featured interview

Keith Masters The Bioluminescent In 2000, Stretch Nyce, as he was known by then, moved from Chicago to New York in order to go to school. It turned out to be the school of hip-hop, because not much later he formed the group Rec Circle, released an album, then landed on the Backwoodz Studioz label, and eventually hooked up with a crew of talented, hungry and political-socially aware MC's, called The Reavers, who released their 'Terror Firm' record late 2005. One year later Keith Masters, as he is known by now, is readying his solo album 'Ghost City'.

Wasssup Keith Masters, introduce yourself to the world...

What up, this is Keith Masters reppin the Backwoodz Studioz by way of Ill-Town.

Tell us some of the key points of your career up till now?

Key points for me would be linking up with the people that I did and being a part of the most gifted conglamerant of emcees that I believe has ever been formed. Being able to record, perform and be featured on a release with Vordul Mega of Cannibal Ox has been an incredible opportunity for me. Opening for Cannibal Ox, R.A. The Rugged Man, Immortal Technique, etc. has also been great. I just put out my first solo EP/mix tape entitled ?Bioluminescence? and have received some dope feedback. Because of that release, I've been able to get a lot more exposure, through digital sales, ringtones and performances.

Could you tell us how The Reavers album came to life?

The Reavers was one of those projects where it already starts off as a great thing, and just rapidly becomes better and better. More and more emcees became interested in the concept and the track recorded and really stepped their game up. We knew that we wanted to do something that would not only leave a resounding impression on the hip-hop community, but also on ourselves. The more people came together, the more work that was put into the project, and we as emcees all vibed with the same goal in mind. We all get along, and share the mentality of brothers, which made it easy to put this project together.

You only featured on four songs of the album, what?s your role exactly in the Reavers?

My role? Hmmm...I wouldn't exactly say that any of us have roles. As an emcee, I tend to shift styles quite often. My perspective is very multi-dimensional, so when I write rhymes they come out different all the time. That's what you can expect from me...everything. Outside of that, my role is to make sure that we, The Reavers, are recognized for our diversity and outstanding lyricism. How that becomes accomplished? Staying on top of my game and always holding down my fam.

Do you look at The Reavers as just a project or a stepping stone for your solo carreer?

?Terror Firma? is absolutely a tool to boost my solo career; I believe all 10 of us would say the same.But it's also more than that, it's more than just a project. We're not trying to save the world or nothing, but we are placing a voice to the many unheard, frustrated youths that we see and talk to everyday. There's a war going on in the streets, and even more off our own soil, and that's something that needs to be addressed.

When is your debut album ?Ghost City? album due?

You can expect ?Ghost City? to be released early 2007.

Who can we expect on it as for features and production?

I've already done around 23 tracks now, and I've been blessed with a lot of fresh joints from low-radar producers. Definitely expect some heat from the Backwoodz All Starz 007 and Dr. Monokrome. Also did a few with Belief. Of course The Reavers will be on it, so expect the usual suspects. Right now we're working out some details for some really big producers and guests...so I'mma just have to keep you in suspense for those (laughs).

How did someone from Chicago end up in a group from NY?

Well, Chicago is my heart and soul always. I left Chicago in 2000 to go to school in New York, which is where I met a few of the people that I work with musically now. Edge and I were roommates and became a part of a group Rec Circle with a couple other cats that we met. That's really where I got my start. We did our thing for a couple years, put out an album, ?That's How It Is? and then the crew dissipated. Fortunately, that's when the mastermind behind The Reavers was first forming his label, Backwoodz Studioz, and we all connected and added a professional relationship to the already standing friendship.

Do you believe in the revolution?

?The Revolution? is an interesting term. It's interesting because it groups a lot of different spheres of change into one. We need to change how we govern ourselves, we need to change our political structure, we need to change the racial boundaries in our society. They all require precision, care, and a bunch of time to form a way in which the change can be implemented. Also, revolution generally involves bloodshed, and if that's the case, whose blood needs to be spilled in order to spark the fire? It's a very complicated topic and personally, I don't think things will change much, except for the worse. Do I believe in it, though? Yeah, cause anything is possible.

Why did you release an EP/mix tape first instead of a full album?

For one, I wanted to have something that I could have fun with first without exerting a crazy amount of energy, and still get the name out there a little. A full length album is a big gamble and you're putting a lot on the line, so you gotta make sure the timing is right. It was the perfect time to have something small that represented one side of my capabilities as a musician.

What?s the meaning behind the title ?Bioluminescence??

Bioluminescence is defined as the emission of phosphorous light by living organisms, such as the firefly. To me, that means to be noticed by your own doing, to shine on your own. That's what the album meant to me. For the first time, I made things happen for myself. I made the connections, I wrote the rhymes, I did it myself. Of course I had help, my friend, manager and engineer Phantom Power devoted a lot of time and energy to help me put this out. Everyone needs a little help, but for the first time, no one was telling me, how this needed to be done, or where to put that chorus or whatever. That was a good feeling, to be able make my own shine, so I felt the title was appropriate.

Does the music on ?Bioluminescence? differ to the music on the album?

Yeah, it does. Not to say that I didn't put work into ?Bioluminescence? because I did, but the rhymes on that release was simply on some straight spittin type shit, you know? That, for me, is really easy to do. I've been working my ass off on ?Ghost City? because I want this to be the most relevant, astounding piece of hip-hop to ever be dropped by a debut artist. The beats are gonna be crazy progressive, and the rhymes are gonna be deep. The concept is bananas, it reflects my view of the future for us a nation as well as a race.

You say ?progressive?, we?ve also read it?s going to be ?post-apocalyptic? can you give us some explanation with that?

Well, I believe that we are doomed to be wiped out as a race at some point in time, whether it?ll be by our own hand or by natural causes. With ?Ghost City? I strive to paint the picture of an apocalypse brought on by our own ignorance and neglect, where the survivors are forced to battle the very machines that were built in order to protect them from each other. We are a very destructive people, and if you've noticed that we are placing more and more faith into robotics and technology, then you might have thought about how we wouldn't survive without them. I thought it would be interesting to see what would happen if those very machines turned on us.

Please speak your peace on the current state of hip-hop...

Hip-hop is music like anything else and is gonna go through some dry spells. There's not much that I'm really excited about now, and I feel that the music is becoming stagnant. The ATL, Casio-board beat shit is gettin boring, so i'm just waiting for the next gimmick to pass through. To me there's two levels to hip-hop music: one level where you just wanna hear a hot beat and dance to, and then another level where you wanna listen to what people's perspective on various topics are. Hip-hop is alright, but we need to make sure that we don't focus too much on what I call ?surface music? and try to balance it out with some informative, relevant music.

So do you feel like you have a mission in hip-hop?

I feel like my mission is to open people's minds to where we are headed as a nation and try to make some changes. Those changes have to start with self and hopefully that would expand outwardly.

Did you connect with Vordul through The Reavers or did you meet earlier?

Vordul and I met through another emcee a little before The Reavers project was conceived.

What Def Jux artist do you wanna work with in the future?

I have always respected El-P's work ethic and musicianship. I would like to work with him in the near future.

How?s it like being on a label as Backwoodz Studios?

Backwoodz Studioz is a great label to work through. We are all friends, which is very important in an industry such as this. I am given full control over the work I produce and backed with a lot support.

Are you planning any label moves, Def Jux, Nature Sounds?

I think we are always interested in working with other labels for various projects, but Backwoodz is my home.

When did you start rapping?

I was rapping way back when I had my Fisher Price tape deck, and I would record myself singing and rapping and what not. My brother recorded himself rapping over the Kid N Play track, ?2 Hype? and that really inspired me...that shit was hilarious. I started really writing though when I was in high school, and I would freestyle on lunch breaks with my dogs. Then as a freshman in college, I got my official start with Rec Circle.

What was the first rap record you bought?

First rap record I bought was Kid N Play's ?Funhouse?. It was like a soundtrack to ?House Party? (the movie with both Kid and Play starring in, ed.) kinda...but really it wasn't. It was weird.

What rap artists are you listening to right now?

Mainly I'm bumping that ?Fishscale?...Ghost is my nigga. Other than that, I'm listening to a lot of beats right now that are being sent to me.

Do you listen to other music outside hip-hop? What artists?

I listen to everything, from Stevie to Saigon to The Strokes. I really like soul, I get down with jazz and mostly everything else. I'm a musician at heart, and have studied music for years, so I have a deep appreciation for any genre of music that is thoughtful and sounds good.

Who put Chicago on the map? Twista, Common or Kanye West?

Officially Common came out first, so he did bring some attention to Chicago rap. Probably, you'd have to say Kanye put Chi-town on the map since his debut. Because of him, there's mad Chicago mix tapes out and all types of ra ra about Chicago hip-hop. I got mad respect for Common...he's one of my favorite artists.

What are your future plans?

Future plans include releasing ?Ghost City?, goin triple plat, and coppin some diamond wave caps, yo...word. Kidding. But on the real, I just want to continue making good music, I'm in the process of forming a live band of musicians to tour with. I'd like the chance to work with some more well-known artists that I admire and respect, so hopefully I'll earn that opportunity.

Shout outs?

I wanna shout out Platform8470, my mother and my brother, billy woods, Power, The Reavers, and everybody copping the album and supporting my movement, for real. Peace, I'm ghost.


POSTED 05|01|2006
conducted by cpf

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