Hip-Hop Core : What was your first contact with hip-hop culture ?

Kool Akiem : My first contact with Hip-Hop was "Rappers Delight". I was just a little boy living in Cali when my mom bought it for me to play on my toy Fisher Price record player. I still have that record. From that point on, Hip-Hop was the major influence in my life, the only thing I knew I was really about.

HHC : What led you to sign with Subverse ?

A : We never signed to Subverse. Actually we licensed "Obelisk Movements" to them with obligations to license two more albums. But the Micranots are and always have been independent, never signed. Anyway, when Company Flow came to Atlanta with the Lyricist Lounge tour I handed Bigg Jus a "Return of the Travellahs", they took it on there European tour and played it much on the road. So when Jus was handling 321Records he sought us out to do an album, we signed a licensing deal just before they folded. After that we signed a licensing deal and helped Jus with Subverse.

HHC : I've read you're not down with them anymore. Could you tell us a few words about it ?

A : I'm still down with Jus but some of the other people there were shady and incompetent. I went to NY to try and help the label out, chiefly handling design, even though I never put much work into effect, made there logo though. I decided there was no real hope for them and bounced like Jus did. They couldn't afford to give us the advance for the second LP and they broke a bunch of agreements with me, so that was it.

HHC : Why did you decide to re-release "Return of the Travellahs" this year ?

A : There was a lot of good material there that we wanted people to have available to them. Back in '96 it was only on cassette, I dubbed it myself and made the j-card, so there weren't really very many of them. And I think it is an important LP to get a better understanding of who we are especially if "Obelisk Movements" is the first you heard of us.

HHC : Now that "Return of the Travellahs" has been available on a larger scale on CD for a few months, what kind of feedback did you receive from the press and the audience ?

A : Pretty good feedback. Not too much though, it wasn't really a full release with promotion and press, it was more just to let people have it who wanted it. We wanted to make sure that it didn't get confused with being our new album.

HHC : This release inaugurates your own label Mental Madness Wrecords. Why did you decide to create your own imprint ?

A : Actually Mental Madness Wreckords has dropped several items including the "Farward EP", and "All Live" 12". Mental Madness Wreckords is primarily a vehicle for putting out Micranots records, eventually after I get more knowledge, experience and funds I might turn it into a label. Check for the Shure Shot Bros. dropping on Mental Madness when we get our shit together.

HHC : Do you plan to re-release your old EP's ("Farward", "So Deep I Never Fell") or stuff like that for instance ?

A : No, because the Farward EP is still available. I might put "So Deep I never Fell" on a mix cd for our next tour, but I don't think it will be re-released unless we are starving to death.

HHC : What's exactly your relation with Rhymesayers? How long have you known them and do you plan to record some more material with Slug and Ant for instance ?

A : Slug is on a couple cuts on our new album "The Emperor & the Assassin". We go back with Rhymesayers a very long time, one of Slugs first shows was opening for us years ago. I used to DJ and throw a lot of parties around the same time Saddiq was doing the same, so we've known each other for a long time. Rhymesayers is a good place for our music to be, so I'm sure you will see allot more of our records with the RSE on it.

HHC : How do you feel about the hip-hop scene in Atlanta ? Do you plan to work with any artist from this region ?

A : Atlanta is home to me, there are allot of independent crews there if you know where to look and there are finally some independent labels starting to put the work in the A. I've got plans to work with several Atl artist, no big names or nothing, those aren't really the circles I travel in.

HHC : Kool Akiem, you have your very own style of production but, as far as music goes, who do you consider as major influences ?

A : Marley, Premo, and the RZA. Marley for blending loops and song structure with scratches and shit. Premier for chopping shit up real good and rearranging shit. And the RZA for bringing out that rugged off beat shit, cutting tracks on and off in ill places.

HHC : How do you create music generally ? What's the process ?

A : Usually I sit down and bang out a gang of production, mostly loops and chorus pieces, then I hand them over to Self, some times with a concept or chorus or vision, sometimes just the beats. Then he goes ahead writes his shit, and lays down the vocals. Then I take it back and arrange the cuts, some times I out whole new productions on it, throw some scratches. Then I mix it. I'm actually tired of mixing shit, I really just want to stick to production, so I think I found the right person to mix my music, I'm not sure yet tho...

HHC : How did you come up with this original sound ? I mean there isn't anybody else that sound the way you do. What's the science behind that ?

A : I have different was to make beats, I get bored just banging out the same formula all the time, so I use different equipment, and take different approaches to it. I don't ever want to get stuck in a formula, even if I could make more money by having a "signature sound", I like to experiment like a scientist, with new equipment all the time. But the main thing is originality, nothing bothers me more then some one saying "oh that beat you made sound like a so and so beat" fuck that. Yet at the same time I'm not trying to obscure people to death, the point of my shit is not "strangeness". It must rock in some form no doubt.

HHC : Where does this obsession with ancient Egypt come from ?

A : Really that was the theme of "Obelisk Movements", it's far from the only thing we deal with. But back even before we formed the Micranots we both belonged to the Akhepran Society, the study of KMT. So a lot of knowledge we deal with is that foundation. That was before I became Five Percent.

HHC : The obelisk, the many references to religion and esoterism, the very strange atmosphere that permeates from your sound, how would you qualify your sound ?

A : Hip-Hop. That original shit. This is what it sounds like if your main focus is originality, creativity, truth. The bottom line is not "oh if I make shit like this, I can take it to this label, or radio and video shows". We ain't simple minded folks, so being real you are dealing with complexity. There are a lot of artists out there with knowledge making trash because the majority of record buyers are sheep who are better directed to give up money the repetion of simple concepts. Now there is a place for that type of music, no doubt. I respect enjoy and understand it, that really is some peoples reality and truth. It's just not exactly mine, at the end of my life I don't want any regrets, no shame. I make this for me first.

HHC : You're quite involved on many political issues. Doesn't it bother that hip-hop today is so apolitical ?

A : No, not really. When Hip-Hop was more "political" it must have been more fake as well. I'd actually rather hear a fool talk about platinum, bitches, drugs and cars if that's what he is really about than hear him trying to be "righteous" if he's not. And i don't care if labels aren't letting "political" music in the position it was in the past. Fuck those labels. How are you going to be a "revolutionary" or whatever with a bullshit label telling you what to do to get broke off a little change off there money from your labor ?

HHC : Can you tell us a few words about the Universal Vibe Squad Collective ?

A : The UVS is a collective of crew that goes back about a decade and a half. Some do music, or graf, or whatever. Just a crew not to be fucked with in any form basically.

HHC : When is 'The Emperor & The Assassin' going to be released ? What can we expect from this new album ?

A : By September to coincide with a big ass tour, 70 dates in the U.S. and Canada. Along with Atmosphere and Odd Jobs. "The Emperor & the Assassin" is another rugged album, built with a subtle ill narrative that blends the whole shit together. It has many dimensions for lots of repeated listening enjoyments, I designed it so it can be listened to in different ways, you know more experimenting. You even hear my voice on it though, something new. The attractive power of the Crown and AK.

HHC : What do you plan to do in the near future ?

A : Complete a follow up CD as part of the same project, go on tour, and smack back anyone who asks. Then Ill take a trip to Cuba and more touring.

HHC : Do you plan to do a worldwide tour in the coming years? Particularly, will you come to do shows in France ?

A : YES. Paris is the only place we have been in Europe. We felt really good in Paris, and would return at any chance possible. There isn't a specific tour lined up for the EU, but it is likely to happen next year.......

HHC : The last word ?


Interview by Cobalt & Dext
August 2003

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