M.K. Asante, Jr. Talks Recording With Ras Kass, Talib Kweli & Bishop Lamont, New Book
Exclusive: the prolific author and flimmaker discusses joining the Hip Hop game and recording with luminaries such as Ras Kass, Talib Kweli and Bishop Lamont.
Chuck D once said “M.K. Asante combines drive, skill and a commitment that buoys us all. The Hip Hop community should feel extremely blessed to have those qualities attached to its forward movement.”
It's hard to argue with that assessment, as Asante has published three books, and will release a fourth in August, BUCK, is a recipient of the Langston Hughes Award, a filmmaker, and a professor of creative writing and film in the Department of English and Language Arts at Morgan State University.
Asante spoke to HipHopDX in 2009 about his sociopolitically conscious book It's Bigger than Hip Hop: the Rise of the Post-Hip-Hop Generation. Perhaps it was a natural evolution, then, to hop on Ras Kass' track "Godz N The Hood" off of the West Coast legend's latest album, Barmageddon. The cut, which also features Talib Kweli and Bishop Lamont, is a taste of things to come.
M.K. Asante spoke with HipHopDX about his newfound passion for emceeing, how he came to rhyme on "Godz N The Hood," and his upcoming memoir, Buck.
M.K. Asante Explains Becoming An Emcee, Joining The "Hip Hop Renaissance"
"Emceeing is a form of poetry and I’ve always been a poet," explained Asante, whose first published work was Like Water Running off My Back, a collection of poetry written in the tradition of African American poets.
Asante elaborated, explaining that emceeing is a new way for him to express his views on the culture. "The best form of critique is creation. I wrote a book critiquing and analyzing Hip Hop called It’s Bigger than Hip Hop. Although I feel it was an important project for me, I feel like I can illustrate my vision for Hip Hop better by example. Essentially, I’m being the change I want to see."
Asante revealed that both upcoming and new emcees have spurred him to action. "I’m also inspired by my friends, new young emcees like King Mez and then people like Kendrick [Lamar] and Ab-Soul who are breathing fresh life into the movement. There is a Hip Hop renaissance taking place and I’m thrilled to be apart of that."
"I also think it’s dope that what I’m doing has never been done before. A bestselling writer, filmmaker, professor with swag and bars! [Laughs] I’m interested in showing these kids a whole new blueprint."
M.K. Asante Recalls Ras Kass Reaching Out To Join Him On "Godz N The Hood"
"Ras reached out to me because he knew of my work as a writer, filmmaker, and professor," said Asante. "He read my book It’s Bigger Than Hip Hop. So anyway, he actually says my name on his verse and that’s why he hit me up. He rhymes: 'Transforming from O-Dog to Mo Godz / MK Asante with a flow job.' I was honored to be a reference in the track. He told me he’d be honored if I spoke on the track, like said something scholarly or something. He didn’t know at the time that I actually did have a flow job!"
Though he was uncertain of his decision to rap on the cut, M.K. Asante went for the gusto. "So I didn’t tell him I was going to spit on the track, I just did it and sent it to him. In my mind I was like, 'Damn, I hope he’s feeling it because he didn’t ask me to rap on it.'"
Asante's bold move was rewarded as the decision was met with praise from Ras Kass. "This is what he wrote back: 'Wow. Damn bro u kinda bodied the record my nigg! Haha. Shits fire. I was kinda speechless, didn't expect u to rhyme per-se (was thinkin spoken word or just scholar talking) but u put the exclamation point on this joint. Salute!! Again, Wow!! U Godzilla'd the damn track. I Can't be letting u crush my songs like that sir!! Hah' ... I’m excited now about the video which we’re planning to shoot in LA, Brooklyn, and Philly."
Kweli would go praise Asante's work on the track:
This dude @mkasante author, filmmaker, professor at Morgan State got BARS— Talib Kweli Greene (@TalibKweli) March 8, 2013
"I think everybody on the track has a different, unique flow, and that we all compliment each other. Kweli is one of my favorite emcees of all time and Ras is a legend. Bishop did his thing and set the tone. Me, I did my best. Kweli and Ras have told me that my verse was FIRE so I feel great about that. Lyrically there’s no one really fucking with those dudes. Also, this was my recording debut so I feel like I’m coming into the game in an amazing way. It's divine."
M.K. Asante Discusses Memoir BUCK & Accompanying Soundtrack
"BUCK is a powerful tale about how a precocious kid left alone educated himself with the most unconventional of teachers – outlaws and eccentrics, rappers and mystic strangers, ghetto philosophers and strippers, and, eventually, an alternative school that transformed his life with a single blank sheet of paper," explained Asante. "It’s a one-of-a-kind story about finding your purpose in life and an inspiring tribute to the power of education, art, and love to heal and redeem us."
"The book focuses on my life between the ages of 13 – 18. It’s written in the first-person present tense so you, the reader, are right there with me, on my crazy trek to self-discovery," he added.
"We are doing something totally different and innovative with the release of BUCK," revealed Asante. "We’re doing a soundtrack for the book. No one has ever done that. Also, I’m now signed with THNTCK which is LA Reid’s strategic marketing company and, as you can probably predict with that relationship, we’re about to do very, very big things. Everyone’s amped!"
Asante also revealed that future plans include audio and film versions of BUCK, as well as a book tour.
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