Q. What came first activism or rap? How important is it for you to voice world injustices in your music?
Activism, as my mom instilled that in me from the earliest age. I joined her since before I can remember in demonstrations, protests, marches, etc., for peace, women’s rights and environmental issues. But the music was a close second. Before I ever heard Hip Hop, I was listening to Bob Dylan and Motown with my mom and dad. And then my babysitter brought me Run DMC and Public Enemy, and it was a wrap. Something hit me. And when I realized I was a writer who could make money with my words, I just put it all together and took my writing to the microphone and the stage. I have ALWAYS been AWKWORD, I just decided to change my name a little late.
Q. How important is it for you to work on projects and social issues beyond the music?
For me Hip Hop and social issues go hand in hand. Not every song I make has an explicitly political purpose or theme, and not every song is even serious. It’s OK, healthy, important to have fun. But for me I would never be satisfied with who I was if I was ONLY making rap songs and not doing something to give back and make change.
Q. You have been recognized by the likes of Chuck D from Public Enemy who said you make “quality music that deserves to be heard”. That is a big statement from one of Hip Hop’s greats. How did he hear your music?
Yeah, getting the recognition from the critics is amazing, but there is nothing like hearing it from one of your idols and peers. Chuck D helped me be the man and the emcee I am, and he has now co-signed two of my songs and said some amazing things about my music, my forthcoming album World View and me.
In terms of how he heard the music, that’s just how the game works. Someone got it in his hands. And fortunately he fuxed with it.
Q. How do you think the music industry has changed over the years? Are things easier for independent artists?
I have no idea. Sure, it seems like the indie artist CAN get bigger now, as we’ve seen with Tech N9ne. (No, Macklemore does not count. Do your research.) But that’s one artist. All the other major acts are corporate, with the financial backing and behind-the-scenes muscle required to be heard or seen. And what about all those artists that were buzzing, only to be shelved by the majors and never heard from again.
Personally, I’ve never done anything with any help. It’s always been DIY for me, and I just won’t sign because there’s no reason to trust.
Q. What’s the most influential piece of advice that you have been given and have applied to your life?
Make the best of it. My mom told me that.
Q. Tell us about your latest track ‘Go!’ ?
As written by Dharmic X, which premiered the song 11/19/13:
AWKWORD has released a new song today called “Go!” The song is a high-powered underground hip-hop collaboration with AWKWORD trading rhymes with Brooklyn’s Joell Ortiz and Slug from Atmosphere. AWKWORD starts the song off with him talking about overcoming obstacles, internal and external. Slug takes the second verse, and ushers in a spirit of optimism, while Joell closes the song off by talking about the success he is destined to have thanks to his undying work ethic. Meanwhile, the song’s hook comes courtesy of vocalist Maya Azucena.
“Go!,” produced by Domingo, is slated to be released on AWKWORD’s upcoming album, World View. Proceeds from the project will be going to the non-profit organization Guns 4 Cameras, which looks to “eradicate street violence through the Hip Hop-inspired education and empowerment of our at-risk youth.”
The single can be purchased here.
Q. What artists are you current feeling?
Q. Where do you think the future of Hip Hop is going?
Even more eclectic and ‘out-there’, and as long as we hold on to our roots, I think it’s for the better that we progress and expand our global domination. Lord Jamar needs to shut up.
Q. What have you got coming up for us to look out for?
In the next couple months, I will be releasing WORLD VIEW, the first-ever 100% for-charity global Hip Hop project, sponsored by DJBooth and The Morgan Stanley Foundation. It features production from likes of Harry Fraud, Numonics, ATG and Steel Tipped Dove, and emcee appearances from Joell Ortiz, Sean Price, Slug (Atmosphere), Chino XL, ILL BILL, The Kid Daytona, REKS, Chaundon, Shabaam Sahdeeq, Jasiri X, Viro the Virus and many more. All proceeds go to Guns 4 Cameras, a 501c3 nonprofit that goes beyond the gun exchange, working to educate and empower at-risk youth in our communities.