Let Me Learn You Something: Grand Agent

Pete Rock.  Lord Finesse.  Camp Lo.  Oh No.  Illmind.  Kev Brown.  J Rawls.  DJ Revolution.  Grand Agent has worked with all of them.  The Philly emcee who hosted the first hip hop show I ever attended by myself (ahem, Reflection Eternal and Dilated Peoples at TLA in 2000) realized something very early on during his fair years in the indie hip hop game: the real diehards, the longterm audience, is overseas.

After dropping his debut LP By Design in 2001, an album that introduced his earnest b-boy bravado on the mic and behind the boards, Grand got busy with Pete Rock on the syrupy groove mission “This is What They Meant”, allowing him credibility to a career that would see some radical turns as the last decade wore on.  By 2003, Grand saw the future of indie hip hop — it’s far reaching global appeal.   But rather than just putting out Japan-only vinly releases, Grand packed his bags and left the Illadelph Halflife for Germany, linking up with producers in the land of the Hasselhoff for 2003’s Fish Outta Water LP.  But a steady diet of captive indie hip hop heads, bratwersts, and three finger salutes can’t really compete with the weather, women, and the weed of California, USA.  So, in 2005 Grand linked up with Oh No to put out Under the Circumstances , years before The Disrupt fully moved out of Otis’ shadow.

Now, Grand Agent can lay his head in three separate time zones comfortably.  And he’s using artist driven sites like Bandcamp to boomerang all three fan bases with projects ranging from industry freestyles to classic violinists meet boom bap to maxi-singles with Camp Lo (you can check the full spectrum here) .  Even though his visibility isn’t as dominant due to the death of HipHopSite.com, Sandbox Automatic, et. al Grand hasn’t cried foul to the chasms of Internet Hip Hop 2.0.  He’s met it head on and stayed one step ahead as usual.

Now, it’s time for Grand Agent to learn you something. 

1. At what point did you realize music was what you wanted to do?
1986. Listening to records, the realization came over me.

 2. How has Philly, Germany, and LA shaped your sound or molded you as an MC/producer?
Philly gave me the foundation, what the theme of my career would be about. Germany gave me the global perspective that helped me shape how to present what Philly taught me on a worldwide scale. LA gave me the business perspective of how to make all of that a viable product. As far as a sound, I keep that in flux, my theme is my sound. The music varies from project to project based on who I’m working with.

3. Who are the people you look up to and learn the most from?
My mom is a pretty ill character in terms of a tangible example of how good life can become no matter where you started out, or how far you might fall off or get caught up in the various mixes out here in the world. I probably learn the most from my son.
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 would have just reminded myself more often to be more service oriented with the joints. Gotta lotta joints I don’t really get down with personally no more… but nah I wouldn’t have done anything differently other than what I just said. That would’ve have preempted a lotta life and career issues.

5.  What’s hard for you?  What do you struggle with?
The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. That’s how I sum up the struggle.


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?

a. reduce
b. recycle
c. reuse
7. What are some of your favorite albums?
Sly & The Family Stone Anthology
Main Source Breaking Atoms
Sade Paradise

8. What is inspiring your work right now?
Christ, the ghetto that all of America is, and young people not knowing where this Rap thing came from.

9. What advice would you offer to someone getting in the business at this time?
About-face!

10.  Any words to live by?
Act like what you pray for.

*****

GRAND AGENT PRIMER

Grand Agent & Pete Rock “This is What They Meant”

Grand Agent f/ Planet Asia “It’s Only Right”

Grand Agent & Oh No “Grand Right Now”

Grand Agent “What I Want”

Grand Agent on Twitter

Grand Agent on Facebook

Grand Agent on Bandcamp

Free DL: Grand Agent & DJ Modesty Hustle Till it Hurt

Advertisements

Let Me Learn You Something: Emcee Unless

You don’t often come across fools in Philly that remind you of Dose One, the inveterate brain scrambling emcee/poet/visual artist behind Anticon, cLOUDDEAD, Subtle, 13 & God, and many a Scribble Jam facemelts.  Emcee Unless, first heard on Curly Castro’s “You and Who’s Army?” and first seen as the illustrator behind the cover for Castro & DJ Ambush’s Phatman & Likkle Bwoy, makes me think of Adam Drucker high on Vitamin Water endorphins rather than Canadian shrooms.   Rather than spitting labyrinthian jigsaw puzzles, Unless uses his nasal tone and rubber band flow for more straight ahead leaflets. 

But there’s the rub — Emcee Unless aka Dewey Decibel creates languid collages for his inviting releases and slick artwork for hire under his government name Dewey Saunders.  He’s the first emcee with a Tumblr who can actually recreate the obscure nightmarish flicks that he reblogs.  After getting some local love for his project Dewdrops on a Lotus Leaf, a free release over currated pieces from Flying Lotus, his newest release Preface (outstandingly dystopian lyric book included) and its adjoining album release party tonight at Silk City in Philadelphia featuring Akilles and DJ Apt One aim to cement him beyond the constant enquires to Photoshop some skiznod’s mixtape cover.  Being a renaissance man is laborious, sure; but as you’ll read in the text below, Unless, like a pre-College Dropout Kanye, has smartly surrounded himself with killer talent while plotting his own sneak attack.

It’s time for Emcee Unless to learn you something.

1. At what point did you realize music was what you wanted to do?
Music has always been a part of my life and another medium of my art,
but only until recently have I committed to making a career out of music.
Since I started rapping at 16, hip hop has been a lifestyle for me and I was
never interested in the monetary aspect of being an artist. In the past year;
however, I have been focusing more on creating my persona as Emcee Unless
a product through my artwork with marketing and branding.  It is just the beginning for me, I feel like I have something special that can easily catch on and I have messages that I need to share through rapping. I want to travel the world with music and art. I want to open third eyes.

 2. How has Philadelphia shaped your sound or molded you as a producer, emcee and designer?
Philadelphia has been a great training grounds for music and art, and the people
that I have connected with in Philly have really pushed me to the next level with everything that I do. There are few influential individuals that have pulled things out of me and have shown me how to present my material in a manner so that people understand it. My sound has been shaped by performing with Akilles, rapping with him and his live band live or just jamming out have molded my rapping on the performance side of things. Living with Rick and hearing all of his production for The Roots and Dice Raw and many more kind of brought my sounds to a more professional level. As an emcee Curly Castro has really inspired me with the way he writes rhymes and his delivery in the studio and stage.The city in general is a very inspiring place because there is so much stimuli and energy everywhere  to feed off of and translate these experiences into an art form. Most people kind of tune it out but I love to absorb and the sounds and sights and take the fast paced rhythms of the inner city into my own creations.

3. Who are the people you look up to and learn the most from?
Music wise I really look up to Rick Friedrich and Fabian Akilles Thompson. I lived with them for a few years, making music constantly and always collaborating on projects. Rick recognized my talent for rapping when it was pretty raw and abstract and gave me the positive feedback that I needed to get where I need to go. Now we are putting out records under the moniker The Rubix Qube Exclusive and the new album Preface is coming out next month. Fabian and I worked together on many design and music projects and he taught me how simplify to be more comprehensible to the general populace. I really look up to John Fitzpatrick who is a powerful creative force and he teaches me how to step outside of my own paradigms and not be afraid of  being who I AM. With art and design I look up to my friends Chad Lassin, Justin Waldron, Misaki Kuwai, Zach Gibson, and Matthew Gribben. All of my friends are so talented and I am very fortunate to learn from the best and collaborate with people that I really admire.

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 think everybody wishes they could do things a bit differently, but in the back of my mind I know that everything unfolds perfectly and you have to learn from your mistakes. That is why we are here. I feel like the little me would have been pretty blown away by where I am right now. The only thing I would have done differently is to laugh and love more. That is the key.

5.  What’s hard for you?  What do you struggle with?
I struggle with my own pattern traps. Sometimes I just need to lighten up. I tend to be too serious. I struggle with being a perfectionist and I am very hard on myself. My main pattern trap is to jump into a bunch of work without getting centered beforehand.  I used to be really into yoga and meditation with a whole morning routine and I have kind of gotten out of that pattern. My lifestyle is very positive and peaceful but I would like to work on myself more and develop a stronger peace of mind instead of fleeting moments of zen. I want to perfect myself and inspire people to do the same.

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?
First I would redesign everything to make the aesthetic fresh and relevant, Secondly I would rearrange the artist roster to create a movement and zeitgeist, kind of like Stones Throw or Anticon ten years ago. I would connect the label to a school system arrange to give back to the community and create some sort of workshop or program to inspire kids to be creative with art and music. That is important.

7. What are some of your favorite albums?
Digable Planets, Blowout Comb. The Roots, Illadelph Halflife. Tribe Called Quest, Midnight Marauders. Zion I, Mind over Matter. Eligh, Grey Crow. Thom Yorke, The Eraser. Opio, Vultures Wisdom Vol. 1. Sufjan Stevens, The Age of  Adz. Apostle of Hustle, Folkloric Feel. Pep Love, Ascension.

8. What is inspiring your work right now?
Spring in bloom. The Stars in the Sky. Vintage Life Magazines. Microns on Moleskines. Caffeine. Positive Vibrations.

 9. What advice would you offer to someone getting in the business at this time?
Dont do it! (laughter) My advice to anyone who wants to get in the music business is that it is good to just be a listener. There is that song on Deltron 3030 “In the year 3030 everyone wants to be a MC.” Everyone wants to be an maker but it is also okay to be a music enthusiast and enjoyer of sounds, because that is just as important  as making the music. Listen Hear.

10.  Any words to live by?
Read a book. Walk in the woods. Drink water. Sit in the sunlight.  Dream the world awake. Follow your weird. Forget everything.

 

****

EMCEE UNLESS PRIMER

Emcee Unless “Preface”

Emcee Unless “Exclusive”

Emcee Unless “Dewey Decibel”

Emcee Unless on Bandcamp
Emcee Unless on Twitter
Emcee Unless on Soundcloud
Emcee Unless on Facebook
 

 

 

 

Let Me Learn You Something: Quelle

The way I’ve sold  Danny Brown’s The Hybrid to my friends who were the fence about the nasal, gap-toothed midwestern Young Zee on Adderal is this: Hybrid is the first great Detroit rap record that reps its hometown while sounding nothing like a traditionally great Detroit rap record.   There’s no half baked Dilla knockoffs, no chiseled out GMC-sponsored arena anthems like Recovery, no live drummers or synths from Black Milk, and no guest spots from Guilty Simpson, Elzhi, King Gordy, or a member of D12.  It’s a completely insulated masterpiece from arguably the last American city who takes pride in turning out nothing but great hip hop albums. 

Quelle is a big part of this bizarro Detroit landscape.  His production contributions to The Hybrid, which ended up being my favorite songs, ranged from the filthy Billy Squire-like banger “White Stripes” to the Mr. Roboto marble mouthed funk on “Greatest Rapper Ever”.  When Aaron Matthews interviewed him and Denmark Vassey (the duo together work as Crown Nation) last year for Passion of the Weiss’ breakdown on the making of The Hybrid, I envisioned Quelle as another lunchpail producer: a nerdy homebody who devoured Kraftwerk and Madlib records.  When you make beats that outlast 14KT, Chuck Inglish, and Frank Dukes, you’re assumed to be an avid gearhead who roughly gets about 2 hours of sunglight exposure.  Not the case with Quelle. 

Getting  co-signs from Brown, Blu and  House Shoes solidified his authentic brand of Detroit beat cutlery.  But Quelle raps, sings, draws, and enjoys a nice cup of coffee much more than developing scoliosis from record digging in dingy basements.  He’s put in work behind the boards and on the mic with Denmark Vassey as Crown Nation, went for dolo as an emcee on his debut Blue Monday, and sings through grizzly bear masks as Awesome in Outerspace.  Gully.

What you’ll see in Quelle’s video interview (the first we’ve ever had for this interview series) is his charismatic and nonchalant attitude towards hip hop.  He exudes carefree confidence, a humble likeability you don’t get from newer artists who have made their mark on the internet.  As you’ll see from his casual approach and anti-Linda Richman morning coffee chat, Quelle isn’t constrained to the rigors of putting out 100 new songs a month or making sure he doesn’t “lose his spot” in the ravenous world of online hip hop.  He’d rather make a song when it’s time to make a song, whether it’s behind a mask, over breakfast, or weeded out with the Hybrid.  Being a well-rounded human being > rapping for blogs or making beats to impress other producers.

It’s time for Quelle to learn you something.

QUELLE PRIMER

Danny Brown “Greatest Rapper Ever” prod by Quelle

Danny Brown “Guitar Solo” prod by Quelle

Danny Brown “Re-Up” prod by Quelle


Awesome in Outer Space “Say Goodbye” feat Nick Davio

Quelle “The Loop”

Quelle “Deal With It” feat Denmark Vassey (prod by Quelle)

****

I’d like to give massive praise to Quelle for not only agreeing to do this interview, but to suggest making it a video interview and then filming and editing the video on his own time.  The man is a goddamn rap octopus.

Let Me Learn You Something: 100dbs

Photo by Tiffany Hagler-Geard

It doesn’t take much to deejay anymore.  No longer the lone trade of audiophiles, record geeks, and jamdown masters, deejaying is for savvy laptop holders, iPod owners, and bored celebrities.  Accessibility and technology have enabled anyone with a 16 GB hard drive and moustache to make a name for themselves.  DJ’s still retain a lofty level of cool but the craft is secondary to the wow factor of 4 on the 4 blends by your local coke dealer.

100dbs is a DJ from New York who is missing the stunna shades and sweaty Baltimore Orioles fitted (not that there’s anything wrong with that — long live Billy “Fuckface” Ripken) but is heavy on dusty fingers, crowd control, and seemless blends.  He is the first DJ to be featured for this interview segment and with good reason; whether live shows across the country or mixes covering the genius of Stax, Scratch Perry, Brian Wilson, Aphex Twins, or Sublime, 100dbs has warranted praise from Rolling Stone, Okayplayer, and URB for his needles and know-how.  He’s so deft at every aspect of deejaying that he might take a crack at D List celebreality to even out the playing field for the good guys. 

It’s time for 100dbs to learn you something.

1. At what point did you realize music was what you wanted to do?
I’d say it was in middle school or early high school. I was real into the NJ punk and ska scene in the mid 90s and I learned a lot from the musicians I met. Being able to go see so many talented groups up close for cheap really sealed the deal for me.. I bunkered down in my basement and started learning different instruments while experimenting with simple four track tape recordings.

2. How has NYC shaped your sound or molded you as a DJ/producer?
Call me old school, but to this day my favorite rap records came out of New York. I love me some other shit too, but all the records I consider lifelong classics are pretty much NYC joints. I also think the sheer diversity of the city kept my ears wide open.. there are types of music I never would have gotten into if it weren’t for the densely cultured scenes that exist in a place like New York. I like everything, man. Or at least.. there’s a tune in any style I will love.

3. Who are the people you look up to and learn the most from?
I know a lot of musicians in the area and I learn a thing or two from everybody. I went down to Maryland for school, and when I came back to New York I got in touch with The Slackers again. They ended up asking me to do a few shows with them as a DJ and things grew from there.

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?
Mainly, I think I’d tell myself to stop being such a perfectionist and release more. I made a ton of shit that never surfaced because I was just too slow or too critical. You gotta strike while the iron is hot.

5. What’s hard for you? What do you struggle with?
Like I said, I mostly have trouble letting things go. Sometimes the only thing that gets me to finish things is a strict release date.

Photo by Eddy Price

 

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. Kill all albums with filler. I would tell artists to forget about singles and just make dope EPs if that’s what they got in em. No reason to dilute what’s there to fake the consumer into buying a product.. it doesn’t even work anyway.
2. Encourage collaborations. People don’t wanna give up their share of the cash, but further down the road it’s usually a better investment to diversify.
3. Stop pressing CDs. Anything digital goes straight to download, and the only physical format is wax. It’s cute to see all these people doing limited releases on cassette, but honestly that’s a boutique thing. And CDs are done. MP3s aren’t my favorite thing in the world, but they get the job done and soon enough WAVs won’t be considered such a pain in the ass to download and store, if America ever gets its broadband game tight.

7. What are some of your favorite albums?
This list could go on forever but here are some:
Lee Perry – Blackboard Jungle Dub
Smiley Lewis – I Hear You Knocking
The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds
De La Soul – De La Soul Is Dead
The Slackers – The Question
Aphex Twin – Selected Ambient Works
Lee Hazlewood – Cowboy In Sweden
GZA – Liquid Swords

8. What is inspiring your work right now?
New Orleans soul has been in heavy rotation recently. There’s something about a 1-4-5 or blues progression over old school drum rhythms that is really interesting. No matter how many times you hear that familiar backdrop, everybody does their thing differently and it says a lot about their pedigree and culture. I love that.. it’s the same way I appreciate 100 reggae tunes on the same riddim or rap tracks that all sample the same source. Interpretation is beauty.

The mix I’m releasing on 4/20 is actually a deconstruction of one of the 90s’ most influential groups. Hate em or love em, Sublime took more pieces from different styles than any of their peers. I know they are widely disparaged as a “bro” band, they’re “not real reggae” and it’s not all that cool to like em.. but I’d be lying if I said they didn’t introduce me to tons of music at a young age. And I’m sure many people my age would find it hard to claim differently. I just call em like I see em, and if it’s an inconvenient truth, at least it’s the truth. I can’t deny originality.

9. What advice would you offer to someone getting in the business at this time?
Don’t. If you love it, do it. If you’re in it for the business… let’s just say you better have a good degree or own some real estate already.

10. Any words to live by?
Be yourself and don’t worry about scenes. These things come and go but the art you leave behind is the only thing people (might) remember about you.

Photo by Tiffany Hagler-Geard

***

100dbs Primer
 
100dbs & Ryan O’Neil feat Prince Po “Respect”
 
100dbs “Poppa Large in the US (Aphex Twin Mashup)”

100dbs “What You Know About Richard James (Aphex Twin Mashup)”

100dbs on Twitter

100dbs official site with tons of free mixes

Let Me Learn You Something: Man Mantis

It takes a man in a mantis mask to release a Ninja Tune type of album months after remixing “Black and Yellow” — depending on which one makes a bigger wave, it’s good to keep the identity hidden lest you piss off the Armitron and/or Amon Tobin crowd. 

Man Mantis is from Madison, Wisconsin.  Being a diehard Chicago Bears fan, my default train of thought is to smite anyone within spitting distance of the Packers and Lambeau field.  But when you put in work like Mantis, via live shows with the band Dumate, a soulful EP with emcee J Dante, remixes of Big Boi, and haunted hallway instrumental EPs and LPs dropping every 3-4 months or so, it’s hard to hold a grudge over professional athletics.

Being a fellow artist on World Around Records, I was drawn to Mantis’ stuff first because 1) there was ALOT of it 2) I thought he was paying homage to the mid 90’s Friday night Fox show M.A.N.T.I.S.  and 3) his mask creeps me out.  Intrigue always garners a listen.   

With a new album Cities Without Houses (and very choice Kickstarter campaign behind it) that shows flashes of Sixtoo and Music By Cavelight-era Blockhead, it’s time for Man Mantis to learn you something.

1. At what point did you realize music was what you wanted to do?
My mom had a piano in the house and made me and my brother take lessons for eight years, and when she finally let me quit I realized what a cool thing it was that I had learned how to do.  So I just tried to learn as many instruments as I could,  and sort of wrapped myself up in it.  I don’t think I can remember when making music was something I didn’t want to do.

2. How has Madison, Wisconsin shaped your sound or molded you as a producer, arranger, and songwriter?
When I moved out to Madison to go to school in 2004, the car me and my dad were traveling in was broken into in Omaha, Nebraska and all my records, my turntables, my monitors and most of my clothes were stolen.  So all the music I made in Madison has been made on equipment I got here, sampling records that I bought here, and with people that I met here.  Madison is a very comfortable place to live, and a great place to sharpen your skills.  There’s a lot of really creative people, several really cool venues, and the scene is very supportive, in that when you go to a local show a good part of the crowd is other local musicians.  Its definitely a place where you can experiment and try different things, and folks for the most part encourage that and support that.  There’s not these jaded scenesters trying to drag you down.  If you suck, people will tell you “Hey I’m not feeling it, but don’t give up.”  Instead of “you need to stop, you’re terrible.”  That being said, its not a place you can really make power moves; most truly successful Madison musicians end up leaving for bigger markets.

3. Who are the people you look up to and learn the most from?
I look up to a lot of the musicians I play with here in Madison, particularly my band dumate.  I’m the youngest in the band, and Jah Boogie and Nick Moran, the drummer and bassist, are serious musicians with serious chops.  They’ve dedicated themselves to making music a livelihood without making it a chore.  And the MCs, Dudu Stinks and DLO are like my big brothers, they taught me how the music scene in Madison works.  As for how I learn from, I work with Middle School kids when I’m not making music, and when I see all the bullshit they stress so much over it helps me get perspective on the bullshit I stress so much over.

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 would have told myself to pay much more attention to the marketing side of things when I was younger.  I spent a lot of years just making beats and messing around with different ideas with absolutely no plan on how to get the music out to the world at large and make at least enough money off of it to keep doing it.  And honestly, I might have told myself to be a little less generous.  That sounds weird, but frankly I handed out a lot of free beats and did a lot of free recording sessions before I was able to convince myself that my craft and my time was valuable.

5.  What’s hard for you?  What do you struggle with?
Man, one of the biggest struggles is staying motivated when there’s so much good music being released every day.  I have to shut myself off from music that’s not mine when I’m trying to finish a project sometimes, because if I hear something amazing it makes me want to go and try to make something completely new and off the wall.  Dedicating so much time to being a musician introduces a certain competitive feeling into your consumption of music I guess, which is a little strange and uncomfortable.


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 everyone.
2.) Sell everything.
3.) Invest in World Around Records.

Labels, even major ones, should be run by dedicated, humble, artistic people that call and talk to each other about random bullshit.  There should be no ripping of offs, nobody is kissing of asses, and all artists should be invested in their own success, rather than blowing some advance on drugs and strippers while some business school prick tries to sell them.

7. What are some of your favorite albums?
The Beatles – The White Album
GZA – Liquid Swords
Masta Ace – A Long Hot Summer
Sly and the Family Stone’s Greatest Hits
Black Milk – Tronic
The Roots – Game Theory

And the first Presidents of the United States of America album.

8. What is inspiring your work right now?
Well music is supposedly all about “expressing yourself.”  Which is a huge cliche, and most of the time its taken to mean that your music, or art, should have a “message.”  But the music I’m making now is kind of me talking to myself.  I honestly can’t say, or write or draw or even think, the contents of my mind as well as I can arrange them musically, so its kind of a way to figure out what exactly is going on up there.

9. What advice would you offer to someone getting in the business at this time?
Get all of your most creative, honest, and energetic friends together, read a few books about marketing and copyright law, and make shit happen on your own.  No matter how awesome your music is, people usually won’t care about it unless someone really cool tells them to, so create an artistic experience that tasteful, cool people want to associate themselves with.  Then monetize.

10.  Any words to live by?
Be excellent to each other, and party on, dude.

****

Man Mantis “Red Dragonfly” Video

Man Mantis Live MPC Jam

Wiz Khalifa “Black and Yellow (Man Mantis Remix)”

Man Mantis on Bandcamp

Man Mantis on Twitter

World Around Records site

Let Me Learn You Something: Starkey

I’ve talked extensively about my friendship with Starkey before here, but this segmet of Let Me Learn You Something isn’t a hand-out; Starkey made one of the best beat albums of the year with Ear Drums and Black Holes via Planet Mu.  It’s time to pay homage (MTV UK just did) before his new project Space Traitor Vol. 1 pushes your burrito backwards.

With everyone tossing out his name in their Best of 2010 lists, and with Starkey gearing up for yet another raucous, bass-mashing Seclusiasis party, I figured it’s as good as time as any to let Allentown’s biggest Paul Wall and Busta Rhymes fan and Philly’s preeminent grime/dubstep/street bass assassin learn you something.   And if you’re in Philly tonight, this is the official low end jam down to go ham at with Starkbot, Dell o8o, Dev79, Siyoung, and Copout at Fluid.

1. At what point did you realize music was what you wanted to do?
When I realized I wasn’t going to be good / tall enough for the NBA.  Jokes aside, I was really into music and sports early on, but i wasn’t quite good enough at one sport to really make it a career.  I think it was around 7th grade when I decided to stop playing soccer to have a go at football for my 8th grade year… because I knew that I wasn’t going to play any sports in high school, just focus entirely on music.

2. How has Philly shaped your sound or molded you as a producer, arranger, and songwriter?
It’s a pretty diverse place, so you get to hear a lot of different kinds of music.  I definitely got back into hiphop through living in this city and hearing it all over the place.  Philly’s a rough town to get music going in as well, it seems like there’s not the same kind of support with club-goers and all that, so it really wears on some people.  They get burnt out.  I think it just makes the people who are persistent stronger, and more determined to be successful.
 
3. Who are the people you look up to and learn the most from?
I learn a lot from my wife, Devon.  She’s always telling me that I need to take time to just enjoy the now… because I’m always thinking about the future, planning for the future, always thinking about the next project.  We get caught up in that all the time as musicians / producers.  You only live once, so sometimes you need to just enjoy the things going on right now, and forget about what needs to be done a day from now, a week from now, or where things might be in your career in the next year or two.  That’s really important.
 
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?
No not at all.  I mean, there may be a few regrets in there, things that maybe didn’t turn out the way that you wanted them to, or something didn’t quite appear the way you wanted it to…. but nothing major.  I think you have to make those kinds of mistakes in life to learn from them.  That’s a cliche saying, but it feels true.  I might have picked a different name from Starkey if I’m honest.  I was never good with names, and Starkey just kind of happened by accident.  But now I’m just Starkey, and it is what it is.  I’m fine with it… it’s not some stupid name like Fringe Bicycles or something like that.
 
5.  What’s hard for you?  What do you struggle with?
Getting away from the computer.  haha.  I can’t imagine a day without email or working on music.  There are days I don’t work on production, but I’m always checking email and talking with people online, doing facebook, twitter, etc. I think I need to pull myself away from it more often.  At least that kind of stuff.  I used to be bad with checking out blogs and all, but I’ve gotten things pretty organized so that I’m not wasting time.


 
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?
First I’d probably fire a bunch of people that have no new ideas on how to market and release music.  That’s one of the main reasons why the industry is in such bad shape.  Next I’d probably hire a bunch of really smart web and app developers because that’s the future of how music will be sold, distributed, released, everything.  Imagine a world where an artist’s blog, new music, videos, twitter, demos, live sessions, etc. feed directly to your phone, television, pc.. basically everywhere.  Well that’s where we’re headed.  That’s the future of the music industry.  Lastly, I’d sign all the Seclusiasis and Slit Jockey guys to deals, because they make good music.
 
7. What are some of your favorite albums?
I did a top 10 recently… and this was what I came up with…. The Beatles “White Album” and “Magical Mystery Tour”, Radiohead “Kid A”, Portishead “Roseland NYC Live”, Alpha “The Impossible Thrill”, Beastie Boys “Check Your Head”, Tricky “Maxinquaye”, Aphex Twin “Druqks”, Frank Sinatra “September of My Years”, and Dizzee Rascal “Boy in Da Corner”.
 
8. What is inspiring your work right now?
I’ve been listening to a lot of the old hardcore, metal and indie records I listened to when I was in junior high and high school.  So that’s been interesting.  I’m also really interested in working with vocals and collaborating with various artists.  I’ve developed a writing relationship with Guy Sigsworth, and we’ve penned a handful of tunes that we will most likely be producing for a handful of artists this coming year.  He’s worked with Bjork, Imogen Heap, Madonna, and various other artists over his career, and we both come from really diverse musical backgrounds with a foundation in classical music and theory.  So when we write together, we both kind of speak the same language.  The music we’ve been writing has been diverse, but still sounds like the 2 of us sitting in a room and writing together.

9. What advice would you offer to someone getting in the business at this time?
Don’t be afraid to experiment.  The industry is shook…. there’s so much room for defining your own niche and really pushing in a musical direction that allows you to express yourself.
 
10.  Any words to live by?
haha.  I don’t know man…. um…… It’s all Street Bass to Me.  ha

Let Me Learn You Something: Von Pea

I once asked a buddy to sell me on Tanya Morgan.  He has their whole catalouge.  He’s kicked it with them on Okayplayer.com  He has hung out with them occasionally in person.  And he said, “Ahh….man…it’s like…they’re just…I don’t know!  Like…they’re funny…but its mostly in-jokes…and ummm…you know….they do their thing!”

Von Pea, one third of Tanya Morgan and member of the Lessondary Crew (along with Elucid and Che Grand who have been interviewed here), is building a career off likability and accessibility, sure, but his solo output is quietly creeping up on Daniel Dumile-levels of consistent product for the heads that already be knowin’.  He’s rocking over jamming outtakes from The Roots alongside Donwill on The Sandwich Shop, tackling Lord Quasimoto’s instrumental breaks for The Further Adventures of Von Pea, and crafting the awesomely titled So Motivational: The Most Skullduggery of MixtapesAt that’s only since late 2008 (not counting numerous production credits, cameos, and the release of Tanya Morgan’s Brooklynati).  Unlike rappers who want to forcefeed you hard drives full of free new music every day attesting to their “grind” and their Twitter footprint, Pea crafts fully realized projects before releasing them, whether they be a homage to one of his heroes or a concept album built around the realization that most of us weren’t The Man in high school. 

As one of the guys who has used the internet to his advantage while not oversaturating and annoying fans, Von Pea has released a new solo LP Pea’s Gotta Have It.  Nostalgic but never pandering, warm-hearted without being corny, it’s quietly creeping into the discussion of this year’s best hip hop releases without straying from what makes Tanya Morgan and Lessondary a fixture online and on stage…it’s the uhhh…you know..like..the fact that…they’re dope and what not…but like…it’s more I guess?…I don’t know…just….just…maaaaan, just listen to their joints!

It’s time for Von Pea to learn you something.

1.  At what point did you realize music is what you wanted to do?
1996.  Listening to Beats Rhymes and Life by Tribe Called Quest.  I realized I could make music for real if I had the resources.  I was writing rhymes before that but it was just something to do until that moment.

2.  How has New York shaped your sound or molded you as an MC and producer?
I’m born and raised in NY so its really all that I know. NY is my sound based on how I came up and what I related to. I grew up a fan of music from other regions too but when I didnt know what they were talking about, I did know what block Biggie was talking about or what the slang Tribe used meant. That lead to my music sounding the way it does…riding the trains and being around so many people while listening to artists that grew up the same way on the same blocks.

3.  Who are the people you look up to and learn the most from?
I admire what The Roots did. Years ago it seemed like the platinum rappers were popping and The Roots were going to be this slept on phenomenon forever…now those rappers have all fallen off and The Roots still making dope ass albums and they’re on TV every night.

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 don’t believe I would’ve done anything different really. I’m concerned with my next step and making sure i dont regret that!

5.  What’s hard for you?  What do you struggle with?
We’re all fighting to be seen and appreciated in the current state of music. Its too easy to hop online and grab a bunch of free songs from anybody from myself to Kanye or Jay-Z.  Just a few years ago we all would go to a cd store and buy someones new single for like 3 dollars now its online and purposely free! So its so much of it, its hard to be valued properly.

6.  Here’s a scenario: tomorrow you become the CEO of a major record label.  What are the first 3 things you do as boss?
Realistically I wouldnt know what to do lol…but without worrying about logistics I would start Lessondary Records under the major label, which means the collective I’m apart of would have real financial support and a machine behind us. Then I would bring one-producer urban soundtracks back, the way Organized Noize or Babyface or Death Row used to do. Like, I’d hire Foreign Exchange music group to do a whole soundtrack for a romantic comedy or some shit. I cant think of a third right now…

7.  What are some of your favorite albums?
Biggie-Ready to Die, Snoop-Doggystyle, Outkast-Aquemini, Kanye West-Graduation, Jay z-The Blueprint, NWA-efil4saggiN, Dangelo-Voodoo, Rah Digga-Dirty Harriet, etc.

8.  What is inspiring your work right now?
G.O.O.D. fridays is really dope. Everyone is either too cool or too jaded to really acknowledge how dope it is, I dont care how long underground cats been doing the same thing…the idea that Kanye doesn’t have to but is doing it anyway is inspiring. Just making music and putting it out free because its fun to him. I think its actually helpful to underdogs that he’s doing that…he stepped down from the mountain and he’s kicking it with the towns people (haha)

9.  What advice would you offer to someone getting into the business at this time?
Don’t quit your day job.

10.  Any words to live by?
Don’t turn your passion into a job, turn your job into a passion…and if that sounds generic then ignore it and allow the rest of us to find happiness!

***

Von Pea Primer

Foreign Exchange f/ Von Pea “Von Sees”

Von Pea “Boombox”

Tanya Morgan “So Damn Down”

Von Pea “Star Struck”

Follow Von Pea on Twitter

VonPea.com

Stream or purchase Pea’s Gotta Have it at Amazon.com

Von Pea on Bandcamp

Let Me Learn You Something: Kuf Knotz

You don’t find too many rappers spreading love in the City of the Brotherly kind.  And one wouldn’t blame Kuf Knotz for getting his ice grill on if he were so inclined.  Kuf’s always been an outlier, the guy who you recognized with his trademark dreads and UFO pants sliding quielty in and out of the party but was always doing SOMETHING you weren’t up on yet like working with Philadlephia radio and  industry vets like G Love, Chuck Treece, Mutlu and Cee Knolwedge of Digable Planet.   

When I started putting the pieces together, Kuf was making serious waves as one of the founders of the twelve man hip hop band Burndown All-Stars, eventually garnering a spot on FUSE TV’s “Battle of the Bands” show. 

When the city slowed down and the hip hop scene became YouTubed corner wars for play on WorldStar and ploys to sign evaporating deals with Bad Boy, G-Unit and Atlantic, a guy like Kuf should have become extinct.  His Golden Era vibe and playful tone wasn’t a common feeling in the scene anymore.  Even The Roots weren’t smiling (check their last three records).  But the Laws of Attraction seemingly paid off for Kuf during the murky times when venues were closing, hip hop sales became anemic, and one too many rappers became empowered with MySpace and handheld cameras.  He kickstarted a new band coincidentally called The Hustle and got to, well, hustling.  Jampacked shows, media coverage, and on-air spins at WXPN soon followed. 

Now Kuf Knotz is going for dolo.  Partnering with MAD Dragon Records and calling in appearances from a wide spectrum of Philadelphia’s best rappers, songwriters, and musicians like Hezekiah, Reef the Lost Cauze, Charlie Patierno, George Standford, Sharon Little, his LP Boom Box Logic admittedly is the best summer hip hop album to drop in October that I’ve ever heard (and I’m not just saying that because myself and Curly Castro are on the massive hidden posse cut at the end of the disc…whoops!).  His lead single “Sunny Philadelphia” is getting heavy rotation on WXPN at prime listening hours.  And the songwriting and production value rivals most major label releases.

This past Saturday was his album release party at the prestigous World Cafe Live.  Another packed house, another good time, another room full of hot women who never go to any other rap shows in the 215.  It’s time to crank your Radio Raheem shoulder blower and let Kuf Knotz learn you something.

1.  At what point did you realize music is what you wanted to do?
My first year of college – Once I started cutting classes to record and write rhymes I knew it was a rap (no pun intended).

2.  How has Philly shaped your sound or molded you as an MC?
Well Philly hands down has some of the Dopest Mc’s out there (no disrespect to other places but Philly goes hard). Having such talent around you really pushes you to work hard and find your niche, with so much talent you have to find a way to stand out and be heard. Philly is also very rich in soul…(T.S.O.P) legends man..Teddy P , Hall & Oates, Patti  L, The Roots just to name a few. I can’t help but be effected by that and incorporate alot of soul into my music. Philly is also very diverse and that plays a big part into my music as well. I love just about every genre of music and grew up listening to gospel, hip hop, alternative music & punk. So I definitely grab a little from each bag and throw it into the mix of the music I do.

3.  Who are the people you look up to and learn the most from?
 I look up to my family members my Mother being the one I look up to the most. She has had a life filled with ups and downs having battled cancer, being hit by a car, losing her home to a fire…etc , but she is a soldier, man.  She doesn’t let anything stop her and keeps a smile and positive attitude the whole time. Ican only hope to have that same spirit and drive and positive mindset – I definitely need it in this bussiness- lol.

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 really so much would like to so NO , but yes I would of done a few things different.   You neva know what tomorrow holds so stay focused always.

5.  What’s hard for you?  What do you struggle at?
It is hard for me to NOT dream BIG and I struggle with listening to the radio – but I know it’s necessary.

6.  Here’s a scenario: tomorrow you become the CEO of a major record label.  What are the first 3 things you would do as boss?
1.Get a whole new roster.
2.Make marketing the MOST important and focused aspect of the label.
3. Give all the artist free creative control and free studio equipment to create in a comfortable enviroment.

7.  What are some of your favorite albums?
.Digable Planets-  Reachin (A New Refutation of Time and Space)
.Boogie Down Productions-  Criminal Minded 
.Tupac- 2Pacalypse now
.Donovan – A Gift From a Flower to a Garden
.Stevie Wonder – Talking Book
.Tribe Called Quest – Midnight Murauders

8.  What is inspiring your work right now?
The want to be heard WORLDWIDE.

9.  What advice would you offer someone getting into the business at this time?
Like any other BUSINESS this is no stroll in the park. You have to be very strong minded , focused and willing to do whatever it takes (without compromising your vision & art) to make your mark and be heard.

10.  Any words to live by?
Always Always Believe in Yourself  , Give Thanks & Stay Humble.

*****
KUF KNOTZ PRIMER

Kuf Knotz and G Love recording

The making of Boom Box Logic

Kuf Knotz and Ursula Rucker live

“Soul Music” live at WXPN studios with Cee Knowledge, Dave Vegas, and Ali Wadsworth

Get all things Kuf Knotz, including the Boom Box Logic LP,  here

Follow Kuf on Twitter

Let Me Learn You Something: Blueprint

I read this interview Blueprint did with HipHopSite.com years ago that made me realize a day job ain’t so bad when you’re making your bones as an independent musician.  Matter of fact, here’s the exact excerpt from 2003 that popped into my mind while I posted this interview here:

“I’m not going to say that my degree specifically in computer science has helped me, but what I gained in professionalism, what I gained in organization, project planning, none of those things I would have gained without working as a computer programmer or a project leader for five years.  I never would have gained those skills.  There’s a different standard of professionalism that exists in the music industry as a whole that I’m nowhere near happy with.  But overall it’s just like an occupational hazard now.  And the only way I can get around it is to be as prepared as possible.”–HipHopSite.com

I never heard an emcee speak on the positives of the 9-to-5 hustle when applied to the mic check 1-2-1-2 an’ umm….

The professionalism Blueprint was waxing about 7 years ago still propels him forward as a wearer of many hats in the (no)pay-to-(hopefully maybe)-play world of Music And The Internet At This Moment.  I first heard of Print on Aesop Rock’s EP Daylight where his voice and delivery hit me like a ’37 Harley Davidson Knucklehead cutting through the desert on “Alchemy”.  After doing my homework, I found out about his association with MHz, Soul Position with RJD2, and Greenhouse with Illogic.  Luckily, HipHopSite.com did its best to feed my hunger at the time — it seemed like every 4-6 months, they were pushing something new that Print contributed to.  It almost seemed as though he had a *gasp!* plan to his success.  Producer projects, remix projects, shows, tours, merch; Blueprint has existed and built a career on seemingly random whims in taste and style that never stray from a centralized and balanced point of attack, and LP release after release.

Blueprint has rebranded himself as a progressive and interactive indie artist.  The topics he posts on his site Printmatic.net stretch way beyond self-promotion and empty one-sheets written by a publicist or groupie.  He drops jewels on the the realistic advancements of an indie musician in interviews.  Not to mention two ridiculously banging EP’s alongside Illgogic as Greenhouse, followed by a new solo EP, and now a tour with Atmosphere all within the last year….as they say, a great musician is a working musician.

It’s time for Blueprint to learn you something.

1.  At what point did you realize music was what you wanted to do?
I’m not sure if there was ever really a conscious decision about wanting to do music forever or anything like that.  I come from a musical family and church, so music was always a part of my life in one way or another.  When I started actually releasing music in the form of Greenhouse cassette tapes it was really only because I felt like we had to have something for sale before we actually played a show.  At the time, I never really thought we would make any significant money off of it and I definitely never thought it would end up being a career for me.  I just kind of went with the flow.  Once i got offered a chance to tour I had to reevaluate everything as far as my other career was concerned.  Truth be told, I’m just now really looking at music as something I would like to be involved in for the rest of my life, and that idea just kind of came to me a couple years ago.

2.  How has Columbus shaped your sound or molded you as an MC/producer?
I think the Columbus sound is very prevalent in everything I do, although a lot of people won’t necessarily know it unless they’re familiar with the other influential artists from my city like DJ Przm & the Spitball crew, MHz, Spirit, or Weightless.  My dude DJ PRZM (r.i.p) was really a pioneer in terms of lo-fi hip-hop production in Columbus.  He did music with everybody from the city and influenced me a great deal.  A lot of the stuff on 1988 album that was lo-fi or grimey-sounding was just me paying homage to that style.  Our artists are also very diverse, and don’t sound like anybody else.  The MHz and Weightless were some of the first national acts from Columbus and I think the tradition has carried through to the younger cats coming up in the scene now.

3.  Who are the people you look up to and learn the most from?
Most of my role-models have absolutely nothing to do with music.  I actually admire regular working people who keep their head on their shoulders when times are hard and have one-of-a-kind character.  I look up to pretty much all entrepreneurs as well.

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?
Don’t save music for later. If you’ve got something that’s dope, put it out now, and don’t wait for the perfect opportunity. There is no perfect opportunity.

5.  What’s hard for you?  What do you struggle at?
Keeping myself entertained and challenged is a day to day struggle.  If I’m not entertained or challenged then I’m probably gonna get into mischief.


6.  Here’s a scenario: tomorrow you become the CEO of a major record label.  What are the first three things you would do as the boss?
Fire myself! Ha!  First thing I would do is drop the price of all cds to $5 across the board; new or old, five bucks.  The second thing I would do is start a small division dedicated to creative packaging and vinyl.  Third thing I would do is partner up with all the places that make music free (youtube, etc) instead of opposing them.

7.  What are some of your favorite albums?
All time I’m in to classic hip-hop albums like Wu-Tang \”Enter the 36 Chambers\”, Nas \”illmatic\”, and stuff like that.  Recently my tastes are all over the place, from classic rock to classic soul to everything in between, so it’s kind of hard to really say.  Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Kraftwerk.

8.  What is inspiring your work right now?
Time.  I think time is the biggest motivator out there for me.  I don\’t need much else.

9.  What advice would you offer someone getting into the business at this time?
Have fun and be yourself.

10.  Any words to live by?
Do something small everyday, eventually you’ll get a lot of big things done.


*****

BLUEPRINT PRIMER


Blueprint “Dream Big”


Blueprint f/ Aesop Rock “Lo-Fi Funk”


Greenhouse (Blueprint & Illogic) “Cold Out Here”


Soul Position (Blueprint & RJD2) “Run”


Aesop Rock f/ Blueprint “Alchemy”

Follow Blueprint on Twitter

Blueprint’s Official Site (hella dope with plenty of updates and goodies)

Blueprint’s Bandcamp page

Let Me Learn You Something: Ethel Cee

 
You can’t really fault every Philly hip hop guy for falling in love with Ethel Cee.  It’s bound to happen at some point.  It could be her succint and worldly lyrics that draw moths to the flame.  It could be her confident and fly style of dress that turns heads for what she is not exposing.   Or it could be her fascination with Curb Your Enthusiasm; anytime a young black woman aspires to impersonate Susie Green with a dead-eyed seriousness, the heart begins to tremble.

 

 
The first time I met her, it was the recording session at Yadibox studios for the song “Not That Easy” off the Reef the Lost Cauze’s last LP A Vicious Cycle.  I was the engineer that day and realized after hearing her verse that Ethel Cee was onto something.  I think it was the fact that someone correctly rhymed about a cheshire cat. You can watch two clips of that session here and here.

 

Everyone in Philly who raps is “on the grind”.  This is the badge you wear when you are a struggling artist buring CDR’s, doing countless shows to prove their worth, getting burnt by clown ass promoters/engineers/DJs, and stacking YouTube hits to impress today’s A&R aka tomorrow’s Boston Market shift manager.  Ethel has somehow eschewed this insignia on her rap sheet all the while putting in the work of a cat “on the grind”.  People naturally gravitate towards her.  You forget that she is working hard, along with DJ UV of Bee Eater Records, to build a strong brand for her nimble and forceful brand of hip hop; you just want to hug her and bust jokes all night. 

 

I remember feeling the same way about Jean Grae after her deft live show.  Yeah, she put clowns in their place, had the party rocking, and unloaded murderous freestyles but afterwards you feel like approaching her as your best friend’s older sister who went off to college first: with respect, charm, and politeness.  Ironically the second time I saw Jean Grae, it was at the Trocadero where Ethel Cee not only hosted the show, but beasted a 10 minute freestyle on-stage alongside Dave Ghetto and Fel Sweetenberg. 

 

Maybe it’s the Gods of Comedy rewarding her due dilligence to Seinfeld re-runs–Ethel is getting more press and love now then ever before.  They can’t ALL be crushes.    She has carried herself with class and a burning work ethic, and now everything is hitting on all cylinders.  You can hear her new EP Dirty Samples after the interview or head over to Dumhi.com and check her in the video along with Random for the summertime jam “Dumhi Cannons”

 

Now it’s time for Ethel Cee to Learn You Something. 

1. At what point did you realize music was what you wanted to do?
I don’t know. (lol, What a way to start off an interview with “I don’t know”). But I truly don’t. I always knew that music would be a part of my life somehow, but I wasn’t sure in what capacity. Quite honestly, I still feel that way in many ways. Performing is something I love to do, but will I want to do it when I’m in my 50s? Who knows. But I DO know I will have some involvement in music whether it be onstage or behind the scenes.

2. How has Philly shaped your sound or molded you as an MC?
Philly does not offer props very easily. I love that. You should be able to leave here and have some of the thickest skin you can imagine. I hear about people who get super agitated because they’re not receiving the recognition they THINK they deserve. They want shit handed to them and want to be in certain circles because they have dubbed THEMSELVES as the next best thing. And I’m like, “You DO know where you are living, right?” Nah. It doesn’t work that way. Not here. Philly is an excellent boot camp. It’s made me tougher and less needy. Not less hungry, but less needy. There is a difference.

3. Who are the people you look up to and learn the most from?
My Grandma is super tough. SUPER tough. She’s been through a lot and still found the time to raise me, made sure I had three banging meals a day and cuss me out when I needed it. My Mom is also extremely dope and someone I also consider a survivor. My sister is a hard working New Yorker/Philly native. My father is one of the smartest men I know. My family doesn’t think I pay attention to them, but I do. I also learn a lot from people I thoroughly dislike. I learn more from people I can’t stand versus folks I actually like to be around. I take whatever they have done or said to me and make a mental note that says: “Yeah, don’t do that.”

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 could have gone without dating those couple of guys that one time. lol. That was just unnecessary. But I digress…
This is tough because, of course if I had known certain things would turn out the way they did (whether it was musically or personally), I would have stopped myself before I took the steps that lead me there. But everything happens for reason. It’s SO cliche, I know. But that’s what I’ve conditioned myself to believe.

5.  What’s hard for you? What do you struggle at?
About 2 1/2 years ago I was diagnosed with panic/anxiety disorder/PTSD. Not cute. Some people get over it quickly, others never do. For me, it has been an ongoing thing. I have good days, I have awful days. What’s hard is that when you are dealing with a severe condition like that AND trying to carve a career out of something like music, it’s very difficult to balance the two. Music FORCES you to be in public and be social. Anxiety disorder ain’t havin’ none of that. Doing simple things like having a dinner meeting in public or being at a packed party or even sitting in one place in the studio while waiting for the engineer to get ready can be a real life nightmare. And no one knows. It’s not the type of thing you can see on someone. So you could be talking to me in the club about something regular and I’m screaming to leave on the inside. Kind of like Howie Mandel and the germ thing. BUT, I get by. I used this as my answer because, it’s honestly the main thing I struggle with, it affects every aspect of my life, but I’m still one of the dopest people you know. lol. (Hopefully). Plus, millions of folks are going through the SAME exact thing and might smile when they read this and go “Hey, I’m not alone, Ethel Cee is a psycho too!” Ha, it helps to makes jokes.

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?
Well, first I would panic. (Just kidding). Nah. First, I would call another CEO and be like “Do you have a rags to riches manual somewhere in YOUR HR Dept. because I don’t know what the fuck to do!” Secondly, I would grab all the folks I believe deserve a decent shot at the big time (that sounded so 40’s didn’t it?) and pray to God that I don’t screw up their career with my stupidity. Lastly, I’d party all night long in celebration of my newfound career and put everything on my tab. (See Section V in the Rags To Riches Manual: How to Blow EVERYTHING You’ve Been Given in a Matter of Hours)

7. What are some of your favorite albums?
Fever to Tell by The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Waltz for Koop by Koop, Hell Hath No Fury by The Clipse, The Massacre by 50 Cent, Letter From Home by Pat Metheny, Lest We Forget by Marilyn Manson, Hardcore by Lil Kim, Black on Both Sides by Mos Def, Sam Sparro by Sam Sparro, Parachutes by Coldplay, The 1st Lyricist Lounge, The Colour and The Shape by Foo Fighters, First Born Second by Bilal, Celebrity Skin by Hole, Life After Death by Biggie, Pretty Tony LP by Ghostface, Ironman by Ghostface, Ruff Draft by Dilla, WorthNothings by Georgia Anne Muldrow, BP3 by Jay-Z, From the Bottom Up by Brownstone, CrazySexyCool by TLC, Bitches Brew by Miles Davis, Illadelph Halflife by The Roots, Tragic Kingdom by No Doubt, A Star is Born by Judy Garland, Time Out by The Dave Brubeck Quartet…I can go on…I know I’m missing a ton.

8. What is inspiring your work right now?
All of my hardworking friends, all the emotions and situations I run into being a single gal, the great relationships I’ve had, wanting to beat my disorder, the desire to travel some more, wanting to be successful, the feeling of empowerment I get from just about getting to the point of not caring what people think. Lots of stuff.

9. What advice would you offer to someone getting in the business at this time?
Surround yourself with a small group of people you trust. Visit your other interests/hobbies besides music if you have any, so you don’t lose your identity in this thing. Not everyone is going to like you or want to support you…get over it now. I am by no means, an expert. I figure these things out as I go.

10.  Any words to live by?
“Disregard Men, Acquire Currency.” lol
Also, be authentically you. You’ll sleep much better at night.

****

Ethel Cee Primer

Reef the Lost Cauze f/ Ethel Cee “Not That Easy”

Ethel Cee on her new EP Dirty Samples

Stream and download Ethel Cee’s EP Dirty Samples, produced entirely by Fel Sweetenberg, at Bandcamp