featured interview

Dumi RIGHT Alternate Reality Check 'Thinkin out of the box because I'm truly unconventional', Dumi RIGHT, of Zimbabwe Legit fame, raps on his latest collabo with Cadence, of Raw Produce fame, entitled 'Alternate Reality'. The underground veterans created an alternative for the fantasy fiction that so many -commercial- rappers poison the minds with. The album title invites one to do some philosophy, so we got our Aristotle on and confronted Dumi with a few philosophical expressions...

'Everyone sees his own reality'

There's reality and alternate reality...there's bullshit hip-hop and real hip-hop...two hip-hop's...but due to the fact that the 'other hip-hop' is 'installed as reality', that it is believed and felt by the masses, there are lots of people who are willing to spend their dime on it, might we ask you a challenging question: how can we turn this reality into an alternate reality? Is it possible?

Well I think to address this properly we have to look at context. There is commerce and then there is art. The goals of the two are not always in sync and it's really important to recognize that. Hip-hop did not begin as an art form for mass market commercialization. It was a pure form of expression and creativity. Now that it's a huge moneymaker there are so many other factors that have crept in and influenced the art form. So I honestly don't think we can alter the present reality to return to a time where commercial radio was blasting Public Enemy or A Tribe Called Quest. Corporate radio just plays whatever run of the mill flavor of the week they can to manufacture bubble gum hits. Preferably ones that are devoid of any messages or things that might upset the sponsors.

That being said I think it's important to cultivate the underground movement and keep support for people who practise the non-commercial forms of rap music and hip-hop. The one thing I want to be sure to state since we're opening the interview on this serious note. I am not advocating that all hip-hop be one way or another. There are definitely some images and messages I don't care for and people may not necessarily dig all the sounds coming out of the underground. What we need though is a reality that reflects reality. All movies are not horror movies, you have comedy, romantic, adventure, thrillers and so on. In the same way we need to experience hip-hop reality that is truly multi-dimensional and highlights all the forms within it. Right now the balance in the media is tipped so way off that all we hear is the same thing day in and day out. And it so happens that a lot of what the hip-pop artists are rapping about is stuff that is downgrading instead of uplifting -'whew'- what a way to begin huh. Let's go!

'Reality never surpasses imagination.'

What are some unexpected key moments in your career, moments where you thought 'wow, this is impossible', 'I must be dreamin'?

I'm still waiting for a director to call up and offer to do the story of the origin of Zimbabwe Legit. I think most people by now are familiar with the story but, man, to think that it all began with a letter and led to us hopping into the studio with the Mr. Long from the Black Sheep on production. The best 'I must be dreamin' moment' was when I was at Sylvia's in Harlem at the Organized Konfusion's 'Someone Stole My Last Piece of Chicken' party, sitting at a table with super model Veronica Webb and Ali Shaheed from A Tribe Called Quest. Then I remember getting into Aaron Hall's birthday party at a club in Beverly Hills (a cat we had just met drove us there in his Porsche) and seeing Big Daddy Kane, Flavor Flav, and Rosie Perez with a crew of fly girls. Then rocking shows in Japan and performing on live television there.That was just wild because it was soon after we first got back to the US. It was like a culmination of all the things we have been dreaming about doing when we'd read all the magazines that we could get our hands on when we were back in Africa. I even have a rhyme that includes a homage to Biggie where I say, 'It was all a dream, then we ended up in Word Up! magazine.' For sure, we've appeared in magazines worldwide including Billboard, The Source and yes Word Up!

I may have to disagree with you though. I think if you follow your vision, reality can surpass your wildest imagination. In fact in more recent history, just looking back at how the 'House of Stone' album came together, it was like all the planets had to line up for that album to happen and they did. I would have never thought I'd be able to say I got down with Prince Po and Stic Man on the same track or Vast Aire and Chubb Rock, or Cadence, Breez Evahflowin and Apani. It all comes from being focused on what you want to accomplish and then crafting that reality. Like the idea that Cadence and I had to leverage the fact we have collaborated so much over the years and put together an ill project like Alternate Reality.

So being one of the first African artists that got signed with a US label doesn't make you fear that your biggest accomplishment had already took place?

If you live in fear of trying to 'top' your previous accomplishments, I think you limit the success and possibilities that you can have. Those experiences were great and we learned a lot but that for me was only the beginning. Rather than staying focused on the rear view mirror and resting on my laurels or being fearful, I just look for new ways to continue to be creative and make an impact. In fact I think I have so much more to do. I also think that being able to make music on my own terms for so long and being blessed with being good at it is one of the greatest things I have accomplished. Life gets rough and it's hard to stay at it. If that was the last music I had made then yeah, that would be the summit of the mountain and now I'd just be in free fall on the way down.

The way I look at it now is to think about what I want to contribute and how I want to make an impact. And I am talking about way more than music. I am talking about family - those kind of accomplishments are so much more important than any music. But also using my musical abilities to impact the world through hip hop. Some friends and I started a bi monthly fundraiser called Voices Organizing for International change, Empowerment and Support. We were raising funds and awareness for organizations across the globe that help youth through music (hip hop) and arts. Things like that contribute to a person's repertoire of accomplishments and go beyond trying to top the last thing you did. And some things stand on their own and do not have to be equaled. Maybe I can try to top it and be the first earthling to kick a rhyme in outer space or something.

'Dreams are what you hope for; reality is what you plan for.'

True? Or do you take dreaming for real? Do you really belief that the dreams that you pursue will come through at a particular moment in the future? Do you plan those dreams?

I think it is important to have dreams. I think you have to look to and reach for things that may appear at that moment to be beyond your reach. I think that's what intrinsically motivates a person. But you have to couple dreams with concrete plans and strategy. I hear a lot of people talk about songs they are going to create or big moves they are going to make and then it never comes to pass. If you don't plan you might find that time has passed you by and you wind up being one of those people that says, I remember I used to want to do X, Y, Z but then life happened. Not everything you dream will come to reality, but if you don't plan for it, it is very likely not to happen.

'Differing in words, not in reality.'

Last time you told us that you enjoy working with Cadence because he's so reliable...

Yeah, we vibe really well musically and our creative thoughts tend to align. I get amped when he tells me an idea or concept and I think I can safely say the feeling is mutual. As a result it was dope creating the Alternate Reality project. We started off thinking about doing an EP and then just kept creating and decided that it was only right to do a full length.

If you don't record in the studio together, you don't have these discussions about how making and finishing a song/album which is not good for the creative process...agree?

Ideally we'd be co-located while we are working but our realities being what they are, we were in different states and both lead fairly busy lives with lots of other commitments besides music. As far as the creative process though, we have extensive discussions and trade music, lyrics and ideas back and forth. Since he's incredibly creative and such a talented MC, we are able to not let the reality of where we are stop us from taking care of the task at hand. For this project the task was to put together some sick rhymes with gritty beats and say something. Offer a play by play that reflects the reality we are in, that is shared by many fans who would be happier if underground music received more air time than the tired commercialism we are subject to 50 times a day. Did I mention, to quote my brother Akim, "I CAN live without the radio."

Tell us some more about your working process? How do you start making a song?

The process varies but sometimes Cadence will have a beat or series of beats and we'll decide on one to rock. Then we each vibe with it and then come up with a concept or idea of what we want to talk about. Then we bat ideas for a hook or the theme back and forth. One person might come up with an entire hook or we might craft parts of it and work on bringing it together. At that point we'll each go off and start writing and then compare notes early on to make sure the concept is unified and we send stuff back and forth. The digital age has made a process like this a lot easier and way more doable than in the past.

'Things rumoured lessen in importance as they assume reality.'

You had an upcoming album with some African artists, The Life and Times of Dumi RIGHT’. How's that goin along?

Oh, that album is well on its way. The Alternate Reality album just dropped so I'm putting all of my energy into making sure that it does everything that it is supposed to. Fairly early in 2012 though I'll put out the album. The title has changed though. Since the album features me, early African hip-hop trailblazer and some of the dopest MCs from all over the continent, I changed the title to 'Connect the Dots' (unofficial subtitle 'Bringing the Continent Together Through Music'). There are MCs from Zimbabwe, South Africa, Tanzania, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal and more featured. It will be pretty ill when it drops.

Do you often reminise about the Zimbabwe Legit days?

I try not to dwell on it because of the aforementioned reasons. It's fun being asked about it in interviews though because then I get a chance to think about the best parts of it. I haven't thought about some of those stories in a while. I'll take a page from Busta Rhymes though, I remember someone asked him about Leaders of the New School and he said 'It's all about the Flip Mode Squad'. So while I'm doing Alternate Reality, its all about Alternate Reality. When I'm doing O.U.O that will be my focus. And when the Dumi RIGHT album drops, I'll be all about that.

One of the guests on the album is YZ, you met before ‘House of Stone’ and been in discussions with him about management way back when, what's the overall conclusion of you both and what are/were the lessons you took from that?

YZ is a good dude man. He moved out of NYC when around the time we had those discussions but he's one of the coolest brothers I have met. We still stay in touch fairly often and just talking to him I get a lot of knowledge. In music a lot of people are out to get what they can get and have huge egos, but despite his status he's mad humble and gracious. Mike G is the same way. They are legendary hip-hop artists but they just act like regular everyday people and in a game crowded with ego maniacs, that is so refreshing.

Wouldn't it be a good idea that rappers such as yourself, YZ and Mike G sat together with other experienced, life-schooled rappers and shared their knowledge, experiences about music and the business with younger rappers, like organizing an (online) hip-hop conference or think tank periodically? Ok, there's also a hip-hop summit, but it remains kind of internally or between the attending artists...Wouldn't an open discussion contribute to more 'real' music and appreciation of the culture also?

I think that is a great idea man. If Platform wants to host it, I'll get some folks together for sure. I think they do such things at music seminars and events like that. In all reality though it's all about time, availability and priorities. A lot of times we're just trying to survive and so every opportunity needs to make sense and we need to have the energy and resources to do such a thing. I will say though, I feel like I should be on a lot more panels and music seminar like discussions. I've attended conferences and not to be conceited but many times I have as much or more knowledge than the people on the panel. I remember one time a panelist told me, keep working and then once you put out an album you will learn more about the industry. If I am correct dude hadn't ever even put out an internationally heralded release and here he was giving me advice. Not that you can't learn from anyone regardless of where they are, but I'm just saying. So yeah, I'd say I'd be thrilled to share my experiences, let's do it. Platform 8470 Hip Hop Bootcamp in 2012!

When you came to the US you knew about Jungle Brothers, Mantronix, Run DMC, LL Cool J, BDP, but did you know about X-Clan? Just askin because Professor X once had a single called 'Reality'...

Professor X (RIP) was a great inspiration. We met back in the Hollywood Basic days and actually had discussions about a collaboration. In fact more recently prior to his passing he had reached out to us again to reconnect. Given the themes and subjects the X-Clan rapped about we definitely knew a lot about them though before our paths crossed. But to directly answer your question, their music hadn't reached Zimbabwe, we heard about them when we came to the US. We even did a show with them and YZ in NYC though back in the day.

Da Youngstas and Black Moon also had a single called 'Reality'...were you digging them in particular?

I liked some of the early stuff by Da Youngstas. I think their second album with 'Crewz Pop' ('The Aftermath', 1993, ed.) in particular. As for Black Moon, most definitely. Buckshot has always been an ill MC and had a great vision with Duckdown that has enabled him and his folks to remain relevant after so many years. I have also had the opportunity to interact with him over the years. In fact rumor has it that a producer named Coptic will put Buckshot and Dumi RIGHT on a track together in the very near future.

What's in your iPod right now

Let's see, Pharoahe Monch, The Roots, EMC (older album), Common, De La Soul, Talib Kweli, a bunch of beats from this sick young producer 80-M and about 15 GB of other rugged hip-hop tunes.

Can these artists be key players in an 'alternate reality'?

I feel like my music playlist be it on Pandora, Slacker, Spotify or whatever is an alternate reality itself. It's unlike the stuff that is in heavy rotation in video's on TV or on commercial radio, and it's timeless. You can listen to it now, or 10 years from now - it never gets dated and stays fresh across the ages.

Talking about the future...what's next for Dumi Right?

Alternate reality is calling, I think I have to get dinner for the kids - peace.

Peace and bon appetit!


Buy the album!
POSTED 12|21|2011
conducted by cpf

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