Tag Archives: Miz Korona

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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Hip-Hop, Feminism and Community Engagement: The Women of the Foundation

via 5egallery.org

via 5egallery.org

By: Nicole DiMichele, Philip Mcguigan and Gus Navarro

Based in Detroit, Michigan, the Foundation is a women’s hip-hop collective that operates out of the 5e Gallery in Corktown. The 5e Gallery is a space where artists teach, celebrate and expand on hip-hop culture and how it can be used as a means of liberation for youth and adults alike. The 5e prides itself on being a safe space for everyone to come and learn about and hone their craft, whether it be learning how to MC, produce a beat or break dance. Despite the heavy emphasis on masculinity within much of hip-hop, the members of the Foundation work tirelessly as a unit to continually create avenues for women to make their voice heard and engage in community within the Detroit hip-hop scene.

We were fortunate enough to sit down with four members of the Foundation, Miz Korona, Nique Love Rhodes, Insite The Riot and Jaci Caprice. These incredible women could not have been more welcoming to us and gracious with their time. When you talk with them, it is so clear that they care for each other on a level of friendship that is grounded in warmth and love. It was an honor to be around that and to hear what they had to say about the various issues related to the art they produce and community projects they are a part of. In the interview we discussed various issues such as community engagement, education, gentrification, feminism and hip-hop, feminism and the ways in which these things related to their experiences within the Detroit hip-hop community. Based on this interview and our own visit to the 5e Gallery, it became clear that the Foundation is one of the only safe spaces for hip-hop artists that exists outside of normalized heterosexual and binary gender identities.

Given the continual drive towards gentrification in Detroit, the Foundation and The 5e Gallery are a vital piece of a community that was in existence long before the supposed rebirth of the city. Taking that into consideration, we feel that it is important to highlight the grassroots movements in Detroit that are doing important work, while at the same time lying in tension with the corporations and young professionals that are flocking to the city, ultimately perpetuating the marginalization of people, predominantly those of color, who have been living there for generations. Given our interview, we strongly believe that the corporate world and the grassroots world could work together to achieve a more sustainable movement to bring the city back. By combining the monetary resources that corporations have access to and the knowledge and experiences of the established grassroots movements, Detroit could be an example of a type of gentrification that is not oppressive or destructive, but rather inclusive and ultimately equitable.

 

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Bonus Cut’s Starting Five: 1/29/14

Every week, Daniel and Gus pick five songs to share called The Starting Five. This week, they’re personally sharing these tracks as a feature.

Gus’ Picks

Awon & Phoniks – “Midas Touch”
MC Awon and Producer Phoniks team up to bring you a jazz influenced, boom bap laced track that is socially conscious lyricism. This song and its album, The Golden Era, has been out since July and it may be one of the most slept on albums in 2013. It is truly worth the listen. Support these dudes.

Uptown XO – “Lime Light”
⅓ of Diamond District, Uptown XO talks about the perils of seeking out fame. What is the cost being in the lime light? What would you do to have that sought after five minutes of fame? Is it really worth it? Over a haunting track, XO makes you think about fame and what people may or may not do to be in it.

Tyler, The Creator – “Sandwitches”
If you’ve followed hip-hop at all within the past 3 years, you remember Tyler and his antics with Odd Future Wolfgang Kill Them All. Tyler and friends blew up in every way possible beginning with the television debut of this track with the help of The Roots on Fallon’s show. Their fame and popularity within the college community was something to behold. I will never forget seeing them in the Midtown part of Detroit, almost getting swallowed up by the crowd as they tore up the stage and having to leave early as bottles were thrown and a brawl seemed iminent. What a night. Golf Wang.

Sango – “Tres Horas”
Having spent time living in Brasil I am always excited to hear new hip-hop that incorporates influences of Brasilian music. In all honesty, some is better than others at capturing the unique culture of this unbelievable South American country . To date, I am not sure if I’ve heard a hip-hop representation of Samba that is more spot on. Sango and what he’s doing with his sound is something special.

Truck North – “Band Of Au”
Is there ever bad hip-hop from Philly? From Truck’s recent EP, Murder By Mourning, “Band Of AU” calls upon Black Thought and STS for this other-worldly cut. I am totally biased but this track is flawless. The bassline is tight and the rhymes even tighter. As Black Thought says, “If there’s rapper that could test me alive/ Nigga, Elvis Presley alive.” Need I say more?

Daniel’s Picks
My picks are all releases from the Mello Music Group Mandala Tape releases. You can purchase Mandala Vol. 1 and Mandala Vol. 2 here. 

Miz Korona, Quelle Chris, T. Calmese, Nick Speed – “Supreme Codeine”
Talk about a posse cut worth blasting. “Supreme Codeine” eats you up, and digests you through its grimy intestines, and when these four artists are done with you, there’s nothing else to do but go through the process all over again. If anything, “Supreme Codeine” is that one song you can play at a social gathering, reminding everyone that hip-hop’s vivid collaboration aesthetic is alive and well.

Blacastan – “Stardust (prod. Gensu Dean)”

Blacastan is great at explaining himself in the filthiest of punchlines. Concocting a Raekwon-like rhythm and style, matched with Gensu’s Big L and Gang Starr sampled production, “Stardust” feels like a classic East Coast blast.

Muhsinah – “Up (prod. 14KT)”
“Up” is a track that is mystifying. It also jingles with a certain darkness that makes its characteristics gritty and tough. Muhsinah’s pitch is moving, hopeful, uplifting, sensual and on point. “There’s no worrying up here,” she digs, “and I want you to see it.”

Open Mike Eagle – “A History of Modern Dance (prod. Jeremiah Jae)”
Open Mike Eagle has stated numerous times that his music is “art rap.” The way he styles his set-up and flow reinforces this, as he goes off on tangents about random subject matter that bends each and every rule. It works though, and matched with Jeremiah Jae’s shivering production–something that could attend a Hitchcock film–“A History of Modern Dance” just oozes with uniqueness.

Murs – “The Pain Is Gone (prod. Apollo Brown)”
The poetry about love and romantic interests has always been Murs’ M.O. Over a very recognizable Apollo Brown-structured beat, Murs tells us a story about a girl. Murs 3:16.

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