From Too $hort to Digital Underground to Hobo Junction to the Hieroglyphics, Oakland, California has produced some amazing hip-hop, but one group that often gets overlooked is the unique and elusive click, Tha Slumplordz. The five man crew, consisting of members Hard Rard, J. Jonah, Irahktherigor, Gravanaught and Dave Doses, officially formed in ’97 from a collection of smaller groups, and one year later dropped the amazing Adventures 12”. A self-titled album, released under the sub-group Sunnmoonsekt, featuring Rard and Irahk as Sunn and Moon respectively, followed and introduced the world to their spaced out, bass heavy brand of hip-hop, which they referred to as “slump.” While the Sunnmoonsekt album got the most attention, their strongest album was its follow up “Don’t Worry About the Kaliber [Or Nothin Like That]”, released as Tha Yakuza, featuring Rard as Pokerface Tanaka and J. Jonah, formerly known as Freeman. This album took the production to the next level and was more stylistically advanced, with more seasoned flows and a harder edge. After complications with their label, Tha Lordz disappeared for a while, only to reemerge in 2006 with the independently released “Sav City”, under the name The Sweeps, featuring Rard and Dave Doses. A solo album by Gravanaught, entitled Searching, was to be their next release, but it never materialized and it seemed like the Lordz had released their final chapter. In 2013, however, J. Jonah aka JonaH HeXXX, now essentially holding the torch on his own, with some help from Irahk and Dave Doses on the production, released the dope mixtape “Return to tha Caliber” and gave listeners another dose of that Slumplordz sound. An EP, entitled New Pimpin, followed, and the Oakland veteran has more planned for the future. We discussed past, present and future in this interview which gives some insight into one of my favourite crews from my youth. Big thanks to Jack Devo for letting me be a bit self-indulgent on this one and I hope someone out there who hasn’t heard of Tha Lordz or never checked out their music digs what they hear!
Before tha Lordz formed, you were part of a crew called the Elements, going back to ’93. Can you talk about those early days?
That was me, the Gravanaught and a friend of mine - he called himself Tha Lytist, and it was three of us, the Elements. We were called the Raw Elements, the OGRE (Original Raw Elements). It was me and my friend, that’s the Lytist, we sort of started the group. So it was me and him at first. And then my cousin, which, that’d be Gravanaught, you know, he joined on soon after. And then we were just, you know, doing our thing on the side, outside of tha Slumplordz. And then one day Gravy introduced me to Rard and then it kinda went from there as far as tha Slumplordz was concerned. But the Elements, we were already a group outside of tha Slumplordz, so we just incorporated the Elements as well. You know, there’s five of us in tha Slumplordz, but we have a gang of groups inside of our group.
So it was ’97 when the Slumplordz formed, right?
Yes. Officially, yeah.
The first release was the Adventures 12” which was a Sunnmoonsekt track, but you were on that one. You were calling yourself Freeman at that time?
Yup, aka The Forbidden One, yup.
Can you talk about Math Sound Workshop and Knock Factor? Were those just independent labels started by friends of yours?
Well, Math Sound Workshop, that was like in-house engineers... That was when we had a little spot where we made our little music and just chilled. It was this house on East 33rd in Oakland and that was just our style, we used to call it East 33rd. And we just made beats, played video games, whatever, just chilled. That’s how the Math Sound Workshop started out. That was a group of good friends that had people in high places that invested in us. We came out independently. I mean, before it was Knock Factor, you know, before Knock Factor and before we had the deal with Stray Records aka Dogday Records.
In the credits for the Sunnmoonsekt album it says mixed by D. Phelan. So he was one of those people?
Yes, that’s Daniel Phelan, yeah.
So after that album you guys did the Yakuza joint on Stray Records. How did you guys hook up with Substance Abuse?
Substance Abuse, those cats were Dave Doses’ boys from L.A., right? They were working for a distribution company, I forget the name of it, out here. They shared an apartment in Oakland. And Dave, you know, introduced us to them and just like back on East 33rd, we used to all go to John Heath’s. John, I was hella cool with him and we actually did a couple songs together but just picked that one for the Yakuza, “Spare No One”. They called the track “Anything Niggaz”, some shit like that. The track was actually called “Spare No One”. I go on it first, I say the title of the track in my first line.
Did tha Yakuza album sell very many copies? I did hear people talking about Sunnmoonsekt, but it seems like I didn’t hear much about that album.
From what I’ve heard, Tha Yakuza was in a close second to the Sunnmoonsekt album, but the Yakuza album got the most acclaim in terms of the production. I don’t know about lyrics, I can’t remember back that far. But now, I believe, the next project is gonna be a whole lot tighter and it’s gonna have a wide range of music to it – instrumentals, samples, scratches, up tempo, you know, we always got to have the slump though, it’s gonna be some slow movin’, bass heavy tracks comin’ out.
You guys also worked with Zion I on that album…
Yeah, that was Gravy. I was there when they were recordin’ it. It was a pretty dope session. It was nice. That was cool.
So what happened with Stray Records? I read there was some sort of contractual issue.
Well, to my knowledge [laughs] – there’s a lot of little inside stuff. But what the company did was that they just bolted and went to the east coast. They didn’t tell anybody, you know, without warning, or anything, they just bounced on us and everything folded. Back when this happened, that wasn’t just us, it was other groups on the label as well. So I think the owners or whoever else had the money, they bolted and went to the east coast. And that’s all I heard about that, as far as the business was concerned. I’m sure other cats, like Rard or somebody, could tell you more. Everybody has families now, you know what I’m sayin’, but we still talk. You know, we wanna do more shit, I mean, you know, more music. So we gonna try to get together and do that very soon. I’m doing my solo shit.
I’m glad you are, man, ‘cause the stuff you’re putting out, it still has that sound.
Yeah, I’m tryin’, man. It’s hard to get in the studio. I’m goin’ out to the garage these days, just to record lyrics and stuff, so some of my stuff isn’t as mixed as it should be or it doesn’t sound as high end as it used to be because I’m the only one, basically, doing the production. But me and Irahktherigor are doin’ a little something. I got a couple of his tracks, he’s got a couple of mine. We just haven’t hooked up to put our ideas on paper and spit it out and give somebody the microphone. That’s usually the issue these days. Over these months and years, we can’t hook up to get an idea out and put it out and run with it, you know what I mean? Everybody’s still with it though, as far as I’m concerned.
Well, I really liked that New Pimpin EP you put out recently. Who is 9 Continents? Is that one guy?
That’s me, man! [laughs] That’s my alter ego. I got a lotta alter egos, I’m sorry. It’s the 9 Continents. It’s always been my alter ego, to tell you the truth. But we always did our music on some shit like that. You know, The Sweeps, that’s just another episode. Tha Yakuza, that’s just another episode. Sunnmoonsekt, that was the first episode, you know what I mean?
Well, I saw that name on tha Yakuza album, but I didn’t realize that was you. Those beats are really dope. That’s cool. So who is Black Male Suspect then? He did some beats on tha Yakzua album.
That’s Irahktherigor! Yeah, that’s his alter ego.
So, after tha Yakuza, it seemed like it got kinda quiet, but then the Sweeps project came out. That was an independent project, to my knowledge. But you weren’t really on that one.
I was having legal issues at that point [laughs].
So same thing with Gravy’s LP? You were supposed to be on that one too?
Yeah, I was supposed to be on The Sweeps album a whole lot. I was supposed to be on the Gravy album too. He wanted to do his thing solo. I respected it. There was a track on there, actually, that was supposed to be for me. The last track, it was just an instrumental. That was actually my track, you know what I’m sayin’? We still wanna do something with that track. A lot of beats that I’ve done, solo stuff, a lot of other cats have liked ‘em. Well, we might as well make some remixes or something. If cats wanna go off on some of the beats I’ve composed, or even something they’ve composed, let’s do it. You know, it’s, four or five minds is better than one, knawmean?
Well, you told me a while back that the Return to tha Caliber mixtape was actually supposed to be a Raw Elements album. Can you talk about that?
Originally and then my boy, my cousin, Gravy, he started… I don’t know man, I mean it’s hard to explain. The best way I can explain it is he started getting in trouble [laughs]. And he hasn’t come back from that yet, but it was supposed to be a mixtape featuring Gravanaught on most of the tracks. Some of them sound kinda choppy and stuff ‘cause that’s the only verses I had so I just put ‘em on the tracks and called them songs. I just wanted to be able to, it was supposed to be me and Gravy on that, a Raw Elements album and I just called it a mixtape.
There was one track on there, “Don’t Lose Ya Mind”. Was that an older track?
Yup. That was an older track. That was a 2006 track, right before they came out with the Sweeps. Irahktherigor made that beat. I was fresh out of the penitentiary. I just had to get it off my chest. I always wanted to record it. So I finally did it. I put it on Youtube, and then I just made it to an mp3 and put it on the album, to throw it on there.
Your rhyme patterns remind me a bit of, like, Kool Keith and a lot stuff that came out of the Good Life. If a person was just listening casually they might not hear that you’re rhyming, like it’s a lot of internal rhymes. You were always, to me, the most unique in the crew. Who influenced that style?
Oh, man. Chuck D. Yeah, Chuck D. And I always liked Erick Sermon and I also liked Sadat X of Brand Nubian. I always liked the way he rhymed, you know what I mean? I first started writing rhymes when I heard Public Enemy for the first time. I was like “Hold on, man.” They motivated me to really write some rhymes, for real. But, you know, I came up in the era of, like, the Hieroglyphics and stuff. We all went to the same high school. So, they always used to battle, we all battled each other at the Skyline High School. But it really didn’t dawn upon me that we could actually do it like that. But at the same time, I knew I had my own little style. That’s where we developed our styles, when we were really young, in the first place. You know, I was writing rhymes back then.
So, in terms of the future, do you have anything lined up right now? I know you wanna do another Slumplordz project, but in terms of your solo stuff?
Oh, yeah! I got a couple of things on the horizon [laughs]. I got my big cousin, Kenneth. They call him Sumpin Else. I got some nice beats and some nice lyrics. Like the one, I dunno if you heard, on New Pimpin, the one where it says “J. Jonah” and it’s with Irahk on the hook or whatever. That was the first track I heard [Sumpin Else] do and I was like, “Damn, you made that? Wow!” And then I started rhyming on it. That’s a Sumpin Else track. But yeah, there are two tracks though, that are produced by my cousin. He goes by the name Sumpin Else. Also Irahktherigor’s got some tracks that we’re gonna do. I got another mixtape comin’ out. I’ve got some songs produced by my older son. It’s gonna be pretty cool.
So it’s mainly just you and Irahk who are releasing music right now?
I dunno if [Irahk]’s actually releasing anything, but he’s putting out beats. I’m pumpin’ out beats, he’s pumpin’ out beats. Dave Doses is doing beats, but he’s doing it really low key. I don’t get to hear much of that. It’s hard to manage the group still [laughs], you know what I mean? Because everybody’s older and has responsibilities. If we were around each other every day there’d be a whole lot more music. I mean, we hook up every now and then. I see everybody like twice a month. I do see my dudes. We gonna get it together, man. We gonna put out some music.
The Homie Alex has once again blessed us with an incredible and insightful interview, this time with San Diego's Aki Kharmicel.
Aki Kharmicel (aka Kennuf Akbar, Akbar Sun, etc.) is the definition of
a true artist. His music is raw, unfiltered and uncompromising. His voice,
rhyme patterns and beats sound like nobody else. He brings his MPC with him
wherever he travels and leaves it plugged in and turned on whenever he’s at
home. Aki’s first release came in ’97, a tape called “SaleemsSelfCypher”, and a
plethora of albums followed, under several different monikers and covering a
wide range of styles and subject matter. I was fortunate enough to get to speak
with the San Diego emcee/producer about his early years, spirituality, racism,
the rap scene in Diego, and a few of his many releases, as well as his plans
for the future.
How did you first fall
in love with hip-hop? What were some of your early influences?
might be a strange answer, but to be honest with you, one of my first
influences with hip-hop was hearing my parents listening to Prince, and I say
that because, as I get older and I get more in depth into what I do, and kind
of just take a constant look at my influences, I see how that’s probably one of
my biggest influences as far as what I do. To me, lookin’ at what Prince did
back in his heyday – first of all, he was one of the artists that popularized
the use of that drum machine called the LM-1, or the Linn Drum, which was
actually the precursor to the MPC2000.A
lot of people may not know that, but it’s the truth. The “1999” song had those
famous drums on it, which was from the LM-1. A lot of the different aliases
that he used on production credits, for stuff that he produced, that’s
something that I do a lot, as you may know. But if you want more specific
hip-hop influence, when I first started buying records and tapes on my own,
some of the earliest hip-hop stuff that I was collectin’ was stuff like N.W.A.,
like Houston, Texas rap like Geto Boys, Scarface, all that Rap-A-Lot stuff, and
of course artists like Wu-Tang, Digable Planets, De La Soul, etc. So, I guess,
you could say I have a pretty wide array of influences.
I read that you first
learned to use a sampler in college. Can you break down how you first learned
to make beats?
Actually, the first time that I actually constructed - before I started using
machines and stuff – ‘cause, I mean, I’m pretty, I’m kinda semi-old school, not
like “Planet Rock” type old school. I wasn’t collecting records in the early
80’s or whatever, but old school like I had a record player and tape recorder,
connected. I had one of those type of joints. So, even as a youngster I would
loop samples with the record player. And there used to be this older gentlemen,
a lady friend’s pops, actually had an [Ensoniq] ASR-10. This was probably ’93,
’94 maybe? But when I actually got my own experience using the equipment
myself, yeah, it was actually a community college called Mesa College. And they
had an Emax 2. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the Emax, but it’s a
keyboard sampler, like the ASR-10. It was one of the earlier keyboard samplers,
basically. Like the ASR-10, but a lot older.
It sounds like you
were using a keyboard sampler in a lot of your music. Is that right?
a lot of my earlier stuff. Either I made beats on that Emax, or the Ensoniq EPS,
which was one of the first pieces of equipment I purchased. That and the
SP-202. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the 202, you might be familiar
with the 303. The SP-202, Dr. Sample, the 202 was the original one. That was
actually the first piece of equipment I bought with my own money, the SP-202. And
then I got the EPS a year or so after that. And that was like, I wanna say late
’97, early ’98, something like that.
So would that’ve been
around the time you recorded the SaleemsSelfCyper tape?
I recorded the tape in early
’97, like winter/spring of ’97.
And that was released
under the name Nocturnal Scientists. Was that just you and Sumach, or were there
other people in the group at the time?
Nocturnal Scientists, when we came up with that crew, there were basically like
five to six of us, or so, and there were a few others that were kinda with our
little click, basically. But the nucleus of it was me, Sumach, this cat named
Kito, Fubar, Judah and this other cat that went by GreenLeaf aka Marcus. And my
boy Fubar was like one of the original members. We kinda came up with that, me
and him. When me, ‘Mach, Kito, and GreenLeaf/Marcus, we started kickin’ it, you
know what I mean? I kind of brought them into my little fold, if you will. I
would say this is ’94, ’95, something like that. I was like the only one, at
the time, that was making my own beats. I’m actually a little older than those
cats. You see me and ‘Mach and you might think I’m the younger of the two, but
I’m actually older than that cat, you know what I’m sayin’?
The tape though, when I recorded
that, Sumach wasn’t on that particular album. It was just mainly me, Fubar was
on a couple of tracks, and I had a couple singers on there, singin’ the hooks –
a couple of no namers. But when I recorded that album, SaleemSelfCypher, I
released it as a group project ‘cause I’m kind of community minded. I was
brought up that way. So I thought I was the first one to drop out of the click,
so I thought put Nocturnal Scientists out. But cats kinda moved on [laughs]. It
was like ’97, cats were doing their own thing. Sumach started kicking it more with
Orko and them cats, Masters of the Universe, and I just went on and focused on
my own shit, basically.
So after that you dropped
the …Sun album, as Akbar. Is that right?
And just to give you a little bit of history, that was probably the only time I
took a little hiatus from music. Between the Nocturnal Scientist album, between
then and working on the …Sun album, I took about a little less than a year
hiatus, for spiritual reasons. At the time, one of the cats that I was still
dealin’ with at that time was this cat named Marcus. He was the only cat I was
still kind of dealing with. I was dealing with that brother and we were both
kind of going through a spiritual cleansing, whatever you wanna call it, and I
was practicing, coming into the fold of Islam and practicing that. And my man,
he was kind of practicing more of the, I guess you could say, the Sunni Islam, at
that time, and I was more studying the Nation, at that time, the so-called 5%,
NOI, etc. I don’t really get too hung up on religious sects and parties, you
know, like denominations, you know what I mean? So, I was still going to the
mosque and getting into debates with cats at the mosque because I was studying
the Nation’s teachings.
Long story short, with my man, in
some circles in the Muslim community, they believe that music is Haram, it’s
against God to do music. And he kinda had me spooked a bit. I mean, I’m a
pretty practical and logical person, so we would debate back and forth and usually,
I guess, my debates would kind of… win [laughs]. But nonetheless, the seed was
planted in my head that bad things would happen. I started thinking, “Maybe
music is bad.” So, I gave it up after I dropped that SaleemSelfCypher tape. But
I started having nightmares and shit. Within that time, I basically went cold
turkey, like no recording, no music, nothing. I was just beatboxing, recording
myself beatboxing and shit. When you make music, you’re always gonna
communicate musically in some kinda way. I was thinking about doing an all
beatbox album on some Rhazel shit. But I didn’t mess with no music.
So, anyways, I fell back on the
music but I started having these dreams. I would have dreams about fools
rockin’ my steez and shit, like making my kind of beats. ‘Cause let me tell you
something, back in ’94, ’95, nobody was making beats off of Bollywood movies
and shit like that. I stumbled on that shit by accident in ’95, you know what I
mean? I don’t really recall anybody, maybe Rakim on Paid in Full (“Paid in
Full” Seven Minutes of Madness Coldcut Remix). That wasn’t really Bollywood,
though, but probably the closest along those lines. Anyways, I was having these
dreams, but long story short, my man Marcus, he went to Africa. After he
bounced, he kinda left me hangin’. He played me to the left like, “Oh, this
brother, he ain’t seen me enough. So I’m cool off this cat.” But after that cat
left - I think ‘Mach was in the Bay Area at the time - I was just out here
dolo, like one deep. I started thinkin’, “This is kinda bullshit. This is what
I do. This is how I express myself. I can use this for positive, you know?” So,
that’s when, he left, and probably within a couple of months, I bought that 202
and started making beats again. That was probably late-’97, October, Novemberish.
And that following year, that’s when I enrolled back in Mesa College and started
recording the Akbar Sun album and also the Liquid Sunshine album. Really, the
Akbar Sun, the Liquid Sunshine project, the Brazier Than Batman Lewis stuff, I
recorded most of those tracks between ’98 and ‘99. That’s essentially three
albums, you know what I mean? That’s how backed up I was, staying away from
music that long. I was in the lab. You also gotta keep in mind that I wasn’t
really running with anybody either. Just like one deep. I didn’t have a
girlfriend either, at the time, none of that. Straight up loner shit, you know
what I mean? And I used that opportunity to lab out. Just using that
opportunity and time to record.
I read an interview
with Sumach where he talked about how he experienced a lot of racism growing
up, especially in the Gaslamp District. Did you have similar experiences?
mean, most definitely. Let me tell you something, man. Just growing up in the
70’s, or 80’s, right at the cusp of the 70’s movement, our Nation was still
experiencing a lot of that racism. There was a time when Diego was a little
more blacker, but over the years the black population just kind of dissipated.
Now, it’s very minimal today but at least in the 90s, we had a thicker
community. But racism in school, I dealt with a lot of that in the school
system. And, of course, in my adulthood, when you get into your late teens/early
twenties, and you experience stuff like that. I mean, I experienced some of the
most racist experiences in the workforce. Once I started entering into the
workforce, that’s when I experienced a whole lot of racism. But it’s different
now because when you’re in a particular part of town for so long, they really
can’t fade you. They really can’t fade me, whether it’s the workforce, or going
out and about ‘cause now it’s young cats patrolling the streets and they see an
O.G., they don’t really bother you, I guess.
So, yeah, definitely, dealing with
that. I would even say – and maybe this is part of the reason why people like
me aren’t readily spoken of within San Diego because even within the scene,
there’s probably a certain amount of that racism. And racism isn’t the same as
being prejudice, just to clarify certain things to whoever may read this
article. We all have pre-judgments, but racism is an institution that’s
implemented, that shows that the people that’s in control, in power, act
unfairly to people who are the minority. So, even within the scene, seeing that
you’re the minority, and feeling like, “Ok, well, I don’t really get that
respect.” I mean, even today, lack of respect has more to do with just egos
than race, but these people that are in the scene, if their parents are racist,
that very well may have an effect on them too. I’m just sayin’ it’s possible. Their
actions will show more than their words. Racism has evolved over the years. It’s
not as overt as it was in the 60s. But when it comes to getting a job and they
don’t hire certain people, you don’t see any people of African descent in the
workforce, you gotta wonder, is it because they’re racist? Maybe. They might
not have said it. It seems like it. ‘Cause I know plenty of brothers trying to
get a job. All you gotta do is just look.
But I’m not gonna sit here and
holler [about] that. I mean, evidently, and I’m not trying to charge at
anybody, but I’m just trying to narrate to you, in short, situations that
someone in my position might encounter from time to time. I know, in general,
the scene is a little bit ass-backwards. You go to a Wu-Tang concert and they
don’t have the right kind of people opening up for these artists. Like local
talents opening up for an act like Wu-Tang. I mean, you think that, “Let’s show
some of the rawest San Diego talent. Let’s not put some corny, wanna-be G-Funk
rappers opening up for a group like Wu-Tang.” You dig what I’m saying?
Well, look at a guy
like Delon Deville. How is he not getting more attention?
That’s a very good
question. Delon Deville, in my personal opinion, is a very good artist. And I’m
gonna give you a little bit of San Diego history and I hope whoever reads this
article in San Diego doesn’t take this the wrong way, but I just wanna paint a
picture. Now, Delon Deville came from a crew called D.N.A., Devil Needs an Afro
– he was one of three of them - it was him, a cat called Kontroversial and a
cat called Matrix aka Odessa Kane. Now I’m just gonna be honest. I think Odessa
Kane is dope, but I don’t really see Delon Deville getting any kind of play or
respect from these cats in Diego. And granted, he may have had his experiences
where he can’t be active in the scene, but talent is talent, you dig what I’m
sayin’? And you shouldn’t have to fight an uphill battle to prove to people or
to get any level of support from people in the San Diego scene if people get
the recognition based off of talent.
Now, I know some cats – I’m not
gonna say no names – they used to be a group. They kinda broke up – some Asian
kids, right? Now, I’ve got close with a lot of Asian cats, but let’s keep it
real. If you’re an artist who doesn’t come within the community - because early
San Diego hip-hop, a lot of it kind of evolved in a place we call South East
San Diego, which is a predominantly black part of town. Even today, that’s
where I live at today, Encanto, which is a part of South East San Diego. And
today, a lot of the cats in this part of town aren’t as interested in hip-hop,
I guess [laughs]. That’s a whole ‘nother story. But if you’re an artist and you
try to create your own scene, outside of the overall hip-hop culture - in other
words, you’re only focusing on your own particular demographic – that’s not
really fair. Then it’s a numbers game. You just gotta pull your ethnic identity
card and you automatically get support, just because you just happen to be in
that particular ethnic demographic. So, in other words, talent don’t have
absolutely nothin’ to do with it. It’s a numbers game. “We’re gonna support
this guy because he looks like us” [laughs]. Not because they’re dope,
necessarily. And I’m not trying to take anything away from any artist in San
Diego. There’s plenty of talent in San Diego. And it’s not all about race, it’s
a dick-riding culture as well, you know what I mean?
Well, it seems like
it’s almost a case of who’s the better business man, not who’s the better
artist. Like maybe that artist doesn’t have the best business sense but there’s
no support structure for that artist. Because it’s all about the music at the
end of the day, right?
it’s that too, but I don’t really see a lot of these cats making a whole lotta
money, so I can’t really say business because there’s no money involved, I
I guess it’s more who’s
the better promoter then. Who’s able to promote and make better connections,
rather than the quality of the music, itself.
Yeah, but you know what?
There’s been times I’ve met people, like, I was at a show and I asked one of my
peoples, “Hey, how do I get booked for one of these gigs here?” And he’s like,
“Oh, you need to talk to this cat, so and so.” So I reasoned with the dude, try
to connect with the cat, but he ain’t trying to hear me. He’s unfamiliar with
me on the scene, you know what I mean? I think I’ve made some mark within the
San Diego scene, by crafting my own genre or style in hip-hop, even my
influence on artists in San Diego - whether they admit it or not is beside the
point. But they don’t know. That’s fine. But I’m like “Yo, I wanna get in on
some of these gigs.” Show him some of my videos, some of my stats, etc., who
I’m dealin’ with. But they willfully ignore me to put on the people that they’re
already good with. And quite frankly, it looks like a demographic thing. I hate
to say it, but that’s what it looks like to me. I’ve studied culture, classism,
racism, how it works. I mean c’mon, let’s keep it real. We can’t keep a closed
mouth on this forever. That’s how problems don’t get resolved. That’s what
they’re trying to do in South Africa. “Oh, let’s just sweep it under the rug.” These
people are being oppressed. They were there before the white Africans, but yet they’re
not allowed the same amount respect or equal opportunity simply because they’re
Getting back to your
music, were Shock of the Hour and Handle with Prayer recorded at the same time?
What happened, when I was
recording Brazier Than Batman Lewis - it’s called Brazier Than Batman Lewis
Part III Vol. 1 because, back in the day, before, I used to have these mixtapes
that I called that. It was just a mix of some beats that I made and some
samples and maybe some freestyles and stuff. And Part II was specifically a
beat tape, that I really just made for myself and my friends, stuff for us to
freestyle over. So, that’s why I called it Part III. And it’s Vol. 1 and 2
because when I was working on that, I didn’t really intend for it to be a two
part album, but I recorded so many songs I had to split it up. That’s the
reason why it’s called Part I and Part II. So yeah, pretty much all those songs
were recorded within the same timeframe, ’98, ’99, between those two years and
maybe like one track that I recorded, “All Ovr (the City)”, I actually recorded
that song in like early 2000, basically on a 4-track recorder at the pad. I
threw it on Part I ‘cause I really liked the song, you know what I mean?
Originally I used that song for a cat named Parker Edison. He was doing a tape
and wanted me to contribute. I had laced him with a couple of beats but he
wanted me to put a song on there. The song that I put on there was the “All Ovr
(the City)” song. I dunno how many tapes, or whatever, he released of that. But
I ended up using it for the Brazier Than Batman Lewis album.
I’m not gonna touch
on all your albums because we’ll be here all night, but on your album “The
Enemy”, under the alias Ken/Off!, you worked with Orko Eloheim. Was that the
first time you’d worked with Orko, and what was it like working with him?
Yeah, the Enemy was done
around 2006, around the time I got this new MPC that I have, 2000XL. And
actually, Orko was one of the guys who helped me learn how to use the MPC when
I first started, because he knew how to use it. And The Most High just brought
us together. That was a time in his life where he was trying to focus more on
family-oriented stuff. We just kind of related on that family tip, as far as
hanging out. We were actually gonna release a project together, me and Orko. We
had done some beats together. I shot him some beats. He shot me some beats. But
we were never able to make that stick because sometimes people are in their
circles. I’m in this circle, you’re in this circle. He actually ended up moving
into these apartments I was living in. We recorded that song right in his
apartment. He had a lab set up there. We were just around each other more, so
we just built on it. You know, when two artists get together, the
communication, it’s gonna be artistic. Workin’ with him? It was cool. It wasn’t
difficult to do tracks with him. I’d like to say I’m an easy artist to work
with. I can pretty much adjust my flavour with other people’s flavour. I can
get on different topics, etc. It was a good experience, building with him, it
After that, you recorded
the Lonely Phantoms project. Who is DJ Showkraw?
dunno if you’re familiar with the Kilowattz and the Skrapez and them. He’s like
the Jarobi of their group. His sound was a little different than the other cats
in that group’s sound. Maybe that’s what kinda interested me. I kinda gravitate
towards the odd balls, you know? The square pegs, ya dig? I actually met him at
‘Mach’s pad, he showed me some beats. I figure if a dude got some beats and he
shoots me some beats, let’s not just do one track, let’s do a little collab. So
we just kept recording and decided to call that shit Lonely Phantoms.
You called yourself
Oggie Clog on that one. Has that ever been a problem, where people aren’t aware
you’ve dropped a new project because it’s under a different name?
a problem? I don’t know. It might be a problem for those who are trying to cop
all my shit and they don’t know. I don’t put too much thought into it. I just
do it. If people like my shit enough, they’ll find out about it. That’s how I
think about it. Like, how I approach music, it’s kinda just like an artist, almost
as a painter with sounds and I don’t always feel like – I’m just like that. I
mean, for me spittin’ over the Lonely Phantoms, it represents a different side.
A lot of these albums, I do them like stories. They don’t necessarily represent
me and my personal experiences, literally. It’s more done in a story format.
Oggie Clog is like a spinoff of Aki Khalaq. I don’t wanna go into the whole
backstory. Another time we’ll go into that. It’s just what I do [laughs].
Kennuf Akbar verses
Amir-ikk(k)a the Great! was released in 2009, but were those tracks recorded
The Amir-ikk(k)a album was mostly
recorded in like 2000 except for "TheThieves" vocals and
"Kontra" vocals that I had recorded a little later, I think in '08.
I love how a lot of
your beats have that 8-bit sound, reminiscent of the NES. Were those sounds a
big influence on you, growing up in the 80s?
Yeah, definitely. I mean,
me, as a producer, I always, even as a kid, experienced reality through sound
and through music, so I’m constantly thinking of music. So when I’m playing a
videogame, even as a kid, I’m thinkin’ of the music. So, once I started makin’
beats, I would start thinkin’ back, like “What can I make a beat off of?” Then
I’d be thinkin’, “Oh, this videogame has a dope sample, or this record, or this
movie, or whatever it is.” Anything can become a beat, for me, know you? So,
definitely like Nintendo, the first NES, Sega Genesis, but I would say
especially the first Nintendo ‘cause whoever was doing the music to that, and
the bass lines and stuff on that, really dope, man.
Yeah, when you think
of how limited they were and yet they created these masterpieces that people
still think of today.
I’ve heard you shout
out a crew called BeetFreeks. Who is that made up of?
BeetFreeks was a beat collective
project with Kito because we had made some beats together, but we haven't
released that project yet.
Can you break down
how you came up with the Aki Kharmicel persona and what he’s all about?
It’s kinda funny because a
lot of the time these characters are in the back of your dome and it just takes
the right momentum or experience to bring that particular side of you out. I
started making those Aki Kharmicel beats around 2007-2008. Whenever I travel I
take my beat machine. Normally, it’d be the MPC – it’s just the easiest thing
to carry. Now, it seems like the MPC and my 404. But I would take my machine
back east, and one of my deceased late-uncles, he left behind a bunch of 45s at
my aunt’s house. And I always used to ask him about those records but he never
wanted to plug me with them records. But when he left ‘em behind, I was just
going through them 45s and that’s how that sound kinda first started, the beats.
Then going to New York, and taking those 45s with me. Like, a lot of people go
to places they’ve never been to and take pictures. For me, I always think of, “That’s
the first beat I made when I went to New York.”
So, that’s kinda how the Aki
Kharmicel experience started. I would always go to Maryland and Virginia.
That’s like my home away from home. But that particular year, there had been
previous times where we wanted to go to New York and that particular year, me
and my lady went to New York. The first two songs on that album are the first
two beats I made the first time I ever when to New York. So, all those beats on
that album I made back east. That may seem trivial to some people, but just to
give you a little history on that particular album. The whole premise of that
character, he travels through time. Kinda on some Back to the Future type shit,
you know what I mean? It’s kinda like Back to the Future with music. I always
liked Back to the Future, so maybe that’s where that came from [laughs]. For
me, doing albums, I’ve always kinda done albums like it’s a movie and doing the
Aki Kharmicel project, and being the embodiment of this character, ‘cause Aki
Kharmicel has a particular sound that’s kinda different from my other projects.
So, I just approached it and it all started coming together, so I decided,
“Okay, I’m Aki Kharmicel.” I didn’t really tell anybody, I just did it. People
who really support me, they started seeing the stickers and they were like,
“Oh, okay. That’s Kennuf.” But Aki Kharmicel is one of the main characters that
I’m using currently. But there’s other projects that I’m recording too. I’m
working on a project that’s the unofficial sequel to Akbar Sun, called Film. So
that’s bringin’ that whole character and that whole vibe back. The Akbar Sun
vibe. I’m actually gonna start rockin’ that as a rap name, Akbar Sun.
So the AAAAk album
you made a while back, is that an Aki Kharmicel album or is that Kennuf Abkar?
It’s kinda neither. I guess
you would liken it more to, it’s almost like The Enemy mixed with Akbar Sun.
It’s more aggressive than the Akbar Sun shit. Akbar Sun is more laid back,
slower. Ak’s more aggressive, more upbeat. People like MF DOOM do stuff like
this, sometimes you don’t wanna put your face on this joint. I just wanna put
this out and murder niggaz real quick, for lack of better words, ya dig? So
it’s supposed to be like a hip-hop horror movie. He’s just killin’ fools, left
and right. That’s why there’s screams in it and stuff like that. It’s like the
death of your favourite rapper/producer. I’m killin’ ‘em on the beats and on
the raps. It’s kinda like a horror movie for whack cats in the scene. That’s
kinda the whole approach. So I didn’t really use my name, I just put it out
there, like Ak, like okay, you kinda know it’s me but you’re gonna have to cop
it and trust your instinct that it’s dope.
What are your plans
for the future? What projects can people expect next?
Lately, I mean I’ve been
recording so much stuff, it’s really almost too much to say specifically. It’s
a whole lotta stuff they can look forward to hearing. I’d say one of the
projects they can expect to hear soon is a project called Aki Khalaq and the
Blak Prints featuring Aki Kharmicel. It’s kinda like Harold Melvin and the Blue
Notes featuring Teddy Pendergrass but it’s a little rawer and a bit edgier than
Harold Melvin. A lot of people don’t study that old soul, like how those cats
projected themselves, even Ohio Players and stuff like that. It was almost the
equivalent of what would be considered gangster rap today, because the
gangsters of that day were bumpin’ that shit. It’s kinda like the Aki version
of that. It’s almost like, sonically, you can kinda compare it to the Aki
Kharmicel sound, that soulful vibe. The first album we’re gonna release under
that name is NaturalLawOfAttraction.
far as creatively speaking, I’m the kind of person, as an artist, I’ll
basically allow my environment or experiences – how I feel or where I’m at –
that has a lot of influence on what my music is gonna sound like. Like, for
instance, when I did the …Sun album, I was basically kinda depressed at that
time. Like, super slow beats, the raps were kinda depressing. With The Enemy, I
was kinda in between moods. I was in a good mood because I had the MPC, but
then I was feelin’ aggressive, dealing with other emcees and the whole ego
thing. Dealing with cats I know and the whole bullshit ego thing made me wanna
respond lyrically, like battlin’ on some attack shit. But if you listen to that
particular album, a lot of the music is kinda happy sounding, but I’m spittin’
bars, choppin’ heads kinda sorta lyrically.
But I mean, shoot, there’s a lot of
people that use the word love in vain and I think there’s a lot of misunderstanding
about love and human sexuality. There’s a lot of misinformation being projected
in the mass media about that experience. And I was just letting myself be
guided by that experience and allowing it to be a thing that motivates me and
that inspires me. I can respond ego for ego - there’s a lot of ego driven
artists today - or I can destroy the ego and just allow myself to be moved,
having a certain amount of unconditional love in my heart. I mean, I’m still
the rawest dude doing a love album. It’s probably gonna be the hardest, rawest
love album you ever heard in your life. If you can imagine the Wu-Tang were a
soul group and they were singing instead of doin’ raps.
Is the Liquid
Sunshine project still on the horizon?
I mean, it’s completed. I
mean, a lot of things, you gotta kinda let nature take its course, in certain
regards. If I have a vision – let me explain something to you, go a little more
in depth about the Aki Khalaq and the Blak Prints project. It’s a group project.
The front man is Aki Khalaq, the Blak Prints are the background singers and the
feature is Aki Kharmicel. He’s the emcee on the album. The producer is the Ak.
When I have a group project like that, there’s usually not gonna be a lot of
complications releasing the shit. When you’re dealing with other people, you
might say it’s the right time to drop the shit, but they may not feel it’s the
right time. So, basically, certain things haven’t come together. The stars
haven’t aligned yet for that particular project to be released. So the project
is completed. I would say it’s mainly just the artwork and getting the actual
music pressed up and then just putting forth the effort and energy to promote
it. It’s a two-man project, so it takes both of us to put forth that amount of
energy. When I have projects, the tons of projects I do myself, and when I have
projects I do with other people and they don’t feel they’re ready, then it’s
just gonna automatically take a backseat. If I’m dealin’ with a chick and I
like her a whole lot, then this other chick comes around who likes to spend a
lot of time with me, then I’ll probably end up with the chick who likes to
spend time with me, ya dig?
Where can people keep
up with your latest projects?
Yeah, they can check my
Soundcloud. I got some other stuff I’m gonna be posting. I like putting little
updates, a teaser up there from an album that might be released in the near
future. Right now, I’m mainly focused on getting some kind of monetary support
behind these projects because, basically, I know that there’s some label or
whoever, some people with deep pockets, who would like to finance some of this
good artistry, so rather than independently pushing this shit until I’m 105
years old it’s time to start reaching out and get some money behind these
projects. That way you can get some coverage so people who wanna hear this shit
can support it, ya dig? ‘Cause, as an artist, when I do it, I do it for the
love of it. But once you record that project, it costs money to put it out
there. I will press it up if I have to but there may only be a hundred lucky
bastards who get to cop the shit, or fifty [laughs], you know?
Like in San Diego, they don’t know
how to see someone on the cusp and support it. They’re not used to that in San
Diego. In New York, they see an artist on the cusp of blowing up on some new
shit, they support it. In Diego, how they get down is they gotta see the artist
blow up outside of Diego. Then they go, “Oh, okay. He’s tight. I’ll buy his
shit.” Maybe they’ll ask for it for free and listen to it two years later.
Somebody actually told me some shit like that once. I think they actually paid
for the CD, but didn’t listen to it for two years. Then they said, “Yo, I
listen to that all the time now. It’s my favourite shit!” Took ‘em two years to
listen to the CD…
Big thanks to Mr.
Kharmicel for taking the time to talk to me, and shouts out to the guys at
Ghetto Tyylit, who put me up on many of Aki’s earlier albums through their
I'm very proud to announce that The Homie Alex has blessed us with another spectacular post - An interview with the one and only Jahli from the legendary Darkleaf! This shit is amazing. Read on.
Darkleaf is a crew with deep roots, and their released recordings are
just the tip of the iceberg. They’re probably best known for the Kimetic
Principles albums and their label debut, Fuck the People, but Darkleaf’s
history is, for the most part, shrouded in mystery. Jahli is a founding member
of the group, who not only coined the name Darkleaf, but was also responsible
for developing the fragmented, spaced-out sound exemplified on 1998’s Kimetic
Principles. I had the opportunity to chop it up with him and he was able to
give some insight into the formation of the crew and their many variations
throughout the years.
Can you talk about
how Darkleaf formed and the early Good Life days?
Me and Terry (Hymnal), we went to school
with Cut Chemist. We went to a school called Los Angeles Center for Enriched
Studies (L.A.C.E.S.) and Cut Chemist was always, ever since I’ve known him, he
was into DJ’ing, right? So, for a long time, we were his friends but we were
also his cheerleaders, you know what I mean? [laughs] So, there were times
where he was afraid to DJ, at a party, and we would pop him off and he would do
it. So that was our association with music. So after we graduated, maybe like ’90,
’91, ’92, during that time, he created a crew. I don’t know if he created it or
they got together and created it, but he was doing music with a bunch of
people, Nu-Mark, Marvski, and officially he got…
Was that Unity
That would become Unity Committee,
but before that, he was already, you know, we would go over and we met Marvski
and we met Nu-Mark. There was a school by Cut Chemist’s house called Marshall. All
those guys went to school together and so I guess there was a relationship
there. That was more of a Cut Chemist relationship, but we all hung out. Volume
10 was part of that too. He used to be Double D, and Son Doobie was a part of
that, from Funkdoobiest. They became Unity Committee and as they became Unity
Committee, we were over there and then another person, St. Mark – St. Mark went
to school with me and Hymnal.Me and
Hymnal left L.A.C.E.S. and went to L.A. High and we met Marcus (St. Mark) and
started hanging out a lot and eventually we took him over there, hanging out
with Cut Chemist and everyone, and eventually, Hymnal and St. Mark, they were
already writing rhymes and stuff and so we decided to make a group. And so, I
would make a beat, Hymnal would help me with a beat, he would do rhymes and St.
Mark would do rhymes. And, believe it or not, I am the dude that coined the
name Darkleaf. I made up the name Darkleaf. One night, we were doing this song
called “The Shoes.” It was just all of the people that were around, it was
supposed to be a song with everyone. And, at first, St. Mark and Terry had this
Native Sun title for the group and then I came up with Darkleaf. And from that
point, me, Hymnal and St. Mark became Darkleaf.
because, there’s a handful of different stories I’ve heard. I’ve read it was
J-Smoov, Hymnal, Sunshine aka Tone, and St. Mark, and then Daddy Kev, I think,
wrote an article saying it was you, Hymnal, Blackbird and Dark Cloud 9.
That’s the beginning. Now, I can
tell you about all those different variations, but that’s the beginning. So,
after that, slowly, we started to kind of pull away from the Unity Committee
and start to be more just Darkleaf, you know what I mean? Not just thinking
about music when we’re around those guys, thinking about it on our own, finding
equipment. Me and Hymnal really started working on building the beats and
learning how to make beats. And as we did that, St. Mark is connected with J-Smoov,
okay? That’s his friend and so he started bringing J-Smoov over. And J-Smoov is
sort of the one that really took Darkleaf to the Good Life, in my eyes, you know?
And so, J-Smoov joined the group and he was part of that Leimert Park, whole
scene, a lot more than me and Hymnal were. I don’t know about St. Mark, but
J-Smoov definitely was and so, as he, I mean, we were already doing it with
just us because we had already branched out with a DJ, DJ Wolf and he had a
group, and so we were working on music with him, but then St. Mark brought in
J-Smoov, so, then, we were officially part of the whole Good Life scene.
And if you hear stories, you don’t
hear about me a lot because I was just the dude making the beats and I was always
very distant from the whole stage scene at that time. Like, you could see Hymnal,
you could see St. Mark. You hear about those guys, but you don’t hear about me
much because I always sat at the house all the time and made music [laughs]. I
was a little afraid of even really… I just thought, you know, “Dude, we’re not
that good at this shit. I’m weary of this shit.” But, see, I also have a
connection because I learned how to make beats from Def Jeff. And he had some
dancers called the Soul Brothers and I was roommates with V-Luv from the Soul
Brothers and so I got to work with Def Jeff and he kinda taught me MP. So did
Cut Chemist, but that’s where I got to work a lot and I got a lot of exposure
from that side that probably know one fucking knows, right?
So, J-Smoov joined the group, but
at the same time, Hymnal, Gershwin, or Blackbird, he went to school with us,
and so he started to come in and Hymnal kinda brought him in more, and then Cloud
9, we went to school with him and his crazy ass started to come over. And it’s
more of a Terry thing, but I guess a me thing too, but they started to become
part of the group. And at that point, there started to be some friction, I
guess. And I guess it was at that point people were fighting over the direction
of what the group would be. And in my opinion, it’s like “Dude, we’re nothing.
What are we fighting about? [laughs] Motherfucker, I’m eating bologna
sandwiches! Fuck off, bud!” And so St. Mark and J-Smoov left the group and made
a group called Brothers Manifesto. And then Herndon, or Cloud 9, and Blackbird
stayed, and that’s where you get that whole period of Fuckin’ Up the Earth. And
that’s where you get Hymnal, Blackbird, Cloud 9 and Jahli. So, there wasn’t
much recorded with St. Mark and J-Smoov that I know of.
I know there’s a
track called “Tales from the Darkside” (circa 1992, featuring Hymnal and Dark
Cloud 9 on vocals) but I heard there was also a tape with that title. Is that
true, or was it just that single track?
It was just one single track. I
made the beat. Tales from the Darkside, Hymnal took the beat up to Cut Chemist
and they recorded it. I did the beat, but I wasn’t there for the actual mastering.
I set it up to be mastered, but I wasn’t actually there for that.
I mean, we did some other shit. We
did a demo, man, and Tales from the Darkside, Fuckin’ up the Earth, that was
all part of that. It wasn’t even an album or anything. It was more of a demo.
That was me, Hymnal, Blackbird and Cloud 9. That doesn’t have J-Smoov or St.
Mark in it. I can’t really tell you what actually got recorded while those guys
were part of the crew ‘cause I think there was so much of hyping the group up, and
doing freestyles and being part of the Good Life. I know I was working on an
album that everyone could rhyme on, but I think motherfuckers broke up before
that, so that was that. So then, I don’t know how it happened, man, but slowly
there just became a separation between me, Hymnal, Cloud 9 and Blackbird. We
were working together, being together every day, really trying to be a group. Slowly,
I don’t know, what happened was, eventually I hooked up with Longevity and I
helped him, I mean, he was getting help from will.i.am, learning equipment and
shit ‘cause he was part of that whole Atban Klann…
I heard that Longevity
did some co-production on the unreleased Atban Klann album. Is that true?
Yeah, he was a part of that. When I
met him, he was in a group with Taboo. It was him, Taboo and a guy called Mr.
Shaw. They were a group and then there was Atban Klann. And Atban Klann was will,
apple, and a guy called Mookie. Mookie got replaced and Taboo replaced him.
When I first met him, that’s what Atban Klann was. And so, Longevity came and started
to pick up on what I was doing, which was this fragmented, crazy, beatmaking
shit, you know, just something very abstract from the norm, you know?
So you were already
on that Sun Ra vibe back then?
I was Sun Ra from the get go! It
took a minute but once I started messin’ with Ravi Shankar and Sun Ra, that was
it! And Longevity tapped into it really quick and we joined up. From that point
on, most of the production was me and him, and as far as beats and everything,
it was me and Longevity. You’d get Hymnal every once in a while, but Hymnal,
for a while, stayed outside of it. Me and Longevity, we brought in Kemit and
Akmed (Metalogik) and then we made Wolf our DJ and that’s how Darkleaf turned
into that whole “alkemy, chemisty” and all that shit. That was me, kinda, just
taking over. I guess at some point, I was just like, “Fuck it! I’m Darkleaf,
you know what I’m saying?” [laughs] and that’s what I assembled, along with the
help of Longevity.
And once in a while, if we could
get a Blackbird, he would be in it. If we could get a Cloud 9, he would be in
it. If we could get a Hymnal, he’d be in it. But Hymnal kinda went with Cut
Chemist. And I think that’s why you end up seeing a Cut Chemist/Hymnal album. But
Darkleaf became me, Longevity, Kemit Qutob Shabazz, [Metalogik] and DJ Wolf.
So, I assembled that. So, that’s probably when you start seeing me on stage to
hear me rhyme and shit. I mean, those guys started saying, “Hey man, you’ve
gotta join too. You can’t just make a beat and be in the background like you
used to be with Hymnal and them.” And so I did, I guess [laughs].
And, you know, we did a lot of
music. I just don’t think a lot of it got out to the people. And what got out,
it was alright, but I think we did a lot better music. When labels started actually
giving us little deals to do our albums, I think we weren’t at our peak
anymore. Or we were, but we were at the last, you know, Darkleaf, to be on what
we were on, I mean, the album, which I named, kinda says it all – Fuck the
People. There was a point where we kinda gave up on the mass majority. Like, “Okay,
they’re not gonna like this shit.” And I think a lot of it had to do with what
we did, as a group. I hate to say it, but we got really drunk and really high
and played with girls way too much and I think that stuff caught up to us in
the end and fragmented the group. But, you know, especially for me, I was just
putting out one album, I mean, that whole Fuck the People, even though it was
our first album really being in front of people, I don’t think it was the best.
I think we just gave them some shit. I think we just said, “take this, this and
that and make it an album,” more than really making an album. We had a more
cohesive album called The Mission. Daddy Kev and DJ Hive had a record company
(Celestial Recordings) and so, there’s an album we did for them that I thought
was way more cohesive than Fuck the People.
Was The Mission
recorded before Fuck the People?
Nah, it was after. It was almost
simultaneously. We were doing Fuck the People and we were doing a lot of different
things. We also did an album called After the Plane Crash. I don’t know what
happened to that album, but I think if people heard that, they would’ve liked
it a lot. And that one started to feature Otherwize ‘cause Otherwize started to
hang out with our crew and Longevity was doing an album for him (Disturbing the
Peace), and there’s one album that I did that got totally erased that I think
everybody would’ve loved. It was called Shapeless Matter and it featured
everybody from Aceyalone from Freestyle Fellowship, to Madlib, to Sucram from
the Wascals, to Fat Lip from Pharcyde. I had a bunch of people who I had met
throughout my career and I had this album, and me and Longevity had this board
that was digital and it fuckin’ all got erased, so after that I pretty much, I
didn’t quit, but you didn’t really hear from me again [laughs].
There’s a tape
floating around called Zero. Do you know anything about that?
Zero should be one song. It was when Eclipse, when Longevity
first came in. The beat is by me and him. It was me, Longevity, Blackbird and a
couple other people. I just know it to be a song. If it’s turned into some
compilation, that’s probably Longevity because he probably has the majority of the
material that has survived and that was probably him putting shit together, just
something that survived from that era. "What Is" (track 2 on Zero) should go all
the way back to, really, the whole Fuckin’ Up the Earth era. That’s kinda when
Longevity came into the crew. That’s amazing because we did all that shit on a
4-track board, so he’d have to be pulling that shit from… Unless, I mean, we
did go and master shit a lot. People always wanted us to come and do shit, but
a lot of the time they’d just say, “Oh, this shit isn’t commercial enough.” And
so, I don’t know, I guess he kept it.
Well, he said he’s
planning on releasing a lot of that old material. I hope that happens.
Yeah, if he does, the only thing is,
I think it’d be quite muddy. I mean, we were a muddy group. But you have to
understand, I liked doing that! I liked making the beat go off. A lot of people
would say, “Oh, you didn’t make the beat good or you didn’t do that.” No, that
was my style! I look at it differently today, but, during the time, I just
thought those smooth-ass beats, you could say anything over it and it makes it
good. So I’d always trigger the beats so that it’d stop your ass and, I was
hoping it would make you think about what we were saying.
First of all, you really had to get
into it to understand what the fuck we were talking about because we were
taking all these different types of terminologies from different aspects of
academics and putting it together into this collage and then spitting it out to
you. And we were ultimately trying to say, you know, we are parallel to
everything, and there’s just so much more, and sometimes when you use words,
you need to, you know, the word needs to be magnified. And I used to wonder,
“If anyone likes this shit, then they’re down as hell” [laughs]. I purposely
kind of made it that way, like this is for those who really like to sit down
and really break shit down ‘cause we’re gonna do it. If you’re talking about
matching it up with Snoop Dogg, nah, we can’t do that. You can’t match it up,
technically, with Freestyle Fellowship. We just decided to be in a real class
of our own and, hey man, we paid for that. We kinda knew that. It wasn’t like
we didn’t understand that that’s what we were doing and that’s the type of
response we were gonna get, but I think, all in all, we got a lot better
response than I ever thought we would get.
Well, you guys really
carved out a sound that I have never heard anywhere else - the production on
Kimetic Principles is fuckin’ magic - and, I have to say, it’s a bit of a trip
for me to be talking to you right now because, on record, you always sounded
like some sort shaman from another dimension or some shit!
It’s crazy though,
because you really did create something that’s akin to Sun Ra, like from
Well, there’s two Kimetic
Principles, right? The first one, I dunno if you can tell – it’d be dope if
people could – the first one is me and the second one is more Longevity.
So Lodge Infinite is
you and Longevity as a production team?
Yeah, Lodge Infinite is me and
So, after all that,
you did a couple of collaborations. A favourite of mine is a track you did with
Art Deko, called Fusion, released in 2005. Can you talk about working with him?
Art Deko is sort of from Metalogik’s
side. Metalogik is from D.C. So, Art Deko came out and he really wanted to be
part of Darkleaf, even though he’s from a whole ‘nother underground, in D.C. However,
I thought he was really talented. His vibe was like that Roots vibe, you know
what I mean? And so, we were cool for a minute, he’d be the Roots, I’d be “motherfucker,
I am mathematical dungeon,” you know? [laughs] And so we started to hook up and
he was there all the time and ultimately, to me, he was a guy trying to get on
and, at that time, Darkleaf was really active and he wanted to get down. So we
started hanging out and I did a lot of stuff over at his house because sometimes
I wouldn’t want to go through the whole mastering part of it – I can do all
that mixing and mastering shit, but Longevity started slowly going in a
different direction. There were groups asking for his beats, so I started to
drift with Art Deko more. If you get anything with Art Deko, I don’t even know
about an album with Art Deko. If there’s an album out, it’s probably because he
took shit we did and what he did and turned it into an album. So, there’s an
album called Fusion?
No, that’s one track
from an album called Personal References (The Dark Side). I wanted to ask you
about your lyrical content – were you describing some sort of spiritual
experience, what was the inspiration there? Where was that coming from, because
a lot of it was very abstract, right?
Yeah, a lot of it has to do with
Sun Ra. Dude, when I got into Sun Ra, I was like “Oh, this motherfucker is
awesome!” Where he went with it and how he understood that music is all sound. Yeah,
man, I mean, I wanna name a lot of others, but, yeah, Sun Ra is pretty much…
actually I’ll give it to you, you gotta put this down. Sun Ra and the Jungle
Brothers, but only for one album. That 40 Below album (J Beez wit the Remedy).
Nobody really liked it, or remembers it. I took that style and Sun Ra and fused
it, and I thought that shit was the dopest shit on the planet, yo! They got a
song, the Jungle Brothers, called Spittin’ Wicked Randomness and that fuckin’
beat is just fucking off the hook!
After Fuck the People,
you kind of seemed to disappear a bit, but you did some tracks in the
Philippines. You recorded some stuff with Paolo Garcia?
Well, the Philippines has nothing
to do with music. Nothing. I just went to the Philippines, you know. I met a
girl, you know, pretty much that’s me. I decided to, I needed a change and so I
went there. And it’s funny, I was just out there, dude. I was with my girl,
hanging out and shit. I stayed out there for four years. But one day, all of a
sudden, my girl comes up to me and she’s like - you know, I told her I was in
the group but I don’t really talk about Darkleaf much. I don’t bring it up. So
anyway, she’s like “You weren’t fuckin’ lying. There’s a guy out here who knows
your group! They wanna meet you.” So, these guys come over, we hook up. I kinda
told them how the underground started, since I was a part of it. And, believe
it or not, motherfuckers had CD’s, albums, of Fuck the People, and all our
shit, and I was blown away, bro. I haven’t been that blown away since I went to
Barcelona, Spain, and got treated the same way. I was blown out my socks that
somewhere way across the world, motherfuckers were down.
So I met him – it was me, Paolo and
Martin (Lm Lzro) and I went over and I hooked up with those guys, did a track
with them. I don’t know if I was at my best. It’s been a while [laughs], you
know what I’m saying? But I thought that I’d do a track with them so they could
use me for whatever they needed. And so, that’s why that song came out. And
I’ll probably do more ‘cause I’m going back out there and I’m gonna see those
guys. And Paolo Garcia, he’s a major component for the Philippines – that whole
triangle – Philippines, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, China. He’s definitely one of the
ones out there. He’s really gettin’ down. And Martin, his lyrics, for a minute,
I was like, “you ever been to Project Blowed?” and he’s never been to America,
so... But damn, his shit is dope, man. They’re putting it down, man. I’ve seen
some really dope shit out there and I know all of it comes from what we all did
in the beginning in that Leimert Park area. We don’t even know how far it went,
So, I guess, the last
thing I wanna ask is what are your plans for the future? You have any plans to
record more music, or release anything?
Well, I’ll tell you this. A lot of
people keep telling me to get back into it and I’m going to, man. I just talked
to Hymnal. Me and Hymnal talk a lot. ‘Cause me and Hymnal grew up together, we’re
best friends. Longevity just hit me up recently, and there’s some Darkleaf
reunion, December 29th and he asked if I was down and said, “Of
course!” But as far as me, man, yeah, I’m gonna do something else, man. I dunno
to what magnitude, you know? I’ve just heard too many people telling me I need
to light the torch back up and so, yeah man. I don’t know how much the public
will get. But I’m gonna start music again. There will be more music from Jahli.
I don’t know how much of it will get out there. Believe me, 2014, Darkleaf is
still alive. We survived the plan crash.
I really appreciate
you taking the time to talk to me, man. I’m a big fan and it’s very cool to
have this stuff broken down.
Dope, dude. I appreciate it too,
man, and it makes me feel like dedicating 15 years of my life to the
underground, it was worth it…
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