featured interview

MindsOne Acts of Reality Two emcees, two DJ's and a prolific producers' list consisting of Illmind, Kev Brown, Oddisee and J Rawls. This is the recipe of MindsOne latest release 'Self Reliance', issued on SoulSpazm. Raw lyrics, soulful beats and intelligent word play are the main ingredients...

Let me congratulate you on the project, we love it here at the office. Are you happy with how it's been received so far?

KON: Absolutely.This album has given us opportunities to reach a much wider audience and the reception we've gotten has been phenomenal.

Was it a long way or struggle to get the album out?

DJ Noumenon: With any project that you pour your heart and soul into, there is always going to be a struggle. The three of us dumped everything we had into this. The guys spent hours upon hours refining their verses so when it was finally sent to me to add the finishing cuts, I could get a clear sense as to what the song was about. This was tough. As you already know, you may perceive a song differently from what the artists is trying to convey, with this...we couldn't do that... We h? d to be on the same page. Everything had to fit. Towards the end of the project, we were really having those tough moments because we knew we were so close to being finished. We really raised the bar for ourselves. We didn't want to just make a random album. We wanted to make something that would really stick to the listener. Tron was a beast on mixing everything and arranging the tracks. With being in two different locations it is tough...but we managed to work through it all.

For those readers who're not familiar yet. Please introduce MindsOne?

Tron: Two MC's: Tronic and KONSci, two DJ's: DJ Noumenon and DJ Slim Deluxe. Raw hip-hop.

Where're y'all from?

K: I'm from D.C., Tron is from Charlotte, NC, Slim is from Wilmington, NC and Noumenon is from Albany, NY.

Tell us more about the concept behind 'Self Reliance'?

T: The whole idea was to emphasize that if you want something done, you have to personally make that happen. We were hungry to hear music that would resonate with us but weren't finding enough. So we just put in the work to make an album that embodied the sounds and ideas that inspires us and that we feel is characteristic of hip-hop. Furthermore, we've always been self sufficient when it comes to creating our music. We are in house from the ground up and the album title represents that perfectly.

The album has a diverse range of beats and energy levels, but it does sound very cohesive. How do you manage or even guard that while recording?

K: That's just a natural bi-product of our chemistry as a group. We make the music the way we think it should be and it comes out with a consistency of style. We also make an attempt to use a calculated approach during post-production so that everything sounds consistent to the ear from track to track.

I haven't heard your previous work as of yet, but which evolutions did you grow through? How does 'Self Reliance' differ from previous work?

DJ: Our previous releases were introductions to what we can really do. I think 'Self Reliance' is a project that really demonstrates what we have to offer and what we are capable of doing. The previous works we kind of held back a little, or we were just 'young minded' in a sense. This album shows how we have matured through the years. It shows a more 'grown perception' of the world and culture around us.

Is there a particular track on the album which you love a little bit more or have a special bond with?

DJ: 'Physical Form'. Kon's verse does it to me every time I hear it. We all lost someone very close and special to us during the early stages of the album. It was tough times all around. When they finally sent me the track with the vocals on it, it hit me hard. I knew what they were talking about. I knew what they meant. I knew exactly what they were going through because I was going through it as well.

The chemistry between the MC's is very dope, e.g. how you alter on 'Keep Building'. What makes you collide so well? Pure craftsmanship or just a holy match?

T: Probably a little bit of both. We've always been equally committed to being innovative with our lyrics and we each try to bring something different every time we write a song. But on the other hand, it's pretty uncanny how we've been able to work together creatively for such a long time and still stay on the same page when it comes to ability, dedication, and content.

I must admit I only recently discovered y'all, despite the fact that you've been around for a while and that I'm intensively looking through the hip-hop underground for the past 14 years. Shall I blame myself for overlooking you or is MindsOne yet to come a little bit above ground?

DJ: It's like any new artist...it takes time for that artist to get themselves out there and with things being the way they are right now in the industry, if you don't fit the 'mold', mainstream and underground, then you are over looked. I think for us, it took us a little bit of time to really find our sound and build on it. We never wanted to just put material out for the sake of putting something out. Too many people do that and then the market is over saturated with a sound that is going to die out sooner than later. With this project, we had a lot more going for us than in the past. We built up our fan base, we made the connects with amazing producers and emcees, we linked up with Soulspazm, and we actually used the internet to our advantage.

Discovering a group like y'all gave me the feeling that I had when I discovered a new Rawkus project back in the days. Is this a compliment? Do you recognize that feeling and when did you have it yourself recently?

DJ: For me personally, I consider that a compliment. The Rawkus movement was huge. Regardless of what happened in the end, it was really what those artists contributed to the hip-hop culture that was so groundbreaking. I was heavy into DJ-ing at the start of that era, so for you to compare us to that is a real honour but at the same time I don't want people to automatically assume that that is what we are going for. Some people kind of throw us immediately into that 'Rawkus-back pack rap' category when at the end of the day...what we do is hip-hop. Plain and simple. We just want to be heard. We want people to know that there is another side of hip-hop besides the senseless babble you hear on the radio and on TV. Whenever I hear a Kev Brown track, or an Oddisee track...it doesn't necessarily remind me of the Rawkus era or 'something from the 90's'.it reminds me of how hip-hop should be....raw lyrics, soulful beats, and intelligent word play.

You work with renowned producers, besides Kev Brown and Oddisee, there's also Illmind and J. Rawls. Is it a coincidence that you picked beats from them? Any stories about those matches?

K: All of those producers are some of our personally favourites and while there is a story behind each, most of it was a domino effect. We had been working on the Illmind connection since our last album. We linked with Rawls, who linked us with Kev, who linked us with Dunc, who led us to Oddisee. We strengthened up with everyone overtime and now we've got music out with them.

You have an EP coming up entirely produced by Kev Brown. Was it 'the Legion of Doom' that sparked that idea? Can you tell more about the EP?

K: How'd you hear about that? It wasn't necessarily Legion that sparked it for us. It was more the success we've had with his production as far as making quality music. 'Self Reliance' had a healthy dose of Kev's prodo on it and from the start we were envisioning how an entire project with Kev would sound. Luckily, Kev got to see us perform Legion live and was down to keep supplying us with beats.

Self Reliance got released on SoulSpazm records. How did you hook up with the label?

K: Illmind connected us with Jim Drew who runs the label. Torae, the A&R and dope artist on his own, reached out to us about helping to push the album.

How did the roster of the crew evolve since your first project?

T: People have come and gone over the years but the core has stayed the same. Everyone has gotten to evolve individually along the way, which has allowed us to have an evolving chemistry as a crew on every project. Each project has brought a better vision and more maturity which we plan to continue.

Raekwon is the chef, Method Man is the blunt smoker, GZA the chess player. Could you do the same for MindsOne?

KONSci the Silverback, Tronic the Shapeshifter, Noumenon the Samurai, Slim Deluxe the Head Scalper.

While doing research I stumbled upon the word "Crew" more than a few times, what is it that makes MindsOne a crew rather than a group or isn't there any difference?

DJ: Well....we didn't want to sound like some wack ass boy band....nah mean. The MindsOne crew actually stretches pretty far. We have cats that we work with from project to project, show to show, but the core 'group' is the four of us. Outside of the core we do have many heads that we work with, run with, and build with. So I would definitely have to say there is a difference between the two. The group being the core, and the crew being the extended fam.

There's two free projects on your Bandcamp page. The 'Times Evident Mix' was released earlier this year as a mix of unreleased tracks from the last decade. How weird is it to put a time span (2000-2010) of that range on an album cover?

DJ: It really makes you take a moment and sit back and look at how much work has actually been done over the years. It's not disturbing or uncomfortable or anything like that. I think it's a great way to show how much our sound has actually matured over the years. A very close friend, Jazzy Joyce, always says to me: 'always record or document everything you do in music. It's the only way you can tell if you are getting better or worse. Plus, it's your time line. Your history. Without it, then what do you really have?'

Any studio anecdotes you want to share?

K: There are endless stories but the most notable studio memory was getting the chance to record in Chung King Studios in NYC before it closed. So many influential hip-hop artists recorded there. The hallways are covered in gold and platinum plaques. It was impressive and has definitely motivated us to stay on top of our collective game.

What albums are you bumping right now?

Black Milk ... 'Album of the Year', Bonobo ... 'Black Sands', Finale 'A Pipe Dream and a Promise', Celph Titled ... 'Nineteen Ninety Now', Damu the Fudgemonk - 'This Is How It Should Sound1&2', Homeboy Sandman ... 'Good Sun'.

What groups or artists had a lot of influence on you?

Madlib, Dilla, Premo, Pete Rock, Kev Brown, Oddisee, J. Rawls, Educated Consumers, iLLmind, Pharoahe Monch, Gangstarr, Black Thought, Big Pun, Nas,....always and forever, anything from the Golden Era of Hip Hop, X-Ecutioners, The Allies, Skratch Piklz, Excess...We could keep going.

What record (or mc) made you decide you wanted to make music yourself?

Gangstarr ... 'Hard To Earn', Pharoahe Monch - 'Internal Affairs', 'Planet Rock', Nas 'iLLmatic' but the motivation to begin producing, writing, freestyling, and DJing came from a culmination of a lifetime of experiences in the hip-hop culture.

What's next for MindsOne?

Writing, recording, and performing in that exact order.

 

POSTED 12|01|2010
conducted by wulf

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