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The Voice Within: Interview with Indie Hip Hop Pioneer, ‘TheVoice’

TheVoice

If ever there was any modern day proof of divine intervention, it would have occurred on July 14, 2014. The time would have been between 4 pm and 6 pm eastern time, and it would have taken place over two mobile devices. What made the encounter with ‘TheVoice’ so divine was that it was a much needed meeting of minds from different ends of the Hip-Hop spectrum. Coined as “a Pioneer of Hip-Hop“, ‘TheVoice’ was more of an uplifting messenger of truth than she was an interviewee. This was not an interview. This was a message that a powerful woman, an emcee, was destined to share and that Hip-Hop needed to hear. ‘TheVoice’, her voice, cool, calm and collected, but the rawness of her truth was piercing.

Its difficult even to gauge when the interview began, it was literally a meeting of minds from the start; two schools of thought, bridging a gap over troubled waters.

ME: How old were you when you started recording?

TheVoice: I was 15 years old.

ME: I love that you’re a pioneer. You grew up in a time where all you had was the grassroots of the art. No one tried to discredit you because they knew XYZ and you didn’t know ABC. Everyone had to know the same history of Hip-Hop and the popular artists, you all knew the same facts. Any way that you all interpreted Hip-Hop was truly organic. Where I stand right now, my influences were different from yours… my Hip-Hop was The Fugees, DMX, Nas, WuTang, Naughty By Nature, NWA, TuPac, Biggie…its just different. Its hard sometimes walking this line I feel like the older heads want me to sound more like them, but I can also relate to the younger crowd. It (for me) feels awkward being a Hip-Hop artist right now. For me I feel it has stifled me. Too much pressure to walk a thin line. You guys had no pressure to be involved. It was all for the love of the art.

TheVoice: Its crazy you say that because I am presently a High School, Hip-Hop teacher. An actual educator of the art form. I was blown away by that some of my students revealed to me that they only know Queen Latifah and Will Smith as TV personalities and actors.  They didn’t know they were emcees.  That’s why its very important that we teach the youth about the foundation and history of Hip-Hop – its our culture. Its just as important as knowing our black history…its part of our history as people. I believe there is a reason Hip-Hop is in its current state that its in. A lack of knowledge and respect for our culture.

ME: In their defense, being there are records I have never heard of (even myself) because of the strictness of my upbringing… and yes I am too blown away that they don’t know Dana Owens beyond her talk show, *laughs*  but Hip-Hop is a spirit. We don’t choose it. It chooses us.

TheVoice: You are right…It’s important that they know where hip hop originated from, the era, the pioneers, the elements, and the principles.1452538_598114166919454_1041809986_n

 

ME: You’re definitely right. Like foundational information, elements of the art form, correct?

TheVoice: Yes.

ME: Speaking of  those elements… there is a bit of a conflict with ghostwriters and Hip-Hop artists/rappers. Do you write your own lyrics?

TheVoice: Yes *laughs a matter of factly* Always have.

ME: *laughing in unison* So, judging by the way you laughed, I am guessing I know your answer to this next question; Is accepting ghostwritten lyrics a crime that a Hip-Hop artist should never commit?

TheVoice: I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s a “crime” because the ghost writers are in it to make money, so, it’s business to them…I ain’t mad at them. But for someone to recite a written rhyme as if it were their own… I can’t get with it. You have no creditability with me. I’m not even interested in hearing you.

ME: Right, I guess its different if you have to sell a product with a time restraint, artist that are signed to Major labels may feel more pressure to do so than indie.

TheVoice: True. That’s one of the benefits of being an Indie artist. You are on your own terms and time frame. This doesn’t give you a reason to be lazy, but I’m just saying.

ME: I respect that. Outside of Hip-Hop, do you have any other musical talents? Do you play any instruments or are you involved in any production work?

TheVoice: I got tired of waiting for beats so I started making them myself. I did most of the production on my current album “No Gimmick”.

ME: That’s impressive , I wish I could, even my beat-box sounds dry. *laughing* So like… at what age did you fall in love with Hip-Hop? Which Artist Inspired you? What song was it?

TheVoice: It was ‘The Message’ by Grandmaster Flash. The lyrics pulled me in. That is the song that was out when i fell in love with Hip-Hop. [The Message] was talking about growing up in the ghetto – it was something I could relate to. Its not the only song that was out, but it was the one that caught me the most.

ME: How does your family feel about you making Hip-Hop music? Are they supportive of it? Do they have a negative opinion about it?

TheVoice: The younger members of my family love my music!  Some of my family members would prefer that I do gospel, however they still come to my shows in support. I’ve heard comments that “I should do this for God or what if I were doing this for God how much more powerful it would be”. My thought  to that is “who do you think I’m doing this for? God gave me the gift. I mean I might say a few “Choice” words if that’s how I feel, it’s my expression. However, I am conscious of the power of words and I always try to keep a positive message even if I choose to use profanity, I’m just being real, hell. *laughing aloud* 

ME: You’ve been indie for your entire career, is signing to a major label something you are open to?

TheVoice: In ’93” I was offered a recording contract with major label, Zomba/Jive Records. My management team at the time registered me for widely known Hip Hop Convention “Jack The Rapper” in Atlanta.  My demo was submitted to a listening session which consisted of a panel of A&R Record Executives and producers who would give immediate feed back on your music. Once they listened to my demo I was invited to do a showcase at the China Doll in Chicago which resulted to a recording contract with Zomba/Jive Records, however the 80 plus page contract still sits in my closet files today..unsigned *laughs, sighs* The recording offer fell through right in the middle of negotiation. My song/single “This Old Man” ,in which the label was interested in, had a sample of the great comedian/actor Red Foxx. The label requested that we obtain sample clearance in which we were not able to do so due to the IRS confiscating  all of Red Foxx’s property, yes including his voice. Therefore I lost that deal. The label was not interested in any imitation, variations or reinventing the sample.  Yeah, I fell into a deep depression after that. So deep I didn’t realize it until years later. Even so, everything happens for a reason. Thank God that I have overcome that set back. However, it did launch me into becoming the indie artist I am today. I am open to any possibility of signing to a major label because I never know what God has in store for me, I have to trust Him and remain open. I do know that if the offer is not something I feel comfortable with I’m not feel obligated to sign.

ME: Which famous musicians do you admire?
TheVoice: There are so many …Curtis Mayfield, Gill Scott Heron, Nina Simone, Mama Africa these people are our ancestors. I love them because of the truth they spoke and they were political activist in their music. The message they delivered was so pure. As kid I would sit and listen to what they were saying. It was a big inspiration to me. Modern day artists, I loved Amy Winehouse, she was incredible. I learned a lot from her biography, I learned a lot of musical history because of her influences. People like Sarah Vaughn, Diana Washington… I had never heard of Diana. I looked her up. I was impressed and shocked. These were black people and I had no idea about them. The artists she mentioned I didn’t even know. It makes me learn my history. The same spirit and the same blood that is in them, is in us. We have to learn it. Other artist that I admire is Lauryn Hill, Adele, Prince, Michael Jackson, there are so many …so many. Jill Scott, Erykah Badu…I should stop there, because there are so many.

ME: Have you had any mentors that showed you the ropes to becoming an indie artist or were you self sufficient in your pursuit?

TheVoice: Becoming an indie artist, I fell into it because of circumstances. I had some mentors along the way. I had some friends mine that gave me advice, or a few that provided helpful resources, books and leads and such. It’s like you said …a spirit…it chose me, so I did it. That’s what’s so crazy about Hip-Hop no one can teach you how to do it. You just do it. Its in you. Its just who I am.

ME: And when you felt that spirit in you, what was the name of the first original song it inspired you to write and record?
TheVoice: The first one was called ‘Billie Jean’. *laughing* That’s was also my emcee name was at the time. LL Cool J had released a song called ” I Need Love” and he was the first emcee to gain recognition for having a slow rap ballad.  I had done one as well, before hearing his. 

ME: I understand. Cause I swear Drake telepathically stole a line or two of mine. So I understand *laughing* I have a serious question for you though. One that I need a Pioneer’s point of view on.

TheVoice: Okay.

ME: People are always expressing their disappointment about women in Hip-Hop. How do you feel about the state of females in Hip Hop? And, in what ways would you like to make an impact?

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TheVoice: I’m really depressed with the current state of the media and the way it is portraying the females in hiphop. I hate what the world is seeing. The lack of variety is depressing. There are a lot of female emcees out there but you don’t see them mainstream. Some are whack, a lot are not. And I wish they offered more variety in the media. You’ve got artists like Bahamadia, Jean Gray, The Floacist… but right now what they are showing mainstream, I am not happy with them. I love Missy Elliot. I miss Missy Elliot. There are too many great female emcees for there to be only one or two getting all the shine. That’s why my album is called “No Gimmick”. Not everyone will like my CD, but its real. Its not a gimmick. Its my Truth. As far as an impact. I just want to represent women with class and dignity – we’re royalty – we’re Queens. I can still be myself and know that I am truly being myself without a man trying to mold me into what they think I should be. Yet, another great thing about being indie. I do what I want! I’ve never been one to sell sex, I’ve always had a boyish side. *laughing* so that was never an issue.
Its always men telling us how to get into the industry or how to be. Like Biggie and Kim. But Kim lasted the way she did, I believe because all that was her. I don’t believe she was pretending to be hardcore. That was her. When they say its a man’s world, its kind of true. But is why I don’t want to be a part of this ‘world system’. I’m in it, but not of it…I’m underground.

ME: That’s deep.
TheVoice: I know some people will not like my answers when they read my interview, but that’s my truth. And I have to speak it. That’s real to me.

ME: Well, I love ‘real‘. So, I am not one of those people that will dislike what you have to say. I believe that whoever you are, be genuine because people know when you aren’t genuine in your music. So all of what you said, I believe people will agree with. And I feel like people will gravitate towards you because of that. Tell me about your performances though, where have you performed?

TheVoice: I pop up occasionally at open mics and have performed at some of Denvers popular events :The Colorado Center Of Arts (Gurl-ila), First Friday, Root 40 Music Fest, Make Music Denver, Independent Records Music Day #5, Sol Via Dance (Occupy The Dream) Jazz@Jacks, Cervantes (The 5th Element), The Gypsy House (Freedom of Speech) Mercury Cafe (Cafe Nuba) The Shout Out, The Walnut Room and Herman’s Hideaway.I am however focused on landing more performances in and out of State.

ME: Awesome. And I know you will land those gigs. As the Pioneer, what advice would you give to indie Hip-Hop Artist that feel overwhelmed with learning both the business and the art?

TheVoice: Stay true to you. Do what you love. Be who you are. If that’s what you want to bring to the table, than bring it. Do what your heart tells you to do. Be versatile. I think people sell out when it comes to money. They confine themselves because someone told them to be this or to be that. I can’t judge that, but you know be true to you. Know the history of the music you are doing no matter what genre it is. You need to have some knowledge of what you are doing. And to add to what you mentioned earlier about feeling stifled and overwhelmed… You’ve got to just speak your truth. Don’t let anyone tell you that you have to do one thing and be one way. They come in loving you and then want to change you.   If the change is of some benefit for your  personal growth, if it is enlightening in some form or manner then by all means remain open to that type of change, don’t be too stubborn. You have to keep in mind that you cannot make it alone you do need the support of others and you as well need to be supportive of others. Be open, not controlled. Hip-Hop is not just one thing, its expressed universally. If you have that gift, share it. Be who you are. All you owe is the truth that’s in you

ME: Wow… that is really great advice. Thank you, more than you know. Thank you. In your words, define hip hop.

TheVoice:  Hip Hop is ‘Higher Inner Peace- Helping Other People’. That’s exactly what it is if I live and share it accordingly. I believe that Hip Hop is an expression of an individual’s truth and their authenticity in what ever medium they choose to express themselves. For me, it’s my outlet and my way of giving back.

ME: I have never in my life heard that acronym before. Higher Inner Peace – Helping Other People. That’s deep.
TheVoice: Never?

ME: Never. But I swear it just lifted a burden off my life…. Thank you for sharing that. That was life changing for me.

TheVoice: Thank you for asking me to share.

ME: I sometimes feel like I lost time. But watching you in action is inspiring me so much. Maybe its crazy to ask because your actions are speaking and your answer is obvious. Many people feel like after a “certain age” you stop “rhyming”. Do you believe there is a certain age in which artist should cease to be a “lyricist/rapper/hiphop” artist?

TheVoice: No. I think you stop when you want to stop or you no longer have breath in you. The industry will try to tell you when to stop. They make us feel that way. They are trying to kill off the Spirit of Hip-Hop by giving it an expiration date. You are born an artist, and you will be an artist until you die. That’s how I see it. Even if I start writing for other people, I will still find a way to express myself. *laughing* I kind of want to ghostwrite for singers. Singers. If its Hip-Hop, I still feel the same in terms of credibility and what not but, like I said that would be business for me. *laughing* That’s different if that’s my focus. I do write poetry, and I write songs. I would love to write book one day, I journal. daily. Either way I will always find a way to express myself.

ME: Do you have any projects you are currently working on? Recently released? Where can your fans find your music online?

 

The ALbum voice

TheVoice: The most recent project is “No Gimmick” that is available on my website

www.thev0ice.com (that is the number 0, and not the letter O)
www.reverbnation.com/IAmtheVoice (album available)
www.twitter.com/IAmTheV0ice

As far as upcoming projects, I am doing collaborations right now. At this time no personal project. I just want to work with a few local artist, maybe a mix CD and get some shows outside of Colorado.

ME: You mentioned you were a Hip-Hop Pioneer: Do you think Hip Hop will exist in the next 20 years? Do you trust the new generation to carry on the legacy, revisit the history, revive what “hiphop” meant to the pioneers?

TheVoice: Yes, I believe Hip-Hop will be around. I do trust the Pioneers will pass the torch to the next generation. I really do believe it is a responsibility to teach this generation and the next generation all of the impacts and importance of the art form. If we, the Pioneers do what we are supposed to do, the next generation can revive the art. If we don’t pass it on correctly, it will turn into something it is not like Hip – Pop. But, I trust we will and they will carry it on appropriately.

ME: Last question for you. In one word…What legacy would you like to leave behind in your music?

TheVoice:  Authentic. 

ME: I know that this interview has turned into something far greater than I expected. You have given more information and insight than I am able to include in this interview. I am very thankful you agreed to be a part of MusicExistence.com and share your insights and you passion for what you do. Thank you for changing the way I think about Hip-Hop and for informing the world that it is okay to be ourselves.

TheVoice: Thank you. It was a learning experience for me as well. You are appreciated. 


 

Liked this interview TheVoice?
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About Danielle Blaiq

Danielle Blaiq is a Brooklyn born Indie Hip-Hop Soul Recording artist, and Co-Author/Blogger for MusicExistence Magazine.
She currently resides in New York, NY.

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