"This music ain't all that I got but it does mean a lot to me." Common
At 2:30am on a Friday night in Washington, DC people are usually club or bar hopping in Adams Morgan, heading to the historically famous Ben's Chili Bowl on U Street, or catching a cab or that last metro train home. On this particular night I find myself at Bar Nun on U Street which very quietly is holding some individuals that are maintaining the true essence of hip-hop from the DC, Maryland perspective. On the top floor of this split level lounge I witness actor, artist, W. Ellington Felton spinning as a guest dj mixing everything from the Fugees, the Slum Village, and Roy Ayers. Aware of my surroundings I look up and producer/artist Kev Brown enters the room. The result was a very interesting conversation between the two about hip-hop music and culture, the record companies and their capitalistic stance and what that is doing to the music, family, and finally just having the opportunity for the both of these artists to have a platform to do their music and whether it sells or not the peace of mind of knowing at the end of the day they made and make quality music from the soul and wouldn't have it any other way. We start off first with W. Ellington Felton who Complex magazine has dubbed the funk soul hero.
MVRemix: So how long have you been spinning?
Felton: I've been spinning for about 13 years.
MVRemix: Do you remember your first DJ set?
Felton: Yeah, my first DJ set was in a dorm room at Carnegie Mellon where I went to college and I was just playing in one of my homeboys dorm rooms.
MVRemix: So when did you know you wanted to do music and acting?
Felton: I got into the acting thing when I was in high school I really didn't know what I wanted to do but I wanted to be a revolutionary. I had a teacher named Geralin Gilstrap who told me you know that's not really a profession so you need to choose a profession. So she said check out theater and I checked out theater and I realize that you can use it as a tool and a weapon and I fell in love with it and uh I started getting some scholarships and getting accepted into some real exclusive programs and I met a dude named Shakespeare and that was a wrap and I was like ok Shakespeare this works. Music was my side hustle and also a way to vent and that began to eventually evolve into it's own focus to, because I've always thought of myself as a Paul Robeson or a Sammy Davis Jr.
MVRemix: I read that Prince Paul compared you to Sammy Davis Jr. What does it feel like to have someone compare you to him?
Felton: It has a lot to do with Prince Paul's eyes and ears you know and I think you can see when somebody is really sincere and when someone is really acting like they are sincere and I think that for me it's very clear. I have never hid the reality of my life and the struggle and the drama with my girl, and having a kid, and all that. I've never hid that from my entire career.
MVRemix: So when Complex called you the funk soul hero a while back did you feel any pressure with that statement?
Felton: Well I mean honestly 80% of my stuff that I do is from people dissin me. So when I get compliments I don't even really notice it in that sense because that's something I ‘m not used to, I'm used to motherfuckers dissin my shit and I use that as my motivation and that lets me know that I'm on track.
MVRemix: So you have this new album coming out?
Felton: Right, it's called Outrospective Me there Me Now and basically its like the joints that people over the years have told me they like with a couple of new joints and its like how I wanted to introduce myself to the world.
MVRemix: Who do you have on production?
Felton: Production wise my man K. Allen, Kev Brown, K. Murdock, Miles Bonnie is on there my homeboy Supreme he did the single which is called Funky Feelin aka You so Funky and he's from Birmingham, Alabama. It's all over the place in terms of production but its definitely a good joint and a great opportunity.
MVRemix: So Kev Brown came out with his album, Kenn Starr just came out with his and now you. Do you feel like there is an upcoming DC, Maryland movement?
Felton: To be honest with you I really don't even think about that kind of stuff. I just try to think about getting my message out there and try to influence people in a different way, which they may not be getting from other brothers out there that are doing entertainment or doing art for a living you know.
MVRemix: Where do you feel like hip-hop should be because I think a lot of people ask what do you feel about the state of it, where do you think it should be?
Felton: Hip-hop should be at a place where it's able to evolve and stop being in a place where it's in these little pockets and donuts of routine and habit. I also feel like hip-hop needs to be a little but more critical towards itself and needs to look in the mirror at itself and have a lot of Socratic moments and learn how to examine itself.
Mvremnix.com: So on this album what are you talking about?
Felton: I'm talking about growing pains.
MVRemix: What do you want your career to have said when it's all said and done?
Felton: Basically when it's all said and done, that I have contributed to mankind and to the better meant and the constant challenge for people to challenge themselves and seek individuality for a greater cause. You know what I'm saying, like seek individuality for a collective purpose and that's all. I'm not trying to be like known as the cool dude and I really want to influence people's minds and eat off of that and make a living. I wanna make a living not break a living. I wanna be able to feed myself and feed people. It's kind of like taking my art and it's a sandwich and one half is for you and the other is for me and that's it.