Interview: Buggs Tha Rocka

December 26, 2014 § Leave a comment

Buggs1I sat down with up and coming American rapper,Buggs, to talk about his new project amongst other things. Buggs has been on stage with the likes of Hip Hop heavy weights such as Talib Kweli and Hi Tek. He has also received recognition from Pharrel Williams and a host of other Hip Hop superstars.

Hailing straight out of Ohio, Buggs has been making waves in the underground scene in the States which has caught the attention of many in the industry. He has been on tour in Europe and has even collaborated with UK artists, however little is known about him over here in the UK. I gave Buggs a chance to introduce himself and his body of work.

“With my first mixtape I got a lot of national exposure, it was called “Hip Hop Supa Hero” with DJ Mick Boogie. He’s now known as MICK and is a Roc Nation DJ but is also from Ohio.’”

He added: “I then dropped mixtapes  primarily until “Mutant Level 5” which featured Little Brother, Sa-Ra, Freeway, London’s SAS and more. The Lost Luggage mixtape and then Wrath of Zeus in 2013 both with DJ Clockwork got a lot of national attention as well. Now it’s time for the new upcoming project “Scattered Thoughts of an American Poet” releasing on December 10th” His latest project was released this month, Buggs gave us a quick synopsis about the project and what were some of his motivations behind the new album.

“It’s literally just my scattered thoughts and bringing people up to speed on what I been on since my last project. It’s also showcasing who I am as an artist and person to the new audience. I wanted to show my depth in music and give variety while staying true to who I am and I did that with this project.”

The album showcases his creative side as he blends spoken word with Hip Hop. Buggs’ creativity has also garnered him recognition from his home town of Cincinnati. The city awarded him the best Hip Hop act of 2014 a feat very few artists can boast of and goes to show the wide appeal Buggs has. The mid west rapper had this to say about the award.

It’s always a great thing to be recognized for your hard work and talent, especially as it’s the people of the city who voted for me and they felt it was deserved.” On his use of poetry in his work the Ohio native had this to say:

“Most rappers don’t appreciate connecting with souls through words, they are mostly concerned with making a dance tune or pop tune that can produce money for them and their bosses at the label. It’s not about connecting with the people or affecting people in a way to change the world. Most people in the rap realm treat this like a hustle, another quick lick to make some fast money, but not me. Music is a passion of mine. I would do this regardless, it’s my therapy, my everything!”

The production on some of the tracks is perfect as he makes use of some great soulful samples which help to set the mood; ‘Against me’ highlights this best. Unlike many Hip Hop artists it doesn’t seem like Buggs allows for the beat to take centre stage on the track as he actually has lyrical content. In a time where it seems the catchiest beats make or break a Hip Hop song I asked Buggs his opinion on whether or not he thinks there is a balance coming back to Hip Hop as more lyrical artists such as J Cole and Kendrick Lamar are gaining mainstream recognition. He said:

“I love this question, honestly I feel more needs to be done not only on the artist side of things, but the consumer plays a large roll in correcting the issue as well. If you let the record labels feed you bullshit they will keep giving it to you. The machine is only concerned about what is making dollar signs! “He added,

“I think personally the overall problem in rap music is that there’s not enough balance on mainstream radio and tv. It’s hard to hear the artist providing hip hop lyricism because the labels are trying to keep the underground music down.  It’s a constant battle since the rise of indies, they have been trying to make it even harder for indies to blow up as that’s cutting the labels’ money out. Of course everything is a business at the end of the day.”

Ohio has always had a rich history of iconic rappers, from Bone Thugs n Harmony to more recent acts like Kid Cudi. However it doesn’t seem to share the same level of success as its other Midwest neighbours such as Chi- town and Detroit. I posed this question to Buggs so he could give some insight into this anomaly.     

“Ohio isn’t a place with very many outlets to be successful. Most of the people…well scratch that….all of the people who were successful from Ohio had to leave to do so. I don’t fault them for that. And if the OG’s and others  before me had felt a responsibility to showcase and shine light on Ohio, we would be successful as Chi-town or the D. Unfortunately we haven’t been as lucky in that aspect, but if I have the opportunity I will change that and show them all what they should have done. “

It is this need to be different, to be a trend setter, that really separates Buggs from a lot of up and coming artists. You get a sense of someone who is trying to change the rules of the game from the inside and doesn’t use the lack of radio play or label backing as a crutch. It was this energy I believe that appealed to mega stars such as Pharrel and Talib Kweli, the latter being one of the gate keepers of Hip Hop culture. Buggs speaks on the chance to work with a Hip Hop icon like Talib Kweli.

“It’s amazing to work with Talib in any capacity. He is a legend and one of the greatest lyricist that hip hop has ever seen. To be co-signed by him and share the stage with him is a surreal feeling, it’s something epic. But we linked up as Donte from MOOD and I opened up for him,  we already had a few mutual people between us, and I think it was just one of those things where I was making noise and people were telling him about me.“  He added:

“So he finally gave me a listen or two, saw a live show and then he reached out to me. He gave me a call and we linked up in Cincinnati at this lounge we’ve been rocking ever since. “

Not just content with having some of Hip Hop’s biggest stars wanting to work with him, Buggs has also ventured overseas to pursue his music and linked up with London’s very own SAS. While he was in the country he had time to experience our brand of Hip Hop and had this to say about it,

“I love the UK the scene. It’s amazing and I feel the appreciation of lyricism in hip hop over there way more, even in your mainstream, that’s the energy I get. I like a lot of different kinds of artists over there, but Ella Eyre and Sam Smith are two I would love to collaborate with!”

Scattered Thoughts of an American Poet is out now on iTunes and make sure to follow Buggs on twitter @BuggsThaRocka and Facebook BuggsThaRockaMusic.

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Interview: Kid Vishis talks about Hip Hop,Detroit and …… boxing

December 26, 2014 § Leave a comment

SONY DSCDetroit native, Kid Vishis’ album ‘Timing is Everything’ came out last month. The rapper is the younger brother to Royce da 5”9 a member  of  famed rap collective, slaughter house, as well as a member of Eminem’s label, aftermath. With such a high profile relative within the industry it would be understandable if anyone would feel some pressure stepping out of their shadow; however Kid Vishis isn’t new to the game having been on tour withthe likes of D12. When asked about the pressure of being Royce da 5”9’s brother, not being one to mince his words the rambunctious rapper had this to say,

‘I don’t have any pressure when it comes to my brother. That guy is my best friend and mentor but at the end of the day, we are not the same person.’ He went on to say,

People make up these “pressures” and expect me to abide by them because in their mind, if you have a famous relative you have to be better than them to shine. I respect all opinions but I would never let someone who doesn’t know me put pressure on me just because they are basic, narrow minded ass people.’

Kid Vishis has used his close relationship with his brother as the premise of the song ‘Big brothers’, in it he details the origins of him rapping in his parents’ basement and it’s this close bond with his brothers that he uses as fuel to motivate him, to help keep him focused on being a top MC. Meaningful Songs like ‘Big brothers’ are consistent throughout the album, and Kid Vishis makes it very clear what to expect from it,

‘I would say a very diverse, entertaining hip hop album that has something you can relate to on it as a hip hop fan. There are ferocious bars and meaningful songs that are guaranteed to have you repeating the songs and hooks or have you constantly pressing your rewind button to hear a clever bar that I said.’

Detroit has traditionally been a musical powerhouse of the United States with iconic record labels such as Motown hailing from the city. However since the prominence of hip hop on a world stage during the 80’s  the city has not experienced the same kind of success as it did during the mid 20th century with the likes of the Jackson 5 and Smokey Robinson plying their trade in the city. The 90’s saw a sudden shift with a little known Detroit rapper by the name of Eminem taking the music industry by the throat. Since the emergence of Eminem the city has not seen the same musical revolution it had seen in the 60’s but rather a trend of one stand out act every couple years dominating the music scene for the city, unlike other cities in the US such as New York and LA which boast an array of superstars.  I spoke to Kid Vishis about this anomaly,

“Unity is key for any city. Detroit has a history of not being united and also a history of our city suffering because of it. I feel like Detroit is one of the most talented cities in the world right now and has great potential to become united because the O.G’s are doing a great job of leading the younger generation so Detroit will be the top city music wise in a few years.”

The rapper is publicly critical about the current state of hip hop, something he goes into on his hard hitting track, ‘Message to the MC’s’ and with the growing popularity of battle rap as well as his brother’s involvement in it I had to know how he felt about what many in Hip Hop have coined the new era of lyricism.

‘The future’s definitely looking bright for lyricism. It’s a lot of people and media that complain about the lack of lyrics and substance but turn around and support the corny artists just because it’s the popular thing to do. If you are pro lyrics then just support the lyrics movement and stop being a follower. He added, ‘that is the formula for hip hop to have nuts again and not a vagina.’

The rapper’s opinions are not just limited to music however, as he is an avid boxing fan. With Floyld Mayweather set for a rematch with Argentinean Marcos Maidana on September 1st I wanted to know who Kid Vishis’ money was on to win.

‘I think Maidana is a problem for most fighters because of his rugged, relentless style and his punching power is crazy but Mayweather shouldn’t lose to him. I feel like if Floyd Mayweather fights his fight, its gonna be 12 rounds of boxing school for Maidana. I will say though, if Maidana can’t beat Floyd with that style, I don’t think any other fighters out there can challenge him. He will retire undefeated. I accept ALL bets too lol!’

Interview with a Card Ninja

June 5, 2014 § Leave a comment

Javier Jaquin aka ‘The Card ninja’ brings a new twist to card tricks with his amazing ability to hit anything at will with the use of a simple deck of playing cards.

Some of the tricks performed by the card ninja are out of this world, and he’s probably the envy of every comic book fanboy (me included), as he performs tricks Gambit from the X-men comics would be proud of.

The New Zealander has been making a living off his unusual talent by working it into his stand up comedy routine and has now caught the attention of Pepsi Max who invited him to feature on their new YouTube channel called, Unbelievable, which features a host of other unique and cool skills.

‘They were a pleasure to work with, they asked me if I wanted a director who would make it look good and I could have a budget and play around with the cards, I couldn’t be happier.’

A jack of all trades, Javier started training in the art of card throwing six years ago after deciding to quit his job in IT to pursue his passion for performing, which included his stand up routine as well as acting in plays and pantomimes.

It wasn’t a surprise to hear that throwing playing cards was not something he had planned on pursuing but rather fell into.

‘I hated my job, I’d get bored in my office where I had a stack of business cards and I’ll throw these cards round the office and start spinning them and flipping them.’

Javier has successfully managed to turn his hobby which he used to pass time, as a viable career however in order to continue to amaze audiences he has to train continuously to hone his skills.

‘I train for about an hour a day, it’s just like any other muscle you tire out you have to use your thumbs and they tire out very quickly that’s when you start getting RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury), I’ve had mild cases of RSI , you get paper cuts quite frequently and can develop calluses.’

The card ninja has showcased his skills all around the country and continues to practice his card tricks, to see him perform some of his amazing tricks for PepsiMax click on the link below.

Always the sceptic, I decided to give the card ninja a challenge of my own, which he was more than happy to take on.  The results can be seen in the link below.

Margaret Thatcher: The Marmite Leader

April 17, 2013 § Leave a comment

maggieThe Iron Lady was finally laid to rest today, as swarms of people descended upon the route towards St. Paul’s cathedral to catch a glimpse of the former prime minister.

Like her tenure, Margaret Thatcher’s funeral divided people’s opinions, with many supporting the idea of the former conservative leader having a state funded funeral, while others were 100% opposed to the idea.  Since the announcement of the state funded funeral, many supporters of it expressed their concern that the funeral could be ‘hijacked’ by anarchists and the like. However this was far from the case, with the cheers at most points during the horse drawn procession completely silencing the jeers.

Prior to the funeral there were many who feared the same type of scenes we saw during the student protests two years ago, and called for extra police presence. The police were out in force but merely seemed to serve as glorified tour guides helping tourists around the route.

The procession snaked through central London starting from St Clement Danes church in Westminster, it wasn’t until it made the quick trip to Trafalgar Square when people got to see the ‘anti-thatcherites’ huddling up together expressing their shared disdain for the first female prime minister. Unlike St Paul’s Cathedral, Trafalgar square seemed to have a lot more placards with messages expressing the dislike a significant proportion of the population have towards Margaret Thatcher.  A protester said: “I think it’s absolutely shocking at this time when people are being asked to live on £55 a week that we’re being asked to pay £10 million for the funeral of one person, and this was a person who ruined the country.” The 55-year-old added: “It’s unfortunate as the first woman PM she pursued the policies she did. Her policies were anti women and destroyed the lives of many women and their families and communities.”

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Love her or hate her, Margaret Thatcher has made her mark on the history books, only time will tell what type of long lasting legacy she left behind.

Individual Social Responsibility

December 3, 2012 § Leave a comment

Christmas is nearly upon us and the spirit of giving tends to be in the air at this time of year. For the past couple months we have been bombarded with adverts telling us to buy presents for our loved ones, as well as adverts reminding us that not everyone around the world is as lucky as us. One key theme a lot of these advertising campaigns have in common is how they play on an individual’s sense of social responsibility, by constantly reminding them how their small gift can make a big difference in someone else’s life.
However a series of videos have surfaced on the internet in the last couple of weeks that suggest as a society we still have a long way to go, as far as individuals feeling a sense of social responsibility.

The first video was recorded on a packed tube train last month during rush hour. In the video you see a man collapse in front of dozens of people with passersby literally walking over him to get off at their stop. The man was reportedly left lying down on the ground for 15 minutes before he was eventually seen to. At first glance the video is quite hard to watch, with so many people around it’s difficult to believe people could just stand around and do nothing. The gentleman that was recording the man collapse was reported to have said: “I could not believe it; he hit the ground with such force. People just stared at him. I wish I had done more to help but I was with my two children at the time.” Although his reasoning behind not helping the man seems a little ridiculous, in reality how many of us would have gone out of our way to help a stranger. How many times have you seen someone laid out on the floor on a night out, and you just ignored them?
In the video you can clearly see people of different faiths and races who would all have their own individual moral compass’ not come to the aid of the man. With that in mind it is fair to say we still live in a pretty selfish society, despite a push from the government for more social cohesion in the form of the BIG society and the teachings of different religions to love and respect one another. The recent Jimmy Saville sex abuse allegations also bring to light a serious lack of individual social responsibility. So many people were privy to this information and were also aware of his actions for decades and not intervening.

The second video shows a brave member of the public trying to apprehend a young man who was breaking the law by smoking on the top deck of the bus. Similar to the first video, the recording took place during rush hour with many people still on the bus but no one willing to confront the young man with the exception of this individual. During the course of this video you see the brave man pleading with the rest of the commuters to help him apprehend the hoodlum; however his pleas were ignored by a vast majority of the commuters who seemed frozen with fear. Eventually the baseball cap wearing lunatic manages to escape from the bus via the emergency exit window on the top deck.
The video shows what an individual is capable of doing by themselves as well as highlighting what seems to be intrinsically wrong with our society. With no one willing to help the gentleman apprehend the youth, he managed to get away. If we all took the time to intervene in situations such as these and think not of ourselves but people around us, I think it’s fair to say that life would be a lot more easier.

The Changing Voice of Music

July 19, 2012 § 1 Comment

Hate it or love it, an accent whilst performing is something we hear from many artists these days wishing to stand out. Whether it is a British singer singing in a strong American accent or a Japanese reggae star speaking the most fluent patois, the accent of the artist is one of the first things we notice.

The topic of discussion is of course the adoption and use of different accents in music. In recent times it has been a bone of contention with listeners and artists alike; however it has been a trend that has dominated the mainstream music scene since the 1950’s. Many critics to this trend have described it as a form of cultural appropriation. Another criticism has been that many of the artists that use it are seen as, ‘frauds’ for adopting an accent that is not the same as their natural speaking voice. On the flipside it can be seen as a way for an artist to pay homage to their musical influence, as the saying goes; Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

The rise in popularity of music genres during the 50’s such as Soul and Rock & Roll around the world introduced many people of different cultures to new forms of music. One of the earliest examples of artists using accents that are not from their country of origin is the early soul singers from the UK, who were affectionately known as ‘blue eyed soul singers’. This special group of singers included Dusty Springfield, Steve Winwood and Scotland born Lulu. These artists were not just respected for their talent or for their numerous number ones, but the fact that many listeners believed that they were natives of the United States. These pioneers of musical expression through the use of an accent alien to their own opened the doors for generations of performers to try and experiment with different accents, not all have been as successful.

Since the 80’s we have seen a dramatic increase in the use of accents by musicians as well as the trend spreading into other genres.  Hip-Hop and R n B are seen as some of the biggest culprits and it was this period of time that saw many artists from these genres break into the mainstream. One artist during this era that epitomises the importance of accents for musicians is Hip-Hop legend Slick Rick.  The British born rapper made waves with his eccentric style and strong English accent. Although born in London he uprooted with his family to the States when he was young, however judging by his songs you could easily be mistaken for thinking he came straight out of London. His storytelling ability is seen as the best in Hip-Hop history, and his style of playing up to his English roots by adopting a strong English accent helped to give his voice the clarity and diction many of his closest rivals could not match up to at the time. The unique way in which he used his English accent, set him apart from the competition and forced listeners to take in what he was saying in his songs. His accent was unusual in Hip-Hop at the time due the dominance of American rappers however it was more a benefit than a hindrance, in that listeners paid more attention to his lyrics which in turn resonated more with them.

The music scene in this decade has seen the continuation of this trend as technology improves and the world community becomes even closer, musicians from all parts of the world have been introduced to new forms of music.  Musicians from countries where English isn’t the only language have taken to using different accents with varying success. An artist that comes to mind is a Nigerian born rapper that goes by the name VIC.O. Born and raised in Nigeria but based in Italy, the musician has become the poster child of why using a fake accent has been condemned by so many people. He has since become an internet phenomenon.  It’s not all doom and gloom for artist from countries who don’t just speak English. Swedish band, ‘First Aid Kit’, have gained a lot of attention this year for their take on American country music and indie folk music. Their latest album, The Lion’s Roar has received critical acclaim and their use of American accents has been commended.  French band Phoenix is another example of how artists can successfully pull off a different accent and still have a strong fan base outside their country of origin.

With musicians coming more and more in contact with different forms of music through mediums such as YouTube, it does seem like this trend of using different accents is no longer a trend but rather an institution here to stay.  With this in mind one wonders whether or not it’s a good or bad thing. From the clear diction of artists such as Slick Rick to the mumblings of VIC.O, accents in music will always be a controversial issue. 

Lyricist Lounge: A Sanctuary For Hip-Hop Purists

February 17, 2012 § 1 Comment

Are you tired of the same old generic ‘Hip-Hop’ events, where the crowd is filled with people who couldn’t tell the difference between Ice-T and Ice cube. If you are, then Lyricist Lounge is your salvation in a sea of mediocrity. The Lyricist Lounge experience can be best described as a combination of 8 mile meets Gladiator, with its in your face rap battles akin to gladiatorial combat. The monthly rap competition brings together the best freestylers the UK has to offer, all of whom are battling it out to win the coveted Lyricist Lounge trophy.

Located in the heart of Hoxton, the Macbeth pub is the venue for this event. Although not the setting you would expect to host such freestyle battles, the classic styled themed pub is more than adequate to deal with the crowd this event is now attracting. A crowd filled with people from all walks of life, with one common denominator, their love of Hip-Hop. Freestyle cyphers were wedge in between intermissions to keep the audiences energy up, which helped to add to the already vibrant and positive atmosphere. Audience participation was encouraged, with the MC  for the night Leen, asking the crowd to throw random words at the participants to rap about making it more challenging for them.

All in all it was a great night, and if  the performances in the Lyricist Lounge is anything to go by I see big things in store for the UK underground Hip-Hop scene