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
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
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
Are you registered to vote and do you exercise
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
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.