Asheru Interview (by Timid)
My apologies to Asheru and Hip Hop heads that it took so long to get this to you. There were some difficulties but it’s all together now. The first question or two was lost on the recording but it basically went like “Sup”, “Sup” and an reference to the marketing strategy of putting his album in the Britney Spears section of the music stores with Asheru’s face on her body. From there we got right into business talking about what’s the breakdown of the 48 Months album. And we now continue with our regularly scheduled program already in progress…
Asheru: …some outtakes and unreleased stuff on there from that time. And that’s basically for the people that haven’t heard of us before and the cats that have heard of us but only had the vinyl up until now. You know it’s just getting it out there and setting up for the new releases for next year, you know my solo project and other new stuff from Djinji and other cats so just working it like that.
Ok, I see that. So that was kinda the theory behind putting these joints on there because some of these tracks are between like 4 and 8 years old even though they’re still very relevant type of joints.
Asheru: Right. I think that’s partially the point like the music that we make we really do believe in and the quality of it is something that has endured of that 4 year time period so you know we got a lot of request from people asking us to re release the stuff because a lot of vinyl was out of print and cats just couldn’t get they hands on it so you know this is for them and for the people that’s been supporting us all this time and then the cats who are just knowing about us. I just had an interview not to long ago and the guy was telling me how he had never even heard of us up until like a month ago. He got the 48 Months project and was like damn you know like, this shit is old, I didn’t even know that they even released it. So, it’s good that you know cats can listen to it and it sounds like it’s something that’s right now even though a lot of it is old, there is some new stuff on there but the majority of it is from that time period.
Right, So, just how much of a bad mofo was the General Blackman Isgod?
Asheru: [laughs] He was a bad mufucka man [laughs]
I mean taking 30 cats with a six shooter I mean…
Asheru: Yea man, it’s unbelievable almost ain’t it.
Yea, you don’t mess with a cat like that.
Asheru: That’s what I’m saying like you know that’s the General 77th Brigade you know it’s no joke man. I was trying to tell Elliot, he was our sound engineer, and I was trying to explain the story to him and he had never even heard of him and I was amazed you know but you know I just try to do my part basically.
Right. So you come off like very conscious with your lyrics but it’s fun and a good feeling type of vibe. You’ve got intelligent lyrics and topics , do you ever catch the dictionary emcee type of flack from cats? Because you use a lot of big words and deep topics and a lot of people are like ‘I don’t want to hear that stuff in my music’
Asheru: Yea but I can’t even worry about them cats man that’s how I normally talk. It’s not like I’m trying to be extra impressive or nothing you know what I’m saying? If there ever was a word that was classified as being big it’s just because that was the word that fit the emotion that I felt, it was never nothing that was trying to be like extra lofty or nothing. Yea I have heard that before but the realism is if you know me as a person in our everyday interaction and conversation then you would understand a lot more what I’m saying and the way I’m saying it. You’d understand that it’s really me it’s not just some…like I don’t put on the Asheru hat and turn into this dude you know what I’m saying, I’m still Gabe to all my friends and Asheru and Gabrielle are no different, I don’t have two different sides of me it’s just that it’s all one. Yea I’ve heard that before but it’s whatever. [chuckles]
Nah, I totally feel you on that because I mean I get the same type of stuff from cats on my lyrics and whatnot but it’s just like you know sometimes you talk about that stuff, it’s just part of who you are.
Asheru: Yea, I mean is it not relevant? Is it something that I’m saying that…I mean the thing that kills me about that is that there are cats who say stuff and make songs and talk about stuff that is completely like…they’re definitely not speaking to me. I don’t know who they’re…you know, they’re audience, whatever they’re audience is, whoever they’re audience, whatever they’re reflecting and depicting in they’re music is nothing that I can relate to personally and we let that shit slide all day. And then when you do talk about something even remotely is representative of your life or someone that you know if it’s too like…if it’s not…I guess people just kinda wanna be entertained they don’t wanna…a lot of times cats don’t wanna have conversations when they listen to your shit, they don’t want to feel like they are having to think about a lot or having to interpret or intuit a lot but when I was growing up that was the music that I loved. Like when Native Tongues, when De La put out albums they would put out whole songs and spit in a way that I knew clearly was a whole bunch of inside jokes they had and stuff that I wasn’t privy to but I liked it, you know what I mean, that was the whole fun of it for me, opening up the lining notes and reading all the stuff inside. That was the fun of Hip Hop to me, now it’s just like whatever. A lot of cats don’t want to hear that stuff they just want something that’s real easy to sing along to and just entertain me that’s all they’re saying you know what I’ mean. So, I feel that definitely and that’s something that I always want to integrate in what I’m doing but on the other end of it, it’s not just mindless entertainment you know what I mean? That’s just the everyday struggle for an artist I guess.
Yea, and you would think people when they go to pick up somebody’s album or something you’d want something that’s going to be uniquely that person so that you’re getting into the mind and into the vibe of that person that you’re listening to.
Asheru: Right. To me that’s the whole point of it, you know what I mean but the vast majority they don’t want that they want you to…they don’t even care if you tell about it on TV and say ‘Look this is what I’m about to make because y’all like this type of shit.’ Then you put it out and everybody is like ‘Ohh I’m gonna go buy that shit. That shit is dope.’ It’s like the craziest thing man [chuckles] but that’s what we’ve come too now so, you know, that’s Hip Hop.
Right. So, in your opinion, are you real Hip Hop?
Asheru: Am I real Hip Hop?
You know the catch phrase everyone throws around. What’s real Hip Hop to you?
Asheru: That’s what I was about to ask you. [Laughs] I was about to ask you…I mean what’s fake Hip Hop.
You know people got that catch phrase they throw around, ‘Yo, this is real Hip Hop, that’s not real Hip Hop’ ya know to me it’s just what you love to do, it’s what you’re loving, it’s you know you can walk up on cats in a cipher out in the middle of the street and just walk into it and everyone doing it, it’s just love.
Asheru: Right, right. I mean that’s more…I definitely would say that’s more traditional Hip Hop. It’s all real, I mean it’s just you got some corny dudes and you got some dudes that are just wack that think their dope and you got some dope dudes that’s just, you know, are universally dope, you know what I’m saying, everybody agrees that they’re nice so…
And I think Hip Hop’s kinda broad in the sense that everybody can have their own vision of it as well.
Asheru: Mmhm. Definitely, I mean look at that last Outkast album, Andre’s album. That’s…too him that’s where he is, that’s the place that he’s in right now. A lot of people may say ‘that shit ain’t Hip Hop, I don’t fuck with that shit’ and that’s cool too you know what I mean but, I think that it’s dope just that it was made, you know what I mean, just on an artistic level.
Not just that but it’s getting well received by the public at large.
Asheru: Right, right, right. So it’s like word you know some people can pull that off and universally Outkast is dope so that’s real Hip Hop now. Are they on TRL everyday and 106 and Park and all that shit? Yea they are but you know what people get caught up in is once they see that ‘aww they getting too big, they selling out, they ain’t…that’s that glossy commercial shit.’ Naw, it’s still Hip Hop it’s just you know some of it is really pop music and some of it is really just you know more traditional in the art form so…I mean but I think nowadays man we kinda need that break. We kinda need that…somebody to expand and break different levels of what is Hip Hop, you know what I mean? Because, I mean if you just got put on Hip Hop two, three years ago you would think Nelly and Eminem were like the greatest thing ever to the culture.
And there’s a lot of people who are on that tip too.
Asheru: Right, I know but that’s not the truth, you know what I’m saying? Like nowadays you can around for 5 years and people will start putting your hat in to be the dopest rapper ever. How’s that possible? You know what I mean, that’s just…you know Hip Hop has a short attention span and a very short term memory.
I think that’s attributed to the cats like you were saying that just get into Hip Hop and the only thing they hear is this certain type.
Asheru: Right, exactly and that’s all they know and if it’s not that…you know that becomes the template and if you’re not the template then you’re just…you know that’s just some other shit…they don’t appreciate it. I teach seventh grade kids and ever when I was teaching like fourth grade and first grade the cats that they thought…I mean these kids thought that Snoop Dogg was like how we look at Rakim…like, the father of Hip Hop. This is when Bow Wow first came out and Snoop and Jermaine Dupri had their song, my kids were fanatical over Snoop and really didn’t know anybody that came in the game before Snoop, they didn’t really know Snoop from like the Doggystyle days they just knew this new like kid friend on TV everyday all day Snoop and it was lik e’Yo, he is the dopest rapper ever.’ I mean Snoop is dope but they just missed like…they don’t who Tribe Called Quest is, they don’t know who EPMD is, they don’t know who [Big Daddy] Kane is, they don’t know who Salt-N-Pepa were even. They’re just, you know, completely oblivious so what they know is what they see right now in the here and now.
Yea and if they do run across that Doggystyle album that’s old school.
Asheru: Yea. [chuckles] That’s what I’m saying we’ve got a short attention span man like shit that’s three years old is back in the day now already.
Yea. I’ve heard many a radio station doing their Hip Hop shows or whatnot and they do like an Old School Jam and it’s like a joint from like the Fugees or something it’s like that’s not old school man it’s like just a couple years ago.
Asheru: Yea, it’s crazy.
So you’ve got the tour coming up in Europe, you ready for that tomorrow?
Asheru: Yea I’m ready man.
Any spots you’re looking to hitting particularly?
Asheru: Paris, I’ve never been to Paris. I’m looking forward to that one. A lot of the other spots we’ve been to before and I’m definitely looking forward to going back and you know having a good ass time man.
What kind of feeling do you get with like the difference between the Hip Hop scene as it’s received over there and the differences between here.
Asheru: It’s just a better reception. You know a lot of times cats are just really into your music and really supportive and you know participating in the live show and even after the show, just conversations that you have. It’s just amazing to see that the culture barrier is being basically melted away through Hip Hop. You know, cats that are 25/26 years old living on the other side of the world but grew up with the same shit that you grew up on. Just to see that and have that bond is dope man.
Yea, definitely. I think in the other countries like that they are more receptive to other forms of Hip Hop verses over here like we were saying they are more locked into a certain style, over there they seem to be more open to just Hip Hop in general.
Asheru: Right. Now talking about some real, like real Hip Hop, those cats over there they’re really big on that, like your shit is real Hip Hop. They come and tell me that like you know I don’t listen to that fake shit I listen to the real shit like your shit. I’m like I know what they’re saying but they’re really on that purist like…if this is not done in the way then I don’t even want to listen to it, it’s garbage. It’s ill you know here it’s almost the opposite, it’s like that shit is hot because it’s played all the time not because I think it’s hot but because it’s always played it has to be hot. That’s our mentality when it comes to like you hear it enough times on the radio and on see it enough times on T.V. it’s automatically hot.
They don’t know that those spots on the radio were paid for upfront.
Asheru: Right they don’t understand all of that. Just around my friends we have conversations about Hip Hop all the time and we were talking about that and how having a number one song doesn’t always mean your song is the best it just means that your song has been played the most.
…and you have a dope marketing team…
Asheru: Yea…you have a good marketing plan and all of that in place. It doesn’t necessarily mean that your song is like super incredible and that’s what people fail to realize. Like, number one songs and all that I mean I’m sure it’s a hell of an accomplishment to even have that but the reality is man it’s all one big marketing machine. Some people benefit greatly from it and some people just get sucked up and used and abused by it you know. That’s why as long as that system is in place it’s hard to ever differentiate what real Hip Hop is and what isn’t real because you’ve got so many other hands dealing in the pot of the culture that it’s already tainted from the jump. I almost feel like people tell you what things to talk about. It’s like now a days it seems like certain things are just discouraged, you know artists are discouraged from talking about it. Some things they are encouraged to talk about so you know when that type of shit is going on who can say what’s real and what’s fake. Just because it sells a lot that don’t even make it real. It so tainted right now it’s hard to put a face on it. It is what it is man. You remember when if you did a commercial back in the day you were selling out [chuckles] you remember that shit. Now Latifah is doing that damn Pizza Hut commercial and shit, it ain’t nothing, you know what I’m saying? Now it’s looked at as you getting that money, you’re using these corporate people for your own personal financial gain and this and that, it’s just looked at completely differently. Ten years ago it was looked at like ‘Fuck that, don’t support that, do your own shit, be rebellious and go at it your own way.’
Ten years ago MC Hammer was the enemy of Hip Hop now everybody out there is doing it his style, like not necessarily his music style but like marketing, commercials and movie this, you know what I’m saying.
Asheru: Yea, ten years ago Hammer was dancing for Kentucky Fried Chicken, on tv with Hammer pants on for Kentucky Fried Chicken and everybody was like outraged and now sky’s the limit, it’s whatever. When your playing like that it’s just…everything is just different for hip hop now. Even the social rules and stuff like that have changed. Money has just changed everything. Because it’s so much money being made it kinda excuses that other shit. ‘…it’s cool I’m getting this money though.’ I understand it if you don’t have nothing, you can’t really judge another mans but that’s what it’s turned into now for Hip Hop, it’s just one big show and we’re all playing our part in it.
Right. We could probably go on that for awhile but tell me about your upcoming solo joint.
Asheru: Solo joint…While You Were Sleeping’. It’s coming out spring . First single ‘Black Moses’ will be out January 10th.
That’s on the 48 Months joint right.
Asheru: Yea ‘Black Moses’ is on the 48 Months [joint] and I almost forgot two other joints that’s on the B side, ‘BMIG’ and another song called ‘Just As Long’ which is produced by my man HL who is from DC. That single will be out early . The album should be out like spring.
Any specific concept that goes into this album?
Asheru: Yea definitely man I mean it’s a lot more introspection and just being creative with the music and you know different cadences and different rhyme patterns, and a lot of different beats. Musically it’s a bit of a departure from the Soon Come stuff but it’s still highly enjoyable and a lot of the collaborations that I’ve done and am still in the process of doing…it’s just and exciting album; working with my man J. Rawls from Lone Catalyst, Joe Money from Pittsburgh some other cats from [DC] Omar and HL, I just spoke with 9th Wonder about doing a joint, [and] working with Bahamadia. Just building man and making these relationships man and hooking up these different songs man is dope. Blue Black is definitely going to be apart of it. We’ve got some stuff that we recorded that’s going to be on there too so I’m excited about it man.
Definitely sounds nice, you got a lot of cats coming through on it and everything too.
Asheru: Definitely man and the beauty of it is, it’s all out of love because this new album, I should also say that it’s being done as a joint venture between my organization Gorilla Arts and 7 Heads and some of the proceeds will be going to Project Nommo which is my non-profit organization; a community arts program that I do locally that I do in schools and stuff here. So [it’s] just to help in the development of that so we can provide facilities and all of that for the stuff that we’re doing in the schools. So it’s dope on all levels, I’m very excited about it.
And that was called Project what?
Asheru: Nommo. It’s basically an arts exposure program that I do in the schools but it’s also a teaching tool that I’ve trained others on where…you know for teachers to integrate the arts in the classroom using Hip Hop, using literature, photography, using different aspects of popular culture, video’s, film, magazine articles, internet, everything. To basically get the point across to the kids man because nowadays you gotta come at them a different way than what we used to do. It’s not so much textbooks and worksheets like it used to be when we were in school, now it’s has to be completely interactive and something that appeals to their everyday life so we just find ways to bridge the gap and reach out, you know?
Yeah. Even back in them days the textbooks and worksheets were losing ground.
Asheru: Yea, I know right, I mean, yea we were the ones who basically put the step in place to get rid of that shit. Unfortunately a lot of schools are still being run like that. Just part of me going back to school and probably going back to grad school and researching and studying what I was doing there just kind of brought it all full circle and put it back in a perspective for me to actually create something that will help in that aim of just reaching out to the kids in a different way. I’ve been able to fuse Hip Hop and education for the last 5 years, I’ve been teaching for 7 years, but the last 4 to 5 years I’ve been able to work with project Nommo and just get that stuff going. It’s dope man and now we are able to branch out and have other artists come in and do workshops. So it’s nothing to get like J-Live or Wordsworth to come down and actually do a writing workshop with some kids or a freestyle workshop with some kids and I mean kids or adults, whoever wants to participate. Predominately the kids man because we just want to expose then to more than what they see everyday.
Is there a place where people can go and get more information on that?
Asheru: Yea, definitely, you can always email me, that’s the most direct way. We don’t’ have a website yet for it or anything but it’s coming. I definitely will be making more information about it available as it comes. We even have some live footage that’s basically like a video portfolio that we were talking about putting pieces of it in the packaging for an album so people can get information about and see what is that we are doing. Even on this European tour I’m linking with a school out in Berlin to do like some interactive stuff with my kids here and some of the students there. So, just putting it in place and always trying to branch out and expose it on a wider level.
That sounds nice, that sounds like a beautiful thing right there.
Asheru: Yea it’s been a good reception so far. Last time we went out to Amsterdam and we did like a week long workshop with some kids out there. It was dope man, we created a couple songs, we even performed the songs live, we had a good time. We got to really work with them and transfer ideas and share each other’s culture. It was dope.
Right, that definitely sounds nice. Anything you want people to know or anything you want to say, any last words about 48 Months about the solo project or….
Asheru: Yea definitely, I want people to now that the 48 Months project is out, the No Edge Ups in South Africa project is out. Please go ahead and get both of those. Look for the single, the ‘Black Moses’ single January 10th, look for the While You Were Sleeping album coming out soon after that, Spring 2004. Check out SevenHeads.com for more information on that. Also, within a month or so, I have a site launching called BlackLincolns.com and that’s done in conjunction with some other local artists, film producers, and beat makers locally here, [there’s] some exciting projects that we’re doing here so we’ve done a lot of promotion on that site as well; BlackLincolns.com. Definitely check all of that man and just keep supporting it man you know, if you ever bought an Unspoken Heard album in the past or buy one of these new ones now definitely tell a friend. [laughs] Spread the word as far as possible.
One question before we go here. What’s the logo man, the head?
Asheru: That’s the Unspoken Heard, the two ears and no mouth. That’s the logo, that mask though is what symbolizes the idea, the logic behind the Unspoken Heard. You’re talking about the tattoo shot.
Yea, it’s also on the face of the CD too.
Asheru: That’s the mask, that’s the Unspoken Heard mask that we’ve always had from the beginning.
Alright, I’ll let you get back to your night. I’m sure you’ve got some packing and stuff to do.
Asheru: Yeah, definitely.
Alright, good luck on the tour over there and anytime y’all got some stuff, y’all trying to get the word out, y’all can always hit us up.
Asheru: Yeah, definitely.
Thanks to Greg Trani at Room Service for setting this up.