Hip-Hop Core: How did you hook up with the rest of the Masterminds exactly?

Kimani: Tarik and I went to college together. We lived in the same dorm, we liked the same records. I used to have a radio show and he would come on and freestyle. After a while we just decided to make an album together.

HHC: Some years down the line, which Masterminds album is your favourite and why?

K: The "Stone Underground Railroad Soup". I like them each for different reasons, and I can't pick one. I don't really listen to either of them so I don't even know. "Underground Railroad" was more straightforward boom-bap, and "Stone Soup" was more experimental, but I think they both captured the period of time when they were made accurately

HHC: I've read that "Stone soup" was based on a European fairytale, could you explain that?

K: Yeah there is a European fairytale called "Stone Soup", where a poor beggar gets a town to help him make a tasty soup filled with carrots, potatoes with only a stone. It's alchemy, making something out of nothing, and after our nugruv situation where we literally had nothing, it was a fitting title for what we were trying to do.

HHC: "Stone Soup" really had a lot of political elements in the lyrics whereas "Underground Railroad" was a lot more centered around pure emceeing. What gave you the will to become more involved?

K: I mean we had some songs about things on "Underground Railroad", like 'Day One', '2025', and 'Memories', but the rest was some just rapping about rap shit. Personally there is only so much rapping about rap that I can tolerate. I can relate more to songs about issues, about life, dealing with emotions and passion. So it was a progression on "Stone Soup" which I think is very evident on "Something's Gotta Give". Most of the new songs are about something or another. Things that people can relate too. My family has been politically involved all of there lives, helping in the community, and educating, and that's how I was raised. And that is a definite part of me. I also like drinking jack daniels, and I used to fuck white girls, that's a part of me too. And I try to balance all of that in my music. I feel as if Masterminds got boxed into this political rap category, and I wanted to make sure I got out of it a little for a while. And so on the Roose record aside from on 'Troublearth', there wasn't much political rants.

HHC: "Stone Soup" also showed a lot of different musical influences going from reggae to seventies rock and electronica. Why did you change your signature sound in such a radical way?

K: I think we built on our sound. When we did stone soup, I think we consciously set out not to make the underground railroad two. For good or for bad I think we accomplished that. A lot of artists make the same record over and over again. You expect them to do something and they do it, and people are cool with that. I'm not like that. If I wanna hear the underground railroad I'll listen to that, not my second rendition of it. We might have gone a little far from what the listeners were expecting, but I don't really care. It's music. I'd rather take risks and fail, then be boring. And I think some people appreciated us for doing what we did. It's not like with the beats that we went out and were like let's make a weird ass record. I listen to all kinds of shit, and it was more like instead of being like “nah we can't try this kids will think it's crazy” , we were like “We like it, fuck it let's do it”.

HHC: I got to tell you that I really thought "Stone Soup" was a remarkable album… but it was definitely overlooked. How do you feel about that?

K: I think most of what we do over here is overlooked. We don't have the big budget to be in your face, and we're not a machine yet, so slowly people are catching on to what we're doing. We're a new label. This is the beginning of our third year. And interviews like this one I appreciate so more people will hopefully catch on to what's going on at Third Earth.

HHC: Do you plan to do another Masterminds album in the near future?

K: Maybe

HHC: How did you hook up with Mr. Len and decide to create the Roosevelt Franklin entity?

K: I met Len in an online chatroom. He was keystyling battles under the pseudonym “Freestyle Phanatic” and he had the ill style man. He use the asterix symbol like nobody I've ever seen before in my life. He originated that shit man. Anyhow we decided to make this record together and shit man it's been history in the making. That was 7 years ago. And it's taken that long since RapGuysWhoLikeGirlsButts.Com went out of business, it was hard to track Len down. But while I was going to my AA meetings, Len was next door dealing with his addiction to Skittles.

HHC: Could you tell us once again what is the origin of this name, Roosevelt Franklin, by the way?

K: Roosevelt Franklin was a Muppet on Sesame Street back in the 70's. It was also the first record that Len scratched on when he was young. My daughter loves the record too. It's a fucking great album.

HHC: What's up with the whole Muppet thing?

K: I have a felt fetish. Girls used to like it when I'd put on my Animal suit and jump around the room before we had sex, so I just figured why not translate that into our music.

HHC: What did you want to accomplish with "Something's Gotta Give" compared with your respective solo careers?

K: I personally wanted to make a record that sounded absolutely nothing like a masterminds record. I mean this was the first time I basically got to write a whole album from my perspective, by myself. And for better or worse, that's what happened. With this record, I was hoping to go rubber. You know what I am saying?

HHC: Why did you chose to use a minimalist and funky production?

K: I think the minimalist and funky production chose us. That or girls.

HHC: How did you get involved in rap music?

K: Am I involved in rap music? Well if I am I'd have to say it's cause of Run DMC.

HHC: Tell us what are the ultimate records according to you, those that everybody should possess in his/her collection?

K: Michael Jackson "Thriller". And Prince "Purple Rain". If you have those two you are golden.

HHC: Do you have any collaboration (as Roosevelt Franklin or in solo) in the works?

K: We just started working on the next album. It'll be out by the fall. That's the only music I'm working on right now, but I think Len is working on 15 billion other projects.

HHC: You've done a US tour in January. What about Europe , some shows soon?

K: I've never done a European tour, and I'd like to before I quit the rapping, so hopefully we can do that this year…

HHC: What is in the works for Third Earth?

K: Well our 2004 releases so far have been The Sound Defects, which is an Indianapolis based threesome who made a funky ass instrumental album using live instruments and samples. Then Dujeous a 7 piece live Hip-Hop ensemble of 3 mc's, a drummer, guitarist, and bassist put out there debut album called "City Limits". I've known those guys forever and their album is amazing, and I hope it goes multi-platinum. And then Ela our first indie rock release comes out, and then the Others "Past Futuristic" album.. We've got some things in the cooker for the end of the summer and the fall, should have another Roosevelt Franklin album done, and we're gonna do a Third Earth label tour with Roosevelt Franklin, Dujeous, Oddjobs, and more starting in the fall.

Interview by Dext & Cobalt
May 2004

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