Hip Hop is a funny animal. It’s the chameleon of the music world, changing it’s colors frequently. There is every kind of hip hop, I’m just waiting for someone come with a hip hop with a polka feel to it. Any more, I want to deal with “real” hip hop. Meaning music I can relate to. I don’t bang, I don’t have a fancy whip, and experienced a drive by in at least three weeks. So something with the daily crap throws at you, something about the numerous girl problems, and of course tossing back some cold ones. Intuition has all that in his music as well as more regular guy type of stuff.
He dropped an album in 2006, and while I don’t recall listening to it, his buzz caught me with the video for the track “Al Bundy,” a comical portrayal of a “morning after”. Since then I’ve been checking regularly for his music. When the album “Girls Like Me” dropped, it quickly become a regular in my rotation. It was only natural that we got him on the site for a conversation
Intuition - Hold Your Breath feat. Raquel Rodriguez
WYDU: First off, you have to be the first hip hop artist to make it out of North Pole Alaska, the only other person I ever knew from there is the Green Bay Packers and former Boise St alum, Daryn Colledge. Being from a small ass town myself, I understand how it happens, but explain how a kid from the North Pole get into hip hop?
Intuition: Well I haven’t made it yet, but hopefully one day. But wow…holy shit, I had no idea that Daryn made it to the NFL. I used to play baseball with him. He was on my American Legion team. His mom is my mom’s insurance agent. That’s crazy. I don’t really keep up with sports or with too many folks back home so I either had no idea, or maybe I heard that before and forgot.
I got into hip hop as a kid just by watching TV and whatnot. I’m part of that very first generation that was born into a world where rap music was already THERE you know. It wasn’t like I just had some magic moment where I “discovered” it. I remember trying to learn to breakdance when i was five you know? By the time I was in 4th grade I had the words to multiple rap songs memorized, when I was in 7th grade I recorded my first song for a contest (it was a “Who can write the best anti-smoking rap” and I won two free meals at Wendy’s for the song under the guise EZ-Lee).
Due to the large presence of the military in Alaska, it’s actually a lot more diverse than most think, and we had kids from all over the country moving up there all the time, and there were definitely times during my youth where I was confused with my racial identity haha…there’s definitely something fishy about a 5th grader dressed from head to toe in African color schemes rocking Cross Colours, but it was the hot shit back then.
W: Let’s talk about moving from Alaska to LA, how much of a culture shock was that? How difficult was it getting your name out there? Did you ever have to get any waiter jobs or do the tour guide thing? haha
I: I’ve been living in SoCal for a while now (10 years), but I was bouncing around before I ended up in LA. Initially moving to California was just my means to escape Alaska, it was always just too small for me. I’ve been in LA almost 3 years now, but before that I was in Santa Barbara going to college and working, and when I FIRST moved to Cali I was living in Pomona going to school there. That’s where it really dawned on me like “Hey, being a white rapper is not so weird down here in California, and I could probably actually do this.” That was in like 2000. So moving to LA was not that big of a deal for me being that SB is only about an hour and a half away, and for the six years I was living there, I was playing shows in LA every other weekend for 3 of them.
I don’t really know how I got my name out, I’m just a very tenacious person, I hate hearing “no” for an answer, but at the same time, I’m generally a good dude and I’m good at making friends. I was never a nerdy dude, which I secretly think a lot of rappers are. I think a lot of dudes start rapping to try and earn respect, and try to get laid, and try to look cooler, but I just started taking rap seriously because I was really good at it. I already knew how to get laid and be cool, and that in turn helped me earn respect from other folks and get my name out I guess. I just learned early to never approach someone else on some “fanboy” shit, because you will never get taken seriously by that person. And basically, the respect I worked long and hard to earn helped me get shows, and shows helped introduce me to more people, and press and yadda yadda. In short, I’ve just been paying dues a really long time.
W: On the new album, “Girls Like Me”, you have a song titled, “I Love California”, I take you’ve settled in nicely…When did you start to think that you were going to make it in SoCal doing hip hop? Meaning, when was “The Coming” of Intuition in Cali and hip hop in general…
I: Well, like I said, I’ve been here doing this for a long time. I knew from the time I was 11 I was going to live in California because I used to visit my grandmother here and I loved it back then. I think I’ve been a “California” rapper since the moment I started taking it seriously. You know, up in AK I toyed around with it, changing words of rap songs around to be about me and my friends and stuff like that, but I moved to Cali when i was still a very young adult and it definitely molded me. I’ve been hoping I was going to make it since the first time I recorded a song, but I don’t know if I’ve really had my moment yet. Every time I put out a record I just hope that it will be the moment. I think, like most artists probably, I’m never satisfied, it never feels like you’ve done enough. I mean, I don’t even pay my rent with rap money yet, so I still think my “Coming” is coming.
W: How about the Hip Hop scene in LA, it seems like it’s getting better, but for awhile there, it seemed kinda cutthroat…..
I: I think it’s still very cut throat. Just in the recent months it’s started becoming a bit more united, but it’s still very cut throat. That’s simply because there’s such a large pool of people here, I would say “pool of talent” but there’s a lot of non-talent too. You gotta do what you can to try and rise to the top, and most people will even step on their homeys toes to do that, or forget about their homeys all together. I think the only way to make it in a business like this is to be cut throat though, now my friends and I have just decided to start being cut throat for each other as well.
W: You’re first album was “Stories About Nothing”, how did the album do compared to your expectations?
I: Well it was my baby at the time. I met Equalibrum (my main producer), and DJ Murj (the DJ i perform with) in 2003 and we all basically really learned to master our crafts together. I completely relearned recording with EQ, completely relearned a stage presence with Murj, and they both took it to the next level with me as well. We put a TON of work into that record, probably too much in hindsight, too nitpicky about details and such. I had this high concept of making a record where I never mentioned hip hop on it, no braggadocio, nothing like that. When we dropped it we thought it would be huge, but dropping a record is always anti-climactic and it never lives up to expectations. I will be honest, unlike most rappers, and say that that record only sold like 130 physical copies online. I mean it didn’t do SHIT. I moved the remainder of 1,000 hand to hand, but really, that record didn’t do anything for us monetarily, but in some small circles people love it, so it helped establish us as a team and helped get the name out as we discussed earlier.
W: There is quite the voice change from “Stories About Nothing” to “Girls Like Me”, why the drastic change?
I: Yeah I finished “Stories” like early ’06, but us learning all the right steps to getting a record out, and other assorted drama led to us not getting it out until ’07. About three months after I put it out, I was having a lot of tonsil problems. They used to almost touch in the back of my throat, so I got them removed. My voice changed big time. I listen to SAN now and cringe. Sounds like I recorded the whole thing with something stuck in my throat…pause. My voice is a lot more resonant now, and it affected the way that I rap to an extent as well. I feel like the voice change really helped me become the rapper I already thought I was.
W: You gained a little buzz on the net prior to the release of “Girls Like Me”, how important is the net these days for marketing and gaining new fans?
I: Well, I released an EP fittingly called “BUZZ” with the homey VerBS, over the summer. It happened really serendipitously, but at the same time I knew we were onto something, so I put my record writing process on hold for like 3 months while we did that, and that EP caught on way crazier than we expected. That really helped a lot with building up the buzz, and led to the blogs catching on to the solo project. I just happened to be the first of the two of us to put out a new solo record, but when VerBS drops the joint he’s working on now I’m sure it will get the same level of hype.
Internet marketing is damn near everything in gaining new fans nowadays. It’s the time of the 24 second news cycle. So if you’re not up on the net somewhere every day keeping people interested, you’re not going to make it. I’m trying to be better at being an early adopter with internet stuff, but in all honesty, I wish I had more help at it. The team I had helping me with this blog push was absolutely amazing though and i can’t thank them enough. Hopefully we just keep building from here.
I: Well….it’s really good. That’s the main thing. I am the first person to admit that I don’t think I am the BEST rapper. All my friends are better at freestyling than me, I don’t sit around trying to write the “hardest bars,” I don’t give a shit about how many “styles” someone has…I just like writing really good songs with really good hooks. And that’s what this album is.
In a way it’s a throwback album because it really is PURE rap musically…we’re not trying to make some crazy avante-garde record, we were just trying to make a really good rap record. And we didn’t try to pander to what labels and radio want as far as stacking all the good songs at the front of the record for listeners with short attention spans and Itunes shoppers. We made a record that makes sense from a song sequencing standpoint and if you put it on in your car or in your headphones, we don’t think you’ll skip a single song.
W: After seeing the first video, “Al Bundy”, I was expecting a lot more goofiness, but you’ve gotten a pretty good balance of seriousness, humor, and introspect. How difficult is it to balance all those things in an album?
I: I mean, I think that I have a good sense of humor about mys
elf, and I’m a real smartass in person, I think my visuals will probably always represent that to an extent. But yeah, the Al bundy video just kind of fell into place, and we did what we could with a $0 budget. When I hear the song I don’t think it’s a very humorous song, but the video is definitely meant to have that sort of smartass appeal.
As far as balancing all the elements, I think that’s what makes a good record. Just because I’m a class clown in public doesn’t mean I don’t think about things, or have interesting outlooks on serious subjects. So I wanted to bring a little bit of that to the table again, without being as serious as I was on SAN the whole time. I think good rap records are well rounded and can touch on multiple aspects of personality. Look at someone like Ghostface…he can write the most emo song and the most thugged out song and the most hilarious song all on one record.
W: Are you worried about getting the dreaded “emo rap” tag?
I: I used to be really scared of that honestly, but it doesn’t worry me at all. If you actually listen to my records you will see they are not emo records. If you call them that you ain’t listening. There are plenty of far more generic white-guy-that-shop-at-zumies rappers to tag that name on to. Most people that accuse me of being emo I could probably beat up.
W: The album is released on NoCanDo’s new label Hellfyre Club, how did you hook that up?
I: Well, I didn’t really hook that up. Nocan has been one of my best friends for a while now. We met in ’03 so I’ve just known him for a long time. He will be mad at me for saying this but, when he first told me about Hellfyre Club I wanted nothing to do with it because I’ve seen friends start labels dozens of times and then just fizzle away after one release, and it’s under the Alpha Pup umbrella and I wasn’t sure if they would really be into pushing a purely rap record. But he called me every day for like two weeks when the record was finished just listing reasons why I should sign, and eventually he convinced me.
We’re really hoping to turn this label into something. The old blueprint of how to make a successful indie rap label is obsolete, but we’ve paid enough attention over the years that we think we’ve learned from what they did right and learned from their missteps.
W: I’ve read in more than one place you have quite the live show, how important is a good stage show?
I: I think it’s very important. I think that whenever I’m in front of a crowd, whether I’m the headliner or the opening opening opening opener, you can tell that I know what I’m doing, and because of that you want to pay attention. How many wack groups have you seen perform? Because I’ve seen more than I can count, and I don’t remember any of their names. I just want to make sure that any time someone who doesn’t know me sees me onstage, they will remember my name. Thankfully I have a great DJ behind me in DJ Murj, we are close friends as well so we really concentrate on making our sets flow like a damn mixtape. We get onstage and we don’t really stop for a half hour…it’s just boom boom boom boom. That attitude really crossed over into the stage sets VerBS and I would do together as well…when you get TWO solid rap performers on stage together healthily competing with eachother….it’s trouble.
W: What’s on the horizon for Intuition?
I: Next up I have a side project dropping called “I Ruined These Songs For You.” It’s a collection of about 12 songs that I love that I decided to do “unauthorized collaborations” on. Each song regardless of the genre (indie rock, soul, RnB, blues, etc etc) has these natural loops in them that are just asking to be rapped over, and I did my best to change the songs as little as possible and just touch each one with a verse that is relevant to the song, so it sounds like i was in the studio collabing with them at the time. It’s basically like back in the day when you would make a mixtape of songs you like for a girl you liked, but then going “Oh by the way I rapped on all of them for you too.”
After that I think VerBS and I are going to do a follow up to the BUZZ EP sometime this year, and Equalibrum and I will begin working on the next Intuition album, but I haven’t even gotten an idea for that one yet, so we’ll see what happens.
Also touring this year. West coast tour in April/May, headed to SXSW in march, and really working to try and hop on as a supporting act for a bigger artist.
W: Any last words?
I: Sorry I’m so long winded…thank you for the interview, shoutout to all my Hellfyre Club affiliates: Nocando, Open Mike Eagle, Kail, and of course Equalibrum and DJ Murj. Go buy “Girls Like Me” (as in “they appreciate my company,” not “they are similar to”) on Itunes and help us build a really great record label.