EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Malcolm and Martin Pt.2
In the first part of ThatsEnuff’s exlusive interview with Malcolm and Martin (along with their executive producer DJ Revolution), the group discussed how they met, as well as issues such as Black and Latino unity. In the concluding half of our conversation, Revolution, KB Imean, and Styliztik Jones talk about how they hope to get their positive message to shine through the corruption within the music industry, Hip Hop as a force for change, and what’s next for the group.
ThatsEnuff: Are there a lack of powerful voices in our generation today?
Styliztik Jones: Each generation keeps getting worse. In the ‘60’s and ‘70’s we had more unity and people speaking out against the government. The musicians of the time were more socially aware of what was going on. Marvin Gaye, Bob Marley, Stevie Wonder and James Brown were all popular music. It was a movement. The culture was different, and we’ve been on a constant decline in terms of the Black community’s positive leaders. For a small time in Hip Hop we had Public Enemy, Poor Righteous Teachers, Brand Nubian, Native Tongues, De La Soul…all these dudes who spoke a positive message and kind of got wiped away. Even TV shows like The Cosby Show or A Different World showed kids wanting to go to college. Now we got The Real World, and there’s nothing real about a kids living in a house they’re not paying for and drinking every night. My generation had Ice Cube. He wasn’t the most positive rapper, but he had positive overtones. Now the kids have Young Jeezy, 50 Cent, and Soulja Boy, and I don’t know how positive their message is compared to what I had. Kids aren’t listening to Jesse Jackson. Kids aren’t listening to Al Sharpton. There are no leaders right now. Everybody is looking at entertainers and athletes as leaders. Musicians make money off of the worst songs, and there is nobody in their ear telling them to speak positively. Bill Cosby isn’t reaching out to any rappers. There is a disconnect between generations. Even in Hip Hop you don’t see an alliance between the younger rappers and those who came out ten years ago. That’s old school to dudes now. Big L has been dead for twelve years. There are kids who don’t even know who Big L is, not to say that Big L is a positive rapper, but it shows how much of a disconnect there is. Twelve years isn’t a long time, so fifty or forty years, when there was still segregation, probably feels like some dinosaur shit to these kids. They don’t know there was a time when black people couldn’t go through the front door.
There is nobody teaching any Malcolm or Martin-esque stuff right now. Who can you say you look up to? The closest thing that the ‘80’s babies have to a Malcolm or Martin, and not to say at all that he is Malcolm X or Martin Luther King, is Tupac Shakur. He was the son of a Panther – like KB, his pops was a Panther. It’s a different thing when you grow up around people who have knowledge of self and help you with that. It’s all about money these days. There is nobody in our age group giving any positive messages, helping out, or trying to find a solution.
ThatsEnuff: How do you cut through the superficial music inundating the industry?
Styliztik Jones: On a personal level. We still connect to people on an eye-to-eye level. We go meet the crowds. We’re not so big that we can’t walk through the street, so we’re out there every day. Rev is out there deejaying, KB does the fashion thing, and we’re still around the people. We have to get to the younger generation, that’s the goal. The people who need to hear [Life Doesn’t Frighten Me] are the kids who never heard of Rakim, or who don’t know about Fear of a Black Planet.
DJ Revolution: We were talking about uniting different races through music, but it’s even harder to unite generations so we can accomplish what [Styliztik Jones] is talking about. Getting someone like Bill Cosby to reach out to a younger generation is tough. Kids want music that speaks directly to them and their peers. Unfortunately, like Styliztik was saying, there are no leaders speaking directly to those young people. It’s hard because kids don’t want to listen to their families, teachers, etc. If you come at them that way, they’re going to dismiss you. So we’re making good music that just happens to teach. When I grew up I listened to Hip Hop and got an education. That’s what was able to penetrate all that other shit floating around the music business. I gained something each time I listened to a song, saw a video, or read a magazine interview. That’s what we’re doing – making intelligent music. Obviously intelligent people are going to get it. But give it to a kid and there is a whole back story you have to explain to them. That’s the tough part. Social networking is great because it’s a direct pipeline into that culture. It’s a tough grind to make this happen.
ThatsEnuff: Do you see Hip Hop as a force that can be used for political and social change?
DJ Revolution: Through the success of a project of this nature. If it’s a proven success, people will look at that and be like, “you can do that!” It’s been so long since anyone has done this, successfully, that people have given up on it. They’ve seen so many others come crashing to the ground, or reach this glass ceiling where you just can’t go any higher. We have to break these barriers, and once people see how we’ve reached success, then you’ll get other people trying to do the same. We just want everybody to be themselves. From my standpoint that was the goal. This is what we do and what we feel represents us. If more people did that, we would be in a better situation. The success of [Life Doesn’t Frighten Me] will enable social change through Hip Hop. You can’t do it right now. Even superstars can’t do it. Their messages are still watered down for commercial viability.
KB Imean: Everything we’ve done is for a reason. You have to know what’s going on around you and what you have to do to get your message stronger. It’s no accident we dropped [our album] during Black History Month so more ears would be near to it and it could possibly blossom into something greater. It’s no accident that we had to have an uptempo record with a message as well, like “Movement Music.” It’s the way we’re maneuvering within this somewhat corrupt system. If everybody just stands for something, and maintains through this industry, you can survive and break through, and create social change. Just put your mind to it. We’re not doing it on a major level, but it can be done.
ThatsEnuff: What’s next for Malcolm and Martin?
DJ Revolution: The next single off this record, the next video, and the next promo campaign. We’re going to work this record until it’s beaten and bloody. We’re not worried about first week sales and placements, we’re going to take what we can get and run with it. This album is going to get worked for probably the next seven or eight months, because that’s what it’s going to take. Labels don’t do that anymore. If your shit doesn’t explode right out of the gate, they dump you and you’re done. We’re going to continue to work on our own solo things, just as we did while we were making this record. And we’re definitely going to keep making more Malcolm and Martin songs.
KB Imean: World domination. More shows. We’re trying to get overseas. Come see us! We did some more records with Marco Polo, so be on the look out for that. Just branching out. From this project a lot more ears are open to us, and with that comes more opportunity for that world domination.
Styliztik Jones: Bringing good music back to the forefront. Right now the popular music is the wack music, and in no other genre of music is it like that. You can’t be a wack singer and blow up in R&B, or you can’t be the person that doesn’t know how to play the piano or cello and blow up in Classical music. Hip Hop is backwards right now. It doesn’t require skill or thought, and people are making a lot of money off it. The people who have the actual skill or knowledge are the ones who, for lack of a better word, get slept on. Maybe we can motivate the next young kid to blow up and be on some positive stuff. We’re going to make our next move our best move.