Eze Jackson sits down with Emcees, Big Guy, Jay Royale, and Ill Conscious to discuss patriotism, the evolution of hip-hop, activism, and more.
music: (singing) Eze Jackson: What’s up, y’all? Welcome back to another episode of The Whole Bushel on The Real News Network. I’m your host Eze Jackson. The Whole Bushel is an artist interview show where I sit down with performing artists to discuss issues that matter to them the most, all while sitting down eating crabs the way we do here in Baltimore, Maryland. Today’s guests are Baltimore rappers, ILL Conscious, Jay Royale, and Big Guy. ILL Conscious, how do you think hip-hop has changed since the ’70s? ILL Conscious: Well since the ’70s, like we were speaking about before, it was a more underground environment. It was a more street community base. More of a rebellious feel. The people that partook in the scene and everything. And it was more exclusive, you know what I’m saying? But now, it’s more corporate driven. There a lot of different markets into it. It’s a lot of rules now, you know what I’m saying? A lot more politics in the game. Eze Jackson: A lot of money being made. ILL Conscious: A lot of money and everything. And that’s a good thing as well, because it creates opportunities and creates opportunities for us to become entrepreneurs and everything like that. But it’s also detrimental in a sense where a lot of people losing their identity. There’s people selling out, you know what I’m saying? There’s not giving back to the community anymore. And that’s pretty much the main aspects of how I saw it change from the ’70s to now. Eze Jackson: Can you give me an example of artists that you feel sold out, so to speak? ILL Conscious: Yeah, so- Jay Royale: Don’t say any names. ILL Conscious: [crosstalk 00:02:08] I don’t want to say any names. [crosstalk 00:02:16] Examples where you’ll see artists, notable artists, go platinum, double platinum, several albums, they would never come back to their hood where they grew up, or their project where they grew up at. Just invest in the youth, just invest in the community. Help clean up, you know, build some more housing for your people. Just give back, you know what I’m saying? Big Guy: Yeah. ILL Conscious: That’s pretty much, that’s all you have to do. Eze Jackson: I think it’s interesting now to see so many hip-hop voices come out against Donald Trump when for so long now hip-hop has wanted to be a Donald Trump, emulate that lifestyle, that capitalist, you know, I gotta get it, I gotta get mine, you gotta get yours. Tight mentality. I feel you. music: (singing) Eze Jackson: What you think, Big Guy? Big Guy: How has it changed? I don’t know, just like, the love in it. For better for worse, you got some people who like, really fell in love with it. Your Kendricks, your J. Coles, even your Drakes. Then on the flip side you got a lot of people who, they’re not as in love with the music as we once were. When we were young, we really couldn’t get to the studio that easy. Nowadays you can get a laptop,[inaudible 00:06:47] guitar, suddenly now you an artist. You can actually become an artist before you even make a song, with Instagram and stuff like that. Eze Jackson: That’s a good point. Big Guy: Here with the brother, Eze Jackson, the Whole Bushel. We gonna turn this motherfucker up today so I hope you got your, what’s them shits called, mallets. Get your [inaudible 00:07:12], get all your shit cray ’cause we gonna turn this motherfucker up real fast one time for the west side. music: (singing) Eze Jackson: Jay, you got a song called “Half Moon Caesar”. It’s kind of a tribute to the golden era of hip-hop. How do you think specifically that’s important, to respect yesterday’s artists? Jay Royale: To keep the tradition going, in a sense, because the authenticity … These artists that I looked up to personally, they’re not watered down. They were authentic. They represented something. So if they made a mark in hip-hop, and they made lucrative decisions, and they had money, these guys have started companies. Their own record companies. They know the game. Eze Jackson: So they represent entrepreneurship to you, yeah. Jay Royale: Right. That would be the conglomerate that I would want to be a part of. I’m not knocking at those doors of the people that just, fly-by-night, us. I want to create a legacy. I want my name to be something, and I want to make change. But I want to stay true to self, and where I’m from, and what my people represent. music: (singing) Eze Jackson: When you talk about making change, a lot of times you have … I know sometimes my music has been classified as so-called ‘conscious’ hip-hop. But conscious hip-hop can also be seen as corny or preachy. It also has been, can be a catalyst for change. How do you think artists can do that without making it corny and preachy, and why do you think sometimes it goes into that corny preachy lane? Big Guy: There’s no handbook on how to be cool, you know. That’s something you got or you don’t got. You can’t make a person want to, you just got that it-factor. It’s about self-awareness. Self-love. That’s my point on it. ILL Conscious: A lot of the times … we were speaking earlier on how the conscious rappers, they have so much of a image and a persona to uphold, and their music is preachy because that’s all they want you to see. But in fact it becomes corny in a sense where their actions will contradict their message or what they’re trying to portray in their music. It’s all deception. That’s where the whole corniness comes in. Not it’s like “you’re not really real”. Big Guy: It’s not your life. ILL Conscious: It’s not authentic at all. Jay Royale: That person, coming up, rocking the Wu Tang Clan, they took the knowledge and incorporated it with their rhymes. music: (singing) Jay Royale: It made me want to know more. Subliminally, what are they trying to say with these acronyms that they’re putting together? Why you tapping into the numbers so much? And then they did the math, what the math means, and this guy right here. ILL Conscious: Then they still also kept it relative to the streets. They kept it relative to the youth and what they were going through, their reality. That’s conscious to me. Jay Royale: That’s powerful. ILL Conscious: You ain’t gotta be saying you pro-black in every song. That’s cool that you do that, but when someone questions you on your shit, don’t back away from it. [crosstalk 00:15:41] music: (singing) Eze Jackson: You brought up Wu-Tang earlier, I want to get to you ILL Conscious ’cause you’re a Five-Percenter. And Wu-Tang actually was one of the first groups that I really listened to that got me studying my lessons and stuff. How does the Five-Percent Nation of Islam influence your work, and explain to the viewers what the Five-Percent Nation of Islam is. ILL Conscious: The Five-Percent Nation was a cultural organization created by Father Allah, who was a former a member of the Nation of Islam, who actually was an understudy of Malcolm X. He created the Nation of Gods and Earths, or the Five-Percent Nation as it was known, in 1964 to basically give the knowledge of self to the youth. It was for the youth, which was the babies, the generation that’s going to bring forth the knowledge and civilize everyone. It’s helped me because it’s actually enabled me to bring the knowledge through the music in a sense where I’m not being preachy. Father Allah didn’t say you have to … if you a drug dealer, or you a murderer, at least have the knowledge of who you are and understand why you’re doing it. So you can take accountability for your actions, because there are two entities that dwell within you. God and the Devil. You can be God, but understand the repercussions that you have to bring on yourself when you do certain things. Basically, The Five-Percent Nation, the original man is God, the black woman is Earth. Throughout my music, I’m very prevalent with doing the knowledge and supreme mathematics and all that. And it also stem my influences. My influences were Nas, AZ, Wu-Tang, Rakim, all of them Five-Percenters. A lot of my influences were … the foundation of their music and culture was from that. It actually increased my awareness when listening to these guys when I wasn’t even a Five-Percenter myself. A lot of the people are inquisitive when I say certain things in my tracks. I have producers, or European counterparts, they’ll come to me, “Peace, God”, ’cause they know about the culture through hip-hop and everything. And I think that’s a beautiful thing. The fact that I may not be in your physical presence but I’m able to civilize you through lyrics. Jay Royale: ‘Cause you a rapper. And I’m a rapper. [crosstalk 00:21:51] when he’s talking in the music, he’s talking to me, ’cause I talk rap. I’m a rapper. Before I listen to this … before I listened to the country singer say anything, I’m listening to his music and I’m like “yo, I can relate. I can relate to that.” So whatever lessons he’s trying to convey, I hear loud and clear ’cause I’m out here too. That’s the language that I talk. Big Guy: We’re like modern-day scribes, in a way. music: (singing) Eze Jackson: Hip-hop has a reputation for glorifying criminal activity. Crime, violence. Why do you think that is, where do you think that comes from? Jay Royale: That goes back to the Tupac thing we were saying. The tongue is mightier than the sword, and the life that I’m living, even though that I’m a songwriter and I’m a artist, I’m a human first before I’m anything. If my day-to-day struggles, if I incorporate that within my writing, certain things that I’m going to …not even glorify, but I’m going to speak on it. It just so happens that these people that we look up to got charges. They fight. They’ve been in some shit. And that comes with it. I don’t think it’s so much as being glorified, I think that heavy is the head that wears the crown. When these guys are put in this position of power, it’s like, “Oh yeah, we love Jay Z.” “You know he sold drugs? You know he did this and you know he did that?” We hear about our president, and his [crosstalk 00:25:46] ILL Conscious: Grabbing them by the pussy. Jay Royale: “Okay, we’re gonna sweep that under the rug. He’s our president. Don’t you dare disrespect him.” Nah, that’s just who you look up to. My president, the person that I would look at on that level as the president just so happens to have a real life, and he has prior charges. Eze Jackson: It’s a discussion that I think a lot of people are starting to go into a little more, when we see that we have the war on drugs that failed, and you start to take a closer look at the prison industrial complex, and how much money is really made by keeping people locked up. Keeping black men locked up, in particular. Big Guy: They know, [inaudible 00:26:37] like drugs aren’t produced here. Maybe in Cali. This shit is getting shipped from somewhere else. But then you got the same people that rely on the shit to be shipped in, creating a jail for you for the shit that they bringing to you. This is a trap, man. Jay Royale: When you put it all together, you got the larger corporations making money and making it a business from locking our men up. Then you got the men that are being locked up making music about being locked up. Then you have the youth, [crosstalk 00:27:15] It’s all the cycles. So it’s getting glorified in hip-hop. But then the corporations are making the money off [crosstalk 00:27:26] and locking these guys up. What do you expect them to talk about? They getting locked up, they’re making money off of it. ILL Conscious: A lot of the times, our aggressive behavior is misunderstood. From those corporate entities, they don’t really understand, or they do understand, which is the reason why it happens, but they don’t understand the conditions that perpetuate that aggressive nature from our end. They’re just taking advantage of it. They see this one side, but the good records we put out, it won’t get as much of a- Big Guy: Sting. ILL Conscious: Exactly. Eze Jackson: Big Guy, I want to ask you some stuff ’cause you got an interesting background. Your father, Fred Mason, long-time president of the Maryland/DC AFL-CIO, which is a powerful union coalition, heavily involve in politics. You grew up in that, in between those two worlds because- Big Guy: Black Panther. Eze Jackson: Growing up in west Baltimore, yeah he’s a former Black Panther, all that kind of stuff. How does that shape who you are, type of music you do, stuff like that? Big Guy: Shit. I mean, part of it is never wanting nobody hand in my pocket. Jay Royale: [inaudible 00:28:48] Big Guy: Understand what’s yours. And organized, strength in numbers. I could do a lot of shit by myself but I know if I got a thousand people, a hundred people, willing to do the same thing, we’re gonna bust down some motherfucking doors. Watching my pops, it’s his transition from one moment you’re a Black Panther, next minute you president of a organization that’s … you got a lot of different races, cultures, that he responsible for. Leadership skills, yeah man. I just paid attention. Eze Jackson: Do you feel like any of what he’s done, how you talk about organizing and bringing people together. Is that the main part, are there other aspects of things he’s done that you carry on through your music or activist work? Big Guy: [inaudible 00:30:05], a big part of it is fighting for people’s rights, stuff like that. I got a heart, if I seen someone fall on the ground and somebody came and kicked them in the face, I’m gonna cringe. Nasty. Because I have a conscience, like that has to hurt. Watching Pops, seeing him fight for other people’s rights as a young child, I love my pops. That’s my best friend. That’s a sacrifice, because he gave part of his life to provide my opportunities and helping other people when I might not have seen him, but I knew what he was working on. Lo and behold, I try to do the same thing, just in my own different way. Eze Jackson: Last question, and I’ve asked other guests this, but I like to get the perspective. Particularly from y’all. Would you consider yourself a patriot? ILL Conscious: No. And I’ma tell you why. I think with ‘patriot’, I think of the American definition in every sense of the word. I don’t look at myself as an American. The Five-Percent thing, Asiatic, meaning I’m from the inside land mass of the Earth. There’s original people on all places of the earth. I’m Asiatic, global. I don’t think my legacy or my lineage is confined to this one area. My people are on every portion of the land mass. So no, I don’t believe I’m a patriot in the sense of the American definition. I’m global, I’m international, and I believe I speak for all indigenous and original people for the planet Earth. Jay Royale: I will, and will forever be, a Baltimore Raven. I do not [crosstalk 00:32:14], and I am a Raven until the day I rest. Don’t get the hat twisted, I am a Ravens fan, and that’s it, that’s all. [crosstalk 00:32:35] Baltimore Ravens. Eze Jackson: What about you, Big Guy? Big Guy: Um, no. Until they give us our acknowledgement, we’re really guests here. They brought us here, and they didn’t give us credit for the shit that we built, so nah. I don’t feel like it, you could throw me a jersey and be like “Yo, you’re American.” But you don’t allow me on the court? You gonna pay me for my services? “Hell no.” We’re treated like guests, we treated like guests too. Eze Jackson: You’re right, we are treated like guests. Go ahead. Big Guy: Sure enough. We treated like guests. We’ve never gotten our just due. We built this motherfucker. We were taken from another place to build something here. Now you want us to go back? Now we’re not welcome to a place that we built? Eze Jackson: Look fellas, I appreciate y’all coming on the show with me [crosstalk 00:33:58] Thanks again, man. I appreciate y’all. Thank you, again, for joining us in The Whole Bushel. You can check out these artists’ music below this video, links below this video. You can follow us on Facebook, The Whole Bushel. You can check out episodes on YouTube and TheRealNews.com. Stay tuned and I’ll see y’all next time. music: (singing)