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Has-Lo Rappers have feelings too 'It's what we all would've put in a rap, but neva rapped it'. It's a rhyme from Has-Lo's new album 'In Case I Don't Make It', which was released on Mello Music Group last week. With a raw and emotive record, Philadelphian emcee/producer Has-Lo goes where not a lot of rappers would dare to go.

First of all, how much of the album is autobiographical?

I'd say about...70 to 80 percent. I drew a lot from my life but I mixed it with fictional elements. A song like 'Everything Is' is a reflection of my thoughts or my musings at the time. The title track 'In Case I Don't Make It' for instance, has shades of my life to flesh out the story but isn't a rhyming version of my high school experience. It's a character.

What's the best therapy to forget your sorrows: making beats or writing lyrics?

Both! Sometimes I'd rather turn my sorrow into lyrics, other times they don't need words...just a feeling to express them. An instrument, a kick/snare combo, a bassline. I may be able to tell you all you need to know about how I'm feeling in that rhythm. If you aren't musical though, writing a journal does help. It's good to get it out of your system.

How have you evolved as an artist between 2007, the year of your first album, and 2011 you think?

I've gotten more fearless. I've erased a lot of the self-imposed invisible rules that govern my genre. One of the worst things you can be as a musician sometimes is safe. There should be structure but good music should win over technicalities. No, it's not the 'proper' method. Does it sound good though? Does it feel like good music? Alright then.

Has being signed to Mello Music Group changed you as an artist or your view on publishing music?

Not in the context of making the music. In the context of how the public gets it, yes. There are so many factors that go into putting a record out that I had no clue about before. Artistically, Mello lets me be me though.

Growing up you listened to Bootcamp Click, Nas, Wu-Tang. Your beats seem very much influenced by that 'traditional' hip-hop, if you could call it that. You know, you take the drums, lay a string or a piano loop over it. But your lyrics are quite dark, psychological. Where did you get the inspiration to make this darker, more emotive kind of hip-hop?

I am deeply influenced by that music although I'm reluctant to label it 'traditional' you know? It's just good. But yeah, I was dealing with a lot of dark and personal and psychological things. On top of that, I'm an emotive person who doesn't believe that rappers aren't allowed to have feelings. I guess it just kind of happened. This isn't my only channel though (laughs). Everything won't be like this.

Did or do you listen to acts like Atmosphere, Sage Francis, who do not hesitate to share personal feelings, depressions with their listeners? Where or whom did you draw your inspiration from on the lyrical tip?

I respect what Atmosphere and Sage and those guys do, but I'm not really familiar with their catalogs. I drew my inspiration from Nas and Mos Def and guys like that. They can say really important things in a really elegant ways. Like Nas saying "a thug changes and love changes and best friends become strangers" or Mos to say "I don't need to pry, you don't need to lie, we ain't got to say it when it's written in the eye". The use of the language is beautiful. I'm a big Wu-head as well so there's a dash of that influence in there too.

Are rappers afraid to rap about taboos these days?

Oh absolutely. If almost anything you said could result in someone saying you're gay, over time you'd close yourself off. The fear of judgement is a powerful motivator. Insecurity is a diabolical prison.

The last few years we've been dealing with a few big disasters, earthquakes, tsunamis.to put it in the words of Marvin Gaye: 'where are we going?'

I don't know. I guess consumption changes everything. Where there is consumption, there is waste and by-products and the effects of abusing our resources. Everything is so...readily available. Not so easy to dispose of however. If everything has its limits, why not humans or the planet? We've forgotten moderation.

A lot of the upcoming producers seem to be looking up to J-Zone a lot, you too we believe?

Yes, I was influenced by J-Zone. He was a phenomenal producer. He was pretty dope on the mic too. His sample choices and chops were incredible; his drums were always on point and the 808's! His beats KNOCK.

What do you look for in a sample?

Hmm...sometimes it's a feeling. I love piano, strings, fat basses. I also love Moog and synthy things. I tend to lean toward things that either give me butterflies...or things that make me scrunch my face up. If I make a mean face we're on the right track. (laughs)

What was your first rap record?

It was either The Fat Boys 'Liez' 12" or L.L. Cool J's 'Radio' LP. The cassette! The L.L. joint was on cassette. I still have it somewhere.

What's next for you?

Next thing for me is my instrumental album. I'm trying to dig in and get that done. I'm going to try to do something cool with it. [This will be part of the MMG Instrumental Series and is titled "The Fictitious Laboratorium of..."]

How must a full instrumental album differ from a album with lyrics? What's the difference between the beats?

They don't always have to differ. It really depends on the presentation and what you're going for. Sometimes you need to add more with an instrumental album because you don't have the voice of the emcee. In an album with lyrics it's easier to have something be really stripped down because the rapper's voice is a really prolific instrument.

What's it that you like about Timbs?

I like the look of them. There were a few years where I didn't wear any other kind of shoe besides Timberlands. I got off of that but I still love them. I have a number of pairs, but I wouldn't call it a collection. Hopefully they'll start sending them to me! (laughs) Size 9 1/2.


I want to shout out everyone who bought the album! You all are buying into my dream right now and I appreciate it more than you know. Hope you guys continue to check for me. If you haven't checked out 'In Case I Don't Make It' I promise it won't let you down. Go get it! Peace!



POSTED 04|05|2011
conducted by cpf

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