Eligh Discusses Eyedea, New School Emcees & More
Exclusive: The Melancholy Gypsy shares his thoughts on death, discussing the loss of his aunt Rachel and fellow emcee Eyedea while also sharing insight on tracks off of his new album "Grey Crow."
In Part I of this interview, Eligh spoke about his struggle to get sober and his newfound perspective. Here, in Part II of the interview, the Living Legend emcee discusses a couple of the album's songs and provides insight on his way of viewing death. He goes in on why he finds Wiz Khalifa unimpressive and how Kanye West provides hope for him in the mainstream. He also shares his thoughts on the untimely passing of fellow independent Hip Hop emcee Eyedea.
HipHopDX: “Miss Busdriver (Rachel)” was a compelling track that was just so honest and open. For such a personal album, it says a lot that you released this song as your first single, a track about someone else. What led to you making the track and making that decision?
Eligh: Well, I remember when I made the beat, actually, I was feeling a little lazy. I went into Pro Tools and I found this beat that I had started making but didn’t finish. I was like, "Let me fuck with this." I started working with it and I came up with that beat. I felt that beat. My aunt had just passed away three days earlier. My family up north was really fucked up over it because she was fine, like, two weeks earlier and then she just announced that she had terminal cancer. She was the type of woman that didn’t want people worrying about her. She just kind of wanted to do what she did. She just announced it when she was dying. So, they were fucked up over it but I know how much pain she was in. It was a bad cancer, dude. So, when she passed, a smile came to my face. I didn’t feel sad. That made me feel bad at first, like, ‘Dude, what’s wrong with me?’ I haven’t had that many people close to me die, which is a blessing. But, at the same time, the people that I have had pass away, I’ve never felt sadness or sorrow. It’s maybe because they went at a time in their lives when they were supposed to go or whatever. Everybody goes when they’re supposed to go but I haven’t lost anybody to tragic murder or a car accident or something like that. So, I wasn’t sad. I was like, ‘Good, she got to move on.’ So, that was in my mind and when I heard the beat, I was like, ‘I’ve got to write about her.’ So, I started writing about her and I sent the song immediately to my aunt and my mom and some other people and they were just fucking in love with it. They were thanking me for making it and it was a very personal thing, at first. I mostly made it for my family, at first. Then I saw this song was heartfelt and that’s the kind of music I figured I would hold onto that for whatever album I was making.
HipHopDX: It’s refreshing to hear the honesty on the album. “Angel of Death” is interesting because it speaks to your music as it compares to what is currently out now. You talk about not being inspired by anything new in awhile. When you look at the state of the culture today, is there anything that does give you hope?
Eligh: Well, yeah, there’s always hope. Regardless of what I said, maybe I was talking more about mainstream stuff. I mean, the radio is one thing. We all know that but even in mainstream, there’s people like Kanye [West]. I was just talking to [The] Grouch about this thirty minute movie/video he made [for "Runaway"]. There’s one part in the video where he’s making a beat on the MPC and the beat is sick. It’s ridiculous! There are guys who are big and are super talented still. But, then, there’s so much garbage that it outweighs it to me. I literally do not listen to the radio except for KCRW in Los Angeles which puts me up on a lot of independent music from Indie-Rock to Electronic and Hip Hop, too. Well, there’s not much Hip Hop you can throw at me that I didn’t already know about. Then again, there are a lot of people out there. For instance, Wiz Khalifa. I hear people talk about him all the time and I check around on iTunes sometimes when I’m bored, to see who the Top 100 people are, those that are selling. I’ll see Wiz Khalifa and all these names I’ve never heard and I’ll be like, “Dude, I’m so out of it.” I’m so out of the game of knowing the new people that it makes me feel bad, like I’m doing something wrong. But, I listened to Wiz Khalifa way late, after everyone knew who he was and his whole story. I see what people like about him but at the same time, it doesn’t super excite me at all. Maybe it’s because I come from L.A. where people like Freestyle Fellowship and Souls of Mischief and Pharcyde were coming out, people with energy and style that nobody had done before. Is that gone? Maybe it’s gone. I’m going off on a tangent here, but production wise, making beats honestly has been my main love forever. Once I learned how to make beats, writing became second. Eventually I want to be scoring movies and that is my goal because that’s what I love to do the most. So, people that inspire me currently are like Flying Lotus and all these young producers coming up under Flying Lotus even. He’s already doing it, man. He’s already doing big things. That gives me hope because his stuff is so on the next level to me and different that it’s like, okay, people will still flock to it. I always believe that people want something different. A lot of these kids just hear what’s on the radio and they’re not looking for more. But, sometimes I’ll run into kids or maybe relatives that I don’t know that well, they’ll hear my stuff just because my uncle will give them a CD. And wow, they’ll be blown away. Instant fans. When all they’ve heard is the radio. It’s like they just don’t know. So, regardless of the kind of gloomy outlook I see on a lot of Hip Hop stuff, mainstream stuff, I definitely know there are a lot of people making good stuff. It’s just not in the light all the way.
HipHopDX: You don’t need to discuss it if you don’t like, but I was personally shocked when I heard this news and I was interested in your take on this as well. Can you share how you remember Eyedea and what that news meant to you personally?
Eligh: Yeah, well, first of all, it was real shocking to me, as well. It really hit me in a different way than what I just talked about actually, with being okay with people passing like, “They’re free now. They don’t have to deal with the pain of this world.” [Eyedea’s passing] was a shock. I was like, “Damn, dude!” He was 28 years old. I’ll always remember Eyedea as a super smart and emotional guy. He came on tour with us in like 2002 or even 2001, on the Almost Famous tour, I believe. Eyedea and Abilities came on the road with us, on the bus with us. I didn’t know him that well [at the time] but he was just real witty, smart and young. We were all young, but he was even younger, like four years younger than me. I just remember being in awe of his freestyle skills. Everybody that talks about him will say that. To see somebody like Eyedea who could come up on the spot, look at the crowd and come up off the dome like that, was just a skill that only a few people really possess, that could do it that good. He was a special dude. Over the years, I’ve heard stuff with him where he’s just pushing the limits and trying different stuff and I really admire that about him. That’s something that I strive to do, mixing genres or going out on a limb over here. I think his fan base probably really loved that about him, too. I really feel bad for Abilities and his mom. That was another thing that I recall about Eyedea, that really stuck in my head, was that his mom, any opportunity she had, would be at the shows with us, hanging out with everybody. She’d be supporting him. She was probably his biggest fan. It reminded me of my mom. My mom’s the same way. She’s at every show she can get to. She knows all the guys in my group and other guys I’ve worked with. So, I feel really bad for his mom, dude. It’s really just a sad situation but, you know, his mom’s got an angel on her shoulder. That’s for sure. Overall, it was untimely and very sad.
Eligh is gearing up to go on tour with The Grouch, Brother Ali and more. Dates for How the Grouch Stole Christmas 2010 are below.
12/1 Los Angeles, CA
12/2 San Diego, CA
12/3 Tempe, AZ
12/4 Albuquerque, NM
12/5 Boulder, CO
12/6 Boulder, CO
12/7 SLC, UT
12/8 Boise, ID
12/10 Bellingham, WA
12/11 Portland, OR
12/12 Bend, OR
12/14 Sacramento, CA
12/15 San Fran, CA
12/16 Oakland, CA
12/17 Santa Clara, CA
12/18 Visalia, CA
12/19 San Luis Obispo, CA