featured interview

Hieroglyphics Just The Beginning Can't Nobody Do It Like Us', Pep Love seemingly brags on his latest record 'Rigmarole'. But he's bluffing nor exaggerating. Already in 1993, Hieroglyphics' famed fourtet Souls Of Mischief predicted they'd be rockin from '93' till Infinity'. Almost twenty years later, and with so many projects dropping this year, it looks like they're gonna rock another twenty years. We sat down with Tajai ('Rap Noir' coming soon), Casual ('He STILL Think He Raw' out next week), Pep Love ('Rigmarole' being his first solo effort in years), Phesto Dee and DJ Toure (first solo albums ever).

Til Infinity

Tajai, it’s your birthday today…what can we wish you?


Tajai: Health!

Birthdays are the perfect moment to look back at your career. What are some of the key moments?

Tajai: I would say doing the song ‘Burnt’ with Del the Funky Homosapien, dropping our first album, ‘93 til Infinity’, and going indie in 1997.

It’s been almost 20 years since Souls Of Mischief’s ‘93 til Infinity’, is Hieroglyphics going for another 20 years?

Tajai: Of course.

Phesto Dee: It may sound like a long time but it doesn't feel like it. We feel blessed to be able to still create and perform as a unit and have people want to see us rock all over the planet. I say this is just the beginning. We love what we do so much that we couldn't stop if we wanted to. 20 more years for sure, at least, God willing.

‘Can’t Nobody Do It Like Us’, Pep Love raps on his latest solo album. It seems like 2012 is thé year for you guys. How would you explain this big wave of Hiero projects?

DJ Toure: Creativity and originality.

Casual: Everybody is trying to keep up with Casual. Naw, but yeah.

Pep Love: There is no explanation. This is just what we do. We make music and now we seem to be releasing it too.

Phesto Dee: 2012 is our time. We have more unreleased material, so I'm looking forward to us getting out to everyone. Next year is the 20th anniversary of the ‘93 till Infinity’ album and we have a few things on deck: a documentary on Souls Of Mischief and the ‘93 til Infinity’ album and a remix album of that record, the first annual ‘Hiero Day’ and a number of other surprises that we are still in stealth mode with.

Tajai: We have been working hard in the studio and on the road. We felt it was time to unleash all of the great stuff we have been putting together. Now, back to the road!


The road

How was the Souls Of Mischief tour?


Tajai: Europe is always a great time. Our show in Ghent involved four planes, taxi’s, trains and ferries but the show was great though.

Phesto Dee: It was an incredible and unique energy in Ghent. I really remember that show because it was packed and it looked like people could barely move . But as soon as the music came on, the crowd turned into a frenzy. I mean that in a positive way. Everybody was definitely having a good time. We don't go to Belgium that often so we try to make it a memorable show and experience for our fans.

DJ Toure, what’s your role during those performances? How do you try to keep the crowd moving?

Toure: As DJ I control the music, I’m a musical director, scratching and blending tracks on the 1200’s and rocking the crowd. Just improvising with the crew, making the show fun and exciting to watch.

You prefer the studio or the road?

Toure: The studio because that's where the magic begins. Then you hit the road and tour and show it to the people.


Independency

What have you guys gained from being independent?


Pep Love: I would say that this is a tough business that requires some true grit and determination and a kind of bold self-belief that can be lost on the more modest or reserved soul.

Toure: Just go hard, follow your dreams, knowledge is key, because winning is the only option!

Casual: A good understanding of the music business. That the audio art is less that 50% of a successful musical project.

There's also the album cover for instance. How did you end up on the art work of ATCQ's 'Midnight Marauders'?

Casual: I was signed to Jive Records when A Tribe Called Quest was on Jive. Hieroglyphics was well-received by the predecessor rap gods and this was Q-Tip extending a hand out to our crew, by asking us to be on his album cover.

Some of you have founded labels on your own, what's your motivation behind that?

Toure: A natural progression from 101% Music starting as a production company to now, where we’re also servicing records for commercial release.

Tajai: With Clear Label Media I’m basically trying to promote up-and-coming talent without messing with the Hiero brand. Lots of great artists of all genres.

Like this 'new wave'-group, genre David Bowie. Do you need these challenges to stay productive?

Tajai: No, I just like putting out music that I would listen to. Tears for Grace is awesome. The album is insane!

Your solo album is coming when?

Tajai: My new album 'Rap Noir''s about to be released soon. It's like an old Hitchcock film! Murder, sleaze, action, suspense. It will be entertaining and a pleasant departure from my previous work.

Talking about films, Casual, you're releasing one?

Casual: Besides my new album, I’ll be releasing this film 'He STILL Think He Raw', it’s about a rapper who forgot he was a rapper so he has been in the community teaching like a scholar. But all his students want him to remember his rap life.


Background check

DJ Toure, wasn't Father Dom one of your mentors?


Toure: Father Dom is a mentor. He is producer/M.C and I am a fan since we've met. I produce a track on his record 'Oakland's Finest'. He gave me game on making my sound tight .

You're releasing your first album. What can we expect?

Toure: Expect the unexpected hard rhythms timeless melody.

Why did you wait so long?

Toure: I have been working with artists and producing for years. I feel I have a sound and it’s unique for the market place.

Phesto, you've also dropped your first solo. Was it difficult for you to define a concept for the album?

Phesto Dee: The challenge for me was narrowing down all of the material I had compiled over the years. I knew I wanted a mixture of the older stuff that I thought stood the test of time with the newer songs I was working on. I think being in the game for as long as I have aided the process.

It's called 'Background Check', do you feel like people don't know you enough?

Phesto Dee: As a solo artist no. But rightfully so because this is my first official solo release. In the group context, I play a position. But this record is a larger window into who/what I am currently as an artist. Hopefully it will encourage listeners old and new to support past, present and current music from me, if they already haven't.

A lot of rappers are making a comeback these days, hip-hop seems just too addictive right?

Pep Love: They should have never left. The music business is often riddled with politics and gatekeepers. People who don’t create and never have been creative seem to have had a large influence on the music that eventually reaches peoples ears in the past. More of us are starting to realize that we can go around those people now and we don’t even need to spend time around those people or pay any credence to their slanted opinions. And what you see and perceive as a comeback is just the truth being revealed.

On your album you rap 'I studied the game from root to fruit.' What's your overall conclusion?

Pep Love: The verdict is still out. (laughs)

Unlike other rappers who chose to work often with European producers, you stick with 'regional' producers...

Pep Love: I didn’t know other rappers were choosing to work with European producers. I don’t even know any European producers. I’m willing to work with anyone who makes dope music. It doesn’t matter where you’re from. Of course, I prefer to work with people who I can actually be in the same room with though.

Phesto, you produced most beats yourselves?

Phesto Dee: Casual showed me how to make my first beat when we first started out and I just never stopped making tracks. I don't think I will. I think it's a natural progression for MC's to produce because you don't want to always have to rely on someone else to provide you with tracks. It never gets old.

You perform(ed) with the Jazz Ensemble. How are your piano lessons coming along? Is that a step in becoming a more accomplished producer?

Phesto Dee: Absolutely. I have been studying music theory for a short time now. I have always loved jazz music. I wanted to get a better understanding of how it worked and how it evolved from its genesis.To me, hip-hop and jazz are like close relatives.They have many similarities. Music theory has been instrumental in my development as not only a producer but also a writer and performer. I look forward to continuing my studies and hopefully It will provide artistic growth for myself in the future.


Rap Gods

Casual, 'You attempt to make classics' you say, please explain what's the formula of a 'classic' in your opinion?


Casual: I can tell you now. First you have to qualify by being a really good artist. After that there are a few rules to follow: 1. Never mention current events. Never make metaphors that could only be understood in your day and age. Never say the date on a song such as '2012 in this b*tch'. There are more rules to making atemporal music. These are just a few.

We saw you're posting a lot of African history-related articles on your blog...

Casual: Well, I too often find scholars who expect the masses to be unfamiliar with highly specialized information which may pertain specifically to their a field. When it comes to ancient Egyptian grammar or any other African study, it has been my M.O. (modus operandi, ed.) to exclusively deal with highly specialized information that is so individual to the field that some would consider them secrets. I write to falsify assertions presented as fact by disingenuous authors in the flied of Egyptian grammar. Check it at rapgod.wordpress.com.

You call yourself a Rap God, The Hierophant,...from where your approach towards divinity?

Casual: Well, Rap God is a mythological God, not a theological one. Some can get confused because nowadays the masses understand controlled theology, religion. In religion making a statement like 'I am Rap God' could be considered blasphemous, but in mythology such vilification does not exist. Rap God is the Creator God when hip-hop mythology is addressed. I am the incarnation of Rap God but there are others. I was not the first, and will not be the last. I am the Divine Manifestation and the Present Incarnation of Lyrical Excellency, Which is summed up by the epithet Rap God..

Phesto, one of your nicknames -and a track from your latest effort- is 'Champ Swagger'...

Phesto Dee: Champ Swagger is a nickname that was given to me by a friend of mine a few years back. It's short for 'Championship Swagger'. It's basically a term used in sports in reference to teams that have won Championships and carry themselves with that energy and calm and confidence. It just sounded dope to me. I'm an avid sports fan so I ran with it. It's interesting to me that there is this 'anti-swagger' campaign in hip hop right now. I think you have to have style with substance and I try to exude that in my lyrics.


Next up

What's coming for y’all?


Tajai: 'Rap Noir'! Clearlabelmedia.com. New Souls and Hiero projects for all and 2013. Finishing up graduation school!

Casual: Scholarship. Music visuals. Movies. These three are hot on my mind right now.

Pep Love: More music, more tours, more money and infinite growth..

Toure: More 101% Music tracks with some of your favorite artists and 'Toure's Theory' tour.

Phesto Dee: Look out for my next video/single from the record 'Background Check'! My EP 'Heat Check' will be my next release before my second album, titled 'Critical Mass'. I'm about halfway done with that so next year sometime will be the target date. Also we have a new Souls of Mischief record under construction right now. So be on the look out for that. As well as the new Hieroglyphics LP. Shout out to hip-hop massive 'Zulu Nation' and Hiero heads worldwide. Belgium big up!


 

POSTED 05|17|2012
conducted by cpf

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