New AWKWORD Interverw with HipHipOnDeck on Our Leaders, Conspiracy Theories, Getting Signed, Advice to Artists and more.
1. Growing up as an activist, im sure adversity must’ve played a role even in your youth.. Where were you raised, and what type of struggles did you go through when you first started your mission?
Adversity, like pain, is relative. My adversity pales in comparison to that of a person of color in my town, or pretty much anywhere. But I did struggle, and I always felt struggle. I was raised in a rich white conservative republican Christian town, the way-too-smart son of working class leftist Jewish hippies. There were swastikas and other worse things written in my direction on bathroom walls, kids waved confederate flags, and my black and Latin American friends got it worse, but I took care of most of that physically… until my senior year of high school when, thanks to my activist mother’s inspiration and her connection with the Anti-Defamation League, I was able to re-direct that aggression toward something positive. I co-created my school’s first-ever, now-annual diversity day, which also served as the first time I ever performed officially as a rapper. It was 1999, and this is when AWKWORD started to take shape.
2. Do you feel like this country has major leaders today as it once did in the past? If so whom would you consider to be one, other than yourself?
First off, I’m honored… I don’t think we have fewer major leaders nowadays, or that we have more. And I’m not sure that matters anyway. Quality over quantity, especially in people — our friends, relatives, leaders, teachers, preachers, police officers, etc. We need better, smarter, more persuasive — and less divisive — leaders within OUR communities. (Not all that concerned about the mainstream happy-go-lucky, old money motherfuckers.) Take the women’s movement, for example: the white women are fighting with the black women; the straight women are fighting with the lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered. Take the activist movement. You’re not really in it if you’re not Anonymous or at every Occupy event with a mask on. Or maybe it’s that an activist needs to act, and if you’re not lobbying congress you’re not acting at all. We need leaders today who can lead all of us, or who will work with other leaders with differing ideologies to help us — collectively — get to the so-called and so-far-fetched promise land. Remember, without Malcolm, there’s no Martin.
3. What inspired you to pick up the pen?
Restlessness. Anger. Curiosity. Genius. Inequality. Injustice. Beats.
4. How did you become apart of the World View project?
I created World View. It is the first-ever 100% for-charity global Hip Hop project. It took me five years to pull this off, and I collaborated with more than 100 artists during that time. Every continent, 16 countries and every US region — they’re all represented here. All the money goes to Guns 4 Cameras, a 501c3 nonprofit that goes beyond the gun exchange, working to eradicate street violence through the Hip Hop-inspired education and empowerment of the youth in our communities. Production comes from the likes of Harry Fraud and Domingo. Guest verses include Joell Ortiz, Sean Price and KRS-One. Nuff said… Buy the album at djbooth.it/wrldvw and then, as a thank you, take all 19 extra cuts at djbooth.it/wvbonus for free.
5. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you choose and why?
In THIS world… wherever my girls are, family that is. Pain is relative, and setting, for the most part, is what you make of it.
But since you asked and wanted a more traditional answer, I’ve loved Istanbul, Florence and all of Ecuador. I’ve never been to the (so-called) holy land, and I’d like to do that some day, before its all turned to ashes.
6. Are you comfortable in your current position or do you see yourself going further mainstream? Also, do you think its possible to go mainstream without compromising your artistry?
I’m too smart for these fools, man. Yeah, I’d go mainstream. I’ve done it before. World View was partially financed through a grant from The Morgan Stanley Foundation. I’m not afraid to persuade the rich, the white, the guilty, to participate in the revolution. I also take pride in providing for mine, so the more money the merrier. I just wouldn’t do with it what most of our rapper friends are known to do. If I were offered THE RIGHT situation, I would jump on it. But I haven’t seen it yet and I’ve never sat back for a second, thinking I should expect or wait for it… As far as the second part of your question, yes, I do. I think it’s INCREDIBLY difficult though. You need to blow their minds with that new new to be given the chance to experiment. Or, more likely, you need to sell a billion records and then they give you that little bit of space to breathe. No matter what, the chances of me doing anything other than 100% DIY are VERY slim. I’m really INDIE to my core, as all my people know.
7. As far as the work you do outside of music concerning our society, what are your ultimate goals?
A coup. No more 2-headed devil. And I’m not stupid. I’ve read the history of revolution. I’ve made music about it (see “Whose Streets?”). The oppressed, usually, become the oppressors. But it’s better to be a lion for a day than a lamb that lives forever. Don’t sleep on us.
8. So how do you like to spend your downtime?
There is no downtime.
9. What is your view on all the different conspiracy theories involving the government and hidden agendas?
Forget a conspiracy, the people who believe them, AND the people who hate on those who do. Like any joke, every conspiracy theory is based in truth. The question is to what extent the truth has been exaggerated. I have no time for anyone who tells me I should function as if I am a brain in a vat, being poked and prodded by scientists in some alternate universe; but I have even less time for someone who tells me that there is literally a 0% possibility that that scenario is true. Anything is possible. But to me that (philosophy) matters a lot less than what we can hear and see and witness and experience first hand in our every day lives (sociology). Take Eric Garner, take Michael Brown. Take Gaza and Iraq.
10. What can the people expect from AWKWORD in the near future musically and otherwise?
Less social media activity. More music. Weirder music. More me music. Going back to my roots, before someone told me about the 16-bar verse, 8-bar hook structure.
11. This interview has been a pleasure. Once again on behalf of HipHopOnDeck.com, we wish you the utmost in all of your endeavors. Any advice for up & coming people such as yourself?
The pleasure is all mine. I appreciate the love. And my advice to younger artists is to always be themselves… Follow @pthewyse, and email me at info@AWKWORDrap.com to talk.
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