SOME TIMES PEOPLE ARE SAID TO HAVE BEEN BORN IN THE WRONG ERA. THEY HAVE A CERTAIN CONNECTION TO THE PAST FLOWING THROUGH THEM. GHOST THE ILL FIGURE COULD EASILY FIT INTO THIS CATEGORY. WITH A FLOW REMINISCENT OF HIP HOP’S GOLDEN ERA AND LYRICAL CONTENT HARKING BACK TO THE DAYS OF PUBLIC ENEMY AND POOR RIGHTEOUS TEACHERS.
ONE OF THE CORE MEMBERS OF THE ILL NOYZ CREW, GHOST EMBODIES ALL THAT IS HIP HOP. WHICH IS WHY WE CHOSE HIM FOR OUR FIRST INTERVIEW. TAKE A FEW MINUTES TO GET TO KNOW GHOST THEN MAKE SURE TO HEAD OVER TO HIS BANDCAMP AND SUPPORT THAT REAL HIP HOPISH!
- Who were the first emcees that inspired you to start rapping?
–Believe it or not, I never used to listen to rap. I only use listen to what my dad did and that was like funk and some classic rock (Though he liked a few rap songs himself). I started rapping in like 2000, just messing around. I would freestyle over the computer’s Sound Recorder and stuff. But when I started listening to Rakim, Nas, and Mobb Deep, I began to get more serious and started writing lyrics. This was like 2003. Since then, many emcees have inspired my writing. When I first heard Black Moon, I went through a whole rebirth and reinvented my style. Same thing happened when I heard Sunz of Man’s album “The Old Testament”. It’s like going through a renaissance. It wasn’t until I got with ill-Noyz that I solidified my style and became comfortable with it.
- How did you link up with the rest of the ill-Noyz Crew?
–In high school, the group started with Syphon X, The Realist (Gabe), and I. I wanted to start a group so I like recruited those two. We were called Potential Felons (or Mic Killas). But that went nowhere and it fell apart. Then, in like 2010, Syphon X, Moppa Flo, and I got together to form a hip-hop band. Syph was on drums, Moppa Flo was on bass, and I was on the mic. Towards the middle of that year the band fell apart, so Moppa Flo and I got with my man L.A.B. and decided to drop the band idea and just work on doing an album. That’s when our first album, Imbibe, was recorded. Then we brought The Realist back the following year and recorded The Odyssey.
- What nonmusical influences seep into your emceeing?
–I am influenced by many things: from God, to current events, to books, to conversations I have with people. One of the things that greatly influenced my so-called political overtones was the 9/11 attacks. And this was around the time I started rapping seriously. I was like 9 and I just remember seeing the footage of people free-falling out of the building. I was like, “What hell is going on?!” Two years later, my brother is telling us that he’s going to Iraq. That was another influence on me. I should probably give a shout-out to the whole Bush Administration because if it wasn’t for me growing up in the time of their lies and dirty work, I wouldn’t be the type of person who seeks the truth in everything. Lastly, of course, I’m greatly influenced by black history, thanks to my mother. She always instilled black pride into us and told us about our history. She used to always take us to the library and I would always get a ton of books. One year when I was in middle school, she told me to read Roots. That book literally changed the course of my life and was the start of molding me into the person that I am today.
- On Golden Age Memoirs, you said that you were done after that. Since then you have released an LP and an EP…What changed your mind?
–I have too many musical ideas. I love rapping and will probably always write lyrics, but one day I will stop releasing music. But I really don’t know when that will be! I’m currently working on like 2 or 3 things and have another 2 projects on hold. The reason I said that I wanted to stop was because I was feeling disheartened about rap. I didn’t want anything to do with something that I thought, at one point and may still be, was a detriment to the black community. But one of my dudes said that we need cats like you to shine a different light on the genre. So I was like “Okay.” I changed my name from the negative Malevolent to the more positive ill-Figure and started recording more serious songs. A lot of my songs are just lyrical boasts because that is what hip-hop is about. But I’m not going to release an entire barrage of insults against another for something that isn’t nonmusical. I keep it hip-hop.
- American Born Black is a very politically charged statement. While most of the music scene in Erie seems politically ambivalent, you took issues head on. What type of feedback have you received from A.B.B?
–The feedback has been mixed. It wasn’t as good as that of Golden Age or Imbibe. Some disliked it because they thought it was racist and hateful while others saw where I was coming from. Many seemed to like how I addressed both sides of the problem. But regardless of feedback, it was an album I felt I had to do. People seem to have lost the valor to speak their minds and call it how they see it. I wanted to put it all out there on that album, though there were ideas that I didn’t get to record. The inspiration for A.B.B. came to me my freshman year in college. The title comes from this graphic novel I read in one class called American Born Chinese. I had Public Enemy’s Greatest Hits CD and I kept bumping Fight the Power. It was literally on replay. Then I thought to myself, “What happened to this?” Nobody seemed to be making bold music like that anymore, so I said I’m going to bring back that old Public Enemy style. So I went and recorded the first track for the album The Revolution. I had other songs that weren’t as hard-hitting. A couple years into recording the album, I cut those songs and decided to make every song a fierce one. I wanted to demonstrate the frustration and anger that people have. Not everything is Kumbaya and We Are the World.
- You have done a good chunk of your own production on your releases. Do you favor emceeing over producing or vice versa?
–I like them both. Writing lyrics is definitely easier though, but producing is fun. I always have beats in my head. And I’m a sample junkie, so I’m always looking for them. I was just telling my man L.A.B. about this beat I made that I think is a masterpiece; and I envisioned the whole thing before I even made! People always used the drums from this Sly and the Family Stone song (which some probably know, but I’m going to leave it unnamed for now) but I noticed nobody ever used the main riff in the song. So I combined both, broke out my bass and stacked the bass line, and then added a bunch of other samples to it. It’s real old school like. There are lie 3 Sly Stone samples, 2 James Brown samples, 2 Earth, Wind and Fire samples, the Bar-Kays, Atlantic Starr, plus a couple other samples on that track. Yeah, I’m very proud of it! So I’d say I like producing just as much as emceeing, but I don’t think my productions are as recognized as my lyrics.
- You have been taking your academics very seriously. What are you going to school for and what are your hoping to do when you get done?
–I graduated in May with a Bachelors in Political Science. I’m looking forward to interning on Capitol Hill with hopes of doing legislative work. I’m also studying for the LSATs because I’m thinking of law school, but you never know what the future holds. If a job isn’t dynamic enough, I get fed up with them quickly, so I could be all over the place in the next 5-10 years.
- Give me 3 MCs that make you want to be a better MC?
–Ghostface Killah is definitely number 1. And I did not bite his name! But if I could rap like anybody, it would be him. Supreme Clientele was one of my renaissance albums that I would just study for weeks. Another would be Kanye West. I admire his artistic artistry. We know he has had some dope production, but I think he is a pretty good lyricist also. The third would be Black Thought. The Roots have, I don’t know, how many albums and I have yet to hear a whack verse from the man. That is what I strive for. An honorable mention would be Killah Priest because the jewels that man drops in his rhymes are nearly beyond comprehension!
- What does hip-hop mean to you?
–To me, hip-hop is a Higher Infinite Power Healing Our People. If it doesn’t reach that threshold, it ain’t hip-hop! Hip-hop is a positive and artistic culture. I hate the stain that has been put on it by commercial gangsters and sites like World Star Hip-Hop and even shows like Love and Hip-Hop. None of these have anything to do with the culture itself and they sure aren’t remedial to the people of the culture. It has been hijacked by corporate America though, so what we’re seeing on the surface is not hip-hop. It’s all underground now because only in the underground will you find cats with the integrity to represent the culture to the fullest. Another thing is knowing the history. A lot of cats don’t even know what MC means or who is credited with originating hip-hop music. I want to start my own street trivia show and ask some of these rappers out here easy hip-hip 101 questions like: What does GURU stand for or which crews were the Bridge Wars between? I think I know what the outcome would be.
10. Final words? –Shout out to you, Iggy, for the several opportunities you’ve brought about in the last two years. Peace to all the real hip-hop heads and thanks to everyone that has supported ill-Noyz and I over the years. Peace!