iCON The Mic King (2005)
In preparation for this interview I read a lot of interviews you did for other sites or magazines and you had to answer almost in every interview the same questions like “what made you grab the mic” or “whats your favorite mc” etc. Doesn’t it get on your nerves to answer the same questions again and again?
It’s like this… I’m a Jedi and you don’t treat a Jedi with the same respect you treat a padawan learner. When you give me the same interview you give JohnnyRapAlot aka JimmyJanSport@aol.com you’re showing me the same respect as that lego man. With the type of effort and mastery I put into my work you should at least have the decency to prepare some unique questions. I’m just asking you to do your fucking job as a journalist. How does hiphop journalism expect people to take it or what its presenting serious when it doesn’t take itself serious?
But let’s don’t stick to wack journalism. You are about to release your EP that goes by the name “Intricate Spectrum”. Finished in Dec. ’03, tell us, why didn’t it come out earlier?
I started this EP in early in 2003. The first track I recorded was “Refresh” and it was basically because I had gotten sick of waiting for “IndieInBurns” to come out so I was like “there’s no reason for me to sit here and rot so lets just move on to the next thing.” So I had just stopped going to school and all I was doing was writing, but I don’t have any backing so I was essentially going at it like “I’ll finish it whenever I finish it.” Then I went on tour with this kid from Pittsburgh and he wanted to put it out on his label. So I was like cool and got motivated and finished the writing like 3 weeks after. Ended up recording like 7 of the tracks in one day and got the artwork and the enhanced CD handled. Then this kid and I weren’t seeing eye to eye on the project. He didn’t like the cover but he was fronting like “oh everyone else hates it but I like it and I think it’ll be eye-catching.” The kid is an excellent salesman but all that double-talk bullshit gets on my nerves and eventually it became understood that he wasn’t going to put it out. So what I did was make 2 extra songs and did 2 limited pre-release versions of the EP to generate money to press the EP officially with its enhanced CD portion and its own hidden track. On pre-release blue I had an extra song called “Iron Will” and on pre-release red I had an extra song called “Almost.” Both were produced by my man Dr Sixshot (who I’m bout to do a project with called “The Tao of Michael King.”) Anyway long answer short it took forever to come out because I don’t have any fucking money and none of these failing labels recognize kojak.
With the aim to release the ep on your own label Indieground, do you have a good promotion or distribution behind your label?
No I don’t have good promotion because that’s all money and like I just said I don’t have any of that. I’ve made good relationships with some distributors and the record will be accessible however until I have the money to promote it or people start to recognize kojak and the word of mouth gets crazy like that…it won’t even matter. The same kids that email me like “When’s your album gonna be in a store so I can pick it up?” are the ones that finally see it in the store and they’re like “well I already downloaded this 3 months ago… I’ll get it next time” or they’re too scared to ask their store to special order it. So at this point it’s more important that I just get a substantial amount of copies and hit the road.
Talking about your label, are there any other records in the works?
Ideally I’d like to get to a point where I’ve built myself as such a well-known name brand that I can afford to release everything myself. I also would like to help out emcees that I believe are incredible that are in the same position I’m in. For example my man Awar just completed an incredible album called “Glory Days” and has no home for it. If I can’t help him find someone to put it out I’m gonna pool my resources and make something happen for him because there’s way too many terrible rappers who have money behind them. God sent me to balance the scales.
Are there some tracks that didn’t make it on the record and are you satisfied with the final result?
I had to re-record a couple jawns because I either couldn’t get the beat separated (the original version of Pocket Change) or someone reneged on a beat they had promised me (god amongst men) but I didn’t scrap anything that actually got recorded. There were a couple jawns that I started writing and didn’t finish because I was like this is gonna be useless. I’m not like these other dudes you’re used to hearing. I don’t make wack songs. I’ve grown out of that shit. I’m sorry that a lot of your rap superheroes have yet to figure this out. But yeah I’m happy with the final result…like I said in the liner notes I know I’m capable of so much more than that though and it just showed me I’m ready to make an actual album.
What were your inspirations while you worked on the tracks for “Intricate Spectrum”?
We could do a track by track analysis but really what it boils down to is my shitty ass life is what inspired those songs. Due to the space rapper backlash I was thinking of renaming it “Dream Sequence” because a lot of the songs I mention things about chasing dreams. I think I may have said the word “dream” in every song. So that record was inspired by a bunch of things that go thru your mind as you’re making an honest attempt to grasp your wildest dreams.
In my opinion, it’s a perfect EP. It has dope tracks, tracks to ponder about and some to chill. Is it that what you want to say with the name “Intricate Spectrum”, that it got a good portion of everything?
Yeah that was the exact goal. I’ve always had a wild imagination. So much so that I often find myself sitting around trying to figure out how much of reality I believe is real. Apply that to being creative and you begin to comprehend how unlimited my scope is. However a lot of people have only seen me rap in capacity where I’m trying to give them the “one night stand” that is a punchline so a lot of people always assumed I was just a battle emcee. (although even if you look at my battle rhymes you can see someone with a higher level of creative genius) If you look at my discography even before this record battle songs didn’t even make up half of what I had out. With this record I just wanted to: 1. Make a cohesive project. 2. Show a lot of the different things I am capable of. I’m also a very meticulous person and that causes my rhyme schemes and content to challenge the listener because they are in a word…Intricate.
Do you think that you can reach the masses with your music? I mean, you know the subborness of people. They only want to buy music from artists they already know and almost never check out some new artists.
Yes. Easily. Like I just said I have mastery of the whole spectrum. If what I wanted to do was make some great commercially viable songs, I would do that. However that’s not what I enjoy the most so that’s not what I do the most. I like to feel challenged and I like to make some thing that is timeless. I make high culture music what the masses love is low culture music. When aliens dig up the remains of this planet after it succumbs to nuclear holocaust they’ll look at that shit to get an idea of what was going on in culturally then they’ll look at my music to see what the propensity for understanding was in our species. Basically I can consistently do anything they can do better than they can do it. Any street/commercial emcee I challenge you to do what I do even 50% as well as me.
Isn’t it ridiculous, mc’s who even can’t rap make the big money because they rap about bitches, money & cars or something like that and have senseless videos on MTV, and peoples like you don’t get the respect they deserve. Do you think that people will ever realize that there are so much good artists out there which are much more worth to support?
For the record, I too rap about money and bitches but I don’t have a car. There’s nothing wrong with rapping about whatever you rap about. In fact I have no problem with them doing what they do some of them make enjoyable music. What I do have a problem with is how they quell a chance for an alternative to come up. At the same time the people are so iCONditioned to only a few options as to what they will listen so it’s going to take some systematic approach of introducing the idea that it is actually ok be an incredible rapper instead of doing your best Jay Z impersonation. I’m a stubborn bol though so if it’s going to happen for anyone, it will be me.
As you certainly know, Third Earth Music folded down some weeks ago. What will happen with your 12″ IndieInBurns that came out on Third Earth Music? Will it still be available during the next years?
The 12″ sold out with the distributor about two weeks before Third Earth folded. There are probably a few left at the stores and I have a couple that I’m holding for ebay ransom. Other than that it’s somewhat of a collector’s item. I’m flirting with the idea of re-releasing it maybe with the original third song that I had planned or something but not just yet.
You grew up and still live in Philadelphia. Did growin up there influence your music in any way?
The City of Brotherly Hate just made me a stronger more competitive individual. It taught me “born alone die alone.” I don’t need anyone or anything I ultimately choose my destiny. It’s a tough city to be an entertainer or anything creative in so it made and iCONtinues to make me the best. It’s a very soulful city as well so it’s my favorite place to be to just chill and reflect. Other than that North Philly taught me all the hood sensibilities you’d learn anywhere else in ghetto America.
In your opinion, is rap from Philly seperated to other east coast cities?
Yes. We have our own styles. The soulful stuff comes out in our music heavily. I was just talking to people the other day about how State Property is the most avant garde thug rap group yet. Them dudes rhyme in melodies. Freeway chops up rhymes sonnets and brings them back way later in the pattern. We have our own brand, our own slang, our own style that people in other cities up and down the eastern seaboard slowly borrow from and then throw into the forefront years later (we were doing the pink shirt thing in 95 y’all). So of course our rappers are a different breed altogether.
Like some other mc’s, you participated in a lot of battles and also won a few. When did you decide to move away from battling and focus more on recording tracks?
I was making music for 5 years before I started battling. All battling to me was a springboard to get more people to recognize kojak. It was like all I gotta do is murk a few of these lego men and I get money and more people know that I’m great….word?!!! So I used it to make some friends and pay some bills and keep my swords sharp. I got bored with it pretty fast and I was ready to quit around the end of 2001. Only time I did it after that was because I needed money or I was invited. I no longer have anything to prove.
While you were still into battling, did you think that you can win every battle or were you aware of that some better mc’s were out there?
I know I can beat anyone. If I bring my A game the only one beating me is me.
You are also affiliated with your crew “Fallen Angelz”. When will you all come up with an album?
Other than Awar I don’t know if any of them jokers are motivated enough for this to ever happen. If it does ever happen it will be all you expect it will be and more. In fact Diabolic and I were talking about the crew roster the other day because people in interviews always ask me who’s in Fallen Angelz so I always just run off the roster as I knew it to be in 02/03. Bolic said he thought it’d be smarter to go just tell people that it’s Awar, DJ Cue Two, Diabolic, MANiFEST, and myself. As you can see…as a crew we don’t really have our shit together and while they’re always welcome to be involved in whatever I’m doing and the Angelz is still what I’m reppin’ it’s not something that I’m so iCONcerned with right now.
Can you tell us whats going on with the other crew members? Diabolic & Lou Cipher appeared on the Black Panther LP, but I never heard something from them after this album dropped.
Like I said earlier Awar just finished his LP “Glory Days” he has a lot of M-Phazes beats on it. He recorded the whole thing with JJ Brown of Louis Logic fame. Diabolic, MANiFEST, and myself are all on there on separate tracks. Diabolic is working on an album called “A Liar and A Thief.” He’s been on both of Technique’s albums and Viper Records is supposed to be dropping his jawn and we’re doing 2 potential tracks for it. This man will definitely be a problem. I have no idea what MANiFEST or LouCipher is up to. DJ Cue Two is just spinning at clubs and occasionally acting as my tour DJ. 2005 is gonna be a good year for those of us that are still on the grind though.
Any news you can give us on your group Voltron?
As far as I know Voltron is a wrap. For those that don’t know it was my group with Manifest, Cue Two, and Chum the Skrilla Guerilla (of the Demigodz). Fest & I were the rap stars, Cue Two the DJ, and Chum the producer. The problem is/was that I was the only one who gave a fuck and it was like pulling teeth to get Fest or Cue to do anything. We decided to do the project because of the great chemistry the 3 of us had onstage and we brought Chum into the fold because of the great work we’d been doing in the studio. My goal was to make an album that defied categorization…a jawn that wasn’t overly underground sounding or overly commercial sounding just an incredible album. The idea was to get someone to put it out so we could get more shows and grind it out. Apparently Chum and I are the only ones out of that lineup that were down to get it in so we took that potential and condensed it into the “Mike and the Fatman” record that we just finished and will be dropping Winter 05.
Did you ever expierience the situation that your audience wasn’t feeling you during a show?
That’s happened a couple times when I’ve opened for a major label artist where the people are in such anticipation of who they came to say that it doesn’t matter what you do they’re going to hate you. This is why I hate opening for people because I bring something a lot more incredible to the stage and it goes underappreciated. Even at those shows there’s still a good amount of people who elbowed their way to the front because they know the burning light of a thousand suns when they see it.
Perhaps you know the reality show “Switched”. In that show 2 persons switch their lives for 4 days. Lets assume someone would switch his live with yours. What would he experience in this 4 days in the life of iCON the mic king?
This person couldn’t just from the sheer fact that a lot of what I do with my time would take him several of his lifetimes to understand let alone master. However if he were to just be doing what I do for four days he wouldn’t get much sleep, he’d either be writing, recording, performing, updating his website, doing a website for someone, drawing/designing something for someone, practicing music, watching movies, reading science fiction novels, arguing with his ex-girlfriend, or trying to set up some more shows. I just recently started working a booking agent but other than that everything you see I do myself except for produce the beats and mix the songs.
I guess you voted in November. I remember some guys appealed for non-voting. Do you think that its good solution?
I didn’t vote. I don’t see the point for several reasons…all the classic reasons like the drop in the bucket syndrome and the “electoral college decides anyway.” In addition to those I’ve always felt like…why should I trust whoever is counting the votes?
Before we wrap this up, just lemme ask you a last question. In one track on your ep you considered yourself as gods gifted rapper. If you could meet god one time, what would be the most important question you would like to ask him?
To quote Dos Noun. “When I meet God I won’t ask him shit so he’ll know what it is to have my gift”.