Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Tommy V's Restless World

Broken English

Here's the fresh Tommy V joint - and it's quite the many-layered onion! (or parfait?)  Here we see the signature Tommy V thrift-score loops and production we all know and love, along with several classic collaborators (Gajah, Awol One, EXII, 2Mex and Maleko).  Partnered to that is the solid musicianship, intricate song craft, emotional depth, and beautiful harmonies that Tommy V is known for since his musical rebirth.  More focused than the predecessor Mockingbird, but no less progressive, TV has come into his own in this brave new post-underground world.  

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Evidence Of Things Not Seen by Gabriel Teodros

Outside Looking In

The latest from the greatest.  DL now for personal enrichment. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Fresh Music


Phreewil is one of my favorite producers out there.  Ricky Pharoe is one of my favorite lyricists.  Together they made this testament to awesomeness.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Return to tha Caliber: An Interview with J. Jonah of Tha Slumplordz

The Forbidden One

Here's another interview conducted by The Homie Alex, this time with J. Jonah of Tha Slumplordz. Enjoy!

    From Too $hort to Digital Underground to Hobo Junction to the Hieroglyphics, Oakland, California has produced some amazing hip-hop, but one group that often gets overlooked is the unique and elusive click, Tha Slumplordz. The five man crew, consisting of members Hard Rard, J. Jonah, Irahktherigor, Gravanaught and Dave Doses, officially formed in ’97 from a collection of smaller groups, and one year later dropped the amazing Adventures 12”. A self-titled album, released under the sub-group Sunnmoonsekt, featuring Rard and Irahk as Sunn and Moon respectively, followed and introduced the world to their spaced out, bass heavy brand of hip-hop, which they referred to as “slump.” While the Sunnmoonsekt album got the most attention, their strongest album was its follow up Don’t Worry About the Kaliber [Or Nothin Like That], released as Tha Yakuza, featuring Rard as Pokerface Tanaka and J. Jonah, formerly known as Freeman. This album took the production to the next level and was more stylistically advanced, with more seasoned flows and a harder edge.

    After complications with their label, Tha Lordz disappeared for a while, only to reemerge in 2006 with the independently released Sav City, under the name The Sweeps, featuring Rard and Dave Doses. A solo album by Gravanaught, entitled Searching, was to be their next release, but it never materialized and it seemed like the Lordz had released their final chapter. In 2013, however, J. Jonah aka JonaH HeXXX, now essentially holding the torch on his own, with some help from Irahk and Dave Doses on the production, released the dope mixtape Return to tha Caliber and gave listeners another dose of that Slumplordz sound. An EP, entitled New Pimpin, followed, and the Oakland veteran has more planned for the future. We discussed past, present and future in this interview which gives some insight into one of my favourite crews from my youth.

Before Tha Lordz formed, you were part of a crew called the Elements, going back to ’93. Can you talk about those early days?

    That was me, the Gravanaught and a friend of mine - he called himself Tha Lytist, and it was three of us, the Elements. We were called the Raw Elements, the OGRE (Original Raw Elements). It was me and my friend, that’s the Lytist, we sort of started the group. So it was me and him at first. And then my cousin, which, that’d be Gravanaught, you know, he joined on soon after. And then we were just, you know, doing our thing on the side, outside of Tha Slumplordz. And then one day Gravy introduced me to Rard and then it kinda went from there as far as Tha Slumplordz was concerned. But the Elements, we were already a group outside of Tha Slumplordz, so we just incorporated the Elements as well. You know, there’s five of us in Tha Slumplordz, but we have a gang of groups inside of our group.

So it was ’97 when Tha Slumplordz formed, right?

Yes. Officially, yeah.

The first release was the Adventures 12” which was a Sunnmoonsekt track, but you were on that one. You were calling yourself Freeman at that time?

Yup, aka The Forbidden One, yup.

Can you talk about Math Sound Workshop and Knock Factor? Were those just independent labels started by friends of yours?

Well, Math Sound Workshop, that was like in-house engineers... That was when we had a little spot where we made our little music and just chilled. It was this house on East 33rd in Oakland and that was just our style, we used to call it Area 33rd. And we just made beats, played video games, whatever, just chilled. That’s how the Math Sound Workshop started out. That was a group of good friends that had people in high places that invested in us. We came out independently. I mean, before it was Knock Factor, you know, before Knock Factor and before we had the deal with Stray Records aka Dogday Records.

In the credits for the Sunnmoonsekt album it says mixed by D. Phelan. So he was one of those people?

Yes, that’s Daniel Phelan, yeah.

So after that album you guys did the Yakuza joint on Stray Records. How did you guys hook up with Substance Abuse?

    Substance Abuse, those cats were Dave Doses’ boys from L.A., right? They were working for a distribution company, I forget the name of it, out here. They shared an apartment in Oakland. And Dave, you know, introduced us to them and just like back on East 33rd, we used to all go to John Heath’s (Eso'Tre). John, I was hella cool with him and we actually did a couple songs together but just picked that one for the Yakuza, “Spare No One”. They called the track “Anything Niggaz”, some shit like that. The track was actually called “Spare No One”. I go on it first, I say the title of the track in my first line.

Did tha Yakuza album sell very many copies? I did hear people talking about Sunnmoonsekt, but it seems like I didn’t hear much about that album.

    From what I’ve heard, Tha Yakuza was in a close second to the Sunnmoonsekt album, but the Yakuza album got the most acclaim in terms of the production. I don’t know about lyrics, I can’t remember back that far. But now, I believe, the next project is gonna be a whole lot tighter and it’s gonna have a wide range of music to it – instrumentals, samples, scratches, up tempo, you know, we always got to have the slump though, it’s gonna be some slow movin’, bass heavy tracks comin’ out.

You guys also worked with Zion I on that album…

    Yeah, that was Gravy. I was there when they were recordin’ it. It was a pretty dope session. It was nice. That was cool.

So what happened with Stray Records? I read there was some sort of contractual issue.

    Well, to my knowledge [laughs] – there’s a lot of little inside stuff. But what the company did was that they just bolted and went to the east coast. They didn’t tell anybody, you know, without warning, or anything, they just bounced on us and everything folded. Back when this happened, that wasn’t just us, it was other groups on the label as well. So I think the owners or whoever else had the money, they bolted and went to the east coast. And that’s all I heard about that, as far as the business was concerned. I’m sure other cats, like Rard or somebody, could tell you more. Everybody has families now, you know what I’m sayin’, but we still talk. You know, we wanna do more shit, I mean, you know, more music. So we gonna try to get together and do that very soon. I’m doing my solo shit.

I’m glad you are, man, ‘cause the stuff you’re putting out, it still has that sound.

    Yeah, I’m tryin’, man. It’s hard to get in the studio. I’m goin’ out to the garage these days, just to record lyrics and stuff, so some of my stuff isn’t as mixed as it should be or it doesn’t sound as high end as it used to be because I’m the only one, basically, doing the production. But me and Irahktherigor are doin’ a little something. I got a couple of his tracks, he’s got a couple of mine. We just haven’t hooked up to put our ideas on paper and spit it out and give somebody the microphone. That’s usually the issue these days. Over these months and years, we can’t hook up to get an idea out and put it out and run with it, you know what I mean? Everybody’s still with it though, as far as I’m concerned.

Well, I really liked that New Pimpin EP you put out recently. Who is 9 Continents? Is that one guy? 

    That’s me, man! [laughs] That’s my alter ego. I got a lotta alter egos, I’m sorry. It’s the 9 Continents. It’s always been my alter ego, to tell you the truth. But we always did our music on some shit like that. You know, The Sweeps, that’s just another episode. Tha Yakuza, that’s just another episode. Sunnmoonsekt, that was the first episode, you know what I mean?

Well, I saw that name on tha Yakuza album, but I didn’t realize that was you. Those beats are really dope. That’s cool. So who is Black Male Suspect then? He did some beats on tha Yakzua album.

    That’s Irahktherigor! Yeah, that’s his alter ego.

So, after tha Yakuza, it seemed like it got kinda quiet, but then the Sweeps project came out. That was an independent project, to my knowledge. But you weren’t really on that one.

    I was having legal issues at that point [laughs].

So same thing with Gravy’s LP? You were supposed to be on that one too?

    Yeah, I was supposed to be on The Sweeps album a whole lot. I was supposed to be on the Gravy album too. He wanted to do his thing solo. I respected it. There was a track on there, actually, that was supposed to be for me. The last track, it was just an instrumental. That was actually my track, you know what I’m sayin’? We still wanna do something with that track. A lot of beats that I’ve done, solo stuff, a lot of other cats have liked ‘em. Well, we might as well make some remixes or something. If cats wanna go off on some of the beats I’ve composed, or even something they’ve composed, let’s do it. You know, it’s, four or five minds is better than one, knawmean?

Well, you told me a while back that the Return to tha Caliber mixtape was actually supposed to be a Raw Elements album. Can you talk about that?

    Originally and then my boy, my cousin, Gravy, he started… I don’t know man, I mean it’s hard to explain. The best way I can explain it is he started getting in trouble [laughs]. And he hasn’t come back from that yet, but it was supposed to be a mixtape featuring Gravanaught on most of the tracks. Some of them sound kinda choppy and stuff ‘cause that’s the only verses I had so I just put ‘em on the tracks and called them songs. I just wanted to be able to, it was supposed to be me and Gravy on that, a Raw Elements album and I just called it a mixtape.

There was one track on there, “Don’t Lose Ya Mind”. Was that an older track?

    Yup. That was an older track. That was a 2006 track, right before they came out with the Sweeps. Irahktherigor made that beat. I was fresh out of the penitentiary. I just had to get it off my chest. I always wanted to record it. So I finally did it. I put it on Youtube, and then I just made it to an mp3 and put it on the album, to throw it on there.

Your rhyme patterns remind me a bit of, like, Kool Keith and a lot stuff that came out of the Good Life. If a person was just listening casually they might not hear that you’re rhyming. Like, it’s a lot of internal rhymes. You were always, to me, the most unique in the crew. Who influenced that style?

    Oh, man. Chuck D. Yeah, Chuck D. And I always liked Erick Sermon and I also liked Sadat X of Brand Nubian. I always liked the way he rhymed, you know what I mean? I first started writing rhymes when I heard Public Enemy for the first time. I was like, “Hold on, man.” They motivated me to really write some rhymes, for real. But, you know, I came up in the era of, like, the Hieroglyphics and stuff. We all went to the same high school. So, they always used to battle. We all battled each other at the Skyline High School. But it really didn’t dawn upon me that we could actually do it like that. But at the same time, I knew I had my own little style. That’s where we developed our styles, when we were really young, in the first place. You know, I was writing rhymes back then.

So, in terms of the future, do you have anything lined up right now? I know you wanna do another Slumplordz project, but in terms of your solo stuff?

    Oh, yeah! I got a couple of things on the horizon [laughs]. I got my big cousin, Kenneth. They call him Sumpin Else. I got some nice beats and some nice lyrics. Like the one, I dunno if you heard, on New Pimpin, the one where it says “Ridin' the whale that ate Jonah” and it’s with Irahk on the hook or whatever. That was the first track I heard [Sumpin Else] do and I was like, “Damn, you made that? Wow!” And then I started rhyming on it. That’s a Sumpin Else track. But yeah, there are two tracks though, that are produced by Sumpin Else. Also Irahktherigor’s got some tracks that we’re gonna do. I got another mixtape comin’ out. I’ve got some songs produced by my older son. It’s gonna be pretty cool.

So it’s mainly just you and Irahk who are releasing music right now?

    I dunno if [Irahk]’s actually releasing anything, but he’s putting out beats. I’m pumpin’ out beats. He’s pumpin’ out beats. Dave Doses is doing beats, but he’s doing it really low key. I don’t get to hear much of that. It’s hard to manage the group still [laughs], you know what I mean? Because everybody’s older and has responsibilities. If we were around each other every day there’d be a whole lot more music. I mean, we hook up every now and then. I see everybody like twice a month. I do see my dudes. We gonna get it together, man. We gonna put out some music.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Retarded Gene-Yis: An Interview with Aki Kharmicel

Akbar Sun

The Homie Alex has once again blessed us with an incredible and insightful interview, this time with San Diego's Aki Kharmicel.

    Aki Kharmicel (aka Kennuf Akbar, Akbar Sun, etc.) is the definition of a true artist. His music is raw, unfiltered and uncompromising. His voice, rhyme patterns and beats sound like nobody else. He brings his MPC with him wherever he travels and leaves it plugged in and turned on whenever he’s at home. Aki’s first release came in ’97, a tape called Saleems Self Cypher, and a plethora of albums followed, under several different monikers and covering a wide range of styles and subject matter. I was fortunate enough to get to speak with the San Diego emcee/producer about his early years, spirituality, racism, the rap scene in Diego, and a few of his many releases, as well as his plans for the future.

How did you first fall in love with hip-hop? What were some of your early influences?

    This might be a strange answer, but to be honest with you, one of my first influences with hip-hop was hearing my parents listening to Prince, and I say that because, as I get older and I get more in depth into what I do, and kind of just take a constant look at my influences, I see how that’s probably one of my biggest influences as far as what I do. To me, lookin’ at what Prince did back in his heyday – first of all, he was one of the artists that popularized the use of that drum machine called the LM-1, or the Linn Drum, which was actually the precursor to the MPC2000.  A lot of people may not know that, but it’s the truth. The “1999” song had those famous drums on it, which was from the LM-1. A lot of the different aliases that he used on production credits, for stuff that he produced, that’s something that I do a lot, as you may know. But if you want more specific hip-hop influence, when I first started buying records and tapes on my own, some of the earliest hip-hop stuff that I was collectin’ was stuff like N.W.A., like Houston, Texas rap like Geto Boys, Scarface, all that Rap-A-Lot stuff, and of course artists like Wu-Tang, Digable Planets, De La Soul, etc. So, I guess, you could say I have a pretty wide array of influences.

I read that you first learned to use a sampler in college. Can you break down how you first learned to make beats?

    Yup. Actually, the first time that I actually constructed - before I started using machines and stuff – ‘cause, I mean, I’m pretty, I’m kinda semi-old school, not like “Planet Rock” type old school. I wasn’t collecting records in the early 80s or whatever, but old school like I had a record player and tape recorder, connected. I had one of those type of joints. So, even as a youngster I would loop samples with the record player. And there used to be this older gentlemen, a lady friend’s pops, actually had an [Ensoniq] ASR-10. This was probably ’93, ’94 maybe? But when I actually got my own experience using the equipment myself, yeah, it was actually a community college called Mesa College. And they had an Emax 2. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the Emax, but it’s a keyboard sampler, like the ASR-10. It was one of the earlier keyboard samplers, basically. Like the ASR-10, but a lot older.

Yeah, it sounds like you were using a keyboard sampler in a lot of your music.

    Yeah, a lot of my earlier stuff. Either I made beats on that Emax, or the Ensoniq EPS, which was one of the first pieces of equipment I purchased. That and the SP-202. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the 202, you might be familiar with the 303. The SP-202, Dr. Sample, the 202 was the original one. That was actually the first piece of equipment I bought with my own money, the SP-202. And then I got the EPS a year or so after that. And that was like, I wanna say late ’97, early ’98, something like that.

So would that’ve been around the time you recorded the Saleems Self Cypher tape?

    I recorded the tape in early ’97, like winter/spring of ’97.

And that was released under the name Nocturnal Scientists. Was that just you and Sumach, or were there other people in the group at the time?

    The Nocturnal Scientists, when we came up with that crew, there were basically like five to six of us, or so, and there were a few others that were kinda with our little click, basically. But the nucleus of it was me, Sumach, this cat named Kito, Fubar, a female emcee by the name of Judah and this other cat that went by GreenLeaf aka Marcus. And my boy Fubar was like one of the original members. We kinda came up with that, me and him. When me, ‘Mach, Kito, and GreenLeaf/Marcus, we started kickin’ it, you know what I mean, I kind of brought them into my little fold, if you will. I would say this is ’94, ’95, something like that. I was like the only one, at the time, that was making my own beats. I’m actually a little older than those cats. You see me and ‘Mach and you might think I’m the younger of the two, but I’m actually older than that cat, you know what I’m sayin’?

    The tape though, when I recorded that, Sumach wasn’t on that particular album. It was just mainly me, Fubar was on a couple of tracks, and I had a couple singers on there, singin’ the hooks – a couple of no namers. But when I recorded that album, Saleems Self Cypher, I released it as a group project ‘cause I’m kind of community minded. I was brought up that way. So I thought I was the first one to drop out of the click, so I thought put Nocturnal Scientists out. But cats kinda moved on [laughs]. It was like ’97, cats were doing their own thing. Sumach started kicking it more with Orko and them cats, Masters of the Universe, and I just went on and focused on my own shit, basically.

So after that you dropped the …Sun album, as Akbar. Is that right?

    Exactly. And just to give you a little bit of history, that was probably the only time I took a little hiatus from music. Between the Nocturnal Scientist album, between then and working on the …Sun album, I took about a little less than a year hiatus, for spiritual reasons. At the time, one of the cats that I was still dealin’ with at that time was this cat named Marcus. He was the only cat I was still kind of dealing with. I was dealing with that brother and we were both kind of going through a spiritual cleansing, whatever you wanna call it, and I was practicing, coming into the fold of Islam and practicing that. And my man, he was kind of practicing more of the, I guess you could say, the Sunni Islam, at that time, and I was more studying the Nation, at that time, the so-called 5%, NOI, etc. I don’t really get too hung up on religious sects and parties, you know, like denominations, you know what I mean? So, I was still going to the mosque and getting into debates with cats at the mosque because I was studying the Nation’s teachings.

    Long story short, with my man, in some circles in the Muslim community, they believe that music is Haram, it’s against God to do music. And he kinda had me spooked a bit. I mean, I’m a pretty practical and logical person, so we would debate back and forth and usually, I guess, my debates would kind of… win [laughs]. But nonetheless, the seed was planted in my head that bad things would happen. I started thinking, “Maybe music is bad.” So, I gave it up after I dropped that Saleems Self Cypher tape. But I started having nightmares and shit. Within that time, I basically went cold turkey, like no recording, no music, nothing. I was just beatboxing, recording myself beatboxing and shit. When you make music, you’re always gonna communicate musically in some kinda way. I was thinking about doing an all beatbox album on some Rhazel shit. But I didn’t mess with no music.

    So, anyways, I fell back on the music but I started having these dreams. I would have dreams about fools rockin’ my steez and shit, like making my kind of beats. ‘Cause let me tell you something, back in ’94, ’95, nobody was making beats off of Bollywood movies and shit like that. I stumbled on that shit by accident in ’95, you know what I mean? I don’t really recall anybody, maybe Rakim on Paid in Full (“Paid in Full” Seven Minutes of Madness Coldcut Remix). That wasn’t really Bollywood, though, but probably the closest along those lines. Anyways, I was having these dreams, but long story short, my man Marcus, he went to Africa. After he bounced, he kinda left me hangin’. He played me to the left like, “Oh, this brother, he ain’t seen me enough. So I’m cool off this cat.” But after that cat left - I think ‘Mach was in the Bay Area at the time - I was just out here dolo, like one deep. I started thinkin’, “This is kinda bullshit. This is what I do. This is how I express myself. I can use this for positive, you know?” So, that’s when, he left, and probably within a couple of months, I bought that 202 and started making beats again. That was probably late-’97, October, Novemberish. And that following year, that’s when I enrolled back in Mesa College and started recording the Akbar Sun album and also the Liquid Sunshine album. Really, the Akbar Sun, the Liquid Sunshine project, the Brazier Than Batman Lewis stuff, I recorded most of those tracks between ’98 and ‘99. That’s essentially three albums, you know what I mean? That’s how backed up I was, staying away from music that long. I was in the lab. You also gotta keep in mind that I wasn’t really running with anybody either. Just like one deep. I didn’t have a girlfriend either, at the time, none of that. Straight up loner shit, you know what I mean? And I used that opportunity to lab out. Just using that opportunity and time to record.

I read an interview with Sumach where he talked about how he experienced a lot of racism growing up, especially in the Gaslamp District. Did you have similar experiences?

    I mean, most definitely. Let me tell you something, man. Just growing up in the 70s, or 80s, right at the cusp of the 70s movement, our Nation was still experiencing a lot of that racism. There was a time when Diego was a little more blacker, but over the years the black population just kind of dissipated. Now, it’s very minimal today but at least in the 90s, we had a thicker community. But racism in school, I dealt with a lot of that in the school system. And, of course, in my adulthood, when you get into your late teens/early twenties, and you experience stuff like that. I mean, I experienced some of the most racist experiences in the workforce. Once I started entering into the workforce, that’s when I experienced a whole lot of racism. But it’s different now because when you’re in a particular part of town for so long, they really can’t fade you. They really can’t fade me, whether it’s the workforce, or going out and about ‘cause now it’s young cats patrolling the streets and they see an O.G., they don’t really bother you, I guess.

    So, yeah, definitely, dealing with that. I would even say – and maybe this is part of the reason why people like me aren’t readily spoken of within San Diego, because even within the scene, there’s probably a certain amount of that racism. And racism isn’t the same as being prejudice, just to clarify certain things to whoever may read this article. We all have pre-judgments, but racism is an institution that’s implemented, that shows that the people that’s in control, in power, act unfairly to people who are the minority. So, even within the scene, seeing that you’re the minority, and feeling like, “Ok, well, I don’t really get that respect.” I mean, even today, lack of respect has more to do with just egos than race, but these people that are in the scene, if their parents are racist, that very well may have an effect on them too. I’m just sayin’ it’s possible. Their actions will show more than their words. Racism has evolved over the years. It’s not as overt as it was in the 60s. But when it comes to getting a job and they don’t hire certain people, you don’t see any people of African descent in the workforce, you gotta wonder, is it because they’re racist? Maybe. They might not have said it. It seems like it. ‘Cause I know plenty of brothers trying to get a job. All you gotta do is just look.

    But I’m not gonna sit here and holler [about] that. I mean, evidently, and I’m not trying to charge at anybody, but I’m just trying to narrate to you, in short, situations that someone in my position might encounter from time to time. I know, in general, the scene is a little bit ass-backwards. You go to a Wu-Tang concert and they don’t have the right kind of people opening up for these artists. Like local talents opening up for an act like Wu-Tang. I mean, you think that, “Let’s show some of the rawest San Diego talent. Let’s not put some corny, wanna-be G-funk rappers opening up for a group like Wu-Tang.” You dig what I’m saying?

Well, look at a guy like Delon Deville. How is he not getting more attention?

    That’s a very good question. Delon Deville, in my personal opinion, is a very good artist. And I’m gonna give you a little bit of San Diego history and I hope whoever reads this article in San Diego doesn’t take this the wrong way, but I just wanna paint a picture. Now, Delon Deville came from a crew called D.N.A., Devil Needs an Afro – he was one of three of them - it was him, a cat called Kontroversial and a cat called Matrix aka Odessa Kane. Now I’m just gonna be honest. I think Odessa Kane is dope, but I don’t really see Delon Deville getting any kind of play or respect from these cats in Diego. And granted, he may have had his experiences where he can’t be active in the scene, but talent is talent, you dig what I’m sayin’? And you shouldn’t have to fight an uphill battle to prove to people or to get any level of support from people in the San Diego scene if people get the recognition based off of talent.

    Now, I know some cats – I’m not gonna say no names – they used to be a group. They kinda broke up – some Asian kids, right? Now, I’ve got close with a lot of Asian cats, but let’s keep it real. If you’re an artist who doesn’t come within the community - because early San Diego hip-hop, a lot of it kind of evolved in a place we call South East San Diego, which is a predominantly black part of town. Even today, that’s where I live at today, Encanto, which is a part of South East San Diego. And today, a lot of the cats in this part of town aren’t as interested in hip-hop, I guess [laughs]. That’s a whole ‘nother story. But if you’re an artist and you try to create your own scene, outside of the overall hip-hop culture - in other words, you’re only focusing on your own particular demographic – that’s not really fair. Then it’s a numbers game. You just gotta pull your ethnic identity card and you automatically get support, just because you just happen to be in that particular ethnic demographic. So, in other words, talent don’t have absolutely nothin’ to do with it. It’s a numbers game. “We’re gonna support this guy because he looks like us” [laughs]. Not because they’re dope, necessarily. And I’m not trying to take anything away from any artist in San Diego. There’s plenty of talent in San Diego. And it’s not all about race, it’s a dick-riding culture as well, you know what I mean?

Well, it seems like it’s almost a case of who’s the better business man, not who’s the better artist. Like maybe that artist doesn’t have the best business sense but there’s no support structure for that artist. Because it’s all about the music at the end of the day, right?

    Maybe it’s that too, but I don’t really see a lot of these cats making a whole lotta money, so I can’t really say business because there’s no money involved, I mean…

I guess it’s more who’s the better promoter then. Who’s able to promote and make better connections, rather than the quality of the music, itself.

    Yeah, but you know what? There’s been times I’ve met people, like, I was at a show and I asked one of my peoples, “Hey, how do I get booked for one of these gigs here?” And he’s like, “Oh, you need to talk to this cat, so and so.” So I reasoned with the dude, try to connect with the cat, but he ain’t trying to hear me. He’s unfamiliar with me on the scene, you know what I mean? I think I’ve made some mark within the San Diego scene, by crafting my own genre or style in hip-hop, even my influence on artists in San Diego - whether they admit it or not is beside the point. But they don’t know. That’s fine. But I’m like, “Yo, I wanna get in on some of these gigs.” Show him some of my videos, some of my stats, etc., who I’m dealin’ with. But they willfully ignore me to put on the people that they’re already good with. And quite frankly, it looks like a demographic thing. I hate to say it, but that’s what it looks like to me. I’ve studied culture, classism, racism, how it works. I mean c’mon, let’s keep it real. We can’t keep a closed mouth on this forever. That’s how problems don’t get resolved. That’s what they’re trying to do in South Africa. “Oh, let’s just sweep it under the rug.” These people are being oppressed. They were there before the white Africans, but yet they’re not allowed the same amount respect or equal opportunity simply because they’re black.

Getting back to your music, were Shock of the Hour and Handle with Prayer recorded at the same time?

    What happened, when I was recording Brazier Than Batman Lewis - it’s called Brazier Than Batman Lewis Part III Vol. 1 because, back in the day, before, I used to have these mixtapes that I called that. It was just a mix of some beats that I made and some samples and maybe some freestyles and stuff. And Part II was specifically a beat tape that I really just made for myself and my friends, stuff for us to freestyle over. So, that’s why I called it Part III. And it’s Vol. 1 and 2 because when I was working on that, I didn’t really intend for it to be a two part album, but I recorded so many songs I had to split it up. That’s the reason why it’s called Vol. 1 and 2

    So yeah, pretty much all those songs were recorded within the same time frame, ’98, ’99, between those two years and maybe like one track that I recorded, “All Ovr (the City)”, I actually recorded that song in like early 2000, basically on a 4-track recorder at the pad. I threw it on Vol. 1 ‘cause I really liked the song, you know what I mean? Originally I used that song for a cat named Parker Edison. He was doing a tape and wanted me to contribute. I had laced him with a couple of beats but he wanted me to put a song on there. The song that I put on there was the “All Ovr (the City)” song. I dunno how many tapes, or whatever, he released of that. But I ended up using it for the Brazier Than Batman Lewis album.

I’m not gonna touch on all your albums because we’ll be here all night, but on your album The Enemy, under the alias Ken/Off!, you worked with Orko Eloheim. Was that the first time you’d worked with Orko, and what was it like working with him?

    Yeah, The Enemy was done around 2006, around the time I got this new MPC that I have, 2000XL. And actually, Orko was one of the guys who helped me learn how to use the MPC when I first started, because he knew how to use it. And The Most High just brought us together. That was a time in his life where he was trying to focus more on family-oriented stuff. We just kind of related on that family tip, as far as hanging out. We were actually gonna release a project together, me and Orko. We had done some beats together. I shot him some beats. He shot me some beats. But we were never able to make that stick because sometimes people are in their circles. I’m in this circle, you’re in this circle. He actually ended up moving into these apartments I was living in. We recorded that song right in his apartment. He had a lab set up there. We were just around each other more, so we just built on it. You know, when two artists get together, the communication, it’s gonna be artistic. Workin’ with him? It was cool. It wasn’t difficult to do tracks with him. I’d like to say I’m an easy artist to work with. I can pretty much adjust my flavour with other people’s flavour. I can get on different topics, etc. It was a good experience, building with him, it was good.

After that, you recorded the Lonely Phantoms project. Who is DJ Showkraw?

    I dunno if you’re familiar with the Kilowattz and the Skrapez and them. He’s like the Jarobi of their group. His sound was a little different than the other cats in that group’s sound. Maybe that’s what kinda interested me. I kinda gravitate towards the odd balls, you know? The square pegs, ya dig? I actually met him at ‘Mach’s pad. He showed me some beats. I figure if a dude got some beats and he shoots me some beats, let’s not just do one track, let’s do a little collab. So we just kept recording and decided to call that shit Lonely Phantoms.

You called yourself Oggie Clog on that one. Has that ever been a problem, where people aren’t aware you’ve dropped a new project because it’s under a different name?

    Is it a problem? I don’t know. It might be a problem for those who are trying to cop all my shit and they don’t know. I don’t put too much thought into it. I just do it. If people like my shit enough, they’ll find out about it. That’s how I think about it. Like, how I approach music, it’s kinda just like an artist, almost as a painter with sounds and I don’t always feel like – I’m just like that. I mean, for me spittin’ over the Lonely Phantoms, it represents a different side. A lot of these albums, I do them like stories. They don’t necessarily represent me and my personal experiences, literally. It’s more done in a story format. Oggie Clog is like a spinoff of Aki Khalaq. I don’t wanna go into the whole backstory. Another time we’ll go into that. It’s just what I do [laughs].

Kennuf Akbar verses Amir-ikk(k)a the Great! was released in 2009, but were those tracks recorded earlier?

    The Amir-ikk(k)a album was mostly recorded in like 2000 except for "TheThieves" vocals and "Kontra" vocals that I had recorded a little later, I think in '08.

I love how a lot of your beats have that 8-bit sound, reminiscent of the NES. Were those sounds a big influence on you, growing up in the 80s?

    Yeah, definitely. I mean, me, as a producer, I always, even as a kid, experienced reality through sound and through music, so I’m constantly thinking of music. So when I’m playing a videogame, even as a kid, I’m thinkin’ of the music. So, once I started makin’ beats, I would start thinkin’ back, like, “What can I make a beat off of?” Then I’d be thinkin’, “Oh, this videogame has a dope sample, or this record, or this movie, or whatever it is.” Anything can become a beat, for me, know you? So, definitely like Nintendo, the first NES, Sega Genesis, but I would say especially the first Nintendo ‘cause whoever was doing the music to that, and the bass lines and stuff on that, really dope, man.

Yeah, when you think of how limited they were and yet they created these masterpieces that people still think of today.


I’ve heard you shout out a crew called BeetFreeks. Who is that made up of?

    BeetFreeks was a beat collective project with Kito because we had made some beats together, but we haven't released that project yet.

Can you break down how you came up with the Aki Kharmicel persona and what he’s all about?

    It’s kinda funny because a lot of the time these characters are in the back of your dome and it just takes the right momentum or experience to bring that particular side of you out. I started making those Aki Kharmicel beats around 2007-2008. Whenever I travel, I take my beat machine. Normally, it’d be the MPC – it’s just the easiest thing to carry. Now, it seems like the MPC and my 404. But I would take my machine back east, and one of my deceased late-uncles, he left behind a bunch of 45s at my aunt’s house. And I always used to ask him about those records but he never wanted to plug me with them records. But when he left ‘em behind, I was just going through them 45s and that’s how that sound kinda first started, the beats. Then going to New York, and taking those 45s with me. Like, a lot of people go to places they’ve never been to and take pictures. For me, I always think of, “That’s the first beat I made when I went to New York.”

    So, that’s kinda how the Aki Kharmicel experience started. I would always go to Maryland and Virginia. That’s like my home away from home. But that particular year, there had been previous times where we wanted to go to New York and that particular year, me and my lady went to New York. The first two songs on that album are the first two beats I made the first time I ever when to New York. So, all those beats on that album I made back east. That may seem trivial to some people, but just to give you a little history on that particular album. 

    The whole premise of that character, he travels through time. Kinda on some Back to the Future type shit, you know what I mean? It’s kinda like Back to the Future with music. I always liked Back to the Future, so maybe that’s where that came from [laughs]. For me, doing albums, I’ve always kinda done albums like it’s a movie and doing the Aki Kharmicel project, and being the embodiment of this character, ‘cause Aki Kharmicel has a particular sound that’s kinda different from my other projects. So, I just approached it and it all started coming together, so I decided, “Okay, I’m Aki Kharmicel.” I didn’t really tell anybody, I just did it. People who really support me, they started seeing the stickers and they were like, “Oh, okay. That’s Kennuf.” But Aki Kharmicel is one of the main characters that I’m using currently. But there’s other projects that I’m recording too. I’m working on a project that’s the unofficial sequel to Akbar Sun, called Film. So that’s bringin’ that whole character and that whole vibe back. The Akbar Sun vibe. I’m actually gonna start rockin’ that as a rap name, Akbar Sun.

So the AAAAk album you made a while back, is that an Aki Kharmicel album or is that Kennuf Abkar?

    It’s kinda neither. I guess you would liken it more to... it’s almost like The Enemy mixed with Akbar Sun. It’s more aggressive than the Akbar Sun shit. Akbar Sun is more laid back, slower. AAAAk’s more aggressive, more upbeat. People like MF DOOM do stuff like this, sometimes you don’t wanna put your face on this joint. I just wanna put this out and murder niggaz real quick, for lack of better words, ya dig? So it’s supposed to be like a hip-hop horror movie. He’s just killin’ fools, left and right. That’s why there’s screams in it and stuff like that. It’s like the death of your favourite rapper/producer. I’m killin’ ‘em on the beats and on the raps. It’s kinda like a horror movie for whack cats in the scene. That’s kinda the whole approach. So I didn’t really use my name, I just put it out there, like Ak, like okay, you kinda know it’s me but you’re gonna have to cop it and trust your instinct that it’s dope.

What are your plans for the future? What projects can people expect next?

    Lately, I mean I’ve been recording so much stuff, it’s really almost too much to say specifically. It’s a whole lotta stuff they can look forward to hearing. I’d say one of the projects they can expect to hear soon is a project called Aki Khalaq and the Blak Prints featuring Aki Kharmicel. It’s kinda like Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes featuring Teddy Pendergrass but it’s a little rawer and a bit edgier than Harold Melvin. A lot of people don’t study that old soul, like how those cats projected themselves, even Ohio Players and stuff like that. It was almost the equivalent of what would be considered gangster rap today, because the gangsters of that day were bumpin’ that shit. It’s kinda like the Aki version of that. It’s almost like, sonically, you can kinda compare it to the Aki Kharmicel sound, that soulful vibe. The first album we’re gonna release under that name is Natural Law of Attraction.

    As far as creatively speaking, I’m the kind of person, as an artist, I’ll basically allow my environment or experiences – how I feel or where I’m at – that has a lot of influence on what my music is gonna sound like. Like, for instance, when I did the …Sun album, I was basically kinda depressed at that time. Like, super slow beats, the raps were kinda depressing. With The Enemy, I was kinda in between moods. I was in a good mood because I had the MPC, but then I was feelin’ aggressive, dealing with other emcees and the whole ego thing. Dealing with cats I know and the whole bullshit ego thing made me wanna respond lyrically, like battlin’ on some attack shit. But if you listen to that particular album, a lot of the music is kinda happy sounding, but I’m spittin’ bars, choppin’ heads kinda sorta lyrically. 

    But I mean, shoot, there’s a lot of people that use the word love in vain and I think there’s a lot of misunderstanding about love and human sexuality. There’s a lot of misinformation being projected in the mass media about that experience. And I was just letting myself be guided by that experience and allowing it to be a thing that motivates me and that inspires me. I can respond ego for ego - there’s a lot of ego driven artists today - or I can destroy the ego and just allow myself to be moved, having a certain amount of unconditional love in my heart. I mean, I’m still the rawest dude doing a love album. It’s probably gonna be the hardest, rawest love album you ever heard in your life. If you can imagine the Wu-Tang were a soul group and they were singing instead of doin’ raps.

Is the Liquid Sunshine project still on the horizon?

    I mean, it’s completed. I mean, a lot of things, you gotta kinda let nature take its course, in certain regards. If I have a vision – let me explain something to you, go a little more in depth about the Aki Khalaq and the Blak Prints project. It’s a group project. The front man is Aki Khalaq, the Blak Prints are the background singers and the feature is Aki Kharmicel. He’s the emcee on the album. The producer is The Ak. When I have a group project like that, there’s usually not gonna be a lot of complications releasing the shit. When you’re dealing with other people, you might say it’s the right time to drop the shit, but they may not feel it’s the right time. So, basically, certain things haven’t come together. The stars haven’t aligned yet for that particular project to be released. So the project is completed. I would say it’s mainly just the artwork and getting the actual music pressed up and then just putting forth the effort and energy to promote it. It’s a two-man project, so it takes both of us to put forth that amount of energy. When I have projects, the tons of projects I do myself, and when I have projects I do with other people and they don’t feel they’re ready, then it’s just gonna automatically take a backseat. If I’m dealin’ with a chick and I like her a whole lot, then this other chick comes around who likes to spend a lot of time with me, then I’ll probably end up with the chick who likes to spend time with me, ya dig?

Where can people keep up with your latest projects?

    They can check my Soundcloud. I got some other stuff I’m gonna be posting. I like putting little updates, a teaser up there from an album that might be released in the near future. Right now, I’m mainly focused on getting some kind of monetary support behind these projects because, basically, I know that there’s some label or whoever, some people with deep pockets, who would like to finance some of this good artistry, so rather than independently pushing this shit until I’m 105 years old, it’s time to start reaching out and get some money behind these projects. That way you can get some coverage so people who wanna hear this shit can support it, ya dig? ‘Cause, as an artist, when I do it, I do it for the love of it. But once you record that project, it costs money to put it out there. I will press it up if I have to but there may only be a hundred lucky bastards who get to cop the shit, or fifty [laughs], you know?

    Like in San Diego, they don’t know how to see someone on the cusp and support it. They’re not used to that in San Diego. In New York, they see an artist on the cusp of blowing up on some new shit, they support it. In Diego, how they get down is they gotta see the artist blow up outside of Diego. Then they go, “Oh, okay. He’s tight. I’ll buy his shit.” Maybe they’ll ask for it for free and listen to it two years later. Somebody actually told me some shit like that once. I think they actually paid for the CD, but didn’t listen to it for two years. Then they said, “Yo, I listen to that all the time now. It’s my favourite shit!” Took ‘em two years to listen to the CD…

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Heliocentric Worlds of Darkleaf: An Interview with Jahli

Crazy Wisdom Master
I'm very proud to announce that The Homie Alex has blessed us with another spectacular post - An interview with the one and only Jahli from the legendary Darkleaf!  This shit is amazing.  Read on.

    Darkleaf is a crew with deep roots, and their released recordings are just the tip of the iceberg. They’re probably best known for the Kimetic Principles albums and their label debut, Fuck the People, but Darkleaf’s history is, for the most part, shrouded in mystery. Jahli is a founding member of the group, who not only coined the name Darkleaf, but was also responsible for developing the fragmented, spaced-out sound exemplified on 1998’s Kimetic Principles. I had the opportunity to chop it up with him and he was able to give some insight into the formation of the crew and their many variations throughout the years.

Can you talk about how Darkleaf formed and the early Good Life days?

    Me and Terry (Hymnal), we went to school with Cut Chemist. We went to a school called Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies (L.A.C.E.S.) and Cut Chemist was always, ever since I’ve known him, he was into DJ’ing, right? So, for a long time, we were his friends but we were also his cheerleaders, you know what I mean? [laughs] So, there were times where he was afraid to DJ, at a party, and we would pop him off and he would do it. So that was our association with music. So after we graduated, maybe like ’90, ’91, ’92, during that time, he created a crew. I don’t know if he created it or they got together and created it, but he was doing music with a bunch of people, Nu-Mark, Marvski, and officially he got…

Was that Unity Committee?

    That would become Unity Committee, but before that, he was already, you know, we would go over and we met Marvski and we met Nu-Mark. There was a school by Cut Chemist’s house called Marshall. All those guys went to school together and so I guess there was a relationship there. That was more of a Cut Chemist relationship, but we all hung out. Volume 10 was part of that too. He used to be Double D, and Son Doobie was a part of that, from Funkdoobiest. They became Unity Committee and as they became Unity Committee, we were over there and then another person, St. Mark – St. Mark went to school with me and Hymnal.  Me and Hymnal left L.A.C.E.S. and went to L.A. High and we met Marcus (St. Mark) and started hanging out a lot. We took him over there, hanging out with Cut Chemist and everyone, and eventually, Hymnal and St. Mark - they were already writing rhymes and stuff - and so we decided to make a group. And so, I would make a beat. Hymnal would help me with a beat. He would do rhymes and St. Mark would do rhymes. And, believe it or not, I am the dude that coined the name Darkleaf. I made up the name Darkleaf. One night, we were doing this song called “The Shoes.” It was just all of the people that were around. It was supposed to be a song with everyone. And, at first, St. Mark and Terry had this Native Sun title for the group and then I came up with Darkleaf. And from that point, me, Hymnal and St. Mark became Darkleaf.

That’s interesting because, there’s a handful of different stories I’ve heard. I’ve read it was J-Smoov, Hymnal, Sunshine aka Tone, and St. Mark, and then Daddy Kev, I think, wrote an article saying it was you, Hymnal, Blackbird and Dark Cloud 9.

    That’s the beginning. Now, I can tell you about all those different variations, but that’s the beginning. So, after that, slowly, we started to kind of pull away from the Unity Committee and start to be more just Darkleaf, you know what I mean? Not just thinking about music when we’re around those guys, thinking about it on our own, finding equipment. Me and Hymnal really started working on building the beats and learning how to make beats. And as we did that, St. Mark is connected with J-Smoov, okay? That’s his friend and so he started bringing J-Smoov over. And J-Smoov is sort of the one that really took Darkleaf to the Good Life, in my eyes, you know? And so, J-Smoov joined the group and he was part of that whole Leimert Park scene a lot more than me and Hymnal were. I don’t know about St. Mark, but J-Smoov definitely was and so, as he, I mean, we were already doing it with just us because we had already branched out with a DJ, DJ Wolf, and he had a group, and so we were working on music with him, but then St. Mark brought in J-Smoov, so then we were officially part of the whole Good Life scene.

    And if you hear stories, you don’t hear about me a lot because I was just the dude making the beats and I was always very distant from the whole stage scene at that time. Like, you could see Hymnal. You could see St. Mark. You hear about those guys, but you don’t hear about me much because I always sat at the house all the time and made music [laughs]. I was a little afraid of even really… I just thought, you know, “Dude, we’re not that good at this shit. I’m wary of this shit.” But, see, I also have a connection because I learned how to make beats from Def Jeff. And he had some dancers called the Soul Brothers and I was roommates with V-Luv from the Soul Brothers and so I got to work with Def Jeff and he kinda taught me the MP. So did Cut Chemist, but that’s where I got to work a lot and I got a lot of exposure from that side that probably know one fucking knows, right? 

    So, J-Smoov joined the group, but at the same time, Hymnal, Gershwin (Blackbird), he went to school with us, and so he started to come in and Hymnal kinda brought him in more, and then Cloud 9, we went to school with him and his crazy ass started to come over. And it’s more of a Terry thing, but I guess a me thing too, but they started to become part of the group. And at that point, there started to be some friction, I guess. And I guess it was at that point people were fighting over the direction of what the group would be. And in my opinion, it’s like “Dude, we’re nothing. What are we fighting about? [laughs] Motherfucker, I’m eating bologna sandwiches! Fuck off, bud!” And so St. Mark and J-Smoov left the group and made a group called Brothers Manifesto. And then Herndon (Dark Cloud 9) and Blackbird stayed, and that’s where you get that whole period of "Fuckin’ Up the Earth." And that’s where you get Hymnal, Blackbird, Cloud 9 and Jahli. So, there wasn’t much recorded with St. Mark and J-Smoov that I know of.

I know there’s a track called “Tales from the Darkside” (circa 1992, featuring Hymnal and Dark Cloud 9 on vocals) but I heard there was also a tape with that title. Is that true, or was it just that single track?

    It was just one single track. I made the beat. "Tales from the Darkside", Hymnal took the beat up to Cut Chemist and they recorded it. I did the beat, but I wasn’t there for the actual mastering. I set it up to be mastered, but I wasn’t actually there for that. 

    I mean, we did some other shit. We did a demo, man, and "Tales from the Darkside", "Fuckin’ up the Earth", that was all part of that. It wasn’t even an album or anything. It was more of a demo. That was me, Hymnal, Blackbird and Cloud 9. That doesn’t have J-Smoov or St. Mark in it. I can’t really tell you what actually got recorded while those guys were part of the crew ‘cause I think there was so much of hyping the group up, and doing freestyles and being part of the Good Life. I know I was working on an album that everyone could rhyme on, but I think motherfuckers broke up before that, so that was that. So then, I don’t know how it happened, man, but slowly there just became a separation between me, Hymnal, Cloud 9 and Blackbird. We were working together, being together every day, really trying to be a group. Slowly, I don’t know, what happened was, eventually I hooked up with Longevity and I helped him, I mean, he was getting help from will.i.am, learning equipment and shit ‘cause he was part of that whole Atban Klann…

I heard that Longevity did some co-production on the unreleased Atban Klann album. Is that true?

    Yeah, he was a part of that. When I met him, he was in a group with Taboo. It was him, Taboo and a guy called Mr. Shaw. They were a group and then there was Atban Klann. And Atban Klann was will, apple, and a guy called Mookie. Mookie got replaced and Taboo replaced him. When I first met him, that’s what Atban Klann was. And so, Longevity came and started to pick up on what I was doing, which was this fragmented, crazy, beatmaking shit, you know, just something very abstract from the norm, you know?

So you were already on that Sun Ra vibe back then?

    I was Sun Ra from the get go! It took a minute but once I started messin’ with Ravi Shankar and Sun Ra, that was it! And Longevity tapped into it really quick and we joined up. From that point on, most of the production was me and him, and as far as beats and everything, it was me and Longevity. You’d get Hymnal every once in a while, but Hymnal, for a while, stayed outside of it. Me and Longevity, we brought in Kemit and Akmed (Metalogik) and then we made Wolf our DJ and that’s how Darkleaf turned into that whole “alkemy, chemisty” and all that shit. That was me, kinda, just taking over. I guess at some point, I was just like, “Fuck it! I’m Darkleaf, you know what I’m saying?” [laughs] and that’s what I assembled, along with the help of Longevity.

    And once in a while, if we could get a Blackbird, he would be in it. If we could get a Cloud 9, he would be in it. If we could get a Hymnal, he’d be in it. But Hymnal kinda went with Cut Chemist. And I think that’s why you end up seeing a Cut Chemist/Hymnal album. But Darkleaf became me, Longevity, Kemit Qutob Shabazz, [Metalogik] and DJ Wolf. So, I assembled that. That’s probably when you start seeing me on stage to hear me rhyme and shit. I mean, those guys started saying, “Hey man, you’ve gotta join too. You can’t just make a beat and be in the background like you used to be with Hymnal and them.” And so I did, I guess [laughs].

    And, you know, we did a lot of music. I just don’t think a lot of it got out to the people. And what got out, it was alright, but I think we did a lot better music. When labels started actually giving us little deals to do our albums, I think we weren’t at our peak anymore. Or we were, but we were at the last... You know, Darkleaf, to be on what we were on, I mean, the album, which I named, kinda says it all – Fuck the People. There was a point where we kinda gave up on the mass majority. Like, “Okay, they’re not gonna like this shit.” And I think a lot of it had to do with what we did, as a group. I hate to say it, but we got really drunk and really high and played with girls way too much and I think that stuff caught up to us in the end and fragmented the group. But, you know, especially for me, I was just putting out one album. I mean, that whole Fuck the People, even though it was our first album really being in front of people, I don’t think it was the best. I think we just gave them some shit. I think we just said, “take this, this and that and make it an album,” more than really making an album. We had a more cohesive album called The Mission. Daddy Kev and DJ Hive had a record company (Celestial Recordings) and so, there’s an album we did for them that I thought was way more cohesive than Fuck the People.

Was The Mission recorded before Fuck the People?

   Nah, it was after. It was almost simultaneously. We were doing Fuck the People and we were doing a lot of different things. We also did an album called After the Plane Crash. I don’t know what happened to that album, but I think if people heard that, they would’ve liked it a lot. And that one started to feature Otherwize ‘cause Otherwize started to hang out with our crew and Longevity was doing an album for him (Disturbing the Peace), and there’s one album that I did that got totally erased that I think everybody would’ve loved. It was called Shapeless Matter and it featured everybody from Aceyalone from Freestyle Fellowship, to Madlib, to Sucram from the Wascals, to Fat Lip from Pharcyde. I had a bunch of people who I had met throughout my career and I had this album, and me and Longevity had this board that was digital and it fuckin’ all got erased, so after that I pretty much, I didn’t quit, but you didn’t really hear from me again [laughs].

There’s a tape floating around called Zero. Do you know anything about that?

    "Zero" should be one song. It was when Eclipse, when Longevity first came in. The beat is by me and him. It was me, Longevity, Blackbird and a couple other people. I just know it to be a song. If it’s turned into some compilation, that’s probably Longevity because he probably has the majority of the material that has survived and that was probably him putting shit together, just something that survived from that era. "What Is" (track 2 on Zero) should go all the way back to, really, the whole "Fuckin’ Up the Earth" era. That’s kinda when Longevity came into the crew. That’s amazing because we did all that shit on a 4-track board, so he’d have to be pulling that shit from… Unless, I mean, we did go and master shit a lot. People always wanted us to come and do shit, but a lot of the time they’d just say, “Oh, this shit isn’t commercial enough.” And so, I don’t know, I guess he kept it.

Well, he said he’s planning on releasing a lot of that old material. I hope that happens.

    Yeah, if he does, the only thing is, I think it’d be quite muddy. I mean, we were a muddy group. But you have to understand, I liked doing that! I liked making the beat go off. A lot of people would say, “Oh, you didn’t make the beat good or you didn’t do that.” No, that was my style! I look at it differently today, but, during the time, I just thought those smooth-ass beats, you could say anything over it and it makes it good. So I’d always trigger the beats so that it’d stop your ass and, I was hoping it would make you think about what we were saying.

    First of all, you really had to get into it to understand what the fuck we were talking about because we were taking all these different types of terminologies from different aspects of academics and putting it together into this collage and then spitting it out to you. And we were ultimately trying to say, you know, we are parallel to everything, and there’s just so much more, and sometimes when you use words, you need to, you know, the word needs to be magnified. And I used to wonder, “If anyone likes this shit, then they’re down as hell” [laughs]. I purposely kind of made it that way, like this is for those who really like to sit down and really break shit down ‘cause we’re gonna do it. If you’re talking about matching it up with Snoop Dogg, nah, we can’t do that. You can’t match it up, technically, with Freestyle Fellowship. We just decided to be in a real class of our own and, hey man, we paid for that. We kinda knew that. It wasn’t like we didn’t understand that that’s what we were doing and that’s the type of response we were gonna get, but I think, all in all, we got a lot better response than I ever thought we would get.

Well, you guys really carved out a sound that I have never heard anywhere else - the production on Kimetic Principles is fuckin’ magic - and, I have to say, it’s a bit of a trip for me to be talking to you right now because, on record, you always sounded like some sort of shaman from another dimension!

   [laughs] Well, there’s two Kimetic Principles, right? The first one, I dunno if you can tell – it’d be dope if people could – the first one is me and the second one is more Longevity.

So Lodge Infinite is you and Longevity as a production team?

    Yeah, Lodge Infinite is me and Longevity.

After all that, you did a couple of collaborations. A favourite of mine is a track you did with Art Deko, called "Fusion", released in 2005. Can you talk about working with him?

   Art Deko is sort of from Metalogik’s side. Metalogik is from D.C. So, Art Deko came out and he really wanted to be part of Darkleaf, even though he’s from a whole ‘nother underground in D.C. However, I thought he was really talented. His vibe was like that Roots vibe, you know what I mean? And so, we were cool for a minute. He’d be the Roots, I’d be “motherfucker, I am mathematical dungeon,” you know? [laughs] And so we started to hook up and he was there all the time and ultimately, to me, he was a guy trying to get on and, at that time, Darkleaf was really active and he wanted to get down. So we started hanging out and I did a lot of stuff over at his house because sometimes I wouldn’t want to go through the whole mastering part of it – I can do all that mixing and mastering shit, but Longevity started slowly going in a different direction. There were groups asking for his beats, so I started to drift with Art Deko more. If you get anything with Art Deko, I don’t even know about an album with Art Deko. If there’s an album out, it’s probably because he took shit we did and what he did and turned it into an album. So, there’s an album called Fusion?

No, that’s one track from an album called Personal References (The Dark Side). I wanted to ask you about your lyrical content – were you describing some sort of spiritual experience, what was the inspiration there? Where was that coming from, because a lot of it was very abstract, right?

   Yeah, a lot of it has to do with Sun Ra. Dude, when I got into Sun Ra, I was like “Oh, this motherfucker is awesome!” Where he went with it and how he understood that music is all sound. Yeah, man, I mean, I wanna name a lot of others, but, yeah, Sun Ra is pretty much… actually I’ll give it to you, you gotta put this down. Sun Ra and the Jungle Brothers, but only for one album. That "40 Below" album (J Beez wit the Remedy). Nobody really liked it, or remembers it. I took that style and Sun Ra and fused it, and I thought that shit was the dopest shit on the planet, yo! They got a song, the Jungle Brothers, called "Spittin’ Wicked Randomness" and that fuckin’ beat is just fucking off the hook!

After Fuck the People, you kind of seemed to disappear a bit, but you did some tracks in the Philippines. You recorded some stuff with Paolo Garcia?

   Well, the Philippines has nothing to do with music. Nothing. I just went to the Philippines, you know. I met a girl, you know, pretty much that’s me. I decided to, I needed a change and so I went there. And it’s funny, I was just out there, dude. I was with my girl, hanging out and shit. I stayed out there for four years. But one day, all of a sudden, my girl comes up to me and she’s like - you know, I told her I was in the group but I don’t really talk about Darkleaf much. I don’t bring it up. So anyway, she’s like “You weren’t fuckin’ lying. There’s a guy out here who knows your group! They wanna meet you.” So, these guys come over, we hook up. I kinda told them how the underground started, since I was a part of it. And, believe it or not, motherfuckers had CDs, albums, of Fuck the People, and all our shit, and I was blown away, bro. I haven’t been that blown away since I went to Barcelona, Spain, and got treated the same way. I was blown out my socks that somewhere way across the world, motherfuckers were down.

    So I met him – it was me, Paolo and Martin (Labjaxx) and I went over and I hooked up with those guys, did a track with them. I don’t know if I was at my best. It’s been a while [laughs], you know what I’m saying? But I thought that I’d do a track with them so they could use me for whatever they needed. And so, that’s why that song came out. And I’ll probably do more ‘cause I’m going back out there and I’m gonna see those guys. And Paolo Garcia, he’s a major component for the Philippines – that whole triangle – Philippines, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, China. He’s definitely one of the ones out there. He’s really gettin’ down. And Martin, his lyrics, for a minute, I was like, “you ever been to Project Blowed?” and he’s never been to America, so... But damn, his shit is dope, man. They’re putting it down, man. I’ve seen some really dope shit out there and I know all of it comes from what we all did in the beginning in that Leimert Park area. We don’t even know how far it went, you know?

So, I guess, the last thing I wanna ask is what are your plans for the future? You have any plans to record more music, or release anything?

    Well, I’ll tell you this. A lot of people keep telling me to get back into it and I’m going to, man. I just talked to Hymnal. Me and Hymnal talk a lot. ‘Cause me and Hymnal grew up together. We’re best friends. Longevity just hit me up recently, and there’s some Darkleaf reunion, December 29th and he asked if I was down and I said, “Of course!” But as far as me, man, yeah, I’m gonna do something else, man. I dunno to what magnitude, you know? I’ve just heard too many people telling me I need to light the torch back up and so, yeah man. I don’t know how much the public will get. But I’m gonna start music again. There will be more music from Jahli. I don’t know how much of it will get out there. Believe me, 2014, Darkleaf is still alive. We survived the plane crash.

I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to me, man. I’m a big fan and it’s very cool to have this stuff broken down.

    Dope, dude. I appreciate it too, man, and it makes me feel like dedicating 15 years of my life to the underground, it was worth it...