Tag Archives: interview

Bonus Cut Films Presents: An Interview With James Gardin (Part Two)


If you’re at all familiar with Michigan hip-hop and Michigan music in general, then the name James Gardin (fka P.H.I.L.T.H.Y.) is commonplace. As one of Lansing’s premier music icons for the last decade, James has shown how to get down, how to dance, how to properly enjoy a live show, how to fight for a cause and how to live in general. More than that though, James has fueled the hip-hop community beneficially in other ways. Working with Michigan State’s MRULE and various other youth programs to donate art workshops, not to mention spending time in South Africa teaching kids with HIV/AIDS music and uniting them through it, James has never stopped being an influential and important figure in his community.

Musically, James has opened for the likes of Talib Kweli, The Cool Kids, Grieves and The Pack. He was also recently named one of Rapzilla’s Freshman of 2014.

Today we’re excited to unveil part two of our interview with the man himself! Check out the video below, and don’t forget to check out James’ pages and music!

Listen to James’ latest single “Selah” here 

For more on James Gardin:
James Gardin on Soundcloud 
James Gardin on BandCamp 
@JamesGardin on Twitter

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Bonus Cut Films Presents: An Interview With Hir-O (Part Two)

via blatpack.com

via blatpack.com

Omari Hall (aka Hir-O) is a producer from Detroit, Michigan. As one of the city’s rising hip-hop artists, Hir-O has branded his music with splashes of electronic swells, jazz, soul, live instrumentation and other realms of music that all come to form a cohesive hip-hop force. His projects with DaJaz1, Doss The Artist and Red Pill, along with his instrumentals such as The Voyage Home, reflect the true prowess and versatility of his work, and with future projects coming in 2014, Hir-O is a name you should remember.

Today we’re excited to bring you part two of our interview with Hir-O as part of Bonus Cut Films, a series that looks into the lives of various hip-hop artists across the globe that have impacted and shaped this culture for the better.

If you haven’t seen part one, you’re going to wanna do that. Click here to watch.

Below is the second installment of our Hir-O feature:

Film Credits: 
Writing and Script Design: Daniel Hodgman, Gus Navarro and Justin Cook 
Directed By: Gus Navarro 
Production: Daniel Hodgman, Gus Navarro and Phillip McGuigan 
Camera and Sound Design: Ian Siporin, Julian Stall and Phillip Mcguigan
Editing: Gus Navarro and Phillip McGuigan
Songs: “We Are Not Like Them (instrumental)” by Hir-O / “Best Rapper (instrumental)” by Hir-O

Many thanks to Omari for inviting us down for the interview. 

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A Bonus Cut Feature: Impact 89FM Interviews Grieves


Last week, our friends over at Impact 89FM interviewed Rhymesayers‘ own Benjamin Laub (aka Grieves). On his way through Michigan supporting his Back On My Grizzly tour, Grieves sat down with 89FM in Grand Rapids.

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A Bonus Cut Feature: An Interview With Dessa

By: Gus Navarro

It was exciting when Dan told me that we might have a shot at interviewing Dessa. From Minneapolis, Minnesota, Dessa’s impact on hip-hop, literature and education has been a big one. Through her work with Doomtree and other projects, she has touched so many. Naturally, I was looking forward to getting to hear her thoughts. Ann Arbor, Michigan was one of the places on her “Parts of Speech” tour and she was going to be making a stop over at the Impact 89FM studio, Michigan State’s student radio station. The original plan was that I would interview her following an in-studio performance. However, due to time constraints this did not happen because the band had to get down to Ann Arbor for the show. Initially, I was bummed. However, when one door closes, another opens. Despite missing out on the chance to talk in person, it was decided that we could do a phone interview. I was also put on the guest list for the show in Ann Arbor (Thank you Mars!). At the show she mingled with fans before the performance, with each encounter being seemingly genuine. On stage, she interacted with the crowd, bringing them into the show. It felt as though we weren’t just there to watch musicians on stage, instead it felt like we were part of the performance. At one point, she said to the crowd, “You are the record label.” What she meant was that with the decision we make to pay for records, we keep independent artists afloat. As someone that chooses not to download music illegally, it was refreshing to hear an artist acknowledging the role that fans play in supporting musicians. On stage, it never felt that she or the band were working too hard or not hard enough. They were in the pocket, playing well and feeding off each other’s energy. A perfect way to spend a Sunday night. After the show, i introduced myself. As we talked about the show and setting up a phone interview, her approachable and humble personality was the same as it had been on stage. There is an edge to Dessa that manifests itself within her sense of humor, intelligence and beauty. It was an honor to talk with her in person and on the phone because of her honesty, insight and dedication to her craft.

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A Bonus Cut Feature: An Interview With Artist and Educator Dylan Miner (Part Two)


By: Gus Navarro

You can view Part One here

Earlier this summer, we sat down with artist, activist and educator Dylan AT Miner (Métis) to discuss how he incorporates elements of hip-hop into his artwork and teaching. Miner is a descendent of the Miner-Brissette-L’Hirondelle-Kennedy families with ancestral ties to Indigenous communities in the Great Lakes, prairies, and subarctic. He has collaborated with indigenous youth and artists to create spaces of reflection and resistance all around the world. He currently holds the position of assistant professor in the Residential College of the Arts and Humanities at Michigan State University.

Excerpts from this interview with Dylan Miner were taken on May 17th, 2013…

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A Bonus Cut Feature: An Interview With Artist and Educator Dylan Miner

By: Gus Navarro

Part 1

Earlier this summer, we sat down with artist, activist and educator Dylan AT Miner (Métis) to discuss how he incorporates elements of hip-hop into his artwork and teaching. Miner is a descendent of the Miner-Brissette-L’Hirondelle-Kennedy families with ancestral ties to Indigenous communities in the Great Lakes, prairies and subarctic. He has collaborated with indigenous youth and artists to create spaces of reflection and resistance all around the world. He currently holds the position of assistant professor in the Residential College of the Arts and Humanities at Michigan State University.

Excerpts from this interview with Dylan Miner were taken on May 17th, 2013…

Bonus Cut (BC):  When you hear the words hip-hop, what does it mean to you?

Dylan Miner (DM):  For me, hip-hop is an ontology; it’s a way of being in the world. I think a lot of times we think of hip-hop as a form of music or even a lifestyle. I think its both of these things but as someone who grew up involved in hip-hop and punk rock, I also see these as parallel movements of underground, alternative, anti-capitalist movements that have grown up in resistance. For me, hip-hop embodies a way of being in the world that goes against the dominant mode. We know that it comes out of the Bronx, out of New York City with Black and Latino communities in resistance to white colonial rule. If you look at it now, hip-hop is what youth movements are using throughout the world. You go meet with kids in Australia, I’ve worked with aboriginal kids in Australia and they’re listening to hip-hop. Young MCs are producing excellent music.  Everywhere you go kids are making hip-hop as a way of expressing themselves and resisting. So I see the five hip-hop elements as a way of being in the world that connects people.

BC:  Growing up as a kid you were involved in the hip-hop and punk rock scene, what does that mean exactly? How were you involved?

DM:  I tried my hand at being an MC and a DJ and wasn’t good at that. I tried breaking and wasn’t good at that either. I also wrote graffiti for a while with a couple of different tags, names and monikers but wasn’t good at that either. I’ve been involved in it in a variety of ways. In punk rock I made “zines” which are alternative magazines and published those and communicated with other people that way. I grew up in a small rural town in Michigan, out in the woods. Punk rock and hip-hop were a way that I was able to connect with people my age and people form other places and I thought that was important. I was involved on a variety of levels in my younger days but I was never anybody that was of importance. So now one of the things I do with my artwork is I work with youth and have a bunch of different projects that use hip-hop as the starting off point and as a way for us to speak of our shared experiences.

BC:  What is an example of how you use hip-hop in your art and with youth?

DM:  One of the more well-known projects I have is called Anishnaabensag Biimskowebshkigewag which means “Native Kids Ride Bikes.” Basically it’s a low-rider bike project that works with urban-indigenous kids throughout North America and takes hip-hop as a shared relationship and goes from there. We build low-rider bikes that allow us to talk about the origins of low-rider cars and bicycles. If you know the history, there are some conflicting histories, but many people say that the origins of the low-rider can be traced to Española, New Mexico. However, other folks say East Los Angeles, California. The low-rider is central to west coast hip-hop if not the east coast. It’s also an automobile and it’s a thing that runs on fossil fuels which is a way of transportation that is built off of the burning of deceased and fossilized animals that is creating a huge systematic climate change. So we have a conversation of hip-hop, a conversation of transportation, think about sustainable transportation and traditional forms of movement. We look at the low-rider bike as something that’s tied to ways that Native people moved in this continent before the automobile. For my community, we had something call the “Red River Cart” which is a two-wheeled cart.  In this part of the continent, people traveled by jimaan, which is a canoe. So this project uses hip-hop and then looks at the low-rider.  We then bring in fluent speaking elders in the traditional languages who impart their knowledge with the youth. We bring in “young professionals,” often times DJ’s and hip-hop artists and MCs. Through that multi-leveled, multi-aged, multi-generational collaboration we put together these low-rider bikes that are based in traditional knowledge, traditional ways of being in the world, as well as ones that are very much about contemporary indigenous lives. For many of these kids it means growing up in hip-hop and being involved in the hip-hop world.

BC:   As you said, hip-hop is being used as a jumping off point to promote collaboration and resistance. What are some of the other projects that use hip-hop?

DM:  That’s obviously the most central one. But as I’ve traveled and met people, I’ve done a little bit of collaborative work with Sacramento Knoxx who’s an Ojibwa-Chicano MC from Detroit. I recently did a project working with Latino and Native youth on both sides of the U.S. and Canada border. I worked with one group in Detroit and one group in Windsor, just across the Detroit River. We put together these mobile screen-printing carts, from bicycles created to function as work tricycles in Mexico, which we retrofit to be mobile screen-printing units. Those are now being used by a group of primarily Latino and Native MCs, graffiti artists and DJ’s in southwest Detroit called The Raiz Up. Southwest is primarily a Latino neighborhood in Detroit that in some ways is gentrifying, that has a large art world. The Raiz Up is an activist based collective of folks involved in hip-hop. Now they’re using this vehicle in community events at Clark Park and in other places in the neighborhood. I don’t see myself as an MC, DJ or graffiti artist anymore but I use the modes, the different elements as a way to influence what I’m doing now. I’ve collaborated with people all around the world. There is this great Sami artist in Northern Norway, in the Arctic Circle, in this community called Trømso. The Sami are the people once known as the Lapplanders, the indigenous reindeer herding peoples through Scandinavia and Northern Russia. This dude, Joar Nango, is putting together an archive of indigenous hip-hop. He’s archiving songs, meeting with artists and putting together a mix-tape. You’ll see these amazing events or moments emerging all over the world.  I don’t know if you or your readership is familiar with A Tribe Called Red, a three person DJ collective out of Canada that is blowing up right now. When I had a show up in Ottawa, Bear Witness, one of the three DJ’s played the reception. My bikes are also traveling as a part of this wonderful show called Beat Nation which is a traveling exhibition of all indigenous artists, primarily from the U.S. and Canada who have made art that was inspired by hip-hop. It’s not just me, but with urban-Native communities and Tribal communities throughout this continent there’s a relationship with hip-hop that I think is really important.

BC:  We’ve talked about hip-hop as a way of being and as a form of resistance against capitalist societies. However, there is this large presence of capitalism within the pop-culture realm of hip-hop. Why is that?

DM:  I think there’s always going to be those elements. It’s the same thing with any movement, any social movement and I think hip-hop is and has always been a social movement. Hip-hop is important because it’s not simply one aspect; it has five elements to it. It has the visual arts, it has the music, the performative, the lyrical or written word and then of course the fifth element. Depending on who you talk to, the fifth element is what I always talk about as knowledge. Other people talk about it as entrepreneurship or as community development. All of these things together make it an important social movement. Within social movements there’s always moments of cooptation, moments of disagreement, there’s always moments and space for differing voices and different perspectives. When you hear what’s on the radio and see the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine is that hip-hop? It’s an element of it, but it’s not central to it. What did KRS-ONE say about the difference between being a rapper and an MC?  The same happened to punk rock when it became mainstream. Especially with early groups like the Sex Pistols as they came of age and even in the 90’s with things like the popularization of Green Day. Now they have a Broadway show. Is a Broadway show punk rock? Not really but that doesn’t diminish what the roots are because the roots are important. For me, that’s what’s crucial about hip-hop. At the roots, these five elements when you think about them, when you understand them and they become a part of how you live your life, that really is in resistance to the dominant way of being in the world.

BC:  You’ve mentioned punk rock and groups such as the Sex Pistols and how they started out as group that embodied resistance. In a sense, hip-hop and punk rock are similar in that they are about defiance and struggle. Is there a way to group them together?

DM:  For me it’s all about youth sub-cultures. If we look globally and historically, young people have always been one of the most oppressed peoples in the world, especially in the modern nation-state. If you’re not eighteen, you really don’t have any rights. You can’t vote, you don’t have a say in governance, you’re forced to go to school whether or not you want to and in some ways these are meant to protect and create a specific form of society. At the same time, they’re very repressive. I think for me, hip-hop grows out of youth resistance and punk rock grows out of youth resistance. Initially, hip-hop was a black and brown collaborative effort in New York. Punk rock, depending on if you’re looking at it in the States or England, was mostly a white working-class movement. You could even say the same thing about elements of heavy metal. All of these genres are about youth creating a space for themselves in a world where they haven’t been allowed a say. For me, that’s the core that brings them together.

Stay tuned next week for part two of this interview! 

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A Bonus Cut Feature: An Interview With Immortal Technique

Immortal Technique is a figure in hip-hop that needs no introduction. As a forceful character in hip-hop activism, Tech is one of the rare few that unveils the realities of our world first-hand. His cutting delivery and intelligence on government, poverty, religion and institutional racism has not only opened our eyes to real-world problems, but it has furthered our grasp on actually understanding how to deal with them.

In a recent interview with Bonus Cut, Tech talks about media bias, terrorism, institutions around the world and the hip-hop human condition.

Bonus Cut (BC): In your song the “4th Branch” from Revolutionary Vol. 2 you touch on a lot of important issues regarding the corruption and double standards that exist within the political sphere of the United States. This song was written in the middle of George Bush’s presidency. Ten years later, where does our government stand on these issues and have we made any significant progress?

Immortal Technique (IT): In terms of corruption? I don’t think that even requires my insight or political acumen to see that. It’s just gotten worse and people have been conditioned to receive it without shock or action. Now it’s a complacency that perhaps was not there in the beginning. I think that people are becoming more self aware here, however I don’t know that the way the government is structured now will make it any easier for them to change things.

BC: In light of recent events it seems as if there is a divide between what is considered an act of terrorism, and what is not. Why were the events in Boston immediately labeled as an act of terrorism when the shootings in Newtown, Aurora and Columbine were not? Furthermore, in your opinion, what constitutes an act of terrorism when the United States has been responsible for countless atrocities to push it’s own interests around the world?

IT: Terrorism is not just committed by individuals, loners and such. People need to understand that a state, its counterparts and such, are capable and are actually probably more likely to commit acts of terrorism on each other. The manner in which it’s interpreted in the U.S. though will have obvious bias for a reason that I think we’re all familiar with here. We have been engaged in constant wars since the birth of the Republic; in all truth we have only had 20 some odd years of peace. Presently we are at war in the Middle East, before we were restructuring Central America, crushing the remainder of Europe’s old regimes or encroaching our influence in Southeast Asia. The average American was once trained to see the German people, the Japanese people, the Vietnamese as their enemies. If someone went on TV ranting about those 3 people now we’d have them committed to an insane asylum. However, if they do a lecture series about the evil of Islam, the evil of Arab culture, they find themselves being economically breastfed by a bevy of right wing groups and are invited to speak on college campuses. People find this logical in this day and age, whereas in the future it will be a joke. But it won’t be funny.


Immortal Technique on stage via http://tristanstefanedouard.com.au

BC: Going off of that, how have your travels to the Middle East and Latin America shaped your views on American foreign policy and its relationship with other nations?

IT: I think I feel a lot more grateful for what I have now. I tell people, if you don’t like the Justice system in America, you’re really not gonna like it in China. If you dislike the bureaucracy here, then you’ll hate it in South America. Dislike Corruption here? You’ll despise it in Russia. Don’t like American prison? Spend a day in jail in the Middle East and you’ll cry for home. I get first hand accounts of these things from the people, I am shown around wherever I go and I explore on my own. I have the ability to see things with my own eyes. I experienced some of these things as a child returning to the so-called “3rd World”.

BC: How does hip-hop fit into this equation?  How can hip-hop be used to process the pain that people experience everyday at home and abroad?

IT: Hip-hop is about the human condition; it’s about people’s lives. It started out speaking on what it was like growing up in a slum in the Bronx, the trials and tribulations of living in Harlem, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island. Then it spread to the West Coast, to the South. Now it is a global phenomenon. Why shouldn’t a child reading this looking over Mogadishu, Tirana, Lagos, or Aleppo tell the world of his struggle and his pain? We had drug dealers, war torn streets and poverty that the other side of the country almost seemed oblivious to, ironically since the majority of all hip-hop sales. No matter the artist or the region come from middle class European America. So why shouldn’t the rest of the world be just as interested as they were in how people live? In the end it is entertainment, let’s not embarrass ourselves by not admitting that, but entertainment can be used to educate, to ennoble, or to distract and mislead. This form of entertainment has the ability to reach far beyond the Bronx. And whether we’re willing to admit it or not, it connects people from across the word. In the end a human being just needs one thing to start the process of healing. To have their pain acknowledged.

BC: Considering all of this, does hip-hop always have to be political?

IT: It doesn’t have to. But it always is.

Immortal Technique’s Revolutionary Vol. 2 was the Bonus Cut Album of the Week on May 22nd.

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