featured interview

Cadence Casts his vote With the most mediatized international event ever and, most importantly, with the first Afro-American being elected, we couldn’t look past the past Presidential elections couldn’t we? Nope we couldn’t, so we confronted the former Raw Produce artist, head of Pro Se Recordings and member of the fresh new collective Great Mindz, with the outcome of this historical event and how it’ll effect the United Nations of America.

A black president in the White House, people were amazed that Morgan Freeman played the US President in the motion picture ‘Deep Impact’ once, and now it has actually happened...would you have thought that it’d be possible in such a short notice?

I don't know if ‘short notice’ is really the way to describe it. We've had more than 200 years of white Presidents. And when I was growing up Apartheid in South Africa set the gold standard for racial oppression and they had a black President in 1994. And he was an ex-con no less. When you look at from that perspective America is way behind the times on this.

It actually happened really fast for Obama, before his infamous speech on the Democratic party’s convention in 2004, nobody actually heard of him. Could you say that the uprise of Obama is a result of Bush’s downfall and that Obama got elected through the mess that was left by Bush?

There's no question that Bush helped set the table for this. His administration pushed the political conversation in America so far to the right that I think it made the bulk of Americans, who aren't nearly as extreme in their views as Bush, recognize how much we actually have in common. And it definitely made people realize how much we needed a real change, not just a change of the nameplate of the Oval Office door. At the same time, McCain didn't help himself any by failing to separate himself from Bush's policies and practices. Before this election, he was the one Republican that Democrats might have actually accepted in the White House and by the end of it all he looked like Bush v.2.

The exit polls were already very much in favour of Obama, but did you still think that things would go wrong at the last moment?

After the last two elections I didn't want to take anything for granted. For all of their colossal mistakes they made, the one thing the Bush Administration was apparently good at was manipulating election results. And we don't know the whole story of how they did it either. So yeah, it occurred to me that maybe they would share some of those secrets with McCain and do it all over again. At the same time, the closer we got the end, the more it looked like McCain's campaign was falling apart. In the end, I think it wasn't even about policies to certain voters. I think even to a lot of Republicans McCain just looked dangerously lost and they couldn't bring themselves to vote for him.

People like Michael Stipe announced that if McCain would be elected as President, he would move to Canada. Would you consider leaving the US if he had been elected?

I've made that joke too. But I still don't believe that the American people really elected Bush, so I never saw him as a reflection of what we believed as a country. I think, like in any country, there are pockets of people who agreed with him on everything, pockets of people who didn't agree with him on anything, and a lot of people somewhere in the middle. I live in one of the most liberal parts of the US, and while I won't say that it doesn’t matter when a conservative Republican was in the White House, you can certainly walk the streets every day in my neighborhood and feel like Bush's America is hundreds of miles away. And I’m sure it would have been the same way if McCain won. In that way, the problem isn’t whether these guys are in control of the country, the problem is that they divide the country. When Bush was in office it was embarrassing to know that the rest of the world saw America as one nation under Bush, when so many Americans didn't have any faith in him at all. But why the hell should I have to leave my own country because of something like that?

Suppose yes, to what country would you have moved, why?

Belgium, of course...

Would you ever consider making a song for the elections, for your favourite candidate eg. like Will I Am did, or do you rather prefer making songs about what’s going wrong?

I wouldn't say my focus is on making songs about what's gone wrong as much as it's on talking about the core issues we face. I did take aim directly at Bush a few times, but most of the songs I made about political issues dealt with principles. Of course you have to talk about some of the leaders to do that effectively, but really what I want to do with songs like that is get people thinking about the issues. If you can do that—and make a persuasive argument— you shouldn't have to tell them who to vote for.

How much of a role would you think has the Internet played in the anticipation of the elections?

Of course it plays a big role. It used to be that you could only get news coverage at 6 and 11. And there were only 3 networks picking and choosing what news was reported. The Internet lets anyone talk about their views and gives people 24/7 access to information from all over the world. There's no way for that not to change the process dramatically. But like anything else on the Internet, with that much more information, there's also that much for false information.

You said you live in one of the most liberal parts of the US, did you know people who were going to votefor McCain?

McCain supporters are hard to find out here. And if there were any in my midst I bet they were keeping quiet about it. Even so, I don't think I would have had to convince them of anything. They could see Sarah Palin too.

Hip-hop is a reactive culture with a voice and opinions, a lot of rappers could express their cry for change, their claims to end the Iraq war, and the end of Bush, will hip-hop be as reactive in the next few years as it was in the last (few) years and if mistakes are made, will Obama be easily criticized by the hip-hop community?

In hip-hop and in general, I think people are happy about Obama's win, so that'll change the tone of the discussion in the music, just like it will change the tone of discussion in the rest of the nation. But our problems aren't going to disappear overnight and Obama will have to deal with that. So, rappers will still have plenty of issues to talk about. But I also think we’ll here a more positive spin from some rappers too, because there’s a lot of pride right now in what Obama represents and about the fact that the American people were open-minded enough to elect him. That’s a big change from the ultra-conservative times we’ve been going through for the last 8 years.

Everybody’s hoping for a change, but will there actually be a change in the next few years? How long will the failures of the Bush Administration weigh on the Obama administration and when or how will we see a change?

Obama will be under a lot of pressure. He's inheriting a terrible situation and some of the fallout of Bush's disastrous policies won't manifest until after Obama takes office. When that happens it may be hard for people to remember how the problems originated and Obama will probably take the blame for some of it. And, like all politicians, he'll make mistakes too. On top of that, America is too big of a place, and with too many different ideas, for any politician to make everyone happy all of the time. If people are expecting Obama to fix everything right away, they're bound to be disappointed, so he'll have to deal with that pressure. But I also believe he represents a big step in the right direction, so that has to help.

There’s obviously a lot of reasons, but could you discuss one, the biggest, main reason why you voted for senator Barack Obama?

I probably would have voted for a bag of rocks with a wig and a smiley face painted on it if it was running as a Democrat. But I thought it was interesting to see McCain's campaign try to paint Obama as a radical candidate, because except for his skin color, which is a radical change from the typical American President, he's actually pretty middle-of-the-road politically. When you look at the laundry list of typical liberal causes, Obama's not in line with much of it. He supports Bush's faith based initiatives (which put social services money in the hands of churches instead of non-denominational social service agencies), he wants to limit some abortion rights, he wants to drill for oil in places environmentalists don’t want him to touch, he's against gay marriage, he talked a lot about killing Bin Laden and winning the ‘war on terror’ (which is a Bush construct in the first place). It’ll be interesting to see if any of those stands change now that he’s not trying to win over voters anymore, bit if they hold up, I don’t think he’ll prove to be the ultra-liberal President that Republicans are afraid of. I'm not saying he is a Republican, far from it, but on politics alone, he's pretty squarely in the middle. If I was just looking at policies, he's a candidate I'd be fine with, but probably not especially excited about. So, what got me excited was the change he represents to the whole process. The biggest part of that is the race issue of course. I think having a black President is a big step toward healing the racial divide in America. And I think it sets an example that could make anyone feel like there's a place for them in this country. And as we saw, Obama's candidacy inspired a huge segment of the population to get involved in politics for the first time. More participation, and greater diversity in who is participating, can only mean good things for the future of America. So in some ways, I think the kind of healing that that an Obama Presidency could do for this country is more important than any specific political issues that we'll face during the next 4-8 years.

To pin-point a bit further on his ‘war on terror’: Obama has condemned Iraq but instead he’s gonna focus again on the Afghanistan/Pakistan area, although military operations haven’t done much good for the country, on the contrary they have increased Taliban opposition, do you think that the problem of Iraq is gonna be transferred to that area?

What I mean by saying the ‘war on terror’ is a Bush construct is that I think the whole approach of trying to solve these problems by invading a country and overthrowing their government is deeply flawed. Terrorists are criminals, not state-sanctioned armies. So I don’t believe ‘war’ in its traditional sense is the right way to respond to something like 9/11. Especially in Iraq, who appear to have nothing to do with 9/11 in the first place. So, I'm glad that Obama sees the error of Bush's ways in Iraq. And I hope he'll eventually sees the same thing about Afghanistan too. Then again, he's inheriting a situation where military involvement is already underway, so we have to assume that his actions now will be different than what they might have been if we had never gotten into this mess in the first place. But if you were going to fight a ‘war’ to retaliate for 9/11, Afghanistan is a more sensible place to do it than Iraq, so in that sense, I guess I believe he's got a better handle on the reality of the situation than Bush did. I still think war isn’t thee answer on this one though.

How do you see the situation evolving in the Middle East? In all American tradition, Obama is supporting the Israel nation, so that’s gonna clinch again with the Palestinians…?

Man, if I could predict what would happen in the Middle East, I wouldn't be fucking around making rap records. A US President who supports Israel is nothing new though. And I think it's clear that if there ever is any resolution to the struggle in that part of the world, it's going to have to include the existence of both Israeli and Palestinian states. I don’t think the US helps anything by waging a war that makes any part of the Middle East a more unstable place though, so I think if Obama is successful in curtailing our military involvement over there it will be a lot easier to focus on diplomacy, even with nations that aren’t directly involved in the current war.

A lot has been said about Obama, McCain, Sarah Palin, but what about Biden, he’s really been in the shadow of all the attention the last few weeks?

Politically speaking, Biden was actually the candidate that appealed to me the most at the beginning of the Presidential campaign. He and Sen. Harry Reid were among the first to publicly call for holding the Bush administration accountable for their lies about the war and I think Biden has the most realistic view on the Middle East that I've heard from any of the major candidates. I actually met him a few weeks before he announced his Presidential bid and I told him then how much it meant to hear a politician publicly talking about holding the President accountable. For the reasons I stated before, I think the societal impact of an Obama win transcended the political issues of this campaign and that says a lot, given how many important political issues were at stake. So, Obama would have gotten my vote anyway, but when he added Biden to the ticket I was very happy about it.

A few weeks ago you performed in a venue with Just-Ice, Jungle Bros and some other legends, how was that like, was there a lot of discussions about politics?

The show was the debut of a new collective I'm part of called Great Mindz, which is made up of me, Zimbabwe Legit, YZ and Mike G and Sammy B of he Jungle Brothers. That alone is some distinguished company, so it was an incredible experience to bring that to the stage for the first time. Then on top of that, to have so many legends in the house, not just Just Ice (one of my personal favorites by the way), but Stetsasonic and Prince Paul, Ectsacy from Whodini, Chuck D, Greg Nice, Keith Murray—and for it to be a CMJ showcase in the closing months for the Knitting Factory in NYC—man, it was a huge honor to be a part of that. I was surrounded by so many heroes of mine I didn't even know whose dick to ride. As for political content, it was 10 days before the election, so yeah, it was in the air. Although you had all those legends, and PUTS was there too. The show kind of had a party vibe to it, so it wasn't a political rally by any means. But I opened my set with a song called ‘Stand Up Tragedy’, which is about the negative impact that that the war and Bush's policies have had on the country and being so close to the election, I felt like the crowd was really hanging on every word and it was cool to be on stage talking politics and see how amped people were about the change that we could all feel was coming.

Who were the ‘politically involved’ rap artists you looked up to in the 80s, 90s?

The thing about the music in the late 80's and early 90's was that rap itself was so heavily politicized. Of course I looked up to people like the Furious Five, and later Public Enemy and KRS ONE and the Native Tongues who were speaking directly on some of these issues, but even cats like Ice T and NWA, who were making ‘gangsta rap’ records, hell, even 2 Live Crew were political back then, because rappers drew a connection between the ‘hardcore’ content of their songs and the political and socio-economic factors that were affecting their lives and their communities. There was some pure party music of course, but there wasn't as much of a division as there is now. Rap in general was political. That's just how it was.

So what do you think of the political awareness and activity of today’s rap generation?

I don't know if I can speak it on it really, because I'm not listening to every record that comes out. But I feel like it's become more divided into subgenres, so politics aren't built-in to the music anymore. It’s almost like the listeners don't believe an MC can be political and rock a stage and win a battle. They put everyone in a box, like if you're a political rapper that's all you are. And I think some artists and labels let it happen too. So yeah, you still have political rap, but it's a subgenre, and only the ‘political rap’ fans are checking for it. I don’t think it has to be that way though, so there’s still hope.

What projects are you workin on for the moment?

The fellas at diggerswithgratitude.com are about to release a limited edition 7” featuring me and Grand Puba. That just came back from the presses, but it's already sold out. It's something I did a few years back for another project that never saw light of day, so I'm glad this song will finally be heard, even if only as a limited edition release. I'm also getting ready to release the RADIx album ‘MonSTAPLEx’ which is entirely produced by me. It's the first time I've done an entire album for another group, so it was a cool experience for me. Dumi Right of Zimbabwe Legit and I have also been working on an album for a long time under the name Alternate Reality. It's been kind of a side-project for both of us, so it's been slow moving, but I'm really proud of the material and we're getting closer to finishing it. Those are the main events right now. That and seeing what we can build with the Great Mindz. Beyond that I've been staying busy dropping some guest verses for various projects that will be dropping over the next few months. I'm probably due for another solo album too, but other than a few songs I don't really have a specific solo project in the works. I'm sure that'll change soon though.

In case he reads this, any final words for Obama?

Stop fucking around on the internet dude. You have WORK to do!

Thanks Cadence!


POSTED 11|01|2008
conducted by Cpf

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