Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Yo, Moe Pope!

Moe Pope
Mission: - "Soul Chips" from Soul Chips 12" (2001, OM Records)

Electric - "Electric (Remix)" from Life's a Struggle (2004, Sun Moon Records)

Project Move - "Butterfly Theory" from Love Gone Wrong/The Butterfly Theory (2006, Sun Moon Records)

A few months back we had a chance to conduct an interview with talented Boston MC Moe Pope. You may recognize the name from his work as a member of the Bay Area staple Mission: (now known as Crown City Rockers), to his more recent outings as a part of the Boston crews Electric and Project Move.

Diggin' Music
: Peace Moe Pope, thanks for taking some time out to answer a few questions. Let's start it off from the beginning. What’s your earliest memory of Hip Hop? Also, do you remember the first Hip Hop album you copped?

Moe Pope: My neighborhood, people blastin' out the windows. My sister getting DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince "He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper" and me lovin' every second of it. It was one of the first records that my mother let us buy that was Hip Hop. The first record I copped wasn't even a Hip Hop record, it was New Edition. I loved R&B back then, New Edition was my favorite group because they from The Bean baby.

DM: When did you decide a music career was something you wanted to pursue? Was there an artist, album or other influence that pushed you towards it?

MP: I always wrote lyrics but I never took it seriously until I was about 18. Just freestylin', I saw a bunch of kids freestylin' one day and I just jumped in. I dunno what made me jump in but...a couple of the older cats took me under their wing. They told me I was terrible but...you know (laughs), I tried to perfect it being around them. It helped me see the world, just that one little instance you know. I've gotten to see certain things since my freestyle that one night.

DM: You’re most well known for your work as a member of Mission:. How and when was the crew originally formed, member by member? How did the move from Boston to The Bay come about?

MP: I met Ethan Parsonage, who's Headnodic, the producer and bass player of Crown City Rockers and Mission:. Me and Raashan Ahmad from Crown City, I met him in a basement one day makin' beats, and he asked us if we wanted to be on his record, and he jumped at the idea of it. The rest of the members came about just by chance. They were in another group called EKG, and went to Berklee College of Music and it just formed perfectly, one after the other within months. We stayed together for a couple of years and moved out to The Bay just because we wanted to see. I mean, if you're in Boston it's such a small scene that everybody knows you. We wanted to see if we could make it where nobody knew who we were.

DM: Eventually you ended up moving back to Boston. What was your motivation to leave the group and head back east?

MP: My motivation basically was my child, my daughter Tamia. She lived back in Boston and I had been out in Oakland for about five years. The band had been together for a while, they'd been stagnant. Cats had started arguing, growing up, having families, meeting people. After awhile if things aren't progressing, which they were, they were progressing to a certain point, but we had our fair share of heartbreaks and setbacks. Different labels, stuff like that. I was missing out on my daughter's life and I needed to see that, that was more important to me at the time.

DM: As a crew Mission: released an EP, several singles, and a highly praised full length, “One”. How do you view the legacy of Mission: now that it’s all said and done?

MP: I wouldn't say that it's said and done, because they're my family. We've produced songs together still, we've done, you know, me and Headnodic are still doing an album together. Hopefully Raashan is gonna be on it. We're still family, so I wouldn't say it's all said and done. The legacy of that one album, I wish there was more because I feel we all as artists have grown so much since that record. But it put its stamp, I've gotten to see things that even my folks haven't gotten to see through just making a record that we loved. I loved making that record and I'm happy that it happened and, you know, I'm moving forward and trying to pursue other things yo.

DM: After returning to Boston you linked up with Insight, Dagha, Raheem and Anonymous to form the group Electric Company. After a few releases Electric Company eventually came to be known simply as “Electric”. What was the reason for the name change?

MP: There was a rock group called Electric Company already in the U.K. So uh, basically they called us up and said, "give us our name back or we'll sue you" (laughs).

DM: The crew’s debut EP, “Life’s a Struggle”, was very ill in our opinion…definitely one of the most slept on releases of 2004. Are there plans for another release? We’ve heard there was a fallout amongst the members. Would you like to discuss that?

MP: I wouldn't say necessarily a fallout. I would say just like the same with Mission:, we're all family, and with anyone that you love care for and work with, feelings get hurt in certain situations you know? I still contact every one of those members in both groups so...

I do think it was a slept on album. I think we put our hearts into it and you know, anything you work hard on and see it kinda crumble in your hands, it definitely leaves a little bit of a bad taste in your mouth. Hopefully, we're all still friends, and there's always an opportunity to come back when friends are involved.

DM: Raheem, Anonymous and yourself have formed an offshoot group Project Move. The full length entitled “Love Gone Wrong/The Butterfly Theory” has been pushed back several times since the beginning of the year. Is there any particular reason for the hold up? When can we expect to see it on the shelves?

MP: The holdup I think, basically is trying to figure out how to market in the Boston area and not have it fall apart such as the Electric Company album. There is so many different students that come in and out of Boston that it's hard to find your niche. On a small scale, like in the Underground Hip Hop scene, you don't want to see a good album not get heard, as did "Life's a Struggle". So we just wanna make sure that we have the time to get the right publicity, get the right time to drop it so that people will actually hear it and give their feedback, you know?

The record will be out really soon actually. In Japan, later in October. In the states it should be out by January. Just wanna make sure that everyone hears it. If we put it out three months ago, chances are it wouldn't have been the right time.

DM: Headnodic produced both of the tracks for the lead single, “Woo / Butterfly Theory”. Who else can we expect behind the boards for the full length?

MP: Sayzeer, who we also call Gooney Bird. He's a local producer on his way up. Beyonder, who works with 7L and Esoteric. He's also doing great things around Boston at this time, works with a lot of artists. He's our DJ, so special love to that guy. Headnodic, big fan of Headnodic. Oakland, Crown City to the fullest. Who else? Soul Supreme, who's from Europe. He produced "AM to PM" on the record. I think that's a young producer that definitely needs to get heard a little bit more. DJ Real...Shin from Japan did a couple of our tracks on the Japan version, remixes. So there's a lot of great producers, and young producers, that just need to be heard that people just haven't gotten the chance to really fully soak up yet. But hopefully they will with our record.

DM: You touched on a collaboration album with Headnodic earlier. What can we expect from the album, and when do you plan on releasing it?

MP: I hope a wide range of stuff that I haven't done on everything. I try to make the album as different and as much me as possible, and fall away from stuff that I've already done. I love music so I try to have a wide range. Plus, you know Headnodic, he's a music freak so...(laughs). I try to have a little splash of him and a little splash of me on one record and hopefully it will come out. Plus we recorded in Oakland so I hope a little bit of Oakland vibe comes out in it.

DM: All of your music to date has been as a member of various crews. How does it feel to finally be able to release something as a solo MC?

MP: Great you know, and humbling. I'm a little frightened because if it falls to pieces it's my fault. But you know, still I've got some great artists on there. We're trying to get Zion I on it. It's not done yet, we're still working out the small kinks and stuff like that. We have Raheem Jamal and Anonymous, who's coming out with his record, from Project Move on it. Hopefully to have these artists on that record, it kinda helps me out a little bit. I do love being able to get my own points and my own opinions across and not have to worry what other people think. This is my first record, and I just wanted to be able to say everything I wanted to say.

DM: Out of all the projects you’ve had a part in making, which are you the most proud of? Why?

MP: The next one, I'm most proud of the next one, you know? (laughs) I listen to all those things, sometimes I get tired of it. Sometimes I critique myself a little bit too much. But I'm proud of every one of those things. You can't not be proud of something that you had a part in making birth to. That's like saying if you had a child, which child are you most proud of, you know? (laughs) I can't really say that, but hopefully the next record that I do is better than the last.

DM: Are there any other upcoming projects or collaborations that we haven’t spoken on yet that you’d like to discuss?

MP: No, Project Move is my baby right now. Me, Raheem and Anonymous really put a lot of work into that record. "Megaphone", that's coming, but the Project Move album is definitely my baby right now. We went through so much during the making of this record that we hope that it really takes off, we hope that people like it.

DM: What are you listening to these days, Hip Hop or otherwise? Have a favorite Hip Hop release of 2005?

MP: 2005 release? Definitely "Be", Common's last album is phenomenal to me. But I love all different types of music, I'd say probably the thing that I'm most listening to is Bloc Party, an indie rock album, it's unbelievable. Bloc Party, MF DOOM, that Common album. The old stuff, Ramones, Beatles, Bob, you know? (laughs). I love everything man, I love music.

DM: Thanks for your time Moe, it’s definitely appreciated. Do you have any last comments or shout outs?

MP: I just hope everyone feels that record when they hear it. Go out and get that "Woo" single, and we've got another single coming out soon so go and cop it. Project Move!

Project Move's latest single, "That's How It Was (Love Music) / AM to PM" has just hit the shelves and can be purchased from Boston's online Hip Hop retailer, UndergroundHipHop.com. Be on the lookout for the crew's full length release, "Love Gone Wrong/The Butterfly Theory" in early 2006. Until next time...

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

A Man of Many Names

Raks One
Sycorax - "Guess Who" from Identity Crisis EP (2002, Basement Troubadour)
Phocus - "Homecoming (Bring It Back)" from A Vision and a Plan (2004, Handcuts Records)

In my first post here I thought I'd bring you folks up to date with one of the best slept on MCs out of New York - Raks One. I'll forgive you if you haven't heard of him before; this cat has had almost as many name changes as he has official releases. Starting out independently as Sycorax, or Sycorax One, he released his Identity Crisis EP in 2002 which exemplified his abilities as a versatile MC - not only in his flows, but also in the topics he chose to rhyme about. Addressing topics from his issues with President Bush (see Burning Bush) to a relationship with your dream girl (Tongue Tied), Sycorax's smooth voice guided the listener on a tour of his skills, showing why he would soon become a staple in the underground scene.

In the world of Hip Hop it often seems that talent attracts talent. This is exactly what has happened to Raks recently, as he has hooked up with the great production team over at Wax Reform. The skilled production team of DMinor, Muneshine, ILLMind and M-Phazes not only span the globe (Saskatchewan, Canada to Australia) but have laid down tracks for gifted MCs such as Supastition, MF Grimm, Akrobatik and Louis Logic. In 2004, Raks One (as he is now known) hooked up in house producer Muneshine as Phocus to deliver the album A Vision and a Plan. With the solid, soulful production of Muneshine behind him, Raks elevated his game to another level. Flowing perfectly over the smooth beats with meaningful, yet realistic lyrics, the New York native keeps you listening for the entire LP, while 'Shine ensures that your head is nodding the entire time. The track I've posted above from this release is Raks' tribute to the B-Boy in Hip Hop, calling for a retrieval of the old school flavor in today's money-focused scene over a nicely crafted beat, and an impressive display of scratching from Phocus' DJ Realone.

Raks also recently dropped his Wax Reform solo debut, For Good, which featured guest spots from Supastition and Kenn Starr, as well as production from the in house Wax Reform boys. This album is the next step in Raks' maturity as a solo artist, and with it he lets us know that he's only improving and polishing his skills. Luckily for the fans, Raks has made his recent mixtape Raks One vs. the Industry available as a free download on his website RaksOne.com - so check that out for a nice free sampler.

Expect nothing but more great Hip Hop to come out of Raks and the Wax Reform crew - and look out for Phocus' next LP entitled Threshold to be released in the near future. Shout outs also go to the clothing label 3sixteen Fabrications who put out clothing with a meaning - you can notice Raks sporting their "Speak Out" tee in the picture above.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Creamy Spy Contest

Digable Planets - Beyond the Spectrum: The Creamy Spy Chronicles (2005, Blue Note Records)

Diggin' Music is teaming up with Blue Note Records and Elemental Consulting to bring you "The Creamy Spy Contest". Two contest winners will receive a CD copy of Digable Planets' latest release "Beyond the Spectrum: The Creamy Spy Chronicles", a collection of hits, remixes and rarities. For a chance to win, simply email us the correct answer to the following question:

Q: In what year was Digable Planets' debut album, "Reachin' (A New Refutation of Time and Space)" originally released?

Answers must be received by December 20th, 2005 to be eligible. Winners will be selected at random and contacted at contest's end. Good luck!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Blockhead Gets Live

"Blockhead Live From N.Y." from The Block Is Hot Pt. 2 (2005, Ninja Tune/HipHopSite Recordings)

Sorry for the lack of updates y'all, I've had a busy last few weeks. Here's some Blockhead goodness to get things rolling again...

"Blockhead Live From N.Y." is a widely bootlegged performance (originally recorded on December 3rd, 2004) finally seeing official release as part of the promotional album "The Block Is Hot Pt. 2", which comes free with purchase of Blockhead's latest outing "Downtown Science" at HipHopSite.com. For the most part, the set plays out as a new spin on his first Ninja Tune full length "Music by Cavelight". Tracks from the original album have been revised for the live rendition, and blends of popular tracks from the likes of Phil Collins, Michael Jackson and Rakim are thrown in for good measure. This is how a live set ought to be done.

Not up on Blockhead? Shame on you. For more information on the man, visit his label home at NinjaTune.net.