Tash: Catastrophe To Triumph

posted July 20, 2009 12:00:00 AM CDT | 8 comments

The worth of a man isnt solely in what he shows you on stage. In Rap, one often learns that the man behind the mic is more than just the rhymes he delivers or the songs he releases. Theres an image that fans adore and a reality that rappers live. Even while keeping it as authentic as possible, fans and critics can sometimes blur the lines between the two. With close to 20 years in the game, Tash has seen a lot of judgement and doubt but hes back and in control. With a new album, Control Freek out on Amalgam Digital, hes back with more than just what made him a fan favorite in the '90s.

Back then, Tash made a name for himself as the comedic rhymer with a flow like the Pacific as he fueled the west with underground hits and cult classics along with his Alkaholiks family. Its been about a decade since his last solo release and hes had some time to think about Rap, life and more. In an exclusive interview with HipHopDX, Tash opened up in rare form, about his childhood, dealing with abuse in his home and a past hed rather not discuss often. Speaking on topics he usually avoids and sharing experiences that were viewed as too graphic for his album, he is candid about his life with us. During this interview, Catashtrophe also spoke on the inspiration given to him by mentors King Tee and Ice-T and why he almost gave up rapping. All of this is done while shedding light on what made him the man hes become and how the young boy with a chaotic childhood became triumphant in the end.

HipHopDX: After listening to your new album and hearing you speak-it seems like you really want to have fun with Control Freek. What made you decide to go on a deliberate fun path?
I really enjoy being put in a position where I say what I want to. I dont say nothing I really dont do. You know the old expression, if you enjoy what youre doing, its really not work. I just really enjoy Hip Hop and enjoy my lane. Everybody has their own lane. I enjoy mine and I enjoy being a credible artist in music.

DX: Speaking of your love of Rap, there were a lot of questions about your career for some time. Its been a decade since you released Rap Life. Wed hear verses here or there, but never got another album until now. What happened in those days?
I kind of laid off of trying to [do rap]. I was opening companies and buying houses, flipping them and that was cool and everything but I forgot that Im Tash The Rapper. Me and E-Swift [click to read], were cut from the same cloth. Thats my cousin. We got tired of trying to appease people that judge you so critically. Just turn the microphone on and turn the beat on, let the deejay spin the record and well have fun with the music! I wasnt having fun for a long time. It was no fun for a minute, man. It was like I didnt want to rap no more. But, everybody was telling me, Tash, thats what you do! For a minute, it got depressing like "What Ima get out the whole shit?" All you gon do is judge me and other people and say this and that about me. All of these elements werent there when I first started rapping. We were just doing it for the love.

DX: When did it get to the point where it wasnt fun? When did it become depressing?
I think when Steve Rifkind [click to read] sold Loud Records to Sony. It was like getting fired from your job. It was like in 2000 when everything seemed weird. Its 2009 now, so Im looking at everything like if youre true to who you are, then youre going to have fun in this game. But, if you sit there and try to portray somebody you like, everythings going to get fucked up.

DX: Youve previously stated that Rap Life wasnt necessarily your greatest work. Was that due to the fact that you werent having as much fun at the time?
Rap Life was fun, but I just love getting down with Tha Alkaholiks. When I branched off and did the solo album, we had already been rocking for years before that. So, when I say it wasnt my greatest work, I dont mean musically. I just mean I didnt have my homies with me. I felt lonely, like on an island. I just didnt feel like...

DX: Like you didnt have support?
Back then, it didnt feel like everybody was supporting me. I did that on my own and I was stranded. I was used to being in the studio with E-Swift, Defari, J-Ro and different people. When I did Rap Life, it didnt feel like that. But, I was hungry, though. I was thirsty right then!

DX: How would you compare that experience to Control Freek?
Its the same thing, except E-Swift is on that. Control Freek [click to read] is like this, man. All I did was freestyle every single rap on that album. I saw Biggie do it. I saw Jay-Z [click to read] do it. I had all these things in my head. I couldnt get the big name producers. The label wasnt fuckin with me. Nobody was fuckin with me. I was just like "Who got a beat? Whoever got a beat, let me just rap to the beat!" The real homies showed up. Del The Funkee Homosapien [click to read], Knoc'turnal. They showed up to the party and I was like, "Man, just play that beat and let me rap on it." The more I started rapping, I started feeling confident again.

DX: So, you freestyled the whole album? It wasnt a compilation of different things youve done in this decade since your last album?
I didnt really freestyle the whole album. I write down notes. If I write down four bars, thatll trigger more bars. I didnt freestyle it off the top of the head. Somebody told me a long time ago that the most important thing in a song is your first two bars and your last two bars. So, I said, "Okay, let me go with that real quick." All the shit in the middle, nobody even catches no more. Nobody gives a shit about it. They call me the punchline rapper and shit like everything I was saying was a punchline. So, I said, let me switch it up a little bit. I dont want to be pin-pointed. There might be a lot of different ways Ima go with my music.

DX: One way that you go on this album is personal. On The Book: Chapter 1, you go incredibly personal. What made you decide to dive more into your childhood with that rhyme?
I said what was on my head at the time. I dont think about it too long. I thought the songs that [we made], everybody knows that same story. So, lets give them a new one about my real life. My real history. Let me tell them all about me. So, I went in on it. I wish people could hear the whole song.

DX: I was wondering why you didnt release the whole song.
Its really my fault, man. I could blame it on the label, but I blame it on myself because I didnt think that people would dig 90 bars of the same shit-90 bars of me spilling my guts.

DX: Yeah. Now, on that intro, you actually talk about getting abused by your step-father as a child.
Yeah, he went to jail for that for child abuse. I dont like to bring it up. I dont like to talk about it because I dont like it, you know?

DX: I was going to ask how you would advise young kids who might be going through a similar situation now.
Just be like this: The whole thing was, I called my grandpa-my mothers father. I told him, "I cant take no more of this." He was a child abuser, you know? So, I would say, just go to somebody and tell them whats happening. I went through it for years and years and years. I got tired of it.

DX: I think a lot of people could get inspired by your story because youve done quite well for yourself. For a lot of people that have lived through that, or are living through that, the outlook is probably bleak. For people to see a success story like yours is probably huge, especially for those who think theres no way out.
I dont want to dwell on it because Im happy right now. Im not really trying to use that for Rap purposes or anything, right? But, I know one thing: How many people do you know that went to a different school every year of their lives? Since kindergarten, every year of their whole school history? In 12 years, I went to more than 12 schools. I went to a different school every single year of my life. Never went to the same school twice. You know how some people go to school and come back and see the same people? I never had that. That might be why I adjust to people. Im a friendly person so Im used to meeting new people. On the microphone, off the microphone, Im just used to being [like that.] I always been a people person. Just me. I just never understood how, out of all the years I went to school, I never went to the same school twice. My mamas coming tomorrow. Ima ask her why I never went to the same school twice. ...The whole thing is like this. To all the people out there, if youre getting child abused, if youre getting slapped up-just go to somebody grown. Let them know whats happening. Thats what I did. It took years to do it, but thats what I did. He went to jail for it. I still cant stand him to this day. How you gon beat up on a little kid? I never in my life could even think about putting hands on a little kid. I never would. Its over now. Thats when I was 12. Im 30-something now.

DX: But, that type of thing stays with you.
Yeah, but I dont like to dwell on it much. I never even talked about it my whole time until this album. If you really hear the whole original song, I went off. They were telling me that it was too graphic. Thats why its not on my album. I just started with [what you hear on the album]. Then, I went into my whole life, you know?

DX: So, what was there that we didnt get to hear on it?
It was just...I just had a wild childhood, man. I didnt...Man, my sister died. I had a helluva lot of [negative] things [happening], man. I dont talk about it but its in my head. Tupac-that was a leader right there. Hell tell you his past and everything. He was proud of it. Im not proud of mine. I did numerous, numerous things that I could [still] be in jail for but I never got caught. I dont want to talk about that [on wax]. I just want to talk about getting busy and having fun with life.

DX: Have you thought about releasing that material?
Im saving them for when I say Im not rapping no more and I really mean it. When I say its my last chapter, Ima let one loose at the end. I already got bars in my head. I dont want to lose what I been doing. I dont want people to get it misconstrued like my mentality is negative. People are so finicky these days. If I say the real, real, real shit-theyre gonna judge you on that. Im not here to be judged! This morning, my wife and I sent $600 to save little kids in Africa. We felt like were privileged so that money can say, "Hey, were with you." Im for a bigger world, a world that isnt negative. I know a gang of wack ass rappers. But, I still tell them theyre dope because Im Rico. Im a positive dude. If I was an asshole, Id tell him "This is wack." My point being, if I can inspire one dude to do something nice for somebody else, hell inspire somebody to do something for somebody else. Itll be like a plague! Positive shit.

DX: When did you decide to take on such a positive outlook?
Tash: I realized along the way that were here for a reason. Some people might misconstrue my reasons but if you hung out with me one day, not 10 minutes in the back of a club, but one day, youll see. Ive been through a life with a lot of turmoil and I still walk around with a smile on my face. I really wanted to do certain things but I think thatll make me just like the people Im mad at. So, lets go with positive Rap but dont lose yourself. Were not trying to save the world, just staying in our lane. You aint gotta let nobody step on your shoes and then turn around and try to shoot them, bust their mouth open or split them with a razor blade. Nah, man. That shit is wack to me. Thats pussy to me. Nah, I been around gangsters, homeboy. Real ass serious, not playing, did-20-years-in-the-penitentiary gangsters! They told me to keep a cool head at all times. Think about the next move or else youll be right here with us.

DX: You also spoke on charity work you do. When did you start doing charity work?
Shout out to my man Anthony Andrews. Hes the founder of everything. Rest in peace to his brother Mark. We always felt like people get the wrong personas, man. They get the wrong impression. They get half of it but they dont get the whole cup. Ive been a humble dude. I never stepped on nobodys toes. I never did things to harm people. The only two things that I really did bad in this world was, um, I sold a little somethin, you know? That was bad. Very bad. And I had to knock some people over the head with sticks and shit. I had to hit a couple people over the head with baseball bats and shit. I wasnt built like that. It made me feel sorry for the person I was hitting. Thats not cool, man. Thats not how I was brought up and raised, you know? Sometimes desperate measures make desperate decisions. Im not going to lie, I had to fuck a lot of people up, man. [Laughs] We all do it sometimes, man. But, you know.

DX: So, what made you decide to stop that and start giving back?
Probably in 98 and 99, I was in a situation where a lot of people wouldnt have the privilege like I have. They wouldnt have the opportunity. Thats all I ever wanted was an opportunity and I got it. I took it and ran with it. Very humble, shy and all that. Still am. Only time Im not shy or humble is when Im on the microphone. When Im on the mic, its different. But, I knew that this doesnt happen to everybody. Theres billions of people in the world so instead of being a hater, I thought "Why not spread the joy?"

DX: Going back to rap, when did you first realize rhyming was your calling?
I realized rap was my calling at an early age. I been brought up in music, like I said in my intro. I always peeped it. I went through the Run-DMC days. I went through the LL Cool J days. I went through the Kool G. Rap [click to read] [era], I went through it. I was like, "Man, Ive got a way with words that I know I can do the same thing." I knew I could do something with it but I never dreamed it would be this big. I never dreamed Id be overseas with it. I never dreamed I would be 17 years in the game. King Tee inspired me a lot, though. King Tee, Deadly Threat, DJ Pooh and Ice-T inspired me in certain ways where I knew I could rap on the microphone with them. I knew it.

DX: You grew up in Ohio, which a lot of people dont know about. How did the move to Los Angeles impact you at the time?
I was excited because I figured Rap music was my calling. Hollywood is Hollywood and Ohio is Ohio. [Laughs] At some point, I made the decision that if I go to L.A., Im tearing off the rear-view mirrors. Im not looking back. I said, "Im going for mine!" And Ive done everything that I have ever wanted to do with Rap. I just got back yesterday from my release party in New York. Before that, I was in Prague with Tony Touch and Xzibit. Before that I was in Slovakia. So, I just think that there was a dream I had in my head and Ive already done that. I did that along time ago.

DX: So, what are the new goals and dreams that you referred to earlier?
Now, I just want to kick back and develop new things. It doesnt have to be Rap music. If somebody has dreams, I want to be the person there to say, "You can do it. If I can do it, you definitely can do it." There wasnt shit for us out here. We were sleeping in cars. We were doing all kinds of shit. I know everybody says that and everything but I dont like to dwell on that shit. King Tee and Ice-T were really the ones to tell me I could rap. They just said, "Keep rappin, Rico. Stay away from the gangbangin', stay away from all the drugs and all the bullshit." They were the ones that molded me into the person I am. So, I give them the credit for letting me know I had something. With positivity, there are no limitations to what we can do. Period.

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