Tag Archives: jahshua smith

Bonus Cut Films Presents: An Interview With Raphael Downes

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The hip-hop scene in Lansing, Michigan is an interesting one. It seems to rise and fall with the student population that comes and goes every four years from Michigan State University. There are also MCs, producers, DJs, B-boys/girls and graffiti artists that were born and raised in Lansing, developing their craft within the Capitol area.

Raphael Downes is one of these MCs, having been in the scene from the days of Respiration at Mac’s Bar. When you watch him perform and listen to his music, you can tell that rapping is something that comes natural to him. However, its also something that he’s worked on, which has to be done if you’re serious about making a career in music. During a freestyle, he gets open with the best of them. On stage his persona is nothing short of infectious.

Raphael is a man of faith. There is the religious side to him, something that drives his everyday life, as well as his belief in hope and being positive. These themes are deeply rooted in his music and are the essence of hip-hop; speaking on your truth and experiences. There are references to raising his daughter, living paycheck to paycheck and how good it can feel to build on even the smallest of victories during the day. Raphael’s project, The Bridge, will be released in the near future and incorporates these ideas.  With the superb production of Ozay Moore and KuroiOto, The Bridge is supported by a strong percussive foundation. Guest appearances by James Gardin, Jahshua Smith and Red Pill only add to an already solid effort by Raphael. The allure of The Bridge is that it’s not about buying into a certain set of values. Instead, The Bridge is about hope and survival, no matter what the circumstances might be. This is something that people do all over the world everyday. We may come from different places, but that doesn’t mean we can’t relate to each other.

Recently we were fortunate enough to sit down with Raphael and talk about how he got involved in hip-hop, his love of literature, the All of the Above Hip-Hop Collective (AOTA) and what went into creating The Bridge.

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Bonus Cut Films Presents: An Interview With Jahshua Smith

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via blatpack.com

When Jahshua Smith (FKA JYoung The General) is on stage, he commands it. He makes you listen to his words and what he has to say. When he’s in front of an audience, he doesn’t hold back and you can tell that he’s doing something that he loves. As an audience member, it becomes impossible not to move your feet, throw your hands up in the air and nod to the beat. After seeing how polarizing and energetic he is on stage, you might assume he would be the same way off it. However, when you sit down and talk with Jahshua, he is one of the more quiet and retrospective artists we have spoken with. As one of the founding members of the BLAT! Pack, Jahshua Smith uses hip-hop as a worldview and applies it to the work he does within African-American history, teaching literacy skills to youth and the music he makes.

We held the interview at the Record Lounge, an independently owned record store on Division Street in East Lansing, Michigan. The store is exactly how you want a record store to be: there are crates of vinyl everywhere, and hidden gems lurk within the stacks as posters, stickers and flyers are plastered on every corner of the space. It’s the kind of place that you could spend hours on end. Having grown up in Detroit, Jahshua eventually left for the Lansing area to attend Michigan State University. He chose the Record lounge for the interview because as a student, it was a place he went to discover new sounds and hangout with friends.

We cannot thank Jahshua enough for his interest in sitting down with us and we look forward to our next encounter.

Many thanks to Heather Frarey, the owner of the Record Lounge, for allowing us to do the interview in her place of business.

Directed by: Gus Navarro
Production: Daniel Hodgman, Gus Navarro and Phillip McGuigan
Camera:  Phillip McGuigan and Julian Stall
Editing: Phillip McGuigan and Gus Navarro
Songs: “Obvious” and “Censored” by StewRat

 

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The Starting Five (5/1/14)

Here at Bonus Cut our mission is to focus on hip-hop culture, current events, community building, independent artists making a difference on all facets, hip-hop education, the four pillars, unity and love. We have stressed time and time again that “new hip-hop music releases” isn’t our goal, and it never will be, but there are still instances where there’s an important hip-hop cut that can’t be ignored.

On that note, we will be sharing some projects that we feel deserve attention. Whether for their cultural impact or musical fluidity, these are songs we’ve stumbled upon at some point in our lives that shouldn’t be passed up.

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BLAT! PACK, Common Ground Music Festival (Put Yr Revolvers Up)

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Jahshua Smith via http://www.blatpack.com

By: Justin Cook

This past weekend, I attended the Common Ground Music Festival in the heart of Lansing, Michigan. I have attended my fair share of music festivals, but never one within city limits—this definitely gives it a slightly different atmosphere. I entered the festival grounds with a typical half-assed search, walked across a bridge decked out in glow sticks and found myself in the middle of the madness. I had about an hour before BLAT! Pack performed so I decided to roam around.

I walked along the Grand River, past craft booths, food stands and a few little games for the kids—it sure did feel like a festival, though extremely small. I stretched out on the riverfront for a bit and soaked in those loving Sunday vibes. After thoroughly Zen, I made my way to the main stage to catch a little bit of Jon Connor, a Flint-based MC. I had never heard anything by him before, but I was pleasantly surprised; he had energy, presence, and great band backing him. He spoke of unity, the great state of Michigan, the healing powers of hip-hop and of course, peace and love. Near the end of the show, his sister joined him on stage, and it started to feel like one big happy festie family—everyone was laughing, dancing and putting their drinks in the air for what was bound to be a great night. Content with the performance, I headed back downriver to see BLAT! Pack.

I arrived with fifteen minutes to spare, laid out in the grass, and watched as people slowly started to gather in front of the stage—a few folks sported BLAT! Pack and James Gardin shirts. Before I knew it, people were flooding in from left and right eagerly awaiting the show. The atmosphere around was all love, hugs and a sense of anticipation, which unleashed as BLAT! Pack took the stage; and once they took the stage, they didn’t miss a single beat.

It was the first time they had ever performed as BLAT! Pack, and shit, they had better do it more often. It wasn’t just Jahshua Smith, it wasn’t just James Gardin, or Red Pill, or Yellowkake, it was the complete BLAT! Experience—the horns, the rhythm section, and every MC took this show beyond sun, moon and stars, hurling us audience members into the next dimension. It was a funky, fun-loving show that radiated with pure artistic bliss. I don’t know who had more fun, the audience or BLAT! Pack. As I was lost in that backbeat, the MC’s were running around on stage, laughing, goofing around—organically going from mock backup dancer to main performer. The music was clean, the vocals were crisp and you could feel the heart and soul radiating through sound waves.

Underneath the music, the love and laughter, was something that resonated with the human spirit: accepting change and revolution. Throughout the concert, brief words of wisdom were spit between songs: they talked about letting go of your past, your anger, your frustrations and just letting it float away in the wind; they stated our need for revolution, not only at a societal level, but a revolution within ourselves; Jahshua Smith mentioned Trayvon Martin, but instead of being on a soapbox, he let the verdict speak for itself, and told us all to raise our fists, together. And everyone in the audience, from different lifestyles and cultures, raised their fists into the sky; I turned around to face the whole crowd and noticed sunlight pouring into the pavilion, across all our faces, across all our fists. Then, the beat dropped, and hands went wild.

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James Gardin via http://www.blatpack.com

After the show I was elated, and laid back in the grass, soaking up the light of the people. Moments like these are what the world needs—bringing the festival vibes to a city, speakers blasting onto the streets. You know, you read the “news” and hear about all the horrible things in the world, about how our world is falling apart, but then you go out into the world, and are greeted with nothing but love. I find when I actually leave my computer screen, unplug and live my life, the world is more vast and beautiful than ever before. THIS IS THE REVOLUTION: get up, get out, and do something! I love that local groups such as BLAT! Pack exist to expand the consciousness of man from the bottom up; we need to support more grassroots movements and recreate local culture. I believe, if we focus in on here and now, we will uncover all our souls’ desires. We just got to get up, get out, and do something.

 Now spread the gospel!

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