Black Elephant come together?
We were working with our manager Geraud for a compilation for the University
of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He had found multiple artists and we were all
doing our individual thing at the time. We heard each other and we loved
what each other was on. We started doing songs together, and one day we
decided that we should just Voltron and form. It's been great ever since.
like you have great chemistry.
try to. We work at it, especially because we have a full band that goes
with us. We practice every week. Before we even did our first CD, we understood
that we had to have that. We did shows for two years before we recorded
a song. We did it the old school way. We hyped up the crowd and did all
that and then we started recording.
is obsolete in 2006.
That's a problem. I'm an old school advocate. I came up on Rakim and cats
like that, like Cube, Kool G. Rap, where back then you had to be able
to rock a show. Everything else was secondary. No matter how cold you
could spit, if you couldn't get on stage, nobody cared what you were doing.
That's our philosophy. The show is more important than the CD. That's
how people get close to you and then they want to go tell somebody else
and they want to go tell somebody else.
Now we're going back to the days where artists have a real street presence.
They're selling a few thousand out of their trunk and the labels are coming.
They're entertaining first because they know if they do that, it will
be more successful. Labels just want to put the album out, shoot a colorful
video, and people will go out and buy the album before the artist has
even hit the road. If you do the shows, the streets are waiting for you
to drop something. It makes more sense to do it that way.
rocking the shows help your song-making process?
makes our music more musical because we have a band, we hear the sounds
straight from the guitar, straight from the bass, straight from the keyboard,
so when we go in to record, we know how we want it to sound. We don't
want a lot of artificial sounds. A lot of times, we'll get tracks that
sound empty, so we'll put our guys on there to fill in the gaps to bring
that feel to it.
a studio session with Black Elephant like?
Normally, producers submit tracks and we'll filter through the tracks.
There might be four tracks or one track that somebody's feeling. Sometimes
only one of us feels a track. We support each other in the studio. If
we want to take something out of a song and add a live bassline or something,
we do it. We don't worry about the consequences. We have to be loyal to
ourselves first and the fans come back because they know we're going to
be loyal to them and make quality music. Dameon usually comes up with
his ideas first and most of the time we just back each other on the concepts
and what we want to do on the songs. We treat each song as its own individual
track. We don't compare our songs to each other or to anyone elses'.
independent artists, we already know what we're going to do before we
go to the studio. Everybody would sit around the table at my house. Geraud
would play the beat and we'd see who likes it. When we get to the studio,
we go on trust. We already know each other's verses by heart. I know how
she wants to say her verse and she knows how I want to say my verse. We
don't have that fear of criticism because I know when she's telling me
something, she's telling me something because it benefits all of us. It's
not like I feel hurt. If we tell the engineer something, we're not trying
to be assholes. We're trying to be the best and if you want to be the
best, you have to be critical and take out all the errors. If you see
something flawed, then when the CD or song comes out, you're going to
have the fans been responding to your music thus far?
It's been great. It's been a constant evolution of the group. We have
very, very loyal fans. Some songs are more underground, some songs are
more commercial, and some songs are more political, and they ride with
us no matter what. I heard somebody say being underground is like having
a girlfriend, they want you as long as you're underground. If they feel
like you're straying to the mainstream, they think you're selling out.
It's not like that with us. It's amazing. They stick by us. We have Outkast-type
of fans. Most fans want you sounding a certain way all the time, but our
fans don't want that.
have thinking-type fans. We don't give our fans dumbed-down or watered-down
music. When they hear us, they want us to be successful. When they see
us on a cover of a magazine, they go look for it. They want us to be successful.
It's the exact opposite of how it usually is, like the example she gave.
We really are down-to-earth. When we say we're going through the struggle,
we really are. They just had a big march here for a guy that got whooped
up by the police. Both of us were integral parts of the march. I helped
plan it. We all get involved in the community, so when people see that,
they want to help. It's not like we're fronting with what we're doing.
We were marching right next to our fans. They know when we talk about
it, that we be about it. That makes them respect you a lot more and they
ride with you a lot longer.
you describe the Milwaukee scene?
It's popular when you think of Jeffrey Dahmer, Arrested Development, and
Eric Benet. Milwaukee is like any other city. We have our racial issues
which are more dominant at the moment. We have our political issues. We
have everything, but we're not Chicago or Detroit so we get looked over.
Our goal is to make Milwaukee a city where they can come and look for
talent. There is so much talent out here. We want to be to Milwaukee what
Nelly and the St. Lunatics were to St. Louis. This city is rich with talent.
your plans to get heard outside of Milwaukee?
do shows all over. We do a lot of talent shows and we do shows all over
the Midwest, Down South, and we've been out East a couple of times. When
we go outside of Milwaukee, our main goal is to represent the city because
it's the people's first time hearing the live sound from Milwaukee. When
we leave and we're sweaty and they're sweaty, they come up to us like
"Y'all did your thing." They didn't know Milwaukee could do
it like that. There's a lot of that type of talent here in Milwaukee.
Before, what was holding us back, was we didn't have the access to the
major industry players. There's a lot of people from Milwaukee that are
in the industry, but they're not in Milwaukee. You can't reach out and
touch them. We want to be the first ones to kick down the door and change
any lopsided thoughts people have about us. That's what keeps us hungry.
Even though people in Chicago or anywhere else might know about us, it's
still that lack of respect that keeps us hungry. That keeps everybody
hungry in the city trying to get it.
I was telling you about MySpace. That's promotion that you can't get anywhere
else. The internet is so great right now. I can talk to somebody in New
York and they can introduce my music to 500 of their friends. That's promotion
that you can't get anywhere else. The online magazines are going to be
huge because more people will pass our names around. We only have certain
money to tour and for hotel rooms, so the magazines have been great for
the group. We've been getting a lot of articles and this is a great way
to branch out.
you guys working on now?
We're making new music. It's interesting. When the summer comes up, it
just makes you hungry to make new music. That's where we are right now.
We're making new music. If an album comes of it, maybe it'll be on a major
label or we'll sell it hand-to-hand. We don't want anything to stand for
too long. As a group, you have to keep the music coming because that's
all that matters at the end of the day.
your inspiration for "The Joint"?
Joint" was one of those times when I stole the beat. I got the beat
first and I had this idea that was bouncing around in my head already.
All of our songs have a certain feel to them. At the same time, we're
talking about "We want you to act like everything in your life is
all right." We want you to get away from everything else in the world
and let the feeling you get from us in the next four minutes be a feeling
that you can extend past these four minutes. At that time, we were going
through so much in this city that I felt we just had to do something.
We needed a break. That's how the concept came about. They were loving
how we were flipping it. If you listen to the lyrics, we're talking about
some real shit. I love it. I'm glad you like that song too, man.
you guys look for in beats?
It's interesting because we all hear different things. When I hear a track,
I know within the first five or ten seconds if I like it. If I hear a
crazy club banger, that's all I need to hear. I already have the idea
of the song in my head. We look for different things at different times.
When it comes to a story track, I really need something that will pull
a verse out of me. The music has to be inspirational and it has to perfectly
relate to what I'm trying to say. If track one doesn't do it, move on
to track two, and so on. I'm one of those people that know right away
if I want to work with a track.
comparisons to Slum Village or the Roots bother you?
I love those groups.
love them. The Roots are at the forefront of this live band, Hip Hop-type
of stuff. they've started something that's grown. They push the envelope.
We do it differently. You just have to see us. It's Hip Hop, you can't
just do what everyone else is doing. We really try to be different with
what we're doing. We love when people compare us to those artists because
they're the ones. Rest in Peace to Jay Dee. Slum Village, they're the
We've heard them all, Slum Village, the Roots, the Fugees, Little Brother,
Kanye, even Outkast. It's great to hear your name amongst some of the
masters. There is no greater compliment to me.
have any plans to go solo?
We write individually on the side, but I love Black Elephant. That's my
thing. If we wanted to be solo artists, I think we would be extremely
successful, but Black Elephant is where my heart is.
Like she said, we were solo artists. We may take the same concept and
flip it a different way. That comes from us being apart from each other
before we came together. Cats give me beats when I'm down in Atlanta with
Mr. Ripley, and I can write fifteen songs with no plans of recording them.
It's like shooting 500 jumpers in the park. Sometimes those songs lead
to a concept for a Black Elephant song.
We work with other people and we do features for other people's projects,
but at the end of the day, there's nothing better than coming home. We
can do features for days and do what we do, but Black Elephant is where
it's at and Black Elephant is what people need to hear. That's why we
work so hard.
We have a huge summer coming up. We have a lot of shows we're trying to
do at home. We're trying to go East. We have a few things going on with
showcases throughout the country, and we'll be in the studio. We're new
and improved, and this summer is the time to showcase that and show it
off. We're just getting ready for the marathon that is this summer.
think we're ready, like Stephon Marbury said, for "that next level."
We're ready to go to the next spot. When we first came in to the game,
we said we were going to take over the city. We did that. People love
us here. All right, we're going to do the state. They love us in the state.
Then we're going to do the region. Now with HipHopGame and other things,
we're starting to get that national buzz. Once you hear us, you've got
to love us.
you want to say to everyone?
Make sure you support good music and don't be afraid to branch out and
don't be afraid to listen to something that you might not ordinarily listen
to. Check out BlackElephant.com and show us love so we can continue to
do what we do. Give us that strength to keep pushing on.
sure you support the music you like. Don't support something because they
don't play it on the radio. I know other places in the country are the
same way where radio stations don't play what the people want to hear.
Until we stand up for that, it won't change. We need to really take control
of our music that came from the streets and take it back right. It ain't
wrong, but it can be better. That's Black Elephant's goal. We really want
to bring it someplace. I know a lot of people say that, but that's what
we really want to do. And shout out to the city of Milwaukee, all day