply to discover new music, find out about the latest tech innovations, do some solid networking, or begin making a name for yourself in the business, it’s vital to be open-minded and flexible. This may sound pretty obvious, but the truth is some folks still don’t get it. Mix it up a bit! There’s Hip Hop, folk music, electronica, indie rock, hard metal, business seminars, panel discussions, poster shows, tech displays and so much more all going on at once. Don’t try to get to everything, but don’t stay sectioned off either.
GET SNACKS.There is plenty of local fare going on all around you, from restaurants to street vendors to food trucks, but you don’t want to spend all your hard earned cash up. So stocking up on little nibblers before you head to Austin isn’t such a bad idea. Nutri-grain bars and almonds work pretty well.
WHATEVER YOU DO…LEARN!
SXSW has become the pinnacle of music festivals, the one after which pretty much all other conferences are trying to model theirs. But more than that, it’s an educational experience. You’ll do a lot of talking and selling of yourself and your skills, but you’ll also have to take the time to shut up, look, listen and observe. That sometimes gets lost, and this is too good an opportunity for that to happen.
Hopefully this small bit of information helps out if you plan to attend in 2014. And if so, it can’t hurt to start planning now. So get to it. I know I am!
The anticipation is building. Artists, media and music fans of all kinds are converging down south. It’s just about that time of year again: we have officially hit music festival season, and it all starts with SXSW 2013 in Austin, TX beginning on March 8.
SXSW, much more than just a music festival in this day and age (with an Interactive, Film and Music component, respectively) is sure to once again see lots of networking, connections made, tons of performances and an amazingly musical time to be had by just about everyone that graces Austin, TX with their presence. In 2012, Hip Hop made it’s presence known in a big way at SXSW in the past with appearances by 50 Cent, A$AP Rocky, Danny Brown, Dead Prez, Eminem, Lil Wayne, Wiz Khalifa and more.
And this year will be no exception. On Friday, March 15th, Mass Appeal magazine has joined forces with Pharrell’s Ice Cream to present an official SXSW showcase like no other: the Mass Appeal Ice Cream Official SXSW Social. Taking place at the Austin Music Hall, the Ice Cream Official SXSW Social will feature some of the most anticipated performers at all of SXSW, including Pusha T, Kendrick Lamar, Roc Marciano, Rockie Fresh, Raekwon, Danny Brown, Alexander Spit, A$AP Ferg, Joey Bada$$, Harry Fraud, Emilio Rojas, BIA, Nylo, and many other surprise guests to be announced.
Sponsored by Ice Cream, Decon Records, Flat Fitty, Monster Energy and Trojan, this is sure to be an event that generations of Hip Hop heads will be able to appreciate and remember for years to come.
To RSVP for the event Click Here.
For over half a century, Billboard has been the standard bearer for what’s considered tops in mainstream and popular music. The Billboard Hot 100 turns 55 years old in 2013 and many a pop music artist have tasted the sweet nectar of having their song sit at the top spot on the chart.
But, as reported over the past few days from NPR to the New York Times, Billboard is taking a step into the future by doing something they probably should have done a long time ago: incorporating YouTube plays into its formula of determining what is the most popular song in the country. Seeming to be perfectly aligned with the new change made by Billboard has been the explosion of the song “Harlem Shake” by DJ Baauer through the uploading of thousands of fan-made videos of people dancing in curious positions to the song. Baauer originally released the song last May as a free track, but Spotify sales of the song have since taken off, even inspiring a new freestyle by Harlem emcee Jim Jones.
As the New York Times story points out, “Harlem Shake” isn’t the first song to benefit so much from the juggernaut that is viral video. From Psy’s “Gangnam Style” to Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” to Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” to pretty much anything from Justin Bieber, the new way forward for artists to be successful on a pop level is to the idea of having videos go viral memorized down to a science.
However, this doesn’t mean that any indie artist doing their own rendition of a popular song and uploads a video to YouTube will automatically shoot to superstardom. There are still parameters in place. In a report on CNN, Billboard Director of Charts Silvio Pietroluongo carefully explains that Billboard will track YouTube clicks, plays from videos that are uploaded by the artists and record companies.
Pietroluongo also says that user-generated videos that incorporate the actual recording will be counted. For example, if someone has a clip that uses the official song, those plays will be counted towards the artists’ plays and clicks, which could potentially make their ranking on Billboard climb.
Initial reports say that Billboard had been considering incorporating YouTube plays and clicks into its formula for the last two years. But truthfully, this is something that Billboard, as a musical institution, should have done a while ago. YouTube’s popularity was solidified a long time ago, and it’s position as a place where people go to discover music and see their favorite artists is undeniable.
But at least Billboard seems to be taking a step in the right direction, both for their own relevance as a company and to get what might be a better measure of what people are watching and listening to.
There are plenty of examples throughout the genres’ history to make an argument for such a phenomenon, arguably ranging from Nas with the follow up to his classic Illmatic with It Was Written in 1996, to Wu-Tang Clan releasing a double album to follow Enter the Wu Tang with Wu-Tang Forever in 1997. In both cases both artists/groups came back with album that, although contained very good Hip Hop music, didn’t quite live up to the lofty standards set by their predecessors, and by some accounts are considered disappointments. Flash forward to 2013 and we may just get a few more examples of whether the sophomore slump talk is valid or void.
This year, we’ll all witness the second efforts by some of Hip Hop’s most notable. J. Cole’s much anticipated follow up album, Born Sinner, missed its original release date of January 28 but is still expected to see the light of day this year. Until then, Cole is holding his fans over with the solidly strong five-song EP Truly Yours. Tyler the Creator is also set to release the follow-up to his first album Goblin with Wolf on April 2. And Detroit’s own Big Sean, after two career-boosting years as part of Kanye’s G.O.O.D. Music camp, is also eyeing a June 2013 release of his second opus, Hall of Fame.
While it’s probably debatable at best as to whether Cole, Tyler and Sean released “classic” first albums, there’s no question that each of their freshman efforts made an impact. Each album had it’s own degree of critical acclaim and commercial success, each album solidified and grew the fan bases of each artist, and each album made these three emcees household names in popular music.
But today’s Hip Hop environment moves at warp speed. And with each passing year comes a new crop of artists looking to not only make their place in the industry, but also potentially steal a spot from somebody that the public has deemed as having fallen off, which doesn’t take much in today’s all-access, instant information world.
Enter the idea of the sophomore slump. If you think about it, the potential for the pendulum to swing in either direction for an artist is as uncertain as it has ever been. Time was, an artist would have the chance to release multiple albums before they had that one that really got them over the hump. Nowadays, however, if you’re a mainstream artist, your first release had good and damn well better be one that makes the dollars roll in AND be respected by major music critics, or you could find yourself without a musical home, and fast.
And the irony of this is that even if an artist does somehow manage to pull of a first album that’s successfully commercially and artistically, the real question is can you do it again? And beyond that, can you do it multiple times?
On top of that, the Hip Hop artist of the new millennium has so much more to think about when creating a solid, respectable body of work that will move hearts and minds to the iTunes store or wherever else to make that purchase: material being leaked to the public early, the increasingly fickle buying habits of music fans, saying the wrong thing to the wrong person and having it spread like wildfire throughout the social media sphere, and so on. Yes, the majority of Hip Hop artists will tell you that they don’t even concern themselves with these thoughts, but how much are you willing to bet that at least half of them are sweating bullets at the growing possibility of flopping?
In the end, we’ll pretty much just have to wait and see if artists like J. Cole, Tyler the Creator, Big Sean and others actually do release worthwhile and successful sophomore albums. As a fan of Hip Hop, I truly hope that each of them does succeed and proves the sophomore slump to be a stone cold myth. One thing is for certain, though: the streets and the numbers will certainly do a lot of talking.
Join MAD LION, BROTHER J FROM X-CLAN, RAS KASS and THE LEGENDARY, KRS ONE for HIP HOP SPEAKS FROM HEAVEN. Taking place on February 16 in Santa Ana, CA at MALONE’S BAR, this event commemorates and honors some of our favorite HIP HOP artists whose impact on music can be felt and heard across the globe. With DJ PREDATOR PRIME on the 1′s and 2s, this will be a concert that any true HIP HOP fan can appreciate. As suggested on the flyer, attendees should wear a tee shirt or bring a photo of a loved one in your life. This will be a celebration concert of music, HIP HOP and life.
Purchase your tickets online via EventBrite: http://hiphopspeaksfromheaven.eventbrite.com/
Since the release of their debut album Let’s Get Free in 2000, Dead Prez has been one of the most critically-acclaimed and constantly evolving Hip Hop duos in the game, developing a powerful cult-like following, performing worldwide and creating some of the most innovative and against-the-grain Hip Hop music for over a decade. SoSoActive recently had the chance to speak with one half of the group, Stic.man, and talk about his solo career, his production company, his upcoming projects, what’s new for 2013 and even his renewed passion for health and fitness with the website RBGFitClub.com.
You’ve been staying very busy lately with Dead Prez’s latest album Information Age, your solo career, staying on tour and even running the Atlanta Marathon. What keeps you motivated to move forward as an artist, entrepreneur and activist, among other things?
What keeps me motivated is that I decide to be motivated. I really feel like it’s a choice that we can live our lives reacting to things that happen to us or we can be proactive and create the kind of lives we want to experience and have.
The Workout really seems to be about more than just music but was a whole experience focusing of health and physical fitness. What was it that made you focus your attention and your music in this direction?
I listened to that inner voice. My life has always been a balance of the street and progressive things. It’s always been me trying to give proper balance. I was at a point where I felt like I was saying the same things over and over and that I had more inside that I wanted to say. I hit a wall and I didn’t know how I was going to continue forward. I just said I’ll go back to what I love doing and let it come, which is my training. I just intensified it with the yoga and the weights, the martial arts, stopped totally drinking four years ago, became a marathoner, and in that process I found a new inspiration for music, which is to communicate that lifestyle and that enthusiasm in a hardcore Hip Hop medium.
You released your second solo album The Workout in 2011. Can we expect a follow up to The Workout any time soon or any new solo material in 2013?
Yeah, this year is what we call at RBGFitClub.com our update season. We’ve got hundreds of thousand of people and millions of views on videos we’ve done for The Workout. We’ve been able to reinvest some of that success to grow the brand and the mission. And this year I’m currently working on The Workout 2. I’m training for a marathon in Ethiopia in October. I’m partnered with some business partners to turn that into a film. And we have an initiative through RBGFitClub.com call the “Million Mile Movement” where we encourage participants to collectively reach 1 million miles [for running]. So we have lots of exciting new things cracking.
What was your experience like training for and actually running the Atlanta Marathon last year?
That was such a great time. My son is into different martial arts and fitness with no choice (laughs). I would go to the gym and be his spar buddy. I’ve always admired the boxer physique and the endurance. My homie Bones that I met at the gym would tell me about his runs and we’d talk about how much running is apart of the fighter’s endurance. I had my martial arts and did sparring, but it wasn’t a dedicated practice.
In 2012, there seemed to be a few Hip Hop artists with major health issues. Do you feel that it’s time for Hip Hop as a whole to place a greater emphasis on healthy living and is that your focus with RBGFitClub.com?
Yes, and not just Hip Hop but humanity. Health is the one common denominator and Hip Hop is a universal language and the dominant voice of the youth in the world today. Until we can celebrate how much water we drink, instead of Ciroc, we got work to do.
A lot of hip hop fans may not know that you’re an award-winning producer and song writer or that you have a production company, Walk Like A Warrior Music. Can you talk more about your company and some of the projects that currently working on?
Yeah. I consider myself a student producer. I was able to work with Erykah Badu on Grammy-nominated Worldwide Underground. I got to co-write three joints with Nas. I’ve done some work on movies like The Fast and the Furious and Project X. But most recently, the thing that I’m really excited to share is that I’ve done an original score for this film directed by Byron Hurt called Soul Food Junkies. Byron started a workout group online and he said that The Workout gave him a good push. He had told me about the film and asked if I wanted to give some of The Workout’s music for it or do something exclusive for the film. I thought about other films that were similar but that there wasn’t one that really addressed a black perspective. He asked if I wanted to score the film and so I got to learn that process. I’m also scoring a film that’s in production called Plant Athletes about people who are athletes that are also vegans.
Are there any artists that you’re currently listening to that give you inspiration to create your own music?
Hell Yeah! My favorite artist right now is Cody ChesnuTT. His latest album, Landing on A Hundred, to me is a classic, on the level of Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On or Curtis Mayfield’s Superfly. The quality of the musicianship, the vocalizing, the writing, the authenticity of it. Cody tapped in. I know him personally and he moved back to my hometown of Tallahassee and unplugged from a lot of stuff. You can feel in permeate through the music. We did a song on there called “Love Is More Than a Wedding Day”. And with me and my wife, and we’re working on a TV series that chronicles our experiences in the health fields. We chose Cody’s song as our theme song for the show. I also became a fan again of Ziggy Marley. Just his commitment to the organic lifestyle, his commitment to Africa and to social causes, I just got back into his catalog. There’s a lot of stuff out there and it’s not about what you listen to but how you listen to it.
If you had the chance to collaborate with or produce for any artist, dead or alive, who would that artist be?
Tupac, Sade, those two right there and I’d be smiling forever. I like M.I.A. a lot. But once again, Cody ChesNuTT and Ziggy Marley. Yeah.
What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in Hip Hop and in music since dead prez released Let’s Get Free in 2000?
The biggest thing I’ve probably witnessed is the digital revolution, how music went from going to the record shop and looking through the CD rack and recording. Even when we can out, our album came out on cassette (laughs). I saw the cassette disappear and everything go to CD. And I saw the CD disappear, or at least is vanishing to the MP3. Now the MP3 is headed out with things like Spotify and Pandora and streaming and it’s affected our approach when we make an album or a mixtape.
Where can fans go to find out the latest information about Stic.man, your music and other upcoming projects?
We’ve got the brand new site that’s launching and “Million Mile Movement” is launching this March. I got The Workout 2 album coming soon. And I’ve centralized my whole web presence to one place where people can find out about our movement work. We’re even building some wells in Malawi, and people can find out about that, our music, our merch and everything we do at one website: RBGFitClub.com.