featured interview

Moka Only No cream, no sugar, moka only... Vancouver-based producer/rapper Moka Only’s latest album ‘Lowdown Suite 2: The Box’ dropped just recently of Swiss label Feelin Music. And, with an incredible amount of releases already on his sleeve, there’s more to come from Moka Only in the next few months. Always busy, it’s hard to keep up track with this millipede, but we got the chance to sit down with him…

We’ll start with mathematics: how many albums have you released already?

Ok, you may not believe but I’m not 100 percent certain how many albums I’m at....off the top of my head. I think I like not knowing. Makes me feel like some kind of weird nut to address it but truthfully if an artist really loves music so much then why would he or she not want to do as much as they could? Let’s just say 40 album projects. Could be more though!

Could you, at this moment, imagine that your rigid work ethics and extensive work flow will ever cool down, that you won’t remain ‘a stain in the game’?

I can’t see myself ever stopping my music-making. It’s just in me. It’s what I AM. Now whether people will still care, that’s another question. But I’m quite capable and willing to go strictly instrumental if my raps start to suck. I’m not huge on my own raps. I view them as garnish, really. I’m more hyped on my ‘Ron Contour’ character I do. You are gonna start seeing more of him. That nigga is C-R-A-Z-Y! Something kinda off about him.

‘I live in 1993, cause it’s better there’: does hip-hop anno 2009 need to take an example of hip-hop anno 1993?

1993 to me has as much to do with nostalgia as anything else at that time. It was an age of wide-eyed innocence in many ways for me because I was new to the game then. I felt that in that period there was more room for ‘skills’ to be noticed. But it’s whatever. When I say I still 'live there' it is partially true because the illusion of life is whatever you wish it to be.

On the first ‘Lowdown Suite’ you were playing the trumpet, on this album you also play some bits, sounds good…

It’s like I said...I can see myself going all instrumental one day and I’m about to start studying with a trumpet tutor again just to get better because I’m not a great player. I’m gonna switch to flugelhorn which has a warmer sound yet is essentially the same as a trumpet. Just has a wider and more gradual bell shape. Same keys.

There’s a lot of things that happened to you. On a lyrical tip, this is one of your most negative albums, especially in the beginning. Although the music of the album is quite ‘summery’, ‘uplifting’? Was the music purely therapeutic? Is this the way you can forget about trouble mostly?

Hey, glad you noticed the negativity on the first half of the album. It was intentional to lay it out that way. If you read the liner notes I explain how I wanted the album to go from dark to light and that’s’ what I tried to achieve. It’s not a heavy concept but just gave it a lil’ extra direction. I like the contrast of negative lyrics over uplifting beats. It’s an oxymoron. I’m no moron though.

We thought you never left the studio..?

Well I do leave the studio. I have to tour often so I soak up more life in that way. But yo…there’s always shit to talk about. Even if I was a real hermit I have had enough life experience to keep the stories and vibes coming.

There are songs made in different periods, how much does this album actually reflect what happened in the last year? How do you select these songs and decide to put em on this kind of record?

Yeah, even with the songs that are from different dates on the album, it still feels like the pattern of the past year...more so in vibes. Does that make any sense? Pardon, sometimes I’m not that clear. I just select what feels right. It’s not too conceptual…just based on feeling. I don’t like to overthink things otherwise the albums would take forever.

You’re mostly rappin about the small things in life (being bored, eatin this and that,…) that often mostly matter though), would you ever see yourself rappin about politics?

I don’t think I will talk politics because everything in one's life is subject to change and I don’t want to end up lookin like a hypocrite for changing views. But then again I don’t really care. I keep my political leanings out of music and just talk about the little good and/or boring things that make up the fabric of life. It’s what I do. I don’t think its mind-blowing or anything but really, how many other rap guys do you see doing that. I just want to do what I want to do. We as artists all have that opportunity to be who we really are OR to create stories in another character. For the most part I like talking about the little things that matter that people overlook...in my own dialect though.

Bootie Brown of The Pharcyde is featured on the album ànd there’s an album of him and you in the making…

Me and Bootie Brown’s song on ‘The Box’ is actually a remix of that song and my vocal take is an alternate take so it’s not really the same song. Just a different approach to it. I was just fuckin around with a beat and slipped it under the vocals for something to do and it felt right. We’ve recorded a bunch of other stuff and in fact have a brand new song together on my ‘Airport 3’ album. Google that, people! Unless you’ve heard ‘Airport 3’ already. We have done a few shows over the last decade and change where I was opening for Pharcyde and rubbed shoulders but really I’m not certain when our working came up. Just one day I noticed that I was working with Bootie Brown. (laughs) Seriously. It’s just came to be. And now we are working on a lil project together. Brown is dope, Pharcyde is dope. There is NO reason why Pharcyde can’t be as ill as they ever were in peoples’ eyes. Hip-hop isn’t old enough to dictate whether or not someone has ‘finished their run’ -fuck that- just keep going if it’s in your heart. I’m 35! Shit, don’t see me slowing down. I love it to pieces still.

If someone says "Lowdown Suite 2...The Box" is ‘one of Moka Only’s best albums to date’, how do you respond to that?

Then I just think thank you. To me it just sounds like something someone would say without putting much thought into it but I take it as a compliment. At least they didn’t say it was wack. Fuck, it would SUCK to be wack. Who knows, I’m sure I’m wack to some people. I just don’t care enough to dwell on it. I enjoy what I do so that matters first and I’m not being cocky about that, just stating how I see it.

And if Okayplayer states ‘the end result is phenomenal production. Phe-nom-en-al’, a quote from the same reviewer who said ‘I bullied 2007’s ‘Vermilion for sounding like one big Dilla masquerade’?

(laughs) When I saw that guy’s review of ‘Vermillion’, it seemed to me like he didn’t REALLY listen to the album. It’s like I’ve said before: ‘If niggas have samples and dirty drums these days somebody will ALWAYS bring up Dilla’. Look at it this way; it’s a benchmark but still I don’t really give two shits what I get compared to. Everybody is free to have an opinion. I would like reviewers to take it upon themselves to listen more comprehensively but I guess they have the job of having to wade through shit all the way up to their ears often so they may give something the ‘express review’ meaning play the first few bars of every track and make their statement. I appreciate that he mentioned now he is going back to 'connect the dots' and brush up on my shit. That shows he lent an honest and open ear to the new album. I am thankful he reviewed both albums regardless because any press is press. I like you guys though. You always do things the right way, big ups!

How did you get with Swiss label Feelin Music?

Honestly Chief hollered at me on Myspace asking me to do a rap over one of his beats. Right out of the blue. Now speaking of having to wade through shit up to one's ears often I get people telling me they want to collab and to listen to their music and often I feel it sucks dirtballs. And then sometimes it’s worth checking out. I went on a whim and looked all through his Myspace page and it was amazing! Chief is mad gifted and has a great ear and a great vision for his work and his label and I wish Feelin Music success. I did one song with him (‘Felt Before’, from ‘Carrots and Eggs’) and he sent me more beats to hear and I actually asked HIM if I could do an album for his label! So that’s how that happened. We will continue to work together.

Are you considering the fact that this might mean your European fan base will grow?

I want my Europe fan base to grow because Europeans really seem to value music highly. Good support.

How many times a year do you take the ferry? Where to?

I have to take a ferry to go visit my parents on Vancouver Island or if I have shows there. But here in BC, it’s a very extensive ferry system. The largest in the world! And some of the biggest ferry ships too. There are tons of islands nearby with towns on them that require car ferries plus the weather on Georgia straight in BC isn’t too treacherous in the winter as other places so the water isn’t too rough. It’s like mini- cruises for next to nothing.

What’s your favourite flavour of coffee?

I just like good old coffee, Regular Joe, but Columbian and Ethiopian blends are some of my favourites.

Imagine someone who still got to get into the music of Frank Zappa, which of his albums would you suggest?

‘Overnite Sensation’ or ‘Apostrophe’. They both have a bit of everything out of his styles.

When we last spoke, you mentioned to us that you bought more rap now than ever…

When I said I buy more rap now I think I meant that I go back and re-purchase albums from the past that I’ve lost. I’m still keeping my ear out though. Some rappers are good (laughs). Oooh, the new Mos Def! Yup!

Fried rice…are you a fan of Chinese food or is it out of necessity?

Fried rice…hmmm…I don’t know why I even said that in that song. It was a lot of freestyle stuff really. Fried rice was just the first thing I thought of. The hook was off the top of my head. Nothin wild. I don’t eat Chinese food often, maybe once or twice a year.

What’s next for Moka?

Ok! Next for Moka is the ‘Mista Mista’ project with Brady, ‘The Nope’ project with PSY (which has been done for two years now), me and Bootie Brown’s album and a whole lot of Ron Contour. I have like four or five Ron Contour albums in the chamber and plan to record another ten Ron Con albums this summer. It’s gonna be the summer of Ron! Oh, speaking of which –yeah- on Domination records which is putting out ‘The Nope’. I also have the album titled ‘The Summer of Ron’. That Ron Contour album will be out in August. There will be a Ron Contour Myspace page soon too. Ron is my -uh- first cousin, I –ummm- just do his beats.


Hmmm, shout-outs –uhhh- I’m not much of a ‘shout out-kinda guy’. People I work with or am friends with know that I got love for them...oh shit…wait! I want to shout out Kissey Asplund from Sweden. She is gonna blow up. She’s dope and I wish her the best. We collabed on ‘Lowdown’ and it came out great plus I’m on a remix of ‘Demon Love’, that shit I did with Chief. Kissey had been saying some nice things about me too. Yup. KISSEY! Peace, people. Thank you for the interview questions and not coming with run-of-the mill questions. You keep me on my toes.

Thank you!


POSTED 06|01|2009
conducted by cpf

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