Artist Spotlight: Mr. Live (2014)
I have been sitting on this interview for a minute, waiting for the day to come where I could share it with you guys. I present to you today HHD’s interview with Mr. Live. A lot of new readers may be unfamiliar with Mr. Live, but to those of us who grew up during the advent of the independent hip hop music scene, his name rings bells. Along with groups like Jigmastas and Natural Elements, Mr. Live was releasing a slew of dope 12″ releases that have become revered among heads in my age group. He has one of the most unique voices in the game and I am glad he is back making more music. As 1/2 of Drama Class, along with Earl Blaize, he is releasing his new EP, Conflicted, today. So in conjunction with his return to music, I present words from the man himself…enjoy!
HHD: A lot of artists talk about it, but you were actually making music in the Golden Era of hip hop music. Some of the illest records were dropping when you started your music career. What or who inspired you to start making music of your own in that time period?
Mr. Live: Well, to be honest, for a long while, my inspiration was money and women..seriously. I was signed to a major label early in my career under a group called (E&Jae)..that experience kinda messed me up a bit..but it made a perfect teaching ground for what was to come up in the 90’s. It taught me how to appreciate the music way more then what kind of money I could have gotten out of it.
HHD: Back in 1996 you released a 12″ record Relax Y’Self. That was the first time I heard Mr. Live music and one of the most distinct voices in the game. If you could, for a moment, take us back to that time and describe what making music meant to you back then and putting out a product of your own on wax. How was the record received?
Mr. Live: By this time I had a lot of love for the music itself, I was blessed to be around really good brothers and sisters on the NY underground scene and I wanted no part of any major label telling me I was only getting x amount of money off a product that was made entirely by me and my peoples..BUT..I had just come back from a Europe tour having all the money I made there going towards bills, no job, and a new born son..So I decided that the batch of songs I made along with SUPA DUPA was going to be my last..I gave that demo tape to a thousand dudes including BOBBITO GARCIA and he decided he wanted to release it on his label FONDLE EM RECORDS. To my surprise the record was very well received and the rest is history.
HHD: I would also be remiss not to mention that you pulled off one of the illest international collabos of all time when you teamed up with UK emcee Tony Bones for more that just a few records. How did that cooperation come about?
Mr. Live: Very funny story..So this is right around the time when I’m finishing up the Demo I mentioned earlier..Me and my peoples are at a club..mostly everyone that got on stage was weaker then baby shit, just really, really bad acts..here comes Bones and his people..we start heckling THEM..Bones starts to spit and tears the place down, maybe as hard as we did..him, by himself..I had to give the brother his due..that has been my ace ever since.
HHD: Between the years of 2001 and 2007 there was a void in you making new music. I could conjecture a lot of reasons as to why you stopped putting out music, but why don’t you speak on the reasons for the layoff and what lead you to create the album Big Bang Theory that was released internationally over in France?
Mr. Live: At this point, the music was great for my soul but not for my pockets…as much as I loved the music, I wasn’t making enough from it..some of it had to do with me being stubborn, some had to do with not trusting a lot of situations along business lines, but the rest was basically I was making more money working then from making music..my brother Mr. Len from Company Flow brought me and Jean Grae out to Paris with him and while I was out there, I was offered a distribution deal. I was thrilled because at the time, I was very disenchanted about the American music scene. It was finally released in 2007 and this was the start of my lesson into how the music business was turning into something far more different than what I entered into.
HHD: A lot of ground and time has passed between your releases and I am sure you have observed a lot of changes in the game since you started making music, but what are some of the biggest differences to be being an emcee in 1996 and in 2014, either positive or negative?
Mr. Live: Wow in 1996 for you to be really noticed, you needed a big budget to cut through a lot of the glitz and glam the industry had provided for some of these hip hop acts..today, you can be noticed right from your living room. With the Internet, you really don’t have to have a bunch of money to put yourself right next to the Jay Z’s and Rihanna’s. Of course there’s will look better because they have more money behind the product but as far as sound and actual product you can be right there with everyone else…The negative part about it has more to do with the quality of music itself. A lot of so called “artist” don’t conduct themselves artistically. This affects the quality of the music to the point where what we call mainstream is really just an assembly line of really easy access music. Here today and gone tomorrow music where no one puts any priority on making classics anymore.
HHD: Taking it forward, it’s 2014, and you are getting ready to release a new EP, Conflcited, on January 27th. What has given you the drive to make this EP at this time? What is it going to show us long time fans who have followed your career? What is it going to give to new listeners unfamiliar to your work?
Mr. Live: For the listeners who are familiar with our work and for those who are just coming aboard, I believe we’re bringing something that a lot of today’s artist aren’t really concerned about which is a quality project…where there are actual concepts to that project..where the production is solid all the way thru…where the lyrics are well thought out. Something that’s memorable.
HHD: In terms of how the EP is constructed, who do you have handling production? Are there any guest spots that we can expect?
Mr. Live: Me and Earl Blaze of ANTI POP CONSORTIUM form the core of DRAMA CLASS..there are some heavy cuts produced by BLAIZE, DOTMATIC, MADLIB, ODDISEE, GODFATHER DON and 14KT. We also have our Faculty members GHAGGED and BILL BIXBY spittin’ something crazy.
HHD: What do you personally take from releasing the Conflicted EP? Do you take anymore satisfaction for the creation of this project than any of your prior releases?
Mr. Live: I actually take way more pride in what We’re doing now as apposed to our previous joints..don’t get me wrong, I love and support everything I’ve ever done, but to be honest, a lot of it was me being influence by the want of money.
HHD: I always ask this question but especially curious as to what your answer will be. How are you going to define success for your self as an emcee and then as a man?
Mr. Live: As an Mcee, I have accomplished everything I’ve envisioned for myself. I have met all of my goals except for two..becoming wealthy and seeing my grandparents out of the projects. As a man, that’s still an on going thing. I’m always striving to be better..a better father, more of a service to my community. Things like this I can only succeed in small increments because its always an on going thing for me.
HHD: Now that the release of Conflicted is upon us, what does the future hold for you as an emcee? Do you feel that you will make music more frequently? What are your plans for the future? Any albums on your horizon?
Mr. Live: The goal is to definitely to release more music. Me and Earl also have DRAMA CLASS RECORDINGS where we’ll be doing a lot of video’s for ourselves and others.
HHD: Any other thoughts for our readership?
Mr. Live: Look out for DRAMA CLASS in the New Year, we’ll be doing some real socially charged music, some more head-nod shit and basically just real good music for you to bump to.