This is part 2 of the exclusive conversation between Hypestyle and New York City-based MC Not4Prophet of the X-Vandals, who are promoting their latest single and LP, “Ghetto Blaster”. Here they speak on the album’s guests and political goings-on in New York City.
HYPE: Who are the featured guest MCs on the album and why were they chosen?
N4P: There's a bunch of people on there, among them MCs, Chuck D of Public Enemy and DMC of RUN DMC. NYOIL, who I consider one of the really dope "conscious" MCs right now, is also on there dropping a guest spit. Far as musicians, the percussionist, Eric Bobo of Cypress Hill is on there as well as the bassist Arturo Rodriguez, of my former band Ricanstruction. There's also some amazing divas on there rocking the soulful vocals, Alkebulan, Maya Azucena, and a sister named Storm. I picked all the people on this next record because I consider them all to be dope at what they do and to be about something that's real and relevant. And they'll be some other surprises too.
HYPE: I just finished listening to the “Ghetto Blaster” single; it has an intense funk-rock feel to it. Any particular inspirations behind it?
N4P: I think it is very much a "hard Hip-Hop" song, and when you do Hip-Hop right, it's gonna be hard and funky. But with the guitar in there, I can see how you might see it as having a "funk rock" feel. But when I wrote the vocals and lyrics to that song, I was actually channeling LL Cool J in his Mama Said Knock You Out/Panther period. I was asked by someone how come I ONLY wrote "political songs" and never wrote "battle rhymes?" and I replied that I wasn't into boasting about myself or ripping into other brothers either. But then I went home and wrote GhettoBlaster as a "political battle rhyme." Far as musically, Juice rocked that beat and we added Adan's guitar to it, to make it "harder!" And, of course, Juice comes out of the Public Enemy Bomb Squad camp and all that "noise," so that kinda says it all.
HYPE: What’s your take on being an indie-culture musician vs. being affiliated with a major label?
N4P: Well, until we start thinking in terms of doing it ourselves, OUTSIDE of the corporate structural monster, we will remain under the control of the corporations who call all the shots. I would like to see Hip-Hop, as a culture and a nationless nation, build its own infrastructure where we would do for self collectively, OUTSIDE and against and without the belly of the beast. With a major label, you can reach a lot more peeps with your music and message, but in the end, the price you pay is your own freedom and ya REAL message.... But I DO understand, that until we create that new model for the Hip-Hop nation, ni**a's gotta eat, so most of us will continue to covet the corporate "signing" no matter the cost.
HYPE: What’s your take on the ‘backpacker’, ‘conscious’ labels?
N4P: ha, ha.... don't know too much about it. In my estimation, we’re ALL conscious up in here! It's kinda hard to rap while being "unconscious" at the same time, (laughs). But on the real, I DON"T use or accept the different terms or genres that folks throw around. I think that NWA was "conscious," but, of course, they were considered "Gangsta" and NOT conscious because they were seen as being "negative." Common is considered Conscious because he's "positive" and NOT "gangsta." But I wouldn't characterize him as being conscious like the Black Panthers, who were conscious, but also revolutionary. Meanwhile, Public Enemy was conscious, but I always saw them as being "revolutionary" and really just the more overtly "political" brothers of the Ni**as Wit Attitude. Far as backpacks go, I always wear a backpack, but mostly because they remain useful especially when you live on the streets. So yeah, I don't know too much about it, but I know what I like.... and what I don't. And I don't like imposed genres or genres in general.
HYPE: But what about the labels' themselves?
N4P: I hear you. I got no problem with anyone tryin’ to do it themselves, you know. That's the (only) way to go, far as I'm concerned. I just worry sometimes that some "underground" "conscious" (or what you called "Backpacker") labels only exist because the folks who created them had access (to money, hook ups etc) and so they were able to do it without needing the majors, but then because of that status, they become almost elitist as far as seeing themselves as some sort of "saviors" of Hip-Hop culture or something. But really, the only ones who can really save Hip-Hop IS Hip-Hop.
HYPE: Any thoughts on the Occupy Movement?
N4P: I think it's a good thing if it can stay focused and not just become a "reformist" movement or "alternative" political party. I don't think Wall Street needs to be reformed; I think it needs to be dismantled. And I don't think capitalism needs to be "fixed," I think it needs to be destroyed. That and the fact that I don't think I have anything in common with a 99 percenter who makes a hundred-thousand-dollars a year, or even $50,000, or even $20,000 or even ten (laughs).... But I do think there's much work to be done, and Occupy (in spite of its name) could be a start in the right direction (in 2013).
HYPE: Do you think the fact that they were kicked out of their "headquarters" in the park, might mean an end to the movement though?
N4P: No, I don't think so. I think they can use it as a way of no longer being "confined" to that little park. That little patch of land could have easily become a ball and chain.... I think 2013 could be a good time to really dance in the streets! Party for your right to fight while fighting for your right to party! Really take it to the streets this time, you know. And not JUST Wall Street! Occupy All Streets!
HYPE: What other projects besides the release of GhettoBlaster are you working on right now?
N4P: Well, if you really wanna find that out, ya gotta keep ya ears to the (ghetto) streets, bro..... 'Cause the revolution will not be commercialized!
Further X-Vandals material and updates can be peeped at Agitrap.com, this is now the main source for X-Vandals, and on YouTube (search ‘X-Vandals’)
Christopher ‘Hype’ Currie