K-Salaam: The Truth Hidden In Music
Solely produced by himself and his partner Beatnik, the album has a bevy of names on there. All who jumped on board because of the production duos ability to craft and generate beats of substance. The premise behind the album was to bring them attention for further endeavors, but not short stepping they ended up doing not only that but putting out an album that has received rave reviews.
K-Salaam is obviously a man of substance having been instilled with values and a phenomenal work ethic as he opted to go the independent route. Obviously without major label affiliation the hurdles faced were somewhat higher to jump when it came to securing the artists and ensuring clearance, but not a man to give in too easily to industry pressure, he ended up with a star studded cast. Talib Kweli, Dead Prez, Sizzla, Saigon and Papoose are just a few of the names that sign their names to one of the best independent releases of the Summer.
How long were you working on this project?
Three years, the music we made some tracks in a day, but as far as all the politics and bullshit and label stuff, that took the time.
So break down the bullshit you went through to make this then? First of all getting hold of artists which isnt bullshit, you know getting them to do the songs and then there was the fact that I didnt have a budget really. You know getting my buzz out there in the industry and hitting these artists from all different angles to make them want to do the song. That was a lot of work, as a lot of the artists hadnt heard of me and didnt know who I was; but that was cool. Then getting the clearance from the labels was a whole other thing. I made the decision to put the album out myself, which sometimes I regret as I did have some good deals on the table from some labels. Had I gone with a label I would have had a video out right now, but I basically wanted to do everything myself. You know find investors
Why did you opt to go with investors as opposed to putting this project in the hands of a label?
I wanted to do it because I wanted to control what I wanted to do. I didnt want a major label saying we are going to take this off, or we want to do it this way. You know it could have gone either way; I would have had the big money to get out there more, but I am happy with the decision I made. I know some of the mistakes I made I will know how to change them next time. Then if something goes wrong I know I totally have myself to blame.
What was the ideology behind the album?
I was raised in a family of activists; you know my Mom is a big time activist. My parents worked 80+ hours a week, you know typical immigrant family.
You are Iranian correct?
My family is, I was born in Canada, grew up in Minneapolis. I grew up in a family where I was taught what this country was really started on, slavery and genocide. That is just the way I am, so if I do music or get into movies, like I plan to do, my art will be real as opposed to a gimmick.
Because the album is a fusion of Hip-Hop and Reggae, have you found it a hard product to push?
Not really because when you are working with something that is brand new and really different you are going to have more obstacles, but when you clear those obstacles you are going to reap the benefits of them. A lot of people who listen to Reggae are going to be like Who are these Hip-Hop artists? and then vice-versa with the Hip-Hop. It is going to be harder to push but I am not really worried about that. Like I said to my man, I wanted to make an album that would last forever and the majority of music that comes out in 2006 and by 2008 it is in the garbage. I know because I have been there before. I definitely dont want to make an album that is going to be in the garbage two years from now, that is not going to be what happens with this.
Occasionally people frown upon albums that are solely produced by one person at times, has this been a concern of yours?
I have to make this clear, I have a partner, Beatnik and he likes to be in the background, but this is just as much his album as it is mine. All the ideas, all the ideology is mine, but musically, that is my family right there. I feel that we are definitely on a different level as producers right now. You know I have had so many artists after hearing a song say they want to work with me. I have been working with a lot of the artists that are on the album. I have a lot of respect for the producers that are out now and those that have paved the way, but we have totally different styles and we have a new sound and are on another level production wise.
Well sometimes when you have the same producer/production team on a complete album it does start to sound monotonous, but you avoided that.
Did you know who you wanted to have on the album when it came to the artists?
I had the people in mind before we even did the tracks. I mean we had tracks but I did have a specific idea of who I wanted. I dont look at this as a Hip-Hop/Reggae cross over, I just look at it as a collection of good music as that is the music I listen to. Me personally thats the dopest thing right now the music. Personally there are a lot of good producers out there making good songs as opposed to the lyricists and the music that is out right now is Hip-Hop and Reggae. That is what I feel. You know you are taking music to another level. Outside of New York and some other big cities, artists like Sizzla are taking the music to the world right now. These are artists that I wanted on the album because of their artistic ability and I felt like even if we were new, we could hold our own and work with these guys.
The problem with a lot of these producers right now is that it is all about money and that is just corny. There is nothing wrong with making money and making music for people to dance to at the clubs, nothing wrong with that at all, but I make stuff that has integrity. I am not trying to make music for Brittany Spearsor these pop artists that go on TV talking about George Bush. That is not how Hip-Hop started man, when you talk about Hip-Hop now people think it is corny and its not. Having integrity is not corny and we have to bring integrity back into the game, you know as producers that is what we are bringing to the table.
Did you write on the project as well as produce?
Yeah I wrote some of the hooks.
You also did the scratches as well, so you were very hands on with this project. Did you spit on there too?
Nah, I dont spit. Its just not my thing; you know I get in where I fit in.
Some of the artists you feature, they are very organic when it comes to their approach to Hip-Hop, Dead Prez, Talib, did you choose them because of their beliefs as well as their talent?
It was but it was more so the integrity, you know someone like Sizzla, you cant tell him what to do. You know he did a show in Negril and the people who threw the show, I think it was sponsored by Red Stripe, and they were telling him that he couldnt say anything bad about white people and he was like Yeah ok, whatever, and then he got on stage and he said what he wanted to say and I respect a person who speaks their mind, we are not supposed to speak our minds. That was why it was important for me to get people like Dead Prez, you know to get people who are black-balled, who lose out on some of their record sales in order to speak their minds. I talked to these people about different things and I didnt agree with them on everything but the main thing I agree with is that they are speaking their mind and that is real important and what Hip-Hop is lacking right now. Any corporation or big labels want you to wear an American flag in the video and dont want you to say this and that isnt how I want to approach the game and that isnt how I want to make money. But at the end of the day when I am dead and gone I want people to remember that I stood up for myself and that is why these artists are on this project. It was a blessing to work with them.
Video is such an important aspect of promotion, is there a video on the horizon for one of the tracks off the album?
Yeah if the album gets to that point and it makes sense to step to some more investors and make that happen, but right now, I have just started the promotion process. We put the album out and we are just trying to get our production out there and if it does blow up to the point that it makes sense to put out a video, I will do it.
It has so far been very well received.
Yeah it has and that makes me want to get it out to the people.
Was there anyone you wanted to have on there but didnt get the chance to work with? Lauryn Hill, Damian Marley and Nas. So you will be going after them in Volume Two then?
Yeah I will get them in Volume Two or Three.
Obviously this project has taken up a big chink of your time, but what else have you been working on?
Right now we are working with a lot of the artists that featured on the album. We are working with Dead Prez, Sizzla has already recorded some stuff over our songs. A lot of big things are happening right now. I was actually planning on putting out a project six months after this but I think I am going to have to push it back and see what happens and take things accordingly. Beatnik and I hope to do big things with the production team and I might use this album to get into movies; you know just use it as a stepping stone, this is the very beginning.
Is there one aspect of this project you are promoting now that you would have done differently?
Hmmm, trying to think. Not really, I am real happy with the way that it turned out.
You have a show coming up right?
Yeah I have a show coming up on the 25th of August, which is the CD release party. Thats being held in Brooklyn at the Galapagos Art Space.
Who will be performing at the show?
Well Dead Prez will be there, Da Backwudz and Saigon will be performing too. The show is going to be hosted by HBO Def Poet Suhier Hammad, so its going to be a good night. You know and there will be some surprise guests too.