Clamor: Your DIY Guide to Everyday Revolution.

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Micranots Intelligence

OK, drop some Micranots history on me.

Basically in the very beginning, like mid-’91, there were three people; two MC’s (myself and Truth Maze) and DJ Kool Akiem. Then along the time that we moved to ATL in ’94 it was just myself MC’ing, and from that point on we just kept it moving. It was a situation where at the time when we were doing the music in MNPLS, MNPLS was not big enough to nurture and embrace us fully so we did what a lot of other groups didn’t do, we left. Because it was a glass ceiling at the time. I think if we would have stayed here, we would’ve imploded like so many other revolutionary groups. So the first Micranots release was a cassette called ‘Hoods Pack the Jam’. After that we recorded one album that never reached the light of day with Truth Maze, which was called ‘The Catacomb Files’ and nobody’s ever heard that one. And then Kool Akiem and me moved to ATL, and we came out with an EP called ‘So Deep I Never Fell’. Right after that was when we did ‘Return of the Travellahs’ and we took some of the better songs off of that and came out with our first vinyl single which was ‘Farward/All Live/141 Million Miles’. After that, we signed to a label called 321 out of NYC; they had Blackalicious and Rebel Home, and pretty much the main people that started the Subverse label. But before we could get on that, the label fell apart. Big Jus from Company Flow, Fiona Bloom and a few other people put together Subverse and the people to get on were Science of Life, Big Jus, MF Doom and a few others. In the beginning, Subverse wanted to re-release ‘Return of the Travellahs’, but since we were recording for a label we wanted to take the time to give them something new. And that’s when we recorded ‘Obelisk Movements’. Which brings us to the new album, ‘The Emperor & the Assassin’ (released by Rhymesayers).

So in terms of getting started as an MC, what sparked that interest?

Basically I would say that just the movement in general is what inspired me. I mean prior to Hip-Hop, we were listening to all of the things that hip-hoppers were born from, you know, reggae, funk, disco, rock. And so when the phenomenon spread, I was right there and I was young. But the way in which I was raised was pretty progressive. So in 1984 I was rhyming along with the Fat Boys, before they got commercial. The first album’s real dope and that was like the jailhouse rap in jail. That was one of my favorite cuts at the time. So what I did was I started writing all the lyrics out, and once I got all the lyrics down I would rewind it to the beginning and play it and listen to the lyrics and what they were saying. And then after I finished I looked at all the lyrics on the page because prior to that I would just freestyle. It’s weird because at that point in time, it wasn’t really considered “freestyle”, it just was. It didn’t really have a name or nothing like that. This was before I started writing and getting into song sequences, bars and choruses and things of that nature. But yeah, that was pretty much my motivation after I wrote down that rhyme. I was like, “I can do this”, and I pretty much started. To me, Hip-Hop is pretty much everything, it’s the attitude and it transcends. I feel like I’ve got a full grasp of what that really is so I can be the master in that realm to be able to manipulate and maneuver it, because the grasp that I have is so on point. And it’s not bragging it’s just, you know, I’m 31 years of age and I’ve been participating whole-heartedly since ’79. I’m a teacher but I’m also a student and I’m equally both.

Who are you listening to lately that you’re feelin’?

I like Jay-Z for various reasons. He’s a good MC regardless of what content he chooses to use. If you really want to talk about being revolutionary, I think that he’s more revolutionary than a lot of other people that beg to differ, you know. In terms of what he does with that money, I feel like he really does put his money where his mouth is, in terms of things he does for the community. There gets to be a point in time where you have to figure out what you’re really in it for, what you’re really doing. He felt that he could get more things done and do more for his people by making a decision to sell records. To me, I don’t feel like it’s his fault, I feel like it’s the industry’s fault for trying to copy his blueprint, in terms of the way that he puts shit together. So everybody’s after him. I think he’s just a good MC, you know. I look at content and then I also look at live stage performance, and he has the breath control and the cadence and things of that nature. So that’s one of the cats. I just picked up the Kanye West. He kind of bridges the gap in between, for lack of a better word and stereotype, the jiggy audience versus the backpack, in terms of high-polarized opposites. I feel like Kanye West is another person who’s gonna do a lot for the “underground” as well as for his city of Chicago. Chicago is similar to MNPLS, where there happens to be a lot of talent but no industry to actually support those people. I listen to a lot of older Hip-Hop, which is where I get a lot of my nostalgia and inspiration.

So what’s keeping you inspired these days besides the fucked political climate in our country that we’re all dealing with?

Well, it’s the optimism of a possible unrealistic utopia. Meaning that for me, I do it for the initial feeling that I felt when it was at its most pure. It’s kind of like a fiend chasing after that first hit, metaphorically speaking. When I pause to stop my quest for this utopia and kind of realize what’s really going on around me, I feel like the game these days is really fucked up and it’s to the point in time where I’m really questioning, “What do I want?” And for me, regardless of what I talk about, I want it to have some meaning or some form of purpose to be something more than just entertainment.

In the context of things, do you consider yourself an MC for the working class?

Definitely I feel like I’m an MC that speaks for the working class. I’ve had a lot of factory jobs and things of that nature during the recording process of our albums. So I feel like I’m an average dude, you know.

Yeah, I hear you. I’ve done some shit jobs in my day too. Right now, I have no healthcare benefits and am not making a living wage at my job. I’d be struggling if I was trying to support a family on my income. But I keep my life simple so it’s a reality that I can check and maintain. Are you having to work other jobs in addition to Micranots right now? 

Definitely, I have all kinds of jobs. I have two kids and for me to be able to make do, I have to constantly supplement in order to keep things moving. For the most part, I’ve always had a job or kept a job. I’ve worked as a frozen buyer most recently at Whole Foods, until I went on tour. I’ve worked at UPS, I’ve worked in a chip factory, and I’ve worked in a furniture warehouse amongst machines and carbon monoxide. It’s weird because it’s like the jobs that I have to take or that are available for me to take are often temp jobs. When I really started making music and was having to tour and travel, I would work temp jobs because you need a job where you could leave. But a lot of times when you let them know that you’re a musician, they’re not going to want to mess with you anyway because they’re trying to run their business. Just recently when I got back, I was like, “Alright, I’ll do another temp job”, so I got offered a job moving. They didn’t really tell me how much the wage was in the beginning, and so I woke up at six in the morning and they told me it was going to be twelve hours worth of work. So I drove to the factory and got up into the building and that’s when they finally told me how much I was going to make; I would be working from about 6:00AM until 7:30PM and they were gonna pay me $6.50/hr. So that means for all that work I would probably bring home about $60. And so that day, I took all that into consideration and then I just left. I told myself that I’ve had a lot of jobs to where I’ve been able to use my physical strength and there’s no question in my mind that I’m able to do that. Now I want to be able to use my mind. Most recently, I do a lot of freelance teaching of Hip-Hop Art, which is a generic term in itself for lack of a better term. It’s the tenet of Hip-Hop broken down into collages and having reference points of other people and artists. So that’s what I do as of right now, but it’s never been where this shit can cover my whole situation. But for that matter, I always want to be working. Right now, I’m trying to write my own ticket, in terms of being able to define my destiny and to make the shots and to do exactly what I want to do. I think that that in itself, what I just spoke to you about, is what college does not teach you. I don’t think college really teaches you how to think for yourself overall. And so for me, I’m trying to create that which I have not seen which is suitable for myself in terms of what I’m trying to accomplish in life.

Right, which is what I think we’re all ultimately striving for at our own pace. There are a lot of people in the music industry that are more entertainers than educators. What I really appreciated most about ‘Obelisk Movements’ when I heard it, aside from DJ Kool Akiem’s production, was what you were professing on the mic. Have you ever had any regrets about your lyrical content?

I do have some regrets but these regrets are more about the way in which the course of music goes. Kind of like how America eats itself so does each genre. For me, the ‘Obelisk Movements’ should have come out in 1988. Because there was not a lot of music coming out then and there was not a lot of other diversions in life, like video games and such. I feel that that album was very dense, and it was created that way purposely. I didn’t want to compromise at that point in time and I wanted to make an album strictly for the heads, to where you could listen to it years down the line and still hear something that you didn’t hear previously. Now from an artist standpoint, I was very pleased with it. From a commercial standpoint, I wasn’t as pleased with it. It’s like being able to cook something. You want to make sure that there is nutrients and vitamins involved and you want to have a lot of people eat it. So I think just as much as how or what you put into it, the way in which you present it should be just as important. But beyond the content in the things that I deal with in my music, I’m an MC. And an MC has the job of handling fire. You have to be able to create your own hype but you cannot believe in your own hype, so to speak. For me, I don’t lose sight. I don’t see myself as an activist, even though there are some things that I do off-record that can fall into that category. So where I’m at right now, I’ve been putting together a formula that I feel will be able to reach many people without compromising some of the material and topics. I’m trying to get closer to be able to say exactly what I want to say. With this recent material, I feel like I’ve mastered it and that’s why after these few albums I’m gonna sit back for a minute and turn to other avenues of life, or Hip-Hop for that matter.

How do you feel like you’re received on-stage by the audience?

I would say that even on this last tour, sometimes I felt out of place in terms of speaking to people that maybe don’t necessarily want to hear it. Also since most of the crowd was white, I felt like maybe what I said would have been more accepted coming from Eminem. Meaning that, if one of their own delivers what I’m delivering then they can accept it better as opposed to feeling guilty which then becomes a reaction. It’s weird, because I’m in this, this is a business; this is the music industry and a business. For me, I don’t think that underground means to have six people, ten people, or twenty people. My biggest pet peeve with the industry is that there is a cookie-cutter formula that really does not allow individual creativity and these labels don’t really nurture artists like they used to. So imagine if you have a race. And you have some people who are starting on the finish line, some people who are starting over the finish line, some people who are starting outside of the stadium, and some people who are starting outside of the country, but they’re all supposed to participate in the same race. When you bust that gun for the race to start, there are people who have won already and there are people who may take months just to get to the stadium and the race has been over. In a nutshell, everybody is not given a fair opportunity. So as an MC, we get caught up in a certain box, and for me I don’t want to be caught up in that box. That’s why it’s very important for each release that I deal with to show some type of progression in terms of where I’m going, but to be able to try and break the mold every time. Therefore I don’t get caught in a situation to where that’s what you expect of me and anytime I try and grow outside of that preexisting box, it’s not accepted.

So in working with Rhymesayers, do you feel like y’all have complete control over your releases?

Realistically, it’s pretty much a co-op, man. We handle our projects the way we want to and they’re cool with it. What they’ll do is basically voice they’re opinions. We all don’t necessarily agree, but everybody has full integrity. It’s not like, “Yo, pull the plug on that!” Everybody is pretty much accountable for themselves. If you don’t move to push your shit, then your shit doesn’t move. I think that the whole purpose is to get with motivated people who have a vision and see where they want to go.

I've been listening to 'The Emperor & the Assassin' regularly since I received it. The production and lyricism is definitely dope. What’s happening with this new album versus the message of ‘Obelisk Movements’?

If I were to tell you what the real difference is between both albums, I would say that ‘Obelisk Movements’ is just that, it is a movement; it is a slow-moving tank, an elephant that pretty much blankets. It’s not asking for people to accept it, it’s demanding it and for that matter rolling over people. Whereas, ‘The Emperor & the Assassin’ is more about trying to create and paint pictures of the faces of the people who drive the tank. So now we’re re-introducing ourselves to you as the people who create. Really what it is, is it breaks down the early histories of us coming up. A lot of the songs are stories and things that I’ve dealt with coming up in LA; early gang shit, seeing crack hit the streets in ’84, witnessing it with my own eyes. I’ve got friends that got rich, got friends that got killed, got friends with mothers that got smoked out, and that was just the whole purpose. So if it seemed like it was violent, we came up in a violent time. There are many different ways to say a lot of things, and what we’re dealing with is just finding the right way to say what we mean. I’m in this business to be understood to an extent, and to be able to express. Expression and creativity is paramount over being understood but it’s a close second. What I’m trying to do is make sense of that which makes no sense at times.

So what are your thoughts about possessing firearms in today’s world?

I feel like it is very important but not on a NRA-type tip. I peeped that ‘Bowling for Columbine’ and don’t necessarily feel it’s the firearms, but that it’s the actual society in which we deal with. Where does it start? They like to sensationalize certain shit to get you off of the issue. My partner, she’s had a gun before but she’s not really on that vibe. I’ve had various guns throughout my life and her vibe is like, dealing with that it just brings a certain energy towards you. I can agree with that, but for me, I like to be prepared on every front, on every aspect. These days, I have kids and I don’t want anybody coming in my house. My crib’s never been broken into but I wouldn’t want to wait for a situation like that to occur. But for me, my biggest enemy on a daily basis is the cops. I can respect the Panthers for what they did in California by routing around the laws, you know, being able to carry guns in the streets to police the police. It infuriates me because what the fuck are you supposed to do when you get beat the fuck down by the cops and then in turn go back to the same system that supports these cops, and you want what kind of justice? I mean, what do you really expect? I feel like it’s the frustration that most of our people go through. I’ve had friends that have been killed by the cops, MNPLS PD, families with no fathers. So for me, protesting that? Fuck that. After awhile that shit gets played out. Because they know what they’re dealing with, so for them it’s like, “We’ll bust on them and they’ll protest and so we’ll just ride it out until it dies down and then it’s back to, whatever”. So for me, it’s kind of like having a well-balanced diet. I have to be a spiritual and militant, well-rounded individual. I just want my kids and me and mine to be well rounded. That’s one of the things that my mom taught me as a black man, in order to be able to survive in this world. And none of it really had to do with self-defense. It all had to do with utilizing my mind and my mouth. And to be able to associate and relate to every walk of life, from white people to black people to different classes, different sexual orientations, to where you can put me anywhere and I’m gonna be able to make it happen.

Are you registered to vote and do you exercise that right?

I have not exercised that right and I’ve been around people who thought it was just blasphemous, like a crime or something. They’d be like “I can’t believe it, how could you not want to make a difference and how can you complain about things that occur if you don’t stand up?” I realize many of my people have died for the right to vote. But now I feel like the actual process of voting is like sugar water, it’s placebo. It’s designed to make us feel like we do have power. Maybe on a smaller scale it works, but otherwise it’s like they’ve got their candidates determined long before the voting begins. For me, I don’t believe that it’s effective because they got the shit on lock; it’s a circle, inside of a circle, inside of a circle and the motherfuckers in the center know everything.

The revolutionary tone of your albums continues to be an inspiration to a lot of folks. Where do you think we’re headed?

I think more than anything what we’re doing is probably headed toward oblivion, possibly. And I think the only thing that will save us is the Earth cleansing itself. I was re-writing a song yesterday that was talking about money, saying that money is not the root of all evil, it’s people. And I feel like where we are right now in life, there won’t ever be a utopia. There has to be some negative to counter the positive. I don’t think everybody would want to live in an ultimately positive world. There’s always that balance of good and evil. In terms of some grand revolution, I think that the revolution of change happens consistently on a very small scale. It happens with that tree that falls in the forest that nobody hears, and it’s the big crash that smashes into a storefront. In America, if we were to have an armed revolt it would be very hard because we just don’t have the resources. It’d have to go deeper than that. Pound for pound, you can’t really go up against what you don’t have the necessary resources to undo. So for me, I’m on a personal quest. Each day I’m trying to be a better father, a better man, a better brother, and to be able to share the knowledge and the wisdom that I have. The thing that I feel is my best asset is working with these kids through art to be able to provide them with different avenues. A lot of times I’m going to these schools that with all this gentrification are way out in the burbs. One of the places I’ve been working at, the county had gotten sued for not having a diverse enough curriculum, so they brought us in there. And to an extent that can be seen as a token, you know, let’s bring in some urban shit to appease the financiers or whatever. Regardless of the situation, I come in there just how I dress on the street and I give these kids many different opportunities and visions to see a black man doing something else beyond sports and rappin’. And I come in dressing like them, so they can identify and know that I’m not putting on a costume, so therefore there’s a connection. With a lot of our people and just in general with a lot of males, we don’t stick around with our offspring, our kids. So a lot of times I get a lot of these young brothers that gravitate toward me because they’re not getting that energy at home. And when you take on this job, there are a lot of other things that come with it, like social work. You may think, “Damn, I just wanted to come in and do this art!”, but then you might find yourself mediating between families, mediating between principals and pigs. You never know. So for me, that’s where my change comes in, being able to reroute some of these kids. Because you know how the prison systems are and I don’t want to send out these kids to get slaughtered. But at least for our youth, I’m like what can I really offer them these days? I just feel in general that the American population isn’t as informed as it should be and I feel like in my position, I have to be very careful in terms of how I drop that information.

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