It’s been five years since we actually did and end of the year segment where we lauded particular artists and albums for their efforts. 2018 has felt like the right time and place to bring that back our Artist Of The Year accolade. Recognize Ali embodies the dope movement we saw this past year. He put out five albums, all of which are dope, none of which are identical. They are distinctive in sound and all offer something great to hip-hop fans of all walks. He was also probably featured more times than anyone else this year on projects from others. In short, his immense talent matched an unrelenting work ethic that was matched by few others this year.
It is when talent and work ethic reach such high levels that we feel compelled to do something special to share that unique gift with our audience. So please listen to the man’s music…pass the word along to others and read this interview he so graciously granted us. It’s a great read! We’ve also included a few of our favorite Recognize Ali cutz for your listening pleasure at the end. Enjoy!
HHD: Describe your journey into hip-hop. When you were growing up who were your musical influences? What was the one album you wore the hell out of back in the day?
Recognize Ali: Man, I met hip-hop at a very early age of 6 or 7 years old if I could remember. I would stand at my older cousin’s window listening to him and friends freestyle for hours. It really started it all for me and led me into the world of hip-hop. I have always had love for music I recall days with my pops listening to Sade, Fela Kuti and so many great artists back then (I still listen to them of course) tell stories through their music and I would say to myself “I want to be able to do that” to be able to tell stories through music (hip-hop). My musical influences? Damn so many to name but when it comes to hip-hop, Nas and Prodigy (Rest in peace to the god) definitely had me as well as Biggie, Wu-Tang, Jedi Mind Tricks and many others. Haha an album I wore the hell out of back in the day has got to be “Shut Em Down” by Onyx. Ya man I played the shit out of that record
HHD: When did you first realize that you had the talent to write rhymes and perform music yourself? Do you remember rocking your first show? Where was it at? What was the experience like for you?
Recognize Ali: I didn’t start writing till I was about 15 years and to say that was when I discovered my talent to write rhymes will be a lie. What I have learned over the years is my ability to write rhymes and perform music has evolved over the years and continue to evolve each and everyday. Is my ability to write or tell stories a talent? Nope. To me, it is a gift. Many people work over the years to acquire the talent of writing and becoming story tellers. You will notice I use the words “story tellers” a lot because that is what we are. As hip-hop artists, we are story tellers. We tell stories through our music and this process of creating or writing rhymes comes differently to each and every one of us. Some take weeks to write what they might consider to be a well-thought-out dope verse and others might take a day or two to write an even doper verse. To me, those that take weeks to compose a rhyme because of things like writer’s block or lack of inspiration are the ones with “talents” you know because they work to get there and then you have those such as myself that can write dope rhymes within a day or two or at times within hours those are the ones with a “gift”. Minimal or no writer’s block because we have the gift of writing or storytelling. The gift to feel or see something and allow that thing to take over you or as I will put it breath itself into you it guides you and develop the story. Some will say “it comes naturally”
The first ever show I rocked was in Ghana I was about 17. I was very nervous to get on stage because I didn’t know how the crowd was going to respond to me but I got on there started doing my thing, crowd was feeling it and once you as a performer starts to vibe, all the nervousness from not knowing how you are going to be received by the listeners disappear. It was indeed a great feeling. To be able to see the crowd connect to my rhyme or spit my rhymes back to me was great to experience. You know every story we tell, there is a working relationship something like a collaboration between the teller and the listeners. We receive this gift of story and we share with others and within that same story we tell, they find their story.
HHD: What was your first album release? My first chance hearing you on an album was in 2015 on a project called Falling Culture with Gillateen. How have things changed since that release in the way you make music if there have been any changes that is?
Recognize Ali: I started off as a dual with my man Big and together we called ourselves “Greenfield”. In 2011 we dropped our first official project followed by a mixtape in 2012. Unfortunately, Big and I parted ways in 2013 and that same year I dropped my first solo project. In 2014 I linked up with Gillateen after the drop of my second solo and started building Falling Culture in 2015 with him. My music has always changed bro, on every album. Like I said as I grow not only in age but mentally, I have come to embrace the gift of storytelling/writing. Experiences through life being personal or of those around me shape the rhymes I write. So each and every project I put out I try to give my listeners something different yet still maintain that teller and listener connection. Every album has its concept making it distinct from previous ones whether it’s in beat selection, delivery, storyline etc.
HHD: I know from a fan and blogger’s perspective what 2018 looked like for you. You had four great albums drop and countless dope guest spots. But tell us from your perspective as an artist, what 2018 was like to you? What went into it?
Recognize Ali: indeed was a great year for me bro. Haha thank you for the compliment bro I’m happy you enjoyed the albums. Actually, The Outlawed LP was to be dropped next year but we had to drop it in 2018 due to certain reasons. I have to say seeing my peers put out great projects pushed me to write a lot more and improve the art of writing in 2018. Over the years the process of writing has become part of me that I find it easy to pick up a pen and a paper and start writing. Not a lot really goes into making my projects when it comes to writing rhymes. One thing that I put a lot of thoughts into when creating music is making sure I listen to my listeners. What they liked about previous works I dropped, what they didn’t like and from that, I am able to create projects I feel they will enjoy. Now when it comes to creating an album, it can take me anywhere from two to four weeks to put out something my listeners will love.
HHD: So far in your relatively young career do you have a ‘defining moment’? Do you have something that you point to where you felt like “this is a really dope thing that is happening right now”?
Recognize Ali: Every moment every step I have taken to get my music out to people thus far have been a defining moment as far as I can see. Many might not see how far I have come as anything major but to me, it is a great achievement to be building with legends, I grew up listening to, admiring their work and hoping to be at their level someday. The acknowledgments and recognition I have received from veterans like Coptic, Havoc, C-Rayz Walz, Planet Asia, Vinnie Paz, Stoupe, Cella Dwellas, Verbal Kent, King Magnetic, Tristate, Shabaam Sahdeeq, Bronze Nazareth, DJ Eclipse, Esoteric, Agallah, Apathy, and so many others is something I look at as “this is a really dope thing that is happening right now”. To be able to say “yo I am on a joint with these hip-hop legends” is overwhelming, and a dream come true for me. You and others might not see them as legends, but I view them as such considering what they have and continue to give to the hip-hop world.
HHD: What kind of sacrifices have you had to make when it comes to pursuing a career in music? What are your biggest challenges?
Recognize Ali: Lol there isn’t anything one needs to or must sacrifice when they are doing what they love. I love hip-hop and been about hip-hop from the onset. To be honest, everything I have been through to get my music to where it is now has been exciting and learning experiences. Seeing that I am across the globe from my core listeners, my biggest challenge over the years have been trying to find ways to push my music out there to a larger audience. You know as underground artists especially the up and coming ones like myself, I am just starting to build a fan base, so it is vital that I stay consistent with my output of work. Always make sure I give my all to every album I drop and that each comes with its own style yet better than a previous drop.
HHD: How are you going to define success for yourself as a man, and then as a musician?
Recognize Ali: Damn, success to me as a man is to be able to do what I have always wanted to do. You know I have always wanted to be a hip-hop artist from an early age and nothing else and I made sure it happened. That right there is what success is. Not necessarily the material or the worldly positions we associate with success but the feeling of getting to a goal you set out for yourself. You know saying to yourself “I want this” and you do everything possible to get that thing, Now! that’s success. Not what you gain or do not gain when you reach that goal but the mere fact that you reached there.
As a musician just being able to put my music out there and to have people listen and resonate with it define success for me. You know as musicians/storytellers we often well let me speak for myself and say I often get comments from listeners of my music about a verse or even a line within a verse that they connected with and meant something to them or seeing people post any of my lyrics or videos on social media of my music all of this is what success is to me as a musician. To make music people love and appreciate.
HHD: There are lots of dope artists dropping heat in 2018, but when you are not making your own music, are you listening to some of your contemporaries? Who’s got your ear right now when it comes listening to music?
Recognize Ali: Because I am constantly writing, I barely get the time to sit down and listen bro but if I do, Willie Da kid got my ears, Milano Constantine, Rasheed Chapelle, Napoleon da legend, Lyric Jones, Vic Spencer, Sageinfinite, Da Flyy Hooligan, Asun, Estee Nack and a few others. Nack is a machine too just like me that’s why we linked up to chef up a quick joint album for the consumers
HHD: You’ve worked with some really dope producers in the last couple of years really. Is there anybody that you are wanting to get into the lab with that you haven’t already?
HHD: Lastly, congratulations again on being our 2018 Artist Of The Year. What do you have on tap for your fans in 2019?
Recognize Ali: Thanks very much, It’s honorable! Salute to all the supporters for their constant backing. Without yall there won’t be a Recognize Ali and I genuinely appreciate each and everyone who takes time out of their day to day activities to give an ear to my music, my albums, and the continual feedback and comments. God bless!! This year I put out 5 Albums upcoming year I’m trying to bring you more haha. Yeah, this year was great next year though it’s going be to be crazier!! Got a few joint albums dropping. An album with Bronze Nazareth which I am really excited about. A joint album with Verbal Kent of Ugly Heroes super excited for that one to drop as well, one with C-Lance and Stoupe of JMT and one with my good brother King Magnetic. Then I got solo albums and many more I can’t discuss right now. So, 2018 was a good year for me and 2019 gonna be better Inshallah!
Our Choice Cuts From Recognize Ali in 2018!