A Conversation with Rapper/Producer Curtis Young on Hip Hop, being the Son of Dre and Creating his own Legacy

Interviews

 

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When you first look at Curtis Young you are immediately struck by the similarity and likeness to hip hop legend Dr Dre, his father and mentor. However looks were the only thing that was the similarity for the pair for many years, as Young only discovered his patronage bloodline connection to the legendary hip hop producer at the age of 12. For many years Curtis Young would listen to the music of Dr Dre, idolizing NWA and growing up on the streets of Compton never knowing of his ultimate connection to the icon…. Until he did.

After discovering that he was indeed the son of Dre, Curtis Young, as one would expect was in a state of disbelief for some time. Upon DNA testing and confirmation that he was indeed Dre’s son, the 20 year old young man at the time was finally able to meet his father and find out that they had more in common that just their last name and good looks. For Curtis, hip hop was always in his veins as he was already a budding rapper with the moniker of the Hood Surgeon, with a list of growing features on mixtapes around the West Coast hip hop circuit. Meeting and bonding with his father further solidified the legacy that laid within Curtis and he began to cultivate his song writing, rapping and more recently production skills to create a path of his own. As children of successful celebrities, most enjoy the lifestyle trappings that come with being the offspring of the rich and famous. For Curtis, he never experienced it, and had never expected nor entertained the thought of using his obvious connections for the advancement of his career. His journey has been self-made, self-created and self-sustained and it is within those very character traits that lies his ultimate connection as one of the strongest seeds of hip hop.

Founding Forever Young Entertainment  which cultivates new, up and coming artists under his tutelage, to providing community supported programs to the people and services that need a helping hand, Curtis Young is a student of the school of paying it forward and in doing so is creating his own legacy for the next generation of Young’s to follow. As a family man, he is a devoted husband and father, but he is also a guy that genuinely loves hip hop for what it means to him and that shows in the music he has created for close to 10 years in the game. With his debut album up for a new year release and aptly titled “Product of My DNA” and the new single “We Get Down” which was released on his birthday on Dec 15th to rave reviews.

In addition to the music side of Young, he has also begun dabbling in the acting world, slated to appear in a new reality TV show called Seeds of Hip Hop, centred around the lives of the children of legendary hip hop artists. Currently  in network discussions at the moment, Young is excited and optimistic about the path his careers is taking, with him firmly at the helm. He is already a seasoned artist having done the rounds as so many up and comers have before him, utilising that inbuilt steel determination that his namesake beholds, Young is already destined for great things. The 34 year old hip hop artist has a discography bearing the weight of 4 mixtapes and 1 LP under his belt and is gearing himself for the release of an album that is set to change the game for the rise of Curtis Young and his empire.

I am beyond blessed and elated to bring you this Australian first exclusive interview and truly humbled that Curtis Young wanted to share his inspiring story on my blog. What I took away from my conversation with Young is that of an empowered, hungry, driven and disciplined artist who, regardless of his last name and hip hop lineage, is on his grind authentically and of his own accord knowing that what he puts in is what he will be rewarded to him. From where we stand, the work ethic, vision and hustle Curtis Young possess ensures his reward will indeed be that of a lifelong hip hop legacy his children will undoubtedly benefit from, doing it his way but never forgetting the product of his DNA!

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Hi Curtis – thanks so much for your time. How are you and how has life been treating you?

I’m doing good Ms Hennessey so good to talk to you, thanks for having me. Life has been good, keeping me busy and just focussed on finishing my album “Product of My DNA” is really what I have been giving most of my energy to. I have also been developing my own companies exploring film and production called Son of Chronic so that has been keeping me busy and of course developing my own artists and just making sure everything is running right.

Congratulations on the success you have been receiving in the lead up to the release of your album “Product of My DNA” – can we talk a little about the conception of this album, production and the overall message you wish fans to capture when they hear your work?

Well the general message behind it is me finding out that my last name was Young, after having grown up as Curtis Macklemore and finding out who my real father was over an argument I had with my dad that raised me, telling me that he wasn’t my real father. So it basically tells the story of how I had the DNA testing done and found out that my real father was Dr Dre and I guess from that point on I realised that the music talent I had inside me all along was something I knew I was meant to do. I mean I was always into music before finding out who my dad was but I always thought I would pursue a career in professional football (laughs) but as it turns out is not the case. I got into the music at a young age and after that argument lead me to the truth I just wanted nothing more than to meet my dad. After we met, I watched him, I was around him all the time, in the studio while he worked on 50 Cent’s “Get Rich or Die Trying” album, working with Game, just anything he would let me be around to learn from him and help me grow and become a better artist until I was ready. I then built my company Forever Young Entertainment and then started the Son of Chronic business and the processes I went through with that. I did my best to write this album that allows the fans and the curious alike to understand my story of who I was before I met my father and the journey I was on way before I met him.

Can you describe who Curtis Young is as an artist and a young black man navigating the waters of modern day hip hop in America?

The best way to describe who I am is like this, I am a young man who likes to have a good time in life, I like to be positive and I like to understand the obstacles of life and how to overcome them. I am a trendsetter,  a leader not a follower and I want be recognised as an artist that is paving his own way and not walking the same path as my father or anybody else in the hip hop community. My personality is energetic, funny, I love to laugh and tell jokes and I cook like crazy ( laughs) and I love enjoying my wife and my kids so that’s me in a nutshell.

How have you ensured that you remain an artist in your right, away from the celebrity of your father and stay authentic and true to your destiny?

I would have to say by not following his same footsteps and staying in my own lane. Those are some huge footsteps to follow and you now that’s not something I have ever tried to do. For me, I follow the steps of the most high and I know that my purpose and path for what I am doing in hip hop is different to that of my father’s journey. I am trying to keep my music as positive and clean as possible, it’s a grown and sexy feel and I want to be known as a new era and trendsetter in hip hop.

Can we touch on how things are progressing with the relationship with your father Dr Dre? I have read a few interviews and articles where a lot of speculation about your relationship with your dad and how you came to find out about him? Not wanting to add to the rumour mill but can we talk about how you found out about your dad and how your relationship is going given your both in the hip hop music world?

It’s a just a dad and son thing to be honest as I am totally independent with my music. Obviously he gives me advice and guidance when I need it but as you know he is busy and busy is (laughs) as I am so whenever we get a chance to kick it he makes the time for me. There’s a lot to factor in with us both but with my dad our relationship is one based on respect and like any father you want your son to be better than you so it is something that I am aware of and whilst I never want to be in comparison to my dad, the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree (laughs).

 

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You are set to play the role of your dad in the soon to be filmed biopic “Dogg Pound for Life”, which has been slated as an unofficial spin off of Straight Outta Compton? Can I ask how the movie came about, your role in the movie and your thoughts on Straight Outta Compton?

You know what I don’t really know too much about what is going on with that prooduction to be honest, it’s still up in the air at this moment so I really don’t have too much to say. There are talks going on about the Tupac movie right now too so a few things happening in that area, just seeing how everything pans out to be honest. There are still positive talks going on about the reality show Seeds of Hip Hop being looked at by the creators of the Kardashian series and they are looking to shop it to the E Channel and VH1 so we will see how that goes. But you know I am busy none the less, got a book coming out, a clothing line that has a distribution company locked in and my own movie based around Product of My DNA that I am also working on so never a dull moment in my life (laughs).

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Curtis, hip hop means different things to different people, it is much more than just a genre of music though. Can I ask what hip hop means to you, how is has shaped your life and how you wish to leave your blueprint in this game?

You know Hip Hop means a whole lot to me. It means life, something to stand for because if you don’t stand for something you will fall for anything right.  Hip Hop has helped so many people pave a way and has given so many artists life. You know you gotta ask yourself sometimes what is really hip hop? You gotta understand the grass roots of hip hop and that’s where I know as a student of hip hop what was before me and what lies ahead of me in my time now. These new hip hop artists and whatever it is that they do, praise to them for doing their thing, but they also have to realise the importance of the genre they have stepped into and know their history and not fall prey to just becoming a part of the status quo. Are they paving a way for the youth or just part of a trend…… you gotta ask yourselves these questions so you are equipped to deal with the changes that come with any music genre, but especially in hip hop.

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What does Curtis Young know about Australia – anything you can teach me about my country?

Well I’ve been to Australia on a six city tour a few years ago with Tha Alkoholiks, DJ Yella and a few other artists and we performed in major cities like Perth, Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney to name a few. Yeah I loved it out there man, would love to come back. From what I can remember it was a super cool place so hopefully I will be back soon.

The greater inspiration / influence in your life and why?

I would have say a lot of great inspiration in my life would be my dad Dre, Pac, Jay Z, Nas, Biggie and of course what my dad and his crew NWA did was a huge influence to me from a young age.

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“We Get Down” single out now and available on ITunes download for $1

 

 For more information on Curtis Young please visit: www.officialcurtisyoung.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mrcurtisyoung

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MrCurtisYoung

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/forever-young-beats

 

Always Hip Hop

 Ms Hennessey

On the Flip Side with Sydney Artist & Producer Marley Cassette

Interviews

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Marley Cassette is no stranger to the strains and idiosyncrasies of the music industry, having survived the highs and lows of Sydney ever evolving urban music industry for the past 15 years roughly. He first caught my attention as am up and coming artist by the name of Mid B back in 2003, sharing his craft for carefully penned original songs and a production ear that was on the brink of excellence. Fast forward to 2015 and Mid B is Marley Cassette, his music foundation has remained the same, the drive and passion turnt up and his production and song writing skills evolved into a sound that is both unique and original.

Not one to brag or boast about his musical conquests, Marley has remained consistent, focussed and above all humble throughout his re-emergence back into the urban music community. It has been with a sense of ownership and maturity about his positon in this industry as a respected artist and producer that has truly made Marley Cassette shine bright like a diamond this year. Music production has seen an incredible collaboration with Sydney soul chartreuse Sarsha Simone, where the pair have released two stellar tracks together and made heads bob around the nation with their infectious and positive sound. Marley’s “Everybody” single release in mid-2015 featuring the sultry sound of Ms Simone is a definitive summertime party song and is a flawless track that hits all the right notes. Speed tracking to Oct and the single release of Sarsha Simones “Let’s Dance” proved to be another winning combination between the pair, who have the right chemistry to create Sydney soul with a touch of funk in all the right places.

For Marley, whose influence is heavily credited to the late reggae legend Bob Marley, music has been his destiny since the age of the seven when banging around on a set of drums with his cousins reggae band unearthed the music seed within, and the rest as they say is history. For this Triple J Unearthed artist who has recently merged with Sydney indie label Still I Rise Collective it is safe to say that Marley Cassette is a mainstay as a sought after producer and artist making his mark in his own way. I am proud to see just how far his star is reaching and believe it will go even higher given the calibre of music depth and knowledge he portrays in his various works. So get familiar with Marley Cassette and watch this space for his next instalment of hybrid funk, soul and roots fusion to emerge and take his sound to the flip side of cool!

Hi Marley how are you? How has life been treating you?

Hey Ms Hennessey, I’m doing great. Life has been good to me in the last few years. I’ve been through a lot and life has taught me a lot. Just staying focused on my music.

Marley Cassette

You have been a producer in the Australian urban music industry for close to two decades, always on your hustle and grind. Can you share with us who you have worked with so far and who is on your bucket list of artists to help produce?

I started producing about 12 years ago. I was in my room making beats all the time. But there was a big gap in those years where I was going through a few things and wasn’t putting any music out and hustling as hard as I should. Now I am back on my grind 100%. In those years I worked with Jade McRae and a few local unsigned artists. Right now I’m working with a really cool future soul singer named Sarsha Simone based in Sydney.

My bucket list to produce for would be a long one! Internationally I would love to produce for Lorde, Dr Dre, Damian Marley, Sade, Tinie Tempah, Pharrell, and Sia. Locally, George Maple, 360, Daniel Johns.

What started you in your journey in music production and what has kept you going for as long as you have?

Well I started playing drums when I was 7. Then I was in a reggae band when I was 13 and learnt a bit of piano. So I always had a love and feel for music. But production all started when I listened to an album called “Rhythamalism” by L.A based rapper/producer DJ Quik. Back then I wasn’t even sure what a producer did. So I was looking through the album cover credits and I saw each song said “Produced by DJ Quik.” After that I did my research, bought a drum machine and synthesizer and locked myself in my room.

The thing that has kept me going is firstly my undeniable love and passion for music. And also today I feel like have something to offer. I have my own sound and I want the world to hear it.

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Your thoughts on production in Australia’s music industry overall and where you fit into that Blueprint?

I am very impressed by some of the producers that are coming out of Australia. It has improved a lot, we’re on an international level now. I think I’ll fit perfectly because my sound is fresh but it doesn’t sound like anyone else. I’m excited about it.

What are your current projects/ releases you can share with us?

My current projects are “Everybody” feat Sarsha Simone, Sarsha’s latest single “Let’s Dance”, both out now, and also working on her next single. Should be out very soon.

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What keeps your music and ideas fresh, relevant and ahead of the game when it comes to producing hip hop on a global level?

What keeps my music fresh is that I listen to a wide variety of music, old and new. Ever since I was a kid I listened to everything. I listen to the newest music coming out of the U.S and Europe and stay afloat of trends but I don’t mimic them too much.

Sometimes I’ll be walking down the street and I’ll hear a melody in my mind and run to the studio and record it. Then I’ll just play around with it and make it sound fresh. I won’t stop with the beat until it’s on par with the best globally.

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What’s next for Marley Cassette and where can people find you online?

What’s next for me is I’m now working with a very cool independent label called ‘Still I Rise Collective.’ I am about to drop an EP with Sarsha Simone, production for a couple of other local artists and a bunch of remixes.

You can find me online at:

Web: www.marleycassette.com.

Soundcloud: www.soundcloud.com/marleycassette

Instagram: Marley Cassette

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The greatest motivation / inspiration in your life and why?

Bob Marley is my main inspiration. It’s more than just music. It’s a spiritual thing. Music takes you somewhere else. And I want to take people to that place. ……Thanks for having me. Bless.

Marley

 

Always Hip Hop

 

Ms Hennessey

A Conversation with Bahamadia – The Reigning Queen of Hip Hop!

Interviews

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She hails from one of America’s most hard working and multi-talented cities Philadelphia and carries within herself a sense of power, strength and authenticity that beats with the heart of hip hop. Bahamadia is the truth and spits nothing less than the real, representing a time in hip hop when artists lived the reality of their rhymes and took accountability for what they created as a sign of love for the art of hip hop not for its financial disposition.

Bahamadia first burst onto the underground hip hop scene in 1994, and quickly gained a steadfast following due to her straight up formula of truth spitting lyrics that set her on a path of being a rapper built on authenticity, positivity and above all passion for the art of hip hop. When her debut album “ Kollage” was released in 1996, she spearheaded in the way for a new breed of heavy hitting female lyricists to express themselves in an original way, far removed from the over processed and diluted version of today’s hip hop. Bahamadia came in and made you sit up and take notes, not in an aggressive sense but more so in the fashion of a queen commanding her court and her impassioned and bold style soon became the signature sound that her fans the world over can never get enough of.

Having worked with some of the greatest names in the game such as her original crew The Treacherous Three, to Gangstarr Foundation, Talib Kweli, The Roots and of course The Lyricist Lounge outfit alongside fellow female rapstress Rah Digga, Bahamadia has remained one of the industries most respected and consistent hip hop artists who has cultivated the beauty of rap into a true art form. With a discography that bears four studio albums, countless features on various compilation albums from The Lyricist Lounge to King Britt Presents and mixtapes and collaborations, Bahamadia keeps her finger on the pulse of hip hop and as a true artist does , creates her music in only the truest of intention. A proud female rights activist, entrepreneur and curator of hip hop culture, Bahamadia encompasses the spirit of an artist that has stayed true to her calling as one of the genres most empowered female lyricists and as she evolves into the new era of hip hop in 2016 with an exciting new album release on the horizon and a mind-blowing new mobile music recording and production app called Dialed Up under construction, she is set to blaze a new path for women in hip hop.

I am beyond blessed to be able to share our incredibly enlightening conversation and can definitely say that this has been one major tick off my writer’s career bucket list. Bahamadia has been a great source of inspiration to me as a both a writer and a DJ and I can only hope that those who read this interview will become just as inspired by her words and career as I have been for the past two decades. She is all that is real and true about an era of hip hop that still runs in the veins of those who lived its course and believe in it message – rap what you live, be you authentically and stay true to the game!

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Such an honour to talk to you Bahamadia – how are you today?

I’m fine, thanks for asking – hope you are doing well. I appreciate your concern and support.

You have come up in an era of hip hop that still remains untouched and almost guarded by the vanguards of the music genre to this day. How would you describe your early years in hip hop and what has kept you in the game for so long?

You know it’s always so nice to hear how far my career has flung me in terms of the people I get to work with and touch every day through my words and music. It is incredibly humbling for me to know that I am personally paying it forward in some other artists life and it has always just been something that I have done from day to day, not really thinking about how my career has inspired so many people for so many years, it’s just happened this way and I am blessed to still do what I do.

The contribution that I make to the culture of hip hop as a whole is just my expression and interpretation of my voice and the experiences I am involved in you know. I actually live my art and I filter my experiences through my music so I have never looked at it like that was the wrong thing to do. I am an authentic artist and am so grateful that I was able to come up in a time when hip hop was such an authentic music genre and your uniqueness was being celebrated… so I just hold on to those sensibilities today. The way I was raised at home has a big part of the uniqueness of me and how I live my life so I would say just staying true to me and putting my own perspective and spin on how see and do things.

You hail from Philadelphia and represent hard for your city and your music form – what is it about Philly that creates such amazing talent? And what would you say makes you a true Philadelphian through and through?

I think that from our prospective of an authentic Philadelphian this is a no nonsense city and we have a high standard that we adhere to when it comes to Arts and discipline and just overall what this city is built upon is unmatched I believe. I have seen similar energies like what we have here in Philly in certain parts of Australia, and Canada and of course in places like Detroit and Chicago, you know places that feel similar to me, like where I’m in my own skin. Philly is a training ground and it pushes you towards a higher mark and raises the bar constantly. Even when you think you’ve reached the APEX or close enough then that’s when you know you are ready to break through and keep climbing and test out what you’ve learnt. We take artistry very seriously here.

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You have been a respected female hip hop artist for close on 2 decades now, released 4 solo albums, appeared on countless album compilations and have been associated with groups such as The Treacherous 3, Gangstarr, Talib Kweli to name a few. How would you best describe the difference between Bahamadia the artist and Bahamadia the woman with a passion for truth seeking?

We are the same person – you can’t have one without the other. Me as an artist, I am no-nonsense and my calling cards are the foundations of substance and quality. Bahamadia the woman is an owner, a stickler for education and strategizing my moves, working smarter and not harder and just a woman who trusts the timing in life and knowing that the course of my life is one of design and that I am built to do this work and that has sustained me during my different phases. I am confident in my position in life and as a forerunner in my music and this culture.

Can we talk your new music / projects? How is your impending new release “Here” coming along?

Well I have several collaborations that I am working on now, one of them is an experimental music project that I am really excited about, working with some electronica sounds so it’s going to be dope. Then I have a few collaborations in the mix as well and I have just finalised the cover art for my new album. So just a revamp of my work as opposed to a reintroduction of Bahamadia and showcasing my range. This current album is celebratory of like traditional hip hop and showcasing a regional element and I went back to my roots and want to represent my energy on this album so I hope everybody loves it. I should be looking to release in 2016

I have also been working on a mobile app called ‘Dialed Up” where you can record and produce a full album in your car, so yeah that’s been something I have loved working on. You can find it on my YouTube channel called “Car Sessions with the First One” and I actually produced the first volume in my car. How that came about were supports kept asking me you know when are you going to release your music etc. so one thing led to another and I started out doing one song and then ended up doing the whole album in the car (laughs). So I added a visual component to the app to show everyone the process and it just went crazy from there. So check it out everyone – it’s called Dialed Up and it’s really cool.

Here – Bahamadia

 

Bahamadia Here

What do you think is the greatest misconception about woman in hip hop is and why?

I think the greatest misconception is that we, females in hip hop, don’t have a diverse voice and perspective, because usually from a mainstream stance we only need like one or two main artists to break through and that’s deemed enough. We lack diversity and perspective in the art form of hip hop and across all sectors of the working industry and that we lack the business acumen to run successful businesses in the industry. Women have been marginalised across all industries for such a long time and the fight still continues today, we have come a long way but not nearly as far as we have needed to with everything we still have yet to break down, so that’s how I look at it.

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Your greatest influence / inspiration in life and why?

I couldn’t put it down one specific person or thing that influences or inspires me but a range of people, feelings and experiences have helped shape my life today. Be it my family or friends or a range of experiences be it good or bad that I go through, all of these things I draw inspiration from everything I am afforded the liberty of experiencing, just everyday life and living. If we are talking inspiration specifically musically, it would Ella Fitzgerald & Phoebe Snow definitely.

What advice would you give to a younger version of Bahamadia and why?

I couldn’t be the one to give a younger Bahamadia that advice as I would still be me ( laughs) so I would be seeking the advice from a mentor or prayer but what I would be telling any other upcoming artist to make sure they educate themselves in whatever path or industry they choose to become involved in, to never comprise their worth, to learn how to manoeuvre and cultivate relationships in their networks that would be conducive to their goals without compromise themselves or their goals and to master their craft, you don’t just want to authentic and unique but a skilled labourer and put forth quality product and take your position in your craft and your life seriously…. That’s the advice I would give.

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For more information on Bahamadia and her music visit: http://www.bahamadiamusic.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Bahamadia

Bandcamp: https://bahamadia.bandcamp.com

 

Dialed Up by Bahamadia

Dialed Up – Bahamadia

 

Always Hip Hop

 

Ms Hennessey

Jazzie B – A Conversation with the original Funki Dred on life after Soul 2 Soul!

Interviews

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To describe the work and knowledge this pioneering DJ, music producer, fashion designer and soul music authoritarian has done over his four decade strong career would take more than this interview. What Jazzie B has done and continues to do for the British soul music industry is the stuff of legends really and quite fittingly so as he is indeed a legend himself. More than just the founder of 90’s supergroup Soul II Soul, Jazzie B wears a great many titles under his sole passion of music and creative ingenuity.

This Hornsey London born native is the ninth of ten children born to parents of Antiguan descent. Trevor Beresford Romeo OBE ( appointed Officer of the Order of the British Order by Queen Elizabeth II in 2008) aka Jazzie B was raised in a home flooded with music and began running sound systems in the late 60’s early 1970’s working under the name of Jah Rico. Gaining his first gig in 1977 with friends they soon amassed a following that eventuated in a name change and a game change as Soul II Soul in 1982. The group itself went on to shine a light in the UK soul sound system movement and with Jazzie as its captain, he steered the groups success through the late eighties, early nineties right up until present times, their music standing ground as one of the most important and influential sounds behind the emergence of neo soul from a British perspective. Jazzie, along with Caron Wheeler and MC Chikaboo, whom are still current members of the Soul II Soul movement went on to create some award winning music and albums, giving the world hit after hit with “ Back to Life”, “Keep on Moving”, “ A Dreams a Dream” and many more. Gaining massive success and accolades in the UK, the Soul II Soul sound reached the globe and hit the America’s hard reaching Top 10 and certified platinum status of their “Back to Life” album. The vision Jazzie B had for how far his sound system movement would reach has cemented itself as one that is still necessary to the foundation of the UK soul industry and was echoed at the Ivor Novello Awards in May 2008 where he was awarded the first Inspiration Award for being “the man who gave black British music a soul of its own”.

Yet Jazzie is more than Soul II Soul and is heralded as one of the country’s top music producers to date. With his signature style and sound Jazzie has worked his magic on remixes for the likes of Maxi Priest, Public Enemy, Johnny Gill, Isaac Hayes, Nas and Destiny’s Child to name a few and has produced and presented various artists compilations including Jazzie B Presents Soul II Soul at the Africa Centre ( 2004 ) and Masterpiece ( 2008) to name a few. He is also the founding director of the Featured Artists Coalition and in recent years has taken to teaching students through various talks, Q&A’s about his life and the adventures of Soul II Soul all over the country, has lectured at Cambridge University and addressed the evolution of global music at Manchester’s annual In the City music conference. In addition to this he has also spoken extensively about sound systems and sound system culture for the Red Bull Music Academy and taught music and music technology at Jamie’s Dream School for the UK’s Channel 4 in 2011. How does one man pack all of this into one life? Quite simple really, for Jazzie B it’s always been about the journey music takes him on and not the destination. Not one to be swayed by the trappings of fame and the high life, Jazzie focusses on the art of giving back to the youth through music and his successful and vibrant fashion and culture brand “ The Funki Dred”, which continues to grow each season under the creative guidance of Mr B. Launching his Classics Collection in London’s high end department store Harvey Nichols in 2013 has given the brand a definitive edge as it presents a collection of high end, raw, handmade pieces that inspire a ‘do it yourself’ energy of his early sound system days. Funki Dred and Jazzie B’s aesthetic remains fully global.

His original passion of djing continues to flourish with a packed schedule of shows, events and international roster gigs playing out as far as the USA, Dubai and Croatia, Jazzie can also be found on the 1s and 2s rocking prestigious events such the Lovebox Festival; the Southport Weekender; and the Red Bull Music Academy Culture Clash at London’s Roundhouse to name a few. As the master of his domain, Jazzie B meanders effortlessly through the impressive sound system empire he began building back in the late 70’s to the powerhouse of fashion, production and entreprenuerealship it has become today. He is a living testament to the adage of working hard and being rewarded for your efforts as all Jazzie B has done under the Soul II Soul umbrella and as an individual has been not only for the improvement and betterment of music but for the culture and livelihood of all who live by his mantra” a happy face, a thumpin’ bass, for a lovin’ race”!

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Thanks so much for your time Jazzie – such an honour speaking with you ….. How are you and how is life?

I’m doing really well thank you, great to speak with you as well Ms Hennessey.

Jazzie you have been at the helm of the soul movement in the UK for close to three decades and of course the founder of the incredible Soul II Soul, which has truly been a gift to the music world. For those that may not know your history and how you started off can you please share with us how you would best describe Jazzie B the man and Jazzie B the artist and what the creation of Soul II Soul meant to you and your vision?

It’s weird because every time I’m asked that question it’s always interesting to put it in perspective from my point of view. When we started out making that sort of music it was all about what was affecting our lives at the time and I guess with the concept of the sound system we just really wanted to sound different and it was important for us to be seen as an original and unique collaboration and to come up with our identity in the realms of everything that was going on around us. Creating the sound and vision of Soul II Soul was all about authenticity, identity and given the music industry something they had never experienced before at the end of the day.

Keep on Moving Soul II Soul

Jazzie B has also produced and remixed tracks for The Fine Young Cannibals, Incognito, Maxi Priest, James Brown, Kym Mazelle, Rose Windross, Cheryl Lynn, Public Enemy, Johnny Gill, Caron Wheeler, Isaac Hayes, Sinéad O’Connor, Teena Marie, Ziggy Marley, Yorker, The Jones Girls, Nas, and Destiny’s Child. As a DJ and producer, what do you find yourself being more pulled towards these days, especially with the fusion of so many genres?

My first love is djing and even though djing and production do go hand in hand, but I really do enjoy djing so much I have to say. I just purchased a whole bunch of vinyl recently so I am really looking forward to ploughing through all of that (laughs) … so yeah things like that still excite me you could say. When I do come in front of a musical project that interests me on a creative level then you will have the production side of me kick in but on a scale of 1 to 10, yeah djing wins (laughs).

The UK urban music movement has always been a vehicle of its own, devoid of comparison to its American cousins, it stands alone in its sound, artistry and above all else its authenticity. What would you say are the attributes that make the UK music industry such a unique and forceful entity on the global stage?

Well obviously I think fundamentally it’s the society that we living in, in regards to the reflections of who are and what you are surrounded by, in a strange way are what make the UK sound so unique. I am not a fan of the term “urban” to be honest from a black perspective as what happens in the UK is really attributed to everything that’s around us and we thrive off being innovative and creative and you know sonically the sounds are, when soul II soul came in, we had the jungle scene which is now drum and bass, we’ve had the grime scene and the garage scene and just mish mashes of musical ideas that pretty much just come into their own. That is really what happens here in the UK and it’s something we are really proud of.

Soul II Soul gave depth and meaning to music lovers in the early nineties and a sound that is timeless – What are your thoughts on the soul music industry and its artists today Jazzie? Is there direction or are we grappling at the strings of relevance?

I think music evolution is just great and all the technology we have today is so necessary to continue shaping and cultivating music creativity. It is very exciting time for music industry I believe and there are a lot of great sounds coming gout which is great also. Look at how we absorb sound these days and that just shows you how far the music and technology industries have come. I think it is a very exciting time for music right now.

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What are you working on lately and where can we find you and your sound online?

Well funnily enough Caron Wheeler and myself have been working with a new band for the last three years and we have been in the studio lately working on some material together so that will be coming out in March of 2016 so that’s exciting and this month I will be receiving a Q Award (The Q Awards are the UK’s annual music awards run by the music magazine Q and have become one of Britain’s biggest and best publicised music awards) so things are still busy as always for me. Never a dull moment you could say and I still get nervous with these things so that’s a good thing I guess (laughs).

How is your Collection and Lifestyle fashion label going for you?

The fashion label is going really well at the moment thanks for asking. The last collection we did was for Harvey Nichols in London and it’s going well and of course the interest for the label through my website continues to grow so I am really blessed it is growing and I am grateful for the support. Music and fashion have always gone together and that’s where that inseparable link lies and again it’s a lifestyle at the end of the day.

Soul II Soul T Shirts

If you met a younger version of Jazzie B today what advice would you give to him and why?

Mmmmm the advice would initially be perseverance works so it’s important to see everything through. Don’t give up, believe in what you do and do it to the best of your ability and you have to finish what you start.

Jazzie B OBE

Your greatest influences and or inspirations?

Apart from my family obviously I would have to say artists like Isaac Hayes, James Brown, Barry White, being around people like that have helped to shape the creative part of me, but for all intents and purposes it would be my family really.

4 albums you would take with you into the afterlife and why?

Anything from Curtis Mayfield as he is my musical encyclopaedia, I’d have to make a compilation of reggae music I think as that is the backbone to me waking up every day and I think I would make a usb off the internet of all the new music out there right now and I think you might have to come back to me on that 4th album (laughs).

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What would you say is the greatest lesson music has taught you about life and yourself thus far?

It’s taught me a happy face, a thumping base for a loving race to keep on moving.

For more information on Jazzie B, music and fashion please visit: www.jazzieb.com or www.soulIIsoul.com

Always Hip Hop

Ms Hennessey

Rah Digga –The Headmistress of Hip Hop

Interviews

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She is the self-titled Harriett Thugman of Hip Hop and she hasn’t missed a beat in the past two decades of her verbal slaughter as one of the rawest female rappers in hip hop to date. Rashia Fisher aka Rah Digga needs no introduction for she is heralded as one of the genres vanguards of a sound that rough, rugged and all the way live.

Hailing from Newark New Jersey, Rah Digga is unapologetically candid and honest about her Hip Hop and the way the genre has changed since its glory days. Days that she boldly prowled the rap stage as “one of hip-hops most skilled female MC’s alive”, Rah is a definitive student of the Golden Age of hip hop where artists were more driven by the need to prove their rhyming skills than by the lure of fame and fortune. Studying the greats such as KRS-One, Rakim and Kool G Rap, Rah Digga soon became the hottest commodity out of Newark working with hip hop groups Twice the Flavor and The Outsidaz before landing a feature on the track “Cowboys” from the Fugees album ‘The Score’. Her star continued to rise when a chance spotting by legendary Q-Tip at the Lyricist Lounge lead her to meet Busta Rhymes and joining his infamous hip hop crew Flipmode Squad saw Rah Digga secure her spot as one of the hottest female mc’s in the game. Touring the world with Flipmode and learning the innards of the hip hop industry under the veteran tutelage of Busta Rhymes saw Rah Digga evolve into her own artistry with quickend pace.

Releasing her debut solo album ‘ Dirty Harriet’ in 2000 saw Rah Digga cement her career as raps leading lady and opened the door for the female presence in Hip Hop to reign supreme as in the days of Queen Latifah and MC Lyte. She went on to collaborate with the likes of Eve and also worked with the legendary Bahamadia on the track “ Be Ok “ from Lyricist Lounge Vol 1, which made them the two leading female MC’s of the LL movement, which also included stand out artists Mos Def, Talib Kweli and Common to name a few. Rah Digga has remained now and she was back then an artist who spits from the heart, goes for the jugular and takes no prisoners in life and in hip hop and it has been that fierce tenacity that has kept her a firm favourite with old school hip heads for years. With subsequent album releases and single features over the last few years including her 2010 album “Classic” Rah Digga has gone down the independent artist route, releasing her music her way through Soundcloud, Bandcamp and ITunes. She has flirted with the acting world starring in the 2001 movie “Thirteen Ghosts” and appeared on the soundtrack on the track ‘Mirror Mirror’ and also appeared in MTV’s Carmen: A Hip Hopera alongside Joy Bryant and Beyonce in the same year.

For Rah Digga, Hip Hop has always been her teacher and is a subject she never tires of learning from. Donning the teachers hat in recent years herself, hip hop has led her to teach its lessons to students in her hometown of Newark and it is proving to be a gift that keeps on giving. As she looks back with pride at a career that has made her one of the vanguards of the genre she also realises that much more work needs to be done by the mature hip hop community to continue making music and spitting rhymes of authenticity and to not get swallowed up by the material world hip hop has delved into of late. She is a straight shooting, real and respected woman in hip hop who has never been afraid to tell it like it is. If you can’t take the heat, get ya ass away from Rah Digga!

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Such an honor to speak to you Rah – how are you and how is life treating you?

Oh man thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate your interest. I’m doing real good, busy and blessed. I am teaching hip hop history classes at the moment at our community school campus in Newark NJ and it has opened up a whole new world for me let me tell you ( laughs). Girl I thought I would just be standing up in front of kids and talking on hip hop but oh no I am in full teacher mode, running around the city securing excursions, marking essays, buying craft supplies, you name it ( laughs). It has truly been an experience and one I am loving, reaching the younger generation who may not know who I am and my role in hip hop, but there parents do and that in itself is a treat for me as the parents seem more excited at the end of class that the kids do ( laughs). So yeah I am busy and loving the educational path I hip hop my life has taken for now.

Your career and journey in hip hop is long and very deep, given your collaborations with Flipmode Squad for many years and working with so many greats like Q-Tip, Bahamadia and Eve to mention a few. Your contribution to hip hop and especially the female canvas over these years Rah has been so integral and necessary to the shaping of women’s roles in hip hop I believe….. what do you see when you look back over your career of the role you have played as a strong female in hip hop and how do think women have cultivated their roles in this genre over the years?

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It wasn’t no easy feat being the only girl in that group let me tell you (laughs) but I had my Jersey crew to prepare me for that crazy nonsense so I came prepared (laughs). You know they taught me a lot about how to deal with hip hop and the touring and record label side of things so I am really grateful for that. Busta, with all of his years of experience and being the veteran that he is, took me under his wing and just taught me so much about the music side of this game. I came into Flipmode pretty confident and cocky as far as my rhymes and flow and general body of work you know, but when it came to how to deal with the press and the public and the whole spotlight in general I was real wet behind the ears. So Busta who was already a well-seasoned rap star at that time taught me how to transcend to become a worldly artist more than just a neighbourhood spitter so I am really grateful for his mentorship.

Who would you say is your greatest influence / inspiration in your musical journey thus far and why?

My all-time inspiration right now has to be Jay Z. I say that because I’m not aspiring to have that lifestyle or anything material like that, I just look at Jay and he just seems to get better with age in everything he does you know. He is the type of artist that I aspire to be, you know there are so many artists out there who fall off as they get older , get rusty, they lose touch with everything that made them become the artists they did and I don’t want to be like that at all. I just feel that Jay Z as an artist embodies the ethics of never slipping on his hard work hustle you know, and for me as a mature hip hop artist today, that’s what I can relate to. You know I feel as I get older that my bars and rhymes are getting better with age, my wordplay is still sharp you know ( laughs) so I just saying if anyone wants to step to Rah I will rag tag that ass girl I don’t play ( laughs).

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You have three albums, countless singles, movies, nominations and awards on your mantel. What are you currently working on at the moment and how do you maintain your authenticity and consistency in a music genre that is constantly evolving in artistry, direction and above all sound?

Honestly … because I still spend a lot of time in the hood. My hood. I think that is the key to evert artist being grounded. You know it’s a shame that for most artists they lose sight of the hood that birthed them and very often never go back, I understand for some it’s not all that safe too these days, but still for the most part a lot just lose touch with their hoods and that’s a loss for them. I have always been tethered to my home town throughout my own journey and I am always greeted with love and admiration and I think just constantly been reminded why I still rhyme the way I rhyme and I can still relate to that passion because I am so connected to my roots. I think for those that don’t have that hood connection it may be a disadvantage to their artistry in a way because the authenticity of they started has been forgotten in a way, feel me. I mean I can go and sit in the same room that I wrote Dirty Harriet in and still feel my connectivity to the time, place and vibes and flashbacks you know. That spirit is still there and that’s what reflects in my music. I always recommend to any artist to spend time in their home town before they start work on an album as I believe that will serve as a reminder of the artist you were to the artist you have become and that I believe aids in the development of their musical evolution. Don’t worry about relevance too much, just be yourself and spit from an honest place.

The best piece of advice you could give to your younger self today, knowing what you know about the hip hop game and your longevity?

I would tell a young Rah Digga to keep them bars sharp. No matter what metamorphosis in the music industry during your career it’s always going to boil down to your lyrics. No matter how the industry wants to downplay the importance of bars, we see it time and time again where you could be on the top of the world with the most money, most fame and when you are put to the test and you don’t have them bars ready it will all go away just like that. So I tell everybody coming up in the game bars bars bars – they might not make you rich and famous but they will keep you working forever and forever!

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For more information on Rah Digga visit:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RahDiggaMusic

Twitter: https://twitter.com/therealrahdigga

 

Always Hip Hop

 Ms Hennessey

Luke S Kennedy – From Thug Life to Higher Learning for this Bestselling Sydney Author

Interviews

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“This is the story of my life, a life which, throughout my teenage years and early manhood, repeatedly placed me in situations where my ego got me close to being killed.” Luke S Kennedy

On your first encounter with Luke Kennedy you are met with a youthful and positive spirit of a man with a warm smile and a great sense of inner peace. His purpose is to listen and help others find their purpose and inner peace through their own personal storms, much like the thunderous storm his earlier life portrayed. A life he openly shares in his incredible debut bestselling memoir “Stabbed Ego – A Thugs Journey to Enlightenment”.

Kennedy pens a tale of growing up as an angst riddled teen from a middle class Australian family from Sydney’s Southern suburbs, with a penchant for boxing and getting up to a little bit of no good, as boys do. However when that odd bout of no good spiralled into a continuum of drunken, violent and brutish behaviour that started to affect those around him and the veritable strangers that crossed his path, Kennedy began to toy with death as his ego becomes larger than life and threatens to destroy his troubled soul. Set against a soundtrack of an emerging Aussie hip hop scene, Kennedy delves in the worlds of street fighting and graffiti tagging, running the streets of Sydney searching for the purpose that was fighting to be found. Then after two near death experiences punctured by a knife blade and countless senseless attacks courtesy of his nocturnal dealings, Luke Kennedy decides to turn his life around from the root up and focus on rebuilding himself in mind, body and spirit.

As his re-construction continues, 30 year old Luke Kennedy is indeed living his best life yet. Heralded for his powerful memoir which has seen him add public speaker and motivational coach to his resume, spends his days in between speaking events at schools all over the state and the country to working at his successful ‘ Punchy’s Gym’ with his stunning co-owner and wife Jade. He is an inspiring human being with the ability to engage your spirit and ignite your soul with his positive and fearless affection of life. I am incredibly blessed to be able to share this poignant and honest account of Luke Kennedy’s journey thus far and am earnestly inspired, thanks to his courage, to continue to fight for the purpose in my life too.

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Thanks so much for your time Luke, I truly appreciate it. How is life treating you?

Thank you for having me. Life is magic. I’m genuine when I say I’m one of the happiest mofos going. My day is spent hanging out amazing people at the gym I own with my sexy business partner (who is also my wife). Life has also introduced me to some really cool people like yourself. So for all of that, I’m incredibly grateful.

Congratulations on the success garnered from your inspiring biography Stabbed Ego ( out now on Amazon.com and all good book stores) , which was released mid-2014. It is a very personal exploration of your youth and the wild life you had lived up until a near death experience brought you back to a better quality of life. How would you best describe this book and how if has changed your outlook on life today?

The book is my story… from the ages of 15-23 I was at the head of a violent street fighting and graffiti crew in Sydney. I grew up in a family of boxers so from day one I was welcomed into the crew because of my ability to fight. I weighed over 120 kilos and knew how to throw my weight around. I was addicted to pills, coke, and speed and got blind drunk most days.

After getting stabbed twice; once in the lung and the other time in the head, I came close to killing people myself. I used to worry all the time what other people thought about me and it got me doing some inexcusable acts. On the outside I looked strong and confident but on the inside when i was alone I was severely depressed. I would sometimes cry myself to sleep. It wasn’t a single thing that started my shift. More a combination of many things. One of the key things that helped me change was the realisation that what i was fighting for was all just made up in my head; my ego. I thought i was the king. King of fighting. King of graffiti. I would stand over anyone and i really hurt a heap of people. I had created, in my mind, this fucked up world that was worth dying for. I realised this by reading a book (the power of now) and it helped me to start being myself again.

We’re all happy people when we come into this world but unfortunately some shitty things might happen to us or we will do some shitty things that take us away from who we all are deep down. Once i started being myself and stopped caring what people thought, that’s when life took the turn for the better.

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You are not only an author, gym owner, mentor and public speaker to school aged kids and young adults across Sydney about your life and how you have turned it around? What do you feel is the most important message Stabbed Ego gives to the youth of our generation and what do you feel your role in life is best defined as when you are doing your public speaking engagements?

After each of my talks I get home to countless messages on Facebook with the kids thanking me. Before my talk they thought they were the only ones who had these thoughts and worries. They think they’re alone. Some of them think they’re crazy! I help them to care less about what others think and to be themselves. I believe that’s a true key of happiness. During my talk I take the kids on a ‘journey’ where I describe my upbringing and how it turned bad. I tell them how I started living up to the labels placed on me like ‘fighter’ and ‘gang member’. I describe some harsh events I witnessed; a drunk friend being run over by a train, and another friend drop dead in front of me after he consumed a single ecstasy tablet. I then detail how I escaped that life and demonstrate how I started releasing the labels to find the true me, the happy me. I then show them what being yourself can bring you: success and happiness.

So my key message in my talks and book is to open people’s eyes up to the ‘false self’ and that here’s no point in worrying what other people think. Just be yourself. When i read the power of now the first time I couldn’t understand it. I’m glad i read it again. So I wanted a book that everybody could understand and get the same message. My book has some crazy stories that gets people reading and the explanation of mind opens their mind up to eternal possibilities.

How did arrive at the title Stabbed Ego for your book?

I wanted my title to stand out and i think it does that. The storyline is the progression of my ego and I also get stabbed so Stabbed Ego it was lol.

Who is Luke Kennedy in his own words?

Wow! Big question. I know i might sound like a wanker but I genuinely feel I’m here to help save the world. Why else did i go through all that shit and come out of it to be in the position I’m in now. I get messages all the time off people telling me they’ve never read a book before but read mine cover to cover. They also ask me about meditation. Some of my boys from the crew who i did some hard things with contact me about what books they should read next and tell me about how their minds are easing… that’s some good shit right there. I think I’m avoiding the question…. lol.

Who am I? Fuck that’s hard. I’m a young man (almost fucking 30!!) and I’m always looking to better myself and others. I love nothing more than when my mind is at ease. Although lately it might not seem like it because i haven’t been able to see them as much, i love my family and friends with all of my heart. I work incredibly hard, 7 days a week with my wife. Either on the gym or my upcoming speaking or books. We are forever working and I love it. I do it now so later i can live a good life and so i can give my parents the life they deserve. I also have an authentic quest to help less advantaged or disabled youth.

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What I picked up in your book is your connection to the early days of Sydney’s hip hop scene and how it played a direct part in the young man you were becoming until your life changed direction. How do you feel about hip hop as a music genre overall and do you possess a hip hop heart at the end of the day?

I was more into the graffiti side of hip hop rather than the music. Painting trains was what I loved. Some of my earliest memories in the crew was chilling out getting drunk doing outlines with hip hop movies like Wild Styles or Style Wars playing in the background. It puts a smile on my face thinking back to then. I used the hip hop scene as a tool though to progress my image. There were a few big name rappers in our crew and we would frequent hip hop gigs at the Lansdowne and across Sydney. I wasn’t too fussed with the music but liked to attend them to fight and carry on. There was always a heap of ladies at the gigs which was another strong lure. Whenever talk came up about Oz hip hop music I’d pretend I knew what I was talking about or that i cared. It was just another label for me. Graffiti was my form of hip hop.

How hard would you say it has been to write a book on such a dark and personal period in your life? Describe its process and how you inspired yourself to keep pushing through till its completion?

It wasn’t hard at all to be honest. I loved it. I wrote the entire first draft on my phone because I’m terrible at typing on a keyboard. I’m a lot quicker on the phone. After writing the first draft i posted some sections of it onto an authors’ forum. I thought i was the best writer in the world (think that’s the ego kicking in again). I found out otherwise. I could write a great story but my spelling and grammar was hopeless. I’ve still really got no idea where those fucking commas go. So authors on the site tore it to shreds. I also sent it to an editor who wouldn’t edit it unless i took a course in writing (mother fucker).

An incredible lady, Sarah Catania, in boxed me though. She was an editor. She could tell i could write a great story but just needed some guidance. She guided me the entire way and taught me so much. After writing the first draft it was then time to publish it. I had heard that getting a book published takes ages (if it ever does). I’m pretty impatient when I’m onto something good so i started up my own publishing company and with help of other people got the shit done. I outsourced everything that a publisher does; editing, cover and internal design, promotion etc. I also hired a publicist. It’s now a best seller on amazon US and AUS in 2 categories. Life is cool (fuck your writing course lol).

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What are your currently working on Luke and where can people find your book and follow your inspiring life online?

I’m writing a couple of more books; one that is complete is the sequel to Stabbed Ego. I took a section out of Stabbed Ego and turned it into its own book (is that a sequel?). I’ve got a sequence I’m running with. The first book, Stabbed Ego, opens your eyes up to the ego. The second book Silent Ego shows you how to lessen it. Both have some hectic stories. It’s personal development that also includes sex, drugs, humour, violence and death. What more could you want? I also work weekly with a charity that’s close to my heart and i want to expand on that. Other than saving the world, I haven’t got too much else on.

What would you say your greatest motivation in life is and why?

One of my greatest motivators is to work my arse off so i can repay my parents. They were with me every step of the way and never gave up on me. We struggled for money, growing up in housing commission, but my parents always gave me everything. Even when i fucked up in Thailand, I was run over by a truck when I rode a motorbike high on cocaine and blind drunk. My dad had to get a $22,000 loan to pay for hospital bills to get his dickhead son home. They’ve always bailed me out of trouble and even now they grab brochures from my gym and go do letter box drops for me. I can’t wait to have enough coin to give them everything they want and buy them a house.

That’s my motivation right there.

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The best piece of advice you have been given and how has it shaped you?

“You are not your thoughts”! Those 5 words have the power to change the world. We all get caught up in this fake world that our mind perceives the world to be. Our thoughts can be scary as fuck but once we separate ourselves from that and be the observer rather than believing the thoughts are who we are, that’s where true happiness comes from. We are the soul who can see the thoughts without judgement. Think (for lack of a better word) about it… what is it that can hear the thoughts? That’s you. The soul. The mind is frantic. If we believe we are the thoughts, life sucks balls.

 

For more on Luke Kennedy and his bestselling memoir “Stabbed Ego” visit: www.lukeskennedy.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LukeSKennedy33

 

Authenticity, Life & Love

 Ms Hennessey

Naturally 7 – Vocal Play on High

Interviews

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What happens when you take seven voices gifted from the gods above, place them in a room with no music and tell them to create? The answer is a union that is truly outer worldly and on a whole new level of vocally gifted. The answer is simply Naturally 7.

Exploring the early beginnings of this enigmatic group of seven friends and brothers from NYC who in 1999, decided to take a leap of faith using their uniquely gifted vocal chords and create a group based purely on using their voices as instruments. Founded by brothers Roger and Warren Thomas, the pair soon become seven when Rod Eldrige, Ricky Cort, Dwight Stewart, Garfield Buckley and Kelvin Mitchell created a group that would go on to become of the most respected and intriguing vocal play unions in the music industry to date. Merging the idea of an accapella group and a traditional band into one proved to be an unconventional idea at the time that has indeed paid itself forward in catapulting this humble group into global superstardom at a rapid rate. With a discography that runs three albums deep, namely “Non-Fiction”, What It Is, Wall of Sound and Vocal Play to name a few, it has been their star studded collaboratons that has shone a light on the groups appeal and diversity.

Amassing a 20 million plus following on You Tube alone, their collaboration with the legendary Quincy Jones on his album Soul Bossa Nostra in 2010, alongside hip hop heavyweight Ludacris that proved to be the one of the groups greatest musical ventures to date, getting a stamp of approval from Jones is the equivalent to a knighthood from the Queen in music terms, and the collaboration proved to be immensely successful for Naturally 7. From consistent studio work, collaborations, features and touring, this vocal group are also intrinsically aware of the social causes their voices can adhere to and partnering up with one of the world’s most respected humanitarian aid foundations ‘ World Vision” for a few years running, is a chance for this hardworking outfit to give back to society.

As they embark on a return tour of Australia with World Vision ( they first visited in 2014), Naturally 7 are set to light souls ablaze with a live show that is guaranteed to inspire, enhance and motivate the crowd like never before. Speaking to Rod Eldrige about their impending trip back Down Under, he shares his thoughts on the importance of Naturally 7’s existence in today’s music climate, why they love doing what they do and what’s next on the horizon for this undeniably talented vocal crew, blessed beyond words to use their voices as vessels of positivity.

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Hi Rod, so great to speak with you…… how is life treating you all?

I am really well thank you Maxine, life is good, busy and blessed so I cannot complain.

So we get to experience Naturally 7 in Australia again in a few weeks and we are excited to say the least. For those who don’t know much about your group how would you best describe who Naturally 7 are and the music you create?

We are as well. Australia is one of our favourite places to visit so we can’t wait to return. I think the best way to describe who Naturally 7 would be simply 7 guys based out of NYC and we do what we call Vocal Play, which falls under ‘accapella umbrella’. We become the instrument of music and basically use our voices to create the sound and movement and beat that normal instruments would generally do.

To be able to create sound just using your voices is truly a gift from the gods and one that you all do so effortlessly – I first discovered you on the Quincy Jones and Ludacris track “Soul Bossa Nostra “that just blew my mind, but Naturally 7 have been doing their thing for some time now, amassing quite a fan base and following on YouTube nearing the 20+ million. Staggering amount – how does that feel when you hear how many people globally you reach through your amazing music?

Wow whenever I hear how many people we reach through our music I am always amazed, especially considering how humble our journey started off as. Starting back in 1999 as a group of friends who loved harmonisation, we just decided to get together one day and see if we could make our voices the main instruments in our delivery and I think from there, once we realised we had something special, the crowd and audience feedback was what really solidified that for us. We cannot thank our fans and the people who support us and what we do enough, it is truly humbling. We were just talking about this the other day you know thinking wow so many millions of people hear our music across the world …. It was like an aha moment, we have those a lot (laughs).

Now you are partnered with World Vision on this tour, which is a truly admirable union. How did this come about and what is it about the organisation that appeals to your humanitarian hearts?

It began about five years ago when we started working with World Vision on a small scale, you know a couple of the guys started sponsoring some children and when we would be on stage we would always pay respect to World Vision and shout them out and try to encourage our audience to get involved with World Vison and help out where they can etc. It just pretty much grew from that to where we now travel the world in collaboration with them and the relationship has grown that much tighter since then. For us World Vision have always been an organisation that appeals to good of humanity and knowing and seeing the word they do, Naturally 7 couldn’t be prouder to be partnered with them. Actually before we arrive in Australia we are visiting Cambodia and seeing the work World Vision are doing there so it is always a learning and humbling experience working with an organisation like World Vision.

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What can Australia expect from a Naturally 7 live show that we would be hard pressed to experience anywhere?

Naturally 7 live will definitely be taking things a notch, hopefully more than one notch if we can (laughs). It is definitely an experience and it is something that we truly pride ourselves on doing is putting together a live show leaves our audience with more than they expected. We like to surprise people as we are exploring parts of the voice that many people may not even know exist and you know just a great selection of songs that will make people want to get out of their seats and dance, or cry or sing along . Whatever emotion the crowd is feeling, Naturally 7 want it to be the best live show you have experienced. It is a great family night out that will guarantee fun and wear comfortable shoes as you will be out of your seat (laughs).

Who or what in life would you say are influential in the creative sound and ethos of Naturally 7?

Mmmm good questions. There have been a lot of influences that have come to play with us but I would say musical influences have definitely come from the home for the majority of the guys, the music our parents played really helped to shape us I believe. Most of our parents were singers and musicians that we would grow up watching and they have been key in the influence of how Naturally 7 have been formed.

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Apart from the new album “Hidden in Plain Sight” out now on ITunes, what else are you currently working on music wise and any future music collaborations we can look out for?

Currently we have just released a single of John Farnham’s “ You’re the Voice” which I am sure the Australian fans will enjoy so that is out now along with a music video, so we will be hoping to have an arrangement to share with you on stage when we get to Australia…. Hopefully you guys will like it.

What would you say is the biggest motivator behind Naturally 7 and your organic ability to reach so many with your beautiful voices?

I think, right now, there seems to be a bit of a void of good music being made and played at the moment, like an empty pocket somehow, of music that really makes you feel something…. There really is not much out there. So that really is a driving force for us you know, to really create and present something positive and meaningful with our art and music for people who not only enjoy our kind of sound but want it and can uplift their spirits and make them feel better about themselves.

 

Naturally 7 are touring Australia with World Vision in August / September:

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For more information on Naturally 7 visit:

Web: www.naturallyseven.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Naturally7

 

Light and Love

Ms Hennessey

Sarsha Simone – Sydney Chanteuse Giving Life to Australian Soul

Interviews

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“I shall tell you what I think are the two qualities of a work of art….. first it must be indescribable and second it must be inimitable” Pierre- Auguste Renoir

Sarsha Simone is a work of art and just like the French artist Renoir states, she is indescribable and inimitable in her role as one of Australia’s rising soul music artists. This superfluously talented singer with pipes of featherweight gold has been steadily climbing in the ranks of Sydney’s soul community to hold prime positon as an artist to watch!

The self-titled Budda Barbie is more than just striking to look at, with her stunning beauty set against immaculate baldness atop her crown, what Sarsha Simone possesses is an authentic mystery about her that is reminiscent to iconic soulful madams like Nina Simone and Meshell Ndegeocello in their heyday, yet the voice and the magic she conjures up is all her own. With the release of her latest single “ Let’s Dance” currently enjoying major radio airplay and ITunes downloadable love, Simone has indeed been an artist that has toiled away at her craft for many years, fine-tuning her vocal instrument and ready-ing it for where it is about to take her ….. straight to the top!

With a fierce style and attitude to match, Simone has indeed created the perfect balance of art and music. Having worked with some of the hottest producers in the industry, her sound is as bold and unique as she is and with feel good lyrics and messages of positivity, love and ownership of self, Sarsha Simone is fast becoming the poster woman for self-acceptance and strength. Her collaborations with some of the most exciting artists across the independent urban spectrum range from rapper/producer Marley Cassette, soul revival outfit Dojo Cuts, French producers DJ Moar and 20syl and appearing on the stellar ‘Oh Boy’ with award winning producer Muneshine, Sarsha Simone is the breath of fresh air this industry needs and wants.

Ms Simone has something in her musical discography for everyone to appreciate. She is a boundary-less artist in her approach to the sound she creates and steadfastly true to the artist she is and is evolving into. I am and always have been a huge fan of the Sarsha Simone sound and am beyond excited to see just how far her star lands in this music galaxy. In the midst of her current single “Let’s Dance” release, she takes time out of her hectic schedule to share thoughts on her music journey to date, her music and the musings of a modern day chanteuse.

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Finally I get to speak to the incredible Ms Sarsha Simone – how have you been of late?

I’ve been great! I’ve been able to take the time out to create and now the project I’ve been working on is finally about to take flight, so I’m excited.

Major respect and congratulations to you on the steady rise of your music career here in Australia – how long have you been this fierce soul songstress and what is your musical background?

Thank you. I’ve been playing music since I was really young but got into writing and learning how to play guitar when I was 13. I was absolutely in love with Jeff Buckley, his writing and musicality inspired me to pick up the guitar and put pen to paper, but I got my start in the music industry playing with the soul and funk outfit Dojo Cuts as Roxie Ray. I’ve also collaborated with great producers and artists from around the world like 20syl, Moar, Raashan Ahmad and Muneshine. Stepping out now as Sarsha Simone feels like I’m painting a blank canvas and starting fresh. I’m doing me and I can’t wait to share this new music with people!

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Since you first entered the Australian soul music circuit there has been a sense of intrigue and mystery surrounding you which adds to your cool appeal. From your stunning looks, edgy style and a voice that defies the sound Gods, Sarsha Simone is the name on everyone lips right now ……. how would you best describe your sound and what would you say is your greatest influence when it comes to your style?

Thank you, that’s all very humbling. I’d describe it as (Sarah) Vaughn meets (Kanye) West, as I do take a lot of old school influence but I also like working with a more modern production style. I fell in love with jazz in my early teens after hearing an Ella Fitzgerald song and since then have always been drawn to the warmth of the vocals and the instrumentation. On the flipside I love hip hop. I’m fascinated by artists like Kanye, Childish Gambino, Chance the Rapper, Kendrick Lamar. I like that they push boundaries and I’m really inspired by anything that is striking and forces people to look at things from a different perspective.

What are your perceptions on Australia’s soul music community and what do you hope and foresee your role as being in this industry one day?

I see the soul music community really growing here and it has got a lot of people talking internationally. In the last few years acts like Hiatus Kaiyote, Electric Empire, and Chet Faker have attracted a lot of attention to what’s happening locally. I would love to create another medium for independent artists and to empower them so they aren’t limited by any boundaries. Hopefully I can inspire other artists to be authentic to their vision and truth.

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Who would you say is your greatest influence / inspiration in your musical journey thus far and why?

Up until now it has been Hip Hop because of it’s ability to push boundaries and the way MC’s play on words to deliver honest messages over phat beats.

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Your dream collaboration line up one day – who would you love to work with / create alongside with?

Prince. No explanation is needed!

What are you currently working on right now – future EP’s etc.?

I’ve just released my debut solo single “Let’s Dance”, which I worked with a Sydney based producer named Marley Cassette. It’s a playful mix of old and new musical styles. At its core it’s about letting go of fears and the belief that we as ourselves aren’t enough. The idea of searching for happiness outside of ourselves when it’s in us all along, and we have all the capabilities to do anything. There will be an EP coming very soon too and some really exciting collaborations with a visual artist!

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The motto or creative ethos you abide by in your musical journey?

To be authentic to myself and not be influenced by other people’s opinions.

New single “ Lets Dance” out now on ITunes

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For more information on Sarsha Simone please visit:

Web: www.sarshasimone.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sarshasimone

Instagram: https://instagram.com/sarshasimone

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/sarshasimonemusic

Life and love

Ms Hennessey