Several times a day, human bodies release a stream of data about internal health. Unfortunately, the data comes analog, and so isn’t immediately accessible as useful information. Now an infographic from the Cleveland Clinic offers a helpful breakdown of urine colors, from healthy “pale straw” to icky “brown ale.” This guide is good for a fast check, but as the Cleveland Clinic recommends, if you think your pee looks weird, it’s probably best to go find an actual doctor. [x]
The American Legislative Exchange Council, which helped push a series of Castle and “stand your ground” gun laws onto state House agendas, lost a number of significant supporters in the wake of Trayvon Martin’s death and the gun law awareness campaigns in its wake. Now, according to a Guardian report Tuesday, the right-wing lobby network is seeking to win back these donors in the face of a funding crisis.
ALEC, the Guardian discovered, has “identified more than 40 lapsed corporate members it wants to attract back into the fold under a scheme referred to in its documents as the ‘Prodigal Son Project.’ The target firms include commercial giants such as Amazon, Coca-Cola, General Electric, Kraft, McDonald’s and Walmart, all of which cut ties with the group following the furore over the killing of the unarmed black teenager, Trayvon Martin in Florida in February 2012.”
According to internal documents, ALEC suffered considerable financial losses over its connection to “stand your ground” laws — highlighted by the Trayvon Martin case as problematic and potentially fostering of racial prejudices. Via the Guardian:
By ALEC’s own reckoning the network has lost almost 400 state legislators from its membership over the past two years, as well as more than 60 corporations that form the core of its funding. In the first six months of this year it suffered a hole in its budget of more than a third of its projected income. … ALEC’s own internal records of its membership states that it has 1,810 state legislators on its membership books – amounting to almost a quarter of all elected representatives at state level across the nation. That support base has declined though over the past two years, from a peak in 2011 of 2,200, underlining the structural problems that the group faces in the wake of the Trayvon Martin outrage
The Guardian also learned that, in fear of losing its tax-exempt status over possible government inquiries into the group’s lobbying activity and potential tax law violations, ALEC has plans to set up a separate group, “the Jeffersonian Project.” A note to ALEC’s board of directors explained, “Any activity that could be done by Alec may be done by Jeffersonian Project if legal counsel advises it would provide greater legal protection or lessen ethics concerns.” [x]
Courtesy of the great K-Def, Redefinition Records & Strictly Cassette … Download this whole tape for free. The audio is single file mp3 cassette tape rip from a Sony Walkman. If you want a higher fidelity copy or this album on Vinyl, Tape or another digital format, visit www.redefinitionrecords.com/collections/k-def
Music by K-Def, Design by Strictly Cassette
K-DEF = ONE MAN BAND
SIDE A 01 - FUNKY FRIDAYS 02 - DARK SOUL 03 - I’M CHILLIN 04 - TOUCHING REALNESS 05 - STREET JAZZ SIDE B 06 - GHETTO’S GROOVE 07 - SOUL PAPER 08 - K COMES THRU 09 - NJ DODGERS 10 - LOVELY WOMAN 11 - WATCHING THE CLOUDS 12 - I SEEN A BLIND BAT
Tempo Dreams Volume 2 picks up where the first edition left off, bridging the gaps between various geographic locations and local scenes, while also reaching for new heights with soaring vocal features and dance-floor primed beats.
In an emotionally charged talk, MacArthur-winning activist Majora Carter details her fight for environmental justice in the South Bronx — and shows how minority neighborhoods suffer most from flawed urban policy.
"Environmental justice, for those of you who may not be familiar with the term goes something like this: No community should be saddled with more environmental burdens and less environmental benefits than any other. Unfortunately, race and class are extremely reliable indicators as to where one might find the good stuff, like parks and trees, and where one might find bad stuff, like power plants and waste facilities. As a Black person in America, I am twice as likely as a white person to live in an area where air pollution poses the greatest risk to my health. I am five times more likely to live within walking distance of a power plant or a chemical facility, which I do. These land use decisions created the hostile conditions that lead to problems like obesity, diabetes and asthma. Why would someone leave their home to go for a brisk walk in a toxic neighborhood?”
Why did you decide to revisit Jay Z’s Reasonable Doubt for this project?
Honestly, the idea came off of Twitter. About two years ago, right after Elzhi dropped Elmatic, I got a tweet from a fan that said, “Would you ever do Jay Z’s Reasonable Doubt the way Elzhi did Nas’ Illmatic?” I retweeted it out of fun. Upon retweeting that I got endless retweets and questions like, “Yo is this for real?” I saw that it was really taking off so I said, “I never really thought about it, but who knows?” I left it at that. Every single day over the past two years I received a tweet about it. I never even said I would do it. I just said it would be something cool. It just wouldn’t stop.
At the same time I met a producer by the name of Antman Wonder who, on his own, was recreating all the beats from Reasonable Doubt just for fun. When I heard about the beats it just looked like divine intervention to me. This is supposed to happen. It kind of just all made sense. If it wasn’t for that tweet this project wouldn’t even be happening. I don’t remember who the tweeter was. I wish I did, because I would show them a ton of love on Twitter.
There are some Jay fans that feel like Reasonable Doubt is one of those albums that should never be touched. Were you ever concerned that some of his fans may not be as open to what you’re doing?
I was concerned that it would put people in a different sense until they heard it. When they hear it nothing else can be said. I don’t want people to think it’s an album that I’m trying to go straight retail with. It’s not that at all. That’s why it’s called “An Ode To Reasonable Doubt.” I named it that solely so people would know in no way was it disrespectful to Jay or anybody else. I did that out of respect for him, what he’s’ done, and his legacy of being the greatest of all time in my eyes.
That album came out about seventeen years ago. There are kids that were born when that album came out who are now graduating high school this year. They know nothing about it, but they deserve to know about it because it’s an album that shaped Hip Hop. Maybe this is a way to introduce it to them. If they’re a fan of me and hear it, maybe they’ll go back and hear the original and fall in love with it.
Why did you decide to go with a “pay-what-you-want” model for the project?
Because the option is still there for it to be free. I wanted people to get the option to get the music at the end of the day. If you want to pay zero, then you pay zero and get it for free. I was getting tweets from people that said, “I hope it’s available for sale because I want to buy it,” “I hope it’s available on vinyl. I want to support you.” I said well, if you want to support me then I’ll give you that option to support. However you get it, I just want you to get it.
We’re also doing a contest. We’re doing a deal with Burn Rubber out in Detroit. If you pay $7 your name goes in a raffle, and you can win $250 worth of sneakers. At the end of the day, I just want people to get it. If people want to click zero and download it, then click zero and download it. I just want it to be the music you ride out to for the rest of the year.
The original Reasonable Doubt had 14 tracks on it, but you’re releasing your Ode as an EP. How did you decide which of the tracks you wanted to reinterpret for this project?
It came down to me working with Antman Wonder. When he produces, he composes, so there are string and horn sections. It came down to which records made the most sense when they are reimagined that way. So a record like “Brooklyn’s Finest,” would that beat sound right with a string and horn section? I didn’t think it would. That beat is more straight to the point, so I think if you turned that beat into something with strings and horns it would take away from it as oppose to adding to it. So records like “Brooklyn’s Finest,” “Cashmere Thoughts,” and “Friend and Foe” aren’t on it, because I felt like when you reimagine those records with an orchestra they don’t hit the same with just a sample and a drum.
You’re a big fan of jazz, and you did a live acoustic performance (https://toiletries.wordpress.com/2009/03/18/alphabet-soup-ep-akirfa-recordings-1991/) earlier this year. Have you considered doing a full album with all live instrumentation?
Absolutely. That’s something I definitely want to do later on. I definitely want to do a whole album with a jazz band or a full jazz section.
You’ve been a fan of Jay Z since Reasonable Doubt. What is your opinion of where he is now musically?
I think he’s in a great space. You look at what he’s achieved with everything on his plate outside of writing records, and then you look at the fact that he still writes records of the highest order. How many people are involved in as many things as he has and still makes great music? You look at how many people have a clothing line, a business and it pulls away from the talent, from the artistic expression. It pulls away from the records they’re making, and those records start to suffer or they stop making records. But with him it hasn’t happened. He still goes in every year and gives you fourteen, fifteen bangers. He gives you two or three records for the summer.
I thought the Magna Carta Holy Grail album was great. I loved where he went on certain things, especially records like “Picasso Baby,” “F*ckWithMeYouKnowIGotIt,” “F.U.T.W.,” and “Oceans.” There’s a nice chuck in there where everything just hits back-to-back. He was just grand slamming these. I think artistically he’s in a great space.
What’s the status on your book When Paintings Talk?
It’s definitely coming out next year. I haven’t been able to work on it as much as I want to because of different projects like this one. My goal is to get that out next year. I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be really dope. The fans are looking forward to it. My fans they are dedicated. When they know about something’s coming they’re ready.
What else can your fans expect to hear from Skyzoo in the near future?
Next year, probably around March, an album with me and my man Torae. We’re doing a collabo album – The Barrel Brothers. Also, hopefully by the end of next year is my next solo album Music For My Friends. So it will be a busy year again next year.
[To download/purchase Skyzoo and Antman Wonder’s An Ode To Reasonable Doubt visit aotrd.com]
Smells change us. Inhale the vapours of an apple pie or a bacon sandwich, and your body immediately starts getting ready for an incoming meal. You salivate. You start to produce more digestive enzymes. Your bloodstream courses with insulin, preparing your organs to absorb the nutrients that you’re about to consume.
But smells can have even more profound effects. Two teams of scientists have found that in worms and flies, the scent of pheromones from the opposite sex can speed up an individual’s ageing process and shorten its life. This happens even if no one has any sex.
Just by being around, one worm or fly can control the ageing process in another, at a distance.
While studying the nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans, Anne Brunet’s team from Stanford University noticed that males seemed to shorten the lives of the opposite sex (hermaphrodites, whose bodies are female but who make both eggs and sperm).
Other scientists had noticed the same effect 17 years earlier, but they assumed that it was due to the “stress of copulation”. But Brunet’s postdoc Travis Maures found that sterile hermaphrodites still suffered in the presence of males… and even in their absence! When he added hermaphrodites to containers that had previously housed males, they still aged more quickly. Their movements slowed, their bodies deteriorated, and their lifespans shortened by some 20 percent.
The males must be secreting some type of pheromone that stays in their environment and curtails the lives of the opposite sex. The team proved this by showing that mutant males which don’t produce pheromones don’t kill their mates early, while mutant hermaphrodites that can’t sense pheromones are immune to the males’ life-shortening powers.
The problem with fruit flies is that their sperm is toxic and every sexual encounter shortens the lives of females. To work out what the pheromones are doing, the team needed to somehow expose the flies to these smells without actually allowing them to mate. They did it through a clever genetic trick. A single gene called tra determines whether a fly produces male or female pheromones. By switching it on or off, postdocs Christi Gendron and Tsung-Han Kuo engineered male flies that smell like females, and vice versa.
Using these smell-swapped flies, they found that male flies store less fat, become easier to starve, age faster, and die quicker after detecting the scent of female. (The same thing happens to females that smell male pheromones, but to a less dramatic extent.)
“Initially, we thought that the males were just courting a lot or becoming more active, which wouldn’t be that interesting,” says Pletcher. But after carefully watching the flies, his team discounted these explanations. Instead, they showed that the ageing effect is driven by a few taste-sensitive neurons in the flies’ first pair of legs. When they disabled these neurons or just amputated the legs, the males became immune to the female pheromones.
The team also found a way of reversing this life-shortening effect—conjugal visits. If the males were actually allowed to have sex, their lifespans bounced back. That surprised Pletcher, who notes that people have long viewed reproduction and ageing as opposites. “The more energy you put towards reproduction, the less you have remaining to support your health,” he says. “But in this context, reproduction was actually beneficial.”
Why do these pheromones speed up the ageing process? Neither team knows, but both have some ideas. Pletcher speculates that it may be due to the trade-off between sex and longevity. Insulin, for example, is a hormone that’s best known for its role in controlling sugar levels in our blood, but it’s also involved in ageing. “If you reduce insulin signalling, organisms are long-lived but turn off reproduction,” says Pletcher. Pheromones may boost levels of insulin to get flies ready for sex, “and that might lead to enhanced ageing for reasons we don’t understand yet”.
He also suspects that the clash between expectations and experience is important. If we smell food and can’t eat any, the build-up of digestive enzymes can actually cause us harm. Likewise, male flies that smell females but can’t actually mate may suffer the consequences for their unfulfilled expectations. “They make this bet that they’re going to be reproducing soon, and they engage some physiological changes, like producing hormones.” If there’s no sex, these changes are harmful.
Brunet has a different hypothesis. “This is wild speculation,” she says, “but it may be due to sexual conflict.” By shortening the lives of their partners, males could ensure that their offspring aren’t facing competition from their mothers, while also reducing the mating opportunities available to other males. “That’s something we hadn’t considered,” says Pletcher. “It doesn’t entirely fit with our data because when males mate, some of those negative consequences go away, but maybe that means they are battling back?”
These quirky effects are fascinating in their own right, but it’s unclear if they have any relevance to us or to other mammals. “The jury’s out,” says Pletcher, “but I’m as optimistic as I’ve ever been that this would apply to mice, or even humans.” He’s particularly encouraged that both his team and Brunet’s have found similar phenomena in worms and flies—species that have been separated by over 900 million years of evolution. “Historically, genes and pathways of ageing that have been identified in worms and flies have also been relevant to mice.”
Brunet is more circumspect. “We joke that we should open a fragrance company, with fine-print warning labels that say, Caution: this might cause the premature demise of your mate,” she says. More seriously, she notes that it’s not clear what part pheromones play in sexual communication in humans. Mice clearly do use pheromones for this purpose, so the next step would be to see if mice can influence the pace of ageing in the opposite sex, without ever actually mating. “The experiments could be done, but they’re tricky,” she says.
Reference: Gendron, Kuo, Harvanek, Chung, Yew, Dierick & Pletcher. 2013. Drosophila Life Span and Physiology Are Modulated by Sexual Perception and Reward. Science http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1243339
Employees at Archie Comics are fed up with CEO Nancy Silberkleit’s funny business, filing a gender discrimination lawsuit against her, in part for calling them names like “penis” in business meetings, the New York Daily News reports.
But Silberkleit claims the discrimination suit isn’t legally viable, because they’re white men – not a “protected class,” her lawyer says.
In the filing, five of the CEO’s underlings claim she used “gender as a weapon,” going so far as to yell “Penis! Penis! Penis!” in a business meeting.
In their written defense, Silberkleit’s lawyers didn’t deny the claim: “Plaintiffs fail to allege that any such comments were directed at any of the plaintiffs in particular, or they could cause extreme emotional distress even if they had been,” her court filings say.
But Silberkleit was seemingly obsessed with referring to the body part, with lawyers for plaintiffs including Archie President Mike Pellerito and Editor-in-Chief Victor Gorelick saying she used the phrase on many occasions.
“[T]he word ‘penis’ became somewhat of a campaign slogan and her preferred method of referring to employees in lieu of their names,” they wrote in the filing.
Silberkleit would also repeatedly inquire about the handgun and ammo her husband kept at the office, the suit says, and invited Hell’s Angels to come by to “intimidate” employees.
The $32.5 million suit, filed in October, demands a court order to keep Silberkleit two miles from the office. It says an armed guard has been stationed at the Mamaroneck, N.Y., office because employees have been so frightened by her “deliberate and disturbed campaign of outrageous conduct.”
“It’s cruel and mean and inaccurate,” the 59-year-old CEO told the New York Daily News, denying accusations she “stalked” employees and made them feel “unsafe.”
But this isn’t the first legal rodeo for Silberkleit, who took over the company when her husband died in 2008. Fellow CEO Jonathan Goldwater filed suit to oust her in 2011, alleging she was unstable and damaging to the company.
When the case settled, it was decided she would have limited interactions with the employees and use a go-between to “represent her interests with the company.” But the go-between, Samuel Levitin, also filed papers earlier this year, charging the CEO had become unhinged and needed to be removed.
As for Silberkleit, she has described the most recent accusations as “untrue and twisted.”
“I have not had any interactions with these people,” she said. “It’s all very puzzling. I don’t know what’s going on in their heads.” [x]
Doctors in Beijing were left shocked after discovering a blossoming dandelion inside the ear canal of a 16-months-old girl, after she was brought to hospital by worried parents.
The flower, which had grown about 2 cm long, was successfully removed from Ranran’s ear and the girl is currently recovering from surgery, Chinese media reported.
The parents of the toddler, who live in the Tongzhou District in Beijing, said that a seed fell into her left ear about four months ago. However, they only decided it was time to take action when their daughter started crying and scratching her ear, the Shanghai Daily wrote.
Ranran’s mother had a look and saw something inside the girl’s ear, but after failing to take it out, she took the baby to the Capital Institute of Pediatrics.
Stunned medics found that a fully-formed dandelion had grown in Ranran’s ear, completely filling the canal wall. If not treated, it could have caused serious health problems for the girl.
It took Gu Qinglong, the chief physician in the otolaryngology department, and several assistants about 10 minutes to remove the dandelion. The doctors said it was not an easy task since the flower was rather tenacious.
“Even the slightest bit of pressure put her at risk of internal bleeding so it had to come out,” Qinglong said, as quoted by the Beijing Evening News. It is likely that the warmth and humidity inside the ear canal encouraged the growth of the dandelion, the doctor observed.
This latest episode is far from being the first time that unusual things have been discovered in patients’ ears.
In July this year, a British woman, who started suffering from headaches after a holiday Peru, went to hospital to be told that her ear was filled with flesh-eating worms, reported the Daily Mail. After maggots removed from the ear canal were sent to a lab for analysis, it was discovered that a New World Army Screw Worm had laid eggs in Rochelle Harris’ ear.
Last year, a spider was reportedly taken out of a Chinese woman’s ear. The sneaky arachnid crawled inside while she was sleeping and resided there for about five days. [x]
Tell me about Detroit’s Hip Hop scene during the early to mid-'90s.
Detroit Hip Hop started from this place called the Rhythm Kitchen. From my understanding, because I was too young to go there, it was like a restaurant. And Maurice Malone, Proof and a few other cats used to just bust freestyles in the Rhythm Kitchen…just having a little cypher. That grew into Maurice Malone’s place that was on 7 Mile Road and Foyer called The Hip Hop Shop. The Hip Hop Shop was like a clothing store that turned into an open mic on Saturdays from 4:00 to 6:00. You had Proof hosting, and it was crazy.
That’s how it all started for me, because I was in high school and I was all about emceeing. I used to be in the cafeteria on top of tables battling cats across the room in the same cafeteria. We had everybody’s attention in the cafeteria—it was serious. At one point, I was like, “Damn, I wish I was in New York, man. They have some ill emcees in New York.” I always kept hearing about The Hip Hop Shop from a lot of folks. And ever since then, I always went back.
What are some of the more memorable performances you saw at The Hip Hop Shop?
The first cat I ever saw on the mic was Obie Trice. Later on, I would see people like Slum Village before they were “Slum Village.” I saw Phat Kat, Royce Da 5’9 and Guilty Simpson. But what’s really crazy is how I met Eminem. The first time I met Eminem was over the phone. My man Proof called me up on the three-way, and he was like, “Yo, I want you to hear my man spit.” So he had Eminem spit for me. [Proof] respected me because he kinda knew that I studied the same emcees that he and Eminem studied. We’d spend many nights just talking about patterns—like shadowboxes, mirrors and all that.
So Eminem spit for me, and when he was done, Proof was like, “So what he sound like?” And after I told him Eminem was pretty fresh, he goes, “Yeah, I bet you ain’t know he was white though?” And I didn’t, but I thought that he was pretty dope. Later on, I saw Eminem on stage demolishing cats with crazy lines.
You mention your mother in your rhymes fairly often. What kind of influence did she have on you?
My mom influenced me to never follow…always be a leader, and do what you want to do. She was the main one that instilled in me if everyone’s going left, you go right. And that’s how I look at my career, because I’m not trying to do what everybody else is doing. I’m trying to be on my own path in my own lane and do my own thing. So big ups to my moms; I put her in so many songs. One of the songs I put her in was in “Memory Lane.” At the end I say, “I threw the deuces up to Dilla / Dapped up ‘Tin / And then I hugged my momma slow…” That line was just me kind of leaving memory lane and coming back to real life. But these are the people that I think about. They’re the reason I strive and continue to do this everyday.
You mentioned Dilla also, what kind of…
I was overseas, man. Me and T3 was getting ready to go onstage in England. And we got the news from Tim Maynor, who was our manager at the time. He was like, “Man, Dilla just passed.” It was crazy emotions, and everybody was just trying to hold back the tears. But we still went on stage, and we had everybody say, “R.I.P. J Dilla.” When the crowd heard the news from us, that might have been their first time hearing about it too. So it was just a crazy emotion that popped off.
And then after Baatin passed, it was like, “Damn, what’s going on?” Then MC Breed and ODB passed too. It just seemed like everybody that I was working with at one point was fading away. Me and T3 had talks at the time, and it just made us want to take care of ourselves a lot better. That’s one thing that we definitely think about. When we think about Baatin, Breed, Proof and Dilla, we just gotta take care of ourselves as far as eating right, making sure we’re healthy and staying out of these streets. We just wanna stay in the studio and keep doing what we’re doing, because it’s a positive thing.
In addition to contrasting his days at the Hip Hop Shop to today’s Battle Rap leagues, Elzhi explains how a fan-funded album maintains his vision for uncompromising Hip Hop.
By now, even those who don’t closely follow the comings and goings of the music industry know the gloomy statistics. According to Nielsen Entertainment and Billboard magazine’s “Mid-Year Music Industry Report,” single and album sales were down 4.6% during the first half of the year versus the first six months of 2012. With impressive first-week numbers from Jay Z, Drake and Eminem that stat could possibly improve when the year-end numbers are tallied. But what about the artists who don’t have the benefit of Universal Music Group or Samsung’s willingness to slice a meager $20 million from their $4.6 billion ad budget to pre-purchase an album? In 2013—when an artist’s whole catalogue can be streamed on Spotify and similar services—what is a physical album even worth?
“I don’t know,” Detroit emcee Elzhi answered, when posed a similar question. “It’s very different from how it was back in the day when Illmatic or ‘Dead Presidents’ dropped.” As of 9:00 am on November 27, 2013 the very idea of a physical album is worth $16,037. That’s the amount users have pledged via his Kickstarter page to fund his new album. With nine days remaining until his December 6 deadline, Elzhi shared a few details about what inspired him to essentially opt for a fan-funded album instead of re-upping with another major label or releasing a free mixtape.
How A Video Game Inspired Elzhi’s Kickstarer Campaign
HipHopDX: We’re just about two weeks shy of your Kickstarter deadline for your upcoming album. When did you come up with this idea as a means of funding the project?
Elzhi: Me and my management were talking about it. We thought about ways to promote the album and at the same time, get the people who enjoy the music that I make a chance to be a part of the experience. So we decided to go that route, and we thought Kickstarter would be the perfect place to do that. We have an independent label, and it seemed like the best way to go.
DX: So had you already started the process of recording specific tracks for this album when you guys made that decision?
Elzhi: Yeah, we had already started the process of recording the album. But I’m recording daily all the time, so it was just an idea. When I first found out about Kickstarter, it was through the video game world. I’d first heard of Kickstarter through this guy named Tim Schafer from the company Double Fine, and I was like, “Man, that might be dope.” My manager found out about it on his own, and then we just decided to do it.
DX: You mentioned wanting to keep things independent, the video for your Kickstarter references labels that wanted you to compromise your vision. What were you running into during those discussions?
Elzhi: We just had a vision, and I don’t want to put too much of the business out there. I’ll say that in today’s time and Internet Age, it allows anybody to have a platform to be able to do what they want to do. And I’ve always been the type of person to want to do things my way without too much compromise—unless it has to do with the team. But, other than that, I want to keep my music authentic and real. So I figured the best way to do that is to do it myself with the music I pick to write over and the way I want to promote my music and my look. So I’m just going to do it myself with my team.
DX: I know you’re keeping things under wraps, but looking at your Kickstarter page, you’ve got a nice aesthetic with the grenade and the handgun. What can you tell us about that?
Elzhi: Yeah, that has something to do with the album title—which we’re not gonna give away just yet. But the “brain-gun” and all that just symbolizes mind power and taking your creativity and intelligence to the next level. Whatever you do—be it music or wearing a business suit—it represents mind power for anybody. If you’re a kid on the corner or whatever, I’m just trying to represent that movement. I wouldn’t call it conscious music, but it’s definitely not unconscious music. It’s all about using your mind and being smart.
Why Elzhi Calls Physical Retail Albums Chapters Of An Artists Life
DX: Given the state of the industry—with the market being so oversaturated with both retail albums and free projects—how important is an actual album in 2013?
Elzhi: I don’t know. For me, I think when people put out free stuff…not to say that their free stuff doesn’t have a certain quality to it, because it does. But I feel like an album is a piece of work. It’s almost like chapters in your life that you have bottled up, captured and put in audio form. So I have a lot of work that I’ve done through the eras and chapters of my life. When I was going through a few things, it’s chapters that I have that capture the energy from that time. And those are way different from who I am and how I feel today. When you put together a project, that’s you channeling that energy.
So it’s very different from how it was back in the day when Illmatic or “Dead Presidents” dropped. I can’t really say this for the kids growing up today on the Internet Age, but for me, an album is your stamp. It’s your claim as the best representation of the kind of music you make.
DX: As far as your personal experience, you’ve done mostly retail projects, but “Elmatic” was free. How does your approach differ with each type of project?
Elzhi: Well, Elmatic was different. When I did “Elmatic,” I was paying homage to Illmatic, and I was approaching it like an album. My manager and I had the conversation like, “Man, is it really a mixtape or is it an album?” I always took the stand on it being a mixtape, because it was paying homage to an album. But some people can look at it as being an album—from the energy spent putting it together, the live production and the way the songs were written. That was me paying homage to a classic, and I put that energy into that particular project like it was an album, but it was a mixtape.
DX: True. You mentioned the type of music you make, and you’ve gotten very intricate with songs like “Colors” and “D.E.M.O.N.S.” Are you interested in or are you courting any type of mainstream recognition given that your product isn’t watered down for mass consumption?
Elzhi: If it has crossover appeal, then that’s what it is. But I’m not really shooting for that. I’m just shooting to make good music first, and I don’t really have any expectations for where my music can go. I’m not really trying to shoot for this kind of success or that kind of success. I’m just trying to make great music, and if it reaches the masses, so be it. I’m not gonna stop it, but I’m not trying to compromise my integrity or my ear to do something that’s not what I’m about. First and foremost, the music is the most important thing to me. It’s all about making something that I consider classic or will hopefully be considered a classic one day.
DX: We’ve talked about your growth and the different things you go through. What about the business side? What have you learned as you take more control of your own business dealings?
Elzhi: Man… One of the things is just to make sure you’ve got a tight team behind you. Make sure the people in your circle are there for you the way you’re there for them. Make sure you handle things as smart as possible. Make sure a lawyer is looking over your paperwork and everything. The last few years have been low-key kind of crazy. When you hear a song like “Pressure,” that’s real. I went through a time period in my life where it was kind of wild, but I bounced back from that. But a lot of that had to do with me not peeping my surroundings like I was supposed to. So I would just say that I’m more alert and cautious…just being way more smart than I was before in terms of the company I keep and the business moves I make.
DX: That’s good advice. This is a bit off topic, but given your battle background and time in places like the Hip Hop Shop, what do you make of the current battle scene?
Elzhi: I think it’s great for the culture, man. You’ve got the battle arenas like URL and dudes who are actually making money coming up with the most clever, intelligent bars. I just think that’s dope. It’s not the same as the Hip Hop Shop, because nine times out of 10, everyone that was there at the open mic was really freestyling off the top of their head. Just to be around that was a great look, and just to be around it was… It was a situation where you could be a part of it and make a name for yourself in the city. With these Internet battles, you can make your name around the world and you can make money, so I think it’s a good look.