I know cats like to categorize hip hop, it’s the new thing. Hell, I’m guilty of doing it myself at times. You got crunk, gangsta rap, hipster, underground, nerdcore, and probably another ten to fifteen others you can name. But sometimes an artist comes along with music and/or an album that you just can’t apply a label to. That can be good and bad sometimes. People, I think by nature, want to be able to label things, to be able to put them in a box. If they can’t, they are not sure what to do with it and sometimes they just avoid it. Others embrace it and run with it, that’s what I’m hoping happens with this week’s second Artist Spotlight artist, V.I.T.A.L. Emcee. Stationed in sunny Southern California, Vital comes with some intense music. You can tell the dude puts his heart and soul into the music on his latest album, Versus/Verses. It’s not something you can sit down and easily digest, trust me, it didn’t work for me the first time through. But the more you play it, even if it isn’t your thing, you have to see the the passion and soul that the music contains. He has straight up hip hop, social commentary, dark shit, light shit, it’s all here. The cats that are more open minded to music in general will be more likely to accept this one.
Just from judging the music, I knew it was going to be more than interesting to sit down with Vital and talk with him. He drops the knowledge and explains where he is comign from…..
V.I.T.A.L. Emcee – Whiplash
Here more of V.I.T.A.L. Emcee here.
WYDU: What’s good my man, how about quick introduction of who you and what you do?
V.I.T.A.L. Emcee: I’m V.I.T.A.L. Emcee and I am here to bring Hip-Hop back to it’s organic state with refresher courses in b-boyism, early to mid-90s gangsta flows before they became played out (though I’m no gangster), consciousness, and socio-economic issues–all with an undercurrent of positivity and relatability. At the risk of sounding pretentious, I’m the Christ figure who is willing to be a martyr for his cause.
W: Let’s get a little background on you and some of your history. Why hip hop? What made you want to be an MC and try to make it in this messed up music industry?
V: Since I was a kid I always had an elaborate fetish for music period! I wanted records and tapes instead of GI Joes. I didn’t discover Hip-Hop until I was about 7 years old and I discovered DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince with “Parents Just Don’t Understand.” Being 7 years old, those were the truest words I had ever heard and I was attracted to the cadence and the rhythm of the words on top of the production. From that point, Hip-Hop definitely demanded my attention and I started learning the songs that appealed to me. 20 years later here I am in the beautiful state of DIY and with the advent of the internet it makes things a lot more obtainable than searching for the elusive record deal that usually fucks new artists in the end anyway.
W: I found it interesting when I read your bio that you mention; “….(my) prime objective of bridging the distances between the underground and mainstream as well as the positive and negative aspects of human nature.” First off, why is important to you to bridge the underground and mainstream hip hop genres, is that something even possible?
V: When Chris Rock discussed politics he said that one can’t be either 100 percent conservative nor 100 percent liberal. I feel that explains my outlook on the two scenes respectively. Coming full circle musically in my own life, I think it’s the younger cats who want to keep something a certain way and stamp a label on it, and somehow that makes it their own. I’ve been there, but now I accept things I didn’t accept then. I like a lot of the joints that the underground scene produces, but I also have that bone in my body which can get into certain mainstream tracks before they become saturated on the radio. In my own journey, I want people to bounce. I want them to bob there head to the track. I wanna see people hit their switched with my shit in the deck…and I think that my music has the flavor to pull it off.
That being said, I’m not the “shake your ass bitch, make my cash stick” cat. I do me and that is more universally related to who we are and who we want to become as opposed to what we see and what we want to portray. I think it’s a fine line which I walk rather well.
W: Just by listening to your music, you definitely get the dark feeling to some of your songs such as “Boomerang” or “Put Down The Gun”, on your latest CD and you most definitely divulge into the psyche of the human nature. Why is that something that is important to you? Do you think the human race is generally good with some bad seeds, or are we all f’d up?
V: I try to be Shakespearean with my swagger, therefore there is a bit of theatrics in the methods to my madness. I’m not a prophet nor am I a psychologist so I can’t be the Carl Jung of Hip-Hop. A lot of what I write is through observation or experience. As humans we all have those fucked up days and I think that everyone can relate to that. When it all boils down, it comes to one person in their room or ride listening to your music. That’s my targeted fan base.
I used to be dubbed “dark” because of my first album, but that’s just where I was in my own life at that time. It doesn’t mean that every consecutive thing I drop is going to be dark. I have to grow and learn from that growth. I think all of us in life have to learn from our experiences instead of being haunted by them. Human nature is definitely fucked up by it’s surroundings, but that doesn’t mean that we as a people are bad. It comes down to individuality and the equality inherent in it.
W: I can tell you do have a wide range of influences, both musically and lyrically, just by listening to your two releases, “The Secret of the Invisible Man” and “Versus/Verses”. What are some of your lyrical and musical influences?
V: Wow. As I touched on earlier, I like a lot of different types of music outside of Hip-Hop. When it comes to Hip-Hop though, I lose my mind at cats like Tech N9ne, Gift of Gab, Chali2na, Aesop Rock, Jay-Z and Nas, etc. I came up with everything from NWA to Too $hort and Bone Thugs. I find my own creativity through the adrenaline they give me just by listening to them. Outside of that, I love things like Pink Floyd, Rob Halford and Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, Alison Krauss and Union Station, Dave Brubeck, Regina Spektor, RX Bandits, Mars Volta, Pantera, Stevie Wonder, MJ, Nina Simone…and the list goes on forever.
W: Why is important for your music to have those influences such as the rock and the such?
V: I think the more stuff that you are open to and even inspired by makes you better at what you do as an artist.
W: Let’s talk about your new album, Versus/Verses, what’s the significance of the title?
V: Since the Secret of the Invisible Man dropped, I was continually fighting an uphill battle in my personal life just to find the confidence to be me. I went through a lot, moved to New Orleans and subsequently to Oakland, weathered falling in and out of love, financial burdens all the while trying to gain some recognition musically. To sound cliche, where I stand now is in a much healthier place…a triumph against adversity. Therefore the heart and soul of 4 years was implemented in dozens and dozens of tracks and I chose the joints that made up the best representation of who I am now. So in essence the Verses came from fighting back the negative and trying to change for the better (VERSUS VERSES)
W: How would you describe this album for someone who hasn’t heard it yet? What kind of things (besides those that we discussed) are you trying to accomplish?
V: First and foremost, I want people to have a good time with it–just ride to it. It’s been described to me that if you like 2Pac AND Tool you’d like me. I would just say that if you pop in the disc you’ll be one on one with one of the greatest rappers unheard…and there are a lot of us out there.
W: Who are some of the producers and guests on the project?
V: I got to work with people who I thoroughly respect for grinding and putting out the energy to manifest their goals. This round I got joints from the Optimist, who I believe is one of the best producers in the Hip-Hop scene far and wide, as well as cats like LD, who is just mad ridiculous, and the Dysposable Heroes who did a Genius VS. Genius mixtape which is incredible. I also got features from some heads who definitely are going to be heard from more. Cats like Hochii from Technicali, Castor Pollux of Gutter Water, C4mula and Los Vega$ from the Committee Fam, and Ariano who is doing a dope project with his DJ, LD, and Medusa of Project Blowed fame. I also got to work with Matt Embree of the RX Bandits again which is always an honor and Lauren Coleman from the group Peba Luna. All in all, I had a lot of great energy conspire to help me get this album made.
W: The album artwork, inside the CD reminded me of some of those old Tool videos, what kind of mood were you trying to create with the art? How important is that kind of thing these days?
V: I’m a cat who likes the whole package–more than just a download from iTunes. That being said, artwork and presentation is MAD important for me. It tells it’s own story and compliments the music in many ways. For “VERSUS” the mood I wanted was a touch of darkness fueling the creative juices, hence the invisible ventriloquist and the dummy who has his heart on his shirt. It’s a depiction of how I feel once I get into the zone…I’m the instrument being played to the audience.
W: I know a lot of people say the retail music is in an era of doom and gloom, how do you catch people and get them to buy your CD or download?
V: Promo, promo, and more promo. All do it yourself, therefore I can be a bit better with the hustle, but at the same time, I feel better than I ever have with pushing myself forward. I really believe I can be successful in this medium. I’ve got nothing but good people around me who inspire me to do what I do. Word of mouth is the best thing an artist can have these days and I am doing everything in my power to generate that buzz.
W: So there is a rumor that you were nominated for a Grammy? What’s the dealy with that?
V: I was actually working with a company who really believed in my first album. They were the ones who got me on the ballot. Out of the initial 20,000 somewhat submissions, it was then narrowed down to about 2,000 nominees in 100 plus categories. “Slouch Hat,” “the Writing on the Wall” (song and video), and “Agoraphobic/Claustrophobic” all made the ballot in seven categories including Best New Artist and Record of the Year.
Obviously I didn’t end up in the top 5 next to Lil Wayne or Jay-Z but because of this (and my eco-friendly agenda), Waste Management chose me to attend the ceremonies on their behalf and blog about how the Grammy’s started pushing a green initiative this past year. It was a very surreal experience, so I can only be thankful that an album which came fr
om a dark place brought me there. It’s ironic like one of God’s little gests.
W: What does the future hold for VITAL EmCee?
V: I’ll keep this one short–EVERYTHING!
W: Any last words?
V: Yeah. No matter who you are, no matter what you believe and no matter what you do–as long as you believe in yourself, the World can be yours. Believe that!