What’s been happening with you recently and overall since the Gangstar days?
Life with Jaru Damaja’s been pretty good. I’ve been learning a lot about the music industry. Started my own record label. Doing a lot of production. I’m just learning the business. Just living and loving life.
What’s the name of your label?
It’s called Ashenafi Records. And Ashenafi is a word in Amharic, which is one of languages that they speak in Ethiopia and it means the winner. It’s easier for me to sell my records now and hopefully in the next year or two I’ll be able to sign other people to it, cause I want to give everyone a fair deal.
You are a part of Hip Hop history, going back to the 80s with your work. What does it mean to you?
Life. It’s real different today because Hip Hop is everywhere, Hip Hop is the mainstream culture. But when I was growing up we only had 1 or 2 stations that plaid Hip Hop. Like 1 or 2 albums on the weekends. It was that subculture and it was the thing that raised us. It told us that we can be different and we being as young, urban people, can have a voice and let the world hear it.
How have the fans changed over time?
Well, my fans didn’t really change. If you like Jeru the Damaja, you like Jeru the Damaja. I think now we have more MTV, BET, just more mass media. So the fan base is broader and we have a lot more people listening to Hip Hop in different places.
Who are your favorite “old school of Hip Hop” artists representing nowadays?
Wow. It’s really hard. Well, one of my favorite artists of all time is Kool G Rap. Love Kool G Rap, love KRS-1, love Public Enemy, Rakim… you know, EPMD.
What about the new acts?
I don’t listen to too much new stuff, I’m kinda stuck in the time machine. I like Lupe Fiasco. Papoose is cool. I really like Wu-Tang Clan. Inspector Deck is one of my all time favorites.
Do you think that commercialization of Hip Hop is a good thing with giving it global coverage or a bad thing with diluting the true meaning of the Hip Hop culture?
I think to be commercial means that you can sell records. So it’s good when artists like Jeru the Damaja, whose record came out in 1993 is still going worldwide, selling records and make a living. So it’s like anything, there are positive and negative sides. But I think that, hey, if you are who you are then it’ll last.
Do you have a new album in the works?
Yeah, my new album will be in September 18th. It’s called Still Rising, on my own label, Ashenafi Records. It’s gonna be the bomb.
Who else will be on it?
It’s a secret. You gotta buy it.
Where have you been doing shows recently?
I just came back from doing something in Brazil. All over the world really and all over the US. I mean, Jaru the Damaja, they love me and I love them.
What can an average fan of “old school of Hip Hop” do to keep on the same page with the less commercial acts in these days?
Support the artists that they know and love and not talk shit about em. You know what I mean? Buy their records and hope it comes around. I mean, internet has all the information you need. Use the internet. Go to the shows. See where your artists are playing. Check for the records. A lot of times we talk about the commercialization of Hip Hop and then we rely on the commercial machine to give us information. We can’t do that.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
Just be yourself, know yourself and love yourself.