iCON The Mic King (2008)
Philadelphia-Rapper iCON The Mic King hat im neuen Jahr viel vor: ein Gespräch über die angekündigte “third renaissance of HipHop“, die Vertriebssituation für Underground-Künstler im Allgemeinen, das Feedback für die “Mike And The Fatman LP” im Besonderen – und die Kunst, sich immer wieder neu zu motivieren.
On your website you announce hiphop’s Third Renaissance – but which were the first two, this question came up to me…
Thanks for yet another interview. It’s funny I was just reading our interview from ’05 and it made me realize how much I’ve grown up. Anyway, the first and second Renaissances happened in ’88 and ’98 respectively. 1988 people consider to be the golden era of hiphop. Everything that came out was classic, hiphop was still pretty grassroots all around, all the elements were thriving, and we just had classic album after classic album. 1998 was the rebirth of the emcee. It was the lyrical era. The time period that breathed life into careers of emcees like Eminem, Canibus, Juice, Pharoahe Monch, Common Sense, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Company Flow, Wordsworth, etc. This was also the Rawkus/Lyricist Lounge era. Third Renaissance is hiphop moving forward embracing the consumer’s new role in defining who are new representatives will be. It is making progressive music and it is injecting life into an artform that has grown increasingly stale on all levels.
How will your contribution to this Third Renaissance look like?
I will contribute however the people will allow me to. I’ve updated my methods of creating music and I feel as though I am truly making timeless music now that which incorporates both high level lyricism with good actual song making. However if the people don’t enjoy my music and thrust me into that position, I am happy to just keep offering my observations on what is going on around us in hopes to affect change. For example I write articles on the state of things that encourage discussion, I’m introducing my fans to other emcees I think are 3rd Ren artists and I will continue to lead by example in my own artistry.
Your latest release is called “Rent Money Music II”. Why shouldn’t people miss this one?
I think “Rent Money Music II” represents me grown up. The lyricism is still top notch, the song making is better, and the production is a lot hotter. I think it’s my most complete release. I guess you would consider it a “mixtape” but 90% of the production is original so I don’t consider it as such. It’s the type of effort you can throw in your car and listen to end to end. It’s good music.
Were you satisfied with the feedback for the “Mike & The Fatman” album?
“Mike and the Fatman” was a learning experience. Not just artistically but business wise as well. It showed me that critics will not really listen to your record but skim it and make snap judgements. I’m not complaining about that I just know now that I have to cater to that. It showed me that if I’m shaky on anything not to turn it in until I’m not. I was well aware of the flaws in the record and as you can tell from the bonus tracks they were already things I’d improved upon by the time the album was released. In answer to your question I’m very satisfied with the feedback on the album. Critics rated it slightly below where I rated it, fans responded to it how they should have. Some of them loved it, some of them felt it had no replay value. However everyone that listened to it said I was ill I just needed to hone my craft a little more. Basically they all just confirmed everything I was already in the middle of doing, so the feedback was a blessing that showed me I’m on the right track. Shouts to everyone who picked up, downloaded, or listened to that album.
The other day I had a discussion about the distributional situation for underground artists nowadays. What has to be done to improve the situation?
There are actually plenty of distribution outlets available. That’s not really the problem anymore, getting records into stores is easy. The real problem is getting them out of the stores onces they are there. What needs to improve is that people need to value music again. For them to do that the quality must improve. Once it does the people must take their responsibility of introducing their friends to good music and once their friends are introduced to it they must take it upon themselves to support that music. The music industry is a pyramid. Each artist is his or her own pyramid. The problem is the branches of that pyramid are no longer providing the support to allow the pyramid to keep standing. Each branch of the pyramid has to do their part otherwise the pyramid will collapse and these artists will have to get real jobs and distribution won’t even be an issue.
Do you think about jumping on the train of releasing web-only albums this year?
Call me old-fashioned but I have to have a physical product. I’m all about creating the experience of music. Most music is created on a computer, mixed on a computer, mastered on a computer. The art is designed on a computer. I like the magic of seeing that music then be born through the process of manufacturing. There’s no magic in it if it always stays in the computer and goes straight to iTunes. The industry is certainly shifting in that direction but I will still cater to those who want to buy an album, open the packaging, and thumb through the booklet in their car. I’m not sure how lucrative the web-only release is going to be for me though as I sold “Black Arts” on myspace and only a handful of people bought it so I will continue to go with a combination of physical and digital solutions.
From time to time I’m bored of what I’m doing, what about you? How do you keep the fire alive?
First and foremost that’s the type of person I am, it’s hard for me to give up when it’s something I truly care about. I never get bored of this because this is my dream and I’m living it. I do get frustrated sometimes and I’ll take a day or two off just to chill and get my thoughts in order. But lately I’ve been motivated by a lot of different things. I have a girlfriend that I’m very serious about so it’s like everything I do is getting me closer to the perfect life with her! That feeling keeps me in the lab day after day lately, just cranking out the best songs of my career!! It makes me excited to be alive and excited to move forward in my career and excited to present this incredible music and see if it will touch people the way she has touched me. I also have a responsibility to my family to succeed. I have a responsibility to the artists in my circle to lay as strong a foundation as I can so they can get it in as well. I have a responsibility to share where I believe we (hiphop) are going in hopes that we make a positive impact on the progress of this culture. So nah, I never get bored. That fire is what keeps me alive!
I dug out my copy of the “Intricate Spectrum EP” and gave a close listen to it right before this interview. It was a cool album when it came out first, but to be honest with you: i felt like it wasn’t up-to-date anymore. How do you see your early records when looking back today?
I listen to all my music very critically. I constantly look for ways to improve so I don’t listen to records like Mike and the Fatman or Intricate Spectrum too much anymore as I hear all the flaws. Although when I do pull those records out I’m often amazed by what I was doing at the time, mostly by my lyrics and my ability to pack so many words into such a small space. I agree those records didn’t age so well. On the other hand I feel like the stuff I’m making now will. I feel like Rent Money Music 2 will definietly age well. How records age is more based on production and I feel like I finally have the type of tracks that will bang today or in 3009.
What are the indispensable ingredients to a record when it is supposed to be ageless?
From a rap standpoint I think you have to write the type of rhymes that you can always get something new from. I don’t throw many current events lines in my rhymes because that will date them immediately. You also have to have your own style and approach things in ways other people don’t. You have to go against convention to a certain degree. Production wise it has to be the type of beat that doesn’t get old. Something people can feel, something that grabs them and holds onto them and invokes a feeling.
I liked your collabo with Jus Allah alot. The me, both of you are the kind of lone wolves that don’t necessarily need a multitudinous crew behind them. Was this a once-only collaboration or can we expect more material from you two?
From what I understand Jus Allah is back with Jedi Mind. We’ve kicked around the idea of doing more work in the past but truthfully who knows what the future holds. If the situation presents itself I’d be open to it but I’m perfectly fine with Black Arts being the end of it. I’m moving forward in my career, maybe it’s time for Black Arts to be the closing chapter in my name being involved with Jedi Mind Tricks. I don’t have anything left to prove. I just want make timeless music and move away from drama. I wish nothing but success for Jus Allah, he is a very talented emcee with strong convictions, he deserves everything he’s worked for.
Just to get it on point at the end of this interview: what do we have to look out for next coming from you?
This is the year where I truly put my talent where my mouth is. At the end of January I will release a podcast/online mixtape entitled “The Reintroduction” mixed by DJ Fishr Pryce of Los Hip Hop Guys. It’s a mix of older joints and brand new joints inviting people who checked me before and didn’t feel it a chance to give me another shot. I’d appreciate it if you guys ugrap would run it on your site. It should be available for free on the various digital networks. In the same vein I’m re-recording some older songs that I felt were amazing but had a few flaws in them and re-releasing them for free on a project called “Revisionist History.” As far as actual physical releases I’m working on a new record with Chum. We’re not sure if it will be the next installment in the Mike and the Fatman series or if it will just be a straight up album, but whatever the case we’re about 5 or 6 tracks in and it is amazing!!! I have an album I’m working on with a dope producer out of Portugal named Blastah Beatz our record is called “The Season of Our Discontent.” It is also amazing! I’m doing an electronic project with a guy from the UK called Animals on Wheels, our group is called Robots with Hearts. We have 11 tracks done for that. I’ve got a lot of other small projects that I’m kicking around but until we lay down some music there’s no real reason to mention that. Oh and of course I’m collecting tracks for Rent Money Music 3: Bucks for the Budget. All the proceeds from that one will fund my debut solo album “self: sent erred” which I hope to finally start at the year’s end.