featured interview

Breez Evahflowin Breez Deez Treez Honest and bold, Breez Evahlowin opens up his soul towards the listener, on his latest effort ‘Breez Deez Treez’, just recently released through Domination Recordings. A few years ago, the founding member of the Stronghold collective, moved out of the city and began exploring his inner self in the woods of Asheville, North Carolina, ending up with an album on which Breez shares with us his struggles in life and music, thoughtfully, perceptive and accurate…

Tell us about the way you got in touch with rap music?

There was no such thing as rap when I was born. But I guess at around age 7 I started seeing signs of hip-hop everywhere I went. Eventually Rap Music got in touch with me. I grew up just below the Southern border of Harlem. We were poor, I spent most of my time in Harlem, shopping, working, teaching. Exposure to hip-hop was inevitable to me. It was like nuclear aftermath and I lived less than 2 miles from the epicentre. It really called out to me when I was 10, but I didn't start rhymin' till 19.

It is known that you was sneaking-out of bed late to tape rap music from the radio?

(laughs) You read that somewhere, huh? For those who didn't: I used to sneak out of bed when I was 10-11 years and tape either Mr. Magic or Red Alert. We couldn't afford the stereo with the cassette deck, so I had to prop a tape recorder on a speaker and smother the whole thing so the sound wouldn't leak out and wake my mom. I guess it played a part in forming my appreciation for the music. It's trying to remember that feeling of joy when I would listen to my tapes the next day. I try to remember it so I can recognize the best in it where ever it goes from here.

So were you a heavy rap collector?

Indeed. Tapes for days. Going to see Tribe and De La at Studio 54. KRS-One in Central Park. Signed EPMD-posters from their in-store at Tower. Kool G Rap at Mars. Biz Markie spinnin records at Redzone. Kid Capri tape. Rock Steady anniversaries at Rock Steady Park! Cypher's in the West Village. Teaming up with a young travelling rapper to battle another crew, who at dinner introduces himself as Sage Francis. C-Rayz Walz battling Apathy for about 10 rounds on Koolout.com. I could go on.

'I'm not lookin for a rap job, I want a hip-hop career!' you say. On your record you're contemplating on what you have reached so far. How do you overlook your career until now?

I've been very lucky. A lot of right place/right time in my career, for this I give thanks. But at the risk of sounding ungrateful, if I could have changed anything, I would have been more business-minded and less party-minded on the road. 5 or 6 years ago I remember when I invited an up-and-coming Immortal Technique to tour with myself and Babbletron through the South East. Here I am, no record to my name in years, popularity waning for the third time and at the end of the night I'm still like 'Where's the party?' Meanwhile after every gig Immortal Technique is like 'Here, sign my e-list' with a box of CD's under his arm after every set, hustlin like a madman! His focus and dedication have paid off for him in spades. It is unfortunate that I can be incredibly lazy when it comes to the work side of being a recording artist. I just enjoy the creative process so much more than the business side. I seriously need to find decent representation in order to resolve that. I also probably could have been a little bit easier on my managers, all 6 of them.

But as a co-host of Hot97 in the mid-nineties, couldn't you rely on a thorough and extensive network?

It wasn't really like that. It was late Sunday night, no one important stayed in the building on the weekends. The Furious Five were not getting a lot to do that show. They were doing it for the love and the exposure. But it was still a dream come true. Through the show I did get to link with Freedom Williams of C n C Music Factory-fame, who was starting his own label. I got to rock on wax for the first time through that, worked on a few other releases but after a few years it all dissolved. This was the nature of the game at that time. It was 1995-6 nowhere near as many releases as there are now. At labels it was 90% development and not even a single till you reached 95%. I personally knew 5-6 MC's over the years signed to Def Jam whose work has still never seen the light of day.

Some years later, you made some freestyle appearances on MTV too.

It was great for the exposure and also, as a bonus, I got to destroy mini-me's of industry icons. The pressure was really heavy though and I was getting stressed out at trying to win every week. I spoke with a lot of industry insiders back stage they kept tellin' me to try to work on more street shit, the game was very hood then, and I was not. The crew of the show was way cool and considerate, but the on-air talent...with the exception of Sway, who was always down to earth. It's honestly hard not to be prideful about it. In all truth, I brought battling to Viacom. I mean this in the most literal sense. When they had their first casting call, they reached out to me and I brought them their first champion Big Zoo among others and then went on the show to set an undisturbed record of wins on that network. The same crew took it and ran to BET and started 'Freestyle Fridays' on 106 and park. This in turn opens the door to Fight Klub, Smack and so on and so on.

Your latest album is less battle, more introspective, but then again you're kind of battling with feelings, searching, and digging up your emotions, did your battling history help you in creating introspective lyrics?

Yes, my battling history did help. Battlers are fighters at heart. The best battle lines are the ones that dig deep at your opponent while simultaneously getting a roar out the crowd. In this case my opponent was myself and the digs were directed inwards. I'm also going for silence instead of a roar. I really want people to listen this time.

Your song 'Forsaken' appeared on Kenny Dope 'Hip Hop Forever' compilation. How did that come about?

I found about that way late, but I was totally cool with it. He's a respected name in urban music, I was honoured. It didn't seem to boost my career at the time. In my ignorance I had no idea at the range of listeners this would expose me to or how this now legendary compilation would stand the test of time. .

If you had to choose a song of yours yourself to put on a new 'Hip Hop Forever' compil, which one would it be?

'Dream', produced by my boy DJ Tweak, one of the heaviest minds I've ever built with. This dude would spend hours blazin up and droppin all sorts of wild science on me. We would sit and build for hours on end. He finally hit me with a beat after months talking about it. He played this beat, cracked open a Backwoods; 3-4 hours later, all of the months I had gotten to know him were compressed to 4:54. Later on, we were lucky enough to have it touched by DJ Rob Swift who added cuts and used it on his 'Wargames' LP.

You became known in the pre-Myspace/Facebook/any other social network site-era, you re-entered the scene in the 'midst' of its popularity, how do you try to cope with those phenomenons?

It's what we worked towards. A-level playing field. Show and prove, may the best man win if you're up for it. Sadly in this day and age you also get to see what the people really want to see; babies laughing, dogs, cats and accidents. They love fools also. All of which I am not. I sincerely appreciate my fans though. They dig deep. I don't really cope, I put up a page, accept friend requests, but I don't use fan adding automated software, that's just lame.

Did you keep in contact with producers, musicians through the Internet while you were taking a break from it all?

Absolutely, it was my only way to keep sane. I had to do music to help me deal with the changes around me and the stress of my situation.

During that break did you listen to any rap music?


Then what did you listen to?

Beats, Bob Marley, Paul Simon, got hip to Jerry Garcia. My girl's a hippie, she exposes me to a wide variety of music. We would go out to the Orange Peel in Asheville NC and see Taj Mahal or Toots and the Maytals. I kinda caught up on the history of music I should've been up on if I hadn't been obsessed with hip-hop my whole life.

How did you prepare your 'comeback'?

Is that what they're calling it? I don't know. I just feel and record nowadays, I try not to over-think it.

What were the reasons for stepping back into the game?

I honestly didn't know I left the game, just the city. I've always been there for any who wanted what I had to offer. This time around I lucked out and, with the help of DJ Fisher and Domination Recordings, we got the thumbs up from the major players in the hip-hop-webisphere. I guess the attention they've offered has made this all seem like a comeback, but it really isn't.

How do you feel about the eventual result of the record now?

Not to sound too corny, but it does feel like a weight has been lifted. Every release is a release of all sorts of pent-up tensions and emotions. It's an incredible relief which will allow me to start focusing on what's next.

The title is a nice inner rhyme alliteration, any deeper meaning to it?

No, Breez (Evahflowin) Deez (Noah D, sometimes called Deezlee), and Treez (Davey Trees). Gimmicky, yet effective, booyah!!

You put your whole music catalogue on a Podcast show, how did that go down?

John Henry Radio was actually another off-shoot of starting the 'Breez Deez Treez' project. Noah D, besides being a kick-ass producer, also happens to be a kick-ass web developer. He allowed me the space to upload my shows on his server and set me up for podcasting via iTunes. I have no idea how many eventual subscribers we had but, last I checked about a year into it, we had over a thousand. I was stoked at this! And it was an amazing experience for me personally reliving over 13 years of recording and releasing music. I really got to take a look at my body of work and get a good sense for my strengths and weaknesses. The goal was 30 episodes; I went about 32 when you count all the extras. I'm currently re-broadcasting them from evahflowin.com for the latecomers. Still got some really good reviews up on iTunes. I may do it again in another 13 years.

What was the first rap record you bought?

It was either 'Rapper's Delight' or Rappin' Rodney (no respect, no respect).

What are some of the (rap) records you have in your iPod right now?

'Illmatic', Troublemakers - 'Remixes Release Robots', LL Cool J's 'Mama Said Knock You out', Homeboy Sandman - 'There is no Spoon', Cee Reed - 'The EP', Grey Matter - 'The Problem'.

Do you have some new releases coming up next?

I'm going to drop a free EP, as MC's do in this modern age of webMC'ing. It'll be about 6-8 songs deep, featuring some rare unreleased BDT material as well as Davey Trees on the Troublemaker songs that weren't remixed on the remix LP. Still putting the finishing touches to a couple of other LP's I started in the mountains. I'm also going to continue working with the producer Khrome, trying to follow up on the Troublemakers project with Dirty Dutch and finally going to release the 'John Henry Returns' LP with producer Wally What which features the song 'Land of the Gun' with Immortal Technique.

Looking forward to all that! Thanks Breez!


POSTED 09|01|2009
conducted by Cpf

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