Q. ‘Vicariously Through Memories’ is an album title dripping with nostalgic sentiment. Therefore what period of time in your life is it that you’re reaching back to?
I’m reaching as far back as grade school days, all the way up to events that happened a couple years ago. It’s just a whole nostalgia album. There is no chronological order in events, but more of a seasonal order. From the beginning of fall (which for us in New York is the beginning of the school year), to spring, and then finally summer. All the while, hopping back and forth in different times during my life.
Q. Is the inclusion of so many features on the album a purposeful decision to reflect your desire to tap into as many collective memories of those that you grew up with? Or is it more about supporting local artists you’ve always been associated with?
It was more so, to tap into a wider collection of memories. It expands the stories and at the same time, shows how, at certain times, we grew up similar to each and or had similar feelings while in different areas in our city. Like for example “The Greatest Bodegas are In Harlem”. We are all from different parts of New York, and we still had similar sentiments about this subject. Which I feel is dope.
Q. The opening track, Carry On’s sound is immediately identifiable as being part of a Golden Era of hip hop, defined by producers such as J Dilla and Madlib. Was this a conscious decision to reach back to a period of music that you relate to more? And did you have to search far to find modern producers that understood your vision?
I didn’t have to search far at all. I actually see too many producers mimicking the j dilla style more than anyone. As far as the more current trap style in hip hop, I haven’t ran into those producers. There is a plethora of producers with a “golden” sound with modern twists. Through social media, you can find all types of people that do everything you search for. I feel that when you make a certain type of music, the right people, artists, and situations will find their way to you. There are so many dope artists and producers out there.
Q. ‘Take Over The World’ stands out as a tale of both your personal progression and burning desire to create an alternative lifestyle for yourself; reminiscent of Nas’ I Can for it’s widespread reliability instead of approaching the topic from an aggressive angle, typical of most modern hip hop. So were your younger years less affected by the trials and tribulations of crime and the ghetto compared to your peers? Or were you just always more focused on the positive ways of making an impression on the world?
A bit of both. I wasn’t closely affected by the rougher lifestyles, but they were always close by. I have a lot of friends in the area I live in that are affected by it who are no different then me. Just certain decisions we made growing up lead us to where we are. I’m no better than anyone. We all have our doubts, and our troubles. We all get side tracked and even lose sight of what we even want to do with our lives. We all get caught up in the allure of the possibility of a faster lifestyle. Especially at younger ages.
Q. During some of the skits between tracks, food is a topic of high importance being discussed by the guys. Food has always been a metaphor for wealth throughout hip hop’s history but in this case it feels more like a symbol for community. Explain the significance of the skits throughout the album?
The skits are pretty much a look into me and friends hanging out circa the time in which the song it follows is taking place. Whether we are joking around walking to the corner store or driving around on our way to play some basketball. And 9⁄10 times when me and my homies are together we’re probably gonna be eating or are about to go eat. Food is a big deal to us and in New York, because of the diversity and the accessibility. So many varieties of food available at literally any hour of the day. It even effects our slang. Which is where all these terms for money come from.
Q. ‘My T Shirt’ seems to address relationship and identity regarding the modern black male’s and the black woman; themes of slavery, materialism and family legacy are stylishly intermingled with everyday issues so how does this reflect how you see the world?
That song (“My T Shirt”) doesn’t really reflect that at all. I just referenced that as a metaphor for my girl (at that time) going through a pile of my shirts (Which are more than likely made of cotton) to wear. What I was getting at in that song is how, for some reason our girlfriends like to wear our shirts all the time. As if there was some deeper connection between me, her and my shirt. As far as your question, family legacy is something I think about daily. I also think about how the history of my people (African Americans) we are taught, and lead to believe all our history started in America as slaves. They acknowledge that we are from Africa but with giving us the full story. That we weren’t just bread from former slaves but we were from a land rich of resources, full of people who were inventors, creators,kings, queens and rulers.
Q. How do you want fans of hip hop to digest your album? As in do you think it can speak to the average hip hop fan nowadays or is it more about tapping into a conscious minority with a mind to growing their population?
This album is for everybody. Who ever is ready to listen to it is who it’s for. I don’t try to aim my music at a certain demographic. Because I know that our ears are very diverse. We all walk around with devices that can hold thousands and thousands of songs. There is plenty of people who listen to all types of genres and sub genres that can listen to my album as well as the straight up hip hop head. I know it seems like everyone listens to the same 3 artists mixed with the same 3 producers making the same 3 trap beats but that’s just a child of the media. It’s not real. Not every one listens to that. And not everyone listens to just that. I enjoy my “ignorant” hip hop here and there. But then I also enjoy my conscious and everything in between. The labels job is to make the artist seem bigger than what it is, as if they have all the hip hop worlds’ ears. In order to push that artist. And from the outside looking in, it would seem like that’s all we listen to. But our hip hop ears and knowledge is way more vast than what is shown.
For more information on J Manifesto visit https://www.facebook.com/JManifestOMusic
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