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Phashara (Beatmonstas) Walks his Own Path 'We talk about how bad some so-called hip-hop is, but we don't contribute to a solution. We don’t give those that come after us anything to aspire to anymore.' And so Phashara, one third and founding member of the Beatmonstaz crew, does just that. Bring a solution, an alternative to the 'corporate' game, where 'the only code respected is big money'. How? With 'good ole' boombap beats -think Buckwild or Beatminerz- and heart-felt lyrics. On his second solo album 'Pathways', Phashara, residing in L.A. but originally from Chicago, connects with Sadat X, Finale and Illmind, a.o....

Sadat X is featured on your new album. How did it feel to rap with Sadat X about the honour of emceeing?

It certainly was an honor. This was a great moment for me to be able to collab with a cat like Sadat X of the legendary Brand Nubian. He's probably one of the most recognizable voices in hip-hop in my opinion. When I heard that classic Sadat X verse over that Noble Dru track, I knew it would be a stand-out joint. It was spot on to the concept we discussed. See, actually the 'code' we are speaking of is the code of the streets in contrast to being an otherwise peaceful dude. The code of the streets will have you locked in on survival. No telling what you might do when pushed. Like Sadat says 'I aint hard, I'll harden'...classic. But the cuts on the hook sort of spun the concept to have a twist on the code of emceeing. There is a real parallel there. It's cool that you got that.

Maybe there should actually be a rap code, or an industry code at least, some rules where rappers or labels should stick to. Agree?

Yeah, there should be a code to everything we do. Whatever happened to honor? Even if it's amongst thieves. I think hip-hop is the code. Simple rules have long been established like 'don't bite!' What ever happened to originality? What ever happened to taking pride in the art of rhyme and the culture of hip-hop? Yeah I think we know the code but the game is corporate now and the only code they respect is big money.

‘I'm not thinking Orange County when I say I'm OC.’ It's funny because before I heard that line, we linked your flow, voice with Omar Credle's, although you probably meant something else... (laughs)

Well knowing the skill and legend that is O.C., it's an honor to think that I could conjure the comparison. In context, what I was referring to when I said ‘I'm not thinking Orange County when I say I'm OC. From Chicago we don't know bout OG's, I'm from land of hustlers, pimps and gang bang...’, I was attempting to address the contrast between slang terminologies in the two cities where I dwell. I'm from Chicago but I live in L.A. 'OC' where I'm from means 'out of control' but where I live it refers to Orange County.

Similarly OG aka original gangster was not a thing we said coming up in the Chi. We grew up around hustlers, pimps and gang bangers. Same dudes in L.A. are referred to as OG's. Just in the fit of rhyme, I drew a few comparisons in my way of word play. Although at this point hip-hop and pop culture has made the whole world a small community. So an 'OG' is an 'OG' wherever you go.

So you now live in L.A. But are you still keeping your ear to the Chicago scene? Underground rappers are often displeased with the lack of media attention. How's the situation in the city of Common and Kanye West?

The situation as I know it in Chicago is like a bubble. It's its own microcosm probably like anywhere else. If you aren't careful you can find yourself with skewed perspective. Cats like Kanye and Common found themselves finding success outside of the city before feeling real support from the crib. But part of the issue is that Chi is so far removed from where decisions are made. You know... too far removed from the entertainment capitals and the so-called real shot callers. The long and short of it is that people get shine when taste makers take notice and take interest. They just so happen to be elsewhere. Also I don't think we have the same sense of support and sense of community that other places have for our own until one of our own is accepted elsewhere. It's a weird situation. But it's home, man. I rep Chicago relentlessly. And I have great respect for cats like Savant, Dee Jackson, Rashid Hadee, Thaione Davis, Contriband, All Natural and on and on. The cool thing is that I think we have some of the best untapped talent in the world. Like Little Brother said 'as long as we don’t blow we’ll always be the next big thing'.

There's a lot of things you’re not happy about, as you mention on the track 'Nobody Move', if you look at the world right now what are, straight at the spot, the three things that make you 'unhappy'?

Well, I don't know. I just felt the need to express what I was feeling in the moment. It's not that I'm actually an unhappy or depressive cat. But I think all in all we have some particular things that we overlook and let slide that we should probably be more critical of.

First, I think we talk about how bad some so-called hip-hop is, but we don't contribute to a solution. We don’t give those that come after us anything to aspire to anymore.

Secondly, it makes me particularly unhappy to see my young brothers and sisters killing each other. It's like psychological warfare. I can't imagine why we would be so hell bent on killing our own reflections beside a deeply rooted self-hate.

Thirdly, there's institutional racism. Where do we start with that one? This is the type of racism that allows a 17-year old kid to be murdered by some so called Neighborhood Watch Captain. This is the type of racism that allows that guy to go free without a slither of a charge against him for 45 days. Then you find out his dad is a judge and his record has been expunged several times over, and on, and on, and on,... and he would’ve otherwise walked free for good had people not stood up about it. These occurrences -with some variance- are not so uncommon. Most of these things go on unchallenged. That’s due to institutional racism. The silent, yet deeply, embedded cultural racism. Overall, these are huge issues and I'm just one man with a few thoughts and the gift of rhyme. So I speak.

On 'Sunshine', you still sound critical, but a lot more positive, hopeful and willing to fight...

I write how I'm feeling at the moment when I feel inspired. 'Sunshine' was inspired by that Passion HiFi track. When I heard it, I was on my morning commute and dreaming big. So right there on the train I started writing 'Sunshine'. It's like my own self-prescribed motivation. I envision the contrast between the hood and the good life and how enriched one’s life would be for having experience both. That's what I strive for. They say it ain't where you're from, it's where you're at. But I believe it's both like yin and yang. That balance is important. Your past gives relevance to you future. So yeah, on 'Sunshine' -you are right- I was rather critical but I was dreaming and feeling inspired to do better and get better things out of life. I hope that came across in the song.

‘Pathways’ is the title of the record. How difficult do you find it to take a path, a direction, a choice in life?

I've never found it hard at all to walk my own path. I'm not the follower type. I live by that. I don't try to fit where I can't. Even in music. Back in the day, there was a lot more individuality in the game. Now, popular artists are one of a million widgets pumped from the same machine. My preference is to be happy being me. If I walk my own path and people don't like me, I'm cool with that. Love me or leave me alone. I'm good either way. I'll still be me.

Finale, who's also featured on your record, said in an interview with us: 'I'd advise you to think and plan carefully before you make that leap of faith and quit your day job to start rapping'. Are you planning a lot? And what are your plans for your rap career?

My plan is always to plan my work and work my plan. That said, I only want to make good music. If people begin to pick up on it and it leads to bigger and better things then that's dope. No doubt. But ultimately I just want to make dope, meaningful music that people can enjoy. As for my plans for my rap career, if I can sustain and eventually elevate my lifestyle by way of doing music full-time while having total control and ownership of my work and my content, I'm all in. I have demands that go against everything that 'Big Brother Music Industry' requires before investing in your career. You know what I mean? I’m a grown ass man with responsibilities first and foremost. I’m not big on dependence and gambling. So I won’t hold my breath. (laughs) None the less, I plan to continue to make music as I always have...by my own rules. I am not wishing on a star and chasing the shine. I'm more interested in sharpening my craft and growing as an artist. The rest will find me if it's all meant to be.

Finale also mentioned: ‘I'm still on the road to what I consider success’. So what exactly is your definition of 'success'?

It's similar to what I just described. Having creative control over my music and becoming known for quality work. Everything else is gravy. If I was viewed as a puppet with no control and people knew me and loved me for it, I would feel trapped and super unhappy. At the end of the day I gotta be free to be me. You know what? Maybe I will feel successful when I can make songs that reflect some level of intelligence and the masses lock in.

Are you still rappin for the same reasons as when you started rappin?

I still rap because I enjoy it. But I started out wanted to be the illest dude in the room. I started out aspiring to become a star. Today, it's more therapeutic and focused. I write about my experiences or I’ll write from an editorial sort of perspective rather than from a place where there is some tale of cool that I think others will respect.

As far as production: the snares on your record are straight solid and all present. It's a good vessel for your delivery. Is it coincidence or do you keep an eye on the fact that there's a slapping snare in your beats?

Wow thanks. That's funny that you mention that. My guy Savant -from the 'Heart Strings' collab- mentioned that on Twitter the other day. I don't know, it wasn't a conscious decision to make all the snares crack and pop like that. I just go with what I like at the moment when making beats. It's interesting to realize that there seems to be an apparent sound. This is the album where I got much deeper into sound design and mixing my own songs. I’ve learned a lot about what I like and how to make it happen consistently. I like that old boom bap where the kicks bump and the snares crack. So yeah I guess I do aim for that.

What's some of your fav instruments from your studio gear?

Without a doubt my Akai MPC 5000. I guess this could be part of the reason the snares bang like they do. I love the 5k so much that I customized it and blogged about it. I painted it yellow and black. It was inspired -in my mind- by Bumble Bee from the Transformers but some cats see it and think RZA’s MV. I'm a MPC 5000 advocate in a way. To tell you the truth; in a time when there is so many people using software I think the sound of real hardware is why the album thumps the way it does.

If somebody would put you for a dilemma and you'd had to choose: making albums solo or in group...what would it be?

If it were with regards to the creative control, I'd say solo. But if it were with regards to less work while remaining productive, I'd say group. Being in a group forces you to compromise but it also allows you to share the load. I love both situations for different reasons.

What’s your fav brand of coffee?

There is an organic breakfast blend and a New Orleans chicory blend both from Trader Joe's. Oh... can I say Trader Joe's? I hope so because I just said it twice.


With those and a couple of other ingredients I've perfected the best white chocolate latte with a touch of Mexican vanilla. One of my favorite things to do on a weekend morning is brew a fresh pot and make beats. Next time you are around my way, coffee is on me. You'll love it.


So what music do you have with that?

'Pathways' by some cat named Phashara of course. I haven’t stopped listening since it was mastered. Also, since I use iCloud, every single album I ever downloaded both legally and otherwise is available on my iPhone. What I've been rocking lately is a lot of beat albums like 24 hour-beat tape, Boonie Mayfield's 'Black Koolade' and Betamonstas’ yet unreleased beat album entitled 'Make Beats Not War'.

What’s next for Phashara?

Well, when is Platform 8470 going to hook up a show for me and mines to come through Belgium and rock? That’s what’s next… (laughs) But for real… I have been making some sample-heavy soulful beats for my next album called 'Chic Flick'. We - Beatmonstas- have started trading beats amongst one another for the next Beatmonstas album too. We have a collab with Craig G coming up on the Beatmonstas project. But my next frontier is to produce for other cats. I've been so into beatmaking and there is so much more I want to do with that aspect of the game. I’ll have a joint that I produced on Noble Dru’s upcoming album as well. I'm also about to launch a Kick starter project for the preservation of vinyl. I will raise money to print up the 'Pathways' album on vinyl in exchange for executive producer credit to the larger backers. But in the immediate future I'm all in and focused on promoting and making more video's for the new 'Pathways' album.


POSTED 04|13|2012
conducted by cpf

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