Articulate: My earliest memory of Hip-Hop was when I was about 3 or 4 years old. My older cousin Born King (myspace.com/BornKingMTP) used to play music in my grandmother's basement and I would always try to sneak down there and listen. This was around the time when groups like Wu-Tang, Onyx, and Boot Camp were coming out, so I feel lucky to have been exposed to the classics at such a young age.
When I was around 12 and 13 is when I actually started rapping. It was just something that everyone did for fun, and I was always recognized as one of the best of my group of friends. Over time, it became more serious, and I started buying equipment and learning to produce and engineer, and eventually I decided that in one form or another music was definitely what I was going to do with my life.
HipHopInformant: How long have you been involved with Hip-Hop?
Articulate: I first started playing with the idea of Hip-Hop seriously as a career when first entered high school when I was about 15. People always say that there isn't much of a chance of becoming a famous rapper, and I always did very well in school so trying to rap path was definitely frowned upon, so I started doing things other than just rap so if I didn't make it, I would at least be involved in the music that I love in some kind of way. I did everything from learn to make beats and engineer, to write Hip-Hop articles for the school newspaper, to designing CD covers and websites. I think that this experience makes me a more complete artist as a whole, because I can not only just rap but be involved in every aspect of the process of creating a finished product. Right now I am in the beginning stages of my rap career, but if things don't work out I have talents are definitely needed in the industry, and also I have things to fall back on for life after rap.
HipHopInformant: Where are you from? Does where you're from influence your music?
Articulate: I'm from Baltimore, Maryland. I was born in Washington, DC, but my parents split up and my father moved back to Jamaica, Queens, New York where he was from and my mom took me with her back to Baltimore. This happened when I was very young so I don't even remember it. Baltimore definitely influences my music. The city has a stigma attached to it as it is known for a lot of bad things, like bad education, lack of jobs, crime, high HIV/AIDS rates, etc, so these are things that often come up in my music. Also Baltimore has its own type of music called Baltimore Club Music, and I incorporate that into some of my songs as well.
After high school, I went to Howard University in Washington, DC. DC has a lot of the same problems as Baltimore, but being that it is the nation's capital it also presents a lot of opportunities, and there are a lot more people from different cultures to learn from. I think that being in DC has expanded my view more globally, and it shows in my music.
HipHopInformant: You were featured on the "Make Hip Hop Not War" National Tour how was that?
Articulate: It was a good experience to be a part of something that used Hip-Hop as a way to do something positive. A lot of times Hip-Hop is seen as a problem and is blamed for a lot of society's ills, and I think that more politically active initiatives in Hip-Hop are definitely needed.
HipHopInformant: You were also featured on Strictly Hip-Hop radio show (WEAA 88.9FM) How does it feel to get recognition of that scale?
Articulate: That was great as well. When I was 16 years old I called up the radio station and just freestyled for about 8 minutes. The host of the show, Ahk, was impressed, and about a month later he invited me to come to the station for the "Friday Night Fire" segment. I was so nervous, but that was one of the first times that someone with some clout really paid attention to my abilities as an emcee and gave me a shot.
More recently my song "Don't Go" was featured on WPGC 95.5 in DC. My friend called me like "yoooo your song is on the radio". I didn't believe him at first, but then I got a few messages on myspace from people I didn't know saying they heard it. I'm just very appreciative of everyone who listens to my music and likes it, and to everyone who has opened doors for me so far. It seems like every week something new happens that is good in terms of advancing my rap career and spreading my music to a wider audience, so getting recognition on any scale, especially radio and internet outlets, has been wonderful.
HipHopInformant: Are there any artists that influence you and your music?
Articulate: I definitely keep a lot of the classics in my rotation...Illmatic, Ready to Die, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, Black Star, various Wu-Tang albums, etc. In this new era of Hip-Hop and the internet, I also look at how other emerging artists are coming out and I try to take what works from different people and use it as a part of my own strategy for expanding my audience. There are a lot of people out there doing some very creative things, and I try to do the same.
At the end of the day, I want to make music that really means something, and that people from the 90's era of Hip-Hop can appreciate, but also craft the sound of the future.
HipHopInformant: Tell me about your album "Slave For This Dollar."
Articulate: Slave For This Dollar is a 9 track EP with the message of doing what you love and not doing things just for money. There are a lot of people in all industries who are stuck making a lot of money, but are unhappy because they didn't work hard at what they truly love. I believe that if you do what you love, stay true to yourself, and work hard at it, the money will come.
That's why I didn't go to school to be a doctor or lawyer or anything like that. That is also why I make music the way that I do. I think that there are a lot of people who love music, but don't make the kind of music that they love. I think a lot of rappers are making music just so the record label can sell it and so that they can get a check. Its like the labels make boxes for you to fit into, and if you don't fit into them they won't put you out. I think its up to the artists to say "no, I'm not going to do what you want to sell, I'm going to do me and work hard at it". At the end of the day, that is the kind of music with the longevity, and those are the artists with the most successful careers. An artist like Lupe probably had to work harder to get on being true to himself as opposed to those dudes who did that song "Party Like a Rock Star" (I really don't even remember their name) who made a song that fit into the format of the kinds of songs that were coming out, but at the end of the day who's still around?
Slave For This Dollar is mostly produced by D-Tox, and also has contributions from Rickie Jacobs and Sakwe, and I did a beat on there as well. Its definitely great music, so go to www.SlaveForThisDollar.com and check it out.
HipHopInformant: How do you feel about the Hip-Hop industry at the moment?
Articulate: I think that there is a lot of good music coming out, as well as a ton of garbage. Technological advances have made it so that anyone can have a studio in their room, and the internet has made it so that anyone can be a publicist, so its letting a lot of not-so-great people out there decide they want to be rappers. A lot of people complain, but I think that it has also allowed for more diversity in the music that is out there, and it has allowed for people like me to be heard all over the world and to be doing this interview with you right now.
For me I think that there is way more opportunity for everyone, so it kind of evens the playing field, and those with real talent, creativity, and work ethic have no choice but to shine.
HipHopInformant: As an artist what's the most enjoyable thing about performing on stage?
Articulate: The best thing is the look on peoples' face when you say something ill, or when they just nod their head when your beat comes on and when they are really in tune with you. When a crowd is really in tune with you and you say "put your hands up" and people really do it its a great feeling. Its a really powerful feeling.
HipHopInformant: How did the name Articulate come about?
Articulate: I wanted a name that just described me as a person and as an emcee. When you think of someone who is Articulate you think of someone who is intelligent and nice with words, and when you hear my music I think that's what you get.
Also, as a young black male who has been pretty well educated all of his life, a lot of times when I come across older white people they are taken aback by the way I present myself. They're used to the images of us that they see most often on TV, and when they don't get that one of the things they say is "he's so articulate". Its kind of a derogatory compliment, because the only reason their saying that is because to them black people aren't supposed to carry ourselves in that way. So I also wanted to take that word as a derogatory statement and flip it as a positive.
HipHopInformant: Are there any underground artists you'd like to work with?
Articulate: I would love to work with anyone who I can make good music with and anyone who I'm a fan of. Right now I'm really feeling cats like Royce, Saigon, Jay Electronica, Elzhi, Wale, Mickey Factz, Skyzoo...a whole lotta people. If anyone is checking this holla!
HipHopInformant: What does the future hold for Articulate?
Articulate: Right now I'm just continuing to work and grind. I've been dropping at least a track every week and those have been doing pretty well on the internet. I'm still pushing Slave For This Dollar. I have a lot of material built up so I'm probably going to have to drop a mixtape soon. I'm working with a lot of ill producers like D-Tox, Rickie Jacobs, J.R.Rah, Sakwe, Black Magic, and Etherial who you can check out on my myspace top friends. A lot of other producers send me beats every day, so I've just been working on a lot of new songs. I've also been doing a lot of shows, and have done a few in Philadelphia and New York recently, and I'll be performing in Baltimore and DC soon. My music has also been featured on a few mixtapes. Shout out to DJ Debet (http://www.myspace.com/
I'm also working on Born King's new album to be released on Oct 31st. Check out Born King at myspace.com/BornKingHipHop.
Go to myspace.com/ItsArtic and suscribe to my blog to stay updated on what I have going on. Also you can follow me on twiter.com/ItsArtic and youtube.com/ItsArtic. Also don't forget to check out the "Slave For This Dollar EP" at SlaveForThisDollar.com.
Much thanks for HipHopInformant for giving me this interview opportunity!