(Another) Interview with Trackstar the DJ

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Do you think you’re getting used to touring at such a frantic pace?

“I think as much as you can get used to it, we are. I’m a pretty easy going guy so it’s not that hard for me anyway. I’m cool with doing different stuff everyday and the frantic packing and repacking. I do pretty okay with it.”

What has been the most surreal moment for you so far?

“Honestly they all are, I’m such a nerd about it. Madison Square Garden was crazy.Maybe Letterman. We got to play that twice which was awesome.”

When we last talked you told me how you saw Killer Mike’s phone number in a magazine, rang it and unexpectedly ended up working with him. What was said during that call that landed you the job ?

“Well I didn’t expect it to be him. I thought it would like a fan line where you leave your email address after the beep to get new updates or whatever. Just something like that with a personalised message from Mike. So I thought ‘I’d like to hear Killer Mike’s fan line, it might be interesting’. All of a sudden he answers the phone and I had to come up with something to say because I didn’t have a plan So I introduced myself, told him that I was playing his records in St. Louis, which records and what type of responses they were getting. I was really heavy into mixtapes then, I was doing about 20 a year so it was natural for me to ask him if he wanted to do a mixtape. On the spot, I came up with the idea of a Best of Killer Mike and asked him to host and he said he was down. Everything else proceeded from there and it’s been pretty crazy!”

Are you a big record collector?

“Yeah definitely. I mean, I don’t have as many as I used to or as many as other people do, but I definitely have a few thousand. I buy records regularly; it’s definitely my main hobby. If we’re on a bus tour, I’m able to buy records all the time”

What was the first record you ever bought?

“The first record I ever bought new was Wu Tang Forever and a reissue of Protect Your Neck. Which is crazy because I got that signed by seven members when we opened for them in Utah.”

Who has had your favourite solo career out of all of Wu Tang?

“I mean, it’s pretty not to give it to Ghostface, but they’ve all had great solo careers. We toured with GZA and it was one of the coolest things I’ve gotten to do for sure. It’s hard not to say Method Man too. I really love Tical, I feel more than most, and he’s done so many great guest appearances over the years.”

It’s rare to see an act stand by their DJ as much as Run the Jewels have with you. Why do you think that is?

“They’re both loyal guys. They’re both loyal guys in all sides of all life. They’re loyal to their families; they’ve stuck with their managers for long time. They know whose down for them because they were down before big things happened. That’s just how they are. I’m really grateful because I see other artist/DJ relationships that don’t last at all.”

How long has your clothing line Rap Fan been on the go?

“Since summer 2012 during the first Killer Mike/El –P tour. I wanted to come up with a brand that was as true to me as possible and something I’d still want to wear and be proud of in 5 or 10 years. Not something that was trendy or taking advantage of a moment.”

Have you ever tried to rap or was being a DJ always the priority?

“At first I was definitely just a fan. I kind of started DJing by default because I tried to rap but it wasn’t serious. I never thought I had the voice for it and I dint have the passion to do it that I feel that you should have to do that. I didn’t feel like I had anything to say. I started DJing in college for the radio station and that gave me access to all these records I wanted to listen to.”

Who are your top 3 producers of all time? (Excluding El-P)

“I’d have to say RZA, Kanye and Organized Noize. Just Blaze would be in there also… Premier, Pete Rock.

What has been your favourite album of 2015 so far?

“I really like Oddisee’s album. I listen to that a lot. Action Bronson and Earl Sweatshirt too. There are songs on Drake’s album that I listen to more than a lot of stuff but I don’t really listen to the whole project. But as a complete album, Joey Badass might take it.”

What’s your favourite track to perform every gig?

“Well the cheating answer would be Pew Pew Pew because that’s where my scratch solo is. ‘Get It’ is pretty hard to bear with Mike dancing and I get to cut quite a bit on there too. I might say Oh My Darling (Don’t Cry)’ though. It’s towards the beginning of the show and it’s really when everything comes together with the excitement of the first song and then second one is off the new record so I think I’d go for that.”

Who scratched on ‘Go!’ from R.A.P Music?

“That was DJ Abilities. It was crazy when I found out because I heard the scratches and they were super dope. I’m Madison, Wisconsin so I’ve got Abilities mixtapes on cassette.”

 Did you catch Rusangano Family during their support set at the last RTJ gig in Dublin?

“I thought they were really dope. They were one of the best opening acts we’ve had. Great energy, nice kids. Some of the beats are crazy.”

If you only had 3 albums to bring on holiday what would they be?

“DJ Shadow – Entroducing, Wu Tang Forever, ATLienes. I always say you’ll never like any music more than the music you were listening to the first summer you were getting stoned.”

-Ross Logan

Community Skratch Games 2015

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The 9th annual Community Skratch Games is set to take place in Bierhaus, Galway April 4th & 5th. DJ Chile will open the festival at 5pm on Saturday. Also that day will play host to Clerk 5 and Same D4ence, young Clare DJ Daithi Curtin, as well as Rusangano Family, an act who we have been following for a while now and who only continue to astound us with every concert/album release. Sunday will also see Naive Ted, Djackulate, Danny Deepo, Noid the Droid and Zinc all playing different sets as well as countless other acts throughout the weekend.

All that and we haven’t even mentioned the main event, the Community Skratch Games Open Freestyle Battle Royale. Previous editions have featured total novices and battle veterans, young upstarts battling alongside world champions. All for a bag of meat. And this year, for the first time ever, a really fancy skratch crossfader from Pro X Fade

Performances begin at 5pm each day and admission is free (though donations are welcome and encouraged!).

Full line-up:

DJ Chile – Naive Ted – Handsome Paddy
Rusangano Family – KOI>3.2^6
Lewis James & Rick Soul – Noid the Droid
Wat Tyler’s Soundcard (Jimmy Hatetank, Jimmy Penguin & DJ Chile)
Zinc – Christine Kelly – JusMe – Clerk 5 – Nyt Bloomer
Danny Deepo – Djackulate – Darcy, Symatic & Kutclass
Same D4ence – Daithi Curtin

Interview with Trackstar the DJ

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I was fortunate enough to catch Run the Jewels’ gig last December at Opium Rooms in Dublin. Aside from the two emcees in the group, a familiar face was in charge of DJ duties for the night. Trackstar the DJ began working for Killer Mike and eventually progressed into Run the Jewels as the group was formed. He is far from just being hired help. He appears in music videos, live on Conan & David Letterman, and just about anywhere that RTJ have made their mark. We were lucky enough to get to chat to Trackstar about his early career, Mike and El-P and his various other projects.

-Where are you from?/When did you start DJing?

“I grew up in Madison, Wisconsin, and moved to St Louis for college where I started DJing at my school’s radio station KWUR. I ended up staying in St. Louis and working in the hip hop scene there for ten years, and that’s where the first decade of my life as a DJ happened–I like to say Gabe is from Madison but Trackstar is from St Louis.”

-Can you remember your first show?

“I do remember my first off-campus DJ gig. I was working my part time job and met a rapper/promoter named John Harrington, who is one of the greatest dudes ever–I told him I was a DJ and he booked me to play at an upcoming show with his group the Midwest Avengers, as well as an incredible duo Bits N Pieces, both of whom are legendary acts in the St Louis underground rap scene. I don’t remember all the details, but I know I played some rap music and I must not have sucked too bad because I ended up working John a ton more over the years lol.”

-How did you become the DJ for Killer Mike and Run the Jewels?

“I’ll try to tell the short version, but it’s a great story: Basically, sometime in 2008 I read a Killer Mike interview where he gave out his phone number at the end. At that time (now too) he was my favorite rapper, so being the go-getter I am, I called it, expecting a fanline of some sort. It turned out that was actually his number, he answered the phone, and we had a conversation that led to me doing a Best of Killer Mike mixtape with The Smoking Section in 2009 called Anger & Ambition, which he hosted. From there, he and I did shows sporadically for a couple years before I became his official tour DJ and moved to Atlanta. My timing was amazing–six months later he and El dropped R.A.P. Music, and the next year when they formed Run The Jewels I became the DJ for the best rap group in the world.”

-Aside from RTJ, who has been your favourite artist to perform with?

“I’ve been rocking with my StL crew (Tef Poe, Rockwell Knuckles, Gotta Be Karim, Family Affair, Wafeek, Black Spade, Vandalyzm, among others) for 10+ years, so I’d have to say them for sure–having Tef and Rocky open up five dates on the RTJ2 tour was definitely a huge highlight of this entire experience for me. They performed as a duo under the name David Ruffin Theory–I presented their project, which I highly recommend and you can check at www.davidruffintheory.com. You may have heard Tef’s name recently, he’s been one of the leading voices in the Ferguson movement since Michael Brown was killed.”

-Mike and El seem like pretty easy going guys. What’s it like touring with them?

“The guys you see onstage and in interviews is who they are 24 hours a day, so it’s constantly entertaining and enlightening. It’s basically just like listening to RTJ2 overall–heavy conversations about serious issues and a constant stream of ridiculous and immature jokes, all with an undercurrent of love for each other and our fellow man.”

-You are about to play Sundance, Coachella and Madison Square Garden with Jack White in the next few months. Do you like stepping out of your comfort zone to play to crowds like this?

“I definitely do, all of these experiences are just unreal–I never even imagined doing anything like this. Folks are always saying I’m living the dream, but honestly my dream was to work at Vintage Vinyl in St Louis and do cool rap stuff around town with my friends. The crazy thing is, we’ve been playing so many crazy festivals and huge crowds over the last few years that shows like that aren’t that far out of my comfort zone anymore, although there was definitely some butterflies before stepping onstage at MSG–that was some historic shit.”

-Touring the past year has brought you across the world and you were on Conan and Letterman. What has been the defining performance for you so far?

“That’s a tough question, there’s been so many amazing shows…I think I might actually say it was a show we did in Salt Lake City this past summer, opening for the Wu-Tang Clan. Wu was such a huge part of my growing up as a rap fan, getting to watch the show from onstage, and meet them all (and get my copy of Wu-Tang Forever signed by everyone) was definitely one of the coolest moments–something I never would have imagined in 1997 when 16-year old Gabe was screaming all the words at their show in Chicago when they were touring with Rage Against the Machine.”

-What is the best thing about your job?

“The travel is great, but most places we go we don’t actually get to see anything besides the airport, the hotel and the venue…so me being me I’m going to say it’s definitely getting to meet and even become friends with so many artists I was a fan of growing up. Mike and I toured with Big Boi, and with the GZA, we’ve brought guys like Bun B, Q-Bert, Z-Trip and Zack De La Rocha out to perform with us, and I’ve met so many legendary MCs, DJs and producers who I looked up to while I was coming up like Q-Tip, Scarface, Jazzy Jeff, Rakim, way to many to name…not to mention a couple guys named Jaime and Mike lol.”

-What is the worst?

“Definitely being away from my ridiculously supportive wife. Camille has her own successful jewelry business which keeps her busy, and she meets up with us on the road as often as possible but it’s still rough being gone basically six months out of the year. We all deal pretty well with the grueling schedule and day-to-day insanity, but I think Mike and El will agree that being away from our ladies is the hardest thing about the touring lifestyle.”

-What promoted your decision to create your Rap Fan clothing line?

“On the first Mike & El tour for RAP Music and Cancer 4 Cure, I wanted to supplement my income at the merch table, so I tried to come up with something that wasn’t purely self-promoting (more universal than just a shirt that says DJ TRACKSTAR). I wanted something that was true to who I was, and I realized there was nothing more consistent or meaningful in my life over the last twenty years than my identity as a rap fan. Fortunately, it turns out a few other people could relate to that sentiment, and it’s gone pretty well.”

-Do you have another mixtape on the way anytime soon?

I’m always working on multiple projects at once that are somewhere between 10% and 80% done–right now I’ve got three or four in the works but I don’t have any clue right now which I’ll finish first, but there’s some cool concepts I’ve got brewing and you’ll see them pop up eventually on The Smoking Section (or my twitter, or Instagram, or Facebook).

-If you weren’t a DJ, what do you think you would you be doing instead?

“I went to school for business, but I could never really see myself in a suit and tie…I’d probably have still involved myself in music somehow entrepreneurially, or ended up working with kids in some capacity. I did a lot of work with youth through hip hop while I was in St Louis, and definitely saw that as an alternate career path if DJing didn’t work out. Fortunately I haven’t had to figure that out quite yet.”

Run the Jewels will play Forbidden Fruit Festival at Royal Hospital Kilmainham in Dublin between May 29th-31st. Have your fists and guns at the ready.

Photo by binaire.tv

-Ross Logan

Interview with MynameisjOhn

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MynameisjOhn is a producer based in Limerick Ireland. After releasing the critically acclaimed Rusangano/Family with God Knows last year, he provided about half of the beats for MuRli’s excellent Surface Tension EP, which we gave 4/5 in our review. We got a chance to catch up with jOhn to discuss software, influences and what they have lined up next.

– What music did you listen to growing up?

“Oh, I’ve had my phases, but a pretty healthy diet of mostly good music. Some questionable bits too, but some diamonds also. Hiphop is probably the obvious one, but whatever. Early on, it was all Beastie Boys, Nas, Wu Tang, Prefuse 73, Ice Cube, Portishead, Curtis Mayfield, Bjork, James Brown, Axelrod, Jimi Hendrix, Warp Records, Ninja Tunes. I dug a bit deeper than that though. I literally always had headphones on, and cycled a lot.  That’s my favourite way of getting to know an album, peddling away at the same bpm as the track.”

– How long have you been making music?

“Since lunchtime.”

– What equipment/software do you use?

“The usual shebang. Turntable, mixer, records, Serato, Logic, a sampler, mics, yelps, screams, barks, whooshs and pops. I try to keep it simple enough really, and just focus on creating a sound that reflects where we’re all at. Sometimes, I wipe tears over the sampler pads to give it more of a human feel.”

– Your production draws inspiration from many different countries and places. Who is your biggest musical influence as a producer?

“Naive Ted. I tried to think of a load of legendary producers or DJs who had some impact on me or what or I do, but I reckon the one that stands out the most over time is Deviant & Naive Ted. There’s an integrity to every angle of his game.

But influence, in general, comes from every where. The sounds produced may seem like its a bigger cultural influence going on, but its actually way more local. It can be from your students in a classroom to a young producer down the road to an honest friend who just helps or advises you. It’s the one reason we never do shout-outs or thank-you’s with our releases, because the list would just be painfully long to read. I think the music we all make locally is a product of our environment, with the inspiration being all the real people we’ve met and worked with over the years through gigs, and events. Whether that’s the crowds, the promoters, our mates who DJ, independent radio, the support bands, the taxi-drivers, the man who makes the burritos. They’re definitely our biggest influence.”

– You manage to encapsulate the message of God Knows and MuRli quite well through your production. Do you always make their beats with them in mind or do you just make whatever comes naturally?

“Right now, all focus is on just making beats that the lads will vibe to. I think we’re developing a sound and it’s really interesting to just try concentrate on that and see where the experiments lead us. It’s mad exciting working with the lads, because they’re just so versatile. They’ll kill anything you throw at them. It’s like a constant challenge, because they keep just upping their game at a vicious rate so you cant help but be motivated.”

– What track are you most proud of?

“Weirdly, it’s probably the outro on Rusangano Family, called ‘Eggspectations’. It’s a simple silly little ditty, but i think it gets the point across.”

– Do you get many requests for beats from other artists?

“At the moment – Yes. And I’d love to work with all of them. Making music with other people in any capacity is brilliant, and you always learn something from everyone. But we have jobs and commitments, so you can only spread yourself so much. It’s kind of tough, but we have to stick to the plan and focus on trying to explore our own sound first and foremost for now. There’s so many people, even just locally, that I want to do stuff with, but it’s a time issue unfortunately. Hopefully in the future though!”

– If you could make a beat for any artist who would it be?

“God Knows + MuRli.”

– Whats the next project you have in the works?

“So, the worst kept secret is that myself, God Knows and MuRli will all be uniting as ‘Rusangano Family’ and making an album as a proper band. It’s what we’ve been working towards for a while. We all feel real hungry for this and we’re ready to push the boat out a bit more in term of the concept and philosophy behind what we do. We want to be pretty adventurous with the album, but we we’re still in the early planning stages and seeing how to achieve it. You can expect that to materialize in the physical world at the end of the summer. I’m going to keep DJing in between and stay focused on being a good human.”

God Knows & MynameisjOhn bandcamp: http://godknows-mynameisjohn.bandcamp.com/

Rusangano/Family will play the Workman’s Club, Dublin March 20th.

-Ross Logan

The Simpsons Musical Guests

The Simpsons has been on the air for over 25 years, so it is no wonder that they have had many musical guests drop by Springfield. Having announced that Pharrell Williams will be the next to join this long list soon, we compiled our favourite appearances by musicians in the show:

  • Ramones

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All 4 of the original Ramones line up appeared in episode about Mr. Burns’ coveted bear, Bobo.

  • Johnny Cash

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Johnny Cash starred as Homer’s Spirit Guide through a chilli induced bad trip.

  • Paul McCartney

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Before making his name by doing features with Kanye West, Paul McCartney starred in this season 7 episode about Lisa becoming a vegetarian.

  • Cypress Hill

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They were not the only guests in the famous Lollapalooza episode (Peter Frampton, The Smashing Pumpkins) but Cypress Hill’s duet with the London Symphony Orchestra for Insane in the Brain is what is most memorable.

  • Michael Jackson

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This early episode still has people guessing if it was really the King of Pop playing a mental patient. Even though he was uncredited, it sounds like an awful like him for it to be a fake.

-Ross Logan

Best of: Podcasts

Podcasting is slowly becoming one of the biggest forms of new media available at the moment. It has all the benefits of radio, with less language and time restrictions. It gives the presenter a chance to talk to their guest on a face to face level, while not having to worry about plugging their most recent products. What results is a more authentic representation of the guest as a person. It is safe to that if any of your favourite artists, film makers, writers etc. have been featured on a good podcast, then you will more than likely hear some information about them that wouldn’t be shared anywhere else. Here is a list of my favorite podcasts in no particular order:

  • Scroobius Pip’s Distraction Pieces Podcast

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This is a podcast that has only been on the go since October and has 13 episodes currently available. In each episode, Scroobius Pip chats to guest for somewhere between 60-90 minutes. He has had such a large and varied array of guests, ranging from Russell Brand, to Watchmen author Alan Moore, to Killer Mike, one half of Run The Jewels. Many good episodes also come from Pip exploring the likes of fullfact.org with it’s creators, or One Million Lovely Letters with Jodi Ann Bickely.

Best episode: Simon Pegg

  • The Champs

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Hosted by Chappelle Show creator Neal Brennan and comedian Moshe Kasher, the Champs features the two hosts sitting down with a different celebrity each episode. That means there are plenty of rappers featured including Action Bronson, Big Daddy Kane & Freddie Gibbs to name a few. The most interesting episodes come from Neal and Moshe sitting down with fellow comedians, such as Chris Rock or Charlie Murphy to share stories and writing techniques.

Best episode: Charlie Murphy

  • Jay & Silent Bob Get Old

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“Every saga has a middle age and this is what happens when Jay & Silent Bob get old”. Part of Kevin Smith’s massive Smodcast universe, this one is unique to our list as they do not follow a presenter/guest format. Instead Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith, better known as Jay & Silent Bob, recount their tales of making movies and being friends since the early 90’s. It also works as a weekly intervention for Mewes, who has had some previous drug problems, that he explains in detail in the first few episodes. It is a podcast that can be heart breaking at times and hilarious at others.

Best episode: #3 With or Without Mewes

  • NPR: Microphone Check

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Hosted by Ali Shaeed Muhammed, one-third of A Tribe Called Quest, and Frannie Kelly, an editor at NPR, Microphone Check deals with guests specific to hip hop, mostly artists who have just released an album. They have the opportunity to discuss the album in-depth right around the time of its release with the two knowledgeable hosts. The most interesting episodes come when they host panels to discuss certain topics, such as the Stories of Notorious B.I.G and Inside the XXL Freshman Cover.

Best episode: Eight Million Stories ‘Hip Hop in 1993’

  • Juan Epstein

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This podcast is hosted by two of the hardest working radio DJs around at the moment, Hot 97’s Peter Rosenberg and Cipha Sounds. Both hosts are oozing with charisma while on air, but this gives them the opportunity to sit down with each other and discuss hip hop in a relaxed setting. They often spend the opening segment catching up with each other, inside and outside of the radio universe and then they interview a guest for the rest of the recording. Many artists hold the utmost respect for the two, so it can often result in interesting interviews.

Best episode: Chris Rock & Questlove from the Roots

-Ross Logan

Smoke DZA Interview

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Smoke DZA is set to embark on his first ever European tour this month and we got to catch up with the Harlem rapper to ask him about his experiences attending and performing gigs. For a full list of tour dates see below.

-What was the first concert you ever attended?

“The first concert I went to was a New Edition Concert at the Apollo, very random hahaha but I was there.”

-What is the best hip hop show you’ve seen and why? 

“That’s such a hard question to answer. I’ve been to so many great hip hop shows but I can honestly say the best hip hop shows for me are the ones that I actually was apart of & learned from; watching Wiz, Big K.R.I.T, Currensy, and Method Man live every night how they worked the crowd and make people engage in their set I was able to take bits from each of them and apply to my own show so those guys shows are the best hip hop shows to me.”

-Do you like to smoke during shows?

“During, After, Before its a Marathon hahaha”

-Do you take time out to interact with fans while touring?

“Always! My fans mean everything to me touring and outside of touring. I give everyone their moment if you love me I love you. I appreciate the fact that my fans grow with me.”

-Even though you have been doing shows for a while now, do you still get nervous before you go on?

“Yup. It’s natural tho I’m nervous before I’m out there because I’m very hard on myself about making sure my set is tight but once I’m out there it’s gametime.”

-What is the best show you’ve ever played?

“I’ve had so many great shows but one of my best shows was at Sob’s performing with Ski Beatz and the live band was amazing. The crowd and myself thoroughly enjoyed it.”

-What is the worst show you’ve ever played and why?

“One of the worst shows I ever played was some random part of Ohio the promoters were Z-class, the venue was shit and I had to almost throw this bastard through a wall to get paid. There you have it. Haha”

-Is this your first time to headline shows in certain parts of Europe?

“Yes! I’m very excited about this. I get to touch my fans in Europe embrace their culture and bring them into my world. It’s gonna be fun.”

-Does touring become tedious after extended periods of time?

“Definitely. Being away from my wife and kids and my family sucks but it’s all worth it in the quest of being great.”

-What is the best thing about performing in front of a crowd?

“Being able to entertain them and leaving with new fans that maybe wasn’t familiar with you.”

-What is your favourite song to perform?

“City Of Dreams.”

26 January Melkweg, Amsterdam, Netherlands

27 January The Jazz Cafe, London, UK

28 January La Bellevilloise, Paris, France

31 January Club Bahnhof Ehrenfeld – Cbe Köln, Cologne, Germany

01 February Yip Yab, Munich, Germany

04 February B72, Vienna, Austria

05 February Prince Charles, Berlin, Germany

10 February The Sugar Club, Dublin, Ireland

12 February Stereolux, Nantes, France (with Blackalicious)

by Ross Logan

Simi Crowns Interview

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Simi Crowns first popped onto my radar during an excellent support set for Pusha T, one in which he blew the main act out of the water. Since then he has gone onto support Kid Ink, Mos Def & play Electric Picnic, as well as countless other gigs. It has been a big year for Simi, but 2015 is shaping up to be a whole lot bigger for him. We caught up with him recently and had the opportunity to ask him a few questions about his music, his live show and what he has in the works.

Describe your music to someone who hasn’t heard it before.

“My music is an expression. An expression of how I and those around me including the general society feels. You know those types of mundane truths that we know exists but fail to acknowledge. I often come across comments such as “for a Dublin guy, you‟re different”. When elaborated, it seems to shock people who‟ve come across my music that, I don‟t match their expectations. Rapping in Dublin/Ireland has never really been viewed as being glamorous like the Americans, so the trend is you either try to make it glamorous by bullshitting (in fake accents, false/unrelatable subject matters, etc.) or you rap “real” but with an emphasis on your Irishness with the strong accent, which never quite seem to get accepted on a mainstream level. Flipping that, I came through as this random guy with a “plain enough” accent that everyone could understand (growing up, I had a very multi-cultural circle of friends) while rapping about these things even Gary, Siobhan, Ahmed, Tin Lin and Kemi could relate to – my not so ghettoish Dublin-tinted struggles, college, race, fantasies, dreams, girls, relationships, hopes, ambitions to succeed, etc.”

How do you feel you differ from other Irish acts?

“Questions like these usually bring out the most favourable biases but I‟ve always seemed to notice that most credible and celebrated Irish artists I know of are of a certain type. Being frank, I feel that black voices are greatly misrepresented and underrepresented. I don‟t mean in a “they don‟t have freedom of speech or expression civil rights type of way”, but when you look at the media, at least 95% of the faces celebrated are white; only black faces we see are the Beyonces, Jay Zs, whatever happened to these black Irish people I know on a personal level contributing to the society and making a killing on multiple varied levels; in college, business, you know. All I seem to notice are headlines in bold letters like “NIGERIAN MAN CONVICTED FOR RAPE”, “NON-NATIONAL CAUGHT SMUGGLING.” What of my childhood friend, Goke killing it in the finance industry, Nubi Kay winning Accenture‟s European Best Innovators Awards, etc. And on the music scene, it seems to always be about the guys with guitars and slick leather jackets, far from being envious, I am friends with many of them and I think they make great music but I always feel like “fuck I have something to contribute too, you know, bring my own meaning and impact to the fucking world” based on my abilities and not what I happen to be. I grew up here and still get people from the media asking for interviews under contexts such as “The New Faces of Ireland” or the “Black Underground Dublin Music Scene”, what the fuck does that even mean? Can we just focus on the primary thing I‟m doing? If you‟re creating something worthy, all these characteristics of yours should be secondary.

Just to clarify, I am not saying those gatekeepers and the ones responsible for the celebration of the “doers” in Irish society are racist, I‟m saying everyone doing something with an impact should be acknowledged without those labels and boundaries, and the only way for that to happen is for people to grow the balls and put aside their race, background, or style of music or whatever and just let their work speak for them… So I guess how I differ is the fact that I have the balls and more to look beyond these superficial elements; like I said in a recent interview, I don‟t give a shit about anything but what I am creating and by God, anywhere the greats are being mentioned, I will be there. If you‟re talking about great records or killing it at live shows, Croke Park, the 3 Arena, wait „til I get there and I‟ll show you there‟s no fucking way my thinking, actions and glory will ever go denied.”

How important are your band in the essence of your music?

“It is kind of a weird one. My band is not an orthodox type of band, we play together, jam together but we don‟t create/write together like say, the typical music band. I create all the musical aspects but when we get together, whether in rehearsals or on stage, their vision and energy brings out the hidden and subtle energy behind those songs. It‟s like when you get your chips and burger from McDonalds‟, you‟ve gotta get the ketchup to make it a proper meal. D.O.G., Princess and Michaeal (my dj, drummer and bassist), you can say are the ketchup to my chips and burger. I rate and value them highly, and you can see by the reaction of the crowd at every single show that they are doing something really great.”

What artists do you draw inspiration from?

“I listen to a wide variety of music. With my African background, I listen to a lot of King Sunny Ade, Fela Kuti and Asa especially for their contexts. I tend to listen to African artists when I‟m in a radiant mood, there‟s a lot of warmth and sun in their music, maybe it‟s an African thing, you know with the warm climate. Also listen to a lot of American hiphop and soul (Nas, Kanye, Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, Mos Def, Talib, J. Cole, Common, etc.), but I feel that I can never fully relate, maybe because I didn‟t grow up in that environment but these guys are the pioneers and the ones that are primarily responsible for pushing forward the black music culture and breaking boundaries, meaning they must be doing something right in their storytelling, production, communication and business practices. I‟d be daft not to study and learn from them. My musical view is quite diversed though, I love Bjork, Little Dragon, Gorillaz, MJ, South African House Music, throw in some Jazz and Tito Puente too but no Tiesto please.”

You put a lot of energy into your live show. Do you think we live in an age where a gig has to make as big a statement as an album?

“Shows in my opinion definitely have to be a big statement, probably a bigger statement than the album. The thing about a live show is that it is an opportunity to give life and interpretation to these words and sounds you‟ve strung together in your bedroom or wherever. People at my shows have blessed me with some minutes of their lives to search for my songs on YouTube, SoundCloud and engage with it, so when I get on that stage, it‟s time to show appreciation and gratitude. It‟s like we‟re in this together and fuck the rest of the world, unless they want to join us. My songs are like the training days in the premier league, the shows are my match days and you really ought to know I‟m getting those three points.”

What has been your favourite live show so far?

“Besides the State Faces of 2014 show where everyone went nuts, the recent support show with Mos Def at Vicar St. has to be a serious contender. You know, I had people in the crowd who‟ve come to know me now as a “doer of this music”, they knew my fucking songs and sang along, nearly 2000 people showing so much love for this random chap from Parkwest. It was a real emotional show too, as I told them the story about my deceased friend who once told me that one day he expects me to be on that stage making a difference. Unfortunately, when the time came, he was no longer with us but his presence was felt when the whole crowd cheered and applauded his memory.”

If you could open for one artist who would it be?

“This will sound either confident or arrogant, depending on who‟s reading but I‟ve always held the firm belief that my ultimate purpose is to be the main event at everything I do. So I never really think of artists I‟d like to open for. There are a few artists I‟d love to meet though; but in the most respectful and humbling way, I don‟t see why I couldn‟t play my cards to be on an equal playing field with the best of them.”

When and where is your next gig?

“December 20th at Opium Rooms in Dublin. It‟s been a fantastic year for me and those around me (musically, personal relationships, personal successes, etc.) so I feel it‟s only right we give a show that demonstrates our appreciation for those supporting and those blessing us with the opportunities.

Playing with my band, we also have really good friends of mine, visionary guys supporting the show. ProFound, a really young bright guy from Blanch with so much to say and give, there‟ll also be a hiphop dance group (All Stars Deuces Company) and several Arts and Graffiti Exhibitions. It‟s long overdue, but we‟re bringing the culture together on this show. Call me a Psychic if you will, but next year is gonna be a great year, a game changer for those who are staying hungry and working smart and for the entire culture in Ireland.”

Do you have an album in the works?

“I have enough materials to put out an album but I‟m a fan of smart work over hard work. Giving the circumstances, being independent, perhaps putting out an album now is not the most effective and efficient way of spreading out this vision. I do have several EPs and mixtapes though, which I plan to release next year with the first being around April/May 2015.”

What hip hop albums have caught your ear this year?

“God Knows My Name is John – Rusangano/Family (Ireland)

Ghetts – Rebel with a Cause (UK)

T.I – Paperwork (USA)

SchoolBoyQ – OxyMoron (USA)

Jessy Jagz – Jagz Nation Volume 2 (Nigeria)

Bas – Last Winter (USA)

Nipsey Hussle – Crenshaw (USA)

M.I – The Chairman (Nigeria)

Looking forward to J.Cole‟s 2014 Forest Hill Drive out this week and still gotta get the new Wu Tang Clan album.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nAHR-rKuT2s

Simi Crowns will perform in Opium Rooms Dublin December 20th, tickets €10.

Top 5: Run The Jewels

Killer Mike and El-P will make their way to Ireland for their sold out gig in Opium Rooms, Dublin on December 21st, with support from God Knows & mynameisjOhn. In anticipation of the gig, I’ve compiled a list of my favourite Run The Jewels tracks. Let us know if you think we left anything out in the comments.

– Run The Jewels

This self titled track was a mission statement from the two and also set the tone for their debut album.

– A Christmas Fuckin Miracle

Also from their debut album, this track definitely ranks high in my favourite Christmas songs of all time.

-Blockbuster Night Part 1

The first track released from RTJ2 features both emcees trading verses over El-P’s stomping production.

-Close Your Eyes & Count To Fuck

Featuring Zack De La Rocha from Rage Against the Machine, this song sums up the overall political themes explored on RTJ2.

– Early

Both Mike & El-P deliver some their best work with these two verses. A masterclass in songwriting and storytelling & also a song that grows frighteningly more relevant each day.

Time is Illmatic

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Time is Illmatic provides not just an in depth look into Nas’ early life, but also the crippling social conditions in Queensbridge that would heavily influence the creation of his debut album Illmatic. It offers an insightful glimpse into the perspective from which the album was written. Being raised in the hostile and sometimes fatal environment in which he was, he was not just talented but also one of the very few people lucky enough to be able to escape it. Perhaps the most striking part is Nas and his brother recounting the death of their childhood friend, Ill Will, in the same place he was gunned down.

For any fan of hip hop, the documentary is a must see. Very few similar projects are as detailed or at times, poignant as Time is Illmatic. Director One9 did an excellent job of detailing the strife’s of Nas’ early life while not dwelling on them. It makes for an overall optimistic project that is sure to provide hope for anyone in a similar situation.

At the time of its release, Illmatic painted the most accurate and vivid imagery of life in the projects. This documentary ensures that its cultural significance will not be overlooked. It also explores the unique production like never before, with the likes of Q-Tip, DJ Premier & Pete Rock detailing their contributions of timeless beats to the album.

Much like the album itself, it is sure to spawn imitators. Don’t be surprised to see other feature length projects based around albums that are as widely regarded by critics and fans alike. However, few will spark as much emotion in just under 75 minutes as Time is Illmatic.

Time is Illmatic will be screened again in the Sugar Club along with a live performance from Dead Prez on October 22nd

-Ross Logan