Tag Archives: hiphop

Woxow (interview)

A debut album featuring guests such as Ken Boothe, Akil from Jurassic 5, BluRum13 and others is no small feat. But that is exactly what Italian producer Woxow has just done. But Woxow does not only have some cool networking skills because Alcazar is also an absolutely banging album. Not only are the old school beats and smooth melodies super fresh but Woxow also set the production up with socially conscious themes which the guest lyricists followed.

Parallel to dropping his debut album, which includes a beautiful 7 inch of the track Chaos, Woxow has also founded a new record label called Little Beat More and apparently the world can except some more dope stuff coming out of there soon. I talked to Woxow and he explained to me how his ‘concept mini album’ is his input into a mainstream industry that disappoints him and how the music is a tool that can possibly unite people and spread some good messages.

“Yes, I wrote a concept for each song with a sort of a guideline, full of ideas, quotes and videos. I wanted the singers to talk about what you hear on the album. I’m a bit disappointed about the mainstream so I decided to do music for giving a little contribution, to spread good values. I’m actually a bit surprised how most people live this life. In the last years I’m trying to develop a sort of consciousness that makes me being a 99% vegan, stop buying the shit I don’t need, trying to be an ethical consumer, go for public transportation and bike instead of cars, do not waste, try to avoid plastic, recycling, etc…

And I have to be honest, what makes me crazy are not the people that ignore all these issues because they don’t know about it, or they don’t have time to dig it or because they’re trapped into the life of work, work, work. What makes me really crazy are the thousands of people out there who know the story, but then they don’t have enough will to be on this side or they don’t believe their little contribution can make a difference, or they’re just lazy. C’mon people, believe in it, we can do it.”

 

For a debut album, Alcazar boasts an incredible amount of maturity, depth and as previously mentioned guest features. I could only but imagine that perhaps Woxow has been lingering in the music industry for a while.

“Yes, I’ve been working in music for several years as promoter, tour manager, dj, etc. I’ve organised a reggae festival in my home town for 5 years until 2009 with names like Alton Ellis, Derrick Morgan, Mad Professor, David Rodigan, Dub Pistols and more. Then I joined The Sweet Life Society – that experience gave me a lot! I was mostly in charge of booking and tour logistics. We released an album with Warner in Italy and we toured all around Europe and USA. We were so lucky to hit some of the best European festivals including Glastonbury. I suggest you dig their new album Antique Beats, serious stuff. In that period I started putting my hands on Ableton and I’m so happy to have co-produced, with their help, 2 tracks, on that album.”

 

As mentioned above, Woxow got some serious names to drop political rhymes onto his debut production. But how did he get all these brilliant talents to collaborate on his debut album?

“I’ve done some research, mainly to find rappers that could fit with the project and I simply contacted them and proposed the collab. With BluRum 13 we already did something with The Sweet Life Society and Hannah Williams is a long time friend, I organised her very first gig in Italy at Jazz Refound Festival in 2010.

Regarding Ken Boothe, I had the pleasure of organising his gig in Marseille in April. After having spent 2 days we listened to the track, I proposed to him to do the feat and he said yes. To have Ken Boothe on my debut album is a real honor, even more if I think that he usually does not do lots of featuring (he told me it was his very first one on a hip hop beat with another rapper). Furthermore it represents a strong connection between the two music I love the most, hip hop and reggae.”

 

Woxow’s music has always been fuelled by protest. His love for hip hop and reggae has drawn him towards socially conscious music and he specifically gives a shout out to Massive Attack for mostly attributing to him turning to make protest music: “Their concert is not a concert, it’s a life experience full of sociological meaning.”

woxow official photo 2

 

Italy’s often turbulent political landscape has for decades been fuel for fiery protest music but before delving into some recommendations of Italian protest music, old and new, I asked Woxow about the current state of affairs in his home country, seeing how a new government was recently formed.

“It’s not actually that they [citizens] voted for the new government, they voted for 2 political parties (very different from each other) that then decided, against any expectation, to join together to create the new government. So basically all Italians are now completely shocked about it. I’m not really into that kind of politics, I think the power is somewhere else. I follow this kind of mainstream politics as I would follow TV series. And I don’t watch TV series.

There’s an Italian scene related to protest music, but I think it was much more serious a few decades ago, especially in the 70’s. We got lots of songwriters that were really protesting with their music (like for example Fabrizio de André). One I really and suggest you check out is Rino Gaetano. In fact he died at the age of 30, they said it was suicide but lots of voices say that he was killed and I believe so.

Then in the 90’s we had an awesome hip hop act which made the history down here, I’m talking about Sangue Misto (translation: mixed blood). They made just one album but it’s still recognised as the master piece of Italian hip hop. And the lyrics… ooooh, straight to the point: smoking and protesting against society. Other bands I have to mention are Casino Royale and 99 Posse.”

 

Through his newly founded label Woxow will be producing two newcomer artists soon and he informs us to stay tuned about that, which we will certainly do. Woxow states on his webpage that he’s been obsessed with music for quite some time so clearly it was thrilling to get him to name drop some acts he is currently listening to and to no surprise it was a long, tight list.

“I’m really into the new Kiefer out on Stones Throw. Then Mononome really excites me, Moderator, Emapea, the new Deca. These guys are my top beatmakers at the moment, you find some of them on the recent minimix I’ve done for The Find Mag.

I’m also into lots of solo piano by Nils Frahm (Screws is absolutely my fav), Akira Kosemura, chilly Gonzales, Lambert, Bremer/McCoy. Then I respect and follow the new London Jazz scene by all those guys around Moses Boyd, Shabaka Hutchings, Nubya Garcia, Ezra Collective, Yussef and Kamaal… they’re amazing.”

 

Finally, as to everyone we interview here at Shouts, we offer Woxow to shout something of importance from the rooftops:

“Yes, a quote I like: “Changes and progress very rarely are gifts from above. They come out of struggles from below.” Thanks, peace.”

SB (interview)

Out of Chicago, US, comes an fresh voice that calls himself SB and he has a very focused and organized mission to change the world through his hip-hop music. We interviewed the man behind the initials and learned about the Chicago music scene and what sets his music apart from the rest.

 

For those not familiar with your music, who is SB?

I’m an artist first and foremost. Most people know me as socially-conscious hiphop recording artist but I’m actually a multi-media artist, music is one of the many forums I express through. I also draw/illustrate, write, paint, act, etc. My main goal through all expression is to bring people closer to God and in alignment with His purpose and will for their lives. I see my role as an emcee as a derivative of the griot tradition of West Africa. The griots were singer/musician/historians that passed on the morals, values, ethos and history of the people through the oral tradition. I look at my role as an emcee to be one and the same.

“Things really took off when I had a chance meeting with Bushwick Bill… He said I had the “skills to make mills”.”

How and when did you discover you could use music to get your message across?

As a teenager. Growing up I spent a lot of time listening to my parents’ music collection. Listening to artists like Bob Marley, Curtis Mayfield, and Marvin Gaye (circa “What’s Going On?”) showed me the impact that music could have on people for good and really inspired me to do the same through hiphop. Things really took off when I had a chance meeting with Bushwick Bill from the legendary rap group, The Geto Boyz. He was staying at the same hotel where we were holding our annual family reunion and one of my cousins invited him to join us for dinner. He ended up hearing me freestyling with my cousins as we always do at family functions and urged my Uncle Gill to get me into a studio to record a demo as a solo artist (I’d recorded a demo before as part of a three member group). He said that I had the “skills to make mills” and I figured since he was in the industry and had built a great career for himself, it would probably be a good idea to take his advice.

Describe the hip-hop scene in Chicago at the moment? Is it very socially conscious?

I’d describe the music scene in Chicago as very diverse. It’s very much a reflection of the people and always has been. Some are socially conscious individuals and so they express that social consciousness through their music. Others are not and so they may speak more to doing what they feel they need to do to improve the their lives and the lives of their loved ones. But the common thread is that it’s all politics. It’s all tied to to the human struggle. And that is universal. That being said, Chicago has always had a rich tradition tied to social consciousness so I think there will always be a strong element of that in the not just the music but in all art forms as it is reflective of the culture here. For example, Chicago has always been very much a paradigm. On one end, it is a city that was founded by a black man, Jean Baptiste Point du Sable. But the majority of Chicagoans are either unaware of this fact or fail to acknowledge it. It was a city that promised hope, job opportunities and freedom from the outright racism prevalent in the South. But many of those that migrated from the South during the Great Migration found that they’d left the South only to have to fight the same battles against the ugly reality of racism in the North. The history of the struggle for equality goes way back in Chicago so it most certainly reflected in the culture.

“I believe music is one of the most powerful mediums we have at our disposal… And I believe that with power comes responsibility.”

Your latest effort is titled REVOLUSEAN. Has your work always been a fire to start a revolution?

As a solo act, yes. When I was part of a group it was more about showing skills and being as unique as possible.  But when I decided to leave the group and go at it solo, it was very important for me to make music that would inspire positive change. I believe music is one of the most powerful mediums we have at our disposal because of it’s ability to influence people physically, mentally, psychologically and even spiritually. And I believe that with power comes responsibility. When I look at the world, I see much that we need to change for the better, not just for ourselves but for future generations. Music is my main forum of choice because I believe as the great Fela Kutionce said, “Music Is the Weapon”.

hob32

How important is it for you to use the right political words versus the words that make a good flow, rhythmically? Do you find it hard to make that balance when writing your lyrics?

I think it is extremely important. And it’s certainly more challenging. But I think it’s worth it. In my humble opinion, rhyming for the sake of rhyming isn’t a difficult thing to do. We all grew up reading Mother Goose rhymes when we were kids. But expressing one self with skill and substance is different….it takes mastery of a varied skill set. So I definitely think that artists that strive to strike that balance with their lyrics should be honored as part of the upper echelon when we are evaluating lyricism.

You mention on your Bandcamp page that your music is different from other hip-hop music. What makes it different and how do you feel your peers in the scene are taking your music?

First and foremost, my music is different because it is very much gospel driven. I don’t label it as gospel music or gospel hiphop but if you listen to it, that’s what it is. It’s based very much in leveraging gospel lessons, values, etc., and applying it to our lives. Secondly, it’s profanity/vulgarity free. Which means that all generations, kids, parents, grandparents, etc., can listen to it at the same time and enjoy it. I think these characteristics make it  not only universally appealing, but even more commercially viable than the music that is typically marketed and promoted. A good example, would be much of the content that Disney produces. Their content speaks directly to audiences of all ages and backgrounds. Hence, when people go to see a Disney movie, they aren’t going by themselves or simply with a date. It’s usually a family event where multiple generations are present. Not only is that a beautiful phenomenon to witness and partake in, it also quite profitable.

What are some of your favorite political musicians, current or not?

Bob Marley, Fela Kuti, Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye(circa the “What’s Going On Album”), Lauryn Hill, KRS ONE, Public Enemy, Common, Yassin Bey (Mos Def), Talib Kweli, A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder, Andre 3000, Erykah Badu, Amel Larrieux, Dead Prez, Lupe Fiasco, The Fugees, Tupac, etc.

What do you hope to achieve with your music?

I hope to motivate and inspire people to be aligned with God’s purpose for their lives. I hope to inspire people to be agents of positive change not just locally but globally. I hope to get people to embrace their global citizenship and by doing so, be better stewards of the world. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Oppression anywhere, is a threat to freedom everywhere”.

Do you take part in any activism outside of the music?

I do. In many ways I live it. Sometimes I speak in public forums and lend my words and public profile to causes. Other times, I may march in solidarity or petition. Most often though, on a day to day basis, I think my activism is rooted in where I choose not to put my dollars. For example, I strive to commit to a vegan diet and I’m very committed to purchasing organic, non-gmo foods. So certain businesses will probably never see a dime from my hard earnings. I think with most businesses, organizations, and even individuals, the strongest messages you can send involve where you choose to put your dollars and where you choose not to put your dollars.

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What is on the horizon for you? Any live shows outside of the US for your international fans?

Right now I’m working on a trip to S. Africa that will involve performances, collaboration with local artists/musicians and a documentary capturing the experience. I’m also working on a LOT of new music and looking to start touring globally soon, God willing. So lots of good things on the horizon!

Thank you so much for participating and for the music you make. Anything else you’d like to shout from the rooftops?

Thank you so much for reaching out to me and for providing a forum for artists like myself! As for shouting from the rooftops, please share this verse with the people for me: “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like unto it, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

 

Yuca Brava (interview)

Recovery has been slow and tough for Puerto Rico. One month since hurricane Irma and there is still no electricity for the majority of the island’s residents. But things have not really been ok in Puerto Rico for more than a hundred years or ever since a very dubious citizenship was ‘granted’ to the island’s residents. Some of these islanders are bringing their frustration and fight to the microphone and sharing important messages with the world. One of these bands is Yuca Brava and in the midst of devastation its vocalist, Félix Castro, was kind enough to answer a few questions. They use their voices and talents not only to fight recent storms but also a hundred years worth of political turbulence.

Félix also shared with us some local groups that are bringing food, supplies and medicine to their communities in Puerto Rico so if you want to donate or help in any way then please check out the list at the bottom of the page.

 

For those not familiar with Yuca Brava can you tell us a bit about the group?

Yuca Brava (spanish for “angry yucca”) is a political rapcore band from Puerto Rico. We started on November 2016 as a duo formed by drummer/producer Carlos Anglada and myself (Félix Castro) as vocalist. Later on, Edwin Rosa (guitars) and Marcos Serrano (bass) joined the line-up.

 

How important is it for you to send a specific message out into the universe and what are some of those messages?

For us the message is primordial, without neglecting the rigor of the composition. Anglada and I started prematurely as a duet with beats because we understood the relevance of the message in its political context. Puerto Rico has been a US colony for 119 years, suffering from the violence of capitalism, racism, classism; among others. Our message is clear, Puerto Rico has to be a free sovereign country; and from this political condition, another reality is possible and necessary.

 

How is the scene in Puerto Rico for political bands? Is there a lot of like minded bands around you?

Puerto Rico has a wide variety of independent music with political content. Some in the Latin American tradition of nueva trova as: Roy Brown, Mikie Rivera, Mijo de la Palma, Fernandito Ferrer; rap and hip-hop artists like: Welmo Romero, South Flow, MalaCara, Honor y Honra, TMS, SieteNueve, Intifada, Postrap, Negro Gonzalez; bands like: Fiel a la Vega, Tráfico Pesado, Puya, Gomba Jahbari, etc. In addition, there is a movement of arts and very strong poetic expression that has been developing.

 

What do you hope to achieve with your music?

Yuca Brava’s main goal is focus on the urgency of a trench through the arts for these times of collective crisis. Our hope is to make music that does not serve to stun or alienate, but to accentuate shared rage against oppression.

 

Can you share some of your favorite political bands?

Rage Against The Machine, System of a Down, Puya, Mercedes Sosa, Kendrick Lamar, Portavoz, A.N.I.M.A.L., Anita Tijoux, Lucecita Benitez, Luis El Terror Dias, Victor Jara, Silvio Rodríguez, etc.

 

What’s next for Yuca Brava?

We’re rehearsing to perform at some local shows, and working in the pre-production phase of our next EP titled “Cristales Rotos”. For more information on music and gigs you can visit www.facebook.com/somosyucabrava & yucabrava.bandcamp.com

 

Thank you very much for participating in our project and for the music you make.

Thank you for the opportunity to share our proposal and for the solidarity.

 

Local groups and iniciatives in Puerto Rico:

Proyecto Matria
Proyecto de Apoyo Mutuo Mariana
Colectiva Feminista en Construcción
Fundación El Plato Caliente
Brigada del Mellao
El Hormiguero Centro Social Autogestionado
Olla Común
CAUCE
La Junta Comunitaria de RP
El Local en Santurce
#TeamCorazonPR
Campamento Contra la Junta
Brigada Solidaria del Oeste
Bori Puerto Rico Hurricane Relief
Local Guest
Urbe a Pie
Comedores Sociales
El Llamado
Maria Fund (by Taller Salud, the G8 of Caño Martín Peña, and other local, grassroots organizations)
Institute for Socio Ecological Research (ISER) Caribe
ViequesLove
Güakiá Colectivo Agroecológico
Casa Pueblo Adjuntas

Félix also shared a second list of reputable organizations compiled by Vanessa Díaz of Dartmouth College:
Reputable Puerto Rican Orgs & Volunteer Opportunities