Interview: L*Roneous (2011)
L*Roneous blessed me with an opportunity to share a part of his journey both musically and personally. L*Roneous has been someone I respect more so as a fan than any other role I play. He was putting out music at a time in my life when perhaps it mattered most. His intelligence, voice, and consciousness resonate with me today in both former and current projects. I hope you all get an opportunity to listen to this emcee’s exceptional talent through his equally important message. I recently reviewed his latest album, Notes Of The Righteous Outlaw, and it certainly is one of the best 2011 has to offer. This interview has been a long time coming, so without further ado…
HHD: Imaginarium, dropped in 1998 on Ocean Floor records. As far as I know, that was your first album. When you look back on it, what was the process like making that album, and how do you feel it was received? What was it that you take from the process of making that first album?
L*Roneous: Imaginarium was my first solo record. (I was in a hip-hop band called Last 2 Serve. We recorded a limited release, an EP, Magnetic Personalities, in late 1995, also on Ocean Floor Records. But onward…)
Imaginarium was a process of me coming into myself as a solo artist. I spent 2 years writing/recording/mixing that record, then 2 years sitting on it. I didn’t know what the world would think of it. I knew I was pleased (I thought I had made a masterpiece), but honestly didn’t know even how to get it out there. Then I met Abstract Rude, who literally taught me the indie hustle by showing me what he does (well, back then) and I literally hustled my ass off to get that record heard. Back then it was mostly phone/fax hustling, making packages, then finding distribution, etc, which was why I released the L*Chemy single first, to test the waters. (I was already getting radio play from Bobbito out in NY for a single, “Revolutions”, that I had dropped with my partner Gennessee in a group we formed called Double Life.)
So Imaginarium came out and sold out everywhere it was being stocked. I believe it was received as well as any indie record of the era. There was praise for the record beyond anything I thought. Some website even heralded me in the top 10 emcees of the time (just off that one record). I felt blessed and inspired to make another record, knowing that people had accepted my take on hip-hop.
HHD: When you were coming up in the Bay Area as a musician, who were your influences musically? Was there one song that you would just play over and over again?
L*Roneous: The Bay in the 90’s was magical. There were crews everywhere; upstarts to champions. I’m talking rock bands, rap groups, dance teams, jazz bands, promotions teams, indie magazine crews, etc. Everywhere was vibrant with music. I listened to EVERYTHING! But my mainstay was hip-hop and jazz. Jazz (on wax) was what I looked for at record stores and played when I was alone at night. Mingus, Miles, Cole Porter, Weather Report, etc. but I think I played Stevie Wonder’s music the most. I had this 120-minute tape (ahem, yeah…) and it was beginning to end Stevie. That was my medicine.
HHD: After, Imaginarium, I know there was the Dreamweavers album you had with the producer Elusive, but then it seems like I didn’t hear much from you. Why the gap in between releases?ت Were you indeed releasing music and we just weren’t hearing it? What was going on in the 2000s?
L*Roneous: Well, I was definitely making/releasing music. After the Dreamweavers record, I did a little 4 song EP (The Directors’ Cuts) with one of the homies, Dj Wisdom, for a clothing label called NC Clothing. That was a limited release (5000 CDs printed). But that was just me havin a little fun.
A year later in 2004, I completed my next solo Lbum, Purposely Powerful. That was, in my opinion, when I took things to the next level. Every track was better than anything I had ever done. But when I released PP, the hyphy era kicked in. Artists such as myself were being marginalized and I wasn’t with it.
Aside from music, (on the side) I had been an educator with the San Francisco Unified School District. When I didn’t get what I felt my work should have garnered, in matter of sales, exposure, etc, I decided to be a full time educator.
I didn’t record a single song for 4 years. I only did collaboration work; a verse here, a verse there. Until 2008. I have since then recorded over a thousand songs, inclusive of some 13 unheard Lbums, and just a gang of raw material.
2010 marked my return with a free 12 track record, titled The Roller Coaster EP (www.lroneous.bandcamp.com). And now in 2011, I offer the “Notes of the Righteous Outlaw”.
HHD: If you are not concocting rhymes and making music, what can you be found doing?
L*Roneous: Writing. I write short stories (peep this lroneous.bandcamp.com/track/the-crickets-were-silent) If I’m not doing that, then I’m probably working with the youth in my community, or training for something (I used to run marathons for cancer research, but this year it’s the AIDS LIFE CYCLE Ride. 550 mile ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles to benefit AIDS research and those living with the disease. I’m rider #6409 if anyone wants to donate to the cause.) So these days you can catch me riding my bike all over the bay like a renegade.
HHD: There’s a lot of hip hop being made that is aimless. On your Reverbnation Page (putting in research here) you say: “The music is the message and the message is the music..” Explain how this relates to your style and how you approach music as a whole.
L*Roneous: It’s simple. I equate my music to painting a picture. If I take a concept and paint everything into that picture (and by everything I mean not only message, but also the essence of the city/region/etc that gave the inspiration, cries of the unheard, actions of the oppressor, retaliations of the oppressed, me, EVERYTHING!!!) and present it clear/concise then all you need is the music. You don’t need press photos, videos, etc. (a logo is cool tho. lol) The music becomes the message and the message is felt in the music. Some say that the instrumentals that we (artists) write to is like a blank canvas. Well, my style is to fill that canvas in as best a way that I can so as NOT to make ‘aimless’ art.
HHD: You just released the album, Notes Of The Righteous Outlaw. It has gotten a lot of positive feedback and reviews. Talk about what went into conceptualizing and making the album. How long did it take you from start to finish to create? How would you describe the album to someone who has yet to listen to it?
L*Roneous: Well the title I’ve had since Imaginarium. It was to be my 2nd solo Lbum (after the Dreamweavers project) but ‘Purposely Powerful’ created itself and put the ‘Notes…’ on the back burner. So after seven plus years, coming back to the concept and writing/recording/mixing/doing graffix/politickin for reviews/etc to finishing the entire project, it feels better than when Imaginarium hit the world. (I like to spend 2 years on every solo record btw.) How I would describe this Lbum is how I like to describe my art in general. “It’s all a mesh of reality based everything; with a tinge of Lchemy” (then I’d tell ‘em to just be quiet and listen)
HHD: Do you have any regrets in the last ten years when it comes to the music?
L*Roneous: I don’t really regret too much in life, in general, let alone with the music. I’ve made life long friends thru music. I wouldn’t change my time away from it, because I got to have an impact on young lives in a time where they truly needed it. I probably could have stayed more active musically, but those who know of me got little doses here and there. And now that I’m back, I’ll make music until I don’t sound good making it.
HHD: How are you going to define success in being an artist? How about in life in general?
L*Roneous: To me, success as an artist (and in life in general) deals with growth, output, and touching others’ lives as I would like my own to be touched, maybe even moreso.
HHD: In being an independent artist whose discography has spanned over a decade, what do you see as the biggest change in the climate of making hip hop music from then until now? What obstacles if any have you encountered in getting your own music made and then heard?
L*Roneous: Well, the making of music is and has ALWAYS been the easy part. In the 90’s, I learned a lot about making music. I went from tape dubbing, 2 tracking to 4 tracking, and ADATs to recording in a reel-to-reel studio. Now, pro tools allows anyone access to creating music quick and easy. I love it. of course, there are the digital haters, but most of them cant work an analog studio like I can so f ’em.
On the other hand, getting music heard is very different/difficult these days. Because so many people make music and since a lot of it is bad (meaning bad) it’s hard for the artists with quality work to get heard in the cloud of just noise.
HHD: Do you plan on releasing any singles or videos from the latest album? What do you have in store for the listeners in the near future?
L*Roneous: I plan on shooting 2 videos. One for the track “Gas” and one for a mystery song that I will give away to every person who bought the new Lbum. I will in fact, give those people a 7-10 song EP titled The Cliff Notes in July.
HHD: Any other thoughts?
L*Roneous: I appreciate you for amplifying my art. There are lots of artists like me. Please support them! (liil plug… my new website will be up by June 1st http://www.whoisLRoneous.com)