So, I've been busy making lots of art and stuff to "officially" relaunch this blog in the next week or so but, I didn't wanna leave the few who already do follow out of the loop. In the last week, Verto Records has released a single from an EP I did with Jordan Santana (as "The Royal Applebaums") that will be available on iTunes January 10th, I believe. I've listed the link below and I'll certainly be doing a breakdown of that project when it comes out. Till then, listen to the song, if you like it, share that link with others, and hopefully my next post will be the "all new, all different, Conducting Thoughts!"
- Conduct Lionhardt
Monday, June 13, 2011
Summer means a lot to people, usually for reasons that differ from person-to-person. Some get that break from school or vacation time rolls up. BB Q's and water based social gatherings. It's summer time fun.
For a few friends of mine, it's a season filled with conventions, heading out with their art on displays, selling prints, talking to fans of their work. I know its not something many people know about. But the reason for today's blog focusing on what the convention season is all about at its core: connecting in person.
We're beings that are pretty much hardwired for relationships with others. Connecting, whether through mutual appreciation of ideas or interests, romantically, or through conversations, its kinda something that we need to properly develop and become what we were made to be. At these conventions, artists meet the fans who have connected to their livelihood by buying their books and passing along word of their talents to others. An artist can connect faces to the people who make their talent a viable means of life. Its interesting to observe the way in which many of them are so friendly and eager to hold conversations with aspiring artists, admirers of the craft, or even small kids who are only partially intrigued by what they're doing with that pen and paper. You get a sense that the importance of the conventions are more about that than even the art and, maybe, some would highly agree.
I've found that connecting with people is an easy and extremely difficult thing. Its a joy and a horror, depending on several factors. Yet, despite its duality of tones, we still ALWAYS, in one way or another, SEEK it out. We gotta have it, so-to-speak. Its not always words. Sometimes its actions. Whatever it is, man, do we need it. Just as it makes an artist feel that his hard work and long hours are worth it for every person who comes up and wants to shake their hand, we love when a connection happens. It ignites something that hardly anything else in life can.
...God is all about connection. Just like you enjoy visiting friends, hugging them after years, getting to see the look of the smile you've heard to your jokes via the phone...God longs for that same thing with you. When you can walk up to his table, look at the art he's made in this world and tell Him how much you dig his style or want to shake His hand out of respect.
The Bible tells us we're made in His image so, no wonder we long for connection with people. He made us to have relationship with us. Trippy, yeah, but, when you think of walking over and introducing yourself, showing off your latest creation, sharing a song, or get a greeting or exiting hug from a TRUE friend, take a second to realize that when you connect, that's a trait God shared with us of His.
Think about it...
- Conduct Lionhardt
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
So, I'm not a big fan of people blogging in the heat of emotional places of a negative sort, like anger or hurt. I just think it serves to be more selfish than something which can help the general public or be something you would want to read.
However, There are moments where the aftermath of such emotions and the events that are the catalyst of such pains or lows, can bring forth a clarity of point that MAY merit sharing. That's what this here post is all about. I just thought I would explain it for people so they can have the idea behind it and pass the post if its nothing they would be interested. Okay, then I shall begin.
Existence is pretty much boiled down too, in societal structures, the ideal of perception and what is viewed, as being the reality of a thing. Oh you know, you've seen it before in numerous points in American culture over the last 2 decades. A rumor or expertly placed image can shift the complete worth or substance of just about anything...or anyone. That's a macro point to the idea of image being everything when it comes to cultural acceptance or approval. Historically speaking, you can see points in the later American cultural architecture of this happening. Things that were taboo or questionable in the past, stuff that your parents would NEVER have allowed you to look at, dress like, or be involved with is now, on a very large scale, the NORM. The shift is amazing when you ACTUALLY take a moment to consider it.
But, herein lies a small idea, the micro point that when really thought on effects that macro point EMMENSELY: Consideration has also had its image and worth morphed. What once was the act of checking in and being accountable for what one thinks and acts on, is now viewed as being...
Sigh...Honestly, its become rather difficult for me to keep my thoughts on things all together. I apologize for that. The fact is that I have people in and around my life that view me in one way and, ultimately, no act, word, or amount of time I've had around them really impacts the image that is placed on me. We all have these boxes and labels we use to identify things with and rarely does anyone look to consider and focus on what motivates and feeds into the perception we MAKE reality.
I truly believe that many things that we off-handedly state as being "just the way it is" truly happen to be conceptual constructs that either we individually or collectively (or culturally) have given a portion of control over our ability to be more and to progress further than our circumstances and backgrounds would usually allow us to. "Perception" basically breaks down to another box or prison of the mind we have chosen to allow be real when...its ethereal. Untangible. But the belief in it has become so entrenched in our minds and hearts that it FEELS like something solid.
Its not, though. Perception is a word to explain something that is not tangible. Its not a wall, or a mountain, or a fence...but like those things it CAN hinder you from going somewhere. Yet, even those things, those obstacles, with their heights or rough terrain, have been passed over, under, or even through. And if the LITERALLY physical can be overcome and scaled, even the conceptual contructs we allow to formulate our worlds and ways moved within, can be.
We just have to choose too. And while I know that those people who think how and what they do about me WON'T do it, I breath still for a chance to see some of you make it passed that veil and move forward. We have so many foes to battle in life that, in the grander scheme of it all, this is actually a tricky yet, SMALL potato.
Fights with life's Giants await. But only once we stop looking low, and peer skyward to see them, to notice they're there.
- Conduct Lionhardt
Thursday, June 2, 2011
So, I kinda hate doing updates. Feels like I'm all self-involved and glory seeking. I haven't really been able to shake the feeling that no matter WHAT I say, people's assumptions of me will be that I'm like that.
Anyways, I know a few have asked me when I was going to blog again and what's been up with me so, yeah, here it is in as brief a form as I can make it:
Going forward into this summer I have traveling that I plan to do. This shall be both based on my artistic work (drawing and selling art, designing a few things) as well as my music (gearing up the promo for my full length album, drawing the cover, etc). I'll be hitting spots in the western US as well as some places a bit further East than my home here in Pittsburgh.
My EP is still out and available for purchase and that helps on a finance tip. I'm still good for drawing things for people and if you bare with me I'll have some art to put up on here which can be purchased. Decided to get am official page up somewhere so that people get that ART is my profession of choice and actually has been for some time now. (I wish I could share the LAST thing I drew. Its rather TIGHT, if i do say so myself.)
Besides all that I'm still working on my secret personal project, while also developing the look of characters for Bryce Swan's "Rex Roy is: Dr. Divinity...BOOKSELLER" OGN. I'm having a blast with that and (cue segue)
I SHALL be returning to doing interviews with people, one of whom shall be the aforementioned author of the graphic novel I'm sketching up.
Besides Bryce Swan, though, here's a few people that I'll be doing some with:
Realistikk. Focusing on her lastest album "Stardust" and the strange decade long friendship we've shared, NOT having seen each other in person before.
SintaxTheTerrific. Taking a look at his rap blogging site, as well as his upcoming release from Illect Recordings, "Prince With a Thousand Enemies."
I've wanted to do some random interviews by normal people I have met so, hopefully I can do a couple of those.
Finally, I've come to not like the overall look of this blog so, I'll be doing a few header illustrations and changing the look of the page this summer.
All in all, it'll be busy BUT, you'll have more (or less) of a reason to check out what this blog has going on.
'till then, however, I'd like to reiterate my call to extend a bit more forgiveness and grace to people in and around our lives AND...for everyone to have a good start to their summer experience.
peace, Peace, PEACE,
- Conduct Lionhardt
Monday, May 16, 2011
The secret Origins of, the "Return" EP
Since Verto Records did the surprise release of my EP (a wild idea concocted by me and the label presidente) I wanted to post up a rare blog about something I've done, giving all you readers out there (all 4 of you) a little secret insight on the tracks on this pre-cursor to my fulll length album, the ominously entitled "Finite."
I have a brief 3 keys to understanding precisely what it is that I do when I make music here, before I start with my track-by-track secret spilling. Keeping these in mind will make your listening experience more fuller:
1.) Every project I do, for me, is a Concept record. It might seem all over the place or hodge-podge but, trust me, its a concept record EVERY time.
2.) I will utilize the most obscure or specific references to get across the point of the song. Noir film dialogue, 90's TV, dated euphemisms, wrestling terminology, comicbook fact AND fiction, etc, etc... I use the entire scope of what it is that I've encountered in my life, if I personally feel that it communicates what the track is about.
3.) My music is basically an extension of my visual art. Every concept record, is like an art book. Every track, is a page with a specific image or sequential set of images to relay the whole to you, the lovely listener. My music and my illustrations are the same expression, just in different style. (Think of it like a movie and a TV show. Both are the same yet, also different.
Okay, now that you have those to work with, go listen to the music. Go on. Go listen. No..wait. Listen to them one at a time, AFTER you read what I say about the song.
Disappear is a song with several different really cool things going on with it. The images I pieced together for the artwork work very much with this song and "Return," which isn't the EP title track. (If you assumed that because the titles are the same, well, you're missing the larger picture going on here) Disappear was written YEARS ago, to this beat by my longtime producer (who recently stopped making hip hop beats and is focused on soundtrack music) Klas Linder. Klas, (who at the time went by Signalias and then went by Error96) was a very admired and underappreciated producer I had discovered through the sphereofhiphop.com forums. He is a master of creating beats that are distinct and gripping soundscapes YET, open enough for an artist to explore and give a tone. This is actually one verse of 3 seperate verses I wrote for this beat. (I had some people vote on them and they chose this as the best of the three)
References therein: the nicknames of the members of De La Soul, whilst also big upping my sister, who's nickname is "Dove Wonder Why," blackbirds, Jared "the Pretender" (not to be confused by Subway's Jared. In late 90's early 2000's, an NBC drama called the Pretender featured the protagonist Jared, a genius who could basically be anyone or do anything he wanted. I was a big fan of the secondary narritives in that show involving the organization whom trained him and its machinations upon him and the agent chasing him, Miss Parker), and "Remember the Future" the debut album by rap group Future Shock,
One of my fav set of lines is the opener, "I wanna leave my attributes of a man to pass by" being one of the truer statements I've made in a song, expressing my desire to pull away from the things of which us men judge our own greatness by. Those things, what we look like, our physical prowess in and out of the bed room, etc...its all nonsense in the meta-narritive. "Raps are simplistic to me but, they won't understand/ I hold art to become real, is it?" is another set of rather interesting lines, making reference to the visual nature of which my words are easily perceived to me but, usually aren't even seen as art to hardly anyone else.
I wanted the track to be one long verse with no breaks or hooks. I know its unconventional, especially in our current single saturated, feature heavy, market but, sometimes a buncha bars long of rapping says a whole bit. The point of this song/image being, through this series of thoughts and struggles, I felt at the point of writing, I could...or maybe should, disappear. And in some ways, part of me did and may not have come back, even to this day...
"Gotta have soul"
Gotta have Soul is the track on this EP that's the most...I guess "Gospel" would be the word. It ask you to really take a look at things and see 'em. This blog is tough because I can't really express further in words how it connects and stuff. I wish you could see it like I do.
Note that I rap really weird, for me, on this track. It was, thusly, the most fun track to do on here because it was a bit unconventional for me. haha.
References Therein: Paul Heyman's Extreme Championship Wrestling (Specifically, a wrestler named Mike Awesome who was prone to tossing his vastly smaller opponents through tables...and this was mid 90's, loooong before Vince McMahon's WWF (then later WWE) started lying that they invented such nonsensical violent TV fiction.), my frustrations of my straight edges becoming frayed and jagged at art school, aspects of games usually played in casinos, Ghost in the machine, the win streak that Boston sports franchises had, submission holds, and the announcement that, up next verse, is a feature by my partner in rhymes, Jordan Santana (of which I do stuff with as "The Royal Applebaums")
random tidbit or anecdote: In that first verse I reference how I was used by God to keep some people from falling off the edge of life into death. I had small conversations here and there back then which were brief yet, I've been told years later spoke a more clear version of the love of Christ than any they'd experience through church. I'm...often awkward when people say that kinda stuff to me. I don't really feel like, I guess, pride about it. Its not my intention to have people come back and say stuff like, you helped save my life. I'm no hero. I've needed saving myself. Shoot, my friend Kate very much saved my life. Nobody knows that but, had it not been for her... well, I'm sure you know what I'm saying. Lets continue...
Big secret origin reveal here: Jordan raps better than I. Seriously. Some people say I MIGHT have a better voice for it than him but, structurally speaking, he puts together better bars, stanzas and punchlines than I ever could. I appreciate what we can both bring to the table but his overall understanding of music AND recording makes my attempts at it pale in a critical eyed comparison. His verse snuggly fits in between my verses and, seriously, makes the song fuller and worth listening all the way through.
My second verse starts off about Soul for two reasons. EQual One produced this track and the sample provided the spark for the whole thing. However, it was also one of those weeks where I'd seen a James Brown retrospective and the whole "I got soul" was stuck in the back of my head. Me and Jordan wrote this when I recorded it in '09 (Hot Attic studios, inside Radiant Church, word up.) I like everything after the Soul part, ha,ha. My fav line of this whole verse is, 'Secret lie of Satan is, 'God CAN'T handle alla that', because I whole heartedly believe that its the most useful attack he's ever come up with. If you limit God to what he CAN'T do, then it makes Him less. It's classicly his best villainous tactic: making you doubt what you've been told. Soon as you fall for that, suprise, you're totally easy game for him to play with.
"See The Beast"
I'd be hard pressed to say that this track isn't my favorite on the EP...but it may not be hardly as important as the rest. I'd recently read an article in Relevant magazine when I wrote the song which was called, "The Ironic Class" and spoke on how young adults (a term invented as part of the trickle effect that The Industrial Revolution had, creating the term "adolescence" to keep young workers out of factories so that older employees wouldn't be displaced) are prone to a almost acidic and constant form of sarcasm and irony. Having breached the age level of "young adulthood" myself, I realized how true that labelling of a class was. There was the impetus of the song.
In an interesting twist, the beat you hear on the track IS NOT the beat of which I crafted the track too. My good friend Colby Work, who goes by the nom de plume, Common Child, had recently released an album with a producer named Thought P called "Along as We Go." On it, there was a track called...hmmm, I actually can't remember now but, it was about his wife and marriage. The beat was crazy good and, being one of his close pals, he had sent me a version where the first verse space and chorus line was all beat. I wrote it to that and, Colby, if you're reading this, lemme get that beat to let you hear this song the way it was in my head. haha.
EQual One made this beat using a few 80's records I had requested (in what would be his final batch of beats, no doubt) and I felt it had that gritty old school feel.
References therein: Acid, Music that makes you incapable of acknowledging the right way to go about relationships, the lack of kids being able to speak positivity, sex, inability to looked passed what is right infront of yourself, and the overbearing need for people to be comfortable via the death of going for ones dreams.
Notion picks up that second and final verse here. Me and Clayton go all the way back to when he was in highschool and I was a graphic designer for ad agency, Bynum Advertising so...roughly over a decade ago. He was this amazingly gifted wordsmith who posted up his home recordings online and whom I became a fan, then friend of, based on his epic rap ability and my acceptable critique skills. In recent years we'd lost touch a bit as he'd gone through college and also started making some small waves as an emcee in Seattle. I was blessed when he said he'd do a feature and came through with a great verse that matches the beat and thematic tone of the track, if not its message.
The chorus is my favorite part, easily followed by the saddened ending line, "And it seems, that COMFORT is the new plot scheme/ people awake, to go to sleep with NO DREAMS."
That line has a few different meanings both in general and specifically for me. I've had more people want me to be "comfortable" than to seek out my dreams than I could count. I'm also very convinced that its why so many people end up drifting or walking away from me but, I really wouldn't be happy comfortable. I feel I'd just get fat again and start to unappreciate all the wonderful moments shared with folk, who'll never really grasp how amazingly terrific they are and could be. And perhaps that's the point to it all. That we'd rather do all this nonsense than really get ourselves somewhere close to the dreams we have. No doubt, I believe that is why the gaps between kids and adults grows. What are we showing them to be?
Return...this is a really old song. Ha, ha. You'll find on the first...lets say 3 projects I've got coming out that, most of the best songs were written before my epic depression of '05. I dunno why but, for me, I peaked at '06. But that's a bit off subject. Return is a good place to break down my usual approach at writing rap songs. Its a cool structure of, first verse to interest you, second verse to showcase clever lyrical stylishness, then the third is the point brought home to some degree. I've changed it up a bit here and there but, it seems that this way of writing is kind of my bread and butter. I got this beat from LOTTOJ (pro-nounced "low-taj") years ago back when he crooned less and made beats daily. It was him and EQual One who got me to start rapping in 2000, when they were putting together a record and needed singing on the hook to a track called "Improvise." I wrote this song pretty darn quickly too but it would take 3 years for me to let poor LOTTOJ get a listen to the verses. haha.
There's singing on this track, or I should say, what some people call singing. I've never been really good at singing and wouldn't claim that this track is the best singing I've ever done. (that would be my "Thanks Jules" LP, a completely sung album, which is in "the Vault." more on that project in 2012...) I performed this song live and enlisted the wonderful skills of David Bowens to sing the chorus with proper alterations. I prefer that version of the hook but, Jordan tells me I'm just too critical.
References Therein: Bill Gates, Steel gates, Major League, peoples bibles staying on tables instead of being read and used, wolves in sheeps clothing, sharing your faith with those around you, Selfishness, shunning the shiny things we get distracted by, wearing joy in a way others can see, and who I was, am, and will be.
The last couple of bars on the final verse are actually the "Return" of the song, being the very first bars I wrote for a rap song. I did a song with EQual One and Real Deal (Trevor Weller, "Real Deal,"whom has since risen to the level of a star in the rap battle scene, having near classic battles with emcees across the country in the "Grind Time Battles" you can see on youtube) called "Renaissance emcees." we were going to do an all Pittsburgh emcee record and the track called for you to introduce yourself. So, from "I be the thought for the Art most forgot to start..." what you hear on this songs final lines is VERBATUM, my very first raps.
Ultimately, what's the point? Well, "Return" is a concept record wrapped around the idea that you are called to seperate yourself from the world, find out who and what you're supposed to be then, you return to the world and show them. In this way, you catch some of that in this EP and its introduction of me. The two outside tracks are about me at two different places of strength, one running away from it all and the other being, my call to return and do battle with life the only way I've ever known, through my real life namesake, Christian, a follower of Christ. The two inner tracks aren't about me but about what I see in us, humanity. Its almost like, I leave in track 1, observe from my raven's purch from the outside for two songs, then come back to help in the last track.
People often ask me where the name Conduct Lionhardt came from and what, if anything it means. my friends gave me "Conduct" because of how I act and expect others too. "Lionhardt" came through a few different sources but, I almost didn't use it. It wasn't until I realized something about Jesus that I guarantee 85% of "christians" don't: His life, how he approached it and what He did with it, was two things, a life lived through pure love of heart and a nomadic journey that was undoubtedly hard. The level of how hard his life was and how much it was about showing heart to people, that combined the two to form the part of LionHARDT I use in the name. Thus, when read correctly, my name (and I feel its more my name than my birth given one, at this point) is: Act like Jesus' heart, even through the most difficult life you may have.
And its funny but, for those who know me, and those who may get a chance, I'm sure they can pick up the correlation between the name and the way of my existence.
So, hope you enjoyed it and listening to it was fun. Its just a set-up for the main course of my LP, "Finite," which I believe is coming out the end of summer. Congrats to those who read this blog all the way through. I salute the two of you.
peace, peace, peace,
- Conduct Lionhardt
You can listen too and purchase "Return" (and freely download my 2007 The Royal Applebaums group record,"Bipolar Backspin") at the link below, courtesy of shamless self-promotion on my part and, the mighty mighty, Verto Records.
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
I have to admit that this interview is something of an honor for me. Shames Worthy is a member of, arguably, one of my favorite rap collectives ever, The Tunnel Rats. He's also the one member to have remained steadily making music with appearances all over the place, production sprinkled on projects here-and-there, and the most vocal member over their "quiet times." He's been really cool to me and answered even my most ridiculous inquiries about what the TR's have been doing. He took a few years to put in work on the record he just released, "the Album" so, I hit him up to ask about as many things as I could...Well, for the most part, ha, ha. So, I give to you, Shames Worthy's conducting thoughts...
Conduct: I've been listening to the new album and I must say that I'm enjoying it very much. It has a sound that I can say will please fans that have been craving a "Tunnel Rat" record. How do you feel carrying that legacy on as one of the more active members in your crew (Propaganda being the other)?
Shames: Thanks man. I'm just excited overall really. I worked really hard on "the album" and definitely put everything I am in to it. Being active and reppin' the crew is something I'm used to at this point. When you think about it, I'm the only member of the Tunnel Rats who's been on every project that we've put out. Well minus Propaganda's "I Am Not Them". But even tho he put the "7 Series" stamp on it, to his credit, he did that pretty much on his own. It wasn't like he had the whole "TR machine" behind it, I didn't mix it etc. Oh and New Breed's "NINE" originally had a crew song called "Motion Sickness" with all of us on it but we had to pull it cuz the cat who made the beat started tripping off money.
Conduct: Wow, I never knew there was a track that was to be on that record that didn't make it. I'm always slapping my face for not having noticed that you had been on every album your crew has put out over, what, the last decade? Man, that's crazy!
Let's touch on just who Shames Worthy is a bit. You recently got married and, I believe, started a new job. How has life been for you in the last few years?
Shames: I'd say its been extreme. Low lows and really high highs, finding and marrying my soul-mate being the highest. Actually I recently quit the job I had been doing for about 3-4 years. It was hard work and long 16-18 hour days. After a while, it just wasn't worth it anymore. It was the right move tho. I'm blessed...and much happier. Right now life is good.
Conduct: The climate for rap music, it seems, has changed again and really become... stale. Seems like every new song that drops skews along the same lines as the last iTunes single. As someone that's been around the game for awhile, I often like to ask what the thought is on where things are and, more importantly, WHY you think things have come to the place they are currently?
Shames: There's always gonna be quality music AND straight garbage. To me, there's no such thing as "the music business" really...there's just business. Good business is about maximizing profit and making money period. There's no love involved, especially when you're talking about what's on the radio or MTV. "Music" to them is just the product. So you're right, everything DOES go in cycles. When one company sees a model that works and is successfull, all the other companies scramble to ride that wave or trend. Its even worse nowadays with Rap in particular cuz the money from music sales has dried up so much.
Its not just music tho. One year there's 3 or 4 movies about "aliens." The next year its "end of the world" flicks. The year after that its "spy" action films. Right now, everything is in 3D. Then you got Flavor of Love-Rock of Love-I Love New York-Real Chance of Love-For the Love of Ray J etc. Not only is it harder to think of an original idea, its even harder than that to sell it. The excecutives with all the funding to back your idea want to see a proven model of sussess. They want what's "hot".
Conduct: Yeah, if that ain't the truth! It's madness that business has totally bound up music into it's fold to such a high degree. And its been that way for SO long too.
But, moving on a step, I heard someone mention that, well, Is it true that your name, Shames Worthy, came about due to the fact that people would often confuse your real name, Raphi, and would instead call you "Ralphie?"
Shames: Haaaa...Ralphi, Rafey, Rappy, Rapey, Rap-hi, Rolffy, Robby, Rabbi. It can be ridiculous. On a professional level, that's not good for branding myself as an artist either. It kinda just evolved from my verse on "Title Takin" from LPG's '360' album. "Wussup my name is Shame. Lets get better aquainted..." That was in '98. After that, a lot of my buddies started calling me Shame or Big Shame. In '06 I ended a verse "...Big Game Shame's Worthy." That name/term/phrase just sticks and people remember it. If someone Googles "Shames Worthy", the 1st page's results are for yours truly. There's a million Raphi's including that children's musician. Plus you start to get more results for "gRAPHIcs" instead. Same with "Big Shame" being that those are just 2 words regularly used in society.
During some of those "low" times that I mentioned, it also was an affirmation. Shame's Worthy of another chance, Shame's Worthy of being heard, Shame's Worthy of being loved, Shame's Worthy of making his own decisions, Shame's Worthy of being happy etc. It's become bigger than me tho. I mean who hasn't been told in one way or another that they're NOT worthy of these things? If you have, then we're the same. "Shames Worthy" represents you as much as it does me. That, and of course Laker connection.
Conduct: That's actually awesome, yo. I really dig the fact that it means more than one thing. Sounds like the kinda stuff I enjoy doing. Making it deeper of people looking into. Now, you have become a skilled artist on both the mic as well as the boards. Was it an interest or a necessity that brought you into doing engineering?
Shames: Definitely both. I mean out of High-school I went to an audio engineering school...sorta just to make my demos sound better. At the same time, I definitely had an intrest in it. Well actually music in one form or another has always been my main interest or passion. I used to break and house/freestyle dance. That wasn't enough so I started I djing (house parties & mixtapes back in jr high and high school) THAT wasn't enough so I started messing around making beats. All the while, I was getting more and more serious with rapping. I didn't have a crew to teach me dance moves or new scratches. I was always good with words as well as rhythms. Plus you could write and rap by yourself. So I didn't get burnt out like I did with the other two.
Conduct: That really makes sense. This new record, "the Album," is an entirely independent release and, I'm sure, there are a good deal of pluses and minuses to doing that. What's the game plan to make sure that "the Album" lives up to all the potential it has, especially in terms of promoting the record yourself? Are there things that people can do to help and, if so, what are the best ways you could see them doing that?
Shames: Yeah, there are pros and cons to releaseing it all yourself...truly independently. No label, staff, manager, booking agent, promo campaign, video, tour, assistant, street team, none of that. So pretty much its only been my bandcamp site, facebook, & twitter as far as "promotion" if you would even call it that. There's been a couple other sites, 1 review, maybe a blog here & there but that's about all. I really wanna tour, especially overseas but nothing's been set up yet.
But really any and every purchase of the CD or songs is key. One of the best parts about putting it out all by yourself is the profit margin per sale. Instead of having to sell 50k just to break even, if you can push 4-5k independently you can live off that. Every little thing helps tho. Every link you guys pass on, every "like", tweet, rating/comment on itunes or other sites you see it on, every subscriber/view on my youtube channel etc. All that adds up cuz it's mostly word-of-mouth at this point. If the folks out there know of tours, clubs, spots looking for opening acts (Hip-Hop) tell them to book me. Oh and I do accept donations via paypal (jk but I really do.)
Conduct: Hopefully the people who love what they hear get that message and invest in you and letting people know you're available. What made you name this project, "the Album?"
Shames: There's a few reasons. So much time had gone by. Fans would ask me "When are you gonna drop another solo album?" Then when I did start writing and recording it was "How's the album coming?" or "When's the album coming out?" Whenever I'd see somebody and they asked me what I was up to, I was forever like "ya know, just working on the album". When I finally did finish, it turned out so much better than I ever thought possible. It was more than just "the album" I had been telling folks about. It had become THE album...my masterpiece. The album that made everything I had been thru in my career (or lack there of) worth it.
Its been over 16 years that I've been rapping on tapes/records/CDs/mp3s actually sold in stores. I've had some great memories & experiences but never really made ANY money. I'm a husband now and wanna start a family. So that's no longer an option really. If its time for me to throw in the towel and do something with my life so I can actually provide for that family, this is "the album" that will hopefully make it a little easier to hang it up. My John Elway victory lap so to speak. OR if this album opens up new doors and provides opportunities to continue on without constantly losing, people will say this was "the album" that changed it all.
Conduct: Whoa, whoa! So you're saying that there is indeed a possibilty that this album here, could possibly be the swan song of Shames Worthy's discography?
Shames: I'd say its a definite maybe. j/k. It certainly is a possibility tho. I mean I hope not. Doing music in one form or another is the only thing I've really been passionate about. (GOD, family & the Lakers excluded) But it's the only thing I love doing. It's the only thing I've ever really been good at. That's not to say I was "a natural" by any means. I wasn't at all actually. But I had a fire of determination inside that made me always want to get better and better and better. I still have that desire 20 years later. I may have a mini set up so I can I get down a verse or song here and there. It IS thereputic for me as well. But the reality is, I can't afford to spend the time & money it takes. I put in full-time hours and for less than minimum wage pay. As a husband (and GOD willing a father someday) I can't drop a few thousand per project on "a hobby". I aint got it like that.
Conduct: How did you manage to get legendary Project Blowed member and independent icon, Abstract Rude on your album? Have you known him for awhile?
Shames: Yea we went to high school together. Different classes, he was a couple years ahead of me. We had talked about working together on something for years but for one reason or another it just never panned out. I think I might've even hit him up when we (Tunnel Rats) were doing "Underground Rise" but he was on the road at the time. The song we did for my album is super autobiographical. Our verses really just tell the story of how it all went down...like exactly. My verse talks about how I got into the LA Underground scene back in "the good old days". Pigeon really did take me to the Goodlife the 1st time. The Goodlife Cafe was really a health food store on Crenshaw & Exposition that would host the legendary open-mic on Thursday nights. I did meet LPG at the original Hip-Hip Shop owned & ran by OG graff writer HEX.
Abs verse is the same way. Our school was on 18th St. I used to always bring a boombox to school to dance and rap during nutrition & lunch. Not only would I bump Hip-Hop but also Motown/Stevie Wonder/James Brown etc. He makes a reference to a verse I spit at the Life with the "Warriors..come out and plaaay" from the movie. When I heard him say that line I was really trippin' cuz that was one of the first raps that got me some love from the crowd. I was surprised he even remembered that. His 2nd verse is like a roll call of a few cats and crews that we have had conversations about like "Whatever happened to _____?" Even some of the fallen soldiers like Bigga B who threw the legendary UNITY clubs in L.A. and Yosef Afloat from The Nonce ("I Used to Sell Mixtapes") who also passed.
Conduct: That's so amazingly cool. Some people may not know how the Hip Hop scene is in LA, especially in terms of the community and how people there have known each other for years. It kind of trips me out that several of the names you guys mention and the places you make reference too were so furtile with that many artists. Would you say that the scene is still as vibrant and full of close connects like it was back then?
Shames: I guess it depends on how you look at it. On one end, I'd say no because the scene isn't really as poppin' as it was back then. There used to be weekly spots to go bust at 4 nights a week. There was a also a few different monthly spots. So you almost had somewhere to rap every night of the week. It wasn't like they were all open mics but even at the monthly clubs, there was always cyphers in the parking lots as well as inside. Both dance and rap battles were always randomly jumping off. Now if you start a cypher somewhere you're gonna get a lot of looks like "wow...really? these cats are trying a little too hard." That is, unless it's at like a Blowed or Grind Time Now type event.
On the other hand, for ME at least, I get a lot more love & respect than I did in those days. I was sorta kept at an arm's distance, never fully emraced. See I wasn't rocking Cortez, a wife-beater & Dickies nor was I rapping in spanish. So (at that time) I might as well have been Vanilla Ice. lol. Back then, we took it all so serious. It was our lives really. Plus, it was very hard to impress people and get props cuz the skill level was so high. You really had to be original and come widdit. You couldn't get by just on your "swag"/grind/look/beats like cats do now. But today, generations later, dudes like me who were sorta kept on the outskirts get veteran love from the OGz. They respect that we were some of the few who were paying our dues and putting it down even back then.
Conduct: Its no huge secret that you and Jurny Big have a longtime friendship both on and off the mic. You've done a lot of work with him on solo and group projects, shouted each other out at a moments notice, and always bring a cohesive sound when you collaborate. What is it that makes your friendship so tight and what do you see as being the best thing about him that maybe people don't realize?
Shames: We just clicked from the jump. A few weeks before we even met, Pigeon who I went to church with at the time gave me an LPG demo cassette and I couldn't stop playing it. His charisma and delivery on the mic stuck out to me immediately. At the Hip-Hop Shop where he first heard me spit, he saw potential cuz he quickly introduced me to Dax. Being that they were older and already recording stuff in a real studio, I just hit the ground running. I saw tangible proof that maybe I could pursue this rap thing as more than just a hobby. From that point on, it was usually the two of us going to all the open mics and rep'n.
I always say he was Jordan and I was Kobe. He was so ahead of his time, doing stuff back then that cats are just now starting to catch up to. I still feel he's one of the best to ever do it PERIOD. He gave me something/someone to study, learn from, try to impress, chase, pattern my game after so to speak. Although he may downplay it now. I probably wouldn't have excelled at it as fast as I did, if it wasn't for me wanting to become as good as him. For the first 2 years especially, I studied his every move, technique, trick etc. Writing, recording, performing all that. Even when he didn't know, like he'd be in the booth and Dax would point out little things Jurny was doing to make it sound cleaner, clearer, so precise. When we'd do sound checks he'd be like "don't hold the mic like that, hold it like this" and would show me the difference in how it sounded. I was always trying to soak up game.
Conduct: You have no idea how facinating this response is. I won't hide the fact that, in this life, in terms of being 'star struck,' Jurny's talent and realness on the mic would make me hesitant to approach the guy. Do you or any of the other cats in the Tunnel Rats experience any kind of ridiculous fans being intimidated by the legendary status like that?
Shames: Intimidated? Naw, I don't think so. But if they were affraid to come talk to us then I guess we wouldn't know. Tho we don't have millions of them, our fans are great and really loyal. There are heads out there that have every single release we've ever put out or had a hand in. But I'm the same way with Freestyle Fellowship, Pharoahe Monche or D'Angelo. So when we meet them and they show us their collection, we're not like "umm stalker?" or anything. We're super appreciative! Its awesome cuz its like "wow you've really been WITH us an this long journey" It reminds you that it wasn't all a waste of time. The music has had an impact in some people's lives.
Conduct: I've always been interested in how tracks are arranged on albums, what choices an artist makes as to where one track fits and where it doesn't. How did you approach that when you were finalizing the record for the listening public?
Shames: MAN! There was like 20 different song orders I had for this one. I even made 2 last minute changes the morning I sent out the audio master. From 'Tunnel Vision' on I was the one who'd put the songs in order. Mainly cuz I would analyze every little thing...from how one song flowed into the next sonically, to vibe and feel, to what the verses talked about, to tempos, to who was on each song and keeping them spread out etc. Then I'd run it by Dert & Dax to see if they had any changes.
I thought this time it would be somewhat easier being that it was pretty much all me on the mic. So I wouldn't have to worry about balancing all the different MCs and just focus on the flow of the songs. It still was tough tho cuz I kept listening to the different orders and 50-75% of the way thru I'd be like "Dang how can I put this song this far back? I gotta put it earlier." But then I'd realize there wasn't an obvious "weak link" to bump their spot further back. I know that's a good problem to have tho.
As a general rule, I usually start off with some of the strongest songs (just like I would when putting together a show set). The mindset being "Drop this heat and let's get in crackin'!" Also there might be obvious choices like songs perfect for the intro or last song. Or, there might be a pair of songs that just sound perfect one after another. Then its sorta like crossword puzzle when you have a few letters already in place...or connect the dots.
Conduct: This is one of the hardest parts for me. I have a tendency to lean toward the order in which I recorded them and then, I kind of start to get lost in the crossword puzzle, as you call it. I can literally count on two hands out of the hundreds of records I have, how many albums came with the tracks arranged how I would have done them myself. I just enjoy asking this question of people to better my own approach to doing it.
So now we're at the "interviewee's revenge" portion where you get to ask me any question and I have to, no matter the question, answer with complete and total honesty. So, what you got for me, Shames?
Shames: Aw man I don't know! uhhhhh ok ok. Out of curiosity, how many of me or my crew's projects do YOU own? And how many of those (if any) did you actually purchase?
Conduct: I OWN everything BUT, Macho and Dokument's EPs. Wait, scratch that...I actually don't have the "Experience" record now, which seems like a cardinal sin to me as a Tunnel Rat fan. I had it but somewhere along the line lent it to someone and never received it back. Since its out of print, I haven't heard it in almost 9 years! I've purchased every single one of the records, though. I've heard everything...including a few things that, I've been told, I probably shouldn't have been able to hear. ha, ha. (Some of the people in your group are really nice and generous with sharing unreleased material. I'll leave it at that)
Shames, thank you ever so much for "Conducting Thoughts" with me.
Shames Worthy's, "the Album" can be previewed and purchased directly from him via: http://shamesworthy.bandcamp.com/album/the-album as well as on iTunes, Amazon, Digstation, CD Baby etc.
Monday, January 24, 2011
Emcee, artist, and poet Propaganda has been on a roll of late. Joining up with good friend Odd Thomas and a few other notable artist to form Humble Beast Records, the talented emcee/educator is seemingly everywhere these days. Whether on stage at live shows, doing poetry for seminars, or gearing up his latest project, Art Ambidextrous, Props is a busy busy guy. Thankfully he had a few seconds to talk about what he's been doing and giving a word on what we can expect from his latest album...
Conduct: Hey Props! Its been awhile since I last spoke with you in an interview. What have you been up to since the release of "Listen Watch Focus?"
Prop: where do I start...well, Got married, (that's the most awesome!) Been to Africa twice, Russia, and help build a record Label with my Bff. Doing a lot of poetry stuff, Writing curriculum for charter schools and para church organizations. Lord's been Good.
Conduct: Sounds like its been a really good time for you. With the travel, label, writing curriculum, etc, sounds like you're really busy with things. Do you enjoy having a slate so full?
Prop: I honestly don't know how to function any way else. I guess its that old school work ethic I was raised with.
Conduct: You've been a teacher for awhile and, as anyone who's ever heard you probably knows, you are a large advocate for taking education seriously. Does that come from your parents pushing you to take it so seriously?
Prop: partially, I think its just part of what God made me. My Pop was a Black Panther and worked in probation, So as early as I can remember I kinda always felt as a people the quickest way to get off the governments dime was to know how to make our own.
Conduct: One of the things I have always loved so much about you and your music is that you don't pull punches on approaching the social issues of our times. You get quite a lot of praise from your various spoken word performances and videos. I know that your "Fatherless" piece hit people close to home. How did you get into spoken word and what makes it such an impressive way to convey messages to people?
Prop: I actually started doing poetry as a way to make me a better rapper/writer. I thought to myself poets cant hide on stage, No music, no Crew, Just you and the mic. Do I write well enough to hang with them. And I went to poetry venues really to learn. and I fell in love. i thinks its effective because the genre itself EXPECTS you to say something meaningful. and to the degree for which what you said is creatively portrayed is the degree for which you succeed in the field..and that was right up my alley! I feel like its where art and faith meet. I love it.
Conduct: I agree with your thoughts on poetry. You can't really get up to speak and not say something there. Its unique that you got into it to better your raps. Ha, ha. Can't say I've ever heard someone say that's how they got into it.
You're also quite a visual artist which, as you know of me, is a very exciting thing. In fact, your last verse on "Canvas" off your last album was pretty much a reflection of what's in my heart and mind. As someone who creates such a vast tapestry with his mouth in song and poetry, what place and way does art fill in your life?
Prop: visual arts? well its my first love and the first way, as a kid, that I related, or could get my brain around God. I saw him as an artist. Ps 139 all up in yo' face! lol So Its kind of the glasses for which I see everything. This next record talks a lot about that.
Conduct: I know you enjoy a good cup of coffee in the morning. What's your flavor of choice? How does Propaganda like his coffee?
Prop: BOLD! hazelnut cream, 4 sugars! I like Don Francisco mostly, But the best cup of coffee I've ever had was in Hawaii.
Conduct: You've done quite a bit of work with the UYWI. Its a really cool organization. Did you approach them after having gone to one of their conferences or did they track you down?
Prop: Well Bobby (Dj Bobbito) is a long time friend of mine and He runs the events part. that was the connection. Plus having a background in education made it a no brainer
Conduct: Let's talk Humble Beast now. How did this label come about?
Prop: well its Really Odd Thomas' baby, well Its GOD'S but you know. He and I over a course of 3 years were discussing doing a record. but life got in the way. But while we were doing a lot of ministry together we saw God challenging us in areas of what we wrote about, why we wrote that and what our role in hip hop was. We knew we were NOT reach records BUT loved those brothers very much and found an amazing brother hood with them. LOVE THOSE DUDES. but we were called to a different field. next thing I know Thomas takes me to lunch and says...Imma build a record label. :) here's the vision...!
Conduct: It's funny but, I had a similar experience with my best friend as he hit me up about wanting to build a label. I'm really excited about it and what we're doing. God has really been showing me things about the areas I was writing in and challenging us.
How did you and Odd Thomas become such good friends?
Prop: Well we met in 99 I think, And the friendship was immediate. We both had and have a high view of scripture and that's how we first bonded. then we started noticing we had a lot of the same Cds in our spools and the funniest thing is how we would show up at shows wearing the same shirt/pants. WEIRD! been bffs every since.
Conduct: Alright...time to get down to the nitty gritty: Let's get at what your latest project, "Art Ambidextrous," is all about?
Prop: THE MIC AND THE CANVAS!!! The record is 50% rap 50% poetry. 100% odd Thomas produced. Build behind the phrase "but on the other hand" basically a switch in perspective and paradigm. Very heavy, very emotional. that God brings beauty out of ALL things, including pain. But keep the phrase "on the other hand" in your head as you listen!
Conduct: I eagerly look forward to getting a listen to this and seeing how you change the paradigm on this one. I'm a huge fan of the heavy and emotional.
You're a member of the Tunnel Rat family and lately there have been a few releases from individual members as well as some announcements of a few more individual projects for next year. I'd like to ask how the fam is doing and what it feels like being a part of such a legendary crew and if you may know anything about this rumor of a new collective album?
Prop: WELLLLLLLLLLLL the record is sitting on peaces hard drive, about 70% done. :) a lot of life Got in the way of finishing. noting bad, Just life. its hard to get 11 people in one place. but we will see.
Conduct: Here, you get to ask me a question in the "Interview revenge!" No matter what you ask, I MUST answer it honestly.
Prop: if you had to choose ONE, drawing or writing?
Conduct: Drawing. The way my mind works is that, basically anything I'm doing is visual art in my head so, whether its literally illustrating, explaining an idea verbally, or writing it down, its coming out of a visual scheme in my mind. Either like a movie sequence or panels in a comic, all my expression is drawing to me. I'm creating an image that I push out into other forms to communicate. Its always a drawing first in my head, though.
Thanks, Propaganda, for "Conducting Thoughts" with me.
you can catch a listen to some music or find all your prudent Propaganda info at: http://humblebeast.com/
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Today I read a news piece on how thousands of blackbirds fell out of the sky on New Year's eve, over a small town in Arkansas. There have been a few other cases of such a phenomenon happening, the next most recent one being five hundred falling out the sky in Louisiana. As of the moment they haven't been able to find a sure reason as to why this happened.
I'm sure this conjures up a few images and thoughts in your mind but, for me, I just feel really sad about it.
For many people, ravens, crows, and magpies are members of the blackbird family that bring up feelings of foreboding and other ominous emotions and, to be honest, I can't blame you for that. For decades people have held a belief in the wayward nature of these creatures, a notion brought forth prominently through fictional representations. Whether its folk tales from the south or some other culture or, as is the case with many, lingering remembrance of Edgar Allen Poe's use of the bird in the aptly titled, "the Raven," people find them to be unsettling (at worst) and a general nuisance (at best).
I have a different set of opinions about these birds. I've honestly found their presence in my life to be one of comfort for a variety of reasons I won't go too far into here. (But being a brown boy for Pittsburgh, I seldom can think of a time where blackbirds haven't been around for me to see year after year. AND, from a biblical view, the idea that these birds are something of a symbol of evil is silly. God seems to only use them for very specific and important tasks.)
The compelling thoughts of what happened to them, aside, I realized that their oft thought dubious nature connects to somewhat of a theme you'll see me mentioning from time-to-time here in my personal blogs and interviews: We seem to be only able to focus on that which we find negative in things...and as such, we don't ever extend a forgiveness of grace in our lives. Blackbirds are thought of as harbingers of something malevolent and wicked, a sign of trouble or death but, ultimately, there isn't too much beyond our fiction to confirm this. Thus, there is a stigma attached to them, a harsh preconceived notion that many have just taken to wholeheartedly. That's just the way it is, right? But think of the ease we take to accepting an idea like this so easily. Do we do this with everything? People? Situations? Work?
I'm sure that nodding your head to that isn't something you're probably be proud of but, hey, if we're gonna be honest I'm the first one to nod my head to that. I've totally figured out, in a swift manner, that something or someone is a specific way and, because of that, well...My actions have jumped from that preconceived notion. We all do that and, sadly, its a part of our human nature, people. Oh yeah, we like to SAY we're all about people coming together and not being judgemental and whatnot but, its not a real truth for us. Or, maybe I should say, its not an EASY truth for us to adhere too.
I'm sure it falls under "pessimistic" but I think that people are generally an "All Together, Separate" kind of society. We like our stuff the way we like it and we like our people how we like them...Or, more realistically phrased, "we like our stuff the way that makes us comfortable and we like the people in our lives to adhere as close to that which keeps our comfort zone...comfortable."
Nowhere in that, unfortunately, is the act of extending grace or being forgiving to others.
Now, now, I'm not saying we can't have some stuff our way and some folk our way. We all know that a decent enough amount of the time, we WILL have that happen in our lives. Still, even though those moments happen and its cool, man-o-MAN are we quick to flip an attitude or feel "wounded" at the slightest bit of something challenging or stretching our perception of what is "right" or "fair" to us. We get that anger, fear, or hurt and we just...RUN WITH IT! And as soon as that happens, we forget being the one on the other side of that moment or situation. The grace you'd want extended to you and the forgiveness you may want bestowed to you for a remark or actions...that just goes ghost, man. Its gone.You get a label of being something that, hey, maybe you ARE to some degree but, at the same time, aren't TOTALLY DEFINED BY.
How depressing is it that, many of us don't get a chance to be allowed to show more than what becomes our mark and stigma? We touch the wrong button or AREN'T all that we're expected to be at that moment and, poof, there goes your chance. Its all over. The End. Fin. You're just...THAT.
It's terrible and, I know I'm not saying a thing that we haven't experienced at one point or another as individuals. It happens all the time.
And I guess my point is, that it DOES happen all the time. Hearts are broken, mistakes are made, wrong words are used, or expectations aren't met. Then we just say, "Hey, those birds are there and, man, look at how freaky they are! They MUST be evil! Its a sign of bad things coming." From then on out, regardless of what they actually do, how they could possibly be one of the smartest bird species on the planet, goes right out the window and you're just a blackbird. That nuisance. A sign of for boding. No possibility of being more than that, or to become better than what you've been, or even something that has a specific reason for God placing it on the earth.
Some blackbirds that feel from the sky one night. Weird but, doesn't mean anything to anyone.
Maybe,,, just like grace and forgiveness to those it isn't EASY too.
- Conduct Lionhardt