Superstar Quamallah recently released his first album called “Godfood The Break-Fast”. Since WYDU is always watching for the good and rare stuff we needed to do an interview and ask him about the past, the present and the future…
SoulClap: Hey Quame, would you like to introduce yourself to the readers?
Quame: No doubt. They call me (DJ)Superstar Quamallah and my students call me Mr. Quame. I’m originally from Brooklyn, N.Y. but I stay on the move and I currently live in Oakland, California where I teach at U.C. Berkeley.
SoulClap: You released your first EP in 1999 on ABB records, how did that come?
Quame: It had been a dream of mine to release a record one day since I was yay high. I grew up during the Golden Era of Hiphop music so recording a record wasn’t a thought when emcees like Rakim, KRS1, Big Daddy Kane and Kool G Rap were around! So I waited my time and soaked up their excellence and enjoyed being a dj. In 1998, Hiphop music was not stimulating me so much as a dj so I decided to make my own music. What started as a demo for MC Swahili, turned into a short album. I sent a copy to my godbrother, Defari, and he sent one to a mutual friend, Beni B of ABB Records.
SoulClap: What did you experience after the release? What changed for you?
Quame: After DCMJ was released, I tried my best to be an emcee. I did a lot of performances, radio shows and small tours. However, the Hiphop scene had already changed drastically from even the early 90’s. New technology, popularity from t.v. and a new generation to be raised on the business ethics of Bad Boy and Death Row led to divided Hiphop audiences. Underground Hiphop, formally known as “Street”, became “Pop”. The situation was confusing and so was I – confused and frustrated by 2003. After my single, “Just Rap” on ABB, I released a record on my own label called “Thug Now?” in 2000. At the time, I was living in a Black lower/working class neighborhood and they weren’t checkin’ for the type of music I was creating. I guess you could say the “Tribe/Gods on the mic” days were over! So by 2003, just 4 years after DCMJ, I took a sabbatical from music.
SoulClap: You were in a group with Tajai from the Souls of Mischief and you
released a single, what is the story behind that?
Quame: “Sugar Hell No!” was received well from the DCMJ EP. Also at the time I was dating Tajai’s sister so I was always at their house. Tajai and I are also both tauruses and have incredible imaginations so I knew a duo album would be bananas! I approached him with the idea of us portraying these ghetto super heroes who take “thuggin out” to the James Bond level. We wanted to create an album that captured what people around us were “rappin” about and perform it as emcees. So we made the album “Hood Famous” the summer of 2000 and released the first single about robbing banks on ABB Records. We were both on the go so much that we abandoned the project and never thought of releasing it until 2007, because the album actually predicted the route Hiphop music would take. That’s some crazy shit! We were just f’in around but these cats today are mad serious about tellin’ people they sell drugs on their cd!
SoulClap: You are a DJ, Producer and MC, how did you get involved with Hip Hop and how did you start? Who were your main influences?
Quame: Born in New York during the 70’s, I was infatuated with everything about the culture. No one knew it was “Hiphop”, it was just the shit we did as kids. I started doing graffiti in 1980; I was too young to be apart of the subway bombing when it was going on during the mid-70’s. I started break-dancing in 1983 and got my first turntable in 1985. The main influences for me were all the Soul-Jazz artists around me cause my dad was a musician. Cats like Arthur Prysock, Lou Donaldon, Grant Green and Jack McDuff to name a few. But I definitely looked up Afrika Bambaataa, Zulu Nation, Cold Crush Brothers, Kurtis Blow and Run DMC.
SoulClap: You recently released your solo debut album called Godfood – The
Break-Fast, can you tell us something about it? What does the title
Quame: During my sabbatical from “popular” music, I decided to focus on my spiritual growth. I listened to all the music that inspired me in the first place. My friends and I used to make these break-beat cassette tapes where different breaks would jump in one after the other. This is what I did best, so I decided to incorporate that style with some new ideas. Also, I had started playing the drum machine instead of programming it to simply loop and sequence. For me the process became musical food since I was fasting from the radio and at the same time my fast ended at the finish of the album. Thus I decided to give the name “Godfood”.
SoulClap: What happened in all the years between your First EP and your new Album?
Quame: I entered graduate school, went to Japan and Australia, moved to Los Angeles, worked with a group of guys in L.A. called the Headbangaz Crew, taught high school at Inglewood High, lived on the street for a few years, moved back to New York and constantly worked on my MPC 2000 trying to develop new formulas for making music without a keyboard to keep a different sound from everyone else.
SoulClap: Now we need to come to the standard question. Since Nas’ last album
this seems to be the main discussion in the Hip Hop world. Is Hip Hop
dead? If not, in which state is it?
Quame: Haha! My friends and I had been saying Hiphop was dead back in 1995-96. A lot of people had been saying Hiphop was dead at a lot of different points, but Nas made it a commercialized discussion for everyone in and outside the small N.Y. Hiphop community. The slang term “Dead” just means that something ain’t happening no more or that something ain’t hot. In Hiphop, the goal has always been to stay ahead of the masses or the crowd. By the time graffiti was popularized to the rest of the country and the world, it was “dead” in New York. The same goes for break-dancing and turntablism. Once too many people start to do something, in the Hiphop community, then the originators and most of the leaders tend to move on to something new until a younger generation brings it back with a new twist. After 1994, most of the music for me and a lot of others became stale and boring. Plus, Hiphop had become SO popular that any and everybody was either an emcee, dancer or artist. The fashion and everything was soon commodified and packaged. The higher levels of creativity were soon overshadowed by the huge corporate “minstrel performers”. The art of emceeing was no longer seen as viable or valuable after the late 80’s and now in the 2000’s, simple “raps” that would have never seen the light of day are the number 1 jams/videos. So YES, essentially THE BODY of Hiphop culture died many deaths many years ago. But the spirit never dies and has moved on out of the mass public eye. The spirit of Hiphop does live in all the originators and the passionate like you and me.
SoulClap: Can we do to something to bring Hip Hop back on the right track? What
needs to change?
Quame: It will never be like how it began, just as someone at 60 years old can not go back to looking like they were at 15 years old. But at this point Hiphop is being used to broadcast such negative messages and “biting” or being generic is the new thang. Those who know better must lead and we must do our best to support the positive and creative artists.
< br />SoulClap: What are your plans for the future? Any albums or Projects planned?
Quame: I’m currently working on Defari’s new album, “King’s Holiday” and i’ll be doing some work with Planet Asia and of course Tajai from Hieroglyphics. Also, the next release from DCMJ Records will be from Taj the Infinite, an incredible young emcee I look to really promote and advocate for. I’m also studying cinematography, so I will be shooting some videos and looking to release a Don’t Call Me John Part II, that will be very interesting! But now that Superstar is back in ya town, I will be pretty active and you may hear me over a DJ Soulclap track real soon!!!
Thank You and One Love,