Interviewed by Madeleine Byrne
Edited extract from an extended interview with the North Carolina emcee, to read the entire article go to www.madeleinebyrne.com
MB: With Gold Standard (Reform School Music/World Expo Records), it’s got various producers on it, but what really struck me was that it had a very confident sound; a very distinctive record compared maybe to some of your earlier releases; were you aiming to get a particular mood?
S: I’ve done a lot of releases and I really feel that with Gold Standard, well, it’s the one I can kind of boast and be proud of – for a lot of years, a lot of things weren’t working out the way I wanted them to, but with Gold Standard it is one of those records where everything came together. I had a plan to do a tour, of 70 plus shows and I started working with a producer by the name of Praise, so I had the fire under me.
MB: It’s really interesting you used the word confident, because the words I wrote down (when listening to it) were ‘straight, confident, consistent (and) unified’ – maybe compared to some of your other records. Were you inspired by any other particular hip-hop album when you were putting it together?
S: When I was putting it together, I was listening to a lot of albums that really strike me as inspirational like Little Brother’s The Listening; Blu and Exile’s Below the Heavens and the Brother Ali/Jake One record Mourning in America, Dreaming in Colour. One thing I like about them is that they all have a consistent vibe from beginning to end. I think out of my albums that fans like, like The Deadline it has a similar vibe, even though I’m working with different producers, I want a cohesive sound.
MB: I think it’s interesting you referred to The Deadline because that’s probably the other record that I’d compare Gold Standard to, where, you know the first track is completely, you know ‘I’m here; I’m ready to be heard’ that kind of thing.
You’ve talked about your interest in ‘concept albums’ before, would you say this is a concept album and if it is, in what way?
S: Yes, it’s a loose concept album, I wouldn’t say it’s a concept album in the sense in all songs pertaining to one particular subject, but for this record it is – Gold Standard just the title is saying that there are a lot of people in the music industry that basically brag and boast about a lot of things, but they have nothing to back it. With this record, I’m saying I’ve been here professionally since 2002 and after ten plus years in the industry I feel confident that speak about what I see. That’s why you have songs like ‘Gold Standard’ and ‘Know my Worth’. The concept behind it is, just be confident and proud of who you are. I’m not a twenty year old rapper any more, I’m confident and cool being a married man, a great father, a great friend and a dope rapper.
MB: (laughs) ok, and I think the track ‘Unorthodox’ wouldn’t you say it’s playing into this theme of providing a statement of who you are and what your history is, would you say that’s the key track for that?
S: Exactly, I definitely think ‘Unorthodox’ is a great example of that. ‘Unorthodox’ is one of those records where I say, critically I didn’t always the acclaim, you know when I release an album I already know they’re going to give this album a 3.5, because I really don’t have the name to get classic album rating, I don’t have promo behind me, but on that track I’m saying I don’t care if the critics understand me or not. I’m making records for the fans, you know.
MB: I understand that, but it does seem that things are shifting – Dr Dre has included you in his radio show, is that right?
S: Yes, he has a radio show that he does online where he plays different music and some people from Aftermath pick out the sound and the songs they play, so having Dr Dre include it and hearing that some of the people at Aftermath are big fans of the Gold Standard record, having people like Dr Dre and DJ Premier and Da Beatminerz supporting the record, it just makes you feel really, really confident and appreciated, you know. (..)
MB: The track that they played was ‘Know my Worth‘ right …
S: Right, ‘Know my Worth’
MB: This is a gorgeous track, isn’t it? You’re working with a female emcee, Boog Brown…
S: Yes, that’s my home-girl, Boog Brown…
MB: She’s fantastic, I thought what she added to that track was not so much the lyrics, but the way she raps, is just phenomenal, isn’t it? Can you talk a little bit about her?
S: Boog Brown is a very, very dope emcee. She’s originally from Detroit, but she lives in Atlanta now. We’ve known each other for a while, I was a big supporter of her, early in her career, I just thought she was an incredible emcee – not just a female emcee, but an incredible emcee and I always tried to put people onto her music. (…)
MB: Okay, let’s go to the first track from the record that I heard, ‘Black Bodies’ … You’re originally from North Carolina, Greenville, is that correct?
MB: So as you know, there has been some horrific race-based violence both the police and a white supremacist in North and South Carolina recently, how do you personally feel when you see these kinds of things happening so close to where you come from?
S: The thing with me is it’s not anything new, cause growing up in the South, growing up in North Carolina, I remember in Greenville, North Carolina you used to see the Ku Klux Klan march through town, you know things like that. I was in school and white people would call me nigger, it’s just what you would see growing up, you’d go to a store in a small town and people wouldn’t want to serve us, or want us in the store; or we’d walk into a restaurant and everybody would look at us like we were crazy. (…)
So when I created ‘Black Bodies’ you know, I didn’t want to create a song because everybody else was doing a song, particularly I held my back and waited because I wanted things to die down and as we decided to release the song I realized it was always going to be relevant because these situations keep happening. There’s always an unarmed black person getting killed somewhere around the world. (…) You can go a lot deeper – look at the history of America, the judicial system, systematic oppression, it goes through a lot of different things.
MB: I definitely agree. But let’s slow it down a bit here, because what you said was really quite shocking before, you’re not so old, so when you’re talking about the Ku Klux Klan and the racism you experienced growing up, are we talking the 70s or the 80s, or?
S: This is the 80s – the mid to late 80s.
S: Once you look back, when you’re older and understand it, it amazes you. I can’t believe I witnessed and lived through all this stuff was still going on at that time. A lot of people think it ended in the 60s and the 70s, but all this goes a lot deeper than that.
“MB: The thing that is very interesting for me is your choice of the title ‘Black Bodies’ because it’s maybe the media, certainly the police and people in authority often see people of color as just being bodies, rather than being human. When you were thinking about that title, what ideas did you have when you chose that title for the track?
S: The inspiration is just like you said it’s the way people don’t see African-Americans as being people, a lot of times (white) Americans treat dogs and animals better than they treat African-Americans, they have more compassion for animals than us. And it’s something that I’ve noticed when you look the news and you see people dying in America they don’t show dead bodies laying on the ground, when they show countries in Europe and places like that they don’t show bodies on the ground, but when they show African nations and people dying and starving they show actual dead bodies, the people, it’s almost as if they are desensitized. This is one of the reasons why I wanted to call that track ‘Black Bodies’ because when you notice this, if you look at it a lot of times they have massacres in Africa, you’ll see it on the news, the bodies laying there. It’s like they’re being treated as if they’re less than human sometimes. They would never show – any massacre that happens in America, they never show dead bodies laying on the ground.”
S: I just wish people would have more compassion and like I said in the song, ‘Black Bodies’ these police officers, they not held to the same standard as the average guy, I mean people talk about black on black crime, when someone gets killed in the neighborhood, but these guys (the police) are not held to the same standard – they hold a position of service and so when we see this happen, it’s a big disappointment, I mean we think you’re supposed to be there to protect us, if we can’t trust you, who can we trust?
To read the full interview with Supastition, go to www.madeleinebyrne.com