Well my name is Chikwe; I originally grew up in the state of Kansas here in the states. I was born in Memphis, TN and I now live in Chicago, IL.
What is the Hip Hop scene there like? Is it underground or thriving and is it hard being away from the Epicentre - New York?
The hip-hop scene here in Chicago is flourishing with the likes Common, Twista, and Kanye West however it is a long ways from New York. Non the less I have traveled extensively throughout the U.S and Canada and I find that hip-hop gets a lot of love from different places so I don’t feel that it is as hard as it was for example in the mid eighties. Our underground scene is pretty sweet, there are a lot of very talented artist from graffiti to emceeing that I have a deep respect for.
Can you break down some of the history of Hip Hop where you are from back in the day? What I mean is who were the local heads who were performing, putting on shows and setting up pirate radio stations? Who influenced you and made you think, yeah we can do this? Things like who was the first guy from your area to put out a Hip Hop record?
Back in the dub K (slang for Kansas) there was a group who called themselves S.W.A.T they use to do local shows and the lead emcee’s sister I was cool with. I use to see them doing local shows at the time that I was just battling cats. Really I always thought they were kind of wack, but I had to respect their hustle. In addition to them I began making a name for myself in like 88/89 as a young cat who was out spitting the older cats. But what really made me start thinking about my own records was the way hip-hop was just exploding nationally. Listening to Rakim, Ice Cube, KRS and watching cats like Doug E. Fresh made me realize real early that this was a calling for me.
Since those early days, how has the scene developed over the years? Who are the acts that have come and gone and apart from yourselves, who is prevailing and building a bit of a following?
On the local level I felt I had to leave Kansas to even have a chance. My producer off of the Something Revolutionary album who goes by MonstaKush is still in the trenches back home and he has been building a following for a minute as well, but most cats either get stuck or bounce. I initially left that scene and headed to Cali and worked with a lot of talented cats which really helped me perfect my sound.
How would you describe yourself and how did you come by your name?
I am a throwback emcee…to me hip-hop is the best when it makes you say “oh shit…he didn’t say that did he” and in my music I’m always trying to get a reaction out of the head peeping my steeze. My name is Nigerian and its from the Ibo people, I picked it up in my journey because it means “if god permits” and as a five percenter it was important to me to have a name which was the equivalent to the Arabic version of “in sha allah” which means the same thing.
Are you affiliated with any other crews and are you working with any young cats you are hoping to bring through? Who should we look out for?
I have been apart of crews on a number of different occasions, but as for now I going for dolo. That doesn’t mean I don’t like working with other cats because I do, its just kind of the way things happened for me. The only cat I really fuck with right now is MonstaKush who is just about to release his album this summer. But collabo’s are cool and if any cat is truly serious about putting some shit together then I’m open to it.
Describe for us your production and recording set up. What equipment do you have? And how do you use it? Would it be a matter of getting samples and sequences together on your home equipment and making demos, which you would then take to a professional studio to record and mix down on a multi track?
I only fuck with professional studios, the only thing I do out of my home is pre-production and for that it depends on what I’m trying to accomplish. For my upcoming album I’m actually going to be sampling a great deal and I do anticipate doing all of the sequencing at the crib. I will be using the Roland phantom s a great deal along with some other recipe’s that I can’t mention. Kind of like grandma’s cookies you don’t know what’s in it you just known they taste good.
So talk us through your recording career so far. Have you had any records out in the past or collaborated with other artists?
I’ve dropped three underground records and recorded two pep’s, but Something Revolutionary is my first significant release. I have collaborated with artist from both coast and in between. I have collaborated with emcee’s and rock cats alike. I enjoy music so if I feel you and you feel me it’s a done deal from my perspective.
What sort of a response do you get from the rest of the country, and are there regional differences you can discern? Are there any reasons for this?
There are some regional differences but with hip-hop it often how you bring it, and to be honest I’ve been felt by people on both coast and in between.
Who are your influences? What is it about them you like?
My major influence is who I call Baby Cube, this was Ice Cube in his Amerikkka’s Most Wanted/Death Certificate stage his music really changed my life along with Chuck D. I appreciated that both of the artist spoke their minds and still maintained a multi-cultural fan base which is hard in the dixiefied U.S. of A
What music are you listening to at the moment?
Currently, I’m listening to a lot of jazz and just experiencing music. Some of the artists I’ve been peeping are Freddy Hubbard, Grover Washington Jr., and Herbie Hancock. I’m not really listening to a lot of emcees right now because I’m in production mode and I don’t want anybody to claim I bit there shit.
How long have you been involved in music?
I’ve been involved in hip-hop for over 15 years now.
So, when did you first move to become a Hip Hop practitioner, rather than consumer? What elements did you toy with? Was it straight MCing from day 1?
I was a straight emcee from day one; I stopped consuming in my teenage years and started critiquing cats at that time. I would buy other cats stuff and just break it down from a production and lyrical standpoint. I started listening for wholes in the records like if I could tell if a cat had been punched in during his verse or if the music was properly equalized etc…but being an emcee was always my first love.
Name your biggest musical influences?
My biggest musical experiences in general were Marvin Gaye, Run DMC, and as I stated earlier Cube. and
How do you go about writing a track?
Smoke a little chronic and catch that feeling.
What’s your view on UK music generally?
I have always thought UK music to be more open and free than Amerikkkan music. I have always respected how the UK fan base has been more receptive to Amerikkkan artist. In general I have much love for the United Kingdom
What’s your view on UK Hip Hop, have you even checked any out?
Again, my love for your side of the world would extend to the hip-hop scene. Most of the artist that I have listened to have been via the internet and quite frankly they are just as competitive if not better than some mainstream U.S. artist who only get pub because of the machine that’s behind them.
Why do you think it is hard for UK acts to break through in the US and are there parallels that can be drawn with independent artists away from the major urban centres in the US?
Because the U.S. is full of shit. Yes I think you can draw parallels between the independent artist the major urban artist. In part because growing up in this society you’re always given music from the majors…the radio is controlled by the majors… and so anyone who is not coming through that cookie cutting machine is looked at as less than authentic. To be honest I think it is bullshit, but like Public Enemy said “we have to fight the powers that be.”
What can be done to help both those underground US acts and UK acts get more exposure?
Well, for the UK we often get exposure to your music through satellite T.V. One of the channels in my area is Worldlink T.V they are an independently non-profit station that airs hip-hop and other forms of music from all over the world which is a help to folks in other regions. I also think that for both the U.S. and U.K artist we have to begin to demand our space, and I am trying to follow the lead of Chuck D by using the internet as a medium.
Have you ever been over to the UK, or do you have any plans to visit? Do you have any family or connections over here?
I have never been to the U.K; I’m hoping to come a rock a show for you all one day. Right now I’m trying to build a connections with the U.K and I hope to be on your side of the globe soon.
What would you say are the 3 biggest events of your life?
Dropping Something Revolutionary
When's your new album out and what will be on it? Could you perhaps take us through some of the tracks describing the feel and what you were trying to get over in the lyrics?
I’m dropping my next album in February of 2005. This album will be very political due to climate of Amerikkka right now. I will talk about this fucking war for sure and I have a track already selected for that. All I can say about that song is Fuck GEORGE BUSH. With the rest of the album I’m going to focus on different themes of life lyrically I will deal with subject matter that matters to people. I will not be talking about bitches, switches, and hoes but instead I will continue to drop knowledge like a true emcee should.
What did you aim to achieve with that record and do you feel you did it?
I’m perceiving this question to be about Something Revolutionary the current album. And I have mixed emotions about it. I feel like I wanted to say so much more, but that I did say some things that needed to be said. But I can honestly say when this next album comes out some people will wish I had of shut up. But fuck’em!
Tell our readers why they should listen to you.
I think people should listen to Chikwe, because I write and rhyme from my heart. I feel I am a reporter from the blocks I spend time on and from the situations and circumstances that I witness and even go through myself. You will also get powerful beats and powerful lyrics.
For the uninitiated, which of your single or album tracks would you highlight to others?
The tracks I would highlight would be the title track Something Revolutionary; this is hip-hop at the next level. There is not a traditional 4 bar hook it is a flow that pulsates from beginning to end.
What have you learned from your recording, performing and business experiences so far? What advice would you have for anyone trying to get out there now?
I have learned to keep focused and stay on my grind. I have learned a lot about how to get my point across as an artist and for anyone out there trying to get with the scene all I can say is keep hustling.
How do you view the Internet? Do you think it is a useful promotional tool and a good way of getting out there and loosening the grip that the major media companies an their TV schedulers have on what is broadcast, or are there too many idiots too willing to spout a load of rubbish with no control over them?
There are some idiots spouting “rubbish” as you say :-) But I think it is the next level for cats who are tired of being turned away by the majors. We just have to keep pushing this medium until others are following our lead.
Do you have any plans to get your own online presence? What would you want to achieve with that?
Lets broaden this out. At the moment, Muslims in Palestine (and throughout most of the world) are getting a proper hammering from the Israelis and the US with our help. What are the reasons for this and how does it make you feel? What can realistically be done to help people live together?
The main reason I believe that Muslims are being targeted is due to imperialism. An aggressive policy of imperialism that quite frankly benefits the greediest people in the world, it is easy to target Muslims in North Africa because of the oil resources. But to me this is nothing new Africa has been raped for centuries to the point that it has been devastated beyond compare. As for the Palestinians their oppression to me is also systemic from their resources i.e. land as well as their skin color. In all of these cases that we are dealing with today people of color are the targets. It almost seems as if “The Man” picks a new color to hate each century. In response to how this makes me feel, it pisses me off. It angers me that people are dying each day because of George “fucking” Bush and Prime Minister Blair. I am almost a pessimist about complete world harmony, so to ask me what we can realistically do to live as one honestly I can’t sum it up in one statement. What I can say is that we need a regime change in the U.S. and we need an immediate overhaul of the World Bank, and IMF by any means necessary.
What is your take on the war we just had with Iraq? What do you make of the daily revelations regarding the US and UK troops torturing Iraqi prisoners? Are your views typical of the American population in general?
Well your question suggest that the war is over, which it is not but I am opposed to it. The tortures don’t shock me because again I point to the slave trade both the U.S. and Great Brittan tortured millions of African’s in the name of liberation. I will say that liberation has never been imported to any nation and it is a farce to suggest that the U.S. is liberating Iraq, they are simply replacing one oppressor with another. The Amerikkkan population is seeing through a lot of the bullshit right now especially with cats getting their heads chopped off and shit, but the politicians still have their heads up their ass. And our elections will not be a referendum on the war but just people vying for power.
I ask everyone about politics, because I think it is important that we have knowledge of what is going on, but most current Hip Hop heads decline to answer. I guess they don’t want to upset anyone. Do you have anything to say on that? Any issues you think people need to open their eyes to?
Yes, I think too many cats are dropping the torch. Back in the day hip-hop heads would have spoken up on events I point to the song Burn Hollywood Burn. But now everybody is too busy worrying about their chain or some other bullshit which is not relevant to our everyday existence. I’m not saying that every word that comes out of your has to be profound, but it shouldn’t be the opposite either. As to what we should open our eyes to we can start with racism and poverty. I would also say that we can legalize marijuana sooner as oppose to later ya dig!
If you could change something about society, what would it be and why?
I would eliminate all hatred. I think it is the sickest disease that humankind has.
What do you do when you are not doing Hip Hop stuff? And away from music, name one thing you’d like to do if all things were possible?
I visit British Columbia and hang out in Blunt Brother’s. The one thing I would like to do if all things were possible is just be free of all governmental influence and control… you know…true freedom.
Where can people hear your stuff?
Where can people pick up your stuff?
OK. To wind this up, what is going to be keeping you busy over the next few months?
I’ll be promoting Something Revolutionary.
What are your longer term plans and objectives?
To develop as an artist and to just experience life and people from all over the world.
Anything else you would like to say?
Yeah, buy my album
Thank you very much for your time.