Philadelphia emcee Has-Lo speaks about his debut album, and the remix treatment he was afforded by J-Zone, Exile and Apollo Brown.
Has-Lo brings forth a sound atypical of his native state Philadelphia but this should not be measured to him as a disadvantage or a weakness. His vivid lyrics lend themselves to listeners as a way for them to connect with his music on a level that’s comparable to the likes of J. Cole meets Royce Da 5’9. When considering where he’s from Has-Lo’s musical individuality may catch unsuspecting ears a little off guard when taking him in for the first time but most will find he’s definitely worth the listen many times after.
Although Has-Lo hasn’t quite become a household name in the mainstream world, he has caught the attention of many new fans and key people in the industry since the official release of his debut project In Case I Don’t Make It back in March of this year. Shortly after the release he landed a spot in the coveted "Chairman’s Choice" in XXL’s April issue. Also in April Has-Lo’s video for his track “Untitled #2” premiered, was well received and was featured right here on HipHopDX and thus it seemed appropriate for his own DXnext feature with the pending release of his second album this just around the corner.
A Corny Song Becomes a Lasting Name: “My middle name is Hasan, H-A-S-A-N, so that’s where you get the Has part from. Then back in the day I had this corny song called ‘Love’ but it was an acronym ‘Living Off Vintage Emcees’ and just playin’ around with it eventually it was Has-Lo. At first it was Has-Love and then it was like just Has-Lo and it sounded right and it kinda stuck and I’ve been usin’ it ever since.”
In Philadelphia: “I’m straight out of Philadelphia, born and raised here. I guess it’s a good thing to me that I don’t sound like everyone else here in Philly. To tell you the truth I’m not really a big part of the scene. I’m not hatin’ on anybody, I support the rappers out here that I dig.”
Reminiscing & How it All Began: “For me, my mom bought me a couple of 12" [records] and a couple of cassette tapes and that was like my music. I grew up listening to a lot of the great music from times before me, but hip hop was something that was current and was unfolding when I was a kid and it became my thing. I’m listenin’ to LL Cool J and I’m listenin’ to MC Lyte and my favorite tapes, I’m stealin’ tapes from my cousin, me and my friends on my block are sitting on our steps with radios and he’s bringing tapes from his brother’s room and I got tapes from my cousin so we were just immersing ourselves in Hip Hop. Eventually for me it turned into, ‘Well maybe I could do it,’ so I started tryin’ to write rhymes and liked it. I started tryin’ to do it more and felt like it was decent enough to keep tryin’ and here I am. Some people may remember me from the MTVu Best Music on Campus contest which was in ’07 and I was in the Top 5 in that.”
A Secret Album: “I’m an emcee and I’m also a producer. The Fine Line instrumental album that I was just doin’ way back a little bit before the internet music boom for me and my friends and the people around me to listen to. I have it, it’s just sittin’ here but I’ve never put it out. I might release it at some point but I don’t know; you’re probably more likely to hear things off of it than to hear it in its entirety.”
Prior Releases: “My debut, In Case I Don’t Make It, came out on Mello Music Group this past March. I also had two EPs that did pretty well for me one was called ‘Fuck Has Day’ and the other was called ‘Small Metal Objects.’ I also did a remix project called ‘You Can Live Thru Anything if Magic Made It.’ Those projects are still out there actually, you can get them on Bandcamp or just Google it.”
Right Now – In This Moment: “Right now it’s all about Conversation B which is my next project [which came] out November 15th. It’s coming out digitally, on CD, we have a nice DigiPak with a lot of fly art on it and It’s comin’ out on vinyl so I’m really excited about that. I haven’t had vinyl before so I’m crazy excited about it. Not only is Conversation B a way to prolong the life of In Case I Don’t Make It in a time when music is disposable, it’s also a way for people who couldn’t get into In Case I Don’t Make It to digest it; it’s in a different form now, it’s a different pill and it’s a lot lighter. We worked so hard on Conversation B and I don’t want people to write it off as, ‘Ah well you know it’s this lil’ remix thing…this piddle little-remix thing.’ That’s why it’s kinda like, ‘Hey! This is a re-envisioning!’ You might find something on there that’s re-recorded, you might find something on there where the words are slightly different but a lot of work went into it to give it a different feel and it’s kinda cool. I also have a lot of really good producers on it that helped me transaction. Exile is on there, J-Zone is on there, IMakeMadBeats is on there, Kev Brown is on there, Audible Doctor is on there, I also have Paten Locke on there, Eric Lau who’s from the UK and I have a couple of lesser known people like Small Professor and Black Y?Arcka. These people took what I did and spun it a different way.”
Favorite Track: “I’ll pick ‘One for Nana’ as my favorite just because it’s about my grandmother and I did it before she passed away. It’s just a very personal song, it explains a lot in kind of a short time and it’s kinda like my dedication to her and it’s just really dear to me.”
What Comes Next: “After November 15th I’m going to begin my first official instrumental album. I also have an album comin’ out with one of my label mates… I don’t know if I’m supposed to say it yet but I’m gonna say it,... Apollo Brown is one of my label mates and he’s a great producer, we have an album we’re workin’ on together; he’s producin’, I’m rhymin.’”
Personal Top 3: “Nas is one of my top three; Nas was so lyrical that he changed my idea of how I could express myself. Mos Def; Mos Def taught me how to expand what was ok to rhyme about. The third probably would be, and this is no secret either, but I’d say Wu-Tang [Clan] as a whole, but what’s a why for those guys? I don’t even feel they need a why!”
“When Kevin Nottingham was first starting up HipNott Records he extended the invitation to me, ‘If you ever wanna put something out let me know and we’ll talk about it.’ I hit him up and he had a lot of things on his plate and so we didn’t end up puttin’ anything out. I kinda just left and there was no hard feelings or anything on my part.”
The Label – Mellow Music Group: “I met Michael Tolle from Mello Music Group (MMG) and he loved In Case I Don’t Make It and it just made a lot of sense for me to work with MMG. It’s goin’ really well. My deal with them is really interesting in that I’m still free to do business with other places. They’re just really free about the way they do things and there’s no pressure on you to create a certain kind of way. It’s kinda like if they’re into somethin’ that you’re doin’ they let you do that and get it to the public as unfiltered as they can and that’s kinda unique. It’s also good because they want to see me succeed and that means if tomorrow if somebody from Def Jam or Universal [Records] or somebody from wherever was like, ‘Yo, I heard your song and I wanna do a world tour with you,’ or ‘I wanna put a record out,’ it’s not like I can’t or like I’m handcuffed so it’s beautiful and it heightens my sense of loyalty to them.”
Appearance in XXL "Chairman’s Choice": “I would say being in the XXL 'Chairman’s Choice' came from takin’ chances with my music. You take chances and you do somethin’ different and somebody eventually notices, in this case it happened to be XXL. A lot of this industry is perception, you could have the most professional sounding album and be the illest producer but if I just walk up and try to hand you my CD when you standin’ in line at a show you don’t look at me as a professional recording artist, you look at me as a scrub tryin’ to get on. When you’re in things like XXL someone can go, ‘Oh, I read "Chairman’s Choice" every month, I respect what Chairman Mao says,’ and my album is in it, it changes your whole perception of who Has-Lo is. Now, I look like a professional recording artist even though music is the same quality that I’ve been striving for since my first EP. I went to buy it in the store; I looked at it and read it in the store. I haven’t framed it yet but I’m going to frame it.”
Something To See…Or Hear: “I would like to see Royce Da 5’9 and DJ Premier do a full album together! Yeah!”