Anti-MC (Part 2)

Hip-Hop Core: What about that Mush EP series by the way? We've been waiting for it for quite some time now…

Anti-MC: Most of the music on "Pyramidi", I produced. But still I was kind of unheard of when we did "Free Kamal". As Kamal was gonna get so much press, the idea was that we'd put out 3 EP and that the first two would come out before "Free Kamal" and the third one hot on the heels of "Free Kamal"… But it just ended up not happening. The release date for "Free Kamal" got all fucken around with so I had to totally stop working on my record to finish it. It got bad. Kamal came over here to do that TTC tour and stuck me with a whole bunch of legwork to get done, like artwork, proof-reading lyrics and shit… That's why there's a couple misspellings on it. I had all this shit to get done so I had to put my album on hold. It ended up not getting released as it was supposed to but Revolver (our distributor) really liked the music that I was making so they got behind it and said that they wanted to do this 3 EP thing. So we're gonna do it exactly like that. They're the one who wanted to re-issue the first EP as they sold out in 2 months or something. So by early src="/interviews/antimc07.jpg" width="200" height="200" hspace="5" border="1" align="right">next year, the whole album should be out.

The album "It's Free But It's Not Cheap" is gonna be released on Mush but because of "Free Kamal" it took longer than expected… I did this tour with Boom-Bip in 2003 and we came over here for 10 days. I've been touring "Free Kamal" by myself because he was touring with the Shapeshifters, like I'll have Kamal's vocals on a CD. So all this other shit came up and I've had to work for "Free Kamal" and it didn't let me work on my own record. In a way, it's good because I've been putting together experiences. My record's gonna be way more solid. If I would have finished it 2 years ago, it would be kind of a half-ass project and it would sound a lot like "Free Kamal"… Now, it's gonna totally stand on its own.

HHC: What can we expect from the album as a whole?

A: It's really uptempo, high energy, a lot of dance stuff, a country ballad, that's it. A lot of live instruments, a lot of singing. Like the vocal harmonies that I sing on "Free Kamal", and I'm actually gonna sing on this record. Super fun! It's gonna be a record you can put on and have a party from beginning to end. It's got slow jams and it's got the real uptempo like the song I did with Teki.

HHC: It's not gonna sound like '15:01' then…

A: '15:01' is gonna be the album closer, I think. But I've redone it so it hits harder and sounds spacier, it's crazier! It's a little more uptempo now. A lot of the music on the album is a 120 or a 115 bpm so it's gonna be fun. I used a lot of guitars, a lot of different layers of guitars. It's gonna sound like a much more professional record.

HHC: What made you want to sing on your productions, instead of rapping as the good old Neosapien?

A: I still don't want to rap! Even more today than 10 years ago. There's too many rappers and I don't think I can compete with the best of them. What I like to hear in a rapper, I can do, but for as old as I am (I'm 27 now), I feel like I'm too old to be getting in the rap game. Plus like I said, playing these shows is 90% dudes, no girls… I'm not with it! (laughs) I enjoy the energy of going to a show and watching a good rock band. Watching a really good rap show is also always really impressive. Touring with Themselves, even if a lot of people hate on 'em, was really impressive. Watching Dose every night working a crowd and killing it was as impressive as going to see a good rock band. But going to see a bad rap show, wow, it's really bad! You know, watching a dude fumble with his CD player, forget his lyrics, have to freestyle the last half of the song… I think I'm gonna do rap records again, like I'm gonna do some stuff with Rhetoric (who was on Busdriver's "Temporary Forever" record, on 'Somethingness'). I love club rap music. I love to hear Mobb Deep's 'Quiet Storm' in a club. I love dance-hall too. I'm probably gonna start a dance club when I get back to L.A. But being a rapper myself, I don't think the market needs another rapper.

HHC: But aren't you somewhat frustrated of not conveying your ideas and points of views with your own words sometimes?

A: Oh, I don't mind this. A lot of times, like with "Free Kamal", I could dictate the direction of the song. As a producer, I could say "this beat, I think we should do something like this, blah blah blah"… When we did 'Before The Thought' on "Pyramidi", when we first started writing, Radioinactive was doing like a typical Kamal train-of-thought-super-fast rapping and I was like "no, we should go for something slower to match the drums". He had broken up with his girlfriend at the time and I had broken up with my girlfriend at the time too so it became like this hurt-love ballad song. I'm able to definitely dictate where I want a song to go. And if I can't, I'll storm out of the room, flip the table and be like "I can't work like this!" (laughs) So I'm never frustrated. I can always find an outlet.

HHC: Do you work differently with Kamal than when you work on your solo stuff?

A: Yeah, very differently. A lot with him is scheduled, because of how he works and because of his work when he's not rapping. Me, I don't work, I live at home and do music full time. Fortunately, I come from a family where I can do that. So I work 24 hours a day and I wake up, go to my studio, play guitar and like hacking out chords and recording songs. With my music, I do what the fuck I want. With him, there's limits to what I can do because as a vocalist his voice is limited and he's not a great singer. But there's things that he can do that a lot of rappers can't do that I can get away with. Like I can make shit really uptempo because he can rap fast. I can also leave a lot of gaps in the beats 'cause he can fill 'em. It's definitely different. It's unique. Plus he's always up for a challenge. If I make a beat that's gonna go in 3/4 and 5/4, he can do it. He's always up to try something new. It's always the thing that I enjoyed working out with him because he would just go like "fuck it, make me a beat and if I like it I'll rap to it" It was great. I'm much more picky with my shit.

HHC: What makes your relationship with Kamal so special?

A: I've known him a long time. Twelve years now. We've had fights and falling out, and become friends again, and fights and falling out, and then friends again… He definitely put me on. He got his deal with Mush and he was like "you're gonna produce my music". A lot of rappers in LA are very egotistical, and it's all about them… That's why there are so many producers that you hear on one record and then never hear from them again. They get lost by a lot of the rappers. Kamal never really did that. Like any rapper, you got some ego and there's always shit to deal with but there's nothing malicious with him. I enjoy that. He gave me creative space and let me do my own thing because as I said, as long as he would like the beat he would rap to it. It was fun. He was willing to be produced. Some rappers, you tell'em "we should try this" and they're like "fuck you! You wanna battle me!". Kamal's not like that. It was much easier to work with him. I told him that I'm not the hugest fan of his music and of what he does but I'm a huge fan of his creativity and his ability to just let fly. I definitely respect that very very much about him.

HHC: What was your mentality at the time of "Fo' Tractor" and "Pyramidi"?

A: I was on some total wigger shit. Hard-hard-hardcore. I was reading books by Marcus Garvey and some "fuck the white" like shit. It's why most of the sound on "Pyramidi" is not really world music but more African and Indian music and jazz because that's what I wanted to fuck with. I had this totally distorted view of myself. I was a kid. When we did "Fo'Tractor" and "Pyramidi", I was like 19 or 20 years old, trying to figure out who and what the fuck I was. I was like a babe in the woods. I went in and these guys were coming to my house, guys I knew from the Good Life and had tapes of them. It was kind of crazy. Kamal was getting a deal and we were thinking that we were gonna be millionaires overnight. cLOUDDEAD was huge so we thought "we're gonna sell 50 000 records and be the next Who". It didn't happen but it was fun! (laughs) It was a great time, this really magical time where a lot of people in L.A. were showing up at my parents' house and we were doing whatever we could and make music non stop. We would make music like everyday. There was even gonna be a "Fo'Tractor 2" because "Fo'Tractor" was like half of what we had. It was great, man. My state of mind was happiness! (laughs).

HHC: Generally, do you have a global vision of what you want to do when you start working on an album or do you just work from one track to another?

A: I definitely think about my records as this whole unit. Like I'm kinda nervous about the fact that the track that I did with Les 'Run' doesn't fit on the record. I think it's very dated, it sounds like 1998-jazzy-groove-shit, even if it sounds brand new to some people. I'm definitely learning more about putting a whole record together. I think that's what a lot of hip-hop people miss. You don't want 18 songs to sound exactly the same and you don't want 10 songs to sound completely random. There's like a happy medium, 12 songs, 45 or 50 minutes, a tight record with a sound of its own. The thing with "Free Kamal" that made me upset with one of the reviewers who talked about it is that he said there was no cohesive sound. To me, there's totally a cohesive sound. Every beat doesn't necessarily sound alike but the whole record's got one vibe and one message and one energy through it. I thought the pacing of the record was really good. We took time to take this 12 songs and to go like "this goes here and this song goes there"… I think as I get older, I'm definitely learning about that, especially with my record "It's Free But It's Not Cheap". Even beyond that, when you say global vision, I'm thinking about the fact that I've got to get a band together for my tour and about what everybody's gotta be able to play and about what the set is gonna be like. You have to have that global understanding of how each record is a particular step in your career.

HHC: By the way, how did you hook up with Mush in the first place?

A: Through Kamal. Dose was sort of an A&R for Mush. When Robert from Mush was living in Cincinatti and Chicago, he would hang out with Dose and Boom-Bip. He was putting out house music on a label called "3 to 5" and he wanted to release some downtempo hip-hop like Neutrino and Boom-Bip. That's why he created Mush. Eventually, he started thinking more of it like an avant-garde hip-hop label and he started to scan the United States to figure out who they would like to work with. Kamal's name came up when they thought about Californian artists, because they had "Fo'Tractor" and a lot of the Shapeshifters stuff. They really thought, of all the Shapeshifters, he stood out the most. So one day, Kamal came over to my house with his girlfriend and he said "hey, I just got a call today and some label wants to sign me. They're giving us 200 $ to work on a song and they're gonna give me 2000 $ for a record". I was like "fuck it, we made it!" (laughs) I was ready to go buy a mansion in Beverly Hills . So we did "Pyramidi" and we never knew when the record was gonna come out. We send it to Robert at the end of 1999 and we were like "did we just get fucked?" because it didn't come out until June 2001. Robert was living in Chicago and we had no way of getting a hold of him, except by mail. So we sent him these letters like "What the fuck! When is our record coming out?!" (laughs) And when it eventually came out, we were on cloud nine. When we shot the ill-fated "Pyramidi" video, Robert came down with the guys from cLOUDDEAD and he and I instantly clicked. He moved out to L.A. and we became friends and he took an interest in my music. So I do some work at Mush and he wants to put out my record, it's great. Kamal definitely paved the groundwork for that.

HHC: Could you tell us about the time you spent with the cLOUDDEAD guys on the tour, while we're at it?

A: Early to bed, early to rise! At that point, I had a girlfriend, Adam and Jeff had girlfriends too, Alias was married and Dax is gay. So it was like "no girls!" And you know, I'm kind of an alpha personality. I want to get business done, but at the same time, I do the same thing when it comes time to party. I'm like "Line'em up! Let's do this!" But Adam is like alpha plus and he was like "no, we wouldn't have time, we have to drive tomorrow". And at that time, Adam couldn't drive so Jeff, Alias, Dax and I did all the driving around the entire United States . So we were like "alright boss". But it was great! As much as I didn't like the record, I loved the fucking cLOUDDEAD live shows. It was awesome. That's what made Kamal and I realise that we had to get a real live show together. Even more with Themselves, because getting rid of Dave and Jordan on drum machines but adding Jeff on the drum machine (who's like the fucking master of it) and adding Dax on keyboards, they just put out a ton of energy on stage! It was amazing every night. Adam really works the crowd and gets everybody involved. It was great watching him. As far as the business side of it, it was the easiest tour I've ever done, because it was clockwork. We knew where the hotel was, we knew what time we were going to bed, we knew what time we were waking up…

On this tour with Boom-Bip, I have a totally different goal. I'm gonna abuse my body more than ever. I'm getting two or three hours of sleep every night, drinking every night, meeting girls… If there's two girls in the show, I'm trying to meet one of them. In England , women with their boyfriends will stare you down. It's good because they're kinda cute but bad because their boyfriends are drunk Englishmen and will not hesitate to punch you in the face (laughs) In Lyon, I met a girl that was fucking great, but I had to be up at three in the morning to get the van and drive out. I was totally bugged. We went to go see Beans together and was like "wow, she's really cool". But I got my drinking done that night, got a couple hours of sleep and was in the van the next morning, ready to go.

HHC: What made you want to begin the 'Bitter Breaks' mix-CD series where you put together rare grooves and different other loops?

A: I like breakbeat records, they're fun. Robert has taken a strong belief in me and he figured that would be another good promotional tool for me. They did really well with the Boom-Bip and Blockhead breakbeats. They tried to get Jel to do one but he wasn't really interested so I was like "I'm a whore! Sign me up!" No artistic integrity whatsoever. Put that in big capital letters. (laughs) So I put it together, they were really happy with it, they put it out and I'll probably have the next one ready in about a year. Cause I really want to build everything around the release of my record "It's Free But It's Not Cheap". Like I'm getting a band together, super good looking dudes, and we're gonna go out on the road so boyfriends beware when we come to your town! (laughs) I really want to work that record so I'll probably be on the road for a year. I'm also working on a breakbeat record called 'Brutality Breaks' with a friend of mine Cali from L.A. He runs a label called Record Collection that's putting out the Walkmen or Goldie Lookin' Chains from Wales . It's gonna be like all boy music, skatehead-punk, the mosh parts of it. Nothing but mosh breaks! That's the next thing I'm working on.

HHC: Returning to "Free Kamal", many people were surprised by the very good sound quality of the album. What made you want to step away from the lo-fi sound that was part of the charm of the previous Radioinactive albums?

A: Trying to make it sell more? (laughs) Like Kamal told you the time you interviewed him, it has a lot to do with the microphone being backwards when we recorded "Pyramidi". So one of the reason the sound changed a lot for "Free Kamal" is that we turned the mic the right way! (laughs) And I learned how to put a dampener up in front of the mic so the vocals aren't bouncing back into the microphone. Also we actually got to mix the beats this time. On "Pyramidi", everything is two tracks, so you're hearing exactly what was on the ASR-10. Alias mixed "Pyramidi" in a week-end and he did a fucking amazing job with what he had. I can't believe he got it sound as good as he did. He had two tracks for the beat, three tracks for Kamal's vocals (through the backwards microphone), no compressor, no anything on the vocals… It was raw! But with "Free Kamal", I had Pro-Tools and we really got to mix the record. Robert had moved to L.A. , he's an engineer and he was like "alright, I'm gonna teach you the basics and we're actually gonna have this record mixed this time". So he taught me the basics and sent me home and told me to bring him rough mixes of such and such song. And he'd be like "change that, change that"… It was great. So now, "It's Free But It's Not Cheap" is gonna sound like a fucking Justin Timberlake record! It's gonna be clean and nice. I understand the charm of lo-fi records, it sounds new and fresh and irreverent, but at the same time, it sounds like a couple of kids did it. It doesn't sound like a professional record and it's definitely limiting.

HHC: You've lived in L.A. for a long time. How do you explain the fact that the LA underground scene has been so innovative on the production and lyrical sides since the days of the Good Life Café (and even before)?

A: Actually, I lived in the same house in Los Angeles my entire life! In L.A. , you can stand in the poorest part of Los Angeles , the more low-income part of L.A. and have the richest part in L.A. right in front of you. People want to get out of that shit and a lot of times they don't want to take the steps. They wanna make the quick money now and blow up tomorrow. From the time of the jazz scene on Central Ave , Los Angeles has always been about style over substance. So I think a lot of the rap vibe came from the jazz vibe before that. Like the cool jazz stuff is brilliant but very often it's style over substance. A lot of those guys weren't the best players but they had an amazing aura and the records sounded so unique and so stylish. But was it great music? Some of it was really good but a lot of it doesn't stand the test of time… And the rap thing kinda came out of that. Los Angeles wasn't the first place with people rapping fast. It's a myth. The people from L.A. love to say that but it's just not true. On that note to say that rap came from New York is not that true. It came from dancehall really and toasting in Jamaica . Same with fast rap in L.A. , there were dancehall dudes rapping fast from way back, like Daddy Freddy. Plus, if you listen to a lot of rappers in L.A. that have amazing flows, they don't say shit! Ellay Khule and Xinxo have great flows and great lyrics but for a lot of those dudes it's just "how can I rap really fast and really crazy so that you won't understand a fucking word of what I'm saying because I'm saying bullshit". There definitely is people that have amazing flows. Sometimes Myka and PEACE say amazing shit. They put these strange words together and it's fucking awesome! But you'll hear another dude totally bite them stylistically but say the most totally retarded lame shit…

I never went to the Good Life so I don't like to speak as an authority on the Good Life. I've been to Project Blowed ten times but they didn't like the Log Cabin dudes so I stayed away from that… It was far from my house and I didn't get a car till later and nobody lived by that could give me a ride home. So by the time I was driving, the Good Life was closed. So what I know of it is from stories from Xinxo and RKA (who's on Volume 10's record). RKA was there from the very beginning and told me stories like when PEACE moved out from Texas but it's all second-hand stories that I have. But it was this defining thing where people realised that they didn't want to sound like New York and that they didn't want to be like a little New York or a little Boston or a little Philadelphia . They wanted to have this sort of pioneering sound. So the sound is more melodic that when Chubb Rock was rapping fast, but at the same time it's fast rapping. It's faster than NWA but a lot of the content matter would be the same as NWA or the gangsta rap of L.A. But it was a great crossroad because if you look at where it is geographically in L.A. it was right in the middle of everything.

HHC: What was exactly the problem between the Project Blowed guys and the Log Cabin crew?

A: A lot of it is shrouded in myth and mystery and egos… But really, it's Eligh and Ellay Khule in the past. Eligh went to junior high with the East Side Badstads (a good life group consisting of c.r., misfit, and i can't remember the other dude's name. They did a tape called "The biggest of the baddest" or something like that, that had ellay khule on it) . They were definitely rapping before but he came to junior high already being a rapper. There's videotapes of Eligh, Scarub, Demetrion (who was in the Badstads) and a couple of other dudes rapping together at 52 nd Street elementary school, all of them rapping fast as kids. I think that it all started because the Log Cabin said "we're gonna do it ourselves, we don't need you to have credibility"… It was a harsh attitude to have. People would say that the Log Cabin was biting Project Blowed, but the only persons that really rapped fast in Log Cabin were Kamal and Eligh. Tom Slick rapped kinda fast but not really, Malik the Problem Child sounded like a regular g-rapper, Pooridge didn't really rap fast, I was on some bullshit, Murs never really flipped it very much, Saga could flip it but he didn't very often… He had a song 'Lake Under The Forest' that never came out that was like a 130 bpm. I had never heard anybody rap like that. It was fucking ape-shit! But it never was released and he rapped pretty slow on the Log Cabin songs he was on. So I think a lot of it was between Kamal, Eligh and those dudes.

At the same time, it totally came back when Kamal and Omid were working together for some songs of "Pyramidi". Kamal met Khule one night at the studio and he was wondering he was gonna get punched in the mouth. But Omid introduced them and was like "this is Radioinactive". Khule was like "you were in Log Cabin, right? You were that dude rapping like the goat" Kamal was like "oh, shit"… But Khule said "that shit was crazy, man". So it was all cool and now they see each other on a homie-vibe and they totally adopted him. But when I was with Xinxo on the plane to Hawaï, he was like "Log Cabin, y'all some biters!" and I was like "Fuck you!" But, anyway, the shit Elusive was producing and the shit Eligh or Conflict were producing didn't sound like anything C.V.E. or other Afterlife guys were doing. It was more jazzy, almost more new-yorky… So I don't know. I know Khule likes to say he broke up the Log Cabin, but money broke up the Log Cabin! There was a record deal on the table through the guy who had the studio where we recorded our songs. His name was Henry and he was from France and he had a French investor that wanted to sign us… Yeah! France always showed us some love! J'adore Paris ! (laughs) So there was a pretty good-size contract on the table and it got pretty ugly like "should the money be split evenly across or should it be based on work?" Because there were guys like Pooridge who was on one song. And it was like "should he get an equal share of money as Kamal or Tom Slick or Eligh who's on every fucking song and produced even songs that he's not on?" So what really took it under was people being young and inexperienced with a lot of money in front of them…

HHC: What's your favourite record these days?

A: The record that I've been totally addicted to on this tour is T-Rex "Electric Warrior". When I was growing up, I totally slept on rock. I was so hardcore on some rap shit from 9 th grade until 2 years ago. This "Electric Warrior" is fucking incredible. It's like the proto glam-rock record but it's got every hip-hop beat and every electronic cliché and every punk cliché on it. I just got an Ipod and everybody on the tour has one so we just got shit on shuffle. We're putting together an I-Tunes library and I contributed my 350 CD's hip-hop collection to it. Robert had a 1000 rock CD's and Brian had like a 1000 electronic CD's so we have this vast I-Tunes library and when we went on the tour I didn't want to take any hip-hop shit. I strictly want to hear music I have never heard before and totally slept on. So it's been fun.

HHC: To finish off, could you sum up all your upcoming projects?

A: I'm gonna do "Brutality Breaks" when I get home. I'm also doing a remix for a band that's on a label that put out this single of Guru and 2Mex. Apart from that, I'll finish "It's Free But It's Not Cheap", put a band together, tour. That's it for the time being. On the business side, I'm looking for a licensing deal over here. There's already a couple of labels that I've been trying to get in contact with because I'd like to get a better distribution over here than a lot of the Mush records get. I definitely would like to take it one thing at a time right now because through the last couple of years, doing "Free Kamal" and my record and "Bitter Breaks", it got really hectic. I'm trying to focus on my record so I can really push it when it comes out. My EP should be out in September and I'm hoping the album should be out in February next year for my birthday… or no later than May. "Brutality Breaks" will come out when we finish it. It will probably be on some DIY punk shit.

Apart from that, I wanted to add something. While we were in the first couple of nights in France , it seemed that everybody thinks that Americans hate France . It's true, half the time, but I just want to set the record straight: Americans love France ! I can't get enough of France.

Interview by Cobalt and Nicolanifanta
Photos by Nicolanifanta
May 2005

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