Mr. Lif: Politically Incorrect
Boston-bred emcee Mr. Lif is not just in this rap game for the money; hes one of few artists nowadays who simply does it for the passion. His love of hip hop is whats driven him to stay in this industry, making record after record, garnering well-deserved critical acclaim for each since his break in 2000 with the Enter the Colossus EP on indie label, Def Jux.
Establishing himself as one of the most forward-thinking emcees of his time, Mr. Lif is one underground head you should all be familiar with. Not afraid to broach subject matters others fear to touch, Mr. Lif is set apart from the rest by his unique lyricism and his unconventional looks an African American man with spectacles, five inch thick dreadlocks and no bling in sight is not the image most would conjure when thinking of the face of hip hop.
However, for rap fans tired of the 50 Cents of this world, Mr. Lif provides a refreshing and interesting take on the world and the troubles facing it, addressing issues outside of the typical girls, money and guns attitude that has been widely adopted by todays rappers. With his sophomore LP, Mo Mega, Lif takes hip hop to a higher level, showing an intelligence and maturity that others can only learn from.
Tell us about your new album, Mo Mega
It was a record that I wanted to do a long time ago, but it took four years to get to this point. My most recent album was in 2002, so to me this album kinda sounds like the times were living in. I guess if you look to music videos right now, theres all these happy, shiny images being portrayed, you know, people look like theyre wealthy, but whats really going on for us in the US, especially with the government just running amuck, just doing things that a bunch of people dont agree with, and theres a lot of disparity between middle America and conservative suburban America and its just getting a bit harder to afford the costs of living and theres just a lot of strife going on, so I think that we need to recognize that this album has both stressed out and aggressive, but then has flashes of pure bliss and happiness, you know? So overall, I got to really express myself and I think that this is probably the most personal record Ive ever made.
work closely with El-P again on this album what would you say makes the
pairing so successful? What sets El-Ps production apart from the rest?
Yeah, he did eight out of 11 tracks. I think first of all, that hes just a brilliant producer and you can only get his sound from him; no one imitates his sound because no one really can. He also just knows what it takes to make a good record, you know what I mean? Hes made groundbreaking records before and has opened a lot of doors. Hes had so much success from being a groundbreaking artist, so its always interesting to hear his input, what he has to say. I mean, we dont always agree, by any measure of imagination, but its always good to have someone like that in your corner helping to craft a project like this, just blending the creativity.
collaborate with MC Akrobatik as well did you think The Perceptionists would
be such a success when you were putting it together?
Yeah, hes my partner in crime now! We actually hoped for more of a success! At the time, we were really hoping to go for it all! Unfortunately we had problems in the group, which I think really stopped us from going further, like Fakts One decided to essentially drop out of the group right when the album was coming out, and so he didnt do any of the touring with us. We had DJ Therapy from Asamov as a great replacement on tour; everything was fine, he didnt feel left out of the group so it was just personally very tough to deal with. Then we had problems with management, and you know, we never really got the chance to come out and do a bunch of shows in the UK or Europe and stuff like that, so it was just a bunch of conflicting ideas, everyone had their own idea about how it was supposed to happen, then by the time things started to get sorted out, I was just like, Ok, Ive gotta make another solo record.
Youve been frequently compared to such greats as Chuck D, KRS-1, Rakim and Guru where do you feel you stand in accordance with these legendary emcees? <
You know, I guess Im just like a descendent Ive obviously been a disciple of what theyve been doing, or just a huge fan and really just analysed what theyve done and studied the successes and pitfalls of their career, and you know, I just try to take the best elements and you know, a lot of times I feel stressed out, or feel Im not doing as well as I should be You know, its nine years into my career now, and I cant believe I can sit here and say that. I dropped out of college to try and do this, and I had like, a one song demo tape and now Im sitting in a hotel roomin London, again, for maybe the fifth or sixth time and Im maybe as hungry as I was when I did my first project, or maybe even hungrier at this point! Ive had some success, but ultimately not the type or level of success Ive wanted to, mainly based on the fact I havent been prolific enough. Im just ready to do it all, and I think I sound pretty angry and hungry on this record, like Im going right for the throat!
a so-called politically conscious MC, how do you feel about the massive loss
of soldiers in the War on Iraq?
I mean, I just think that theres a job that needs to be done so that certain small segment of people can become very wealthy and really dominate the world for the next century by controlling Iraq and that whole region of the world thats rich in resources, and they dont really mind sacrificing American lives, so theyve trained those soldiers to be loyal to the Government as possible, and those guys are out there doing a job. Its tough, because Im not out there, and Ive had contact with just a few guys that have been involved and theyve said theyre doing a lot of positive things that the media are not portraying, you know, but ultimately theyre over there for bad reasons. I think theyre just putting their lives on the line to make certain people very rich, and those soldiers are irreplaceable to their families, you know? A lot of mothers and fathers are extremely sorrowful, from the fall of the TwinTowers to this day, its just very unjust and its just sad; its a reflection of how dogmatic the Government is - they dont believe that life is the more important thing when it comes to their money.
are your thoughts on the rise of gun crime and the rise in popularity of hip
hop music and its culture? Is there a connection, do you think?
Oh yeah, absolutely, because a lot of artists dont give a fuck about who listens to their music at all. The fact that they dont ever say anything constructive, and the fact that they have now risen the stakes, like in the Eighties, it was cool to have a gold chain, and that was it. Now, your chain has to be platinum with diamonds in it, and maybe it should spin too! Its just so hilarious to me! I hate to say it, but I kind of view black people who are acting like that on TV as house niggas, like tearing out the American dream before America. Its the land of opportunity, sure, but it all comes at a price, just like, we all know what the American dream is, but theres no reason to take hip hop that was a valuable resource to people in tough conditions and it still is, cos allegedly these guys are from poor income areas and are just happy to have some money, so you know, its still at least serving that purpose because it took cats who maybe couldnt earn the money any other way but there used to be a whole theme of embetterment for the black race as a whole. You had cats like Rakim, Boogie Down Productions or Public Enemy, just rappers back then were a lot more intelligent period. G Rap, he was rhyming about shooting mutherfuckers, but he was an intelligent cat that could write a song like "Streets of New York" that would really share a sympathetic view of what was going on and how bad it really was. A lot of these guys are capable of doing this stuff, Im not saying their completely ignorant, but theyre just not doing it because theyre more concerned with making money. I just look at it as a fast food culture; the rap nowadays that is widely available is McDonalds music. Its like, you eat it, it tastes good for like, a moment while its hot, but then you got diarrhea later!
so easy for rappers to take the commercial route nowadays to make big money
how do you keep focused on doing what you do?
I cant assimilate to that culture at all; if I tried to do something like that I would just be so completely rejected! Ive always been an outcast my whole life, just from my upbringing until now, its just like, I dont even look like those cats cos I have dreads that are like, four, five inches thick! Its just hilarious to me, I could never exist in that type of world; I would just piss too many people off! Plus I like being in control, as an independent artist, my label is owned by a very good friend of mine, and I have a lot of input into how my record comes out and how the artwork is done and I can determine my tour schedule and stuff like that. I just dont wanna get caught up in a big machine that major labels are; its just a bunch of bullshit really.
you eventually put down the mic, how would you like to be remembered?
I would just like to be remembered as someone who spoke passionately and from the heart. I think that thats the best way to some it up. Obviously life is very insignificant without passion in it, so I just make sure that every day of my life is extremely passionate, and Im doing something that I love, so I just hope thats reflected in my music. Every song that I write I feel very passionate about, and if I didnt, it wouldnt be on the record.
Whats next in the run-up to the release of your new album?
pretty far through another album actually! I pretty much just kept recording
after Mo Mega, and I had a bunch of stuff that didnt end
up making it on the album; not that the stuff wasnt good, it just didnt fit
with what we were trying to achieve with this album, so Ive been steadily
working, getting back to giving my own contributions as a producer, cause some
of the bigger songs in my career have been produced by me and I didnt realise
that for a very long time, and I guess my first big song was "Elektro" in 1998, and then in 99 it was "Inhuman
Capabilities" featuring Akrobatik, and then there
was production on Enter the Colossus and also on Emergency Rations. I made Home of the
Brave too, and that was a huge breakout hit for me, so I was just
like, you know what, maybe I should stop ignoring the fact that I make beats
and make more! So now Im doing a lot more of my own production and whatever
areas I dont excel in as far as production, Im gonna have other producers
fill in the gaps, so theyll be a couple different flavours to round out the
album. Im hard at work; I wanna have another album done by the time this one
comes out so that Im not waiting four years again!
Mo Mega is out now on Definitive Jux. For more information on Mr. Lif, visit his official website, www.mrlif.com, or check out his MySpace page, www.myspace.com/mrlif.