Q&A with Conscious / Conscious Mixtape
Neo Retro Spectro Grafiks Vol.1
01. War Games
02. Hello: Co-Conspirators Intro
04. Say Uncle
05. Dont Make Me Angry
08. Spinnin (feat. Thinker & L-Star)
09. Man Size Steps (feat. Thinker)
11. Scrub Handz (feat. Kaleal Crooks & Thinker)
13. King 45
14. Traffic NIggahs: The Title
15. Love 007 (feat. Tzo & Nixx P)
16. Yellow Cake, Yellow Cake
What we have here is an incredible mixtape compilation entitled “Neo Retro Spectro Grafiks Vol.1” from Free HipHop Now’s own Conscious. While he handles most of the verbal warfare, He got several hot underground MC’s involved in the project including Thinker, L-Star, Kaleal Crooks, Tzo and Nixx P.
I noticed that throughout the mixtape, Conscious refers himself as Travis Bickle. If you remember, Travis Bickle is the main character from Martin Scorsese’s film “Taxi Driver”. In the film, Travis was an depressed imsomniac war veteran who was horrified by the moral decay sorrounding him in NYC. Conscious steps into that mentality with a new millenium twist, via rhymes and beats. Conscious did alot of the production and invited some guest producers like Borgue on “Love 007”, I.R. Producer on “Traffic Niggahs: The Title” and Mark The 45 King on “45 King”. On 3 tracks, You got Conscious rhyming over MF Doom and De La Soul beats. Conscious’ production is reminiscent of Berdard Herrmann’s score for Taxi Driver. A variety of beats ranging from headnodders to lush, spooky grinding beats.
The CD officially has 16 cuts but upon listening, It technically has 22. I was digging alot of the songs on here. I like the way the tracks were segued from one to another via samples or a clever beat programming. “War Games” is an excellent mixtape starter with great beat shuffles. “Dont Make Me Angry” has a dope sample and Conscious name checks C Rayz Walz as a “Dope Bronx representative”. That’s word. “Unorthodox” has intricately chopped up beats… Madlib and Jaydee immediately come to mind on this cut. “Man Size Steps” speaks on the current state of the government and political affairs going on in America. What you will find on this mixtape and there is very few like this (for the exception of Dead Prez/Immortal Tech type stuff) is that you get a good grasp of social/political commentary immersed in the intricate rhymes from Conscious and his cohorts. Not all of the subject matter on this project is political but its a good balance to be seen in hiphop these days.
Back to the cuts… “Scrub Handz” has an interesting off beat production. It reminds me of Punish’s beat on “Headaches and Woes” by Aceyalone. “Hot Shots” has that ill filtered funk loop going on. This track has been getting alot of underground play in NY and CT, of all places. “Traffic Niggahs” is another dope banger with quality production from I.R. Producer. “Love 007” has a cleverly put Barrington Levy sample in the hook that ties it together with Conscious’ lyrics. Just when you think its over, Its not. Conscious delivers some words of wisdom and even Nixx P gives a quick shoutout to the listener before you are thrust into the hidden cuts of the project.
It’s a great compilation of Concious’ own music from the last 5-6 years, promoting the albums that are out and promoting the projects that are on the way. The homie is a rennaisance man, keeping busy on all angles of hiphop and life. Grab this mixtape. You will not be disapointed.
Q&A with Conscious
Conscious was born in the LBC and spent his life living between the Bronx and Harlem. He currrently resides in the Bronx, near the Concourse in the 170’s. We caught up with him recently and chopped it up about his career, his views and other information. Check it out!
How long have you been Rhyming and Producing?
I’d say, on a professional level for about six years. Honestly though, I didn’t have much prep time before I started performing and getting paid to do so. The most I had was an open mic in Harlem, called the Suga Shack. When a lot of folks where getting there practice on at open mics I was hosting and performing at shows all over the tri state area.
How many projects have you released since you started?
Let’s see. My first record was Journal: An Eklektik Journey followed by Pagan: 1st Movement 1968. But even before then in like 2000 I had the priviledge of being on an album recorded live at the world reknown house of poetry, The Nuyorican poets Cafe. It was called “Urban Avant Garde: Live at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe”. I have another record called Vinyl Destination that I can’t for the life of me figure out why i have not released it. But I will. Matter of Fact look for it next month! there’s been a few mixtapes. I have a lot of projects that are near completion. Some outside the real of Hiphop.( Can I say that. Does a realm outside of Hiphop really exist.)
What motivated and/or inspired you to rhyme and produce?
I’d been doing poetry for a lil while but at the same time I was writing rhymes here and there. I found some real cheap software in like 98-99 that did nothing much but loop, it wasn’t very powerful, yet powerful enough for me to create and realize I enjoyed making new sounds. Ultimately, I stepped it up, did a bit of research on some programs that were a little more advanced and began to craft interesting and obscure sounding beats. Around that same time I was becoming acclimated with the current underground hiphop music of the time. There was the Black Star album back then and a lot of plays of De La’s, The Stakes Is High accompanied by Organized Konfusion and that first Lyricists Lounge tape. A few mixtapes from Fatbeats and listens to Stretch and Bobbito definitely inspired me to engage in this form of expression.
Name some of your favorite HipHop MC’s, Acts, DJ’s, Producers
I wish you’d have asked me about music in general. I love hiphop but I spend a lot of time getting aquainted with music from the past. But when it comes down to the question you asked, it goes a lil something like this… Mc’s on the line up… Common Sense, Sum Kid, Doom, Sadat X, Monch, but of course Ghostface, Redman ( you know the docs da name), De La Soul (All them kats). I’ve seen CL Smooth perform and murder a show. You got Wordsworth, C Rayz Walz (A bronx neighbor), J Live and D.V. Alias Khrist. Slick Rick is sick on stage! Kanye can do it up large on stage as well. DJ Spinna, DJ Babu, Q-Bert, D Spliff (Outtah NYC), Rich Medina, DJ Concept. Producers… Though he was much more then any ‘Producer’. Dilla, Jay Dee, Jay Dilla, Mr. James Yancey would have to be my favorite producer. Then we can talk about some of those dudes that these modern day listeners of hiphop don’t know, and even some oldschool heads forget to mention in blurbs about the creators of sound for dope emcees to rock to. Let’s talk about Large Professor and how he doesn’t get the mentions for not only being a dope producer but also that dope producer that spawned some of the great kats that people call their favorites.( I noticed i’m saying dope way too much) And the list begins with random names tossed out there like Diamond D, Dj Jazzy Jeff (who I should have mentioned as being a dope DJ as well because his technical skills on the 1 and 2’s are immaculate, whether on real wax or Serato.) I hear Kev Brown, I hear 9th Wonder at times. But I also hear RJD2, ?uest Love, EL-P, Belief. I am one of my favorite producers as well. There’s kats you don’t know and haven’t heard of like Adam Bomb. ( Dude is simply ridiculous.) Of course Pete Rock, DJ Shadow, Mathmatics. I would be a fool if I did not include RZA aka B-B-B-Bobby Digital. I have to stop now because there’s just far too many to name.
How did you come up with the name Concious? Is there a meaning behind the name?
Simple as it gets. In highschool I learned about stream of conscious writing or freewriting. I describe my so called ‘style’ as just that, freewritten rhymes, poetry, production and the visual work I do follows that ‘formula’. Let’s call it the ‘Unformula’. ( Wow, there goes a new album title.)
Anyway when I signed the open mic list, I signed as Stream of Conscious. And why not it was my writing style. But after a couple of years I decided to drop the stream of portion and just go with Conscious. And that’s not Konscious or Conscience either. I think that some people sturggle with coming up with a name for themselves. I didn’t have to. It should come to you easily or it should be given to you. It’s not all that deep.
What are your thoughts on the current state of hiphop?
Well Hiphop in some ways reflects the state of the world. Right now that state is confused, conflicted, volatile, erratic, angry, blind, stubborn, selfish… You know what it is. But also there’s quite a lot of great things happening. You just gottah look for’em. You can’t decide that things exist as they are presented to you in media. There’s more to what those controled oulets privide for your eyes. The responsibility is finding out more yourself or being one with information that shares it. I think I kinda answered your question. I don’t like when I get asked that question.
What is Free HipHop Now all about?
Well. Educate Entertain & Empower. Free Hiphop Now means Free Your Mind! The site is basically a portal to various forms of information, new music, art and culture. We intend on exposing those looking for new content to articles and such they will not see anywhere else. Syndication online is also great but we pride ourselves in at least making the attempt at giving folks a choice of something new. All we’d like to honestly do is give people access to more information that can benefit them even in the smallest way. If you’re tired of the same album reviews and interviewers asking the same predcitable questions to the same handful of artists over and over, you can check out FHHN for something fresh. We also encourage writers of vairious level of experience to submit content. We intend on reaching as many people as possible online and off. There will be future FHHN events in NYC. I specify now, They Will Be Awesome!
Where can people find out more about you and Free HipHop Now?
Hmmm. It shames me to say check out my personal website because I need to rework it. But check it out anyway. www.conscious.freehiphopnow.com, My blog www.consciousme.blogspot.com and of course the ever popular myspace page which I’ll be updating music on frequently. I have a lot of music. A whole lot of music. www.myspace.com/conscious. I have a blog called Growing Money Trees that I need to toss a new article up on. It’s basically a blog about making money online. Some hints and tips and an occassional million dollar idea tossed at anyone that is willing to work at it. There’s the whole www.consciousbootleggers.com online store that is functional but steadily being worked on to provide customers with better service. FHHN’s sydication blog is for anything you may have missed during each week on FHHN. And it’s also for the pieces or music that is not direct content from our site. Anything we may have covered for affiliates. www.freehiphopnow.blogspot.com (You asked so I’m telling and the list of links is a long one.) I’d be a crazy person not to mention some of my fam. Kats I build with and create music and at times perform with. You can check out www.bluecollarllc.com where you’ll find a few different artists, some of which I’ve done production for.. I’m all over the place doing my best to take advantage of the web. I have video up on Video Google, You Tube, Myspace, Live Digital, Vomeo, Revver, The Crave, Video Bomb.. the list is long. And then there’s the ringtones. Do a search for Conscious on www.zingy.com and you can get some more over at www.decentx.com. I’m rocking www.jaskclothing.com gear. You can see me in their store catalog and some flicks on my myspace page. Man if you wanna dig deep you can even find me in the IMDB for the flicks I’ve been in. But I’m not telling you my government name. Good Luck with that.
Haha! What advice would you give to cats coming up in the hiphop game?
Respect the art. Love the music. Enjoy the interaction with the people involved. Educate yourself on business and strive for not so much perfection but try and push the envelope with everything you do. Set standards for this thing that we do. Don’t get cuaght up in someone elses ideas either. Stick to your guns and do you. We don’t need anymore clones. We have enough!
Any last words:
Saturday May 27th. I’ll be performing at the Knitting Factory NY. Download that free mixtape and stay posted for Eklektic Gardens releases in the future and for those already in digital distribution channels,(iTunes and so forth…) Thank you Audio 1 for even thinking that I was worthy enough to be exposed to the world.