Friday, July 29, 2005

Classic Interview-Lateef The Truth Speaker

Interview by Doxx...

This interview originally appeared in the March 1996 issue of No Joke newsletter.

Just as Blackalicious blew up with their amazing album, Melodica, Lateef The Truth Speaker from East Oakland looks poised to be another major name to emerge from SoleSides Records and attract a fan base that stretches from the Bay to the opposite end of the world. Keep a lookout for his single, "The Wreckoning" and you'll know why. I especially enjoyed this interview because we spoke about a variety of things beyond the realm of hip hop including politics and Minister Farrakhan.

What would you say influences the way you rhyme? What would you say your style is?
My style is just me. It's my voice. Lyrics have always been my thing. I remember when I was real young I went out with my father to a gathering for the Black Panther Party and there were people performing and I was amazed by the music itself and I was like, "The music sounds great" and he was like, "Yeah, but listen to what they're saying." And that shit just stuck with me. Ever since then I've really put a lot on lyrics. Music has to emulate life, life has to emulate music in order for it to be solid. That's where I try to get a lot of my influence from. MC's I'd say, of course growin' up out here, Too $hort, Ice Cube, KRS-1.

I like on "The Wreckoning" how you pay real close attention to the lyrics like at one point you're talking about what happens to a body after it dies. You were goin' real deep with all the different aspects of it.
Fools be talkin' about, "I'll do this and this to you and I'll kill you this way and I'll kill you that way." I was just breakin' down exactly what happens when somebody dies.

Now you have the more traditional hip hop influences, but you also got the West coast influences. How do you feel about how a lot of rap fans or just rappers in general are so strictly into one set style? Like if they're from the East they can't feel nothin' from the West and vice versa.
I think honestly that's one of the things that's killin' rap right now. We all on the same team. As much as money is a major thing in hip hop right now, it ain't that many motherfuckers that actually got it. The White power structure in this country has tried to manipulate people against each other when they are the actual enemy. As soon as motherfuckers are ready to come up off their egos and really talk about the problems that affect us as a community, whether it be hip hop, Black, multi-cultural, minority... As soon as motherfuckers is ready to drop the egos and stop set trippin' and address some of the problems we can go ahead and expand in that direction and also stylistically reach past the East and West coast.

What do you think would be the first step towards unifying the sides?

Maybe not unifying, but just bringin' it to a point where they understand each other and are comin' together a little bit.
I think at one level it'll never completely happen. I mean you gotta have some kind of pride about where you from, especially as tribal as hip hop is right now. Where you're from, it gives a spin to who you are in hip hop. I think there's a certain aspect of that that's good 'cause it is necessary for the people of a place to decide who is the voice of that place and then have that be the representation as it meets with other voices across the nation. For the unity to start I think fools gotta start acknowledging instead of getting caught up in the money and the image and goin' for self. Fools gotta start acknowledging that there are some problems that exist beyond the confines...

Bigger than all of it.
Yeah, it gets a little deeper that that. That's what I feel in terms of edging towards that unity and things like the Million Man March, which I participated in, are big steps in that. Like I said, music imitates life, life imitates music so all of the things needed to make that unification are not necessarily in music. A lot of 'em are in life.

Now you went to the Million Man March. What do you think of what Farrakhan preaches?
First of all, I think he's a dynamic man. He goes out on a limb for our people in a way that I don't see anybody else doin' right now which, in and of itself, warrants a tremendous amount of respect. I agree with a lot of what he's sayin', but it's the actions that speak louder than the words. The thing that I respect about the man most of all is that his word is bond. He's able to make actual, things that he says he wants to make happen. When you can lead a revolution in a way that isn't confrontational in terms of actual physical confrontation... I mean, he's talkin' about revolutions on an economic basis, a societal basis and a community basis. If he's able to spearhead that type of revolution, I'm all for it.

See I'm not Black. I'm Mexican and White and I agree with a lot of what he says and I thought the march was real positive. When you'd watch the news though, they tried to downplay it by only bringing up the fact that he's a Black separatist when really that's not even the main factor that he was talkin' about.
I feel you. I'm Puerto Rican and Black. I feel like in that march he was attackin' the idea and especially when he was breakin' down things on Masons, secret societies, Illuminati and what not. When you really get down to it, White supremacy has been goin' on since about 4000 BC, since ancient Ethiopia was overrun by White settlers and Islamic Arab settlers. Also these same White supremacist movements out of the Vatican and what not have gone ahead and subjugated the entire world for the most part. They run South America through money and oppress the people continually through government and all kinds of crazy shit. They'll have two people from a South American country fighting each other. One working for them to create dissention among the rest of the people in leadership so nobody's gonna lead them out of the situation as long as they continue to manipulate in that way.

There's a lot of dirty stuff goin' on.
Real dirty. And some of it is dirty in a way that's offensive. Well, most of it is dirty in a way that's offensive because they try and do it so subtlely. Like cocaine laws. You can get caught with like zips of powder and get out in, what, three months? Parole in three months. It's the White man's drug. But you cook it up and have one rock on you...Life. That's fuckin' ridiculous. That's like blatantly a racist law that is put into effect and is just kinda shined on and they use words and tricknology to get up out of the situation again and again. Things like the Oliver North scandal, Bush skimming hella money off the top and not being able to be held accountable for it. All kinds of shit. I think that he (Farrakhan) was kinda attacking that, but it gets deep because they've broken up life into so many categories and they have a part of each and every one. They have people in positions in the government, in business, in education, in different facets all going towards the same aim as a collective. We as people of color in this country and in the world don't have that sort of organization goin' on right now.

Are you workin' on an album right now?
Me and my man Chief Xcel are workin' on an album. Lateef And The Chief is our collaborative name. My album will touch on a lot of other levels that you can get a gleaming of on the single, but they're explored a little more in depth on my album. Suffice it to say, if fools bit the hell out of this single it wouldn't matter because the other shit that I have is completely different. I think fools do themselves a disservice when they allow themselves to get pigeonholed into any one type of style. Styles are infinite. The voice is another instrument, perhaps the most powerful because it can convey meaning and entendre specifically as well as emulate almost any other instrument created by man.

A lot of times they get stuck on that and can't get away from it.
Exactly. And it gets old quick because that's the thing about a song. Hopefully, when you make a song you want the beat to be able to stand by itself, you want the lyrics to be able to stand by itself and the whole thing to stand against the world. You also want your song to be different than the next song you make and different than the next song to the point where it's a challenge to make a song. You wanna come with some new shit. You don't wanna just be fittin' your shit into a formula and sayin' what everyone else is sayin' or the latest slang. That's doesn't help you at all in terms of your growing as a person.

How did you hook up with SoleSides Records?
Through school. I got on up there (UC Davis) and met some cool brothers that was into the music at a level which I could relate to. That was something that I didn't see at that time in too many other people. We kinda gravitated towards each other and used each other to kinda bounce ideas off of and build within our own group.

When is your solo album expected?
Probably in late '96.


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