Tag Archives: hiphop

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”.

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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

The Cornel West Theory (interview)

Out of the wake of Trumpapocalypse comes a group that specifically intends to fill the void left by commercial musical groups who don’t take their voices seriously. According to their Bandcamp page The Cornel West Theory released the album The T.A.B.L.E. TOO in January of 2017 as direct response to the state of things in their home environment. They recognize that someone needs to express awareness out into the atmosphere and they play their part. Shouts sent a few questions their way and two members of the collective, Tim and Rashad, told us a bit more about the group as well as their upcoming projects.

 

What do you hope to achieve with your music?

Tim:
In the words of John Coltrane…to become saints. We create to reach as many people in the world as God will allow us to reach. We pray to be able to support our families thru the art and assist others. We hope to offer a balance.

Rashad:
International critical dialogue about what changes need to be made in the world. We aim to inspire people to push for their higher spiritual calling, and to make Hip Hop an ageless, timeless, non-racially divided, powerful form of art.

 

You write on your Bandcamp page that the group formed out of a void needing to be filled (a void left by other artists). Can you elaborate on that? And do you feel alone making the music you make or is there a scene of like minded groups?

Tim & Rashad:

We feel that there’s an empty space within hip hop. A space that used to be filled by the likes of Public Enemy, KRS One, Poor Righteos Teachers, and a few more up to Black Star, but for almost a decade, there aren’t any more groups or solo artist who have a grimey, soulful, violent, socially conscious sound. We do feel like we’re in the minority in that sense, and it has been a 13 year up hill climb for us to push thru the industry’s barriers. We have plenty of other artist like us in pockets all over the US and the world, so we are not alone in that regard. We shall continue to push until the walls fall.

 

Do you have other projects or work relating to bettering the world besides the music?

Tim:
We’re a collective with several other things in the works such as graphic novels and other artistic ventures. We’re supporters of political prisoners within the US such as Mumia Abu Jamal and The MOVE 9 whom we’ve collaborated with musically on our previous album, Coming From The Bottom. We consider ourselves sonic activists.

 

What’s on the horizon for The Cornel West Theory?

Tim:

We’re always working on several things at once, but what I can tell you about the immediate future is we’re about to release our 6th album, WATERGUNZ soon, and will also be releasing at least two other projects before this year ends. In 2018 we’ll release our 7th album, N.W.O.K. We’re also seeking distribution and hope to begin touring.