Expectations will always be high when a long-standing emcee like ethemadassasin shares a sentimentally entitled album, ‘Soul on Fire,’which is highly unusual in the hip-hop world. So it was pleasure to capture up with this age-less rapper via dog-and-bone to hear all about his album’s confession.
Tell us where you where coming from with ‘Soul on Fire.’
I wanted to make an album that was personal, it is street music but coming from a different perspective. There is a lot of truth behind it, as I felt like I was baring my soul and I am also fiery person!
I feel like there is a lot maturity from your previous stuff, it is refreshing to see an artist grow up with their music and listeners, was that an intentional approach?
It was, if you pay attention to the first 5 tracks in how the beat is constructed they have a very 90s boom-bap sound and the subject matter matches. At the same time, I have evolved as a person and I wanted the rest of the album to also deal with that too.
How did you strike that balance of sticking to your roots as someone apart ‘golden era’ of hip-hop to incorporating a 2013 sound?
I am that! As you get older things change, your experiences change, your opinion changes. As I have changed, music changed, it just a balance of reference. I have an appreciation of the whole entire spectrum of hip-hop.
With this all in mind, what journey are you taking your listens on with ‘Soul on Fire?”
As you can see my output of music is very sporadic, I don’t just drop music all the time! I have really taken my time to live my life and it just so happens that I rap! My first album, ‘Proverbs’ was about giving the life lessons I have learnt in my life. The second album, ‘Tomorrow Never Comes’ I really felt hopeless about shit, sometimes you feel like you are fighting a battle and feel like you are not winning, but the fact that you are still fighting means you are winning. This last album, I feel is a summary of the first two.
You described your first album as being “sporadic” I would say its more crafted, it has been a 5 year gap between ‘Tomorrow Never Comes’ and ‘Soul on Fire’ so what was the lead up to that?
I would say life get in my way! On top of that, being a one-man record label having to push my music on my own. As an independent artist you have to push everything on your own and 2 years can easily pass. I have pushed it as far as it can go, and now I have to find producers to making more music. I am picky with music, I have to love a beat before I can start writing to it and I like to take time write my song. I am also a tough critic on myself.
How do you strike balance between managing yourself as an artist and then creating music as an artist?
I manage time really [and] I rarely sleep! I do have people around me who help me, but sometimes if there something to be done you just have to do it. I have the type of mentality that is ‘ I’m going to get it done today!
I wanted to say to move the conversation on to the song ‘Gratitude’ as it really stood out. I find it quite provocative, especially the lyric, “I’m living I’m a spectacle,/my nigger took a bullet to my testicles!” Where did inspiration come from?
Where I grew up and the people I grew up with, there was a lot shit that we went through. It is like I survived. I have lots of friends who are dead and friends who been shot up and shot each other up. That whole song is about me saying I have made it through all of that and as a black man growing up, I’m lucky to be alive and is thankful for it.
I feel you have this natural ability to connect your reality into lyrics in doing so creating imagery with words.
Its something that I just do, because I am a matter-of-fact- kind of guy. All of those things happen exactly how I said it. I just the truth by me painting a stark reality I am giving it to you straight.
How do you know when you have got a good beat?
In the first 4-5 seconds I know, it just hits me in a certain way. If the beat can stir an emotion in me immediately than I can probably write to it. It takes a lot to move me musically; I think that my musical taste is tougher than the average person. I think if I like then you go like it!
Ok so you heard it, you like it, how then you put your concept across to the beat?
That’s a good one! Sometime I am thinking about a concept in my head. I might hear a beat that I like and feel this fits the mood of this idea. Sometimes I hear beat and I just start writing till I can’t stop.
With all of this in mind, what is your favourite track on the album and why?
[Pauses] Probably, ‘Letter to Mommy,’ my mother was teacher and never really had a lot of time to deal with me one-on-on and so we didn’t have a close relationship. I feel there is a lot of my life that my mum has no idea about. It just my letter to her and to let her know its not your fault!
Ok so what are the next steps for ‘Soul on Fire?’
I’m going to get rich and change my name! I’m pushing the album and got two big shows coming up and release some more videos and setting up tour dates.
Soul on Fire is available NOW from iTunes now http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/soul-on-fire/id685226091
Words by Janine Francois @GrrlsClub