As we continue along with Tygah Woods Week, check out this interview with "The Connoisseur Of Fine Rhymes": Slangston Hughes.
He's one of the younger generals from the Tygah Woods squad and he's definitely making noise in the streets of New Orleans.
So, check out this in-depth article and enjoy.
Off of www.nolafugees.com
Q & A with Slangston Hughes
Written by Cate Root
Okay, first things first, who am I talking to? On The Money & The Message, you refer to yourself as: Slangston Hughes, The Connoisseur of Fine Rhyme, NOV (What does that one mean??), S-dot Hughes, Rinzilla, Pookey Malibu, the Hip-Hop Bob Breck, the Black Ari Gold, and the Proficient One, and I know I've seen some new ones on your twitter (@PookeyMalibu). Where do they come from? Which are the oldest ones? What one has the funniest story?
The oldest ones have to be Nov or N.O.V. and the Proficient One. Nov, or Negroe(s) On the Verge... was my rap alias for several years before I made the ultimate transition to Slangston Hughes. The Proficient One came into being around the same time since I wanted a name that was intelligent but also Hip-Hop friendly. All of these aliases come from constant brainstorming and just trying to decipher who I am not only as an emcee but as a person. I don't have split personalities or dissociative identity disorder but do believe I have several facets to "my" person, and that's where all of these names come into play. Pookey Malibu's gotta have the funniest story. It's weird and funny at the same time to have people; friends, patrons, listeners and fans relate to a name like that and call me by that alias more than the main one. Pookey Malibu's the cat in a straw fedora, "Hawaiian Sophie" button down, open toe sandals with some cargo shorts à la Magnum P.I. days.
That said, to talk on the most prevalent name – Slangston Hughes – how did that name come up? And what is your favorite Langston Hughes poem?
Slangston Hughes came up as me just trying to make up a catchy yet thought provoking name. I wanted something that spoke volumes when you heard it but also made you say "Wow, I like that." It was a difficult task to transform from Nov to Slangston Hughes. I was very attached to both names but in the end, took a leap of faith and think I made the best choice. Favorite Langston Hughes poem of the moment has to be "The South."
Speaking of poetry, how much co-mingling do you see between the spoken word poetry community and the hip hop community here in New Orleans? Do you regularly hit any open mics around town? What sort of material do you do if you jump on an open mic?
I do see a lot of co-mingling between both communities. The hip-hop emcees can be found at open mics regularly and spoken word poets can be found at the hip-hop showcases and events. I give lots of praise to the spoken word artists of the Mardi Gras Mecca as I often sit back fascinated by their ability to inspire, educate and entertain all at the same time. I know many of New Orleans' spoken word artists personally and see them at open mics I try and frequent. My favorite at this moment has to be the Pass It Open Mic at Red Star Galerie. There are a lot of very creative people who come through the Red Star's door on a weekly basis. The environment is very inviting and intimate which I enjoy as well.
If you break down a song into lyrics, flow and beat – who in hip-hop do you think does each best, and who do you think has all 3?
Wow, that's a tough question. With so many different rappers and emcees out nowadays it's very difficult to pick just one per category. I'll tell you who I believe has all three, though: Andre 3000, Eminem, Nas, Lupe Fiasco, Jay-Z, Biggie, Royce Da 5'9", Black Thought, Q-Tip and J Dilla among others.
What shows are seared in your memory? What was your best and worst experiences performing?
My best experiences had to be winning my third championship at the Microphone Corivalry Emcee Competition, being one of the first rappers ever to perform at a Borders store last November and that same night at Kajun's Pub when I caught the "Hip-Hop Holy Ghost," which brought about my new found confidence and energetic but slightly intense onstage persona. The worst would have to be when Blaze the Verbal Chemist and myself did a show in the summer of '06 (put on by Section 8 Magazine). Mics were fading in and out, we were forgetting lyrics, very nervous, etc. All of these elements just goes to show you, lack of preparation leads to a poor performance. You HAVE to go into each show with a game plan.
Along the same lines – what are your top 5 seminal hip-hop albums?
My top 5 Hip-Hop albums: Mos Def's "Black On Both Sides," The Foreign Exchange "Connected," Notorious B.I.G.'s "Ready To Die," Nas "Illmatic" and The Roots "Do You Want More?"
How would you describe hip-hop as you understand it--a music style, a culture, a political movement? How does that influence what you think the role of an emcee is?
I look at hip-hop as a culture composed of the four basic elements; dj'ing, grafitti, breakdancing and emcing. It is also a music style comprised of more lyrical content than found in rap music which can be socially conscious along with subject matter, storytelling and concepts. The emcee's role is tied hand in hand with what goes on and has gone within the culture. In short, you won't know where you're going unless you know where you've been. Our predecessors have set the tone for what it is that we do and it is ultimately up to us as emcees to pay very close attention to our history and if need be adapt to the changing times and mold the role to fit the means.
That said, there are a lot of labels to try to differentiate the separate parts of this burgeoning beast we call hip hop -- "gangsta rap," "conscious," "crunk," "nerdcore," and on and on. If you had to label yourself, what would you call your style?
I try not categorize or label my style but if I had to I would call it "intelligent Hip-Hop." It's definitely hip-hop but I try to educate with my rhymes, not preach as well as infuse concepts in the songs, some subject matter and give listeners a "complete" song at the end of the day. I'm all about creativity. How can I push the envelope today?
In your Artist Statement for "Money and the Message", you talk about the conflict between the two. You gotta eat to live and want to get paid, but you don't want to just say a bunch of materialistic and misogynistic stuff over dope beats. How much responsibility do you feel for what you put out there as an emcee?
A ton of responsibility. What I write, perform and put out to the masses is just as important as an actor or professional athlete's image in public. It's what I stand behind, what I represent and what I hope everyone will ultimately enjoy and respect.
Specifically, what are your feelings on language? Do you debate whether or not to use n*gga or b*tch in your songs? When you're creating message-centered hip hop, how do you negotiate the terms used?
Certain situations to me call for certain language. I've got young cousins and an adolescent sister that like my music, so I try to make music everyone regardless of age can listen to. I also want my mom to be able to listen to my music so the language can't be riddled with obscenities bar after bar. That wasn't how I was raised so I can't relate and relay that in my rhymes. I grew up being sent to the dictionary when I wanted to know what a word meant so my vocabulary is reflected in lyrics and assists in me not having to use n*gga, b*tch or any other curse word regularly. I was raised by three women, so the respect for women is there also. I don't think about what I'm writing from a censorship standpoint. I tend more to just let the pen hit the pad and let the words flow out unhinged. The same applies to the message. It must be free or it's not me.
What are your thoughts on the sustainability of the New Orleans hip-hop scene? What shows or events are "can't miss"? What can people do to support (beyond spending tons of money on merch)?
The New Orleans hip-hop scene is definitely gaining ground and constantly ascending in my eyes. It's great to see so many people who care about their craft as well as the business side of things. The camaraderie is cool as well since we're all trying to achieve a common goal. Besides any Slangston Hughes' show, hip-hop fans can't miss Grassroots! every 1st Saturday of the month at the Dragon's Den put on by the homie, Truth Universal and Soundclash, every 2nd Saturday of the month at the Blue Nile put on by Truth and the Eupham crew. The best thing people can do to support is to be in attendance. By showing up in numbers to local events like these continuously builds up the New Orleans' hip-hop community and shows both the artists as well as the venue owners that hip-hop should be taken seriously.
And now, the moment you knew was coming ever since you told me you were from Hollygrove... What's on your mind about Weezy?
I'm not the biggest Lil' Wayne fan. I respect him for his drive, accomplishments and what he's done for the city by showing people that hip-hop does live in the South. However, my mind and ear harken back to the days of "The Block Is Hot" and "Lights Out." To me those were his best albums, because he couldn't curse in his verses and they were some of the most thought out, well planned pieces I've seen in some time, but when you in a sense "reinvent" yourself like he did shortly before releasing Tha Carter saying "I'm the best rapper alive since the best rapper retired," I just thought that was a blatant slap in the face not only to Jay but more importantly to Hip-Hop. That's just my opinion though. From time to time, he does put out some tracks that I really like and do enjoy.
Anything else you wanna tell folks?
Support local hip-hop!!! Shoutouts to my main sources of inspiration; Dianne, Shirley and Doretha, my Tygah Woods fam, all my co-workers, friends, fans and supporters. A Cut Above is up next. Stick with me y'all, I'm going places...
Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile