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!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think change can be seens as a good thing, even in the hip hop industry...