According to new and updated laws in Croatia many old, traditional habits are dying out; chaining and tethering of dogs, fur farming and breeding animals for fur, animals working to pull logs and firewood out of forests and animals in circuses – it’s all been completely banned as well as many other things. After all, animals have their rights too.
The struggle is still existent though and the battle continues, as in most places. Dogs and cats are left on the streets and mass production farming and torture is rampant. But animals have a few supporters and soldiers out there in human form that use their voice for the voiceless in human society.
IFEEL is one of those soldiers. The Croatian-American rapper has been active since before 2012, when his debut album was released. His latest effort, LET’S TALK ABOUT IT, came out last year and his craft has only gotten better and more empathetic.
IFEEL has a unique voice in the global rap scene. He explicitly sings for and about animals and it’s clear that he is a voice on a mission. I caught up with IFEEL via email and learned about his music, his love for animals, his work and his activism.
For those not familiar with your work, who is IFEEL?
I tell stories about animals’ lives. A lot of songs are from animals’ point of view, because they cannot talk and tell us how they feel. We have all been cleverly and systematically lied to and desensitized to ignore violence around us. My mission is to bring this to light and inspire people to have a better life and help animals have better lives. I do this with music and activism.
When did you start making music and writing rhymes?
I grew up on Rakim, Afrika Bambaataa, KRS One, Public Enemy and Tribe Called Quest, which had a meaningful, positive impact on my life/music path. Music has a power to change the world… especially hip hop, because you can say a whole lot in three verses – with energy and power that can move people. No other music genre can do that. I started writing rhymes when I was in college, in my early twenties, but my first studio album ANIMAL IN ME came out in 2012.
Your latest album Let’s Talk ABOUT IT is very political and straight to the point. Has your music always been political?
I don’t talk much about politics, but I definitely talk about evil little men who run the world and profit off the greed and pain of other beings. I respect rappers who have the courage to talk about what they believe in. All artists who take a stand for an issue in their own creative way are fighting for justice. We are all fighting the same fight. Hip hop has always been a powerful weapon for social justice. I rap about what I am passionate about and I believe that I can make a difference in the world with what I do – inspire people to see things in a new way – for humans, animals and the planet.
LET’S TALK ABOUT IT is about things we need to start talking about if we want to survive on this planet and bring the humanity back. Our society and world as a whole is falling apart in many ways, but here I talk about the negative effect we have on our own lives, lives of animals and environment. This album is a blueprint on how to
change that. I offer a reason, incentive and solution to the problem. The album is designed to tell you the whole story in a positive, emotional way in about 60 minutes.
How and when did your love for animals begin?
I grew up in a family that respected nature and animals so the respect and love for animals was there since day 1. I reaffirmed my respect and love for them when I found out how “food” was made: I immediately went vegetarian and in 2012, I went vegan. I could not say that I love animals and at the same time eat animals. I also knew that I had to find a way to inspire others to feel that as well.
I visited countless animal shelters and sanctuaries. That is where the real connection happens. In the heart and mind. I recommend visiting and helping shelters and sanctuaries.
You perform quite a bit at vegan and other animal rights events. But how about non activist events? How do you get your message across to those that don’t want to hear it?
I perform at vegan events and festivals but not at non-activist events. Most of the topics I talk about are not mainstream, so from the start I’m reaching a smaller percentage of people than an average rapper. When it comes to people and my music, though, no one gets defensive because I don’t attack anyone in my songs and music videos. I motivate people to feel something they have never felt before. Those who don’t want to hear that message don’t listen to my music.
How can non-vegans help make this world a better place for animals?
There are many ways to help. Going vegan is the easiest and healthiest way to do that. The first thing to do is find out WHY you want to help. I did it because of the animals. Someone might do it for their health, others for the planet. The fact is that we humans feel better when we help others. And it can give our life a meaning.
How is your home country of Croatia in terms of animal abuse/rights? Are things changing?
There have been many positive changes in the last five years in regards to fighting for animal rights, and veganism is booming in Croatia. I collaborate closely with Animal Friends Croatia, the main animal rights organization in the country, on many vegan / AR campaigns. I also organize a group of activists called VEGAN THUGZ and we promote veganism and compassion in positive, creative ways (vegan chill&grill events, fundraisers for animal shelters and
sanctuaries, volunteering in animal shelters and sanctuaries, promotion of veganism at festivals, online Facebook actions).
When inspired in a right way, and especially on social media, many people are willing to do much more than click like and share. Facebook activism is one thing. Face-to-face activism is something completely different – and more fulfilling and meaningful. For effective activism, it’s important to learn how to combine both online and offline work.
You are a certified biotherapist. Can you explain what that is about and how you help people and animals through that discipline?
Healing has always been a part of my life. After finishing university (psychology), I worked with abused children in group homes, where I helped them express their emotions and heal with hip hop music. Years later, I discovered biotherapy and got my training and experience helping people and animals with their illnesses. With biotherapy you can help others heal by helping boost their immunity – their own defense systems. As a certified fitness trainer, I help people feel better, too. What we eat, drink and do has a lot to do with that. That is why I give a free online “FEEL GOOD” guide to all people who get my album. Empathy, fitness, good food. It’s a good start for a better world.
What are some of your musical motivations these days? Any contemporary (or not) musicians you want to give a shout out to?
Travis Scott, Eminem, Kendrick Lamar, RZA, A$AP Rocky, Joey Bada$$. There’s a lot of interesting game changers in hip hop lately. Change is good. Hip hop has a bad rap nowadays because of the mumble rap scene, but I think that won’t last much longer.
If you could have 4 different animal species as your back up singers, which animals would you invite along?
Wolf leads the pack, elephant knows, dog shows teeth and barks, and there’s a pig. Pig is the brains of the pack. And also one of the most abused animals on the planet. Maybe that’s why the pig calculates and plans all the moves. Btw, they are not my backup singers, they are a part of my team already.
What is on the horizon for you?
I’m in the studio working on new music… working with a very special producer and we plan on bringing something different in 2020, something much needed in the world of hip hop.
Thank you again for participating and for the music. Anything else you’d like to shout from the rooftops?
Thank you for reaching out. And thank you for your activism. We are all given talents and opportunities to become the best we can be and to help others and the world. That’s what life is all about. It’s not just about “me”, it’s about “we.” Check out my video TRUMP MUSIC. It shows what happens when we start idealizing and following dangerous psychopaths.
Halldór is the managing editor of Shouts – Music from the Rooftops!, an investigative journalist, audio engineer and an animal rights activist on a nomad journey through Europe – still without a definite destination.