featured interview

One.Be.Lo The life cyclus It was the year 2000 when Binary Star dropped its remarkable ‘Masters Of The Universe’ album, at the same time one half of the group OneBeLo (besides Senim Silla) launched his Subterraneous Records, from then on the underground was warned and the paths were layed for a solo carreer. Anno 2008, OneBeLo releases ‘R.E.B.I.R.T.H.’, his second official solo album, with outside production by the Lab Techs, Memo, Jake One, Bean One and Vitamin D a.o., and, as opposed to his first solo, not on Fat Beats…

First of, congratulations on releasing another album that stays in heavy rotation here at the office. Are you happy with how it came out? How have the reactions been so far?

I'm feeling real good about everything that's happening right now. This album sounds great to me plus the feedback from everybody is really good. I definitely can't complain.

You're one of the few artists who doesn't have a bunch of features on his solo albums. One of the few that really holds it down completely on his own too. Is this a conscious choice?

On this ‘R.E.B.I.R.T.H.’ project, I wanted to make a statement that Lo is new and improved. I made a conscious choice to show my own rebirth as an artist. There will be projects in the future with collaborations. I think that can be a bonus, but I had a point to prove with the projects I put out so far.

What do you think of the ‘over-featured’ releases these days?

People do it for different reasons. Most people do it because they think it will help the album sell more units, or whatever. It sounds cool to have those features sometimes, but it doesn't necessarily make your album better. Those names are good selling-points for the record, and it's good to have that too, but for me it's always about quality over quantity.

You reached outside your camp for production this time. How come?

My last record came out 3 years ago. Since then, I've worked with all kinds of people. I just picked these songs to be on the ‘R.E.B.I.R.T.H.’ album. It had nothing to do with who did what. That's what I was feeling so that's what I chose.

Please tell us a little more though about your production camp the Trackezoids?

I still make beats, I got so many dope beats just waiting to be heard. I normally make beats that I like to spit on, so I rap on my own shit. I never really thought about shopping my beats to nobody else. My man Decompoze is still doing his thing. People ask me what's up with everybody else and my answer is always the same. Those guys are doing their thing, but we are not Wu-Tang Clan or whoever, everybody is pretty much on their own, and I be so busy I don't really keep tabs like that. You'd be better off asking those guys about them and vice versa.

Are there anymore producers you'd like to work with in the future?

I don't really care about the names, I'm down to work with whoever got beats that inspire me to write. When I listen to another album, I ain’t looking to see what producer can give me beats like that. I'm always looking for my own shit so if I get a beat CD from whoever and I like it, I'm gonna work with that.

I've read you've built a studio in your own basement: did that influence the way you approach your writing or the way you look at recording albums?

The cool part for me personally is that I don't have to include anybody in the process until I want to. If I get a beat CD from you and somebody else, I can record all my ideas, and if I don't want to use your beat then you'll never know. If I want to change the chorus 20 times, I can do that and ride around and listen to 20 versions of the same song if I want to. If I change my mind at 3 am, I can hop in the booth and do something else. I've never had that before. Now I can think twice, or even 10 times before I do anything. I'm not limited to a budget or a schedule which means that from here on out, my music has no excuse not to sound incredible.

How come the album was delayed?

I couldn't tell you why the album was delayed, you would have to ask Fat Beats that question. All I can say is that, everything happens the way it is supposed to happen, and so I'm content with whatever happens. If this album would have come out a year ago, I might not be happy right now.

Did Fat Beats screw up for you?

I ain’t got no beef with Fat Beats, I ask them to let me go and they did. Nobody does that, but they honored my request. So here I am.

Now you released the album independently, so you have to push it yourself. What is – by what you've experienced – the best way to get the people to buy your album?

Everybody is different, so the best way to get me to buy an album is to let me hear a few good songs. People buy albums for different reasons, so you should try to cover as many bases as possible. Your album can be amazing, but the artwork might turn people away. Your performance might turn people away. So I try to have good pics, good artwork, good performances, good relations with people, good interviews, etc. Marketing is important, distribution is important, touring is all important. So many things.

Subterraneous is more a hip-hop movement rather than just a label. Please tell us what Subterraneous is or what it does to preserve hip-hop in its true art form?

The ‘true form’ of hip-hop can mean different things to different people. The Subterraneous movement is about community, and having a positive impact on the community. Whether you do hip-hop or not. Because I do hip-hop, that is my contribution to the community. But you could be a school teacher, or a basketball coach, that is the Subterraneous movement. You don't have to be a b-boy or/and MC to be a part of the movement.

Here's an anecdote: On New Year's eve I came home at my family's house for the traditional reunion. When I arrived, there was playing some background classical music I didn't dig so I put in your new album at track 11 ‘Gray’. None of my family members listen to hip-hop but all of a sudden the track caught their attention and everybody really started listening ànd paying attention to the lyrics, concluding it was a hell of a track. The CD stayed in playing 3 times back to front. For me this was really remarkable as they normally can't stand hip-hop for more than 2 songs... Does it happen often you reach further than the regular hip-hop dude? How come do you think One Be Lo makes such a direct impact – even on non-hiphoppers?

It happens all the time. That's because what I do in my opinion is bigger than hip-hop. The format is rapping, the beats are hip-hop true, but this is real music for real people, regardless of where you are from, how old you are, etc. It's just good music.

‘S.T.I.L.L.B.O.R.N.’, ‘S.O.N.O.G.R.A.M.’, ‘F.E.T.U.S.’, ‘R.E.B.I.R.T.H.’ are some of your previous album titles...your next project is called 'L.I.F.E.' isn't it?

I do plan on a project being L.I.F.E.which stands for Lo Is For Everybody. And it's just like we said, I make music for everbody, it's that simple. I think my next record is going to be called, ‘B.A.B.Y’. It stands for ‘Being a Black Youth’. Stay tuned...

All those titles fit into this "life cyclus theme". I don't see you releasing an album called ‘D.E.A.T.H.’ though, or would you? Suppose you would release it, what would those 5 letters stand for?

I did consider an album called ‘Death’. It is a part of Life too right? I don't think about the acronyms, they just come whenever they come. If it works cool, if not, cool.

So will there ever be an album title of yours without dots in between?

I'll probably stop using the dots. I don't have to use dots for it to be an acronym. I'll probably stop now (laughs).

If you would organize a hip-hop festival (kinda like Murs did with Paid Dues), what groups/artists would you try to include?

Not really familiar with Paid Dues, but if I had a budget to bring anybody I wanted, I would get people like: Lupe Fiasco, Brother Ali, Immortal Technique, myself of course, and a few others…

Next up are two questions we asked Senim Silla (other half of Binary Star, ed.) too... What would you answer to the same questions?

1) Critics often state underground hip-hop died at one point. I guess it's an honour ‘Masters of the Universe’ is considered as one of the last embodiments of real underground hip-hop? Do you agree with the statement by the way?

Of course not.

2) Binary Star really did set standards with their albums, how do you look back at those days? Did you realize the impact you had back then (or you still would have even a half decade later) and how does that feel?

We were just being us, and doing what we like to do. Did we know the impact then? Of course not. I still don't understand it, but I'm honored to be a part of it.

There's a lot of dope material coming out of the D (Michigan in general) lately. How come this area is so omnipresent these days? Some creative gasses in the air (besides car gasses) or...?

We doing the same thing we always did, the world is just now getting up on it. So much talent there, but that's not a new thing. I guess you could say it wasn't our time, but it is now.

You have an album with Black Milk coming up, how long have you known Milk?

Not long.

(fishing for more info) How much of that album is done already?

We got beats and we got verses. Who knows what else is in store.

In what way did being in prison and becoming a Muslim change the way you make music?

I stopped rapping about smoking weed and shooting people. I live my life everyday so I do see the growth the way somebody else will.

When and why did you change your name from OneManArmy to One Be Lo?

There was another group with the same name, a punk group. But even though I didn't want to, now I think that it was meant to be that way. It's more personal than OneManArmy. I still am OneManArmy, but like I said, this thing is bigger than hip-hop.

In our year end-wrap-up it's significant how much artists wish 'Barak Obama' for 2008, whats your opinion on the whole election thing?

I never voted or even registered to vote in 31 years. I don't normally get involved in politics, but this could be the year for me. Maybe, maybe not. I got so much shit going on in my life right now, that's one of the last things I think about. Sad, but true.

What was your first rap record?

‘Raising Hell’ by RUN DMC.

Do you remember your first rhyme?

The alphabet.

What can we expect from you in the future?

I'm not really a promiser of future events like that, but God willing you'll hear some powerful music coming from One Be Lo. I don't make soul music, my soul makes music.


Check me out at OneBeLo.com and on Myspace.


POSTED 02|28|2008
conducted by cpf

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