There's a lot of talk that your sound is a middle ground between club rap and more conscious lyric-based Hip Hop, how would you describe your own material?
My approach is always to rhyme my ass off while remaining myself and relatable. I grew up loving all styles of rap, and my music reflects that. My tastes are varied and my personality is always on some otherness. I like to party and I love to keep my mind sharp. I want the best of both worlds.
Your whole LP has been produced by Tom Cruz. Whats that a conscious choice? What is it about Cruz' production that makes you want to use it so heavily?
Hell yeah, I really like the one producer, one rapper approach to creating an album. It gives the project definition and the foundation for a consistent sound. Cruz produced my last two albums, RABDARGAB in 2010 and Double Dragon in 2012. I think my sound is really musical thanks to his production. He's my Mannie Fresh. He can do crazy drum programming and several melodies, while changing up the track as it progresses all in one beat.
What's your least favourite part of the music industry?
I hate how most folks only care for what's "hot" or "buzzing" in their own little world. Some won't give a new artist the time of day unless they've passed their cool test - appearing on a blog they fawn over, collaborating with an artist they like, having enough Twitter followers, etc. To put it bluntly, the industry seems to be a collective of dick riders following one lead opinion every couple months. It makes it hard for a new artist like me to even get the time of day unless I'm known to be associated with certain people. I think you'll miss out on a lot of good music if you judge a book by it's cover before you even read the forward. But it's cool. Good music always prevails and there's always an audience somewhere for any truly special artist.
What can we expect from the album?
You can expect some exquisite rhyming and songwriting, first and foremost. You'll hear some superb production too that makes the whole album feel super cohesive. I've got songs speaking on my times in Brooklyn, gentrification, being the first generation American son of a stern Nigerian man, stories about maturing in relationships and race relations, and more.
Whats the shittest house party you've ever been to?
Dang, I try to block 'em out my mind. I've been to some disasters. Ain't nothing worse than showing up at a party expecting to get it in, and stepping into a lonely room full of dudes looking bored as hell. Actually, that happened the last night at SXSW this year hahaha.
My friends Weekend Money were staying at a mansion way up in north Austin, Texas overlooking a lake. Their housemates were some Austin based promoters and EDM DJs who were throwing an end of SXSW late night party. We were told to expect a rager. It was about a good 45 mins to an hour away from downtown where we were hanging out that night but we decided to check it out. We caravanned to their place about 13 deep in 3 vehicles. Went up a huge hill into a secluded area that smelled of wealth. Soon as we pull up, we see Lakutis leaving. He tells me the function is hella weird and he can't stand to be there another second. Soon as we step in... silence. Like, not a peep! The living room was sparsely filled with late teen / early 20s looking men and 1 girl, all sitting down looking half awake and wearing headphones. Straight up looked like these fools were in a trance, staring off into space wearing glowing headphones looking very cult-ish. In the dining room area there was a huge table with 1 bottle of vodka sitting on it, no cups or mixers in sight. Turns out they got some complaints at a party earlier in the week and had to now resort to a "silent disco" of dubstep tunes. Luckily they had a hot tub and turned on some rap music every now and then once they saw us in the building. Quite hospitable.
"You know about Fat Tony houston's best kept secret.. tell him I told you." - Bun B. Very high praise from an OG. How much did this mean to you and how did you come about to working with him?
That meant a lot because UGK and Bun B have always been huge influences on my music. It inspires me to know legends like Bun came from Texas and are still performing and recording today. I first met Bun B when I was about 16 years old. He was at the radio station KPFT when I came to do my very first on-air interview representing a group I was in during high school. Years later I sat next to him the first time I won an award for being a good rapper from a local music awards show in 2008. I'd see him around throughout the years but he didn't tweet that until 2010 when I ran into him backstage at a Wiz Khalifa concert on Halloween. After that I just started choppin' it up with him more often when I saw him out and eventually asked him to get on my song "Bad Habits" in spring 2011. We ended up putting the song on me and Tom Cruz's Double Dragon mixtape last year. Bun's a great man and deserves all the acclaim and respect this world can offer him. His verse on UGK's "Murder" still blows my mind today.
What would be your dream collaborations?
E-40, Too Short, and R. Kelly. I won't rest until I get to formally meet these dudes. Huge fan of them all. It would be nuts to do a song with any of those three. Damn what if we were all on one song together. Madness.
A lot of recent artists such A$AP Rocky, have sounds which don't natuarlly relate to where they raised. Do you believe your sound reflects growing up in Houston? And growing up who were your big influences?
I think my songs reflect growing up in Houston because in many of them I list places I've been and people I know in Houston. Look at "Hood Party" from Smart Ass Black Boy where I mention the Cuney Homes and River Oaks, or "Home" from RABDARGAB where I rhyme about drinking at The Mink and dancing at Mango's. Anytime I refer to something as "throwed" or mention DJ Screw, you can rest assured that I learned those things growing up as a Houstonian. But more than being a Houston native, my music reflects me.
Thanks to the internet and how far we've come in rap music, regionally specific styles are just regionally specific anymore. I grew up loving Hip Hop from all over this great nation; from bay area rap to Memphis music to New Orleans bounce, and more. I never limited myself to just rap though. Some of my favorite artists growing up were Prince, E-40, Devin the Dude, UGK, The Ramones, Black Flag, Bad Brains, Three 6 Mafia, Lifetime, Slum Village, At The Drive-In, Too Short, A Tribe Called Quest, Slick Rick, Murs, The Smiths, and Outkast. Punk, rock 'n' roll, rap, funk, R&B, new wave, reggae, I could always find something I really like in any genre.
Apart from the album do you have any goals for the coming year?
Returning to play all the great cities I played last year and looking to play many more cities I've never touched before. I've played America and Canada but soon I wanna take it to the UK and Nigeria. I've got family in London and Nigeria that I've never met before and some I hardly ever see. It's time for me to see this world, for real.
Team Ray J or team Kanye?
Hahaha, I'd have to say Kanye because I'm more a fan of his music than Ray J's stuff. But Ray J's interview regarding Fabolous and the Money Team did change my life for the better. He's hilarious.
Is there anything else you'd like to add about the way things are?
I love life and feel blessed to be doing what I do. I'm excited to see where this year takes me and for everyone to hear my new album Smart Ass Black Boy! My music is for everyone and I'll be working damn hard to make sure as many people as possible get to hear me.
Words: Jacob Roy