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New Artist Spotlight: Citizen

by Travis on April 11, 2008

This week’s new artist hails from an area quite rich in hip hop history, the Bay Area of California. Citizen is a jack of all trades, working his craft in everything from DJing, MCing, production and even crafts some tunes as an engineer behind the boards. Coming hard with a “do-it-yourself” mentality, he has his hands in three different projects, one which just dropped and two that are in pattern to take off. Citizen is also hosts his own radio show that plays every Saturday Night 6pm – 8pm PST, on 104.1 in the Bay Area as well, the same show in which you can hear yours truly being interview this coming Saturday night after some technical issues last weekend.

His new album with Living Poetry “Live Hard, Die Free” is in the vein of the Living Legends and some of the other underground west side classics. West Coast underground has always packed a sound that I have liked over the years and this album contains that same mentality. Just straight up dope lyrics and bangin’ beats.

Citizen & Livin’ Poetry – Live Hard Die Free

1. Floating (Intro)
2. Hip Hop (For Real)
3. Sneakers
4. Fluid Flow
5. I Am
6. Radio Flyer
7. Un Hook
8. Stars Fall
9. Rainy day
10. Shouts (Interlude)
11. Malfunction
12. Goodlife
13. Falling
14. Sunshine

I had a chance to sit down and speak with Citizen recentely and here is what transpired:

WYDU: Alright man, so you want do a quick introduction of who you are, what you do and where you repersent?

Citizen: I’m Citizen, coming out of the East Bay, CA, home of the DIY “Independent movement”. 1st I’m a producer, 2nd, an MC, always an Engineer. As my man Self Advocate put it the best. I’m a “creativore”.

W: what are your original introductions into hip hop and how did you get your start?

C: My journey through hip hop starts with humble beginnings, you know, The Beasties, Tribe, really a lot of Bay Area rap too back in the early nineties, but the scene was much different back then. Around the “turn of the century” the local scene around me really began to flourish, but in a way I had never really been hip to. I had always loved hip hop, but when the DIY Bay Area scene developed it showed me that I could do it too. People became something from nothing, without the help of major labels. It was then I began to take my music a lot more seriously. I got my hands on the equipment that i needed over the years from my old man, just like everyone else and it took off from there.

W: How did you get into all the different aspects of working in the studio and how does that play in your roll of making an album?

C: As I began to take making beats more seriously, I would just listen to the artists I looked up to as much as possible and really try to take away the finer points of their productions, the details. There’s a motive, behind every piece of music, but what I always really appreciated over the years was a cohesive piece of music. An album, in its true sense. These days the newest hot album just seems to be a collection of 14 “hopeful singles”, or whatever companies can possibly sell to the youth. The album as a cohesive piece of art is dying. I’m trying to preserve Hip hop as an art form, as opposed to a big business, which is what it has largely become over the years as I’ve developed and grown. I want to make something that is original, and that I can stand behind and be proud of as an honest piece of me, or what I am feeling at the time.
W: Nice, I’m listening to your album “Live Hard Die Free” right now, some great joints on there and I can see what your saying when listening to the album. Care to discuss the album and what was involved with it and what you hope to accomplish with it?

C: “Live Hard, Die Free” began as an effort to branch out and collaborate with a few MC’s that I appreciated. Over time I had developed bits and pieces of the record I had envisioned, but it all came together when I linked up with Livin’ Poetry. He was trying to do something similar to me and it really came together quickly. We hit the studio shortly after linking up for the first time and just hashed out some things we wanted to get off our chests. I was doing production work for Poe’s solo album so we had alot of ideas swirling around, and some material we felt great about sitting around, so it made sense to do a “mix CD” together. It plays more like an album than a conventional mixtape with screaming and dj shouts all over everything.

W: You could had fooled me with the mixtape thing. Especially diggin’ “Hip Hop (For Real)” and “The Good Life”. Who all do you have in terms of artists on this album?

C: Those are a few of my favorites on the project as well. “Hip Hop” is something that came out of a trip I took to Spain in April of ’07. My sister had been living there and brought me to a weekly flea market, suggesting that I could find some vinyl there. The record I chopped up for that came from a used record street vendor in Madrid. It’s traditional Spanish Bull Fighting Themes or something to that degree. I got Livin Poetry and Kevorkian on the track and Kev really puts it down for the east coast. That track may or may not end up on Livin’ Poetry’s coming album. “The Goodlife” was a posse cut for the moment, so to speak. Featuring Maintain(of Sacramento crew After Hijrah), Livin’ Poetry and Self Advocate(of the Venture Capitalists).The track is taken from the R&R EP that I’m working on with Self Ad and is produced by J Myers, my homie out of El Paso, TX.

J Myers and I will be releasing a series of EP’s paying tribute to the Late soul singer Nina Simone. All the samples are from her catalog, and we have 2 EPs finished. Volume 3 is in t
he works featuring outside production from a few different cats around the bay. Some other artists I collaborated with on this record, the homie Deuce Eclipse from the Zion I Crew/Live Up Records, HeirGorDon, which is A Brother Named George and Donwill( of Rap Group Tanya Morgan). I did this track with George a little while back around time time of the last CaliComm Tour. George got Abstract Rude and Donwill on the track and it was so raw that I had to get it out there. It’s slated to appear on HeirGorDon’s forthcoming album “Out of Your League”, which should be bananas judging by their collabs so far, so look out for that. DJ Hoppa of Broken Complex Records did a few beats on there for Poe, when he was living down in LA. That dude is a beast, real talented dude.

W: Nice, some rather well known names in the underground scene on their. You mentioned a few other albums you are working on, what else do you have coming up in the future?

C: Next up is the R&R project with Self Advocate and myself emceeing, and beats by J Myers. The production that myers gave us was really great, genre bending almost. I feel like the sound he brought to the table was very diverse and could apply to many different tastes. After that drops Self Ad will be doing the Venture Capitalists with mc/producer Welsed and I’ll be releasing Volume 1 of the Tribute to Nina Simone EP’s. I produced Volume one and Myers produced volume 2. Vol. 3 is a collaborative effort between us and some outside producers.
On another note…I do a radio show called the “G.O.D. Hour” on 104.1 FM in the Bay saturdays 6-8pm.
W: haha, beat me to the next question, you have your own radio show….mind giving the readers what goes down on that and is their an internet link that people can check out the shows at?

C: Yeah, I co-host the show with Dems1 and J Fresh.Dems and I recently started working on an original compilation album for the show with Art by Dems for each song and I am doing the production for each song. The G.O.D. Hour is a weekly show that concentrates on the (hip hop)music that Clear Channel chooses not to support, classic jams, local music, indie and underground.

W: I have to ask this question with just about anyone I interview since I’m kind of involved in it, how do you feel about the internet’s role in how hip hop is promoted and heard?

C: Its a double edged sword. It’s much easier to get yourself out there nowadays, but the “market”, or whats left of it, is really quite flooded with “artists” that aren’t too concerned with the “art” of it. The bootlegging, thats another story all together. I’m one of those dude’s that leaked their own album on release day, so I’m okay with the game changing. If I had to guess I’d say that music will be free soon, and you’ll make money outside of CD sales, if you’re lucky or successful enough.

W: Dope, you got any parting words?

C: Please check out the G.O.D. Hour on 104.1 FM in the Bay Area or online @ Also check out the projects I’m working on @ and don’t hesitate to reach out. The only way to save hip hop from imploding is by supporting real artists, not the products that major labels want to sell to us.

W: Ain’t that the fuckin’ truth…

C: You can find all the artists I’ve collaborated with on the page and keep up to date with guests on the G.O.D. hour and shows the folks and I are throwing. You dont have to buy my album, just dont waste your money(or bootlegging time) on some garbage.

W: Alright man, anything else you want to add?

C: Love your mother, and don’t let your vinyl collection get too dusty. F*** serato. Thats all.

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