Like the 5 foot assassin Small Pro, I first heard of Has-Lo sometime in ’07. He was getting love on in the cut blogs like Souled On Music (shouts to Scholar!) as some kind of somber poet slash MPC terrorist. And he was from Philadelphia no less. His stock photo was taken on a Broad Street train platform I have frequented many many times. I don’t like it when talented emcees in my town are popping up on blogs that I read for enjoyment and I’ve yet to meet them in person. I had to find this guy. And kill him.
But first…I had to listen to his music. What intrigued me about his releases, from Fuck Has Day to the remix project You Can Live Through Anything if Magic Made It, was that he was really calm and clear on the mic like Masta Killa circa “Duel of the Iron Mic”. The production was very moody and cohesive–even the songs I didn’t like fit a specific need in the overall sequencing. Songs like “The Quiet Things” and “The Commentary” sounded like staples on late 90’s college radio or singles from Def Jux’s glory days when you could be introspective without whining and rhythmically inclined with substance in the chamber.
I picked Has to jump on “No Resolution 2” and join the Shadowboxer tribe because he’s someone who actually takes longer to write a rhyme than me. That’s a bad thing in this era of I Don’t Write My Rhymes On Paper, but a great skill when it comes to making actual records that are built to last. You’ll see in the answers below why guys like he and I struggle to jot down quick sixteen’s. His verse on “No Resolution 2” is about a college kid studying up on the Anarchist Cookbook, then going Tyler Durden on campus. I don’t know how many guys in Philly would bring that to the huddle.
That’s why I like working with Has-Lo in the lab and quoting idosyncratic/hilarious/godbody lyrics from Raekwon and Roc Marciano with shallah: the kid is like the perfect sneaker, dipped with Egyptian musk hanging from Columbian choppers folding gwap lighting two Dutches up.
It’s time for Has-Lo to learn you something.
1. At what point did you realize music was what you wanted to do?
I don’t remember it being a conscious decision. Me listening and becoming music blended into creating and wanting to affect WITH music. It was a very gradual course…or I could just say i was 10 lol. Whichever works for you.
2. How has Philly shaped your sound or molded you as a MC/producer?
Philly hasn’t shaped my MCing. Production-wise I think it has given me the rough edges that a metropolis does. I think there can be beautiful, stoic moments in the cloudiest days and the most unsavory sections. Philly is gray and metallic and working class. A city of industry for us blue collar rhyme writers.
3. Who are the people you look up to and learn the most from?
I look up to out of the box thinkers. I admire a person that’s able to step far enough outside of their opinions and convictions to see that other beliefs, opinions, ideals, etc. are not wrong…just different…and different is not taboo…just interesting.
4. With everything you’ve learned thus far, what do you wish you could have told yourself at the beginning? Would you have done anything differently?
I wish I could have listened to my mother’s advice about school. I wish i could have prepared myself for how something that is meant to be artful and creative is often deceitful and destroys relationships to feed the appetite of the dreamer, whoever he/she is. I wish I would have known that 85% of music related people in any capacity are 85’ers and they won’t believe your vision because it wasn’t their brilliant idea. That way, it wouldn’t have hurt so much to find out that this industry is NOT about talent…it’s about who you know.
honestly…i wish i wouldn’t have allowed myself to fall in love with it.
5. What’s hard for you? What do you struggle at?
I struggle with focusing my ideas at times. There is such a fine line between polarizing and preaching, killing a beat and killing your brain cells. What does your music stand for? How do you avoid rehashing that for the 1 millionth time? Does having writer’s block mean you’re out of rhymes and have nothing left to say? When is it time to throw in the towel and move on? I have trouble with hooks too sometimes lol.
6. Here’s a scenario: tomorrow you become the CEO of a major label. What are the first 3 things you would do as the boss?
1. Fire the staff and hire forward thinkers and calculated risk takers
2. Fire the artists and hire forward thinkers and calculated risk takers
3. Bring Raekwon on board to give me daily Rae-isms to keep me motivated and glistenin’ wit my fly cubanos on.
7. What are some of your favorite albums?
Roc Marciano – Marcberg
Strong Arm Steady – In Search Of Stoney Jackson
I’m late but I’ve been listening to that Elzhi – Leftovers tape lately. Other than that it’s been older stuff (Beck, Elliott Smith, Kanye, Ghostface, etc.) and working on my album.
8. What is inspiring your work right now?
Nothing. I’m working because of a fragmented dream. It’s habitual at this point. Will it change? nooooobody knooooows. *shrug*
9. What advice would you offer to someone getting in the business at
BE YOURSELF AT ALL TIMES. Believe it. ALL your favorite rich artists say that that’s the best approach to making art…why don’t you believe them? Also, don’t believe these rappers that tell you the internet is the solution to all your problems. Getting out there is HARD. Sure, it’s harder for some than others but the difference between me and you and your favorite rapper is that they usually were know BEFORE the internet boom. Of course it’s easy for them, THEY’RE KNOWN! lol. A muhfuckah that’s never had a dayjob because they’ve been rapping all their adult life professionally can’t tell you shit about how YOU should handle what you’re dealing with. He wakes up to perform, you wake up and watch his performance on youtube while you’re punching the clock. Take what you need from them but learn how to discard the crap that doesn’t relate to you.
Secondly, don’t be afraid. People are going to try to jerk you, gas you for whatever little connects you have, rip you off for money…anything you can think of. It’s a crab in a barrel mentality. You can’t live in fear of what could happen to you though. Does the fact that you could get hit by a stray bullet keep you from leaving the house? Does fear of flying or driving accident prevent you from traveling? NO! of course not (unless you have a phobia of those things…but you know what I mean!). So yea…see you in your travels. Be just and respectful, don’t take yourself so seriously and find a way to keep it FUN.
It’s nice 2 be important but it’s even more important to be nice…on the mic and in life. Uno.
10. Any words to live by?
Write. Feel. Live.
Has-Lo “The Quiet Things”