If you want longevity in anything, especially the rap game, it is important to hold a high level of self-awareness. Being able to address your personal tendencies, fears and failures help to prevent lack of success as you continue forth in your field. For Jackson, Mississippi’s Mr. Fluid it is quite evident he holds a mirror-like view of his inner self and that reflects in his music.
The veteran MC has impressed for years with a strong penchant for lyricism and a sound reminiscent of that which we were all raised on in hip-hop. Heavy bass and rhythmic bars are a staple for him and more of that is what is surely to come on his highly-awaited “When Conformity Is Not Comfortable” LP. Currently slated for an April 1st release, the project delves deeply into the emotions that come with feeling trapped in the mundane day-to-day lifestyle that many of us can find ourselves in. With such an interesting concept behind it, we reached out to Mr. Fluid to discuss the project and much more.
For anyone getting their introduction to you today could you tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m 37 and I’m from Mississippi, initially Braxton, a small town of less than 200 people. I’ve been in love with Hip Hop since the LL Cool J “Radio” cassette. I’m not your average emcee, or producer for that matter, in that I don’t fit snugly into categories. I just make the kind of music and write about the things I want to hear. In the end, I would hope, it is the passion for the art form, the dedication to my craft, and the honesty of my expression that bleeds through.
When was it that you made the decision to become a rapper and what made you go forth with it?
Well, as a teenager I wrote a lot of poetry in composition books and songs, mostly playing them out on guitar in my bedroom. I was not really getting “out there” to perform besides a few house parties and jam sessions with friends. Even so, I was more of a heavy metal/punk kid in my songwriting. I had a few rhymes, nothing I would quote now though.
I heard about an open mic in Jackson, MS sometime in ’98 or ’99, hosted by EB & Company at The Living Room (pre-SeVen All Arts Café), so I drove up to do some poetry, still rockin’ long hair and very likely a Metallica shirt and blue jeans. Before the poets, they opened up the stage for a freestyle cypher. I got up, did my thing and as it turned out the emcees gave me props. From there I continued to show up, got better, gained encouragement and made the decision to embrace Hip Hop the way it had embraced me.
Who are some of the people that inspire you most? Both musicians and non-musicians?
Musically, I’m feelin’ T.R.A.C. out of NY. He recently released an album, “Life in Motion”, on V Recordings that is blowin’ my mind right now. Also, Children of Zeus from Manchester. I dig Evidence’s new record, Planet Asia, Big K.R.I.T., Marlon Craft, Rude Operator, Will Miles. Also, Skrewtape & Capo The King have an EP out called “In The Wind” that’s pretty sick.
Outside of music I read a lot, so certain authors can spark my pen not unlike an emcee. For example, the fiction of Anthony Doerr and Kazuo Ishiguro, the revisionist history of Michael Tsarion, the philosophy of Ayn Rand, Neitzsche, and Lao Tzu, the analytical psychology of C.G. Jung and the poetry of Edgar Allen Poe, Jack Kerouac, and Charles Bukowski.
Movies like Blade Runner 2049, Mother!, Get Out, the last 3 Planet of the Apes films, and Black Panther are quite inspiring, as well.
If you had to describe your sound to someone who has never heard it how would you?
Ok take Boom Bap, mix it with the bounce and soul of early Outkast and UGK, the Drum and Bass vibe of Roni Size and Reprazent, the rebel nature of N.W.A. and Public Enemy, the humanity of Atmosphere and Brother Ali, throw in a little Saul Williams to make it sporadic, add my own style of beat making and rhymes, and… there you go.
You’re in the final stages of completing your project “When Conformity Is Not Comfortable”. First off I want to address the title. When was it that you learned conformity could be a detriment and why do you feel the need to spread that message?
I think anyone who grows up not fitting in with the popular kids understands the pros and cons of conformity. If you wanna socialize with the flock, you gotta dress like them, act like them, disguise oneself accordingly. In adulthood, if you’re creative, you probably wanna spend all day making art, not going to a full-time job, and perhaps another part-time to make ends meet. But also, the problem exist with the individual who expresses or conveys an opinion, philosophy, or spirituality outside of the collective. If your state of being is illegal, you alter it to not be imprisoned, but that is not freedom.
What do you feel is the biggest form of conformity you’ve put yourself through?
Working so-called “safe” jobs, with benefits and such, throughout my life when I felt like simply running free and doing music full-time. I like being “comfortable” though, paying bills, having food, clothing, shelter, not living on the street. So, that’s the concept of the album in a nutshell. To steal a quote from A Bronx Tale, “the working man is a sucker!”
I was able to hear an advance copy of the album and one thing that stuck out was how well thought out everything is in terms of sequencing and skits. How long have you been working on the project?
The second I was done with “The Sowing”, my last solo album, which dropped in May of 2015. I wanted to follow the same formula I had used, but update it. Meaning it’s still very much a Hip Hop/Drum and Bass hybrid, but I wanted the songs to be catchier, add more bounce. It’s still dark in places, in sound and subject matter, but overall it’s a record you can turn up loud and jam out to. You’re right though, it is a conceptual album, every line and breakdown is considered in the larger picture. It has a message: be yourself, stand out in the crowd, claim your personal freedom and sovereignty, consider your thoughts, influences and behavior. Are you thinking for yourself or are you a walking copy, of a copy, and so on…
What was the hardest part about making it? It’s very personal so I’m wondering if it was tougher to craft than some of your previous music?
I’m always pushing myself to make a better project than the last, build on what I’ve learned, dig deeper. I’ve never strayed from making personal music but with this one I spoke directly about what it feels like to be the worker bee. The one who feels trapped, lost, because I do feel like that sometimes. The music frees me, it’s my medicine, my therapy.
Also, I aspire to teach through my music. I wanna make sure I believe in what I’m saying, that it’s the right message and that I’ve left the listener with something to ponder. I don’t have the answers but if I can leave you with a head full of questions about the outside world you may have not thought to ask before, then I’ve succeeded in implanting curiosity.
Who all played a role in helping you bring the vision to life?
Musically, if it has anything to do with Drum and Bass, I gotta give credit to deejays like 360 Degrees, DJ Repercussion, Daphya, Pish Posh, Proppa Bear, Jeffy D, Danny the Wildchild, Spikey Tee, A-Sides. There are many more that I’ve personally seen live or kicked it with and consider friends, for the fact that I even know about the culture at all.
As far as the album is concerned, I did all the production, but I gotta give thanks and shout outs to Fi3ld, Snuff, and MC Inveigh for laying down viscous rhymes. Also Michelle Brassfield for a lovely hook on “I Want U”, 360 Degrees for some nasty cuts on the opening track, Will Jolly at Brown River Sound for a phenomenal mastering job, and Kira Cummings for the cover art, video work, and photography.
More than anything what feelings do you want to evoke in people when they listen?
Joy, anger, excitement, wonder, hope. Anything but complacently, self-doubt, feeling as if because you’re not where you wanna be then you’ve failed. The fact you recognize it at all means you’re succeeding, growing, gaining wisdom. It’s one day, one step at a time for all of us. We live in an age where everyone is expected to be on the same page on a myriad of subjects or we’re seen as “the enemy” or “the other”. There is no “other”.
How do you feel this project differs and/or improves upon what you’ve done in the past? Why do you feel that way?
I feel like I’m getting better at making my points quicker, in less words, in less musical measures. I want the people that dig my music to dig it right away, when they hit play or catch a show, not have to consider whether it was good or not. I’m sure the same will go for those that don’t like it, they’ll cut it off sooner. I hope, however, before they do, they’ll give it an honest listen in a decent sound system. The record has bass and hard hitting drums, you’re not gonna catch that on a smartphone.
A lot of music is made these days, less songs you can take with you though, get you through tough situations. I’ve heard, already, from performing a couple of the new songs live, that something I said touched someone and meant something to them. At the end of the day, that’s what really matters.
What can people look out for in terms of any videos or performance dates that may be coming along with the LP?
The plan is for at least 3 music videos to drop, an animated promo, a record release party at The Flamingo in Jackson, MS, on May 11th, plus more shows are being worked out as we speak.
If any deejays want a clean, or dirty, version of the first single to play, promoters would like to book me for a performance, artists wanna collab, bloggers need an interview, etc., contact me through email via firstname.lastname@example.org
With 2018 still being a bit fresh what are some of your major goals for the year?
I would love to tour outside of the state, as well as get some dates overseas. I take Mississippi with me wherever I go but I’m doing very little for the culture here if I stay put.
If you could reveal one fact about yourself most of your fan base doesn’t know what would it be?
I dabble in writing fiction. I dare not speak too much of it until I am actually prepared to publish something. Music takes up all my spare time and energy right now. I’m obsessed with it. I’m hardly finished with one project before I have the notion to start another.
Any last words before we conclude?
Yes, you only get one life (even if you believe in reincarnation, you only get one at a time), make the most of it. I’ve lost some dear friends and family recently and it just makes me wanna push harder for my dreams. Follow your heart, it is your best guide. Take a minute to separate from the crowd, get to know yourself. Make peace with your obstacles, life isn’t easy for anyone, we just get better at it if we try. Extroverts often are the players of the game, while introverts write the rules. Everything and everyone has its place. Unplug from time to time from the “network”, for your own personal health. Constantly comparing oneself to others can only bring anxiety.
And…….. Hip Hop is not Dead. Who could kill Deejaying, Emceeing, Breakdancing, and Graffiti? It doesn’t matter what the zeitgeist is, what is popular. And it’s not Hip Hop vs. Trap. They can exist alongside one another, even blend, as many are proving. Rap music, whatever form it may take, is cool but it doesn’t necessarily represent Hip Hop culture, the tenants of which are “Peace, Love, Unity, and Having Fun”. Sounds a lot like “PLUR”, or “Peace Love Unity and Respect” within rave culture, or “One Love”. We all have much more in common than we realize.