Monthly Archives: January 2015

Bonus Cut Presents: An Interview With Red Pill

Red Pill Picture

By: Gus Navarro
Photo Credit:  Jeremy Deputat

Red Pill was the first rapper I interviewed for Bonus Cut back in May, 2013. At the time, he was working at a factory, had put out The Kick with Hir-O in January and Ugly Heroes was just being released. During our conversation, I distinctly remember an earnest restlessness and fear of complacency about him. It seemed that the anxiety of not working hard enough was keeping him up at night but also fueling his pursuit of success as a rapper. His music has that angst because he writes from personal experience. That being said, there is much more to his lines. If you listen to Red Pill, you will hear blue-collar, political raps, as well as thoughts on relationships and anecdotes about drinking a little too much. Conversationally he might worry about not working hard enough, something I relate with, but on the mic, he’s fearless.

The work Red Pill has put in since his early days with the BLAT! Pack has paid off. In the past year-and-a-half, he has toured Europe with Ugly Heroes twice and signed a multi-album deal with Mello Music Group. There is relief in knowing that he’s guaranteed to have music to work on for at least the next two years, motivation to keep making quality music and tour the United States. In this interview we touch on some of his experiences in Europe, shooting a cypher video with some of Detroit’s finest and his first official solo album with Mello Music Group, Look What This World Did To Us. It’s been fun to see his successes over the past year and I wish him all the best.

Bonus Cut (BC):  In our first interview you told me off the record that there was a European tour in the works. Since then, you’ve been over there twice with Ugly Heroes. What are some of the moments that stand out to you?

Red Pill (RP):  The moment I think it actually hit me that I was on tour in Europe was during our first show, which was at a festival called Hip Opsession in Nantes, France. We knew it was going to be a good show because we were one of the main acts. It was the first time I had ever been at a show that had catered food and our own dressing room. It was a crazy experience. The second performance we did was in Paris, and I’ll never forget it. We got in the van and asked the promoter how many people he thought were going to show up and he was like, “Oh, it’s sold out.” At that point, I’ve never sold out a show anywhere and now I’m in Paris, France and we have a sold out 500 capacity venue. That’s a pretty average sized club but for me, it was an incredible experience. For whatever reason, they’re really into the music over there.

BC:  You met KRS-One over there, how was that?

RP:  I’ve never been around big, big celebrities, ya know? Locally, there are people you look up to and that sort of thing. For me, two of those guys are Apollo Brown and Black Milk. You know they’re important to underground hip-hop and they’ve done shit. Meeting KRS was crazy because he pioneered the music that we’re making today, over thirty years ago. We were at this massive hip-hop festival called Hip-Hop Kemp in the Czech Republic. We’re in the backstage area and there was this commotion and I just see this gigantic human being, KRS-One, just walking by, pointing and giving high-fives to people. There was an aura about him that I can’t explain. You don’t get how impactful this man was until you see him. And he’s so humble. Cee-Lo Green was at the festival one night to perform. It didn’t matter who you were, everyone had to leave the backstage area. KRS could have requested that, but he didn’t. Even though he’s a huge name, he was a super humble and cool dude which is something to learn from.

BC:  On the second tour you were on the road with Skyzoo and Torae performing as the Barrel Brothers, what was that like?

RP:  They are incredible dudes, man. Skyzoo and Torae have been people that I looked up to comin’ up, but you never know what people are going to be like. They’re just super nice, genuine people. They’re incredible tour partners. It was cool because I got to see a lot of what they do. Torae is just constantly fuckin’ working. He’s got his radio show on Sirius XM. We’d get done with a performance, and he’d go back to his hotel room and work on his show. He’s just a fuckin’ workhorse and you learn from that. You don’t have to be workin’ every second of your life, but in this line of work you have to put in the hours. You gotta be on time with your shit and all that.

BC:  I think something I’ve learned over the past year is that people that are successful in the “underground” hip-hop scene are fucking smart and they work super hard.

RP:  You have to be. I’m a stickler for showing up to my recording sessions on time. I don’t write in the studio and shit like that. I’m there, ready to go. It’s the little details in everything and doing all the small things as best as you can. Sometimes I get down on myself because I feel that I’m not working hard enough. I think that’s a good thing though. It keeps my on my toes.

BC:  You were part of an Apollo Brown Cypher video with Marv Won, Miz Korona, Ras Kass and Noveliss of Clear Soul Forces. How fun was that?

RP:  The cypher video was cool. As an “up-and-coming” artist you get to a point where you start asserting yourself as someone who deserves to be where you’re at. I’m not super well known yet, but being able to get in a cypher video with Miz Korona and Noveliss, people I’ve known for awhile, and then Marv Won and Ras Kass was a big deal to me. The thing about it was that it was so fuckin’ hot. I was pouring sweat and my pants felt like they were melting to my legs. We had to do takes of each person’s verse a few times. Apparently being in an alley with a barrel fire for a few hours get’s pretty hot.

BC: From the last time we talked, it was clear that succeeding as a rapper in United States, specifically in Michigan, was very important to you. Does that still hold true despite the success of your music in other places such as Europe?

RP:  It definitely does. Outside of putting out music and those things, the biggest goal for next year is going on tour in the U.S.. MindFeederz, the booking agents from overseas, are trying to break into the North American market so I’ll hopefully be a part of that. Even with all of the success I’ve had over the past year with Mello Music Group as a member of Ugly Heroes and now a solo artist, I’m still a relatively unknown artist. As a stand alone artist, it’s time for me to break out. To do that, I think it’s going to take touring the U.S. and becoming someone that people know about over here.

BC:  Your music is always reflective of what you’re going through in life and what you’re thinking about. Based on that, what are some of the themes and ideas the new album addresses? 

RP:  A lot of it is about trying to understand what our generation, the post-college, whiny millennials, are going through. I’m trying to put my experiences of getting out of college and not knowing what the hell I’m doing with my life into it. I worked at the plant for awhile and that’s what you hear throughout Ugly Heroes. The new album is from there on. I feel that a lot of us just sort of feel lost. We still kind of feel like kids, and we’re trying to bridge that gap from being a young adult to an actual adult. From my particular experiences, I’ve dealt with drinking and personal issues with my girlfriend. We had a rough patch and it was all because I was struggling with being depressed. It was like this sickness that hurt our relationship as well as relationships with some of my friends and family.

BC:  Do you feel like you have a better sense of where you’re trying to go and what you’re trying to accomplish?

RP:  I feel more okay with what I’m doing. I’ve signed a multi-album deal with MMG so I’ll be with them for a while. I’m a little younger than the artists I look up to were when things started to happen for them. I’m about to be 27 so I’m not young per se, but I feel pretty good about where I am. It makes me feel that it was worth it to forego trying to find a normal 9-5 job because I’ve got something to say for it. I still feel like I’m trying to figure things out, but it’s nice to have a sense of where I’ll be for the next few years at least. There’s less of an unknown.

BC:   So you’re basically saying that at 22 I’ve still got at least five more years of feeling this way?

RP:  Yeah, pretty much.

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Bonus Cut Poetry: “Snake Eyes” by Daniel Hodgman

Photo Credit: ipoll.com

Photo Credit: ipoll.com

This is Bonus Cut Poetry, a series that features original poems by Bonus Cut staff, artists and YOU! In this series, our mission is to bring people together in poetry, share stories and display wonderful artistic pieces. If you would like to have your poems in the next Bonus Cut Poetry installment, just email us at bonuscut@gmail.com

This installment features Bonus Cut’s
own Daniel Hodgman.

Snake Eyes
By: Daniel Hodgman

Gleaming hat in one hand and cream in the other
How many pieces must I drain to build my hotels?
Your cold metallic cars rust
On a belt no longer worthy of any man’s attention.
Your iron
Firmly brims with confidence
But it doesn’t hold to my boot
Pressed on your throat.
Your dogs howl
While rats scavenge
On the lost souls frozen over by my intoxicating winds.
Your shoes tread
Laceless
With material better suited to hang those
South of the loop.
And the freighters in the distance
Further prove
Your ship has long sailed away.

I charge for parking
Because nothing in life is free
And don’t bet your bottom dollar I’ll provide a community chest.
Give me all the railroads.
We’re in Chicago aren’t we?
You kick and scream
But I won’t hear it over the roll of my dye
While my eyes gleam as green
As the turbulent waters in March.
I’m the player, the banker, and a Parker Brother in jest.
I am the cyclical system
And you traverse my square.
I make you watch your back
So long as no one protects your front.
I beckon you over
Watching
As you fall off the boardwalk.

 

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The Starting 5 — Favorites of 2014

vinyl-collection

The Starting 5 is a musical rotation of what Bonus Cut is currently digging this week. We have a few extra tracks coming off the bench.

Gus’s Starting 5 

Daniel’s Starting 5

Album of the Week: “Beauty and the Beast” by Rapsody

rapsody-beautybeast2

Daniel’s Thought

On “Who I Am,” the second track off of her Beauty and the Beast EP, Rapsody feeds us with the truth. “They know who I am,” she relays. “Everyday I wake up lacing my Jordan, they know who I wake up being every morning.”

Though we all know who Rapsody is, Beauty and the Beast is very much a self-reflective record that inspects the inner-workings of this intelligent MC from her point of view. For much of the EP’s run, Rapsody runs with the idea that experiences and retrospective outpouring is needed to better understand yourself and the bustling world around you. Some of this is showcased on a logical straightforward in-your-face light, like the stretching mood setter “Waiting On It (Baby Girl)” and its rhythmic trot (“I rose like your face to make up for shit that you do/ Bust Smith & Wessons, I’m a weapon to those wept on you”). However, most of this thematic lead is portrayed through tracks that are scarred and wounded by life’s experiences. The 9th Wonder produced “Hard to Choose” grounds itself in specific detail, which leads to a bigger idealistic theme: “Cause I love all races but we gotta raise ‘em/ Cause I know the scale tipped ain’t in no black girl’s favor/ Hey yall we all outcasts, these black girls favor/ The blonde Barbie and scars, we all gotta save ‘em.”

Beauty and the Beast is a worthwhile and collectable record because it sheds light on personal experience while retaining replay value, booming hip-hop variation and the Rapsody effect, the theory that states that everything Rapsody produces is an experience within itself. As she states on the aforementioned “Who I Am,” we can all see where Rapsody is coming from, but it’s not until this record where we get to see that she’s finding and feeding through this herself: “We can’t change like dyes/ So make music like this so you don’t forget/ And always remember and recognize who you are.”

Gus’ Thought

You are either familiar with Rapsody because of her work with Kooley High, her solo projects or a combination of both. Either way, there is one constant that goes with the North Carolina MC: she always brings it. This is most definitely true of her recent EP, Beauty and the Beast. Without guest appearances, Rapsody delves into more serious topics, but also reminds us that she can rap for the sake of rapping. With production from Khrysis, Eric G, Nottz and 9th Wonder, Beauty and the Beast hits heavy and sets up Rapsody to do what she does best.

The first track, “Feel It,” moves slow with crescendoing horns and bass kicks that are full of syncopation. Here, Rapsody’s wordplay moves from one boastful example of her skills to the next. It is, however, in good taste. “Leaders lead/ Followers trail/ I never looked back/ When you this good, you never get lapped/ Widen the gap like plus-size way in the back/ I’m too big for your britches/ Ain’t never been slapped.” Later on in the project, 9th Wonder’s fly beat on “Godzilla” lends itself to more of Rapsody’s braggadocious rhymes. It just sounds like Rapsody had a blast rapping over the beat, making it even more fun to nod your head to.

While Rapsody shows us she can boast with the best of them, other tracks demonstrate how she makes sense of the world around her. “Hard To Choose” finds Rapsody speaking on the difficulty of making decisions. Over soulful production, she emphasizes that who she is, where her career has gone and what she raps about, is a result of her choices. “No love lost for whites, Latinos or the Asians/ Loyal to all, but when I look at these black girl’s faces/ I understand why I chose to be better, not basic.” The last track, “Forgive Me,” is a much-needed, high-voltage close to the project. Complete with never-ending drum fills and soaring piano chords, Rapsody is at her best.

With multiple references to the death of Michael Brown, racism in America, on-point social commentary and moments of witty boastfulness, Rapsody’s Beauty and the Beast is an EP worth everyone’s time. In more ways than one, the project is a representation of what life should be. There is time to have fun and chill, but it must be supplemented with an ability to think critically about what is happening in the world. Beauty and the Beast is a collection of hard-hitting beats that showcases Rapsody’s wide-range of talents. Turn it all the way up.

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