Channel Live: The Livest One
Along with Tuffy, Hakim Green was the voice of Channel Live. Despite achieving gold status with Capitol Records 12 years ago, a long hiatus pushed the group into independent releases, now finding Hakim carrying the group's name through his solo releases. Having stayed aligned with KRS-One all these years, Hakim is now a chair of the Stop The Violence Movement, and a frequent speaker and face among the preservation of Hip Hip in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Underground Hip Hop, with Channel Live anyway, still finds a way to be anything but boring. With his album A Revolution Televised in tow, Hakim Green boldly comments on the state of Hip Hop, through strong words for Diddy, Mase and even Jay-Z, whom he calls a slave. Some may argue this is blasphemy in the face of the commercial age. However, others might contest that Hakim is right, and validated to criticize the leaders of his own generation. In any event, the culture can decide as one of its most edgy voices explains a 12 year journey through constant elevation.
HipHopDX: How did Channel Live come to be?
Hakim Green: Channel Live came to be because of a drive to be in the limelight and do something positive at the same time. The rap game and Hip Hop in general, is a competitive thing. Theres a lot of people wanting attention or notoriety, whether a dancer, a graf writer or a rapper. Coming from particular foundations, I tend to see things more consciously or politically. Coming from organizing around The Black Panther Party, becoming aware of political prisoners like Assata Shakur and Malcolm X, that just added a whole edge to my background. Its the uniting of wanting fame and notoriety with wanting to do something with it once you get it.
DX: How long was the group functioning before Station Identification came out?
HG: We got in the game as dancers. We were background dancers for Naughty By Nature, who I went to high school with. We were just in the club scene in all the classic dance battles at Homebase and Studio 54 and Latin Quarter. Thats where Channel Live started, but we were named by KRS-One. His vision had a lot to do with the music, the style and what we represented.
I was a school teacher, and I started an after-school program with a few other cats in East Orange School District. Part of that program involved us taking kids to different lecturers. KRS-One had "Human Education Against Lies." Kris got used to seeing my face and thought I said some things that were intelligent at the time. He said, Yo, I want you to open up these lectures for me. Thats how that relationship got started. Then when we developed the music to the point where we had a demo and were able to approach him from level, he kinda got it, understood it.
DX: Throughout your career, have you still stayed involved with youth?
HG: Yup. I went to high school in East Orange. I taught sixth, seventh and eighth grade in East Orange. Just having that connection always brings me back. I do a program every spring with East Orange School District, creating a Hip Hop component for a two-day program that they do. I brought Black Thought in, some other industry folks. Having that background as an educator helps me relate. Kids dont want to be spoken down to, they want to be spoken to; they want that respect given to them. I can get messages across that the older generation, a lot of times, cant.
DX: Was it difficult for your relationship with the school district to drop a single, a hit single at that, that advocated drug use in Mad Ism?
HG: Actually, nah. It never really got in the way. Hip Hop is culture freedom. The way that I look at marijuana is as an expression of my culture. It opens up certain gateways in the mind where you can connect with ancestors. The Hemp plant in of itself can be used in so many ways. As far as the dangers, its not as dangerous as caffeine, tobacco, alcohol or nicotine. When you look at it that way, and you handle it in a responsible factor, not as a floss factor a lot of times we tend to buffoon and clown our clown and exaggerate things. Theres worse things going on in the world.
DX: In 1992 to 1996, marijuana, like you said, was part of Hip Hop in a more inclusive manner. Today, it seems to be about cocaine, whether just selling it or using other, perhaps harder drugs. What conclusions can you draw?
HG: Nothing exists in a vacuum. You have compartmentalize things. Marijuana is classified as an illicit drug, but I dont think its a drug. Its an herb; its not synthetic. When you look t synthetic drugs that we take, a lot of times were allowed to because the government gets a piece of it like heroin and cocaine. Those drugs are prevalent in our society because theres a power above us that wants to stay above us and use these drugs to keep us down. Weed is an issue of tax; nobody can get that revenue from it. Thats more of a reason why its illegal than it being physically harmful to us. Were at war with Afghanistan, which is one of the producers of heroin. The poppy plant, thats a top export out of Afghanistan. Its no coincidence that heroin is an all-time rise; the government needs to open up the market for heroin, much the same way they did with crack cocaine. So youve got certain rappers promoting something thats very, very harmful to us so that they have a certain connection with the streets, and they can open up that. Thats why I think this whole American Gangster bullshit theyre pushing on us, and certain individuals allowing themselves to use these toolsits a very bad thing, and we should look at it that way. Heroin does us no good, it does us no service, but its being promoted to our children as if the way to success is to be a heroin dealer. Were glorifying certain individuals that we really dont need to even give the time of day, outside of understanding how they corrupt us.
DX: Did going gold mean anything to you at the time?
HG: I never really got caught up in the platinum/gold thing like that. If we went by platinum and gold, the greatest emcee ever is MC Hammer. Jay-Z is the hottest rapper! No 50! They sold so much!if were going by sales, then MC Hammer is the greatest rapper ever. I dont think so. You cant use that as a determining point. I never got caught up in that. But to stay relevant, you want people to get your art and be exposed to it. I guess how much you sell determines how many people are being exposed to your message.
DX: Because you were so successful, how do you explain a five-year hiatus after a gold album?
HG: A lot of things, bro! We got caught up. [Laughs]
DX: Label caught up?
HG: No, we got caught up into thinking when youre in the middle of your success, that its not going to stop. There was really no formula that created it. No, Were gonna do it like this, and were gonna win. We were just being creative and being artists, and we made a record that caught and we won. Everybody was looking another Mad Ism, but you cant make another Mad Ism. Theres only one. You get caught chasing something that you cant chase; you just have to be an artist continuing to be creative. You get caught up playing the industry game.
Kris predicted Mase. In 1994, Kris was like, Yall too educated. You use too many syllables. As KRS-One the artist, [he said] Yeah, I love that, respect that; thats what I want to hear. As Kris Parker your manager, man, yall got to dumb it down! Yall gotta be giving raps to these niggas and these bitches out here drinkin 40s on the corner. Whoa. KRS-One! How could you mean that; how could you say that? In hindsight, KRS-One was totally right. As an artist, he respected where we were coming from, and he applauded that. As our manager, we werent doing the things that were gonna get that dollar. He said, Yall need to dumb it down. Talk baby-talk. Dah. Dah. Dah. Look at Mase, what was he doing? Talking to babies. [mimics the flow of Feel So Good]. [Sighs] KRS-One is a genius in so many ways [for that statement in 1994]. Its the world we live in. Sometimes youve got to do things that seem uncharacteristic.
DX: Some might say, looking at where things have come, that we would kill for Mase right now...
HG: I dont know. See, when I saw Mase, I used to argue niggas down! I [used to say] That niggas corny, yo. And hes killing rap. Theres gonna come a time when everything is gonna sound like that. And you guys are gonna regret it. Weve had 10 years of Mase. Whether from the midwest or down south, weve had 10 years of music for children. Were making childrens music with adult content. Were all going, Oh, what happened? Its Puffy. Its Puffy! As much as I have to congratulate him in terms of his business mind and his marketing genius he does have an ear for music, but you have to say, he fucked the game up. He fucked it up. He got Hot 97 in a choke-hold, all these corporations, and he said, This is what Hip Hop looks, smells, tastes and feels like. And it was Hip Hop cause Puffy said so. But Puffys not Hip Hop, Puffys R&B, so chill. Whats going on in the street is not whats going on on TV.
In 1985, you couldnt hear Hip Hop on the radio, but Hip Hop was alive. It was vibrant. It had that energy and feel to it. Now, because we dont hear Hip Hop on the radio, its Hip Hops dead! Nah, nigga, Hip Hop is alive again! Thats why its not on the radio. Its alive again! Cats can be where they are, create their art and get it to YouTube, to HipHopDX, Myspace. You can be more creative than just these little community pockets of cats. If you was a New Edition fan, by and large, you probably wasnt a T. La Rock fan. If you were a Guy fan, you probably really wasnt fucking with [Public Enemys] Yo! Bumrush The Show.
DX: Flowing with this opinion, which I subscribe to, if you look at T. La Rock or Rock Master Scott, a lot of these guys never got their dues. For people not on the radio now, its hard to make a living. Do you find this keeps people hungrier or the music more authentic?
HG: Yeah, I do. That competitiveness. The single we got out now, Hip Hop Nationme, Im 10 times better than I was in 1995. When I say that, I mean that being able to say what I want in a form the masses of people are going to understand me. That comes from studying cats, to see how they do it, so I can outdo it. I try to outdo it. Really, Im not making my music for the masses of people. I got this cat named Scanz thats down with the crew, and hes one of the illest lyrical cats out. If hes impressed, Im impressed. If KRS-One who is the God of the shit, hands down, 50, Jay-Z cant none of them niggas get with him! Right now KRS-One will eat all of these niggas alive. None of them niggas want it at a KRS-One venue! Hes eating all their food. If I can get him to say, Yo Hak, you spittin that shit, then Im good. I want people to get it.
DX: Given that lane, how do you get it out there?
HG: In my end, we need to step it up on the marketing and promotions side of what were doing right now. Theres so many different avenues that you have to get to, to get it to the masses. It takes finances and resources. That still has yet to be seen. I just started this project in June, after not rhyming for four years. Cats werent really feeling me; they didnt want to hear conscious. But I had so much to say, and I figured out how folks wanted to hear it. I started spitting and folks responded positively. Like over the last three months, for real, for real, I got that shit! I got it. How to get it to everybody? Its gonna take more than just me to figure that out. As doors open up, I just walk through them. Thankfully, there are more tools available than there were in 1995 to do it for yourself.
DX: What verse, throughout your lengthy career is your proudest?
HG: Free Mumia from the KRS-One [D.I.G.I.T.A.L.] album. I said, in 1996, From Caligula to Hitler, and now its Schwarzenegger / A lust for the violence is the science that they gave ya / Who enslaved ya? / But the God of virtuosity / Fuckin with my mind, could it be mental sodomy? Its an ill line, cause he wasnt even in politics in 1997. Thats what I was trying to connect; we tend to propel people who are very violent. Those tend to be our leaders.
Emcee means master of ceremony or move the crowd. Chuck D and Public Enemy moved the nation. These other niggas, they movin the club. I want to move the nation. I want the nation to go from thought process to another thought process. Jay-Z told niggas to their clothes. Get niggas to change their mind! Jay-Z has the lyrical ability to do it, but chooses not to cause hes a slave.
DX: Tell us what you can about this album
HG: Its called A Revolution Televised, and its linked to the whole Channel Live process. Its an independent project; I have a special deal, Im linked with over 200 retail digital companies, all the major ones. Rock The Bells affected me a great deal. I saw 40,000 people, two days in a row pay $100 a ticket to see backpack and old school rap. My hunch is, is that if I can tap into that market where there still is love for that Hip Hop culture, then well be okay. If I have to rely on Hot 97 and BET, its probably not gonna happen.