Monday, February 13, 2012

OPENMIC - Full Interview

CONCRETE: Where are you from?
Openmic: I'm from Nashville, Tennessee. I've been here my whole life. My family is from Chicago, but I've been here since I was 2 years old.

CONCRETE: Where did you go to high school?
Openmic: Pearl Cohn.

CONCRETE: What brought your family to Nashville?
Openmic: They came here to work. My dad is a musician. He came down here to follow some opportunities. We had nobody here. My whole family is back in Chicago.

CONCRETE: What kind of music does your dad do?
Openmic: He's a jazz musician.

CONCRETE: Your music has a lot of jazz influence. How did growing up with a father who was a professional jazz musician shape you musically?
Openmic: I didn't grow up on hip-hop. We didn't have hip-hop in my house. It was mostly jazz and gospel. There was not a lot of r&b, not a lot of soul music even. Maybe a little if it was classic like Stevie Wonder or Michael Jackson. It was mostly jazz in the house. So when I first started rapping I had to figure out a way to adapt hip-hop to the music I was already hearing. I didn't have beats. I started rapping when I was 13. I just started freestyling over top of stuff that wasn't really meant to be rapped on. It's a major influence now cause I still do the same thing.

CONCRETE: Did your parents ban hip-hop from the house?
Openmic: Well we were young. We couldn't watch certain TV shows and stuff, basic kids' restrictions. It wasn't so much they were anti- hip-hop. Definitely a Christian based household, major religious background. It was more like, 'you're too young to listen to this right now.' Hip-hop had a more negative stigma then to my parents than it does now.

CONCRETE: You started rapping at age 13. When did you start recording your music?
Openmic: I started recording when I was 17. That was in the closet of my sister's close friend's apartment. (laughs) We just started cranking out songs. I started sounding like Rocafella, like Jay-Z or Cam'ron. Those were my biggest influences at the time. But people just respected the fact that I could go of the top of my head. When I started writing things down I didn't know how to do that. So I just adapted it to other people I heard before. But my freestyle is where I really got my own sound from.

CONCRETE: With freestyling, how and where did you showcase that ability? Battles, cyphers?
Openmic: Everything man. In high school I almost got suspended for rapping in the cafeteria. (laughs) The principle came up to our table and was like, "If y'all say one more rap I'm kicking y'all out." When I was 13 I started rapping on the back of the MTA bus. I want to say it was the 3 West End bus. I started rapping there going home and to school. It was battles, kind of. But I was younger than everybody else. So if I said the slightest, half-way decent thing it was way ahead cause I was so young. But then I started getting good at it, and I started battling at school. But it didn't last long because people didn't want to battle me cause it would have been an automatic loss. (laughs) I didn't really stick with it either. That's not my strong suit at all. Nashville's not really a battle rap city. There's really no route for that. (We would) battle, cyphers, making up songs. When we had a substitute teacher, we weren't trying to hear what they trying to say, so we'd sit in the back of the class and rap. Just stuff like that all the way through school.

CONCRETE: What recorded, completed projects have you done to this point?
Openmic: The first one that we actually did and really tried to create a tape with was A Different World. I put that out Freshman year of college, I'm a senior now. After that we put out For The Rebels which was 2011. We just released Molotov last November, and it's done real well. Three under belt now. The fourth is on the way.


CONCRETE: How do you describe your style?
Openmic: It's consciously fresh. If I had to use a term, consciously fresh. It's self inspired. Do you ever talk to yourself when no one is around. Sometimes you even catch yourself talking out loud. My music is the rhythmic form of that. A lot of the things I touch on are just random streams of thought that connect to create an overall feeling rather than something more strategic. It's not the more common place that you find in rap like, four bar - four bar - four bar format. It can go super out-of-space and then come super down-to-earth. Consciously fresh, approaching music with something to say, having a story to tell, an emotion to relay, or just going through a situation and getting those emotions out. At the same time you have your mass appeal music. You may have a catchy punch line, catchy hooks, things that many people can relate to at the same time. I like fashion a lot too, so your going to hear a lot about fashion and the way I dress.

CONCRETE: We loved the song Rock-n-Roll that ripped straight through with no hook. Are people taken back by that or are they feeling that?
Openmic: Now people are starting to get it. With songs that I do like that, you either get it or you don't. Then maybe two years from now you'll get it or may not. It's an acquired taste so to speak. People have been getting more lately, cause I've been doing it so much. People are now saying, "He's dope. He's a new type of thing, another level." They'll really listen and really start to hear it. We did a song just for the internet called "Run and Hide" and it's probably one of my most abstract paintings musically. It's done better than any individual song we've put out on the internet. People are like, "Wow. This is one of the most amazing verses we've heard especially from an underground artist." I think people are really starting to gravitate towards it inside Nashville and outside as well. It's a blessing.

CONCRETE: Last summer you stayed in New York. What did you do up there?
Openmic: I had an internship with 10 Deep. It was crazy. I was out there for an internship, but I was out there for rap as well. I've been in Nashville my whole life. Just being in New York is crazy. Being out there, the whole energy, the way there's no trees and grass unless you go to a park or something. (laughs) It's like a micro-chip. It took my game to a whole other level. It's how the grind works. Everybody in New York is busy. People just walk faster in New York. So that experience within itself was great. Being at 10 Deep really advanced me on an artistic level even though I was there for marketing reasons not design. I don't do fashion design yet. But being out there just gave me so much inspiration. Being able to talk to the owner over lunch. Eating a grilled cheese sandwich and this man is the owner of 10 Deep. Seeing his sketches and ideas and the other designers as well, Kareem and all of them. There designs were really dope. I saw them when they were on little scraps of paper and now I'm wearing them. Just to see that kind of thing happen gives me so much inspiration. It's like seeing a dream come to reality. More than anything I just took away the whole culture of New York and that element of creating what you see in your mind.

CONCRETE: On your project Molotov you worked with Ducko McFli. How did you guys link to put that project together?
Openmic: This wasn't supposed to be. Molotov, originally from that relationship wasn't supposed Molotov. It wasn't supposed to be Mic and Ducko. It was supposed to be me looking for some beats. (laughs) Ducko wouldn't e-mail me any beats. He was like, "Just come to the house. Come to the house." So I was like, "Aight." I was basically being stubborn like, "No you're going to e-mail me beats." And he's say, "Come to the house." That goes on for a minute, and I'm like, "OK we'll get up eventually." Finally I go to his house and listen some beats, and I'm like, "Whoa." It was some of the most off-the-wall beats. Ducko is extremely talented. At that moment he gave me a CD with 8 beats on it. I took those beats home for maybe two days or so, and I had songs ready to go for like 6 of them. I came back to lay them down and did all 6 in like an hour or two. He was like, "Yo, we should do a whole tape." And I was feeling so good about the music at that point I was like "Let's do it." At that moment once we finished the last song, it was like, "OK let's start making some more beats. Let's go ahead and knock it out." Cause I was only going to be there for so many more days. I was fixing to go out of town. The same session I brought him what I had back for those songs, the verses back, that was the day we decided, 'Yeah we're going to do tape.'


CONCRETE: What's the overall feel of Molotov?
Openmic: It's all explosive. Molotov went places I couldn't go on For the Rebels musically. It's because I wasn't in the situation where I was working with any producers at all. For the Rebels has 2 beats from people that I actually know. Everything else I found, random songs. I set it up like this if For the Rebels was the protest so to speak. You have the voice speaking up like, 'Yo we're tired of this.' Molotov is, 'We're taking it past the protest. They're not listening, so we're going to throw a molotov cocktail and blow up the building.'

CONCRETE: Are you working on the next project?
Openmic: Yeah. We're working on For the Rebels 2. For the Rebels 2 is like Molotov is the winning of the war or rebellion. For the Rebels 2 is once you burn down the White House the establishment or system, you start to rebuild it. How do you rebuild it without putting those same things that we hated so much in the beginning, without the ideas growing back when you rebuild the building. It's kind of like from the inside out. We started from the outside. We tore down the inside. Now we're rebuilding the inside. We're trying to make sure we don't become the same thing we hated in the first place.

CONCRETE: You use a lot of rebellion themes in your music, titles, artwork. What's the underlying message behind it? It seems to coincide with whole Occupy protests.
Openmic: I still don't know how I feel about the whole occupy movement as a whole. I feel like it's necessary. I feel like the voice is relevant. I feel like the people need to speak up and say some things. But some of their approaches and the actions behind it I can't really get behind. I feel like it's definitely necessary. But my music has nothing to do with that. And honestly, I know about politics to a certain extent, but I'm not a politician. I don't want to be a Senator. I'm not claiming to be the new voice of the people. I'm not Lupe Fiasco. The only time you can do something that's actually different is when you're completely yourself. The rebellion is about non conformity more than anything. It's about you can be a rebel and look like anybody else. You can be a rebel and have some of the same ideas as other people. But at the end of the day you know within you, deep down, who you are at the core of your existence who you are and you follow that to a fault regardless of what anybody says. No matter what if you know within you for a fact that this is who I am and you embrace that, that's what the rebellion really is. Somewhere when you go from deep down to the surface sometimes we lose what that is. It's a lot of self reflection, being consistent with who you are. Who you are as a man or a woman. That's what my message is.

CONCRETE: What are some of the good things that Molotov has done since you dropped that?
Openmic: People are saying that Molotov is better than For the Rebels. We've been sitting on Molotv for so long that I'm tired of it. Well I can't say I'm tired of hearing it, but it's not new anymore to me. It's not likea new CD that you pop in. We've been had this. But people out here are like, "Yo! This is dope." It's already done more numbers and downloads and views and stuff in one week than For the Rebels did in 5 months. So I'm like, 'Wow. People are really feeling this music.' So it's real positive. More blogs are picking it up, more websites. It's getting more attention around the country rather than just inside Nashville. We're just fortunate.Me and Ducko are going to be doing more work. (laughs) People like it, and we like it, so we're going to keep doing it. I look forward to it.

CONCRETE: Do you think you get the credit you deserve yet for your music?
Openmic: I work really hard. I study music. I study everything from lyricism to time changes to the iconography of like A Tribe Called Quest and what Wu-Tang did for the culture, everything. I really feel like a lot of people in hip-hop period, underground, commercial, whatever, aren't doing the types of things that I'm doing with the people around me. It's not just me. From the videos to the graphic design to the pictures we put out, I don't think people are really in tune with it. Once we find the middle ground the level of exposure is going to be really crazy. Plus, I want to be one of the greatest rappers that ever lived. I'm just going to keep working extremely hard. I encourage everyone that's in the Nashville underground culture we have that's exploding right now to continue to go extremely hard. Cause being in New York, these guys ain't no better than us. I could have brought 3 artists from Nashville with me to New York and just murdered every show that I went to. So everybody man keep going. Keep going crazy (laughs).

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