Hired Gun talks about the olden though not so long ago days when New York was filled to the brim with real artistry. His Twitter profile bio states, “Committed to a T.R.U. WORLD ORDER -Tolerance. Respect. Understanding.”
And he has a point: with every new complex going up from Harlem to downtown Manhattan, the city literally loses pieces of land housing what once was.
This doesn’t mean Hired Gun mopes around his days. He cherishes discovering new talent through his travels to different continents and works their influences into his own sound. In a way, changes up in America improved his creativity.
In 2014, what issues are affecting the black community that we don’t see in the mainstream news coverage?
There are a myriad of issues affecting our community that don’t get mainstream news coverage, everything from the prison industrial complex to the disparity in healthcare most African Americans receive. Issues of health, finance and justice, we will not see on mainstream media because of how our society has been set up. So many of the constructs of race and class are in place to maintain the hierarchy.
What do you do for Urban Art Beat? Are you still actively involved?
I was involved with Urban Art Beat as a mentor from 2006-2008. I currently am a mentor and program director for Urban Word NYC. Urban Art Beat is dear to my heart, and was the first place I began to work with youth in NYC. I am a part of youth coalition that partners with them, so I continue to work with Rosaleen (the Executive Director) and the organization.
You said in an article, “I’m a grown man who’s not afraid of my education.” Has anyone ever found your music intimidating because it wasn’t dumbed down?
Not to my knowledge (lol).
I’ve really been blessed because I’ve received nothing but positive feedback from fans, writers and peers about the content of my music. More often than not, it’s been described as refreshing and needed. Hip hop had always been about the poetry, and the “Easter egg” hunt. The music in the late 80s and 90s so often really was about saying something, saying it in a clever way and having layers.
Jay-Z, who is one of the biggest influences of the modern culture, Nas arguably is greatest lyricist and Eminem one of the best emcees to ever spit, all have shown the same quality. I’m no different.
The Black Eyed Peas stopped producing culturally aware music seemingly to earn big money. Understandable, sure, because who doesn’t love good (and much easier) money? Have you ever been tempted to abandon your social consciousness for a bigger fan base?
Honestly, not really. KRS-ONE said once that you shouldn’t make your art your primary source of income. I don’t know if that necessarily is a good or bad thing, but I’ve followed it. The reason being, the pressure that you put on your process when it has to produce revenue in my opinion changes it, not for the better. You become aware of things that aren’t real or necessary to you as an artist, because you now need your creativity to generate revenue. It has to find a larger market, It needs to only speak about certain things.
The greatest aspect of the digital world and the independent music lane has been that a DIY mentality matched with talent, skill and something real can create a living for yourself. I strive to be a working musician/artist and not a millionaire. My work as an educator is hip hop as well, and the combination of both has sustained me financially, spiritually, and mentally. That’s all I’ve ever asked of it. That’s all I really need.
How are your life experiences as a traveling artist resulting in different music than had you stayed around the New York area full time?
Traveling to Brazil, Africa and Europe have quite simply expanded the sounds that I use in my music. Cultivating a global conscious has also opened me to new inspirations and new ideas and ways of seeing myself and the world that has only broadened my music and sound.
In 2009, myself and two other artists (Rabbi Darkside and DJ Zajazza) collaborated on an album (Skillz to take Brazil) that was the result of our tour to southern Brazil. We witnessed Carnivale, poverty, joy and a whole new palette of sounds and ideas.
New York City at one time offered up a wide range of experiences and individual thought. Over the last 20 years however, it has become very plain. Artists who are really pushing the envelope, really taking the risks with their sound or their message are in other parts of their world. The time abroad has only given me more courage to speak boldly.
Do you ever want to write too much about love?
Can you ever write enough about love?
You have a song called “The Temptress.” Do you feel like what inspires hip hop culture is being erased by real life temptresses of every background trying to look like the common American beauty standards?
Mos Def told us the answer to this on Black on Both Sides, “You what’s going to happen with hip hop? Whatever’s happening with us.” When you look at what body types are valued, what skin tones, you can see at least where mainstream hip hop may be, or may be going.
I think hip hop is as diverse and as wide as human existence, so really it all depends on where *you* are at. What are you focused on? Who do you listen to? Whose art inspires you? What part of life inspires you? Hip hop has become whatever you define it as. There are some positives and negatives to this, but the one thing it does mean is…. ultimately, it will survive.