This Rhyme Perspective interview is exceptional because it sheds light on an artist that actually presents value in his music. AWKWORD, a New York based emcee, is an activist! AWKWORD music is based on the presentation of a message. You, the audience, will get acquainted with his artistry and his activism.
By the end of this interview you will also gain some important tips on how you can foster change in your commmunity. The homie AWKWORD even blessed Praverb.net with an exclusive Freestyle that you can hear below, Enjoy!
AWKWORD - Faking the Funk (Unmixed Freestyle for Praverb Dot Net)
First and foremost, what does AWKWORD represent?
AWKWORD represents the underdogs, the have-nots, the 99 percenters, the 9 to 5ers, the passionate, the hard working, sour patch kids and bad luck kings, the fallen angels, the unappreciated, underrepresented, underrated and the unapologetic.
I am a fan of your activism and what you stand for as a human being. Describe how your upbringing contributed to your present state of activism.
My mom (RIP) was an activist for women's rights, against war, and for the environment. She led the charge that saved hundreds of acres of open space in my hometown from developers looking to build condos, a gulf course, etc. She launched my town's first Earth Day, in addition to the Earth Keepers groups for the elementary schools. She was a well-respected social worker in town and was one of the heads of the Crisis Network. She also told me stories of her hippie/activist youth, played protest music in the house and not only subscribed to The Nation but clipped stories for me and instigated debate.
Knowing the pain I'd always felt for the poor and oppressed, she responded to my fighting and troublemaking in high school by inspiring me to work with the Anti-Defamation League to create my high school's first (now annual) Diversity Day. The event gives the persecuted a voice. And it offered me a platform for my first-ever live rap performance.
Hip-hop and religion are two terms that are not really synonymous with each other. How do you balance your beliefs with your quest to succeed as a hip-hop artist.
I'm Jewish by blood and by culture, but not by daily routine or strict adherence. I am proud to be a Jew, proud of our ability to survive thousands of years of persecution. And unlike many of our society's more highly educated people, I am certainly not against religion. i understand the hope religion offers people who need it; but i do fear for the people who pray first, ask questions and consider other options later.
In terms of my own relationship with my religion, my family and I have always observed holidays, especially for the traditions, but we've never kept kosher. Down the family tree, we have gotten less and less traditionally religious.
In terms of how all this impacts my music, I don't really get into the specifics of my beliefs in my songs. In some, I drop quick one-liner references. I do also have a couple 'Jewish songs': one that appeared on my solo album See the Light, the other which has not been completed and is slated for my upcoming 100% for-charity LP World View.
But here's the interesting (and disappointing) thing about this second song: it was intended to feature Jewish and Muslim (Arab) emcees; however, while the Jewish emcees I approached were all interested, I did not receive any positive responses from emcees who consider themselves Muslim and/or Arab. So, now I am second guessing including the song, in its current, all-Jewish state, on a project aimed at connecting us through Hip Hop. It seems counterproductive, despite my best intentions.
I recently read an awesome interview on DropTheR where you stated that you are a writer and photographer during the day. Does your writing background enhance your ability to connect or network with artists?
Absolutely. I do not have a manager or publicist. And since I'm not signed to any label (The Dj Booth is sponsoring/hosting World View but is not a label), I have to do all my own promotion, social media and Web updates, or pay someone else to do it for me. I choose the former -- because I don't want to spend money; and because I'm a perfectionist. But I think it pays off in the end.
My experience pitching clients' stories to newspapers, television, radio, etc., has helped me in promoting my own music as well as developing ongoing professional relationships within Hip Hop, pop culture and alternative media. And I believe that it makes it easier for my readers, listeners, followers, recipients, etc., that all my communications come from the same person, me, an award-winning writer, who is also the person behind the music.
Describe your rapping style to the masses.
I know how many people try to label my style or the type of rapper I am, but I touch on too many topics to pigeonhole me, and my rapping style flips up every other song. Just go to http://bit.ly/AWKWORDraps to listen and compare.
Later this year you will partner with DJ Booth and release the Earth's first 100% For-Charity Global Hip-Hop Project called World View LP. When did you decide to organize the project?
Word, after years of work on the project, before the end of 2012, I will be releasing World View, the first-ever 100% For-Charity Global Hip Hop Album, hosted/presented by The DJ Booth (DJBooth.net) and also sponsored by End of the Weak (EOW) and The Morgan Stanley Foundation. My "highly anticipated LP World View” (TheSource.com) is designed to connect us worldwide through Hip Hop music & culture and features contributions from every continent, approximately 20 countries and every U.S. region.
For all the background on the project and how it first came to be, go to AWKWORDrap.com and click the "About World View" link.
Who will be featured on the project?
The emcee features include Joell Ortiz, Sean Price, KRS-One, Kurupt and Slug (of Atmosphere). For the full, REGULARLY UPDATED list, go to AWKWORDrap.com and click the "World View Guest Emcees" link.
Production duties are being handled by the likes of Harry Fraud and Domingo. For the full, REGULARLY UPDATED list, go to AWKWORDrap.com and click the "World View Producers" link.
The proceeds from World View LP will be donated to...
All proceeds from World View are being donated to Guns 4 Cameras (Aim to Live), a 501c3-registered nonprofit dedicated to eradicating street violence through the Hip Hop-inspired education and empowerment of our at-risk youth. The organization’s founder, Hezues R’ was shot at 22 times at age 22 and survived to re-dedicate his life to saving the streets. He and the organization’s Spokesperson, Hip Hop icon Pharoahe Monch, have traveled the country speaking to the youth about Hip Hop, making the right choices, and putting down their guns and picking up their cameras (or their pens or their microphones) to be productive instead of destructive. Future plans for the organization include local gun-for-camera exchanges nationwide — and not for cash either, for cameras and inspiration.
For more info (with videos), go to AWKWORDrap.com and click the "About Aim to Live" link.
To purchase the World View singles that are already available, and begin contributing to the effort, go to iTunes, Amazon, etc., or use my bandcamp to name your own price -- http://AWKWORD.bandcamp.com
What does Guns 4 Cameras (Aim to Live) mean to you?
Guns 4 Cameras is an important organization for me, since I've known its founder for more than a decade. it's an important organization for Hip Hop, as well, because it targets the same communities that listen to rap music and in other ways (e.g., dress, occupational interests) live the Hip Hop culture.
You are an artist that has benefited from building and maintaining relationships with the new taste makers (blogs and websites).
Include the college and indie radio DJs and, in today's world, there simply is no other way to reach the masses. Performing is big business, but not if nobody has heard of you. And there are way too many rappers in every high school and on every street corner for the fans to know what to do, so the blogs (ideally, at least) filter the music, cut the untalented and unoriginal, and give the fans (hopefully) what they deserve.
Shoutout to Praverb for the interview, and all the websites, DJs and tastemakers who have shown me love since I stepped out on this rocky road in late 2009.
"Bars & Hooks" is an exceptional rap song that features yourself, Sean Price, Harry Fraud, and The Kid Daytona. The video has close to 40,000 view and it has allowed your brand to pick up steam. Describe the joy of working with Sean Price, Harry Fraud, and The Kid Daytona.
To use your wording, there is joy in making good music, period. Of course, I am pleased with how the "Bars & Hooks" song and video came out, as well as the incredible response they've each received. (Apologies for the delayed response to your interview questions.)
The video is now at well past 75,000 views on youtube alone and is probably closer to around 100,000. There is joy in knowing my music has been heard by all those people, but that also makes me wonder whether they then clicked a link to hear more songs from me. Sean Price, The Kid Daytona, The Incomparable Shakespeare and Harry Fraud are all good dudes, so shooting the video was easy.
We had the custom Mercedes tour bus that we were lounging in, in between takes. And Andre Ward is a skilled director, so even if someone might have been a little lifted, he got us back on track -- and we killed that shit in one day. Peace to everybody who made it out on behalf of World View and myself. Everyone involved is super busy doing their own things, too, so it means a lot.
Note: The remix version of "Bars & Hooks" just came out, too. It features all original artists, Chopped & Screwed by Slim K of OG Ron C's Chopstars.
How can the masses get in contact with AWKWORD?
I've been commended before for my interactiveness on Twitter
I'm on also on Facebook, Tumblr and Instagram with the same handle: "AWKWORDrap"
My website is AWKWORDrap.com
And for direct links to my music and videos, go to bit.ly/AWKWORDraps and bit.ly/AWKWORDtv
For more info, or to get involved with World View, email info@AWKWORDrap.com
Any final words to share with the masses?
“If they give you ruled paper, write the other way.” — Juan Ramón Jiménez
“Anything a writer writes should be written with the urgency of someone holding a gun in their mouth.” — Maya Angelou
"Occupy All Streets" - me
"It's OK to be AWKWORD" - me
Have you heard The Musical Fuck You to the US Prison Industrial Complex? The courts, the cops, Congress, et al.?... Listen to my new song "Throw Away The Key (No More Prisons)" http://soundcloud.com/awkword/throw-away-the-key-no-more-prisons (Official Video - by "Bars & Hooks" director - Coming Soon)
Before you judge, do your research. And spell my fuckin name right. http://AWKWORDrap.com/AWKWORD
Would you mind giving the audience 5 Tips Towards Fostering Change in the Community?
1) Be grassroots. Volunteer at a soup kitchen or an after-school program. Mentor a kid, a parolee or a military veteran.
2) Think globally, act locally. Hold your leaders accountable. Participate in local protests. Go to city/town board meetings. Lobby your Congressmen. Help lead local protests.
3) Share information and opinion. Foster conversation. Start a tumblr. Tweet and Facebook the news. Write letters to the editors. Submit your own writings.
4) Support independent media, like PBS and NPR, as well as indie films and filmmakers. Buy your books and your coffee and whatever else you can from small businesses instead of Staples and Starbucks. PURCHASE music from artists, like myself, who give proceeds to charity and/or speak on important issues through their art.
5) Be a Cool Rich Kid -- donate you parents' money to nonprofit organizations that spend their money on the people they're trying to help (and not on administrative costs).