Defari conducted by General Baker  

Defari Interview

August 2006

Author's Preface

How would you feel if after doing a 20-minute interview with an artist, you sat down to transcribe it and wound up erasing it from your recorder? And even still, you had to call the artist back and tell him that your dumb ass lost it and ask if he wants to do it again. Obviously more of a rhetorical question, isn't it? I ask this of you because it happened to me after my interview with Defari. Talk about wanting to break some shit.

I've been a fan of Defari since his first album Focused Daily, which only made the call back worse. Lucky for me, he was forgiving enough to do it again. But there is absolutely no way you can pose the same questions and have the artist recapture the moment you had originally -- you just can't. I was, however, able to attain the bulk of the conversation again by re-asking the questions in more of a specific fashion. What resulted was, in some ways, better than the original.


It is not a part of the popular logic today to see material circumstances (events, movements, etc.) as a principle determinant Defari Herut interviewof our ideas and values. Rather, we like to see our ideas as operating within some kind of mystical vacuum and with no indicator as to where or how that the ideas that define a particular era, say, the hip-hop of the late '80s and early '90s, are born.

Hailing from Los Angeles, CA, Defari did not have a commercial release until 1995, yet his ideas are unmistakably a product of that era. In fact, he was a student at Cal during the period of the anti-apartheid/black "consciousness" movement. While not a technological conservative a la Obie Trice, he sees that period in hip-hop as more advanced than our current form, yet isn't exactly sure why that hip-hop took on the kind of politics it did, even though he was a participant within the political milieu which set it in motion.

One cannot fail to see that this music was the direct result of the movement of black students in America who were organizing to end apartheid and all forms of colonial oppression in Africa. Yet conservatives who champion this black pluralist hip-hop do so for the same reason that they dismiss Hyphy, for its external forms; the medallions, the high top fades, dashikis, and other cultural nationalist preoccupations.

The content, however, though it is independently valid, in reality failed to yield a cohesive set of politics that could change the way black folks relate to society and this is partly because they were not able to reconcile their internal conflicts. Why is it then that we want so badly to return to an era that acquiesced in the face of these conflicts?

Maybe because we fail again to see what the possibilities of today's hip-hop has to offer.

MVRemix: When we talked you said that you got down with the Likwit crew in '95 with the single "Big Up". Since then are you where you want to be as a hip-hop artist in terms of sales, respect, what not, or did you ever think you would have the amount of fans that you do now?

Defari: Man, I feel really blessed to have accomplished what I accomplished, you know? But I think all artists, we want more sales. Any artist who says that they don't, is probably like -- even 50 would say he want more sales. But yeah, I just feel really blessed to have done what I've done, man; been around the world nine times and I'm on my third album now and I just feel really blessed to still be in the game, you know? Yeah that.

MVRemix: The new album that just came out a couple of days ago is Street Music. What are your prospects for it and how does it compare with the last album? I know you said it's more of a bass-heavy album. Was it your idea from the beginning to direct it more towards that feel?

Defari: Well what it is, I took it back to my first album which is what the fans wanted me to do and I just turned it up times fifty. So I took it back to Focused Daily with the connections with Alchemist and Evidence and E-Swift. I got a new chairman of the boards on this record with Mike City and Superstar Quam-Allah. This record is real over-the-top, man, it's just strictly to bang out in. A lot of people who've heard it, they really love it. They say it's solid all the way through.

MVRemix: Now I know you've known E-Swift for quite a long time. How did y'all meet?

Defari: Well we had a mutual friend by the name of Dontrell and we met when we did "Big Up" on that Next Chapter compilation. Basically, Dontrell had made it happen, where we could do the song, so we had a little budget. And then we broke bread and both went and bought a bottle; got a half of the dojee and history is written from there.

MVRemix: When you worked with Dre on "L.A. Niggaz" you said that it was sort of a Likwit crew-dominated song...

Defari: Yeah when I came in and heard it, it was 'cause King Tee was on it, Xzibit was on it.

MVRemix: Did Dre emphasize this intentionally or did it just kinda go down that way?

Defari: Nah, I think it just happened organically that way. I don't even think X and King Tee, they didn't even aim for that.

MVRemix: Did Dre ask you personally to be on the song?

Defari: Nah what happened was everybody was starting they verse off with a old L.A. verse. Some of the guys used Ice Cube, some of the cats used Toddy Tee, Above the Law, etc., so I used Ice-T, you know what I mean? I just flipped "Six in the Morning". I said the eight bars and Dre was like, "Say that again." So I spit it again and he was like, "You wanna get in the booth?" I was like, "Shit, Kobe want the ball?" [laughs] Really, everybody had a 16 [bars] on there so I was trying to get 12. While I was thinking of four more bars Dre was listening back to it. He was like, "Nah, I think I'm good." You know, when the Doc says it's good, it's good. I didn't really think the record was gonna make the album, but then I saw my name on the fliers and the magazine ads and all that.

MVRemix: What was it like working with such a legendary producer?

Defari: Probably the biggest moment in my hip-hop career. There's different "big moments" for different things. Like, if you asked me my biggest moment performing, it would be a different answer, you know?

MVRemix: When we spoke before you said that when you attended college it was around the time of the black student movement...

Defari: Well, yeah, I mean around the time that hip-hop was black; knowledge of self, black medallions, X-Clan, Public Enemy...

>> continued...

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