hyp: man, a lot man, a lot! i got a lot to talk to you about. let me ask you a question, before we get into the interview. do i gotta limit my potty mouth?
r: haha, nah, don't worry, that's what editing is for. we'll take care of that on this end.
h: cool. man, i don't know if you got a chance to look at the bio, i'll try to give you a brief breakdown. for the most part man, i'm the one that's from boston. the name triple ave., i guess you could say the whole triple meaning is the three of us in the group, the three vocalists. i'm from boston. the singer/mc, she's latina, she's a puerto rican/mexican/cherokee. she sings and raps. she's got some chops on her. she's from the bay. the third vocalist, he's from st. louis.
r: that's cool, you're from all over.
h: yeah. i've been living in cali for about ten years. i'm from a group in boston called "exile society," we've been doing this shit for i can't even tell you how long. the "subterraneans" was the group that got the most exposure, when we first moved out here to cali, we were back and forth to europe for the first five years. the group broke up. we were out here freestyling in the park, back when that was still cool. it really is a trilogy. we've been going at this as long as i know. in my family, my mother and father are both musicians. i take it for granted, it's just natural.
r: cool. so what's going on with you guys now?
h: let me give you the gist of the random-ass things that we have going on... what's a trip about our music, when you really listen to it, the music is eclectic, it has that bump, you might get conscious lyrics, but from a hood perspective. i can't think of too many other groups that come from it from a hood perspective. a lot of conscious groups come from the 'burbs or from the outskirts. it makes for interesting listening.
r: yeah, i notice that about your stuff. it has that bumping feel to it, but still different than your average club music.
h: yeah. i also play the harp. our stage show is crazy dude. the instrumentation is upright bass, keys, guitar. we have some features, the bass player plays the bagpipes sometimes. it's a trippy show dude, a trippy show. i'll mess around, put the mic down and start playing the harp. it's like electronica meets live instrumentation.
r: how long have you been making music?
h: i've been doing it the longest. i'm the youngest in the group, we're all golden era, in our 30s.
r: so tell me about the members of the group.
h: louie, he's from st. louis, in the midwest. if you check it out, the midwest in general, has a certain flare. common, kanye, crucial conflict, there's a niche. who is it that said "boughetto?"
r: the st. lunatics.
h: yeah, that boughie ghetto thing, that's a midwest thing, that's why kanye does the preppy look. you do hear the east coast influence. he would be considered like that, he brings that midwest slang, that whole vibe.
r: cool. tell me about gypsy love.
h: she's a singer/mc. she's from the bay area. the oakland/richmond area. as i told you, she's latina. you hear some of that influence in the music. you hear that laid back cali, bay area thing. it's kind of an eclectic area.
r: yeah, i've always loved how diverse the bay is. like how you can get too $hort, digital underground, hieroglyphics, spice 1...
h: yeah. and you see her, she can play both sides of that fence too. it comes through. so that's gypsy. and the fact that she sings and raps, obviously, is a plus.
r: cool. and yourself?
h: yeah, i'm hyp, and i bring the whole boston thing. you know what's out of boston. mr. lif. radioinactive.
r: rso, ed o.g.
h: what you know about rso? ed o.g. is from my block. we grew up on the same block. boston is east coast, but it's the north east. it's got a specific vibe. it's in the shadow of new york, so i think we relate more with philly, but you know, in terms of hip-hop there's more of a jazz influence. in the west they more musical, we were more sampling. i grew up on old soul, jazz and all that. my musical taste is eclectic as hell. being raised in one of the war zones in boston, it really makes for an eclectic world view. my background... cape verde is a group of islands off the coast of west africa, and my father's family comes from there. his mother is into a revolutionary leader that was killed two years before i was born: amilkar cabral, who is my grandmother's first cousin. if you look him up, you'll see. his image is on the money in that country. the airport out there is named after him. he's a hero. you get a real eclectic mix when you're fucking with me.
r: i heard you also had a canadian connection?
h: let me tell you about that. through sonic bids, which is a company based in boston, they have this website where you set up a page and all these different opportunities from all over the world come through there. i ran into the redpipe site, i ran into them through that, and when they first put up redpipe.ca they were having this contest, a registration contest, the grand prize was $8,000 canadian, and we won that. so we're probably gonna use that for the new album. we're still doing this independently.
r: nice. how's the record coming?
h: we're in the process of finishing the record. i'm being real fussy about it. i want to make sure that we cover everything we can. there's not enough dynamics, at least in mainstream hip-hop. some of it may have the potential to go mainstream, but we don't care. our music draws random crowds. you'll get an older mexican woman in her 50s talking about how she loves our shit, some cat from around the way - the 'hood - talking about he loves our shit, and a young white girl talking about how she loves our shit. it's crazy, random and eclectic, to be honest. so i'm being fussy about finishing up the album. so there's more to come on that.
r: and you guys have been playing and working with a number of different people?
h: yeah. dj true justice, his crew is the "all-purpose djs." he's on tour right now. we tour with him off and on. and he's got an album out right now called "the under scrutiny album."
r: so what brought you out west?
h: a lot of different factors. i did a year in college. my two brothers who i moved out here with, they were like "we're moving to cali to pursue our dreams. you can stay here or come with us." so i was like, "yeah, i'm coming with y'all," so we did it, we made the move. we left boston and started touring. there were other things going on in boston, typical shit a young person in the inner city goes through, so it was as good time for me to leave anyway. i've been out here for about ten years.
r: you menationed in your email some other projects you were involved in.
h: yeah, we're working with this group in austria that we toured with in 99 called "waxolutionist." we're working this project they're working on, with mystic. that's my homegirl, she's on there. they got hieroglyphics, and some other cats on there. shout out to "meister petz."
r: you were talking about that redpipe.ca contest you won. what do you think about all the websites now for music, redpipe, sonicbids, myspace, etc.?
h: first and foremost, i have to say thank the lord for redpipe. no joke. the people are so sweet and helpful over there, it doesn't matter, i told them i'ma be riding with redpipe until the wheels fall off. it's user-friendly, they offer a lot, news, they have discussion boards, a lot of sites don't do that. the only disadvantage is being here in the states, you have to be a rogers wireless subscriber to be a fan or download or whatever, but they told me that they're working on making so people outside of canada can fuck with it. i appreciate their mission and their goal. i checked out some of the other acts, they got some quality stuff on there. they're championing the cause for the independent musician.
r: what about sonicbids?
h: i have to give a shout out to them. i've gotten the most out of dealing with them.
r: and myspace?
h: myspace is not cool. it's too vast, obviously. we've been locked out of our myspace page since february of 2006. we tried to switch our password, i tried to contact them, i kept getting this automated response. there's obviously no human being behind this thing. there''s no way to reach nobody. who do you call? what do you do? i think the next big thing is gonna be facebook. i'm on there.
r: yeah, i think they're killing myspace the same way myspace killed friendster.
h: let me tell you about one other big thing we have going on. i don't know, i think it's in canada, you heard of emergenza? we're in that. we're in the final round. we're the only hip-hop band to make it in the bay area. we're performing at the world famous great american music hall in san francisco. it's been around 100 years. it was built in 1907. we're performing there next weekend.
r: sounds good.
h: i want to tell you something else really random that i love... i'm playing harp in the monte ray pop festival, another famous festival. this is their 40th anniversary, so i'm playing in this band called the sun kings, and we're covering this beatles song called "she's leaving home," and i'm playing harp on it. that's the kind of odd shit that i'm into. triple ave. is all over the motherfucking place.
r: that's cool man, sound way more interesting than your average "loop a beat and rap 16 bars" rap group.
h: let me just say that through all the changes that the group has gone through, we've got some serious history, and we got history with the peoples that we've been with. it's kind of like a movement dude. i came out here with my blood, and we've extended beyond blood. we keep piling on these good people. the ones that are superficial, they fall through the cracks. the ones that are real, they stay.
r: that's the way it should be.
h: that's what we're about. bringing people together for the greater good. i could die today - knock on wood - and be happy. we've brought people together and we're doing some good while we're doing it.
r: you're good at this, too.
h: what do you mean?
r: interviews [laughs], providing quotes.
h: [laughs] right on, man. was this comprehensive, because i'm a little sauced [laughs].
r: [laughs] yeah man, totally. i think i got what i need.
h: right on man. it's been good talking to you. let's keep this shit alive and well. our generation has to let these youngs ones know that there's more to this shit than rims...
here's a q&a i did with talib kweli a few months back for UR Magazine:
ryan somers: are you getting sick of talking about the new album yet?
talib kweli: no.
r: that's good news.
t: as far as the subject matter, i'm still dealing with things that are important to my community, and i think that resonates with all types of people. the only way to appreciate somebody else's culture is to live your own. i just try to continue to grow and change.
r: i'm interested in your early days, in the mid-90s, during the so-called "indie era."
t: well, that was one of the moments i was a part of. great art comes out of a community, and i was part of a great community. i still am. some of them have kept going, some are doing other things. right now, the independent scene is not about putting out a 12", it's about myspace or whatever.
r: things have changed. in the current era, how do you appeal to the new generation?
t: it's great that i can. the one thing that keeps me around, is that i'm never scared to appreciate the new trends. i'll never say i don't like li'l wayne, or whoever. as progressive artists who are conscious, we may have a problem with accepting new trends in the music. the mysogyny, the stuff that's all about partying, rims, etc., i don't like that trend either, but i can't discount the artist because i don't like the trend. i stay focused on respecting the art, and the artists. people respect me for that. i could talk the truth without people getting offended or feeling like i'm bitter.
r: which leads to the collaboration with ugk.
t: bun b. is a good friend of mine, he's like an older bro. we had done a record for my mixtape, which just parleyed into another song.
r: and now you've started your own label too.
t: i was already doing it, with the mixtape. i figured if i was doing it already, i might as well get payed for it.
r: i was digging that track "say something," how you used that sample from lords of the underground.
t: that was recorded late in the process, in december or so. the track was aggressive. i thought it was dope, but i didn't think it was for me, because it was so aggressive. it wasn't the first thing on my mind, but i felt the album needed that. i do a lot of shows, and i gotta have songs that work for the shows. it's fun to perform something with that energy.
r: what's your favorite song?
t: all of them. that's why i put them on the record.
r: you've got jean grae on there too, and on your label.
t: that's one of my good friends.
r: my editor told me that your name means student in arabic.
t: talib is student, kweli is truth and knowledge.
r: what kind of student were you?
t: i was a good student. i'm still a student now, a student of life. the classroom exists outside of the classroom.
r: can you give me your top 5 back to school songs?
t: dead prez - schools. red hot chili peppers - catholic school girls rule. boogie down productions - blackman in effect. lip gloss - li'l mama. pink floyd - another brick in the wall.
r: you mentioned boogie down productions. on that same album, he's got a song "beef," where he references the book "eat to live," which is also a title of a song on your new album.
t: yeah, "eat to live" is like across between "beef" by krs-one and "be healthy" by dead prez. the track reminded me of brooklyn in the 70s. we weren't poor but we weren't rich at all. we lived in the hood. there are certain food issues the hood has. there are guidelines in the second verse, i don't necessarily follow them all, it's food for thought. i eat white sugar all the time.
r: what's changed for you over the last ten years?
t: i'm a little more high strung, with a little more addictive habits. going from artists to executive is very stressful. what i do is a constant, constant, constant fight. it's never easy.
r: and what's stayed the same?
t: my focus, vision, and passion have stayed the same. and i still love it just as much.
r: what would you ask yourself if you were me right now?
t: i'm definitely interested more in the actual musicality, music choices. not just me, with this art we're selling ourself, not our souls. back in the day it would be real music journalism, they would really talk about the music. but that's just the whole business.
r: yeah, it's tough, the way things work now. like, i got the CD this morning and they're like "you're talking to kweli in an hour," so it's tough to talk to you about the music, when i've only heard it once, rushing through it.
t: [leave this out] there's a catch 22 of that. between you and me, i don't want this to be in the story, but we sent it out, and now it's on the internet. you do that and then people have access to computers and can fuck you up. now i spent two hours every day taking down websites.
[i didn't include that in the edited story i gave to the magazine, but i figured it would be okay to put it up here. heck, no one reads this shit anyway...]
walking home along the river bank. a man with longer blonde hair is walking ahead of me. we start talking. it turns out he's jim morrison. he's sort of dismissive towards me, but i can tell he is secretely glad for the company (although he won't admit it). he's walking a few steps ahead of me, but at the same pace, as we talk. i ask him what it feels like, they're currently at their peak. "it must be a trip..." he goes into a house, i can see through the door, a band is set up in the living room, getting ready to jam. this guy pete that i know - used to work with at c'est what in toronto - in sitting at the drum kit. they're in the main floor of a house. i walk away and can hear from the apartment above them, heavy metal music playing. then i hear pete's drum sick cracking together, "one, two, one, two three..." and the doors start playing. i'm in a bar. it's in a basement. it's busy. kind of an exposed brick, dark, dungeony sort of a basement bar. people in there. two older ladies are in their. must to be to see a band or dj that is one of their sons/daughters or nieces/nephews. they are making a complicated order from me, and i'm getting confused. "two teas, one half full, sugar on the side, milk on the side, two spoons..." but she keeps saying it differently. she asks me if i know somebody named crystal. i say no, i don't think so. sarah is there, she says that i do know her. i don't remember. i say to her and the old lady, "i don't know who i know, you know who i know." other things happen in the bar. somebody calls me over to where the dj is set up. there is a huge spill on the floor, under the turntables. the dj is andrea, who i used to know - she was the booking person at the reverb in toronto. the two older ladies are sitting at the table nearest the dj booth. one of them has a beer and the half-full mug of tea. the other a full tea. other stuff is going wrong, i have to deal with problems. i'm not stressed though, just dealing with it all. at one point, and i can't remember when this happened, sarah and i are talking about the doors. (maybe it's because i told her i was talking to jim, i don't know.) i can hear "love me two times..." and she tells me it was about his cousin (a guy), that this song was some secret about his forbidden-incestual-gay love. i don't think that's true. i tell her that is probably one of those silly rumors that get started and spread around. somebody tells me the dj is going to get fired, and the bar manager (marc, my current bar manager) has been screwing her over, and that she won't be happy because her night as already been moved from saturdays to fridays to thursdays and back to fridays, and she's getting paid less than she was... more stuff i can't remember...
notice any similarity? yeah, i know, i know. a friend of mine send me this link. "dude, some dude on that white rapper show used the same sample as you guys..." well, if i do say so myself, recordface flipped that sample WAY better than those cats. and, uh, i don't really know much about this john brown dude, i guess his claim to fame is being on a reality tv show, but, uh, this song is kind of weak. "i wear skate shoes but i don't skate board," and lines like that, it's like of like, "dude, WHY are you rapping?" sorry, i get a little annoyed at unoriginal people with absolutely nothing significant to say. to me, art only has worth when it demonstrates at least one of two things: 1. originality/creativity, and 2. significance. basically, you either have to be saying something meaningful, or simply blowing minds with your talent. this dude does neither. then again, what can anyone expect? not that i have anything against this guy personally. i've never met him. and aside from the odd little clip or two, i've never watched his reality show, so i have no idea. but, uh, this song is horrible, and simply demonstrates to me the overall weakness of 99% of the rap music being made right now. boring, ready-made, cliched, non-stylized, unoriginal lyrics over weak attempts at mainstream commercial, dance, club beats.
maybe i'm just being bitchy because i'm on day two of the master cleanse, and i'm getting a little irritable due to a lack of coffee and food. let me know if you've done it before. i've gotten some advice from a few people. i've made a couple of attempts in the past, but always broke on the second or third day. from what i keep being told, the first three days are the toughest, and then it gets easier. here's hoping.
that's for now. i'm hungry. fuck. really hungry. it's weird, it's not like i haven't gone a day without eating before. you just get busy, caught up in what you're doing, and forget. but when you're doing it on purpose, well, that's a whole other bag of beans, ain't it? mmm, beans. shit. i can't smoke either, fuck. or coffee. damn. wish me luck, and listen to that thrills song...
back in london now. hitched a ride yesterday with an old classmate of mine, *****. i've known her since, i don't know, grade two? not close friends anymore, but run into each other once in a while. interesting conversation. she's been through some shit. a lot of the same shit as me. still dealing with it. emotional issues. mental health. pain. alcohol. drugs. family problems. intelligence. life questions. i always find myself surprised relating to people i thought i had nothing in common with. she was always one of "them," in my eyes. the rich girls. proper family. old or new money, either way, they had it. law school. med school. phd-people. she should have had her life together by now. should be married. two kids, three. big old brick house in the money part of town. she was driving a mini-van, but it was filled with bags of clothes in the back. she's "mostly homeless," i think she said. i had a cigarette with her. i haven't had one in a week or two. it was a menthol. last one. nauseated, i was puking in my mouth for an hour of our drive. she chain-smoked, i felt sicker with each one. she was on her way to london for a meeting with her probation officer. a couple of times i thought to myself, "this isn't you," but it was. and it was me too. both of us, starting over. when you're 31 years old and you've been drunk and on drugs since you were 15 years old, you don't know how to be a sober adult. you never learned. you're again at the beginning. it's hard. how do you talk to people? how do you work? how do you live? when you're intelligent as well, well, fuck, it can be a nightmare. a lot of similar feelings, we both wished we could be dumbed down, so we wouldn't have to think so much. so many smart people go crazy, schizophrenia, alcoholism, this world can just be too much i guess, to handle, to hold. i insisted that she take my last ten dollars for gas. i got out of the van. sick, broken, cold, and optimistic...
that was yesterday.
today is today. woke up. cold. get to work ryan, get to work...
-saul williams has a new album available, produced by trent reznor, niggy tardust. click here for the download page.
-i may or may not be playing a show with dj vadim, yarah bravo, and abstract rude, at the alex p. keaton, on wed. nov. 7th. you may or may not be there. here is the flyer:
a lot of people have been talking lately about radiohead's new album, and their method of releasing it online. the pay-what-you-can download approach. you set your own price. it's an interesting idea, with others soon to follow suit. this is something tim and i have been doing since our first show, when we were hustling cdrs.
"we've got cds, come talk to us if you want one. if you want to give us money for it, or buy us a beer, that's cool. if you don't have any money or just don't feel like giving it to us, we don't really care. we'll give you one for free. i don't give a shit, come talk to me..."
it was never a conscious decision, really, it just sort of happened by accident. at our first gig we were talking, after burning/photocopying a bunch of cdrs...
"what should we charge for 'em?" "i don't know." "they're cdrs." "i just want people to hear our shit dude..."
so, later, on stage, half in the bag, at the end of our show, it was decided, completely by accident. "if you want a free cd come talk to me..."
we've been doing it ever since, even after we pressed "real" cds. with our t-shirts too.
"how much for a shirt?" "whatever you want to pay." "what do you mean?" "whatever it is worth to you, that is how much i want for it..."
last may in germany, opening up for dj vadim and them, i'd be standing at the merch table at the end of the night, beside vadim's tour manager. all of their stuff was priced (overpriced, i thought, but maybe that's just me thinking in canadian currency). he couldn't really believe my method, listening to me trying to explaining to these germans that they can decide their own price for my stuff. pay what you want. i gave away a few free ones. i took handfuls of change. i traded cds. some people paid five euros, ten euros, even 20, or 30 for a cd/shirt combo meal. he thought i was nuts. i just wanted to know that there were at least a few of our cds floating around in germany. i don't give a shit. some snowboarder cat in jena, germany, has an "ok cobra" t-shirt on right now. that's fucking cool to me.
i don't know if i'll ever make a living as a full-time artist. maybe one day. i would love it if it happened. if i could divide all of my time between making music, performing, acting, writing, painting, photography, travelling... well shit, i'd be a happy camper. (no, not true actually, it doesn't matter what i'm doing in life, i'll always be a bipolar fucking basket case, but whatever, i would love to not have to work a regular fucking job...) it's doubtful, but i'm okay with that. if i have to keep working, bartending, whatever it is, to fund my existence, so i can keep writing songs and poems and painting things and playing shows and whatever, i'm cool with that. it beats some shitty office gig i could be doing. i doubt it'll happen though, when people i know who have been putting out records for years are complaining that they're broke as shit, what hope is there for me? doesn't matter, it's what i love, how could i stop?
music is free now. it's been free for close to a decade. you can't sell it anymore.
two nights ago i had a dream about the fog. it's a novella by stephen king that i read, oh, i don't know, 20 or so years ago. i never really liked his novels, at least the two or three that i read, but his books of short stories, i was into them back in my pre-teen days. i always thought the fog should have been made into a movie. i always wondered why it hadn't been, when so many of his other books had. two nights ago, in my dream, i was on the movie set of the fog. now, i'm not sure if i was acting in it, or working as part of the crew, but i was in the grocery store, and it was foggy, and here comes tom cruise walking onto the set in a pair of overalls, the star of the show, ready to shoot a scene. later on that day i was talking to sarah. i told her about my dream. i said, again, "i wonder why they haven't made this into a movie yet," and she said, "maybe they have," and so i said "i'm gonna check on imdb." and there it was. coming out in three weeks. weird, eh?
was this one of my psychic dreams? or simple coincidence? or had my subconscious mind picked up on it somehow? maybe i saw a movie poster out of the corner of my eye? maybe i heard somebody talking about it in the background on the subway?
either way, this fog that i've been in for the last few weeks or months, well, it's time it lifted. i'm not sure how i'm going to do this. just start walking, battling whatever beasts lay hidden in the smoke, until i find a clearing? or just just blowing and waving my arms until the mists disperse? pray for me, there are demons, they've been coming for me for a long time, and i've let them, again, get too close. near enough to smell my fear and blood...