Aesop Rock – WNUR Streetbeat Interview

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Preparing for his February 6th show at the Metro Chicago, Aesop Rock talks to WNUR Streetbeat about his beginnings, his motivations and the importance of exercise. Check it out, then buy some tickets to go see him here: http://www.etix.com/ticket/online/performanceSearch.jsp?performance_id=8459464&cobrand=metrochicago

Interview Below.

Would you consider yourself a happy person?

Uuuuuh oh jeez. I don’t know, I consider myself a work in progress usually. I think I’m always aware that happiness is out there; I’m always trying to force myself in that direction. I don’t know. Naturally I think I tend to kind of go into a bit of a dark place. I think every year I try to be a little more aware of those kind of things. So I’d like to say yes, but ultimately no.

What is your definition of success?

 I don’t know. There’s obviously different levels of it. I mean, I think success is me running my two miles today at the gym. That was big for me, but uh, obviously I could use a couple million dollars at any point also. So I think continuing to pull forward through all of this is kind of a success in itself.

So because of the run you made today, you feel successful as a person?

I did for like an hour but then I took a nap like right after, and I was back to square one. So it’s give and take everyday.

Yeah I understand that. I did a 2 and a half-mile run at the gym the other day and I felt really proud of myself.

Yeah that’s great, I can’t seem to run more than 2 miles in a row.

How do you think your music has evolved since Music For Earthworms?

I was young, man, so I think I was probably in a bit of an experimental state and that I was kind of flailing my arms around to a degree back in those days trying to figure out what I was even doing or what sounded cool to me. I think probably over the course of a bunch of projects you start to get a better feel of what you should be doing versus just blindly experimenting. I mean obliviously there’s still a degree of experimentation, but you just kind of learn more, there’s obviously technical improvements that can help. I definitely didn’t make those early records as if I was making a project necessarily; I was just kind of pudding along. I think that’s a little different these days for better or worse. I keep in mind “Oh I have to be working on an album,” and y’know, it should be approximately this length, which is probably helpful but probably hindering me as well. You definitely have the benefit when you’re young of not knowing what the fuck you’re supposed to be doing.

How did you get people to listen to your music when you were in college?

Well in those days I was recording on 4-tracks, and stuff, then when I was out I would try, anywhere I was, to rhyme, whether at a house party or if we were in a club for the night I would try to get on the mic. To be that guy. And then there was that aspect of it, but then a lot of it was making songs in my apartment and then I would go back to New York a lot and make songs with Blockhead in those days. We weren’t really worried about that to be honest, we were just doing what was fun to us. We always recorded shit, whether or not we were joking or serious. Just kind of made stuff constantly, videos and music and that kind of stuff. It was just like another thing we did. I think after being out rhyming at places, a couple people took more interest. Then eventually after that I made a tape with 4 songs on it that we started to sell to people for 4, 5 dollars. It wasn’t like it just happened overnight. We were just doing stuff, and then next thing you know a couple people are interested, and then one day my phone rang saying “we’re a record store in Los Angeles and we want to buy 5 copies of your tape” and I was like “oh fuck.” In those days people just got each other’s phone numbers and I would actually answer the phone when it rang. It was very slow and through more trading of tapes and making an album that’s how people eventually got to know me.

What were your reasons for rapping when you were younger? Did you have fame in the back of your mind?

I didn’t think any of that would happen, it was just for the fun and I mean I was doing visual arts at the time, it was kind of my focus for school. I was drawing and painting and doing music at nighttime; trying to make shit across the board. I moved back to New York after school and just kept making songs. I always recorded at my house with a nicer recording device, an 8-track. To be honest I’m still the same way. I don’t know that anyone’s going to buy another Aesop solo. I mean some people will because more people are on board with me, but I’m not guaranteed by any means. I’m still a working musician that rides the line; I can pretty easily fade into obscurity, or have a fucking hit. I just have to keep plugging away at it. I’ve never been secured that people are going to be into this shit for another day at all. From the day it started picking up, until even right now. Hopefully they’ll be with me tomorrow.

Well were you keeping fans in mind when you made an album like Bazooka Tooth where it was after you had all this success from Daylight? Was it made with the fact that people were going to listen to it in mind?

I think most of them aren’t made like that. I just kind of hold myself up and make shit. And I really don’t think about, that anybody’s going to listen to this ever. And then one day you’re just kind of mixing a little record, and you’re like, oh yeah this is going to all come out now, all this weird stuff I’ve been doing at my house by myself is actually going to be available. So there’s always that moment toward the end of the project that it hits you, that all the stuff you’ve been doing privately is going to be made public. Which is weird, it never really gets any easier. But yeah, all my efforts are like that. I do them quietly and then they’re done.

Do you think you’ve been able to maintain that it’s all for fun, or has it become more of a career thing?

Well, it actually has become more of a career whether I like it or not because it is my income and there has to be some level of, I don’t know, professionalism is the term, but I do have a little bit of a team, I have a manager and things like that, so I have to, to a degree, play the game. Certainly now that I’m a little older, the middle part of all of this was a bit of a blur, but now I just try to take a second occasionally and be like, well y’know I managed to somehow get this far without having to work some bullshit job really, but I do my best to appreciate that I’ve done this. But like I said, it’s still very much a fulltime job for me. It’s not like I just sit back on a pile of money and enjoy. I make my own hours and obviously I have a love for what I do, but it’s very much a job.

Are there topics in Hip-Hop that you feel still haven’t been touched on?

Yeah I think there’s probably endless topics out there, the problem is finding the ones that are worth it for me. It’s just harder these days to find something for me, not that there’s less out there, but sometimes you don’t know what’s going to stick and what’s not so sometimes it takes a while. I want to be unique with each line. I don’t want to sit there and write another song that I feel like I’ve already covered. Whether in the material or doing things in the rhymes that I’ve done before too much. I know I never repeat myself, but if I’m feeling like I’ve been there I don’t want to go there. So that leads me to sometimes kicking around a bunch of ideas and not following through with them. With that said, I think there’ a million and one things you can rap about, it’s just about whatever is of interest to you.

What new things are you exploring with Hail Mary Mallon?

Its me and Rob’s excuse to sort of fuck off a little bit and not really over-think anything. I think with the solo stuff that we both do it’s pretty easy to get very swept away and very caught up with the over-thinking and some of the rules you set up for yourself and wanting to stick to a theme. And I think with the Hail Mary Mallon stuff, Rob and I are pretty close friends, we got back a long way, so it’s very easy to find something in the moment and extend that into a song. We put in a lot of our little inside jokes and try and make songs we may not make on our solo records. Just not second-guess things so much, If the moment is there and we’re feeling it we just kinda go with it. There is a bit of a fresh energy that comes with that. It’s different than what you’re going to find on my solo stuff. For me, anyway.

Would you say that’s how the creative process was when you made a song like Whales?

Yeah Whales, and then on the first record it was Grubstake and Breakdance beach, those were all ones that were A, probably my favorites but B the ones at the end- y’know a lot of the stuff we’ll go back and forth because we don’t live in the same city and we’ll send stuff back and forth. Then we get together every few months and record the ones that we’ve been working on. But then there’s always a period sort of at the end with out final couple weeks together and we’re finishing things up and we’ll always try and write a few last minute songs together. Y’know usually the ones that are 99% drum machine, just us being silly. But yeah like Whales was one of those that just popped out on one of the very last days. It might be my favorite song on there. A similar thing happened the first time. We drew all the ones that were a little more heavy duty, and then we just try and bust out a couple small ones at the end and they end up being the really fun ones.

Cool. So how did you and Rob decide to bring Homeboy Sandman along for this tour?

It’s just honestly me listening to a bunch in the last year or so, and that Hallways record I’ve been listening to a ton. We have a couple friends in common. So y’know, then I was like “What’s up?” I said we have this tour coming up and you’re more than welcome to be with us, blah, blah, blah. That was kind of it.

What is your on-stage chemistry like with Rob Sonic?

We’re like lovers, pure lovers in the mist.

Do you think the complexity of your songs adds to the energy during a performance?

I think so. I mean we’ve been touring together for a long time, there’s an aspect that we don’t take ourselves all that seriously. I mean, we do in the right sense, but we very much try to get across that we’re just two dudes. There’s not really much of a superiority thing going on. We just look like two dudes you could just be hanging out with at a gas station. So I feel like between what we look like, sound like and how we present ourselves, it’s hopefully that kind of vibe. Where we’re not above you we’re just kind of there with you.

That’s a cool vibe to have, that’s a cool vibe to have.

Thank you, sir.

Lastly, is there anything you’ve always wanted to say in an interview that you’ve never gotten the chance to?

Unfortunately, probably not.

Oh. Anything interesting happen to you today?

I did my run, I took my nap and I ate a peanut butter sandwich. Oh and I’m reading an issue of National Geographic.

Nice.

[Aesop Rock is a member of Rhymesayers Entertainment and is partnered with Rob Sonic. They together are Hail Mary Mallon. Listen to their latest releases here: http://rhymesayers.com/releases]

By Cameron Smith and Conor Driscoll

Homeboy Sandman – WNUR Streetbeat Interview

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Got a chance to chop it up over the phone with New York rapper, Homeboy Sandman. He’s been releasing music for several years now, ever since dropping out of University of Pennsylvania a semester short of graduating. Get better acquainted with him and find out about his influences, upcoming projects and more. Also, watch him accompany Aesop Rock and Rob Sonic on stage at the Metro February 6th. Purchase your tickets here: http://www.etix.com/ticket/online/performanceSearch.jsp?performance_id=8459464&cobrand=metrochicago

Interview below.

We’re big fans of you over here at the station, and we wanted to start by getting to know you a little bit. What’s your favorite food?

 My favorite food? Um, I really like rice and beans, y’know with hot sauce. I really like baked chicken too I like a nice roast chicken as well.

 Keep it light, I like that. Solid meal. What’s your favorite movie?

 The Matrix.

Where are you from originally?

 Queens, New York.

Word. I was reading up about you and your decision to leave Penn a semester short of graduating and what not. I was wondering, what’s your message to kids that are following music while in school?

 Have you seen this movie that just came out, The Gambler? With Marc Wahlberg?

 I haven’t seen it but I heard it was good; he was wearing glasses or something?

 Is he? I don’t know he might’ve been. But he makes an ill speech in that about arts. Hold up, what would I say to kids? There’s a good speech in that, he says some good stuff about it but I won’t make that my answer. I won’t bite his. But um, I would say that anybody, be it kids or adults or anybody, that doing what you love is a lot of fun.

 How do you feel being a part of a select few rappers that have some college education?

 It’s been cool. It was a real blessing, to go to school then go to Penn, then Queens College, then to go to Hofstra. Learned a lot of cool stuff out there and met a lot of cool folks. It was fun. It was cool.

How does your education at places like Hofstra and stuff make your music different from other rappers?

Well I look at the stuff that a lot of the academia has done for me. Just a lot of vocab and a lot of structure in terms of presenting ideas in a real concise way and a real concise fashion. I feel like it helps me sometimes when I wanna get kinda esoteric with it and all over the place. I can do that. But sometimes when I wanna bring a lot of structure to it I feel like there’s a lot of structure type stuff I’ve picked up in academia, which I find to be helpful in some of the art I’ve been creating.

Does that include inspiration from other forms of media? Poetry? Films?

Yeah I think I draw from um, I think it’s kind of funny when people talk about lyrical rappers, that kind of sounds to me like chefs that know how to cook. But y’know I just want to be that nice with it. I want to make stuff that I find is at the highest level. I’m definitely in the art of creativity and authenticity. These are the things that are important to me. So I feel that the things that are important to people are talent and creativity, authenticity, things of this nature. Musicality. I guess those are what people call the lyrical rappers. I grew up listening to the guys that were definitely really good rappers, Redman, Black Thought, Mos Def, Eminem, Big Pun, Ghostface, DOOM. These are guys that I listen to, Aesop, you know what I’m sayin’.

Do you feel embraced by Chicago crowds when you come out here to perform?

Last time I was in Chicago it was real fly, I forget the name of the venue, but I was over there in the summertime. Actually, some of my favorite cats are from Chicago. I think Kanye is one of the most gifted cats making music. I’ve been a big Common fan for a very long time. I also think Lupe is crazy nice and I can go on and on. Actually Aesop just put me on to this kid Mick Jenkins? Is he from out there too?

Yeah he’s definitely buzzing right now.

Yeah Aesop introduced me to a video of his the other day that I thought was really good. So there’s definitely a lot of talent out there that I appreciate. Y’know I’ve always had fun rocking with Chicago my whole career.

Great. I was also wondering about how you first got in contact with Aesop Rock. Since both of you grew up in New York, was there any artistic or personal relationship that existed before this tour?

We started talking a couple months before the tour, and it was actually soon before that, that I actually really, I got a homeboy … another MC of out Brooklyn, that was putting me on to Ace, So it was a coincidence, some

Destiny stuff. I actually started becoming a fan of Ace soon before I started talking to him so it was really opportune. You know what I mean?

I really, really like the Uncluded project that he did with Kimya Dawson. I was listening to some of that earlier today and listening to a lot of that yesterday. I think that’s really, really fly. But obviously, I’m rocking with him every night. I have my favorites, y’know coming in to him before I really got to build with him and really delve into his work. The thing about Ace is that his stuff is very dense and very complex, it’s very rich and it takes delving into. You can’t be a passive listener when it comes to Ace.

One of my favorite albums of all time is Illadelph halflife by the roots and I love that I can still go back to that album to this day and find something new. So I’m really loving and enjoying digging through Ace’s stuff and having these eureka moments. I mean it’s really some of the most brilliant writing I’ve ever come across in my whole life.

Do you feel like Aesop is more of a peer or a mentor in this context?

Well you know I definitely think of Ace as someone who is in a class by himself. I think the greats as far as this art form are the people that can do something that nobody else can do and have a style that’s all their own, and I definitely look at him that way. I’m very grateful for having the opportunity to build with him. I’m always looking for what I can pick up from him. This just goes to the type of person he is. He’s someone I admire as far as the person he is, so I’m always looking into how he gets down and things I might be able to pick up on.

Any new projects coming up?

Shoot, I don’t even know what’s coming out next, might be the bravery Bunch joint that I got with a bunch of features. Everything got features on it, and Ace might be on there. I would love to work with Ace with some stuff we’ve been talking. We’re beginning to stir the pot in that sense, but y’know we haven’t finished nothing yet. But, Hallways came out the end of last year, so I’ve been rocking a lot of that at the shows. I think it’s my 12th release, so I’m rocking a lot of stuff.

But definitely look for 1, 2, maybe 3 releases this year. I know it’s early in the year, but I got crazy joints. It could be Bravery Bunch. I got a lot of work with Jon Wayne that hasn’t come out. I got a lot of work with J57 that hasn’t come out. I just got a lot of work that hasn’t come out yet.

Lastly, is there anything you’ve wanted to say in an interview that you’ve never gotten the chance to?

That’s a good question. Right now I don’t got nothing, but now that you asked me that question, next time somebody ask me that I’ll have a good answer.

[Homeboy Sandman is member of Stones Throws Records and just recently dropped his new album, “Hallways.” Buy it here: http://www.stonesthrow.com/store/album/homeboysandman/hallways]

By Cameron Smith and Conor Driscoll

MikeQ & Cakes Da Killa – WNUR Streetbeat Interview

Last week, Streetbeat had the honor of sending two of our DJs to spin at VIA Fest, a 5-day long affair presented by Chicago curators Them Flavors. They just brought in some of the best and brightest underground talent both locally and abroad for a series of intimate shows – and they called on us to open up for none other than MikeQ and Cakes Da Killa.

These two are quite the formidable duo: despite only having met a couple months ago, their musical styles are a perfect match for each other and truly create something special on stage. MikeQ is an innovator who took the sounds of Vogue/Ballroom drag culture and reformatted them into an actual musical genre, whereas Cakes Da Killa is a fabulous diva of an MC who came up directly through that scene, and infused its frenetic and playful energy into his own brand of Hip-Hop.

They’re two extremely intriguing artists on the rise, which makes this next part all the more exciting – While Hai-Chu and Acidtot Prophet did Streetbeat proud on the decks, I managed to find my way backstage to chill with MikeQ and Cakes and talk about their newfound musical partnership:

 

L: Thanks a lot for hanging out, were huge fans of your music at Streetbeat and I can’t wait to see you guys perform. Its great to have you here – How many times have you been in Chicago? What do you think of the scene here? 

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Cakes: The scene is cute! I’ve been here like 4 times but every time I come it’s a different experience… but it’s always the same whiskey. 

L: Yeah I remember earlier this year you threw down at Primary – that was a great set man! What are some of your biggest musical influences?

MikeQ: This is my third time here, it’s a cool city – I always enjoy coming here.

Cakes: Patty Labelle. Hands down.

MikeQ: I’m just influenced by a lot of old house music and dancing.

L: And what came first for you DJing or Producing?

MikeQ: Producing actually came first, and my name was DJ MikeQ as a producer… And then once I became a DJ a year later I decided to take the DJ off (Laughs).

L: And Cakes, what inspires you lyrically and how do you usually come up with your rhymes? 

Cakes: Really shady situations, break-ups and… food raging (Laughs)

L: And how long you been rapping?

Cakes: It’s been about 4 years now of being a recording artist.

L: That’s cool. Mike, if there was anyone in the world you could b2b with, who would it be?

MikeQ: I mean that was always Masters at Work for me, but then that happened. Man… I really don’t know, cause it’s already been fulfilled – maybe Girl Unit actually, they’re one of my favorites.

L: Yeah I’m bout that, Girl Unit is rad. So you guys are about to go on tour right?

Cakes: Uh-huh, it’s called the “Two Cunts One Whip Tour”.

L: That’s awesome! When did you guys first link up?

MikeQ: Hmmm, maybe like the last month or two?

Cakes: I don’t know exactly, maybe more? It just kind of happened – I would say we’re definitely cut from the same cloth.

L: I feel that. So can we expect some musical collaborations from you two?

Cakes: Oh yeah we have a few announcements coming up in the future! But we can’t really let the cat out of the bag just yet. Maybe a couple songs – maybe a documentary who knows (Laughs)… just make it hot!

L: Sounds exciting! I got one more question. Who’s your favorite top 40 mainstream pop diva?

MikeQ: I guess Beyonce, even though she’s kind of her own thing. I bet you Cakes will say Rihanna.

Cakes: Yeah I would have to give it to Rihanna, cause she so bingey (Laughs)

L: Well thanks so much guys! It’s an honor to open for you guys and I’m super stoked to hear your sets

Cakes: Sure thing, it’s gonna be a turn up!

 

And it was. MikeQ and Cakes truly were destined to perform together, and now that the two have found each other, there will be no looking back. After a heavy yet elegant set that had everyone glued to the dance floor, MikeQ stayed on the decks and seamlessly transitioned into being DJ for Cakes – who started off by scatting and improvising over Q’s vogue beats but was soon fully performing his own songs. Once Cakes stepped on the stage, the energy was on another level – and what followed was wild, outrageous and just pure fun in every sense of the word.

It was an authentic look at two of the biggest and brightest stars of the LGBT world, and a joy to watch them develop their new found chemistry on stage. We wish MikeQ and Cakes Da Killa the best of luck on their “2 Cunts 1 Whip” tour, and extend our thanks to Them Flavors for the opportunity to share the stage with them.

By Lorenzo Gonzalez Lamassonne

AleXander – WNUR/PGM Interview

As Niteskool begins to create their music video for the year, their artist, AleXander is building a heavy buzz by dropping songs and doing interviews with people like us. Check out this interview he just did in the studio and look out for his future projects, that we’ll be sure to keep you up to date on.

XVRHLDY – PGM/WNUR Interview

Had a nice conversation with a rapper named XVRHLDY. This dude could very well be the face of Chicago rap, and once you listen to this interview you’ll see why. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and maybe even learn a little. Check it out:

Also you can catch him with Alex Wiley and Carl from Hurt Everybody on October 3rd at 27Live. Tickets here:

http://www.ticketfly.com/event/685001-closed-sessions-live-evanston/