ONE OF THE LAST ONE’S LEFT
Interview By Kaz Turbill
What was life like for you growing up in Detroit?
Growing up in Detroit has its’ highs and lows like most places in the world. But this is a place that definitely builds character.
How long have you been rapping and how did you break into the Hip Hop scene?
I started writing rhymes when I was 11. I started making my way through the Hip-Hop scene around ‘96-‘97.
What was the first song you recorded and when?
The very first time I recorded a song I was about 15. I went to a studio with an old neighborhood friend of mine.
Who were some of your influences as a young emcee?
One of my biggest influences to actually start rapping came from Nikki D. I was up late watching one of the late night video shows that used to come on and her video played. I was so fascinated by her voice and delivery that it influenced me to my career choice.
Where did the name Journalist 103 come from?
Around 1996 during my Sophomore/Junior year in High School I was writing a report in my computer technology class. My teacher walked passed and read what I was writing at the moment and said, “You write really well. You should be a journalist.” Prior to that. My old rap name was J-Clip. So while staring at the alphabet chart in class I noticed that the letter J is the 10th letter alphabet and the letter C is the third letter. That’s how the 103 part was added.
What is the Hip Hop scene like in Detroit compared to the East & West Coast?
I couldn’t really tell you. I haven’t been to the East or West Coast enough to compare. But it’s definitely a very competitive and family orientated environment here in Detroit.
The Left went down in history in the Underground scene with the release of “Gas Mask”, a classic Hip Hop album and tribute to the Detroit scene…
How did you link up with Apollo Brown and when did The Left come together?
I met Apollo back in ‘07 at an album release party. I kept hearing his name mentioned at the party and I asked Finale who he was. So he introduced us and we started kicking it. We exchanged numbers and didn’t talk again for months. He reached out to me after hearing me rhyme on a mix tape and said he was interested in doing an album with me. After that we ended up getting in the studio and the rest is history.
What’s Apollo Brown like to work with?
I can only speak of my experience. But our chemistry in the studio was phenomenal. The whole creative process was very easy. It was like the perfect pieces to a puzzle.
Can you describe the creative process that lead to this phenomenal album?
Every beat he sent me I couldn’t help but write to. I remember begging him to please don’t send me any more beats. I felt like my brain was gone explode. He sent me one more…… I almost bashed my head in my laptop screen. He would usually just send me the track. And depending on the name of the track he sent and the mode I would just go with that.
Will we ever see another album from The Left?
I doubt it. But God knows best. I wouldn’t mind doing another LEFT album. Only time will tell.
You released your solo album “Reporting Live” in 2012, a few years after your group released Gas Mask…
Did you feel a lot of pressure creating and producing this project after receiving such great reviews and attention as The Left?
I did honestly. This was my introduction to the world without the “Super Producer” behind me. So I had a lot to prove. This album took forever to complete. Cause I had a lot to get off my chest and follow up behind such a classic record at the same time. Once I got out of my head and just treated the project like any other writing became much easier.
Would you say it was difficult to drop a solo album with Gask Mask still creating a buzz or would you say it gave you more of the lime light rather than overshadowing your own solo album?
Not really. By this time Apollo had started releasing new material also. So it wasn’t as difficult.
Your last album, “Battle of the Hearts and Minds” came out in 2016…
How do you compare it to your 2012 release “Reporting Live”?
Reporting Live was my Illmatic. Battle for the Hearts and Minds was my It was written. Make sense?
What are some of the most personal / sentimental songs for you on these albums and why?
From Gas Mask it would be The Melody and Homage. The Melody was a song I wrote about my Ex Wife whom I was married to at the time of the creative process of the Gas Mask Album. Homage was written about a very close friend of mine who was murdered back in ‘99 and my Grandmother who raised me who died in ‘06. From Reporting Live it would be Moving 2 Fast, United We Stand, and 3AM. Moving 2 Fast I touched on one of my biggest flaws in trying to move on after a very severe divorce. United We Stand I touched on my mentor Imam Luqman Abdullah getting murdered by the FBI in ‘09 and 3AM I talked about how I witnessed my mother suffering from drug addiction in the 80’s. Battle for the Hearts and Minds it would be Future where I talk to my children. But even deeper than that it would be the first and last song I would do with my older cousin who was murdered a few months after recording.
Several artists are featured on your solo albums and on The Left’s Gask Mask LP, including Oddisee, Snowgoons, Fashawn, Saigon and Guilty Simpson…
Who were your favourites to collab with and what tracks do you rate the most across all your releases?
Of course working with Guilty is always a pleasure since we came up on the Detroit Hip Hop scene together. I’m particular found of working with Saigon on my debut solo album.
Were you always a religious or did you become a part of the Islamic faith later in life?
I became Muslim around the same time I started seriously pursuing a career in Hip-Hop. I came up in a Catholic/Baptist environment. So spirituality isn’t foreign to me.
How much influence has it had on your lyrical content and journey as an artist?
It helps with content a lot. For one it helps me from swaying too far into anything negative and derogatory. I wanna be able to make music that parents wouldn’t necessarily protest their children from listening to.
Where has your music taken you performance wise?
From various cities in the United States. I toured Europe with THE LEFT and Oddiesse in 2011. Canada more times then I count. There’s still a few places I’d like to go. But so far the journey has been a blessing to say the least.
What was your favourite place you’ve performed & why?
Hamilton, Canada. I absolutely love Hamilton. The people were so dope. I made some really good friends. It reminds me a lot of Detroit without the gun and drug related violence.
What are your views on the current climate of the industry and artists who have recently made big breaks into the scene?
That all depends on which ones you’re speaking of. But if we’re just gonna speak of the Underground Hip Hop scene. There’s too many to name that I’m proud to see come up and achieve greatness.
Who do you rate of the new wave of artists that have hit the scene over the last few years?
Nolan the Ninja, Ty Farris, A-Minus, Joey Bad Ass, Quadir Lateef, are my personal favorites just to name a few.
What’s on the cards for you for the year to come and will you be releasing any new music in 2019?
I’m not sure honestly. I got an album that I been plotting on for some time. But writers blocks is a bitch to say the least (excuse my French). Only time will tell.