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Manipulated Minds Need To Make An Escape…
03/04/2014, 12:51 AM
Filed under: Interviews | Tags: , , ,

I was lucky to pen the coverstory for the last issue of One More Robot, the premiere art & music magazine out of Dublin, Ireland. For the latest one, themed the “The Crime Issue”, I interviewed Gift of Gab and Chief Xcel about one of the most colorful yet anti-crime records ever, their debut, Melodica.

It firstly reminds me of being young with a backpack full of distrust for all things radio. But it was also the pair’s first outing and still stands out to me as far as Bay Area rap goes. Pick up the latest issue of OMR and relive hearing “Swan Lake” for the first time all over again. Below is an excerpt of the transcript.- DM

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Let’s start off with basics. How old were you guys when this was recorded and about how long did it take to make?

Gift of Gab: We were in our early twenties, I’d say 22 or so.

Chief Xcel: Off and on, it took about a year finish. It was actually released as a cassette tape first [laughs]. We probably haven’t heard it since the mid-nineties.

But you guys had already recorded together prior, right?

Xcel: Yeah, we had teamed up about 5 years before we actually sat down and made Melodica.

How advanced was your studio at this point? What equipment was this primarily made on?

Gab: We were still in our dorm rooms then [laughs]. Everything was kind of makeshift. And although we all had been making music for a few years then, we were just in our learning phase.

Xcel: Basically, we used a MPC 60 and a Tascam 4-track. Not much really [laughs].

Did you two have certain concepts in place before making it? Or was the concept simply good rhymes and good beats?

Gab: It was our first project together and we had been together since high school. We were hip-hop heads and just wanted to make some sort of contribution that would be respected by our peers.

I understand Melodica was recorded mostly at Dan The Automator’s place? Did he have any influence on the project in any way?

Gab: That was at a time when our crew was young and just formed. So even though he didn’t work on the EP directly, just being around Dan definitely had an influence. I think it’s important to always surround yourself with creative people whom you respect.

Continue reading

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Time Goes By: Interview with Billy Woods
01/09/2013, 9:02 PM
Filed under: Guest Spots, Interviews | Tags: , ,

(I recently wrote for One More Robot, a Dublin-based Art Culture Magazine that for the past few years has put out terrific issues with rather wide-ranging themes. Its editor, Dean Van Nguyen, whose apparent affection for ’90s rap history is displayed prominently throughout his work as well as his publication(read his recent piece on Mac Dre HERE). I covered Chuck D for OMR’s latest issue and Dean returned the favor with the following Q&A, a piece on Billy Woods whom he calls “the most slept-on rapper in the world right now”. – DM)

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By Dean Van Nguyen

Making music for well over a decade now, Billy Woods learned his trade as a perennial figure in New York’s alt-rap scene, associating with Cannibal Ox’s Vordul Mega and various other members of his sizable crew The Atoms Family. Embarking on his own career as one-half of the double act, Super Chron Flight Brothers – alongside collaborator Priviledge – the duo crafted a series of records in the ilk of Cannibal Ox and other Definitive Jux signees, cutting the kind of discography that should have elevated Woods to the status of Underground King several times over.Instead, he is probably the most slept on rapper in the world right now.

Dealing with the break up of Super Chron, and frustrated with his inability to find a sizeable audience for his music, earlier this year the DC-based MC threw everything he had into what would potentially be his final record, the solo joint History Will Absolve Me. Reaching deep within himself, Woods produced one hip-hop’s standout releases of the year – a long, smart and brilliant piece of work that rounded several corners of human existence, all of which drew from it’s author’s own experiences.

Having only recently discovered Woods, I reached out to him in the hope of telling his story and unearthing the man behind History Will Absolve Me. I was not left disappointed. Like his lyrical style, Woods is upfront and thoughtful in an interview setting. Opening up about his family’s remarkable history, the satisfactions and frustrations of his career, and the creation History Will Absolve Me in length, Woods offers up the same bluntness that has makes his music so essential.

I came across History Will Absolve Me and I wanted to find out more information, but I found there wasn’t actually a whole lot out there. To start, can you tell us who you are, where you’re from, and how you got involved in music.
I was born in the United States. My mother was from Jamaica and my father, who is deceased now, was from Zimbabwe in Southern Africa. At the time they met, Zimbabwe was still called Rhodesia. You know, I’ve never really considered if when they met was before or after Rhodesia declared – basically the white population of Rhodesia declared independence from the crown, in part because they had no intention of allowing black people to vote. There was like an apartheid. Obviously its right next to South Africa; it was like a less codified version of apartheid I guess. My father was in the US getting his PHD when they met.
I was born here and when I was very young my father was active in the liberation movement in Zimbabwe, and so when they won the war and reached a negotiated settlement, he went back for the elections and we followed soon after. I lived there for the most of the 1980s although I would come to Jamaica and the United States to visit my family and my mother’s side of my family on a regular basis. Then I moved back to the DC area when I was a teenager. I moved back to Maryland right outside of DC.

And how did you get involved in making music? Continue reading



Chuck D Autumn 2012
10/20/2012, 7:41 PM
Filed under: Random | Tags: ,

I always jump at the chance to speak with Chuck. He’s always a great interview and never minces words. We spoke last time after the ’08 election so I felt it was befitting to revisit the same themes this time too, especially with the looming election and the ferocious political climate it brings. And if there’s someone you’d want to hear from on the eve of what looks to be a hotly contested debate, it’d be a riled up Chuck D.

The interview is the cover for the Autumn issue of One More Robot, a Dublin-based pop culture magazine (and one of the few upstarts that remains in-print). Old and new issues can be found at its webstore. Check out more on the new issue, which includes a nice interview with Adrian Tomine who is a cartoonist for The New Yorker. What’s more, the issue features a previously unpublished, crazy in-depth interview with Rick James. Stoked to speak with Chuck and be a part of OMR to boot.