Rapper/Producer Nomis Talks Socially Conscious Hip Hop, Not For Sale, more




Oceanside, California, Hip Hop artist Nomis has been on the scene for some time now and, after a small hiatus, is back with Socially Just, through which tackles issues in the US and globally. In this interview, I ask him about his creative process in production, his motivational tips for excelling as an independent artist, and his definition of "socially conscious" rapper.


Mike Gaits: For those who may not know, who is Nomis? How did you acquire the name?

I am a Hip Hop and spoken word artist from Oceanside, California, who is desperately passionate about social justice. The moniker "Nomis" came about in high school when some friends and I formed our first rap group. I was the only one that wasn't taking the rap thing seriously, so initially everyone had an alias except me. One day in class I was writing my name down at the top of a piece of paper for an assignment. After constant pressure from one of the members, I, of course, took the smart-aleck approach and simply flipped the page over and put it in the light. My last name is "Simon," so it read as "Nomis". I said, "Boom! 'Nomis' it is. Are you happy now!?"

Now that you're back on the scene, what inspired you to drop your latest project, Socially Just? Was timing a factor?

Actually, the timing is largely coincidental. Social justice is a much larger umbrella than solely issues with law enforcement and #BlackLivesMatter. I was originally inspired to make the project as a response to my passion toward issues around human trafficking. I knew I didn't want to make an entire project about human trafficking, though, so I opened the scope to be more about justice issues as a whole, because they all need more attention. I know it seem that, due to the current trend in shootings involving white police and Black men, some artists are only beginning to write about such things, but that's just not how it happened for me. I have two songs on the album that address the issue specifically. "Flaw" was actually written before I started working on the album but was obviously a great fit for the project, considering its substance and what's going on now. I had no choice but to add it to the album. The other song is "Smile," about a time when I was dealing with some really difficult things in my life, including the shooting and killing of my younger cousin by the police. My words came from a real place.

In this world of Hip Hop, do you think being a socially conscious rapper is difficult when coming up with topics and concepts for songs?"

I don't think its difficult to come up with topics, but it can be very limiting at times. I'll have great song ideas that I choose not to pursue because they wouldn't really fit within the narrative of a specific project, which sucks sometimes. But now I'm working on finding creative ways to link what I want to speak on and what I need to speak on. I haven't fully cracked the code yet, but I've definitely completed three or four sides of this Rubik's Cube. I'll get it though.

When listeners put their headphones on to listen to Socially Just, where do you want your music to take them. I have to say, I just finished listening to "Traffic," and you gained one more fan today!

Hey, thanks, brother. That means a lot to me. Make sure you guys check out the video, too. It's some of the best art I've ever been a part of... 

When people put on the headphones, I want them to end up in one of two places, depending on the song. I want them to either be inspired and empowered, or challenged and enlightened. 

This album is meant to be an anthem for those who know, and a study guide for those who don't.



In Hip Hop, production is often ignored. There's a lot that goes on behind the scenes that non-beatmakers don't know about when it come to producing good music. What kind of software do you use, and how did you find your theatrical sound?

My setup is pretty moderate. These days, the beats, the recoding, the mixing and the mastering are all done in Pro Tools. Within that, I use an old version of Komplete, a basic low-end M-Audio keyboard, an MPD and, sometimes, I still bust out my classic MPC 2000XL. 

As for my "theatrical sound," I've never really even thought of it that way but that's an interesting way to put it. I'm very much inspired by good story telling and passionate art. I think the common factor in those things, along with my music, is the dynamics that come from that. I use a lot of minor chord progressions and that, for sure, sets a certain tone to all of the music. I want people to be moved when they hear the music. I think that's what it takes to keep the movement moving. 

I'm glad you brought up the production because most of my listeners don't know that I do that aspect of the music as well. I produced like 97% of this album myself!

What made you leap into Hip Hop and share your creative mind with the world? What was your biggest flaw when recording your music. What drove you to try harder when perfecting your music?

Man, I grew up in a musical household, and I was born in the '80s, so I grew up with Hip Hop. I've been a part of the culture for a really long time, so participating in it on another level was a natural progression. I think my biggest flaw for the first few years I made music was my focus. I held such a regard for substance and song concepts that I neglected polishing my voice and my sound. I can't really listen to anything of mine before 2008 (laughing). The good news is that 2008 was really when my first true solo album came out, so its all good. That being said, I'm always growing and aiming to be better at my craft... always.

What's next for Nomis?

Next is to keep pushing this project. I have some tour dates lined up and I want to make sure this album gets the attention I feel it deserves. 

Also, I just officially became a part of Not For Sale, one of the largest anti-human trafficking organizations in the world. I'll be hitting the road with them as well. 

I'm pretty sure I have already conceptualized my next project, but I could very well change my mind and push it back, so I'll keep my lips sealed for now.

Any tips that you would like to provide for other up-and-coming musical artists who want to be unique and have their music heard?

This might sound corny, but my biggest advice would be: be yourself. I wasted too much time in my early years trying to make music that I thought the OGs would like. Making rap music for other rappers was one of the most detrimental things to my growth as an artist.

How do fans find you?

My twitter, soundcloud and bandcamp.

Any final comments?

RIP Praverb.




Praverb The Wyse Quoted:
"Make music that is Inspirational, Impactfull, Powerful, Creative, Reflective, Transparent"

Praverb.Legacy.Lives


2DopeBoyz presents: Praverb (RIP) "Average Joe" ft. M.Dot & Rev. (Posthumous unreleased exclusive)

praverb-the-legacy

On September 17th 2014 MC/writer/Hip-Hop Activist Earl (Praverb the Wyse) McNease passed away unexpectedly. His loss has been greatly felt throughout the music community, leaving a lasting positive effect on many aspiring artists even today. "Average Joe" is a posthumous track from Praverb, previously unreleased and features guest contributions from EMS members M-Dot & Revalation. Production by SoulmadeThe single appears on Praverb's "The Legacy" vinyl out now.  Appearances by J Live, Supastition, M-Dot & more. 
Purchase here:http://www.hhv.de/shop/en/item/praverb-the-wyse-the-legacy-458596


Boy George


 

The recent passing of one of Britain’s, and indeed the world’s, leading subversive figures in the world of pop has been rightly attested to by many in the past few days. David Bowie’s constant reinvention of his own sound and image has understandably left its mark on many musicians across many genres, one of whom, Boy George, wrote a touching tribute to his greatest influence.

A figure already legendary through his work with Culture Club, Boy George continued to build on his status in the UK music scene through his solo work, making the position of Boy George agent a very competitive one indeed. Famed for his androgynous appearance, Boy George’s iconic image was one inspired by a David Bowie he described as looking ‘alien’, commenting, “He looked so theatrical, so larger than life.”

Boy George hails not only the star’s appearance as having influenced his own image over the years but of course his fantastically versatile music, changing the image of rock music worldwide with his constantly evolving style and image. Described as a ‘magpie’ in relation to this unique ability, Boy George commenting further that, “His talent was to take the best and strongest things around him and throw them into the mix and create something unique.
 

went to start his own group, named Culture Club because of its diverse membership: Boy George a cross dressing Irishman, black-British bassist Mikey Craig, Jewish drummer Jon Moss, and ethnically English Roy Hay.
After the dissolution of Culture Club in 1986, Boy George launched his own solo career, although not without tribulations on the way. Struggling through drug addiction he went on to release underground hits in the 90s, as well as starting his own record label and pioneering another side to his performing talents as a DJ. More recently Boy George has signed as a judge on the BBC show The Voice.
 
Despite rising to high levels of fame himself, Boy George admitted to being still intimidated by Bowie, until they met for dinner in New York in 2005 where the amicable conversation between the two rambled through such varied topics as Russian art films, British tea and the Britisk,kh TV show EastEnders.
 
 

 




 
 





 


The Legacy Of Praverb The Wyse

(Author note: P's music saved my life, his legacy and his presence continues to thrive across the world globally! I will be blogging a lot more this year, in the mean time I'll be listening to this! Grab and Support and most of all listen to the Art of Hip-Hop!)


A-Side
1. Delivery feat. Warpath
2. Reason Why feat. DXA
3. Record Companies feat. Hexsagon & J-Live
4.Unsung Heroes feat. Supastition & Kenn Starr
5. Legitimate feat. Supastition
6.Average Joe feat. M-Dot & Revalation

B-Side
1. Delivery Instrumental
2. Reason Why Instrumental
3. Record Companies Instrumental
4 Unsung Heroes Instrumental
5. Legitimate Instrumental 
6. Average Joe Instrumental

Rest in paradise PRAVERB - Earl Patrick's McNease

After we heard about Patrick's passing. Damian (Soulmade) decided to blow the dust off his virtual crates to reanimate some old vocal-recordings and compile a record that'll keep Praverb's musical legacy alive. He contacted some of Patricks companions and MCs he looked up to. Everyone of them joined the project to honour Praverb's life and work. All tracks on this record were remixed and rearranged by Soulmade. After receiving the additional vocals of all featured artist, the final versions were put together and completed with some cut & scratches!

All of this is done with coutesty of Patrick's wife Vanessa! Thank you so much for believing in this project! Also a big thanks to hhv.de for releasing the vinyl-pressing!

Beats & Mix: Soulmade
Mastering: Sven Fiederichs
Cuts on track A02 & A06: Propo88
Cuts on track A01 & A03: Skaetch
Cuts on track A05: Kallsen
Artwork & typography: Chezz.One


www.daily-concept.net

 



 


Explore the Rap World with Globe-Trotting DJ/Producer J Hart

J Hart, French DJ and Producer Extraordinaire:
An Interview with AWKWORD

I met the DJ, producer and journalist born Johnatan Hart in 2013 at Penn Station in New York City. Then, in his first year in the U.S., he was interviewing me about my music and activism for his Big Bang Show video interview series. In 2015, J featured me on his critically acclaimed DJBooth-sponsored Passport EP, a project fittingly titled due to the massive amount of traveling he has done to make real his dreams of becoming a noteworthy contributor in this rap game. From France to NYC, from Great Britain to mainland Europe, from Japan to Australia, the young talent has been hustling worldwide, making connections with major playersToday, I return the favor, interviewing him about his aspirations, his album, his travels, and his future plans. As the late, great Praverb would appreciate, I believe J Hart's story can inspire other up-and-coming independent artists. You tell me.


FAST FACTS

1. Birth Place:
Paris
2. Religion:
Muslim
3. Political Ideology:
Humanist
4. Father's/Mother's Profession(s):
Retired
5. Childhood Memory:
Music, bullsh*t and sports
6. Favorite Rapper:
Sean Price
7. Favorite Producer:
Myself
8. Favorite Food at 3 AM:
Spaghetto filetto
9. Quote to Live By:
Do the right thing
10. Actor to Play You in a Movie:
It would be a TV show, titled Hart to Hart


20 QUESTIONS

1. When you first moved to NYC in 2013, did you already have The Passport EP in mind?
Yes, I did. First, I wanted to show the world that I'm a music producer, in addition to a DJ, because most people knew me ad a DJ, or for my Big Bang Show interviews. On top of that, doing an album in NYC with rappers from NYC was always on my mind since I was 15 years old. So, making The Passport EP at this moment was obvious to me.
2. So was that your reason for coming to New York? How did the move to the UK come about? And how does your wife handle all the moving around?
My reason for coming to New York was music. I wanted to learn in the Mecca of Hip Hop, get a new experience, and know a new way of work and life. I learned and am still learning a lot. The USA and Europe are very different. I try to keep the best of both worlds. 
The UK move was because of family. London was the best option. It's only six hours by plane to NYC and has good opportunities as well.
Thank God my wife is good with my life, even if it's not always easy. You know music ain't peaceful work. 
3. I certainly do. We owe a lot to our wives, for sure. What was it like growing up in France? What was your childhood like? How did you get into Hip Hop, and decide you wanted to become a participant in -- and not just an observer of -- the culture?
I grew up in Viry-Chatillon, a suburb of Paris. It's like living in East New York, to compare. In France, the suburbs are where the 'hoods' are located, in contrast to the US. My childhood was cool. I was into sports, music, and chilling with friends. I was not very about school, unfortunately, even if I had good results. 
I started to listen to Hip Hop when I was 13 years old. It started with French Hip Hop: La Cliqua, and Expression Direkt. Then a friend played me Wu Tang's 36 Chambers, and it was a wrap.
I first wanted to be a DJ after watching the movie La Haine. There is a scene with DJ Cut Killer scratching from his crib window for all the projects of a Paris hood. When I saw that I told myself, I am going to do this. I looked for a plug, and a friend put me in contact with a local DJ, DJ Shaft, who learned me how to blend and scratch. We became friends and practiced a lot together. And little by little, I did my stuff. 
4.  What was your first big break, so to speak? When did it go from hobby to profession? Describe the moment, and then explain how that led to the Big Bang Show, DJing events, producing music, and becoming affiliated with Cyclones Mag.
Moving to New York was really the big break. I left everything, and I had no option but doing music. It was not easy. My first six months were maybe the most difficult in my life. I was starting from scratch in NYC, where the competition is crazy, learning a new culture and, on top of that, I left my family at a time when my daddy was doing chemo for cancer. I used all this frustration to work even better and harder. 
I never really saw music as a hobby or a profession. It's something I live for.

5.  Wow, crazy. How is pops today? Did/Does that help motivate you? What else motivates you to take the risk that is investing in yourself; in a career in music? And when in NYC did you think: wait, maybe this is going to work? Was there one interview, one beat placement or one connection that really convinced you that you were on the right path?
Thank God my pops is doing good now -- and, yeah, it helps motivate me to stay focused. And my fam and supporters who push me, get my projects, send me messages, tweets, comments, etc., motivate me a lot, as well. That's my fuel.
I've always known I could do something with music, though sometimes I had (and still have) doubt. But since I dropped The Passport EP, I've been even more convinced that I have to keep pushing, because this is my thing. The feedback has been amazing from all over the world. I did not expect that Peter Rosenberg from Hot 97 would premiere my lead single "Barzini" with Sean Price (RIP) and Rim P; that I would perform at Jazzy Sport Tokyo or Boney Lounge in Melbourne; or that I would get messages from Malaysians saying they're rocking the EP on their radio shows.


6. I dig it. You're such a humble, good dude, which makes your success easy to celebrate -- and (sure, I'm biased, because I'm on it, but) I love the album. It's a top-three-of-2015 for me, easily. Actually, just today, I was playing the CD you sent me over and over in the whip with the wife and kids. So, how did you decide who would be on each song?
Thanks man. The fact that you can listen to my EP with your kids is something I really appreciate and wanted. That's very important to me: to make music that makes sense -- something you can listen to with your kids or your parents. Even if there are 'street' songs on the album, it's street poetry, you know what I mean?
My first criteria is to make songs with artists with great lyrics. My second criteria is that I needed to have good feelings with the artists to work with them. So, I chose artists who I already knew; or I went to meet them directly to check how they are in real life... And, well, they they'll learn this for the first time from this interview too. (laughing)  
7. Which feature were you most excited or surprised to land?
Definitely the one with Sean Price and Rim P. But, unfortunately, Sean died before The Passport EP was released. My heart broke when I heard the news that he passed away. I love him a lot. Please, if you're reading this interview and if you can, make a donation to help Sean's family
 

8. How did you guys meet? And, why, with such different backgrounds, do you think you connected so strongly? What did you talk about most often? And what's the craziest, funniest or most heart-warming story you have of Sean?
I met Sean P in NYC, randomly. I came at him, we talked briefly, and I asked if he wanted to do an interview for the Big Bang Show. He had me as a guest at his house, and we did that famous interview in his kitchen. We had a good feeling doing this interview. I can't explain why. But after we stopped recording, we talked for hours more. And since that time we stayed in touch. We talked about music and Islam for the most part... When I sent him the "Barzini" video to review, he wrote to me: "It's dope. I don't want to wait to drop it. I'm a leak it now." When I read this message, I called him right away to stop him. He was with Rim, who's also in the video, and they were laughing crazy, because they were pranking me. (laughing)


9. That makes me so happy and so sad all at the same time. Man, I had a blast shooting the "Bars & Hooks" video with P. So, was there anyone you really wanted for the album who didn't work out?
I feel you... And, no. I'm lucky to have had everything I wanted on The Passport EP.
10.  That's great. Were you in the studio for any of the recordings? If so, what were they like? Any funny or inspiring stories?
Yeah, I was, for the most part. I talked a lot with the artists and shared visions to make my music. It's very important to me to create a vibe with the artist for the song. And I prefer to be in the studio, creating something from nothing with the artists. 
11.  Any songs finished but left on the chopping block?
Nope. Every song I did for the album ended up on the album.
12.  Simple and clean. OK, switching it up, since you are a triple threat, at least. Who is the most interesting/exciting person you've interviewed? Why?
Sean Price and Brother Ali -- Sean for the reasons I explained; and Brother Ali because we talked deeply about politics and Islam, and then spent the afternoon together in Paris and went and ate some baklava... It's always really improvised, which makes these moments so special.
13. I'd love to hear Brother Ali over a J Hart beat. Who was the weirdest or toughest person to interview? And why?
Hmmm... Nobody, really, since I work for myself and choose who I interview.
14.  Ahhh, the upside of going it alone... Speaking of collaborating, though, how did you hook up with Top Shelf Premium? And how did the Off Top series come about? 
I hooked up with Top Shelf through a friend who works for Cross Colours. She told me to reach out to Top Shelf because she felt we were on the same vibe and, indeed, she was right. Top Shelf is more than music to me. The Off Top freestyle series was a dream of Top Shelf. He shared his vision with me, and we worked it out with Josh on the VHS and AJ on the editing. We try to bring back that '90s Hip Hop essence with a 21st century flavor. Most recently, we've featured Termanology, Skyzoo, and Your Old Droog

15. So fresh. How did you manage the world tour you've pulled off since releasing The Passport EP? You've been everywhere -- all over the US, Europe, Japan, Australia... Where else? What's it been like? How has the album been received? And, for selfish reasons, what have you heard around the world about the album's final track? 
Traveling to promote the album was something I wanted to do because the main goal was to put my name out there as a producer, and show my skills. I chose not to invest my money into marketing or pressing vinyl. I wanted to put my money into hand-to-hand promotion. I did my release party in NYC, my home town now, then traveled to Europe, then Japan and Australia. It was really organic, and I still can't believe it.
The feedback has been amazing, man. Really crazy. I worked hard for two years. I was betting on myself, some days wondering if I was insane to work so hard for something I didn't even know if people would even enjoy or understand... I bet you know what I'm talking about
Performing in Japan was one of my life dreams, and I'm so happy I did it. I can't wait to go back there.
And about that last song, it's in the top four: "Barzini", the SkyBlew song, HD's song, and "Love Is Better" are the most popular, as far as what I heard from performing... Thank you for your contribution, my man. 
16. So, so dope. But wait, where are you now? You're not in NYC, ducking out on me, are you? I thought you were in England...
Sorry, I am now based in London. But I do go back and forth to NYC. At this time, Passport is a way of life. (laughing)

17. Good answer. And it definitely feels that way. Any crazy stories from traveling? What are your favorite or least favorite places to visit?
Nothing crazy happened during my travels. I just met a lot of great people, and a couple of *ssholes, of course... My favorite places to visit, so far, have been Paris, Tokyo, NYC, LA, and Oman, in the Middle East. 
18. What is it about these places? And what makes an *sshole an *sshole?
NYC, because of the energy of the city. It's something unique. Everything moves fast and forward. I love it. Tokyo, because everything is different. They have good food and people are so nice. Oman, because of the landscape, the good weather, the beaches, and the amazing people and food. It's a must-see, especially the desert. I believe in God, and the desert is where you feel God so well.
And, *ssholes, most of the time, are people who feel themselves too much. I don't have to explain. I prefer to talk about good people.  
19.  Word. What does it mean to be a part of the forthcoming global posse cut I'm executive producing, repping France amongst the USA, Jamaica, Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia, Tanzania and Malawi?
It means a lot, man. Hip Hop is universal. It means I'm doing good enough to rep my country on a global record. It's an honor.
20. That's what's up! Song's coming very soon... In the future, with whom would you love to work, musically? Interview? Feature on Off Top? And, what is next for the great (but ever-humble) J Hart?
My main goal would be to make a song with Nas. For an interview, I would say Mike Tyson. For Off Top, we have a big surprise coming, so just stay tuned to Top Shelf Premium on social media. For my next move, I can't say yet. But what I can say is that my next video -- for my song "So Many" with HD Been Dope off The Passport EP -- will drop in early 2016.


 IAmJHart.com


Eclectic Emcee Centri Talks Indie Success, Military Discharge

Centri, Renaissance Rapper:
An Interview with AWKWORD

Praverb would be proud: it was through Twitter that I 'met' and connected with New York Hip Hop artist (and Praverb fan) Centri (@Centri), having caught wind of his unique backstory. We then linked in person and, together, created the critically acclaimed song that tells the story behind my 2014 for-charity global Hip Hop album, World View. Later, he would co-star in the video for my song "Throw Away The Key", playing a victim of racial profiling and police brutality at the hands of the NYPD. It'd been a while since Centri and I talked, and his musical output in 2015 has been somewhat slight, so I checked back in to make sure he was still on his grind. He not only agreed to be interviewed, he sent me an unreleased verse he created in honor of Praverb after hearing of his passing. After listening, and getting chills, I talked to Centri about his upbringing, his style of music, his advice for other independent artists, and what it means to be dishonorably discharged from the military. 


THE PRAVERB TRIBUTE VERSE

FAST FACTS

1. Hometown: 
Central Islip, New York
2. Current Residence: 
Bronx, NY
3. First Release: 
4. Crew Affiliation: 
5. Favorite Song Featuring Centri: 
6. Favorite Album Not Featuring Centri: 
Atliens by Outkast
7. Favorite Artist: 
Andre 3000
8. Favorite Book: 
9. Favorite Film: 
Zeitgeist (Series); Hidden Colors (Series); Oldboy
10. Future Plans: 
To continue to balance music with life as efficiently as possible

A Dozen Questions

1. I got chills. Thank you for that. A great tribute, and one of my favorite verses I've heard from you, actually. So, before we get into your music and your background, tell me about your relationship with Praverb. Were you ever able to meet in person? How did you first connect? 
Word, I appreciate that. I first met Praverb when I dropped my Rise of a Veteran mixtape. He complimented me on a few tracks and pointed me to his music. The first thing I checked from him was Professional Hobbyist, which to me was the most honest piece of Hip Hop I had heard in a long time -- and it fit well with his brand as an artist. From there we exchanged numbers, and we spoke a couple of times on the phone and through text. I was actually going to meet him when I was in DC doing some music, since he was in Virginia at the time, but it just never happened. 
2. Do you have any stories, anecdotes or examples you can share to further illustrate what he did on your behalf? 
Praverb motivated me. He shared so much reading content for independent artists, which I would check out regularly. A lot of it reinforced what my instincts would say and would just validate and confirm my way of thinking as an indie artist; some of it added structure to the things I wanted to do but didn’t know how. In particular, he referred me to one book that was highly valuable: Small Is the New Big
3. What will it mean to be featured on his site, now, after his passing? 
The site meant a great deal to me before his passing and means just as much now. Praverb.net, in and of itself, has been monumental as a brand. The pivotal post was his list of the Hip Hop blogs that accept music submissions. Just to do the research, and then to actually share your findings with the world: that is the complete opposite of what the typical, selfish independent artist would do. Praverb put the culture before his own music, which in turn made great music more visible.
4. What do you think Praverb would say to you today, if her were still alive?
I honestly don’t know. I may have flipped my entire approach for future projects based off what he shared on social media. I know I supported him whenever I had the opportunity and it was the first time I deeply felt the passing of someone I met over social media. Whether Praverb connected with you on Twitter or in person, the relationship was equally organic.
5.  Well said. Yeah, it's crazy what social media can do now. How else has social media, the Internet, etc., played a role in your development as an artist, or in your ability to further your career through online connections?
The Internet has impacted my role as an artist tremendously. As artists get older, it becomes more and more difficult to run around and be everywhere like we did back in the day, when we had fewer responsibilities. It's even been a bit more difficult to write, due to limited time. Many days, I've recorded verses on the way to my 9-to-5. Social networking has allowed me to reach out to people globally, not just for extending my fan base but to network with other artists and producers. It's kept me looped in to current trends; and helped me to accentuate my sounds with those of artists from other regions. It's like the world of music is at your fingertips.  
On the flip side, though, Internet access and the ease of recording and releasing music today has drowned out a lot of talented artists who have not kept up with the digital trends -- and the quality in Hip Hop has suffered because the market is so over saturated. Plus, artists are still struggling with what to release for free and what not to release for free, and what the concrete business model is with free releases so you can get that investment back. Only a few artists are successfully pursuing that business model, and we're all competing with them.

6. How important are content and message, rhyme SKILL versus flow? Beat and chorus? How do you determine if a song is worth an actual download and re-listen? And do you take any of these things into account when creating your own music?
I think the beat is probably the most important thing. Picking a beat that's different, unique, but also ahead of its time and captures the emotion of what you are trying to say is not easy to do. It's hindered some of the best rappers’ careers.  
The message is very important, but it’s not as important as the other elements, in my opinion. As we have all seen in recent times, the wrong message can still sound good to the masses and can easily influence those who don’t know how to filter out the negativity. It should be important, but the most important thing to me is to get the people to want to listen to the record, and then convey the message once you have their attention. I think flow is more important than lyrical skill, only because you can reach a larger audience with the flow than with skill. There are tons of artists who are super sick, lyrically, but can’t keep the average or even above-average listener’s attention for more than half a song. Once you've gotten someone to push play when they see your name, your next objective is to get them to keep listening, and your final objective for that song is it get them to want to listen to it again.   
As far as what I consider worth downloading, I actually download any and everything. Most rappers I know would shame me if they heard what’s in my mp3 player. But as a true artist you should listen to everything. How can you call yourself an MC if you’ve only listened to a select set of rappers and never listen to the artist that you say sucks but is blowing up? There is a reason they have 100,000 spins and you don't. Producers do it. They dig through records all weekend, and I’m sure they are not fans of all those genres. What makes a rapper so special that he doesn't have to do the leg work? For me, it’s part of the job description. There is actually a thrill in listening to 100 songs and liking even 30% of the records.   
And yes, I incorporate all the above in my music. I am extremely honest with myself. If I like a song that is, say, a Trap Rap type of song, I ask myself 100 times a day, "Why do I like this song?" Eventually I figure it out and I add that particular piece to my arsenal. It could be the hook, or even as granular as the tone on the hook. It keeps me inspired, and it also allows me to stay flexible.
7. That makes sense, given how eclectic your sound is. How would you describe the style of music you create? To which other artists might fans relate you?
As difficult as it is to describe my sound, I would say my sound is like the guilty pleasure of a listener's personal music catalog. It's like the show on television no one else knows that you watch religiously and, for the life of you, you can’t figure out why. My style has no range and no limits. It's gutter, real and fearless, but at the same time highly digestible.  
When real Hip Hop was dope, but the genre ventured off somewhere into the current sounds, that real Hip Hop was harvested in my lab and cultivated. I keep the core very pure in my sound, and my style is extremely bitter -- very disrespectful, in order to break you down and build you back up for not acknowledging it all this time: the voice and the attitude of what Hip Hop should be. 
Lastly, I am skill-less when it comes to sounding the same on more than one track. I listen to a beat and the beat guides the sound my flow adds. I cannot get into a mind frame to put consistency of style to more than one song for the sake of consistency itself. It would be at the cost of losing a song that could be optimized to sound 10 times better if I let the rhythm of the track lead. I mentioned to a highly regarded rap friend of mine that he keeps the same flow on every record while I have no consistency in my style, and he said, "That is your style: not having a style." I thought that was profound and it's always stuck with me.

8. What about your personal life? Growing up in NY, your experience in the military -- how do these elements play into your creative expression?
Growing up in New York definitely played a huge part in my foundation as a rap artist. I grew up in Central Islip, NY, and in my high school you got more respect the better, wittier, and more lyrical you were at rhyming. It honestly didn’t matter if you were a class clown, or a hood, or a quit nerd kid. if word got around that you could spit, people wanted to hear it. We were thirsty for music growing up. Keith Murray was our standard, and he set the tone for a lot of up-and-coming artists from our neighborhood. At least 15 to 20 of us would stay up late listening to WKCR and bring in tapes of what they recorded during the radio show. Aside from dressing fly, getting girls, and just being a knucklehead, music was the one thing that made us relevant. I learned so much from that era in Hip Hop, and the things I learned technically built the core that makes me who I am today as an MC. 
My military life also absolutely played a huge role in how I express myself creatively. I was kicked out of the military three days before I was supposed to naturally leave, due to some higher influential authorities who executed whatever military justice they could apply to kick me out early. At the time, I had done three years and 361 days, and being kicked out allowed them to revoke my college money -- and, from the list of things the recruiter promised me, that was the only thing that was actually real.   
Eventually, with the help of other factions of the government, I got everything overturned six months after I left the military. In those six months I learned some vital lessons about myself that I honestly can’t express in words. I was young and I had never known people could go through such lengths to ruin your life. I also found a lot of other soldiers who were kicked out of the military for minor infractions, and the stigma is affecting their ability to find employment. And, when I say a minor infraction, it is often something that at a civilian job wouldn't even get you a warning. For example, if you take a sudden leave of absence from your job because your family member is sick, you may get fired, but I am sure potential new employers would understand your situation. If the same thing happens in the service, you could be deemed AWOL and registered as a deserter of the military. Most people find this out when it’s already too late. 
My first album, Article 15: The Rebel Knowledge Story, was spawned from my and others' experiences in the military. I didn’t want to be selfish and talk about myself the entire album, especially when I wanted to convey such an important message. My goal was to give a voice to those soldiers who I met in those six months who may not have had their discharge overturned like I did. I believe only five to 10 percent of people who get discharged this way are able to get it overturned. I could go on,but my album captures that angst.

9. Damn. You gave me so much, but I guess I asked for it... You hinted at making music helping you deal with your "angst" -- is that why you do this? Does rapping justify itself from a financial perspective, or are there other reasons for what you do?
Honestly, it's not because of angst, but I have to admit that music does help channel your anger. I'm really not that angry of a person, because being angry and worried doesn't help me physically. I actually had health issues as a youngster because I was extremely angry and was also pretty anxious. 
That being said, a lot of my music is anger, or angst. I find that it's the best way to connect with the listeners and let them know that you've been in their shoes. To me, that's the most important part of writing: to connect with the listener. 
As far as why I do this... I think the main reason is because I always hear a sound that I feel needs to be heard in Hip Hop. I listen to tons of music and I always feel that there's a lane that needs to be tackled. And I'm the only person that can create that sound that I want to hear. It's like I do it for the fan in me. I need dope Hip Hop to get me through my day. It's the only constant, and I cant have it let me down. 
When I was young, and I'm talking 11 to 12 years old, I was an extremely good writer. All the heads would always want me to rhyme, battle, or just want to put me on. The problem is, everybody was broke and nobody knew how to help anybody else. A large part of me feels that I be had to become successful outside of rap in order to fund my music career. The game's changed so drastically that doing it for money may not even be worth the stress. So, now that I'm much more financially set, I rhyme to take advantage of the missed opportunities I had when I was a kid.
10. Thats cool. Living a dream. So how do you pay the bills? And how do you find time for music amidst work and family?
However I can, my friend. Writing verses for features, song writing, hook writing, etc. If I write a verse for a feature or entire song, I can guarantee you it's going to be well worth your money. I also have some tech skills that I barter, but other than it's a 9-to-5 or whatever way I can to make a dollar. 
As for finding time, it's definitely much more difficult to create music as you get older. One thing I do is record my verses on a tape recorder throughout my day, week or month. Some of my illest verses were written with that method.
Centri with Hot 97 and ESPN Radio's Peter Rosenberg (L) and Peter's assistant Hip Hop Mike (R) at SXSW
11. So what would be your advice to a rapper just starting out and wanting to remain independent?
First, define your version of success. I feel like the definition of success in rap is skewed for a lot of independent artists. We all know it’s the dollar bill at the end of the day, but how long is that dollar going to be around and how long will you be able to sustain the lifestyle? For example, I met a doctor who was making well into the six figures. But when he broke it down, when you add in student loans and the amount of time he was in school, we kind of evened out. It’s not about the present value of your dollar, it’s about the future value. At the end of the day, success is setting a realistic goal, reaching it, and setting another one. If you can do that at will, then it doesn't matter whether you’re on MTV or in a coffee shop doing shows for 10 years straight. As long as you set goals and met them, you've been successful. You don't have to own a Ferrari or Margielas to be a successful. 
Second, be open minded. I know rappers my age who have stopped listening to current Hip Hop and are so lost they don’t know where to start. I’m not saying to be influenced by everything that comes out, but keep your ear to the life cycle of the music you claim as a profession.  
Third, never stop developing your song-writing skills. You have to still write killer verses, but still make it digestible for new fans to understand it and pass the message. It's not as easy as it sounds. If you think it's easy, it's probably going to come off as fake and it'll sound like you're trying to write a song when you're not about that life.  
12. Slim Jesus? About that life... Anyway, If you weren't rapping, what would you be doing?
I would probably be a military lawyer.

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AWKWORD is a Global Hip Hop Ambassador; Rapper, Songwriter and Executive Producer; Sociologist; Civil Rights Activist; Journalist; and PROUD member of the Praverb.net team. He's always on Twitter.


Praverb The Wyse: Thanks To All!








First and foremost I would like to thank everyone who stops by and glances at the blog, it really means a lot to me and you all keep me grounded and motivated. Sometimes I wonder who would be the ultimate blogger's dream...the Voltron or super emcee if you will. Like what if I have the swag of Dipset combined with the popularity of Kanye? Or the emcee ability similar to Mickey Factz, Skyzoo, and Wale? Would I then be the equivalent to the blogger's dream? I believe that God has blessed me with the ability to put words together and I have studied those who came before me. I feel that my time will come when God wants it to happen, the hardest thing is trying to stay patient and not become envious. There are 1 million emcees on this planet and most of them are cookie cutter emcees which means they possess the same style. I am not saying that I am different I just want people to hear me out. I love the fact that I have built connections on other continents that will last a lifetime. I will soon embark on another year of being under the radar but each day I strive closer towards my goal.
"Music doesn't lie. If there is something to be changed in this world, then it can only happen through music."
- Jimi Hendrix

*RIP* Written by: Praverb The Wyse/Praverb.net Founder
Picture Credit: Mike Gaits


 

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