Back in January, I got the chance to speak with Houston noise rapper B L A C K I E for True Laurels Volume 2 to discuss his album Fuck The False and what drives his artistry. Tonight he'll be performing at KAHLON—curated by Abdu Ali and True Laurels—and is sure to give the people in attendance an experience unlike any they've ever had. Check out the interview and if you're in Baltimore get your asses to The Crown (1910 N. Charles St, 21201) tonight!
January 25, 2014
TRUE LAURELS: People like you, Cities Aviv & Antwon often get categorized as noise/punk rappers. Do you identify with punk-rap being a sub-genre or do you not view it as such?
BLACKIE: I get why people say it. It’s cool but as I get older and learn more, I started to look at it differently. We’re all black artists and we’re making black art. Noise, whatever. Punk, whatever. I got a lot of influences. No need to single them all out.
ONLY 4 THE REAL has some flashes of feminism. “Girls in the Front” is all about women in the pit and on “ I Have Become Her” you say “I want to be a girl. I wanna see what she sees”. Do you make it a point to be empowering to women and/or do you feel like that kind of uplifting is needed?
Definitely. I got an older sister and I learned a lot about feminism from her. If you really get into it, feminists want equality for everybody. All genders, all races, white, gay, everything. So if you really want freedom for everything, you gotta support feminism.
Do you have any aspirations of being a big artist?
When I was younger, hell yeah. I wanted to be on Warped Tour and everything. I wanted to be on Rap City. I’ve toured a lot and I don’t wanna jinx myself but, I’m not gonna play in no fuckin’ stadium. Something that happens, is that, I'll go to a city like eight times and play in front of 50 people but each of those eight times, it’ll be 30 news faces. It’s almost like a peep show.
How important is it to you to be independent and do your own shit? Because you make beats, you perform, do vocals, play shows and make merch all on your own.
When I started, it was really nobody I could trust that wanted to help me do this shit. I had to do it. Random dudes would offer help but I’m kinda antisocial. I could’ve paid someone to do it but I was like “I got a couple hundred bucks, so fuck it”. Plus I’m from Houston; Rap-A-Lot and a bunch of other southern dudes—all that shit was mostly independent.
That was gonna be my next talking point: It seems like Houston in and of itself is an independent place and really alternative because they said “fuck the mainstream, we’ll sell these tapes out of our trunks.”
Yeah man, just Texas culture as a whole is just a cowboy-ass state. We don’t ride horses and shit now but that mentality is still there. It’s normal to see pickup trucks with “Secede From The Union” stickers. People want this to be its own country. That mentality is still prevalent. I ain’t a redneck or nothin’ but I still rock my boots all the time on some John Wayne shit.
I read an interview with Slim Thug a long time ago when I was a teenager. He said he could sell 50,000-100,000 CD’s in Texas alone, and still make most of the profit from the mixtapes. If you can generate that kinda cash on your own then why even venture out? Look at what Beyonce just did. I mean, she’s like the biggest popstar in the fuckin’ world but that was modeled off of the DIY culture of southern rap. Like BOOM. And she’s from Houston.
Being from Baltimore, my knowledge of Houston is mostly centered around Screw music and the culture that comes with it but people like you and Fat Tony trump that. What are the other poppin’ elements of Houston’s music?
Houston has a really big noise scene. Historic, but still really underground. I’m heavily influenced by that, Screw, Three 6 Mafia, New Orleans-style, you know? Just trying to be different. What’s cool about Houston, which is kinda like stories I’ve heard about Atlanta, is that you can be at a bar and look over and Bun B will be there. It’s like you wanna go over and ask for an autograph but they’re so damn cool that you just end up talking to them. Everybody’s chill here. I saw Bun and he was just giving me advice on what to watch out for as far as record deals and labels. I thought I was gonna be scared to talk to him but he was walking around with this weird polaroid camera taking pictures of everybody and handing them out, smiling. Haha, it was cool.
In “B L A C K I E...Is A Wasteland” you mentioned hardcore-wannabes. Being agro and alternative does seem to be a weird trend. Were you touching on that and are you talking about specific people when you mention biters?
Yeah, man that was just me talking a little bit of shit because I hadn’t up to that point. I would talk to my family about it like “Man, these fuckin’ people coming up. They kinda sound like me. They tryna look like me. Biting off me.” My mom was like “Don’t let them do that baby. You gotta let them know!” Haha. So I was like I’m not gonna mention anybody. But I thought back on it and thought let me throw a couple jabs on these fools. Since 2010, my friends, homies or whoever have come up to me like "YO! SO AND SO IS BITING YOU BLACK" and every year it’s a different person and every year I’m still slugging it out on the underground tip keeping it real.But it’s not a big deal. It’s all good.
That same song is like a really dynamic soliloquy. Is there a poetic approach to what you do? It is very complex and it evokes emotion.
Yeah, dude. With ONLY 4 THE REAL, I took a lot of the vocals that I had laid down in one night. There was this British producer that died named Muslimgauze who put out an EP that was just these harrrd like Middle Eastern kind of beats and I had rapped over all that. I stayed up all night in the garage going from like 9 p.m to 4 a.m., sipping whiskey and energy drinks just coming off the dome. I had shit that I had written and when I blazed through that, I started freestyling and knocked all that out. I spit “B L A C K I E...Is A Wasteland” in one take. I would drop a written line then freestyle the next. In my mind I was thinking about The Last Poets and how they laid their shit down. That’s really what I’m on right now. I don’t know if it’s because I just combed my afro out or what.
Describe the atmosphere you aim to create at your shows.
It’s hard to tell, man. It depends on the night. When it’s in Houston, or anywhere in Texas, I like that shit to be stupid. I like to see people bleeding. But it’s not always like that. If the crowd is thin and I can tell people not gonna be jumping around on some agro shit, I just try to make up for it myself and get as naked as possible. Just like sweat everywhere and leave the whole place wet. I haul a lot of equipment because I like to be as loud as possible.
What’s the most vital element to your music?
I like simplicity. Power through simplicity. I used to drink a ton of coffee and talk about this with a friend. We talked about tools like screwdrivers. A screwdriver projects authority through its simplicity and it only has a few functions. You can use it as a hammer, as a pry bar, as a weapon, you can write with it if you scratch on something. But it’s really the most simple tool. I’m recording a lot now and I add all these instruments but then I’ll take a nap, wake up, get an idea and I’m like “Man, fuck all them notes”. I’ll try to take it down to two notes and simplify it down. So when it hits you, it’s no question. When you see a screwdriver, there’s no question. See a hammer, it’s no question. But if you get on a computer, it’s like a million apps. That’s only one way of looking at it, but that’s why I don’t fuck with it; it’s too much shit to do on it. I’ll start out reading the news then it’s like “oh shit, I’m watching porn again.” When I pick up a hammer, I’m just gonna hit something. That’s what I want my songs to be like.