Yours truely the truth, was lucky enough to speak with the profound, Beantown to Brotherly Love, indie rapper, Mr. Lif. We talked about Def Jux, Politics, “Happy Smoke” – but not in those words, Obama, booty, Lif’s latest tour appearances, and his new album. The headline should be:
Mr. Lif tells Shabooty about booty-fetishists… WHA???
Shabooty: Do you subscribe to the stereotype that women are terrible at rolling blunts?
Mr. Lif: Does that [stereotype] exist? I smoke from a bong. I make the wise choice, and keep it natural… nice fresh water, throw the ice in there, and use some of the nicest green, ya can find.
Does it fall apart? I think it’s sexy when a chick can roll a blunt. I’m cool with that, def. been with some ladies in my past [that have rolled blunts and] def. enjoyed the session.
So, explain Bloodbot Tactical Enterprises vs Def Jux – what’s the difference here?
[BTE is] more a label I made out of necessity. My relationship with Def Jux is still impeccable. I had a beautiful run, and will continue the run. It was something more like catching lightning in a bottle. I felt inspired. [Def] Jux and I are looking to move forward, not rush through our negotiations for the sake of this project moving forward. There’s a firm understanding. [I'm] moving forward to release this new album [on BTE].
The [blood]bot is character in a science fiction story that I am creating, it will come out after the, I Heard It Today album. The overall theory or rather, its concept is we’re all in this construction in American society. We have certain freedoms, we’re trained to beleive we’re free, all in a similar mood, going through school wracking up debt, getting out, finding a job with the debt, finding a car to get to work, paying a car loan, paying for an apartment, then it moves on to kids going through the same cycle.
Human beings are the act of performing robotic tasks, not breaking outside of what the accepted realities are.
Do you want to be called a Boston rapper or Philly rapper?
I was born and raised in Boston, its a part of me. Philly is where I am at now, its a huge part of who I am. I’ve been here for three years. I have great friends here – enduring friendships I plan on keeping for the rest of my life. Great family support. There’s a type of urban decay that exists in Philly, some parts of the city are inspirational. I am in a very blue collar working class neighborhood. [The people of the community] worked long hard hours to get what they got and keep what they have. It’s reinvigorating to me every time I walk out of the house, or look out of the window, it’s fueling to me. The I Heard It Today project is dedicated to people trying to survive times we’re living in.
The new album drops on inauguration day?
Dropping on January 20th, Inauguration day. Hoping… no reason to push it back.. I couldn’t ask for more looking back at the course of a career when it’s all said and done. This might be my favorite album to get it made. The fight I went through to be alive and healthy to make this… in 2006, I was in tour bus accident in San Diego. [The bus] fell forty feet off an embankment and caught on fire. All of my friends [and I] were considerably injured. It was a personal struggle adjusting to that. It was one of the toughest battles of my life to make this record. [This effort] is the most personal reflection of me I’ve ever released.
Who did the artwork on the new album?
Dan Lang. He also did the Emergency Rations artwork.
Why aren’t ya in the group Weathermen?
I don’t really know what the WM crew is per se… just a bunch of friends that’s just like, “Hey let’s do this,” I never felt left out. Just like a particular group of guys doing their thing. Being a soloist is demanding enough, Akrobatic and I are the Perceptionists. It is what it is… best of luck to those guys cause they’re good musicians, enjoying what they do.
Tell me about the production work on the new album.
I only did one song on it. Willie Evans Jr. did two songs on it, he’s an up and coming producer from Florida – he did two songs, the title track I Heard It Today, and Dawn. Therapy produced Head High, and an interlude called People’s News Network. Edan – he produced Get Life and Heavy Artillery. He has an album out called Beauty and the Beat. J-Zone did Gunfight, etc. One thing that was great was I incorporated producers as good as other guys making all kinds of noise. When peeps hear this record they’ll feel that its on par with my previous works… these guys will get some light, ’cause they deserve it.
What other Philly rappers have you worked with as of late?
Bahamadia, Vinnie Paz of Jedi Mind Tricks, Metro (of S.A. Smash w. the late great Camu Tao) is on this song with J-Zone called Gun Fight about the issue of police brutality. I don’t go out of my way to get a guest appearance I dunno that well, [just] so peeps can fawn over it.
Are you a fan of the movie Office Space?
Oh, hell yeah, of course you gotta be a fan of that movie, it’s wonderful. And King of the Kill is a show I like, it’s a staple. [Mike Judge is] a great brand of humor.
When did you first get down with El-P?
We met in 1998. That was when he came to Boston toward the very end of Company Flow. They did two shows in Boston in a three week period. First time Company Flow came [to Boston, it was] El-P, Bigg Jus and Mr. Len. Three weeks later, when they came back to Boston it was El-P and Mr. Len. It was in the process of Company Flow breaking up. Bigg Jus dropped out of the group, and that opened El-P’s mind up to work with other young cats that are hungry and making noise. We exchanged numbers when he came back for the 2nd bout. That led to Triangular Warfare / Inhuman Capabilities ft. Akrobatik, the beat produced by El-P and I did the lyrics. In early 2000, I was making my EP, Enter The Colossus. My manager got the call from EL, “I’m starting a label, let me put it out…” I didn’t know what Aesop Rock was at the time, I didn’t know Cannibal Ox, or RJD2, it was crazy, a lot of things came into place. Classic things happen, when a whole bunch of things falling into place – I was lucky to be part of an amazing era.
Would it be fair to say he’s the ABBOT of the shit like RZA is to the Wu?
Yeah, def. the label was his vision, he’s the CEO, he hand selected the staff, himself – that’s how it went.
When I was making my records, I had complete creative control. EL and I had such a good relationship. I always sought his advise… here is what I am trying to accomplish with the scope of this record, and bounced things back and forth. We had great conversations and built on stuff… he’d take my zany ideas and kinda help me add a little polish to them to make them shine a little harder… always great to work with him. He’s a brilliant guy with a strong vision and conviction in what he believes in.
You recently performed in Washington D.C. and in Baltimore. Was the Bmore show better, or the DC Show?
The DC one was smashing the Baltimore one. Having the opportunity to play DC, [the day] after a historic election with Brother Ali… it’s tough to beat that. That was the highlight in my opinion. Peeps that came out were in good spirits, and we delivered the goods and everyone was supportive that night. I’ve found in the course of my career, it’s hard the night after [following] a show that was legendary. You feel like the next show doesn’t match up. It was so great and immediate the next night. But, Baltimore much love, they’ve supported me for years and years. Early February I’ll be back. Baltimore has held me down for years. DC is the new frontier for me. It’s great ’cause I’m in Philly, only two and a half hours away… hoping to spend more time there.
Is it true that Philly is known for its fugly women?
I beg to differ! Philly is home of the ass. Any ass fetishist – this place is bubblicious, my head is on a swivel all day, every day. Some take it too far, but I’m telling ya man, I feel real good.
Do you think you inspired MURS’ hair style?
He’s told me that I did actually. It’s a very nice compliment that I did. He said, “Yo man, ya know you kinda inspired it.” So, hey – more power to a brother with dreads, repping on a major label. Cats have dreads, but tame and tiny dreads… [you're] supposed to be on some raw roots shit. My dreads are thick to me, cause they’re a constant reminder that there is strength in unity. You have to drive steel between them to sever them… also signifies I don’t subscribe to the norm. I want to push the envelope: THICK KNOTTIES.
How did you celebrate on Tuesday night (Election night 2008)?
I was doing a show in NYC, it was supposed to be an election party show. The theme didn’t go as how I hoped… I got to celebrate, and was the first artist that cats saw and heard after the announcement. I went on there and didn’t change my agenda.
I got a lot of love for Barack in terms of a strong black man, in terms of a husband to his wife, and father to his kids. That is important to the self-esteem of black people… it has been in the shitter far too long. Murder rates any where on the map are alarming – black people always find a way to slaughter one another. Shit needs to change and stop. I am sure it will fully cease, but we need a different perspective. The n-word needs to be extinct from our vocabulary. I challenged the black community to anytime they use the n-word, and replace it with brother and sister and do that shit for six months and see if you go back to using the n-word. I don’t use that word from my mouth, I don’t say that. I used to on the old record, but on new record, there’s one cut that uses it – I might make it reversed, so it’s not audible. At some point in last year year and a half I got sick of it. I am done. I feel like it’s a failed experiment – we tried to reverse the word for our betterment and empowerment… ya look at the crime rates and statistics, and still referring to women as bitches and hoes. For the most part, you can’t be a major label artist without talking about poisoning your community and selling drugs and how women of the black community ain’t shit to ya. I dunno why people have accepted that as an acceptable art form of a consistent message in our music… [it is] our gem and jewel and it’s what peeps have settled for.
How did you get the name Mr. Lif?
I had taken mushrooms for the first time and was at a Phish concert in Massachusetts with a friend I had went to grade school with. I took a big dusty mushroom and took a swig of sprite… I watched the ground breakup and spin around me, and there was this bassline – whoever the bass guitarist was, playing this shit for this song called the Liftedly Man. [About a] dude trying to live life to the fullest and treat people with respect and get it in return and striving for myself. Man became Mister, and here I am today. Mister Lif.
Have you been to Cage’s crib?
Nah man, I haven’t… all of us are busy cats, I don’t really have down time like that. I can’t remember the last time I went for absolute leisure, I chill with friends when working with common goals… I don’t really kick it at peeps’ cribs, it’s not my thing. I’m more of an introvert and hermit, I don’t extend myself on a leisurely basis.
If you weren’t a rapper, do you think you could be a good politician?
I dunno if I’d wanna be involved in politics. I would have been a great hockey goalie, though. I played for nine years when I was a kid, until being a sophomore in high school. I wanted to be a goalie, but was a left-winger. I probably could have been in the NHL.
What blogs do you read, if any?
Not even so much, I been so caught up in process of creating this record, I can’t even say any online outlets I favorite… just my fans on myspace and getting feedback on all types of issues going on.
What’s good in 2009?
January 20th, 2009 [is the release of the new album], other than that, a lot of touring, a lot of prep for the next project. Keep things one step ahead.
Thanks. myspace.com/mrlif – Welcome to the World song was released on election day, and singles are all available on iTunes.