featured interview

Truth Universal Universal truth New Orleans and Black Music go hand in hand. But as for hip-hop there haven't been that many names who repped the scene. Okay, there's Juvenile and others, but on the underground level, too many cats stayed in the dark. But it's only a matter of time. Authentic rap is takin over. One of those artists holdin it down, is Truth Universal. You probably never heard of him but with his debut album 'Decolonization LP', that's about to change... but first this interview...

Wassup Truth Universal? First of all introduce yourself to the readers...

Peace...I'm Truth Universal a New Orleans based MC, that's been puttin' it down for about 10 years.

Why do you call yourself Truth Universal?

This is my attribute and it reflects my aspirations. Universal Truth is what I seek, strive to speak and strive to live.

You're about to release the 'Decolonization LP'. What can we expect from that album?

You can expect exceptional hip-hop music. Most of the album is produced by this cat named Natural Born. There is more production by DJ Waht, Gensu Dean, DJ Maxmillion, EF Cuttin and myself. I have appearances by Zion of Zion I, Damien of K-Otix, my sister Mishekia, and Mr. Skurge. The lead single is "Mind Frame" featuring Zion of Zion I. Soon come!...

On which label will it be released? How did you connect with that label?

It will be released on Dragon's Breath Records. I know the owner Jen C from being the DJ on the Tulane University Hip Hop radio show here in the city. We became friends and when she decided to start a label she approached me with releasing some material as the label's first artist. I was down with it. The album will be released in partnership with Day By Day Entertainment for distribution.

Is it hard for you to find good distributors?

It's hard. No one really ever tells me why they don't want to deal with the material. It's always, 'this is good material but...' I suspect it's the content and people feel like 'I can't sell this racist stuff'. Because a bunch of white kids with no understanding of what I come from and what I try to convey, call our music racist. No person of color can be racist in a white supremist society. I'll leave it at that. Other than that, if your name recognition is not at a certain level, they feel that they can't move your material, so they they don't want to deal with it. With the exception of TRC, the distros that I've dealt with haven't really impressed me all that much. I think our Day By Day experience will be a good one. I have a good feeling about working with MF Grimm.

Let's talk about your crew Advanced Ideas Music. Who's involved in it?

That's my people. It's mainly DJ Maxmillion and DJ Killswitch on the musical front. Creation 65 handles technical duties and another cat Bryan works behind the scenes. I'm an affiliate. Max produced 'Four Track Mind' on my second 12". They also make the best, and maybe the only, underground hip-hop mixtapes in New Orleans, that I know of anyway. I'm privileged to be able to bless the mixtapes with an appearance from time to time.

What other groups are you involved with?

I'm in group called Midrange also. Once we get our solo material squared away we are going to concentrate on getting more Midrange material recorded.

Do you think it's easier for a group or collective to put out music instead of a solo artist?

That depends on the work ethic of the group members. I have more material circulating than most groups I know of because cats either chronic procrastinators or they are too dependendent upon other people. Then you have to deal with making travel arrangements for a group, instead of you and a DJ, two bags and two turntables. It's already bad after shows when I have to split that little money with my DJ! (laughs) Also, you have to deal with coordinating more than three people's schedules. The biggest advantage a group seemingly has over me as a solo cat is availability of resources to make moves. For instance, if I needed to press up 100 CD's at like $300 for a special event, a group should theoretically be able to muster that up easier than I could by myself.

You're also doin a video show called 'Grassroots Video' tell us more about it...

Well, I plan to, whenever my public access application is approved. There are other video shows here, but none cater to those folks who want to see videos from people like Hiero, Mr. Lif, Sol Uprising, Living Legends, One Be Lo, etc. So I'd like to bring that to the table and contribute to the building of the scene. It'll also expose this music to a bunch of people who only see refections of what's played on commercial radio. So, if you have a quality video, and by that I mean it's not just some shit where you played a box, rapped, and taped it, send vids to:

"GRASSROOTS!" Video
Truth Universal Music
P.O. Box 820396
New Orleans, LA 70182-0396

I also do a showcase series called "GRASSROOTS!" I've brought artists through like Zion I, Stahhr the Femcee, and One Be Lo. It's on hiatus, but it'll be back soon.

You call your music 'grown folks' music', why is that?

I say 'grown folks' hip-hop' because I'm not dealing with juvenile content. I'm 31. People are dying and our cultural expression is going to hell. I don't have time for that. 75% of the hip-hop I hear is foolishness. We have grown men and women talking about how nice their clothes are and shit like that. I did that in like 7th grade. It has to exist, but there is enough of it. I'm just saying that the content is mature and the sound is mature. I was 9 or 10 when I heard 'The Message' and 'Survival'. I didn't understand everything about those songs, but in time I did. I gravitated to them, and songs of the time, because they were just good hip-hop records. I don't think I alienate anyone. I have a song call 'Four Track Mind'. The hook is : 'Track One take care of seeds and wife / Track Two, eliminate struggle and strife / Track Three, rhyme conviction sentence me to life / Track Four, insurrection time to go to war'. Some comrades of mine who have an African centered school here in New Orleans have their students chant a modified version of that in the morning. These youth range from 2-14 years old. That's not a nursery rhyme, but it's something they can relate to or learn to understand in time. This music is really a tool of expression that can be used to teach and organize as well as rock crowds.

We talked to Infinito 2017 a few months ago, he lives in Memphis at the moment. Do you know him?

Oh yes, I know that brother. He's a very dope and convicted cat. I don't think he'll be understood until around the year in his name...2017.

He worked/works with DJ Waht, you do too. Could you tell us some more about him?

DJ Waht? He's a mysterious dude man. I met him through Mr. Skurge. He's all about turntables, beats and water. He carries a gallon of spring water with him at all times. He usually comes to the session, drops his cuts and leaves. I think he was an alcoholic at a young age. He's been clean for 10 years though. On the real though, Midrange is me, Infinito, Mr. Skurge, and DJ Waht.

How many times were you asked about Juvenile in the past?

68.

What do you think of that kind of hip-hop music?

I can relate to most of it. It's the voice of impoverished Black men and women in America. We go through it in different degrees, but the sentiment is the same: I'm Black and oppressed. It's struggle music. We may not be able to articulate it in that way, but that's the spirit of the music.

How come it's so big in the States?

It's big with people who relate and people who know nothing about it because they are fascinated with it. I was talking to my Brother Billy Kincaid from Barbados yesterday about the fascination of white people with Black music. He said; 'A rich man does not want to hear what it's like to be rich. He know that feeling. He wants to know what it's like to be poor'. That was well put! I think it's that and some phase that a lot of young white kids go through. They get caught up in the commercialism and start mimicking us. Most of them grow out of it and go back to listening to Deftones and Creed (laughs). Granted everyone that raps may not have been raised poor, the majority of us were.

You was born in Trinidad. Do you often go back? What do you like about your country of birth?

I go back like once every other year. I like the atmosphere, man. It's the Caribbean!

Can you describe the country in a nutshell? Socially, politically, cultural?

The culture is a mixture of African, East Indian, English, Spanish, and people (Indians) indigenous to the island. It's a beautiful mixture. I think the African roots are most pronounced. That's from the standpoint of a Black man mostly interacting with Black people. The social structure is a bit screwed up because there is intense poverty. You don't see it, but rich white world bankers control everything like everywhere else, in the so-called 'Third World' especially. The relations between the East Indians and people of African descent could be better. I mean the poor are poor and that's that. But the middle class thinks they are in a better position and they are somehow better. I think it's historic in that the indentured servant always had 1 up on the former slave. I think the average person is more politically astute than the average Black person in America. There is that split between people of East Indian descent and people of African descent.

What's your reception of Europe (hip-hop wise, socially, political)?

Hip-hop wise it's more open minded than here. Socially and politically, I mean they gave birth to what America is now. The spirit is the same in my eyes, another continent preoccupied with world domination. And I don't mean all the people there are that way either. That'd be stupid. I'm referring to the power structure.

Ever heard of Belgium? What do you know about it?

I know Belgians were the colonizers of the so-called Congo. King Leopold...

Which artists are you feelin right now?

I'm really feeling Ang 13, Blitz in Ohio, Thaione Davis, Family Tree, Nick That 1da and the list goes on.

Do you listen to other music except for hip-hop?

I listen to just about every genre. I don't frequent house, techno, classical and country though.

Are you a digger?

I'm not an expert digger. I may go looking for particular things, or things that just sound good to me. Or if I see something that I've heard and I know that I've wanted for a long time then I cop it.

Where do you go diggin? Is there any good music shops you can recommend in New Orleans?

If I reveal digging sports I'll have to take u off the planet (laughs)...just kidding. I can't reveal the super obscure spots, but the common stores with some good stuff are Rock N' Roll Collectibles, Jim Russell's, and Louisiana Music Factory off the top of my head.

What albums did you bought in the last few weeks?

I bought I Black Market Militia, I Self Devine's 'Self Destruction' and I re-bought Bob Marley's 'Talkin Blues'.

Is there any artist/group in hip-hop history you think that remained too underrated?

Hmmm... there are a lot I guess. I see it as artists not garnering the success that they should've. I think it's because their labels didn't handle their project correctly. Look at Showbiz and AG for instance.

Here's some artists, please comment...

Poor Righteous Teachers

Father Shaheed, Culture Freedom and Wise Intelligent. They are definitely one of the best groups to ever grace the arena of hip-hop. I will always hold Wise Intelligent in high esteem because his teaching helped me both in my personal and MC development. 'New World Order' is one of the best albums ever made. I'm listening to it right now!

Gang Starr

Gangstarr is the paradigm of hip-hop. MC and DJ Hip-Hop. I heard recently that they split. I'm getting used to this group break-up stuff.

Low Profile

DJ Aladdin and Dub C. I think they only had one album. I used to love that 'Funky Song' to death. I had the album briefly, but I don't remember it much. There was one other song on there I used to bump. The name escapes me though. I know Aladdin won the DMC in the late 80's or early 90's.

Ice Cube

The 'Bow Down' Cube is cool, but I miss the 'America's Most Wanted' Cube.

The Game

Dope cat. I don't think these elitest hip-hop cats know how much of an MC this dude is. Dude said; 'I'm willing to do two life sentences back to back/So don't push me.../You n***as is WNBA--ALL PUSSY!' I hear some gang unity rhetoric in there even though he reps Blood hard.

Brand Nubian

They taught me the Supreme Mathematics on 'Wake Up' and I didn't even know it at the time! Certified Educators! That 'All for One' album is one of my favorites.

Micranots

I only saw these cats once, but their chemistry was amazing. They are/were one of the best groups to ever do it in my opinion.

Top hip-hop albums of all times?

Poor Righteous Teachers - New World Order
Micranots - Obelisk Movements
Big Daddy Kane - Long Live the Kane
Nas - Illmatic
Public Enemy - It Takes a Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back
Digable Planets - Blowout Comb
A Tribe Called Quest - Midnight Marauders
Souls Of Mischief - 93' Til Infinity

Those are just some that moved me significantly and popped into my mind.

Top non-hip-hop albums of all times?

Bob Marley - Talkin' Blues
Fela Kuti - Kalakuta Show
The Meters - Rejuvenation
Roy Ayers

Hey man, I honestly love too much music to do these things justice...

What's Truth Universal's future plans?

Albums, tours, real estate...

Shouts:

I Love my Mama and Grand Mama.

Thanks a lot, Truth.

Give thanks to you!

 

POSTED 09|23|2005
conducted by cpf

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