Philadelphia’s Baby Blak has traveled a long road and many people do not even have a clue. Although many people may know him from his incredible and memorable performance on “For The Love Of The Game” (from DJ Jazzy Jeff’s “The Magnificent” album), Baby Blak has been rocking mics for years in the group Ill Advised. His exposure on “The Magnificent” LP gave him a whole new level of success. He was also on the songs “Worldwide”, “Travels”, and “Da Nitro” from “The Magnificent” LP.
BBE and Rapster Records (known for their Beat Generation series) decided to support Baby Blak and put out his debut solo LP “Once You Go Blak”.
Mixed by DJ Revolution, “Once You Go Blak” has intelligent rhymes and hungry beats by Blak’s close circle. Production is handled by DJ Revolution, Soul Supreme, Rob Dinero, Street Orchestra, P-Smoova, Sat 1, Joey Chavez and DJ Jayski. Guests include Obie Trice, Planet Asia, Mr. Lish, Lady Alma and more.
While the commercial hip-hop world glamorizes diamonds, Baby Blak has a heartfelt and serious song about the suffering that is endured due to this love for diamonds in “Diamonds”. Other incredible songs include “No Coast All-stars” (featuring Obie Trice & Planet Asia), “Economix”, “Starvin Artist”, and “Taster’s Choice”. Baby Blak has come full circle and has creative control on an independent label. What more can an artist ask for? On a cold evening in early 2004, I had a conversation with the emcee. Witness the power of the rhyme. Put your fist in the air and shout “Blak power!”
MVRemix: Your new album is called ‘Once You Go Blak’ Tell us about it? Who’s producing it? Who is on it?
Baby Blak: On production, I have DJ Revolution, Street Orchestra, DJ Jayski, Joey Chavez, Sat 1, P-Smoova, Kev Brown, Soul Supreme, and Rob Dinero. Basically, it’s just family, like an internal unit. They are just people I have been doing records with for a long time. I have Obie Trice, Planet Asia, Lady Alma, Mr. Lish, and more. I stayed away from the big names because I wanted to do something with my unit. I have faith in them and they know what I like the most. There’s a good chemistry between us.
MVRemix: What is the meaning behind the title?
Baby Blak: It’s just a play on my name. Basically, if you give the music, Baby Blak, a chance, I’m sure you won’t go back to what you’re used to. It has a double meaning.
MVRemix: Do you have a favorite song on ‘Once You Go Blak’?
Baby Blak: Nah. I call it attitude music because I can relate to it. It’s a personal record. I love whatever song comes on at the moment.
MVRemix: How and why did you get involved with Rapster and BBE?
Baby Blak: Actually, it was through Jazzy Jeff’s ‘The Magnificent’ project. We were in South Beach, Miami and I was talking to Pete. I told Pete that I was working on my album and he told me to send him the masters. They heard my music on the Jazzy Jeff project so they knew my music. They gave me the green light and creative control. They had distribution. It was a good business venture. I like and I’m used to being on independent record labels. It was a perfect opportunity for me.
MVRemix: How did you get the name Baby Blak? What does it mean?
Baby Blak: Blak was an acronym that means ‘Born Love Allah’s Kingdom’. I’ve been to many places and I experienced a lot of things. Music connects people of all different nationalities and races to one vibe, one culture, one understanding. It’s just me bringing people together in music. No matter what kind of person you are or where you are in the world, we have similarities in some kind of way.
MVRemix: You started out in a group called Ill Advised. What happened to them? Is the group still together?
Baby Blak: Yes. I’m still with them. What happened was that there was some legal things going on with my partner and he had to step down for a minute. We couldn’t stop the rock & roll so I took the project on my back. Actually, the Ill Advised project is coming out on BBE.
MVRemix: How did Ill Advised come together?
Baby Blak: We were born next door neighbors. He’s a brother from another mother. We grew up together, doing the same thing. We just had and still have this massive chemistry. We’ve known each other for a while.
MVRemix: How did you hook up with DJ Revolution?
Baby Blak: When he played the Ill Advised single on the Wake-Up Show, we hooked up. We started talking to him and networked. His production was great. We started working together.
MVRemix: Do you go into the studio with pre-written rhymes and themes or do you hear the beat first and write then and there?
Baby Blak: I hear the music first because I try to vibe from the music and create a picture and make the lyrics fit to the track.
MVRemix: Does it take a long time to make the songs or do the songs come together real quick?
Baby Blak: I write between a 1/2 hour to an hour. It depends on the vibe. In my head, I hear the track. If I get a certain concept or if I know what I want to say or if it is a battle rhyme or something witty, it could take from ˝ hour to an hour. I was an English major and I took English seriously at college prep schools. I was always into the words. It is not hard to put the words together, especially if I’m feeling the tracks. If I can vibe to the music, the rest comes pretty quickly.
MVRemix: I was an English major too! I graduated from Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ with a BA in English Education.
Baby Blak: Word! Alright! I like Rutgers. That’s a cool school. I’ve been up there a couple of times.
MVRemix: You collaborated with Obie Trice. How did you hook up with him and what was it like working with him?
Baby Blak: I met him when we were trying to do a song with somebody from California in Detroit. It was like a week before he signed with Eminem’s Shady Records. He was releasing independent records. He said that we should do a song together. I could really feel where he was coming from. He was another dude, from another state, going through the same things that I was going through. We did the song before he signed with Shady. It was cool to watch him grow. He grew from mix tapes to the deal and then, selling records.
MVRemix: What emcee/group would you like to collaborate with in the future?
Baby Blak: Talib Kweli, Dead Prez, Pharoahe Monch, and Ras Kass.
MVRemix: What producer would you like to collaborate with in the future?
Baby Blak: I don’t know. I like the sound that my family gives me. It’s something different. The stuff that I am used to is like a signature sound. I would do something with Alchemist or Evidence of Dilated Peoples if I stepped outside the circle.
MVRemix: Can you expand on the song ‘Diamonds’?
Baby Blak: Basically, that song is about anybody who advocates or glamorizes diamonds. They really don’t know the true facts on how they accumulate the diamonds or the civil war going on in South Africa. People don’t have clean water or a good food supply. They fight over land. They have coalmines and people’s hands are amputated. They die. People fight over the diamonds that we glamorize and use as a status symbol. I’m not really feeling that. That’s just my personal opinion. Austrian diamonds are cool but all the war and genocide from other countries is something that I cannot advocate.
MVRemix: You were on a couple of songs from Jazzy Jeff’s ‘The Magnificent’ album. How did you get involved with it? What was the project like?
Baby Blak: I knew Jeff about 6 years before we worked together. We never had a project to work on. We were musically different but we always checked out each other’s music and hung out in the studio. I’ve known him and he’s a good dude. We got the BBE situation and he asked if I wanted to work with him on an independent project where we could do whatever we wanted. We just linked up and cut like 14 songs in 2 weeks. We used 4 of them and there will be couple used for his next project and a couple used for my next project. Jeff is cool. He’s from West Philly. He’s more experienced. He’s like a big brother.
MVRemix: Why didn’t Jazzy Jeff produce any songs on ‘Once You Go Blak’?
Baby Blak: Because he did the songs with me for his project. Jazzy Jeff is into the neo-soul thing right now. He has like 11 or 12 producers in his camp, Touch Of Jazz. He was doing something with Jill Scott, Floetry, and Michael Jackson at the time. The next album, we will do ‘Brand Of Funk’ over.
MVRemix: Soul Supreme is a well respected up and coming producer. He produced the critically acclaimed ‘Saturday Nite Agenda’. How did you get involved with him and what was it like working with him?
Baby Blak: I met him through DJ Revolution. He was 17 and he had the beats. When I heard it, the beats exceeded my expectations. He emailed the track and I did the vocals. It was cool, man. I talked to him on the phone a couple of times. He’s good dude but I haven’t had the chance to actually meet him yet in person. We did a song together but we never met face to face yet. Technology is crazy.
MVRemix: DJ Revolution produced most of the album ‘Once You Go Blak’ but there are other producers on the album like Joey Chavez, Rob Dinero, and Kev Brown. How is DJ Revolution different from the other producers you worked with on the album?
Baby Blak: DJ Revolution is more in tuned with the science of the tracks and the overall cinematic quality of the songs. He knows the parameters and special effects of the tracks. He is more critical on a mechanical point of view. It is not just about the art of the music and the love of the track. He is also scientific with the sonic attributes of the song. That is definitely a distinction Rev has.
MVRemix: How old were you when you first started rhyming and what made you get into hip-hop for a living?
Baby Blak: I started at 14. I was an only child and my mother tried to keep me out of trouble and keep me out of the streets. I tried to DJ and had a set-up but I couldn’t DJ that good. I tried to write graffiti. I could do it on paper but I couldn’t get it on the walls that good. I tried break-dancing and I broke my foot. So, I was like, let me take a crack at rhyming and I won’t get hurt. That’s how it happened. To this day, I still try to scribble a piece and make it come out like it is 1985. I try to do a couple of moves of breaking but I never kept up with it like karate. I stick to rhyming.
MVRemix: What was the last incident of racism that you experienced?
Baby Blak: I hosted a party on Wednesday and all of the Black people were on one side of the room and all of the white people were on the other side of the room. It was a club that didn’t really cater to hip-hop. The dude that had it was told not to have it there. They don’t really like hip-hop there. They weren’t openly racist there but you could feel the tension.
MVRemix: What was it like growing up in Philadelphia?
Baby Blak: It is pretty liberated. Artistically, there are many artists. Everybody has a big ego and everybody wants to be the best. We don’t give many people respect. That made me hungrier and more of a technician to my craft. It made me really try to shine. With competition and battling, you really have to have skills to stand apart. To please the crowd and the industry and day to day life, it’s cool.
MVRemix: Where were you on Sept. 11th terrorist attack? How did you deal with it? How do you think it has affected or will affect hip-hop?
Baby Blak: I was in California then. There was a rumor that they would do it to the FBI building. That was 2 blocks down from where I was. There was going to be another plane crash in L.A. so they blocked off the buildings and the airport. The panic hit the West Coast too. I got stuck there for 2 weeks. I couldn’t catch a train or a plane. It was crazy because there was so much pandemonium. They really thought it was going to hit California.
MVRemix: If you could remake any classic hip-hop song. What song would it be? How would you approach the remake?
Baby Blak: It would either be A Tribe Called Quest’s ‘Scenario’ remix or ‘No Vaseline’.
MVRemix: What do you think hip-hop needs these days? What is it lacking?
Baby Blak: Balance. There’s also too much negativity. If you do everything one-sided, it is not going to be right. That goes for your life too. Everybody is killing. Try to give a 360 degrees interpretation of things instead of just a one-sided or biased view. There’s too much of a monetary or jiggy theme. There’s so much more to talk about.
MVRemix: What is your all-time favorite collaboration?
Baby Blak: I would say ‘What I Need’ with Krs-One.
MVRemix: What LP or CD has been on your turntable or in your CD player recently?
Baby Blak: The Last Emperor, Jedi Mind Tricks, Talib Kweli’s ‘Quality’, ‘Illadelph Halflife’ by The Roots, and ‘Cheers’ by Obie Trice.
MVRemix: Word association time. I’m going to say a name of a group/emcee and you say the first word that pops in your head. So, if I say ‘Chuck D’, you may say ‘Revolution’. If I said ‘Flavor Flav’, you may say ‘Crack’ Okay?
MVRemix: You collaborated with The Last Emperor. How did you hook up with him and what was it like working with him?
Baby Blak: Emp lives 5 blocks up from me. He’s dope to me. We’ve been cool for a long time. I love working with him. I like his stuff. He’s like a homey for real.
MVRemix: What are some major misconceptions that you think people have of you?
Baby Blak: They try to label me as a thug, which I am not. That’s insulting. It’s like a low level on the criminal totem poll. Give me racketeering at least. Don’t call me a thug, call me a pirate. With the name ‘Blak’, some people think that I am so pro-Black or I am anti-Semitic or racist and I am not. Those are the 2 most common. I am street and I am hip-hop but some people think that I am too street. Any song I do is going to be graphic but also insightful.
MVRemix: What is your favorite part of your live show? How has it evolved?
Baby Blak: When the DJ is cutting and we got beat boxing going. We get hands out of pockets and people coming up front for freestyle. We rock with the crowd. Call and response. They say some word and we deal with the word. It’s spontaneous. The DJ intermission too.
MVRemix: What is the biggest mistake you made in your career?
Baby Blak: Not buying a studio with the money I was making before. I could have did it a long time ago. I should have did it. I should have gotten a studio.
MVRemix: What do you want on your epitaph (your gravestone)?
Baby Blak: He was a man for the common people, the everyday person, people who are struggling and who are keeping their jobs. Not the rich or well off. He was a voice for the common man.
MVRemix: What are some future collaborations that we should look out for?
Baby Blak: We’re going to do a song with Black Thought or The Roots. We’re going to do a ‘Once You Go Blak’ remix with Black Twain from London. You’ll hear about him. He’s going to be big. He’s incredible with it. I’m supposed to do something with Pete Rock and his ‘Soul Survivor Part II’ album. We’re working on a new Ill Advised album for Spring 2004.
MVRemix: Any final words for the people who will be reading this?
Baby Blak: Check out the album ‘Once You Go Blak’. The energy! There’s something on the album that you’ll like! You may even learn something to ponder on. Sometimes it is not just about what the artist is saying as a person or the artist’s point of view, it’s about the clarity of the words and the way the words are put together. It is articulation. Sometimes you have to be open-minded. The battle records are now really egotistical and vein. It’s a sport. Emcees relate to each other skill-wise. Show your craft! Enjoy the album! Watch me grow as an artist.