Insight (Part 2 - Feat. Dagha)

Hip-Hop Core: Could you tell us a few words about your first group, Knights of the Round Table, formed in 1995 with Mr. Lif and T-Ruckus?

Insight: I had an appartment in this area called Dorchester. It was actually me, this kid JJ, T-Ruckus, this dude Teddy who called himself the Titanial Dread and then Dagha came and he was living in my closet (laughs). We had a small closet and this guy was living in there!

Dagha: (laughs) He's not lying!

I: At that time, me and Dagha, we was like recording all day and we'd made a couple of tapes. Then I made Knights of the Round Table's first one and it was like a compilation with mad dudes that lived around there. I didn't know Lif at that time, it was just a lot of the people that lived in Dorchester. We made two different versions: one with a lot of cats and then I was like, ok, let me go through that and make it better. Dagha and me were organizing the whole thing.

D: It was a grassroots operation. It was the beginning of independence for us. We copied up covers, sold it…

I: We even made sheets where if you wanted to rhyme on the project, you had to pay like 3 dollars (laughs). We were trying to get 50 emcees so we can press up some CD's but nobody could pay 3 $! I was like: "Damn, nobody wants to pay for us to press it up so fuck it". We went to Copy-cop, made the covers, recorded everybody, made the beats… We made just 200 cassettes and we passed them out everywhere. That did good. Then everybody wanted to be on the second one! At that time, I knew this girl Soul Flower in Zulu Nation and she brought Lif to my house. He had a couple of joints on the project, one with T-Ruckus and one by himself. I recorded 'Triangular Warfare' around that time. We also did a joint called 'Frame Rupture', the original version. That time was cool. When I look back on it, this project was put together the same way that Electric was. I had like some kind of vision where the whole album sounded medieval and kinda gothic and was full of characters. It was a pure thing. But then it didn't work. We had nothing, just 200 CD's, but everybody started to have big heads and think that they were going to blow. Everybody wanted to make solo albums. So me and Duane, we decided to stop working with these cats. They were starting to act funny. I went on and did a bunch of songs with T-Ruckus and then he started acting funny too. So it was just Duane and me. After that, "The Maysun Project" combined our philosophies over the years…

D: We had a lot of hunger at the time of the Knights, man. Cats don't know what it means to really go out press up your own shit and go in the streets and sell it, just trying to book you own shows. That was the beginning for me. I wouldn't have it any other way.

HHC: What don't you re-release the Knights of the Round Table projects as tour-CD's or stuff like that for your fans to hear them? That would be cool…

I: Yeah, I think I was gonna do that anyway. Maybe like an internet-only thing. But I think there's so much more for me to get on point. Right now, I gotta get my label off the ground and put out a couple of releases with that first. After people know me a little bit more individually, then that will be a bonus. Now, we need to put albums first so people can see who we are right now before they backtrack and see what we did in the past.

HHC: A few months ago, there were rumours about a possible Knights of the Round Table new project…

I: Lif wanted to do that but T-Ruckus… He don't write rhymes. He write rhymes in the studio but he won't keep'em. If we do a song, he'll write the rhymes right there. If it's not finished at that moment and he comes back the next day, he would rewrite a whole new song. It makes it hard to work on a project!

D: Even, in a group like Electric, everybody has different drives. Not everybody is as disciplined…

I: You gotta compromise. If you're not humble and if you're not honest about how you feel about the project, then it's not gonna work out.

HHC: By the way, could you tell us a few words about the birth of Electric Company?

I: I was living with Mike (aka Anonymous) and Raheem. They would always be writing and I was like "What you're going to do with those rhymes?". I always wanted to have a group that had one sound all the way through, a project with cats just rhyming after each other with good voices and cool beats. So I made like 5 or 6 songs with them, it was just the three of us, and I just felt like it wasn't finished. We had to add some more people. So I was looking through different cats and trying to see who I could add that didn't change the vibe too much. There was this one cat that was just too street for the group (laughs). He was kicking these rhymes that were way too street! I had this criteria for the group. I just wanted to have a basic hip-hop group, nothing controversial, nothing shocking, no samples that's all in your face… Just that good shit that you remember when you got into hip-hop. Shit that was just sincere and fun. Shit that I could play to a little kid but also to an older person that would be like: "I like that!" Just hip-hop that you could like, you don't have that now! There's no hip-hop you could play to a young cat or an older cat. That's what I wanted but on top of that, it couldn't be something that was corny. I know hip-hop and you can't come out with some "go to school, that's cool". It gotta be nice, cool beats, nothing cliché, nothing corny, just some good hip-hop shit. Musically, the whole vibe was like Bob James and stuff, just cool jazzy stuff. So I added Moe (a cat that I'd knew for a while) and my man Dagha. And each person that I added added some crazy dynamic to the group. Individually, Raheem wasn't confident enough to come out with a solo album but his particular voice and delivery was perfect for certain foundations of the group. Mike, you could see him dropping a solo album but he didn't define himself yet either, but I liked his aggressiveness. And Moe, he had something that just took it further to the definition of Electric. Dagha brought the edginess to the group and it took away from the smooth voices. It just forces you to listen every time you change people. I like that about groups. I wanted to have a group where the dynamics change with the different voices but the criteria stayed the same and it's consistent all the way through. So it wasn't really a birth. That project was put together the same way that "Maysun Project" was put together. "The Maysun Project" had to sound loud, noisy, like the message. Nobody wants to hear the message so I wanted the music to reflect the social tension of the content. That's how I put together projects at the present time. That's the same with Electric. Whatever I'm trying to do, it just has to have a kind of consistency and a feel all the way through.

HHC: Do you plan to work on a new Electric project in the near future?

I: I don’t know, man. Them cats started acting funny. That's the same things that happened with all these groups. You got something good and cats don't realize what they have and they want so much more than what you're capable of. I mean, look at me! I'm still struggling, I'm doing everything on my own. That's my curse. Those cats might have thought that I could bring them higher than me, but it takes teamwork. Everybody has to be doing something. I can't be doing ten things and these cats are doing two things. I was setting up shows and they weren't showing up! Or I had studio time and these cats were driving around somewhere else. I'm in the studio all day, making the beats, getting it ready for them to record and they're not showing up! Dagha's showing up but where is the rest of them? So then I was like: "Ok, you're not there, I'm gonna do another song". And now they're hating on the fact that I'm dropping other things. But don't get it twisted. I love them cats and I think they're good people. So I now encourage them to do their own projects so they can learn that this shit ain't easy. When they learn that and they come back, we'll be able to talk and do another project but until then I wanna still try to put other projects together. It's an ongoing thing. The gamble of putting the groups together and seeing the end result is part of what I love. I like incorporating other people and seeing what they have to bring to the table. Building with that chemistry and coming up with a new project, to me, it's great. I'm making my own hip-hop world. I want to see albums like "Funky Technician" but I don't want to do it so there might be a cat that might do that… That's why I got a production team. Now, Dagha, he got a style and a voice and he's got an album coming out. And the shit I do with Edan is completely on some other shit because he's a visionary too. You put us together and there's another chemistry. It just keeps you excited about doing music, to keep on incorporating people.

HHC: Dagha, your first album called "Object in Motion" will be released on Last Arc in the coming months. How does it feel to finally be able to release a full-length solo project more than ten years after the start of your career?

D: It feels great, man. It's long overdue. I put in a lot of work, did a lot of features, been through a lot of different groups. This is my first venture as a solo artist. I've always been in a group. It's time, I'm ready. I got a good production team behind me: Insight, Martian Gang, Darkshine, DJ Real. I think people are really going to enjoy the album, man. It's been a long work in progress. I expect big things. I still got a 9-to-5, I got a daughter. I have to eat off of this shit so I'm trying to make music that's killing'em. I do collabs and that Electric shit but I'm not depending on anybody else anymore.

HHC: What was your involvement in "The Maysun Project", apart from your rhymes, obviously?

D: Me, Insight and Edan, we talk about everything, life in general, politics, science, math, whatever… The American structure is something that we talk about all the time. We debate, we agree on a lot of things and we just thought it would be a good idea to come out with an album that kinda challenged the listener's thinking. Everything happens for a reason. There's a certain elite few that control the thoughts of many people through the television, the radio and everything. We just wanted to put a project out there that reflected our thoughts. It was bugged, man, cause we did that and then fucking 9/11 happened… It kinda seemed like we did it because of that but it wasn't the case. It wasn't even because of Bush…

HHC: How did you hook up with Insight originally?

D: I started off in a group called Cult and Dagha, back in '93 or something like that. I met Insight's sister through theater. I used to do plays and stuff like that. It was "Club 12" based upon Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night", a hip-hop version of that play. His sister found out about my work and she introduced me to Insight telling me that her brother was making beats. From there, we just kept it going. Insight thinks big and I like that, because I think big too. We just clicked from day one.

HHC: You don't produce any tracks on your album. Why is that?

D: I produce and I got some pretty nice beats, such as the 'Heaven and Hell' joint I did on "Maysun". It's just that I can't multi-task like Insight and Edan. They DJ, produce and also emcee… But for me, it will take me a week to make a beat and then I gotta write the rhymes… I like to be productive and for my album I really wanted the hottest beats. Just wanted to focus on the lyrics and the concepts. I wanted to leave the productions in their hands this time around. Next time around, I'll probably do some production. But I don't think anybody's gonna be disappointed anyway, man. We really put in a lot of work. DJ Real is doing like 3 or 4 remixes of each joint that I do, just so that we can pick the best one. It's crazy, man.

HHC: What will be the general feel and colour of the album?

I: An object in motion stays in motion. There's no progress for somebody that stays still and stagnant. It's basically like a timeline of the last ten years, just life experiences, different energies. I'm really coming with different styles, new styles, older styles that I had around the time of Knights of the Round… It's really musical, lyrical, diverse. It's not like one particular style. You'll hear my high pitched energy voice, my low-cool-calm -confident type of flow, everything… I did b-boy tracks, a little reggae tune. I just tried to do different ranges.

Interview by Cobalt & Phara
Photos by Nicolanifanta & Phara
April 2005

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