Wednesday, 20 February 2008

New York Hip-Hop is SPECTACULA!

Hailing straight from hip-hop’s capital, Spectacula is one of the most notable additions to the New York’s up-and-coming roster. Born to Haitian parents and growing up in Elmhurst Queens, music quickly became the sensation of this rapper’s childhood as he was introduced to R&B and Kompa at an early age. He soon fell in love with the beat and the rhythm along with music’s “ability to grab the attention of anyone who chooses to listen for 3-5 minutes, be it meaningful, emotional or just plan stupid”. Dating back to elementary school, music became his hobby and so did rhyme; more so, it became a savior at a time in which the then-youth witnessed hardships of his parents’ divorce. “If I did not have music as an outlet, I probably would have been very emotionally distressed.”

HipHopInformant: What made you get involved with Hip-hop?

Spectacula: Well as long as I could remember Hip-Hop has been apart of my life, like I could remember being four years old and having my older sisters turn the cartoons I was watching off to put on Video Music Box. So it's more like how did Hip-Hop get involved with me. But what got me directly involved in making Hip-Hop was my father letting me use his tape recorder when I was about nine years old which lead to me freeestyling. That eventually evolved to writing verses which eventually turned into me writing songs.

HipHopInformant: How long have you been involved in the industry?

I've been in this industry for about nine or ten years on and off. I'm twenty two now and I got my first (and only to date) development record deal when I was like twelve years old under the name S.O.S. It was with a independent label named Fly Spy entertainment who was in the process of getting a distribution deal with a subsidiary of Polygram (which used to distribute Def Jam). They folded before I got to release anything but It was quite a learning experience.

HipHopInformant: How would you describe your style of rapping?

Spectacula: I think the best way to describe my style is personal. About 90-95 % of my music is based on my life, past and present. My music is so personal that at times theres things I discuss in my music that I wouldn't talk about in real life, It's almost therapeutic to me. but at the same time my music is just as lyrical as it is personal and just as conscience of the world issues as it is lyrical and personal. I know that sounds confusing but when you listen to my music you'll understand exactly what I'm talking about.

HipHopInformant: What do you think about the Hip-Hop industry at this moment in time?

I think the current environment of Hip-Hop is pretty bad but I don't think the music is any worse than it has been in the past. The reason why it seems as bad as it does is because the sales are down and even thats because the music Industry as a whole is in the middle of a change in format which is causing the huge drop in sales. If this wasn't the case nobody would be focusing on the issues of quality. In my opinion Hip-Hop is in need of a new class of great emcees. We was in this same shape in the 90's before Wu-Tang, Nas, Biggie and Tupac made there mark. Bottom line I think the industry at this moment is perfect for an artist like me who strives for greatness.

HipHopInformant: What do you think differentiates you from other Hip-Hop artists?

I feel that my ability to give all of myself in my music without really glorifying criminal activities or sounding like anything else out separates me from every rapper that's in my age bracket. At this point I honestly do not feel anyone takes as much time to look for new sounds, flows, and deliveries as I do. I don't think I reinvented the wheel or anything I just feel like if more rappers spent time perfecting there craft Hip-Hop would be much better.

HipHopInformant: Do you think your upbringing and where you're from influence what you rap about?

Yes It always has influenced me for different reasons. When I first started making music and even up until a few years ago I was making music in the perspective of a typical dude from the hood who sells drugs and does various illegal activities to get by. As I matured i came to the conclusion that maybe I'm not part of the solution, maybe doing this was unintentionally part of the problem. Even though i was making music that reflected what I was going through and things I actually done It started to feel like that doesn't make it any better. Like if someone picks up a gun and shoots up a school cause they saw it in a movie is it less wrong if the movie was based on a true story? No its wrong either way. Don't get me wrong I still make music from a perspective thats some what in the same vein but the difference is its done so in a way where you see the out come. Like I have a song called "Coulda Sworn" where I talk about my brief time selling crack but the story doesn't end with me rich and happy it ends with me broke and my mother's heart broken. So pretty much worse off.

HipHopInformant: Are there any artists that influence you or your music?

Spectacula: Theres a lot of artists that influence my music, actually the artists that have been influencing my music lately have been from other genres. But above all the artist that will always influence me
and my music are The Notorious B.I.G., Nas, Jay-Z, Big L and AZ on so many levels. If it wasn't for those five people I wouldn't be the emcee I am today.

HipHopInformant: Do you think the industry needs to change? If so why?

Spectacula:I think the industry needs to change the way it is run. When Hip-Hop was in its golden era the A&Rs looked for people with talent and potential to help develop their skills now it seems like the A&Rs look for artists who are already developed. As hard as it was to be a new artist before now you have to essentially do the record labels job for them before you could even get close to getting a deal because the A&R's are scared to lose their jobs. There is a artist development shortage thats really doing the industry more harm than any thing.

HipHopInformant: What do you enjoy about rhyming?

Spectacula: I just enjoy playing with words. Like I like surprising people with what I say. What I've come to love Hip-Hop for and music in general is the ability to grab the attention of anybody who chooses to listen with what your saying for 3-5 minutes be it meaningful, emotional or just plan stupid. In my opinion Hip-Hop music is just as powerful as any form of power.

HipHopInformant: How did the name Spectacula come about?

Spectacula: Actually It came from not paying attention in class my freshmen year of high school. Me and my friend would be in the back of the class battling on loose leaf paper, well you could say we were writing rhymes back and fourth. I don't exactly remember how the rhyme went but i know it ended with "if your good I'm Spectacular" and for some reason the name seemed to fit me so it stuck.

HipHopInformant: Finally, what does the future hold for Spectacula?

Well I have a new free download mixtape dropping in March with DJ Noodles Called
Paid in full which is in preparation for my debut album For What It's Worth which will be exclusively released digitally on April 29 so be on the look out for that.

Click on the Cover to get the Paid In Full Mixtape completely FREE!

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Frequency Activism: Hip-Hop is their weapon!

Frequency Activism is a CT/NY political hip-hop/soul/funk/jazz group consisting of vocalists Hired Gun (also of 3rd Party), Paint Dragon (flute and saxophone), and Stat, d.j./vocalist Mista Mayday, The Specialist on drums, bassist Sean Canedy and guitarist Matt Turcotte. In other words, a full funk band with emcees trading off with a jazz vocalist with dense, politically charged lyrics layered with a DJ. Check for their first album, Hip Hop in Strange Places, in addition to solo albums and other projects by these artists.

HipHopInformant: What made you get involved with Hip-hop?

Paint Dragon: I was at a friend's birthday party and Stat had a bongo with him. I asked him to accompany me with beats and I sang Midnight Sun as a birthday gift. I hadn't met Stat yet, but introduced ourselves after the song and he said that I had to meet Mayday. We went to Mayday's house one night and his grooves really inspired me so we started recording some of my vocals that first night. The flute and sax parts came later.

Mista Mayday: My pops (DJ Nasty Nel) used to spin dance music in the late 70’s and early 80’s out in CT. I grew up with Turns in the house and used to sneak on the decks to spin his Run DMC, Whodini and Grand Master Flash records. I also learned a lot from listening to DJ Doc 9 on 91.7 WHUS, Uconn’s radio station. I loved the sound, the style and the message. A better question would be “What made me get involved in political activism?” and the answer to that would be “hip-hop”.

Hired Gun: Ha ha, see my answer to this question in my personal interview, fam’. For real though, the first song I heard was “Self Destruction” and I was just taken by it ever since.

Stat: Growing up in the LA area in the mid 80’s. I remember going into the city with my parents when I was little and seeing b-boys with the cardboard out on the sidewalks. Picked up Raising Hell in ’86, License to
Ill in ’87 and it went from there. A co-worker at this video store I worked at got me to writing rhymes pretty regularly. A little while later, the idea of starting a band came up with some guys I was jamming with, and we needed a vocalist. Figured it was about time I did something with all these verses I had.

HipHopInformant: How long have you been together as a group?

Paint Dragon: For me, it's been something like two years since that first recording session.

Mista Mayday: Hmmm… Gun and I have been recording together with ESP since ’96.
Met up with Stat in ’05 and formed the Freq Act shortly there after.

Hired Gun: Mayday and I have been fam’ since 96, so actually when the group was put together, Stat asked me to be a part and it wasn’t really a question when I knew Mayday was a part of it.

HipHopInformant: How did the name Frequency Activism come about?

Stat: Originally, the album (Hip Hop In Strange Places) was conceived as a project with just myself and Mayday. When Gun and Paint Dragon got on board, we started searching for a name for the project. I was inspired by what Mayday was doing with his media activism (Citizens for the Reform of Entertainment and Media) and his activism in general. We threw back and forth a few ideas, but the goal was always to come up with something that describes the political vibe of what we were trying to do. So the name represents the goal of pushing social change through the art form of music.

HipHopInformant: Where are you all from?

Stat: Originally from the LA area, then northern CA in Davis for about 5 years while I was in grad school. Moved out to Connecticut in 2004, where I met the rest of the crew.

Paint Dragon: I grew up in Michigan and have traveled quite extensively. It didn't feel right living in one place my whole life, so when I had the opportunity to move to CT in 1995 I took it.

Mista Mayday: Well, mostly CT. I was born and raised in New London County. I did 4 yrs of college in Poughkeepsie, NY. Lived in Brooklyn, NY for several years with HG and then spent some time in Portugal. I’m now back in CT.

Hired Gun: Originally from New Jersey, but have made Brooklyn my home since 2000.

HipHopInformant: Are there any influences that push you or make you work harder?

Paint Dragon: Music is incredibly spiritual for me. When something inspires me, usually a sound or beat, a switch turns on and I'm just into it. A basic rhythm or a good groove can spur me to write a song in a matter of minutes, but it has to really grab me and send me into that mode of creativity. When the switch turns on the experience becomes very transcendent and seems to come automatically. I really need to work harder when that switch doesn't get flicked.

Stat: I draw inspiration from many sources musically, but they all fall under the umbrella of “doing it right”. Foremost, the live performance is important. When I catch a show, regardless of genre, where the musician or band really makes that connection with the crowd, it inspires me to work on what I do. A few instances come to mind immediately, such as seeing Boots from the Coup a while back. The sound was terrible, we were basically hearing the vocals through the monitors that he turned around to face the crowd, and it really didn’t matter. You didn’t take your eyes off him for the whole set. That’s what a live show should be (but with better sound). That’s the goal.

Hired Gun: My influences range and vary from the many artists that I deeply respect for their creativity, their innovation, and them being grounded in deep cultural and/or spiritual moorings. Gil Scott Heron, The Last Poets, Native Tongues, Rage Against the Machine, Detroit Techno (Belleville Three), The Panthers, Malcolm X, Beat Generation Poets, Portishead, Ab Rude, Aceyalone, Mikah, Organized Konfusion, The Mighty Mos Def (not the current incarnation…come back brotha’…). I could go on for days. I’m influenced by Sun/Moon patterns, and the state of my personal relationships. I’m a deep sensitive nineties male, what do you want?

Mista Mayday: KRS said that “Hip-hop is rebel music” and the more I learn and come to understand the nature of our human world the more I’m pushed to express, educate and agitate through my music.

HipHopInformant: What are your current views about Hip-Hop today?

Stat: Hip-Hop has its problems, but it's certainly not alone in that. Mass media in general (music, television, Hollywood) has been consolidated into a formulaic profit machine, stripped of artistic integrity. When you've got the formula down, there's no need to take challenges anymore from a business standpoint. On the flip-side, technology has put the ability to record and make your music available very easy. So there are still people out there pushing forward the art form, you just need to put in the effort to find it.

Mista Mayday: Hip-Hop in its purest form is alive and well. In its mass-produced music industry form it’s hurtin’ for certain. When culture becomes branded it is forced to innovate and sometimes discredit itself in order to regain its real credibility once again. I know a lot of real hip-hop heads… everywhere there’s a cipher, some b-boying, a DJ tearin’ up dope beats you will find Real Hip-Hop still doing fine today.

Hired Gun: The only major thing I have to say about hip-hop is the lack of balance, in regards of what is being heard and how it's portrayed. Mos Def was right on Black on Both Sides, Hip Hop is about “where am I going, what am I doing”. When you look at the general psyche of this country it's become very complacent, very decadent, and not aware of its own history or power. The music in the mainstream only reflects that.

HipHopInformant: Do you think that the Hip-Hop industry has to change and if so why?

Hired Gun: Yes it has to change, and it already is changing. The bottom line is there is too much “industry” in Hip Hop. With technology and the audience expanding, demanding more quality and having every eclectic taste… the true DIY spirit will return. All of us as artists have to think outside the box and step our hustle up.

HipHopInformant: How influential do you think Hip-Hop is today on the youth?

Mista Mayday: From my POV, unfortunately too much right now. Meaning that the more negative aspects of urban life are getting amplified via the corporate labels and their media outlets which is doing a great disservice to our youth. These images are then recycled back through the feedback loop of media and they are further intensified, repeated and re-broadcasted in yet more extreme forms. (Read No Logo). Imagine if PE and BDP had been up on the billboard top 10’s year round. The revolution would have already been done.

Hired Gun: It depends honestly. I actually think Hip-Hop might be on its way out as the primary influence with young people. I work right now with a lot of youth in New York City, and what is more and more prevalent is Rock. I think that on the plus side, Hip-Hop is still giving kids a feeling of a DIY attitude and spirit. It is by the same token enforcing a lot of negative stereotypes and behaviors. It’s a two-sided coin. The job that we have as purveyors of the culture is to help not only youth but the world see what it is about. By default my generation, the Hip-Hop generation are the elders. We need to step up.

HipHopInformant: Does your music have a message and if so what is the message?

Paint Dragon: The music carries several messages, which is what I find so compelling about our group. We all come from very different musical backgrounds and those sounds, and lyrics, mesh into something that speaks to many different listeners. The messages seem to break into three different orientations: political, personal, and hip-hop.

Hired Gun: I have to echo Paint Dragon, each member has their own individual passions, coupled with our shared ideas of what’s going on in the world. You get a taste of that in each song.

Mista Mayday: Word. We each have something different to offer but I think that I could collectively summarize it like this: “Another world is not only possible, but it is necessary.”

HipHopInformant: What does the future hold for Frequency Activism?

Paint Dragon: I think the question really is what doesn't the future hold for Freq Act?

Stat: The trend seems to be that we get bigger and bigger, literally. In addition to the Specialist on drums, Matt on guitar, and Jon on bass, we just added a harmonica player, Paul. We’re still working on the horn section.

Mista Mayday: Probably jail time. Lot's of live shows with our band: The Specialist on Drums, Jon Caruso on Bass, Matt Turcott on guitar and Paul Robertson on Harmonica. Maybe a live studio album. Also promoting Mayday's run for congress in CT (

Hired Gun: The Freq Wear clothing line and Activism Cologne. I have to return Curtis’s call on a cross brand marketing deal. We gave hip hop informant the break on this story. You heard it here first! ONE.

Click on the Album Cover to download Frequency Activism's album: Hip-Hop In Strange Place for free!

Click on the button to vote for Mista Mayday's Political Campaign!

Friday, 8 February 2008

The CAUSE of Hip-Hop: New York Hip-Hop gets stronger and stronger

CAUSE, born and raised in the
Bronx, often compared to having lyrical abilities such as Common or Talib Kweli with the mainstream appeal of Kanye West, is quickly gaining a loyal fan base at the young age of 21. Taking on the burdens of his community while passionately painting a picture of greatness in leadership, CAUSE is ready to transcend a new movement in Hip-Hop. His mission: To show the music listener that dominance as an MC does not come from following trend, but proving to be a versatile, trailblazing artist skilled at not only making crowds move but taking them to the depths of their emotions.

HipHopInformant: What made you get involved with Hip-hop?

Cause: Well actually the whole Harlem movement back in the 90’s is what got me involved with Hip-Hop. Back when I was in elementary school, I went to a school that was right there in the urban community across the street from the projects, right there where Hip-Hop was and still is the most predominant music. I went to this school in Harlem, and this was right around the time Biggie, MASE, Puffy and Bad Boy Records were on the rise and blowing up. If you remember a rapper by the name of MASE, this was when he was in his prime. Nothing but up tempo, bright, high energy music that was sort of irresistible. I would hear his album “Harlem World” bumping out of every car trunk during the spring time and it became the background music to my life. Then later down the road I got into an artist by the name of Tupac, who is actually the artist that made me want to become an emcee. That was my introduction to Hip-Hop.

HipHopInformant: How long have you been involved in the industry?

Cause: Well I haven’t really been “involved” with the industry, I’ve been pursuing the chance to be involved though haha. It’s very tough to become a part of the industry especially in this day and age where nothing has the same stability it used to. But in terms of how long I’ve made Hip-Hop my career, it has only been about a year and a half and already I’ve made great progress so hopefully the future stays bright. I’m only 21 years old and I hope to soon be dominant figure in the game.

HipHopInformant: What is your current view of Hip-hop now?

Cause: I believe it’s constantly evolving. Commercially Hip-Hop is bigger than it’s ever been and that just sets up a bigger stage with more room to experiment musically and artistically. There have been more collaboration’s outside of the genre which has really helped to bring new listeners in and to make it more universal. I think it’s in a great position and we just need to maintain the integrity and we'll be fine.

HipHopInformant: You did a show with Donny Goines, Hired Gun and NY Oil. Do you think both of your styles are similar?

Cause: I think we all have very different styles which was dope to see because on that night it was all brought together. For instance Hired Gun has a very underground grit to his style, making it more about content than music, which is dope because that’s what the pioneers of Hip-Hop used to do; Donny has that classic urban/ soulful feel to his style that’ll be relatable to a lot of older folks as well as a lot of young folks who are old souls and appreciate good music. NY Oil reminds me of an old freedom fighter haha he is very controversial and brash, but very honest at the same time. With me, my style is more musical. I really enjoy the process and the art of making music. I also believe I appeal to a lot of different people because of the versatility in my music. I hope to continue to make music that has content which is relatable to a wide range of people and that is also enjoyable to listen to.

HipHopInformant: Being compared to Common or Talib Kweli is a big honour how do you feel about being compared to big names in the Hip Hop industry like them?

Cause: I think it’s great. It shows how people view me. These are people who have succeeded and who receive a great amount of respect from the Hip-Hop community so I’m glad to be mentioned in the same breath as a Common or a Talib. Its also dope because they are both older guys who have been in the industry for a while and are seasoned, so for people to be comparing me to them at my young age, it’s a great indication of how people view my talent and skill.

HipHopInformant: Were there any artists who influenced you to start rapping?

Cause: I mentioned earlier Tupac who was really the most influential in inspiring me to rap because of the way he told his story with such a depth and realism. That’s the one thing that he inspired me to do; to make music that is appealing while still encouraging personal and community change in others. There were others as well such as Big L, NAS, Big Pun, Jay-Z, Biggie, Lauren Hill, Black Thought, KRS One, Blackstar (Talib Kweli & Mos. Def.), Immortal Technique, Jurassic 5, and Blackalicious just to name a few but I have mainly been inspired by a bunch of the East Coast greats with a few special exceptions.

HipHopInformant: Are there any artists who you would like to be as big as?

Cause: I would give you a name but honestly I’m trying to be bigger than that artist so it doesn’t really matter Haha! I don’t care what anyone says we’re all trying to be the best, but the difference between me and them is I’ve got a message and a CAUSE (no pun intended haha). I’m trying to break boundaries and barriers that the previous artists have set before me. I would like to one day go down in history as one of the artists who used Hip-Hop as a tool for advocacy and to change the conditions of the world for the better. I want to be bigger than the genre.

HipHopInformant: Do you think that Hip Hop still gives out a message as it did in previous decades?

Cause: Its hard to say because there have always been so many different messages in Hip-Hop. There has never been just ONE message. What has though, is the popular message. What was the popular message back in the day was more political and rebellious, now its more watered down and light. People don’t take the time to use the power of their words anymore. It’s now all about making the song that will make the dollar instead of making the song that will make the change. Even the party songs from back in the day had more depth, they told a story and were more descriptive, now its just about mentioning your sponsors and getting paid for it haha. Its all good though I believe it'll all come back in time. I'll help bring it back as much as I can.

HipHopInformant: What are your views about Hip-Hop in New York at the moment?

Cause: Hip-Hop in New York is ME! Haha I am New York so I think it’s great!! I don’t think we ever fell off, our presence in the industry has just faded a little but we’re still out here in these streets, in these ciphers and we're still the best.

HipHopInformant: What does the future hold for CAUSE?

Cause: The future for me is consistency! I can't really promise anything else. The only thing I can really guarantee is that as long as I'm CAUSE, and as long as I'm making this music, I'll be the best I can be and I'll always put up a fight! I want to not only change the face of Hip-Hop, but also change the way young black youth are perceived by continuing to portray excellence as a MC as well as a leader. The future is something I'm learning to never take for granted. I have to live for today and just hope to see tomorrow. But you better believe as long as those "tomorrow's" keep coming, the potential of my "today's" are great!

HipHopInformant: Finally do you think that the industry needs to change? If so, why?

Cause: The industry didn’t do this, we did. We made some wack sh#t popular, people bought it in large amounts, and now we can’t go back. It’s our fault the industry just gave us the money to do it they didn’t actually make the music, we as people made the music. What does need to change are the people making the music. We need to set a higher expectation as listeners too instead of buying into the garbage and then complaining.