Some emcees are deep rooted in hip-hop culture. Hip-hop is apart of them and in turn, they are apart of hip-hop. They grow with it and at the same time, make it grow. Iomos Marad is one of those emcees who is deep rooted in hip-hop culture. Iomos Marad is a member of Chicago’s Family Tree and the All Natural Hip-Hop label, owned and founded by Capital D of the group All Natural. While Iomos Marad rocked some stellar verses on the Family Tree compilation album “Tree House Rock”, there was never much light on him.
In 2003, All Natural released the debut solo album by Iomos Marad titled “Deep Rooted”. It is an intelligent hip-hop album that expresses his love for hip-hop, life, afro centricity, Chicago, and music itself. Many people compare him to other conscious emcees like Talib Kweli and Mos Def. Like those conscious emcees, Iomos is taking responsibility for his art and puts positive messages in his music. With thick, melodic, and jazzy beats from Capital D, The Molemen, and Dug Infinite (known for his production work on Common’s “Resurrection” & “One Day It’ll All Make Sense”). “Deep Rooted” is filled with excellent beats and production. There is not one wack beat on the entire album.
For a newcomer out of Chicago, his debut album has some incredible guest appearances too. Guests include J-Live, Capital D, Tanya Reed, Zzaje, and Bamski The Bigot. “Deep Rooted” is both a laid-back and thought-provoking album as well as an intense experience. There is live instrumentation too. The song “Straight Outta Chicago” is a 6 minute long track that lets the live instrumentation just glide over the rhythm.
“Deep Rooted” is much like the work of Tribe Called Quest’s “The Low End Theory” mixed in with “Black Star” and a little bit of Lone Catalysts. During his live shows, Iomos gets behind the drums and performs. He rhymes and plays drums at the same time. Iomos Marad is truly a talented emcee. He is spiritual, intellectual, and a lover of hip-hop. The lifestyle and culture of hip-hop runs through his veins as he represents Chicago to the fullest.
On a rainy evening in November 2003, I had an in-depth conversation with Iomos Marad about hip-hop, drums, Chicago, music, All Natural, Capital D, production, work, school, spirituality, and more. He grows with hip-hop and at the same time, he makes hip-hop grow. Iomos Marad is deep rooted in hip-hop culture and he will continue to grow strong.
MVRemix: The new album is called ‘Deep Rooted’. Tell us about it?
Iomos Marad: The title ‘Deep Rooted’ comes from being rooted and grounded in something. In my particular instance, I am rooted and grounded into hip-hop and music and what music should really stand for. I want to bring a message and not a whole bunch of frivolous stuff that seemed to have taken over the airwaves and radios. It was a lot of hard work. I feel that I put my heart into this album. I feel that is what this is all about.
MVRemix: Do you have a favorite song on ‘Deep Rooted’?
Iomos Marad: I would say ‘Show & Prove’. It’s real personal.
MVRemix: What song took you the longest to do?
Iomos Marad: Honestly, it takes the same amount of time for me to write each and every one of those songs. It depends. If I hear a beat and I’m really feeling the beat, it does not take me long at all to write it out. 9 times out of 10, I already have some ideas. I just jot it down and formulate it. Then, I bring it to the beat. I write off of inspiration. If I am not inspired by anything, I won’t write as much. If I am really inspired, it does not take me a long time to write. If I’m not inspired, the result is not that good. If I try to force a song, it is not good or up to my standards. I try to keep myself inspired and opened up. I read books, listen to other music besides hip-hop.
MVRemix: When making hip-hop songs, do you go into the studio with pre-written rhymes, lyrics and themes or do you hear the beat first and write then and there?
Iomos Marad: It usually works out like that. I have the theme ready and I’m looking for the beat. I always write. When I am at work, I always write. I’m just thinking about rhymes all the time. In my notebook, there are a lot of half-written rhymes and thoughts that I just jot out. Once I get the beat, I can marry that rhyme to that beat. Then, I finish the rhyme. It’s crazy how I write.
MVRemix: What else do you do for money besides hip-hop?
Iomos Marad: I’m a law clerk. I work at a law firm. I file, make copies, set up court dates. It was just a trait that I learned. I never wanted to be a lawyer. It’s been my job for about 6 years.
MVRemix: How did you meet and hook up with Capital D and All Natural?
Iomos Marad: In 1992 or 93, at the time when I first started performing, I decided that I wanted to emcee for real and for a living. I would lug my drums everywhere, clubs, open mic sets, poetry sets, stores, trains, and subways. Wherever I could go to find an outlet to perform, that was where I was going. I started doing shows with this guy Jesse De la Pina. I was coming to a crossroads. I wanted to do more. I didn’t want to be just another Chicago legend. I’m not a legend but I didn’t want to be another Chicago only artist that does not do anything. I would hang out at Columbia College on my lunch break or after work. Up there, I met Mr. Greenweedz. Me and him just started building. I heard about him and he heard about me but we never saw each other perform before. We weren’t even talking about music. We were talking about everyday life stuff. One time, I was doing a show and I was opening up for him. Capital D of All Natural was there playing the hype man role for Greenweedz. Before I began performing, Greenweedz told Capital D ‘Dude is cold. You need to check him out for real for real.’ After I got done performing and doing my thing, Cap was like, ‘Man, I wanna work with you.’ He told me that he could not do anything soon because the next day, he was going overseas on tour for a month. I heard that before from other cats so I was like ‘Yeah, yeah. Alright, fo sho, fo sho’ but in the back of my mind, I was like ‘Whatever’. I didn’t think anything of it because I heard it before. A month later, my phone rang. When I answered, he said, ‘This is Cap, I just got back. Can you come over to my crib tomorrow? I have some beats I want you to listen to and I want you to do something with them.’ I was like ‘Word!’ I went over there the next day after work and the first song we ever did was ‘Deep Rooted’. That is another reason why I named the album ‘Deep Rooted’ because that was the first song recorded. It is the root of the album. It was the transition I made from just performing to actually putting product out.
MVRemix: You said that you loved to read. What are some of your favorite books?
Iomos Marad: Some of my favorite books are ‘The Autobiography Of Malcolm X’, ‘The Autobiography Of Angela Davis’, ‘Things Fall Apart’, ‘Assata’ is one of my favorites. ‘Two Thousand Seasons’. Books like that. I like non-fiction books.
MVRemix: When did you first begin rhyming?
Iomos Marad: I would quote other people’s rhymes when I was young so, I don’t think that counts. I really started writing my own rhymes in 1990.
MVRemix: You also play drums. When did you start playing drums?
Iomos Marad: Yeah, I play drums. I started playing drums when I was 10. I’m not really a technical drummer. I’m an emotional one. That’s the perfect way to say it. I just had a natural ability for it. I played for my church when I was young.
MVRemix: You worked with J-Live on ‘Appetite To Write’. How did this collaboration get hooked up? What was it like working with him?
Iomos Marad: We, meaning me and All Natural, brought J-Live over here in Chicago to do a show at The Metro. Actually, way before that, before I first got down with All Natural and Family Tree, Tone B. Nimble used to work at this record store called The Beat Parlor. J-Live was at The Beat Parlor and I happened to be there one Saturday. We started talking. I came back with some food and he was like ‘Yo, where did you get that food from?’. We just started talking. Tone played him the record ‘Deep Rooted’ and he was like ‘Yeah, I’m feeling that. It’s dope.’ Daily Planet had a show in New York. It was a release party for the J. Rawls album ‘The Essence Of J. Rawls’. Capital D was on that album. They invited Daily Planet to do a show. They came and Tone was talking to J-Live. Tone was shocked that he remembered my name. J-Live asked him, ‘How is Iomos?’ It shocked Tone that J-Live only met me once and he remembered my name. So, years down the line, we brought him over to do a show at The Metro. We had a chance to build and talk backstage. We hit it off. We clicked. While I was working on the album and while he was here, Tone asked J-Live if he would be interested in working on my album. He was with it. We got a beat, and sent him a beat. He picked the beat that he wanted and I also wanted him to pick the concept. I was like, ‘Since you are doing this for me, you pick the concept.’ His concept was a little ahead of my writing abilities. I don’t even remember what it was but it was abstract as hell. I didn’t think I was ready for that one. I came up with the concept. He was just an ill writer and I knew he always had an appetite to write like I do. I’m always trying to write. So when I hit him with the idea, he was like ‘Word, word, I’m with that!’ So, we did not lay it together. I laid my verse in Chicago and then, we sent everything to his studio. He laid his verse and sent it back. I wrote my next verse off of his 2nd verse.
MVRemix: The song ‘Each 1 Teach 1’ uses the same beat as ‘Flipmode Iz The Squad’ by Rampage and ‘Duress’ by Black Moon. Did you hear these songs?
Iomos Marad: Oh yeah? Nah, I never heard them.
MVRemix: What was it like growing up in Chicago? What part of Chicago?
Iomos Marad: Southside. White Sox! I love Chicago, man! Where I grew up, it was not as rough but it could have been rough. The area I was raised in was kind of wild. Even at that time, I was raised around Englewood. It’s buckwild. You have working class people and also gang bangers. I was good because my grandmother stayed on the same block. She was like 6 houses down. It was sheltered even though I was in a wild environment. When my mother was at work, I went to my grandmother’s house after school. For me, it was cool growing up in Chicago. I know a lot of brothers who struggled real hard. It was a hard come up.
MVRemix: Common is a major export out of Chicago but he moved away. How do people in Chicago feel about Common these days?
Iomos Marad: It goes both ways. Some people are mad at him because he left. Other people think that he wasn’t getting any love here so he had to do what he had to do. I’m feeling his music. The new one is different.
MVRemix: What song made you fall in love with hip-hop?
Iomos Marad: The song ‘Straight Out The Jungle’ by The Jungle Brothers. I’ll never forget the time my cousin Leon brought that home. He was older than me so, I did everything he did. He emceed. I was following him. He brought that Jungle Brothers album home and it blew my mind. I heard Q-Tip on there and I thought to myself, ‘Man, that’s what I want to do. I want to emcee like that.’ That was the first album.
MVRemix: What is the meaning behind your name?
Iomos Marad: It stands for ‘I’m On My Own Style’. A friend of mine gave it to me. At first, my name was Mysteri. Krs-One is a big influence on me. He had an acronym for his name so I needed an acronym for my name. Mysteri was ‘My Style Through Eternal Rhyming Intellect’. Then, my friend was like ‘You are never at home when I call you! You ain’t ever at the crib! I’m gonna start calling you Iomos. You be on your own style!’ I asked him if I could keep that and he said it was mine. I was feeling it. Then, around the time ‘Midnight Marauders’ came out, I used to love that word ‘marauder’. On the train, I met this guy who just converted to Islam. We started building and talking on the train. I was raised as a Christian and we started building on how it’s really the same but how people put a label on it. He gave me this book with names. The name ‘Marad’ was in the book. So, I took that name. I wanted to build a bridge between Muslims and Christians because we are all serving the same God even though they call it Allah.
MVRemix: Capital D is a Muslim and you were raised Christian. Did this difference in religious beliefs cause problems?
Iomos Marad: I used to live with Cap actually. Nah, never. It never causes a problem because we are open. That’s the whole thing to me. To me, religion is like a form of division. We are all children of the most high. God does not love a Christian more than he loves a drug addict. It’s the same type of love. God loves a drug dealer just the same as someone who goes to church every day. We are all children of the most high. Some people fall short of things in their life while other people find that. It’s not our job to condemn them though.
MVRemix: What emcee/group would you like to collaborate with in the future?
Iomos Marad: That’s a tough question because there are many of them. Pete Rock, Krs-One, The Roots.
MVRemix: What producer would you like to collaborate with in the future?
Iomos Marad: Pete Rock, Madlib, Hi-Tek, Jay Dee, Large Professor.
MVRemix: Speaking of Pete Rock, that InI album, which was totally produced by Pete Rock is being re-released.
Iomos Marad: Yeah, man. I love that album. That’s like the album I listen to the most.
MVRemix: What has been in your CD player or on your turntable recently?
Iomos Marad: I’ve been listening to a lot of dance hall. A lot of Buju Banton and old Sean Paul stuff. Yellowman, Beanie Man and dance hall… period. I listen to a lot of old dance hall.
MVRemix: What was the last incident of racism you experienced?
Iomos Marad: I experience it everyday, man. At my job, I’m the only Black person there. I deal with it everyday. If something goes wrong, they automatically think I did it. Still, I keep my work tight. The only person who really has confidence in me is my boss.
MVRemix: Abortion – pro-choice or pro-life?
Iomos Marad: Pro-life.
MVRemix: Death Penalty – For or against?
Iomos Marad: I’m against it.
T.JONES "Where were you on Sept. 11th (The World Trade Center & Pentagon Terrorist Attack)? How did you deal with it? How was Chicago affected and how do you think it has affected hip-hop?
Iomos Marad: On 9-11, I was at work at the time and they let us go home early because they thought the planes or attacks were going to come this way. There were a lot of people on their cell phones that were making sure that their loved ones were safe. Actually, my uncle works in the Pentagon. He’s a sergeant but he was cool. I called my grandmother to make sure that she was cool and her line was busy for a long time. When we finally got a chance to talk, I found out that she was calling to make sure that my uncle was alright. It was mad scrambling. Everyone was calling him to make sure he was cool.
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’. Okay?
Iomos Marad: Okay (laughs).
Iomos Marad: One of my favorites.
Iomos Marad: From the crib.
Iomos Marad: Proof that hip-hop is not just a Black thing.
MVRemix: Wu-Tang Clan.
Iomos Marad: One of the illest to do it and do it in a way that benefits the artist.
MVRemix: Talib Kweli.
Iomos Marad: Ill. Talib is an activist.
MVRemix: 50 Cent.
Iomos Marad: I like his style and what he does but I don’t necessarily agree with his message.
MVRemix: Gil Scott-Heron.
Iomos Marad: A Legend.
MVRemix: George Bush.
Iomos Marad: Gangsta.
MVRemix: What do you think hip-hop or music (in general) needs these days?
Iomos Marad: What I think it is lacking is responsibility. I’m not going to say any names but you know who I am talking about. These artists out here now, they do not take responsibility. They don’t really care. I’m reading this book by Krs-One right now called ‘Ruminations’ and he’s touching on that. He’s writing about when people are selfish, they will do anything for money. That’s so true. These rappers and artists out right now are selfish. They are not being responsible for what they are putting out on these airwaves or on these videos and in these shorty’s minds. When I was a shorty, my mom was a single parent mother. She raised me. She wasn’t always around but I was cool because I had intelligent cats like Krs-One, Rakim, and Public Enemy. They had a positive message for me. It’s the same thing nowadays. Parents are not around. These kids are listening to these rappers before they listen to somebody who actually birthed them into the world. A lot of cats are saying ‘I’m not responsible. I’m doing me.’ That is so selfish and irresponsible.
MVRemix: Dug Infinite and Capital D have been doing quite a bit of production for Family Tree and the All Natural Hip-Hop label. How is Capital D’s production style different from Dug Infinite’s production style?
Iomos Marad: That is all Dug does. All Dug Infinite does is make beats. Capital D is like me. I just started to get into production. Capital D has a lot of beats but not as many as Dug Infinite does. No disrespect to Dug but since Dug has so many beats, you can go through some of his beats and 1 out of 20 will be like ‘Wooo! That’s that one right there!’ With Capital D, it is different. You will hear a Cap beat and be like ‘Wooo!’ All of his beats are like that. I think he only shows me the ones that are like that. They are mad musical. I’m not saying that Dug’s beats are not musical. Capital D has less beats available but each one is quality. Dug has more beats.
MVRemix: Some people have compared you to Talib Kweli due to your conscious rap style. What do you think of that comparison?
Iomos Marad: I think most people compare me to Mos Def. I get the Talib Kweli comparison along with Mos Def and Krs-One, as far as performance.
MVRemix: If you could re-make any classic hip-hop song, what would it be?
Iomos Marad: Man, you have some good questions. I like your questions! There are so many. I already did it on my ‘Deep Rooted’ album with ‘Straight Outta Chicago’. A classic hip-hop song I would do is ‘Reminisce’ (T.R.O.Y.) by Pete Rock & CL Smooth. A Public Enemy song where Pete Rock does the beat. I would like to do a remake of ‘Down With The King’ too.
MVRemix: What is your favorite part of your live show?
Iomos Marad: I have 2 actually. One part is when I’m rocking and I look back and I see Tone B Nimble on the tables smiling. That means I am killing the audience when he’s smiling and nodding his head. Another part is when I’m on the drums. It’s just the drums, a mic, the crowd, and me. I rhyme and play the drums at the same time.
MVRemix: For what song do you play the drums and rhyme at the same time?
Iomos Marad: It’s for the live show. For the next album, I’m going to do that more. Now, I save it for my live show.
MVRemix: What kind of drums do you have?
Iomos Marad: They are some cheap rinky dink drums that I bought from my grandmother. I sold them. I have these drums. I forgot the name of them but they are a step up from the ones I had before.
MVRemix: Do you want to be cremated or buried?
Iomos Marad: If I was to leave before my mother, I would let my mother decide that. If it were up to me, I don’t know. I never thought about that.
MVRemix: What is next in the future for Iomos Marad?
Iomos Marad: Hopefully, God willing, I can make that transition from doing my job to doing music full time. In the near future, I want to tour and perform. That’s all I want to do. I want to be like The Roots and perform 365 days a year and constantly drop albums.
MVRemix: What collaborations should we look out for?
Iomos Marad: As of yet, no collaborations or remixes. Wait, I take that back. This brother named Vito Money did a remix to ‘Free’ but I don’t know if it will be released.
MVRemix: Any final words for the people who are reading this?
Iomos Marad: If you do not have the album ‘Deep Rooted’, pick it up. If you do have the album, I hope that you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed putting it together.