Mighty Joseph: Gorilla Unit

posted January 16, 2008 12:00:00 AM CST | 8 comments

Musical experimentation in Hip Hop has been historic at times. Prince Paul and RZA fooled around and spawned Da Gravediggaz. Kool G Rap moved from Queens to Arizona and made Roots of Evil. Cee-Lo Green and Dangermouse made a basement project that became a Gnarls Barkley slam dunk. In line with these successful diversions, longtime New York emcees Vast Aire linked up with Vordul Mega and Cannibal Ox's Cold Vein resulted in one of the crown jewels of underground rap's legacy.

That was over five years ago. Having linked up before with DJ Mighty Mi and others for one-off projects, Vast Aire and longtime friend, hype-man and collaborator Karniege have evolved as Mighty Joseph. With scorching beats from J-Zone, Madlib and the duo themselves, this project is a gorilla rampaging on the side of Hip Hop's skyscraper; punching in windows and eating up witnesses. Although on a limited budget, the two brothers who encompass all boroughs of New York based on lifetime residences made an album that's more New York than Marbury coming back to The Knicks.

In a discussion with HipHopDX, Vast Aire is a slow, purposeful speaker like KRS-One, who clearly enjoys words when the microphone is off too. Karniege is quiet, but clearly shows his hunger, with a album in tow for later in the year. Whether this gorilla will be a one-time sighting or not, it's going to be hard to strip off of that skyscraper - or your earphones.

HipHopDX: How did Mighty Joseph come to be?
Vast Aire:
In 2003, I started going full-blast with my career. If youve seen Vast, youve probably seen Karniege. From Florida, to Moscow, to Spain, hes been with me, doing my ad-libs, doing songs we did together and doing his music. Those are the real beginnings of the whole Mighty Joseph energy. When 2004 hits, Im doing Look Mom, No Hands, and were running around the world. Me and him was like, Lets do a record. We were gonna work on a mixtape, and the mixtape morphed into [an album]. Mighty Joseph became a three-year process. We started it in mid 2005, and its just coming out. We did a lot of music. The album has 14 cuts; we did 25 or 30 in those three years just experimenting. Some of the joints we did beats, other joints, we had producers come in. It was pretty much our Frankenstein per se. We just liked our vibe. It was a hot vibe, and we wanted to document it.

DX: What role did New York play in the inception of this album?
Its just the everyday living that we endure. Everything is a hustle. Everybody is on their hustle game whether youre making big bucks to little bucks; everybodys trying to survive and eat. A lot of New York raw Hip Hop that you hear is out of cats not having much of anything and just trying turn nothing into something.

DX: Do you notice subtle differences of musical style from borough to borough?
Every borough has a faction emcees, nice artists and every borough has its batch of wack everything. [Laughs] Its no difference. Everybodys swag is pretty much the same thing, its just the individual self that makes everybody different.

DX: Look Mom, No Hands has stayed around longer than most art these days not to mention Cannibal Oxs Cold Vein. You said that this project is three years in the making. In those three years, the attention span of the typical listener has moved. How do you keep it?
The bottom line is, the music speaks for itself. You can have giant budgets. You can have mad features. You can do all that bologna, and at the end of the day, when the fan presses play, if Redman is on it or not, is the song hot? Youre dealing with real musicians here. I can definitely vouch for Karniege were just on some real, honest Hip Hop shit. Thats something that the album brings across.

DX: You said this line about Understanding the reasons for pain on Zenith. Can I ask you what you found out in trying to understanding those reasons?
Pain is just like every other feeling: its there and it isnt. According to what I know, these emotions and these feelings, theyre temporary realities. Im eating my favorite chocolate chip cookie, so Im happy. The bowling ball fell off the table and landed on my foot, so Im mad. These are temporary emotional states, whether they be 10 years or 10 seconds. Pain reminds you that you are alive. Pain is neither good nor bad, its just there to remind you that there is a result from action. Im into martial arts, so if Im doing horse stance too long, theres a pain in my thigh thats reminding me that Ive been working that muscle. Pain is a motivator. Were mammals. We had to survive in the wilderness. You have to understand cold, hot, pain, pleasure these are basic emotions that can make you go crazy. But if you learn the simplicity of them, youll learn to make it through the day. Thats what I gather from my experiences.

DX: You balance anger with humor. You might be threatening somebody, but come with a funny punch-line right after. Both of you do this, how?
[Laughs] Sometimes I dont even know. It just happens to work for me. You cant be one-sided in anything in life. You cant be too soft, cause a person whos more dominant will conquer and destroy you. You cant be too hard, because it makes you too rigid in certain things.

DX: Is the song Kids based on the film of the same name?
When it was being created, it took me to a place thinking about coming up as a kid in New York. Things wasnt easy, but they wasnt hard at the same time. I had friends and family members who had stuff real hard. Some people just had it a lil bit lighter. I thought about the single-parent family, where I came from, where Im at and where I want to go. I think that song is an element thats definitely missing in Hip Hop, people tearing back the plastic wrap and being real with themselves on how they look, how they used to look, and all that. I think its something people can easily relate to, even if theyre not from New York. The title is derived from elements such as the kids you see in Kids, but its not [inspired by the title]. Its all the same difference.

DX: Looking at independent or underground Hip Hop, that medium is criticized or overlooked often. Youre a street dude. How do you think the street side of you has given integrity to your music?
Just be playin it. [Laughs] Whether you hate it or not, just by taking a few minutes or seconds to just listen to what I have to say just further the movement.

VA: I think the street side of me is just like every other side of me. Theres a side of me that likes judo and karate. Theres a side of me that likes maple turkey. [Laughs] Theres a side of me that loves vintage pin-up womenthe human person is such a deep entity. Its hard to just put some of us in a box. Theres a surface level and an internal level. The street side of me is both. Its how I talk, how I dress and my insides, because I grew up in the street.

Rock & Roll is not big hair and tattoos. Rock & Roll is Rock & Roll. It just so happens that someone who was real good at it had big hair and tattoos. Hip Hop is the same. Hip Hop is not a Kangol hat and a gold chain with Nikes and Adidas. Its just so happens that someone who was good at Hip Hop was that. Now look how schizophrenic Hip Hop is. A Tribe Called Quest was good, Geto Boys was good, N.W.A. was good, EPMD was goodlook at all these different shades of the street. Everybodys different. Look at [how different] Jay-Z and DMX [are]. Jay-Z is in the park selling crack; DMX is trying to run up on you while youre getting in your car. The street is such a complex place. I love reppin the street. I love being able to go into any ghetto and get love. Thats what made Cannibal Ox unique. As interesting as our music was, you knew where the fuck we was from. No ifs, ands and buts. Theyre definitely east coast, definitely New York and definitely Hip Hop. The politics of what Hip Hop should be, thats semantics, and I dont get into that.

DX: Mentioning Cannibal Ox, I know theres something you wished to clear up for the people
For the record, because theres been a lot of rumors, a lot of bullshit, and Im tired of it, Can Ox is not broken up. Can Ox will be together forever. Me and Vordul are close friends. What people gotta understand though, is we are our own people. We got our own ideas. Vordul Mega is making a new record, Im on it. Vordul is on Mighty Jo and my new solo album Deuces Wild thats coming out in the summer. I just wanted to let that be clear. You cant break up Can Ox. Look at Wu-Tang and picture GZA and Masta Killa doing a record togetherthats what Can Ox is. Then the fans loved it so much that they wanted one every Tuesday. [Laughs] What they dont understand is Masta Killa wants to do him, and GZA wants to do him. Its like Black Star or Reflection Eternal. Look at Mighty Joseph. Now people are gonna love this and theyre gonna want a Mighty Joseph album every two weeks. I look forward to seeing the breakup rumors on Mighty Joseph.

DX: Karneige, as a longtime worker now getting looks, what verse in your career are you most proud of?
I have a verse on my album explaining my interpretation of what Nas was saying when he said, Hip Hop is dead. The verse is: Hip Hop aint dead, we put it in a coma / Lets bring it back to life with the rhymes and hunger / Beats the thunder / Make the ground rumble / Flow so wonderous, it make the people love you / Concepts is constant, thats our bubble / Skills come first, styles will follow / The world is our oyster, eat that hollow / Live for today / Promised aint tomorrow / So I get in the lane / Begin to flame / Like Johnny Blaze / See orange haze / Karniege craze / Brooklyn raised / Crooked slang / Look at that / Kid makin news / Still payin dues / Way before my Jukie days / Lookie wookie man / Did he say, what I think he did? / Is this kid the silliest? / Is he really flippin it? / Or is he really gettin busy? / Yes I is / If I didnt dish it different, would you like this? That joint is called Boom Bap.

For more information on Mighty Joseph, visit: http://www.myspace.com/mightyjoseph, http://www.myspace.com/vastaireofcanox and http://www.myspace.com/karniege

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