“I believe music is one of the most powerful communicators of thought and ideas”, no truer words have been spoken. That is a line from this week’s Artist Spotlight MC, Hired Gun. I’ve always thought movies and music were a like in the fact that sometimes I just want to watch a brainless, no thinking movie and the same goes for music at time. Then there is time I want to watch a “bang-bang” flick such as Die Hard or something, same goes with music, where I reach for NWA or Biggie. Sometimes I want a movie that makes me think, that makes me reflect on my place in the world. In music, sometimes I want music that makes do the same, something that makes me THINK. Sometimes, in hip hop, that can be difficult to do. Hired Gun’s music is that type of music, it makes me think, it makes me question, it makes me reflect. That’s an important place in music and hip hop in general. Thought provocation, it’s a lost art in the world of hip hop in these times of glammer, guns, and bitches. Hired Gun is a throw back artist in that aspect. He brings a multitude of different topics, ideas and beliefs, which makes his latest release, The People’s Verses, a very good listen.
Hired Gun – Dead City
Hired Gun – Gone is the Thrill
WYDU: What’s good man? Care to give the readers a quick run down of who you are and some of your background?
Hired Gun: Peace Travis, and WYDU, absolutely let’s do it….Peace my name is Hired Gun, I am an Hip Hop artist, writer and educator representing New Jersey and Brooklyn. I represent Fresh Roots Music, ESP Collective and SayWord Entertainment. I have been doing music since the mid nineties but have gained real momentum since moving to Brooklyn in 2000. The base of my music stems from growing up as one of the few black kids in a rural blue collar racist town in New Jersey, and my experiences through that. Growing up in and from the golden era of the music is a major influence on how I create and view hip hop. My goal mainly, really is for you to question…whether its the world around you, authority, yourself. A lot of what I speak also draws from the different perspectives that I share with a lot of people. I know what it means to grind, struggle, live and love, when I tell you my story, I know its something a lot of people can relate to.
W: How did you get your start in the game? Can you shed a little light on your history and how you got to where you are today?
HG: Wow, well let’s see, I began recording and writing when I was in 6th-7th grade! On the real though, it wasn’t until 1999-2000 that I actually began to be heard, that was with my family, ESP. I developed my craft in High School and College, but in 2000 was when we (ESP) released our first EP, “The Big Bang” and I began to frequent open mic spots, like the (now defunct) LifeLine, and Sin Sin. Since then, I’ve been grinding and hustling with ESP, the hip hop group, 3rd Party and my own Fresh Roots Music.
W: Speaking of 3rd Party and ESP, what is your relationship with them and how does that feature into your future plans?
HG: ESP (Eternal Soul Prophets) are my family. The Seven Swords are with whom I grew as an artist, and a man. 3rd Party in some ways have become an extension out of that crew. As ESP began to pursue other things, I was left in the city and formed a group with two other emcees, Farbeon and Rabbi Darkside, and the producer And-I. Over the course of the last six years the crew has expanded and contracted (peace to DJ Watts and V.O.G.), but it still remains the 3 (Rabbi, Farbeon and I). My people’s Mista Mayday, the main beatsmith for ESP has actually worked extensively with Rabbi Darkside on his album, so as I said the crews have intertwined.
My future plans are to continue to stay true to the old school laws I came up on, and that is to keep it crew. Even as I work on solo projects, and push my personal projects, the people close to me stay involved. 3rd Party, as of right now is putting together various music and educational tours. ESP stays in the studio, and Mista Mayday stays on speed dial when I need that boom bap. We just put out a project last year (Frequency Activism’s “Hip Hop in Strange Places”) and our working on the next ESP project for 09.
W: Judging from your music, you bring many “hats” to the table as an MC. I’ve seen the party rocking side, the critical thinker and the “fight the system” hat, how do you see your many sides contributing to your music and as an MC as a whole?
HG: All of the greats, Rakim, Kane, Kris (KRS ONE), Kool G.,Common, Pharoah, you name it, all are versatile as emcees. They were lyricists, they were
conscious, they were creative. Many modes and moods. Before I am an emcee, I am human and my music reflects my many moods. I will always stay true to myself and what I believe, so you wont hear me talking about sipping on some high price liquor in the club, blowing hundreds. But you may hear me speak on chillin with my peoples and building. I’m always going to speak truth to power, and always let you know what I see through my three eyes and hear what I hear with my ear to the streets.
W: You mention in one of your press clippings I read that you have worked in other genres of music, which would those be? How does other music differ from hip hop in your eyes? How is creating other types of music different than creating hip hop?
HG: My first experience performing was as the front man for a rock band, Futant Reality. It never really got off the ground, but my it was a Rage Against the Machine type group. I’ve been emceeing over Jungle and Drum n Bass almost as long as I’ve been rocking to hip hop. With both of those genres, I tend to bring an even harder edge. I like Jungle almost as equally, and sometimes more because I’m freer to just get down and rock. When I’m in a drum n bass party, or when I was rockin raves, it’s really about me just going in, with my flow and party rocking. I have experimented with a few Jazz musicians and that is something I want to get back to. I think actually at least with Jungle, being a breakbeat based form, there are more similarities then differences, although they clearly have some slightly different influences though the same roots.
W: The plights of African Americans and your pride in your race is obvious through your music. Can you explain how it ties into your music and you as a person and what you wish to accomplish for the African American race?
I consider myself a modern day griot. I see my role in part to tell the story of my people, to shed light on who we are now, and where we’ve been. The hope is through that we can move forward. I wish to uplift all people, but especially my people by showing them what they can do, and have done. I believe music is one of the most powerful communicators of thought and ideas. My heritage ties into everything I am, it is something that can never be taken away, and in that my self is secure. For me, it would be a disservice to do anything other then what I’m doing.
W: What is your take on the country itself and racism that still runs rampant in society? Is there anyway to change it, is it getting better or getting worse?
HG: I think that is a really tough question. In certain respects things have changed, definitely. I definitely see hope for the future. At the same time, when you have situations like Oscar Grant, Jena Six, Katrina, and Sean Bell occurring you realize we are not there. For those that really followed the underhandedness of the home lenders in the sub prime debacle, you realize that things are still skewed along the lines of race. I honestly believe the only way to change it is, two fold. One, our system of government, the jim crow/reconstructionist policies that are grandfathered in and still inform the public must be completely obliterated. Second, I think that this country as a whole, black,white, asian, latino, indigenous, we all need to have a REAL conversation on race. Unfettered, and uncensored. No more PC debates. If we truly want racism to no longer exist, which is rooted in power and wealth we will have to understand how the legacy left to the majority continues to fuel racism. These are ideas that this country is not ready to really get into, we are not educated enough as a whole to do so. We have so many conflicting messages from the left, the right, liberal etc. My hope is the youth, it’s one of the reasons why I teach. It is only through bringing them the truth and teaching them how to think, will we have a chance for racism to end. But it wont happen in my grand children’s lifetime. I believe that.
W: You are the founder and owner of Free Root Music, correct? Can you give the lowdown on it?
HG: Yes. Fresh Roots Music is basically a collective, like Spitkickers, or even OkayPlayer. It consists of mainly myself, the drum n bass outfit I’m a part of Black Opz, and also includes my ESP brethren. It is simply the foundation for me and my people’s music to be heard and recognized. The first release from me, and all solo releases will be through Fresh Roots, and as we expand you will soon see other artist who will grow from these roots as well. Stay tuned.
W: The album “The People’s Verses” was released toward the end of the summer, can you explain to the people what sets this album apart from the music we hear out there now? Why should folks spend their hard cash on it?
HG: The People’s Verses is a classic in my mind, because it is an album that gives you everything. Hard beats, real raps, and no matter who you are, there is a song on the album you will relate to. If you remember when hip hop albums had few skips, and ran the gamut of topics, and styles…that is The People’s Verses. It is what Hip Hop needs to sound like in this era, and will stand in any era of the music. People need to cop it, because it is what Hip Hop is. If you love Hip Hop and want to know what Hip Hop is, you need to buy “The People’s Verses”.
W: You did a remake of “Arrest The President”, obviously a classic track and one that is still relevant almost 20 years later. Was that something you were aiming for when you chose to retool it?
HG: Every song on The People’s Verses was written and produced with great care and purpose. I have been a fan of Tragedy (at the time of the recording, he went as Intelligent Hoodlum) for a long time. I remember being in high school when he did the original, and I thought how relevant and how needed it would be to re-do it. The unique situation of Jr. coming to office is really what made it necessary for me to drop it.
W: Do you have a favorite track from the project? One that means more than the rest?
HG: Wow. That is hard. I guess my favorite track on the album is, “Dedication”. It was actually the first song I wrote for the album, and for me it represents the shift in my creative talents. It also encompasses for me, the personality and image of myself that I have. A struggler and striver who is passionate and stays fighting, keeps livi
ng and moving forward.
W: What is your take on hip hop in ’09? Is it an art form that is slowly losing its roots and meaning, or is the fact that kids all over America are more in tuned to things that they might not have been forty years ago?
HG: My take on hip hop in 09 that its really no different then the start of the millennium. It is a form that is in flux and lost itself (but is not DEAD….I repeat NOT DEAD) a little. As an artist, I’m here to ride the wave, stay honest and continue to produced dope music and stay relevant. I think hip hop is not immune to the cultural cycles that exist in every art form and as a music it is slowly reaching middle age. I’m confident that things will get better.
W: What does the future hold for Hired Gun?
HG: Gun is going global. I had a brief stint with 3rd Party, Tah Phrum Duh Bush, Kid Lucky, and Dyalekt in Prague in October, and I head to South America (specifically Brazil) with Rabbi Darkside in February for a five city tour (check the blog http://www.freshrootsmusic.blogspot.com for the tour diary!). We are scheduled to head back to the Czech Republic and some other surprise locales later in the year.
W: Any last words for the readers out there?
HC: Recognize real, pick up the album, www.freshrootsmusic.com and question everything. Peace!