Your new album Absolute Value is finally out. How does it feel to have the album out?
It’s a relief, man. It’s a big relief. It’s been in my iPod for a long time. I’ve been really anxious to get it out there. I’m glad it’s out there and available now. It’s hard for me to think about my next project when the one I’m working on isn’t out. I’m starting to think about what I’m going to do next time.
Are you happy with the response to Absolute Value so far?
Oh, definitely. It’s been overwhelmingly positive. With my last album, Balance, it was cool, the response, but that was on a smaller label and promotion wasn’t quite as strong. I feel like I got a lot of attention for maybe one or two songs initially off the album, whereas on this album, people are unanimously saying that it’s solid from the beginning to the end, which is exactly what I was going for and that was exactly the response that I was looking for. People aren’t buying albums anymore. They’re buying one or two songs and keeping it moving but I really wanted to make something that people could put in and not skip around on.
You also got a lot more features on Absolute Value than you did on Balance.
Yeah. I mean, I think that a lot of that had to do with just the experience that I got and just from doing a bunch of shows all over the place and just doing different things that put me into contact and networking opportunities with a lot of these cats like 9th Wonder and Little Brother. They were at my album release party for my first album and I worked with them. And with Talib Kweli, I’ve known him for over 10 years now just from being around him and doing shows with him. We always talked about doing something. The way that all of the collaborations came together was definitely cool. I’m glad I got to do it like that. I never had the intention of having so many on one record. It just happened to work out that way.
What was it like working with Chuck D on “Kindred”?
Chuck D is cool, man. He’s a legend. That’s the dude I was idolizing when I was going up. He told me to call him if I ever needed anything and I took him up on that. I had the idea for “Kindred” and when I told him about that, he was all for it. He told me to send everything over and he would take care of it for me. I told him the time I needed it by and it was good. I had some good phone conversations with him, man. Between him and KRS and just a couple other people, like Bumpy Knuckles, not only were they down to record to me, but cats would sit on the phone with me for an hour or an hour and a half and just share stories and tell me about the business and what it was like for them coming up and that they appreciated me being the torchbearer. It was really affirming to just get that type of support from guys that when I was 16 years-old, that was my inspiration for doing this. That was definitely a good look.
On “Back Home To You” you talk about how you almost quit the game. Can you talk about that?
Well, I think anybody who is trying to make it in the music business, at one point or another, is going to second guess whether or not it’s all worth it. I’m smart enough where I could have gotten a college degree. Right now I would probably have a master’s degree and a high-paying job. It’s a gamble. Would I have done better doing this or if I had gone the conventional path? It remains to be seen but I’m happy doing what I do, I love my life and wherever I go, people are happy to see me. There’s a whole lot of support and it’s a good thing. I feel like I made the right choice and I’m just sticking to the script. This is the path that I’m supposed to be on, but we all think about that. I’ve had moments where I was just like, ‘Fuck it. I don’t want to do this.’ But it’s in your blood. I’ve been rhyming since I was 9 years-old, so I can’t see not being involved in this in some way.
You also do the Sports Wrap-Up freestyles for Boston’s 94.5. At one point you were contemplating leaving the station. What made you want to stay with them?
It’s tough. Politically, I don’t want to get too deep into that, but I needed some terms to be met and it took longer than I expected for that to happen, but when it got to a certain point where they agreed to the terms and I was able to stay.
You touched on a lot of social issues on Absolute Value, which you also did on Balance, but it seems like you made more of a point to touch on social issues on Absolute Value.
I actually tried to do the opposite. I was trying to talk about it less. When I look at the tracklisting, I only see three or four songs that talk about anything deep. I was just trying to make an album that was fun. I think those songs will stand out because people are comfortable hearing the socially conscious stuff from me. The first four songs on the album are all uptempo bangers that are all party songs. There’s a lot of battle songs on there too. It always strikes me when people lean towards describing me as this totally conscious guy because in reality, it’s just a couple of songs an album. I guess I’m doing a good job of that, but I would never make a whole album of that stuff and I would never pack too much of that stuff on one record because how much of that stuff do you really want to hear? I just write what the beat tells me to write. I don’t try to write another “Remind My Soul”. The beats I come across next year will determine what my next record will sound like.
On “Front Steps Part 2”, you talk about how you were a student with no teachers you could identify with. How important is it for teachers to be aware of cultural differences of their students?
It’s very important. I went to a school where the whole faculty was white and none of my classmates really had any exposure to Black people at all except for the few of us who were at the school. My man Therapy was at the school too. When you grow up in the ‘hood, it’s like everybody’s Black. At least it was like that when I was growing up. It’s like the best of both worlds for me. That’s the way that I look at it. I got to be around the people I grew up and got to be around people who were different from me. There were also so many other kids like me who probably could have had a similar path but they didn’t get that chance because their parents weren’t interested or they couldn’t afford it. There was always something. But I definitely feel that it was positive and I also feel that it’s good for those kids who go to school to have diversity in their faculty. Otherwise it wouldn’t have taken us until 2008 to have a Black presidential candidate that it taken seriously.
Both Absolute Value and Balance have a real cohesive feel while still maintaining diversity. Does that come easy to you?
Well, I’ll put it to you like this. I feel like a lot of MCs, their No. 1 concern is their image and what people think of them. That’s not my concern, man. I’ve always just been a dude who likes to make music and likes to be creative and likes to come up with different ideas. It’s always been about what sounds funky and what sounds good, not about how I can make myself sound tough, how I get money or how I get all of the girls. Those types of things, you can do all of that, but I mean, there’s something to be said for not running around boasting about that all of the time. To me, think about me based on the music that you hear. Hopefully the people see that I have a diverse range of thoughts that I put down in my music and I think that that will shine through and then anything else that people want to think of me, hopefully the people will meet me and they can judge me based off of that. I talk about that in the title track of my album. Image is not my main priority. I think I’m an all right guy and I’m just like everybody else and I’m just sharing what I know with people.
What are your goals for Absolute Value?
I would like to sell a lot of them. That would be good for Fat Beats. Regardless of the sales, I’m still going to be able to go out and tour. There’s always going to be opportunities for me. As for the music, my goal is to make a project that people will want to enjoy and come out to my shows and bump my CD on their way to work or on their way to a party. For that matter, I’ve gotten a lot of response and it makes me feel like I did that, so really, for me, I’m thinking about the next project now that this one is out.
Is the next project an Akrobatik solo album or a Perceptionists album with your rhyme partner Mr. Lif?
I’m always working on stuff kind of piecemeal, but definitely another Akrobatik is at the top of my priority list, but also I’m going to be hanging out with Lif a lot this year and doing a lot of touring, so I know I’m going to write a lot of Perceptionists stuff too. We’ve been talking about that all week and how we want to strategize it. I think we both have a lot of good ideas and it will be a fun time once we get that rolling. Within the next year, year and a half, I would expect both of those records to come out.
How will the new Perceptionists album compare to the first Perceptionists’ album Black Dialogue?
I just think that we’ve both been through a lot since then, so there’s going to be a lot to talk about on there. Lif is my very best friend and definitely a dude that I can call to talk to about anything and I’m sure he would tell you the same thing about me. I just think that we both have a lot to get off our chest and doing a group project is cool because there is a dialogue. That’s why we called our first album Black Dialogue. It’s not like we’re just dropping verses. We really bounce ideas off each other and try to come like that. It’s really like a team thing. It’s almost like playing tennis by yourself and then you’re playing doubles tennis. It’s a whole different feel. We have to figure out how we can project ourselves as a crew and as a unit. We really are a team. We’re not doing this for business. When we make a record, it’s like a home-cooked meal. I’m just looking forward to putting that together. I’m not sure how it’s going to be different from Black Dialogue because we haven’t selected all of the music yet, but when we get a little closer to putting it out, hopefully we’ll talk again.
The last time we did an interview was in Harrisonburg, Virginia where you were playing NBA Live ’06 with Fakts One. Did you switch to NBA 2K8?
You know I had to switch, man. 2K8 is off the chain. That’s honestly the last game I bought.
Why is 2K8 better than NBA Live?
Everything about it is realistic from the squeak of the floor to the physics of the ball hitting the rim to the crowd. The controls are so smooth and you can really feel like you’re coaching the game as you’re playing. You can set up all different kinds of plays. NBA Live is just a little bit behind in that sense. You can dunk on NBA Live and the rims don’t even move. It’s like an arcade game and not even a good one. I still love my people over at EA Sports. Madden is their crown jewel over there but 2K8 has it, definitely.
If you could make one change in Madden for the new edition, what would it be?
That’s a good question. I didn’t play any next gen Madden this year. I only played it on PS2 because I played it online. It probably wouldn’t be anything too drastic. It’s just such a fun game. Maybe make it not quite so easy to throw a bomb down the sideline over the top. I think that might be a problem. You can set somebody up real easily with a playaction pass. If they have a 99 speed, you can just lob the ball up. It’s pretty hard to stop that. They just have to make the AI on the defensive backs smarter. That should change. And they should do some customizable end zone celebrations where you can do whatever you want after you score.
What’s your reaction to Hank Steinbrenner saying that Red Sox Nation doesn’t exist and is merely a creation of ESPN?
Ha! I read that this morning. That’s crazy. I mean, everything is a marketing tool. He’s probably hating a little bit because they don’t have a cool slogan. It’s all business. Best believe those cats are cool with each other. Those guys, they’re making billions together. It’s all fun and games, man.
Were you one of the Patriots fans that thought New York had a chance to win the Super Bowl?
I definitely thought the Giants were going to get their ass kicked going into the game. The Patriots collapsed, man. They collapsed in Week 16 or so. I felt like they were holding on for dear life towards the end of the season. Tom Brady was hurt and they stopped throwing to Randy Moss. And they relied too much on Laurence Maroney. They were handing him the ball in a lot of uncreative ways. Their gameplan was so bad. They came back and left too much time on the clock. Eli Manning came down and threw the ball away three times and they dropped the ball. If you leave the door open, they’re going to win. They’re all professionals. They left the door open and the Giants walked in. The Patriots definitely gave that away and now it seems that their reaction is to let all their good players go. I’ll be interested to see what next season is like.
If it comes out that Bill Belichick cheated in previous seasons, does that change things for you?
Nah. I feel like Bill Belichick’s been crucified, man. The NFL’s history is now over 40 years deep and this is definitely not the worst thing that’s happened behind closed doors in the league. They’ve already been fined and lost a first round draft pick. If they decide to do more, fine, but it’s not going to do anything for me. The bottom line for me is that I lived through those Super Bowls and I know that those teams were great and those seasons were magical. Any cheating or fiddling with the rules, I just know that it’s not unique to the Patriots. I won’t stand for that and I won’t let anybody tell me that. I just think that somebody snitched on them because they have a dynasty and they were about to go 19-0 and they were about to be the greatest team of all time. When you’re putting up numbers like that, there’s always going to be people that want to knock you down. Always.
Do the Celtics have enough to contend for a title this year?
Yep. They do. They’re 17-1 against the West Coast teams and everybody’s worried about the West Coast teams. They have to worry about the Wizards because for some reason the Wizards match up real well with them. Kevin Garnett is getting older but they have a serious squad and I don’t see why they can’t be in the finals and win it.
What’s the next move for Akrobatik?
I’m really just going to be tightening up my business model, hitting the road and promoting my album. I’m going to go out in April, May and probably mostly June. I’m going to be going over to Europe. I’m going to really try to do as much as I can to make people aware of what I’m doing. It’s out there for the taking. It’s not like the industry is crowded right now with artists that have something to say with a live stage show and a new album out. I’m pretty much obligated to be that dude right now and take that torch all over. I’m going to put out a remix project for Absolute Value too and there’s some other remix projects that are going to come out independently. I’m just going to keep my name out there and stay relevant and just try to grind out as much as I can in the next five years. I’ve been around but I haven’t dropped a whole lot of records. I have to put out at least five before I can feel like I really made a dent and where I feel like people will be talking about me 20 years from now.