Underground Report (Eternia & Mazzi)
In New York by way of Toronto, we are proud to showcase an artist who has been working overtime to get the buzz running in the streets, on the blogs, and the freshly famous vlogs. You may have caught glimpses of Eternia in her Road to Release video clips where she and her producer MoSS (DJ Premiers production partner) hit the streets to capture Hip Hop in its essence and their journey through it. The clips showcase anything and everything, from Preemo to safe sex workshops, from the recent trip to Mexico to Pharoahe Monch in Brooklyn. The blogs are a clever marketing tool for their upcoming album, At Last, as Eternia and MoSS set out on an altogether different type of journey: label shopping. She is one of the more energetic acts in Hip Hop today, and is equally wholesome: a performer, a rapper, a community worker, and activist. HipHopDX sits down with the lady that hails from Canadas capital Ottawa to discuss Road to Release, women in Hip Hop, and lessons learned for dope live performances emcees, pay attention.
HipHopDX: Youre currently label shopping for At Last. Tell us a bit about the album.
Eternia: At Last is our baby. It's like the child MoSS and I created together. [Laughs] We went into this project in 2007 with only one goal in mind: to make music that reminds us of why we love Hip Hop - especially when we're sick of the biz and ready to quit. And that's exactly what we did. We made a boom-bap, sample-based, east coast, sonically consistent, traditional Rap album. If you love one song, you'll love em all. And if you hate the album...guaranteed we didn't make it for you anyways. There's enough room in Hip Hop for personal taste.
DX: Absolutely. Tell us about the Road to Release video clips that are circulating around Hip Hop blog sites.
Eternia: I finished At Last with MoSS this past June. At that point we were like, "We have to shop this project, but we don't just wanna be like sitting ducks, waiting for a deal to fall in our laps." We knew we had an uphill battle, and increasing our buzz would only help the cause. I'll be dead honest: I had never visited a single video blog site before June; I really had no idea about that whole world. I definitely don't mind being in front of the camera, and I went to school for broadcast journalism so editing is a breeze. Its a lot of work that Sav One and I do weekly...but I enjoy it - except the emails, my inbox is insanity now. [Laughs]
DX: On Nowhere No More, featuring Torae, Ms. Davis and 9th Wonder, you said "I aint never play sports, and thats the wrong way to enter this game. Today, where do you stand with that statement?
Eternia: The Rap biz is so competitive, that in the end you feel like youre racing against your own peoples to the finish line. And that's why I compare the industry to a sport; and since I' dont play sports, I'm wondering whether I'm even built for the game. I do not have a competitive bone in my body, really. That's why I never really battled cats, I'm not motivated to prove who's "better", I don't care. Don't get me wrong, I can get feisty on record. But that's a rare mood I'll get in, so I'll capitalize off that and write. I did that on this new joint "It's Funny" with Joell Ortiz [click to read]. But, I still feel the same way I did when I wrote that line. I wish Hip Hop could make room for different types of perspectives, as much as it does beef and rah-rah. I have zero energy for that.
DX: You play with a group of musicians. Is this for live shows only or do you plan on replicating the band vibe on the album?
Eternia: I was always a one-woman show. This summer, it just kind of fell into place in a very organic way with my good friend and beatboxer Chesney Snow, DJ Boo from the Juggaknots, and bassist Colin Dean. I had rocked out separately with both Boo and Ches, and I wanted to do this "unplugged" seamless sort of set where we re-played popular hits and tracks off At Last, and I knew I couldn't do that without replicating baselines live. So I asked Chesney if he knew a bassist and the rest is history. It feels really good, and really natural. That's all that I care about. I don't have plans to replicate this stage show on an album, but you may have just given me a new idea. [Laughs]
DX: While on the live show topic, yours are potent with energy. Grammy Award-winner, Maya Azuceana joined you on stage earlier this month. How do you prepare for live performances, and where do you want to take the audience?
Eternia: I think Ive been mentored well by a few people when it comes to my live shows. Collizhun of Nefarius taught me a lot about being high energy and animated on stage. Freestyle of the Arsonists taught me the value of a highly organized and rehearsed set. It was Wordsworth that told me I didn't need no hype man unless that hype man is just as good - if not better - than me. It was Apathy [click to read] that taught me to annunciate my words, so that now everything I say comes from the diaphragm and slices through the crowd. It was One.Be.Lo who taught me how to nurture connections with fans before and after the show and never underestimate what role someone can play in your career in the future. I've learned from a lot of people. The most important thing for me on show day is to be in a happy and relaxed headspace. My emotional state is really fragile on show day, 'cause I'm preparing to give a room full of people myself - in a very vulnerable way. I just want my audience to walk away feeling like they connected with Silk Kaya in a very personal way. Goose bumpsI want elevated heart beats and lots of goose bumps.
DX: Youre a Canadian woman in a male-dominated mainly US industry. How does each influence your opportunities, your drive and your marketing vision?
Eternia: Ill be real with you - there is no marketing vision; definitely no pre-meditated image. What you see is me: Silk Kaya and Eternia are one and the same. But I can definitely tell you those factors affect opportunities. I mean cats will come right out in label meetings, record pool meetings, whatever and say, I dont feel female rappers, even before they hear anything. If thats not influencing opportunities, I dont know what is. But I dont mind the close-mindedness; it just makes it all the more fun when I tear their minds wide open.
DX: Speaking of women in Hip Hop why is there an obvious lack?
Eternia: Man! I was just listening to Shade 45 for the first time in my life. So the cat on the air was playing old Lil Kim and Eve [click to read] records, screaming R.I.P. to female emcees! Where you at? I was at a loss for words; disgusted mostly. I understand that commercial radio deejays may not know about unsigned or indie female emcees, but to assume because you havent been serviced a record that they dont exist pure self-centered ignorance. Why dont you do your homework before you yell on air? If they were real broadcast radio journalists, theyd be fired for inaccurate misinformation. Then I typed female emcee into Google. The first page that came up had a playlist with over 25 dope female rappers. Is it that hard to do your homework? Cats that ask where are all the female emcees? are real ignorant to me. Especially industry cats like promoters, deejays, A&R who are obviously not doing their jobs.
The answer to your question - people dont see us. Or invest. Or take a risk. Or support. Or put us out. We are here - and I dont mean just me. Look up Invincible, look up Tiye Phoenix, look up Isis, look up Jean Grae [click to read] you already know. Look up Psalm One, look up Masia One, look up The Anomalies
DX: Excellent points. Ive seen you at live shows, and your head is always bobbing while others perform. You rap along, with a smile and enthusiasm. Its fair to say that you openly enjoy Hip Hop without acting above other artists: a fan. Who are some of your favorite artists?
Eternia: [Laughs] Im definitely a fan. I view everyone on the planet as equal, I dont really idolize any rapper above me and I dont feel comfortable when people do that to me. I have many favorites Ras Kass [click to read], Reef the Lost Cauze [click to read]; I really feel Nickelus F from Virginia; been listening to a lot of Royce [Da 5'9"] lately - his flow makes me want to write; I love that Blu & Exile album [Below The Heavens] [click to read] from a couple years ago; Im actually a big T.I. [click to read] fan; Pharoahe Monch always been a Great to me. I was always inspired by Big Puns flow - or you can say Shabazz The Disciples flow, or Kool G Raps [click to read]. Lauryn [Hill] is my all time favorite female emcee - if I have to go there. And of course my homie Tona from Toronto really holds it down dont sleep on him.
DX: Speaking of Toronto, you move back and forth from there to New York. What do you enjoy best about each city?
Eternia: Wow! Good question. I unequivocally love Toronto more than New York City. Most people ask, Why you in New York City then? Its where I need to be in order to grow in my field; personally and professionally. But if I was to quit rappin tomorrow, Id definitely move back to T.O. without a second thought. I love the quality of people in Toronto. We are a world-class city, and most people that live there dont know what they got till its gone. In New York City Ive learned to love the energy and pace of the city itself; the movement. I love being in a whip on the BQE or West Side Highway or FDR late at night when theres nobody on the road, and just take in the city. Thats when New York City is magical. Thats when Im like, I love this city.
DX: Tell us briefly about your youth work.
Eternia: Ive worked with a couple of non-profits over the years, engaging kids with my music on critical issues. Ive been a part of the 411 Initiative for Change the longest. We tour schools across Canada and put on a really entertaining show about aids awareness and girls rights. Its taught me a lot. The kids teach me more than I teach them. They ask the most challenging questions. Have you ever been sexually assaulted? How did sexism start? I think I could easily quit rappin tomorrow. But I dont think I could quit the youth work I do.
DX: You recently went to Mexico for a show?
Eternia: I was touched by God in Mexico City. It was one of the top ten experiences of my life. Ive been to Mexico before, but this was the first time I rocked a Hip Hop show out there. I was shown the country by one of its own sons: Bocafloja. He was the reason why I was there; I performed at his album release party, which had a lineup wrapped around the block at like 2 p.m. I really cant explain in words the vibe of that trip. I just wish Hip Hop fans in North America were like these cats.
He is creatively capturing Hip Hop in the omnipotent streets of New York through the Walking Blog, weekly video clips that showcase the whos, whats and whens of the industry, including live shows, live interviews, rappers, producers, deejays, and music insiders. The Walking Blog has been hitting Hip Hops internets religiously for a year, as it approached its final installment earlier this month. Perhaps there is no one better than Mazzi from S.O.U.L. Purpose to run such an ambitious task to which dedication is essential and he defines the grind. He released The Construction in May of last year, and is now gearing up for a street album, The Inspection, which follows the first, City Limits (March 2008) in its quest to hit the streets and Internet for a free download. HipHopDX caught up with the rather comedic Mayor of New York to discuss The Inspection, his recent journey to the Holy Land, and Hip Hops infamously degrading colloquial the pause.
HipHopDX: You explained this on City Limits, but for those unfamiliar, what is the S.O.U.L. Purpose collective, to which your name is attached?
Mazzi: Sense of Understanding Life's Purpose is the biggest crew in Hip Hop for the simple fact that if you helped me in any way, you are automatically part of the group. For example, if you came to my show, purchased my music, lent me a dollar, gave me a ride, watched any of my videos, played any of my songs - you are automatically part of the S.O.U.L. Purpose collective.
DX: You also speak on the importance of synergy on City Limits. Why do you find synergy significant in the Hip Hop industry?
Mazzi: Synergy is the key to getting anything done. But as far as the indie Hip Hop scene goes, it is vital. We are always the self-contained under dogs. We stand on our own two feet and progress. To work together and cooperate is necessary. Aside from being talented and a super grinder, synergy has kept me alive for many years as an artist. I truly look at this shit as a movement. If I can help any body that's in the trenches with me, I will gladly do it. We are all in parallel struggles.
DX: Does chemistry overpower synergy?
Mazzi: Chemistry leads to synergy. No chemistry, no synergy.
DX: What artists do you have chemistry with?
Mazzi: I've had chemistry with several artists throughout the years. Murs [click to read], Wordsworth [click to read], Ali Baba Abnormal, Paze, Immortal Technique [click to read], C-Rayz Walz [click to read], Scram Jones, P.H., The Juggaknots
DX: Tell us about The Inspection.
Mazzi: Thats the next street album. Then God willing, it will be Final Touches pause - The Building, and The House That James Built. The release date is TBA but I would like a November release. I actually have a digital label through The Orchard with my partner Azar called Pocket Size Pimp, and I plan to release the music through High Water Music as well. The Construction was physically distributed through Red Line Distribution under my own label Devoon Edutainment. Soon I might have a whole new approach towards releasing music: an approach which allows all my music to be free. In turn, I would concentrate more on strategic marketing, branding, endorsements, sponsorshipsImplicating the charity aspect with my releases shall take place too. Right now I'm working on formulating it into a science that'll work for S.O.U.L. Purpose...
DX: And speaking of marketing, what is your role at Def Jam?
Mazzi: I do national mixshow radio and club promotions. I basically deal with deejays all around the U.S. I get them the newest exclusives and I am on the frontline of breaking records.
DX: You're also involved in other aspects of Hip Hop culture, including dance and media. Were you ever torn between choosing one form of art over others?
Mazzi: I've never even been close to torn! I grew up in a complete Hip Hop environment. I started dancing in clubs and party hopping with a dance crew as a youngster. Then I started doing live shows, music videos and workshops. At the same time, I was ciphering, recording, doing shows, and putting records out. And being that I had to learn to be a self sufficient artist, I dove into club promotions, hosting and throwing live shows, parties, radio shows, new media, and viral exposure. In my opinion, theyre all connected.
DX: While on the subject of media, introduce your Walking Blog. What is your intention with the clips?
Mazzi: The fact that I was always in these streets and the nightlife scene led to me formulating the Walking Blog. It is a video summary of things and events that go on in the New York Hip Hop scene. Basically, I filmed everywhere I went and everybody I ran into. My encounters with rappers, actors, deejays, promoters, industry people, friends - all was documented. And on top of all that, I spit a 16 bar verse over the video content, explaining what went down during the week. I drop a new Walking Blog every Monday, talking about the prior week. A weekly "Rap Up" so to speak. This way, the viewer is informed on parties and events they might have missed - especially if they're not in New York. It also promotes my brand.
DX: Tell us about your recent trip to Palestine and Egypt.
Mazzi: Egypt was much more impoverished than I expected. It was a heavy police state as well. Palestine was a total cluster fuck. Palestinians are treated like disposable cattle. Arabs are second-rate citizens who are slowly ethnically cleansed. Outright racism is clearly apparent and the Israeli government has them under lock and key in open air prisons also known as the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Gaza is a straight rubble infested war zone. I'm doing a documentary on the whole experience and how Hip Hop ties into it all. It's going to be a jump start to the Peace in the Middle East Project, which is a Jewish-Muslim collaborative album. All proceeds from album sales will go to charities that educate the youth on both sides of the fence. I also went to Israel and met many people. There were a lot of hard working, decent individuals I encountered. I learned that for the most part, it's a political and governmental issue. I met great people on both ends.
DX: There lies a political foundation with the Peace in the Middle East Project. What are your objectives for the album?
Mazzi: Its a Muslim and Jewish collaborative album. Artists from both sides will be working on tracks together to bring peace, unity, conversation, and understanding through Hip Hop. Many have offered their services and so far it looks promising. All proceeds from record sales will go a charity that will benefit and educate both Jewish and Muslim youth. I'm putting together a documentary from my recent travels to the Middle East to jumpstart the whole project...
DX: Why is it important for you to be involved humanitarian endeavors?
Mazzi: If I don't give back every chance I get, I feel incomplete as an artist. Sharing my art with as many people as possible - especially those less fortunate than myself - is the best reward I can have. If I can bring joy to a young kid in a refugee camp who can't afford shoes or a decent meal, that means more than any music award. I'm not rich so this is my way of providing happiness and a form of escapism for them. In addition, raising money through charity events, shows, and album sales is how I give back. It's a huge part of who I am as an emcee.
DX: The topic of homophobia in Hip Hop has been resurrected with the no homo and pause colloquial. You made several references to homophobia in your track/video diss toward Mic Terror last year. Why is an attack on homosexuality such a potent punch against other male rappers?
Mazzi: Hip Hop is a homophobic culture. My gay references towards Mic Terror during the diss came with some inside jokes. I personally could care less if somebody's gay. Just don't push your way of life on me. Now as far as "pause" goes, that's been around since the early '90s. It started in Harlem and was made famous on the streets by the CM (Constipated Monkeys) Mob. It was really brought to the forefront when the members made it norm on their world famous New York-based radio show on 89.9 FM. In reality, it began as a funny juvenile game. Originally, the game went like this: Everything is taken literally so if you're about to say something remotely "gay" or just said something remotely "gay," you must immediately say "pause." If you don't, you will be scolded with somebody yelling "Ayo!" You must avoid getting hit with an "Ayo!" The whole point of "pause" is to block the "Ayo!" So that's the premise of the game - and that's all it was and is. The purists of "Ayo!" such as myself simply look at it as a humorous juvenile game. Its straight comedy and we mean no harm by it. Sucio Smash, Timm See, Mr. Len and myself took over the Stretch & Bobbito Show [click to read] for about six years - now called Squeeze Radio and we carry on the "pause" tradition.
DX: Thats the most plausible explanation of the origins of pause Ive heard so far. What has been your most rewarding experience in Hip Hop?
Mazzi: My trips to the Middle East. Doing shows for those kids and conducting Hip Hop workshops was the best also, when people from different walks of life come up to me and tell me that my music has changed their lives or got them through hard times - those are my ultimate highs.
DX: You're constantly on the move - recording, performing, taping, Def Jam, dancing, and most recently, humanitarian work. What does Mazzi down time consist of?
Mazzi: Playing basketball; exercising; watching TV or a movie. And sleep!