Since 1995, Moka Only has solidified himself as one of the most talented artists Canada has to offer. By continually proving his solid musical work ethic, and maintaining his intergrity as well as being humble; Moka has grown. Officially becoming a part of Swollen Members in 2002 (he was always part of the group, but the media weren't aware), Moka's popularity grew. Now, he's a very well recognized emcee across Canada and a lot of the world. He continues to grow with more material on the way...
MVRemix: What motivates you?
Moka Only: I think it's just the simple things. Just waking up, especially if I'm in Vancouver. Just seeing the mountains. I get inspired by a lot of other musicians and my friends. I guess my parents too. That whole combined effort is what drives me.
MVRemix: We once had a conversation once where you mentioned about how you freestyle all the time. Is the majority of your material freestyled during the conception of the track or through an emotion? Or, is it planned and written?
Moka Only: You mean for Swollen or for me?
MVRemix: For both...
Moka Only: It's more freestyled really. When I was younger I used to be more into the topical things. But, I think I cover more ground if I'm just freestyling. When I say "freestyling," I don't mean strictly off the top of the head. Freestyled can also mean written with no one particular direction. As far as off the top of the head freestyling - I don't do it as often as I used to. But, I still try to keep sharp at it. Some of the songs that I've recorded solo, I've actually gone off the top of the head for the whole song.
MVRemix: How did you go about setting up your own studio at home a few years ago? In terms of how did you go about purchasing your keyboard when you were just properly getting started...
Moka Only: Well, partially it was just saving up from all the independent shows I did. But, the major funding came from when I signed an EMI publishing contract. I just threw it in there as a "Recording expense." It was either that or use it at a studio and I thought that it would make the most sense to buy my own unit. A lot of people in my position would have probably gone out and bought a car or something like that but I'm a music nut. I couldn't wait around for other people to make beats. That's one of my strong points and something I'm moving towards even more. I'm really into music production. That's my favourite thing of all.
MVRemix: Whatever happened to the Kurious production and the various projects which were going on around that time?
Moka Only: Kurious, as far as when I last talked to his people, isn't really interested in recording right now. He's just interested in enjoying his life. I'm getting other gigs though...
MVRemix: Any names you can mention?
Moka Only: Yeah, I'm supposed to submit some beats for Frank N' Dank out of Detroit. They've been working with Jay Dee. I'm supposed to submit some for this guy Phat Kat, also from Detroit. This is all through my homies Roland and Henry from Toronto. They take care of Frank N' Dank's management as well as Brassmunk too. I also did a beat for them recently too [Brassmunk]. I'm trying to get some more too, not just sticking to the West Coast. I want to go across the board a little bit. I'm working on that, I'm building it and hopefully once I get these things out to these guys it'll expand from there.
MVRemix: The Georgia Straight (a local Vancouver publication) and other media outlets have commented and complimented your fashion sense. From nail polish to the collection of trainers I've seen you have, what is it that draws you to garments and whatnot? And to draw from "Breathe" - what does "Fashion do inside of you"?
Moka Only: [confused] Fashion do? Inside of me? From the lyric?
MVRemix: To quote from what you said in the song...
Moka Only: I want to clear that up, I didn't say "Fashion," I said "Passion."
MVRemix: Haha. Oh... okay. Well, I guess we'll re-arrange that a little bit - what does "Fashion do inside of you"?
Moka Only: It's no puzzle really. You just get up and you want to look good. If you look good, you feel good and people see that. It's nice to know when you take care of yourself it inspires people who see you to do the same. It's simple. I know it sounds like a cookey concept but it's what works for me.
MVRemix: Whatever happened to Mammal (Moka's clothing line) and Planner (City Planners clothing line) wear?
Moka Only: Haha. I had to put that to the side dude. I can only do one thing at a time. Not one thing, but there's only so much that... You don't want to bite off more than you can chew. I had a lot of people suggest that I try to get into the clothing thing, and that's cool. But really, I'm trying to get this production thing off of the ground.
MVRemix: What exactly is going on with regards to these production efforts? Will they be going on through Battle Axe or will they be through your own imprint, or...
Moka Only: A little of both. If some of the people at the office take the initiative to get me some gigs that are cool, I can also rely on going through EMI Publishing. That's the easy way. But I like doing it the "Old fashioned way." The grass roots way. I meet people and a lot come to me. I can take care of myself for the most part in that regard. Or, I'd rather.
MVRemix: Now, I know you don't drink. Swollen - the other members - are notorious for being drunk before they go on stage. Now how does it work for you? Do you ever feel like an outsider or pressured to maybe become involved?
Moka Only: I definitely feel like an outsider. I don't feel pressured because I used to drink. I was a drinker for the greater part of my teens and my early twenties and it just backfired on me. I believe I've grown an allergy to alcohol. I can't even have a drop of it. Nah, there's no pressure man, but sometimes I feel like I'm missing out. In the same token though, I'm remembering all these shows and experiences. And, I use my own head to make all my decisions. The alcohol doesn't make any decisions for me.
MVRemix: To draw from Nelly Furtado's "On The Radio" - "You liked me till you heard my shit on the radio." Now, I've heard some criticism with regards to Swollen "changing" with the transitions from "Balance" to "Bad Dreams" and Swollen "selling out." Plus, comments stated towards you for doing the hooks and whatnot. How do you react to the comments along those lines?
Moka Only: Well, I mean anybody who's really truly into music or is a musician, has to understand there's some growth involved. You can't stay the same. It doesn't physically work like that. If we tried to make "Balance" type shit or "Lime Green," or whatever, it would sound like we were faking it. We've grown as individuals and we sound ourselves in many different experiences and those add into the music. Not to mention, this is a career. We are trying to sell records. We don't intentionally change ourselves intentionally to sell units. But there are formula's involved that can get everybody interested in it and not just a handful of people. We're selling ourselves short if we only tried to appeal to a small crowd.
MVRemix: What's next for Moka Only?
Moka Only: Exciting things! The production thing - I'm doing a full production album. Not a beat album, not another album where it's just rap beats from songs or whatever that I've done. But an actual flowing piece of musical production with a little bit of vocals on there too. I'm working on that... I signed with Virgin, myself, for America and the rest of the world. So, I'm working on the "Ambrosia" album. I'm also working on two new Swollen Members albums, so I've definitely got my hands full.
MVRemix: On top of that, is there anything going on with Codename Scorpion and the City Planners?
Moka Only: Yeah, I mean City Planners... I kind of had to take myself out of that situation. We're still people (friends) and we do our thing. But, musically, we're from different seeds. I'm not really into doing that kind of stuff. When I say "that kind of stuff," I just mean what Ishkan and Jeff Spec have cultivated for themselves. The sounds have drifted away from each other. As friends, we're definitely close. Codename Scorpion, we're also doing another album. Sometime this Summer we're going to take a week or two and just knock that out.
MVRemix: Why did you move in part to L.A.?
Moka Only: It wasn't my idea. It really was something that was suggested by management and the group seemed into it - the rest of the guys. I don't want to be a thorn in their side. In order for the group to survive, I've got to be around it and so it's a sacrifice for me. There are a lot of things I do like about L.A. and California in general. It's no disrespect against them in that I'm not really feeling being there, it's just that as I grow older. I feel like I want to be more close to home. I have a girlfriend in Vancouver, my parents live around that area. I'm about to turn thirty, all that shit is so monumental to me.
MVRemix: Could you die today saying you'd lived?
Moka Only: Yes. I mean if this were to disappear tomorrow man. I've had more than my fill. It's beautiful and happy. I could go back to selling albums on the street and be happy. I'd miss the money, I won't lie. I'm not going to lie and say the money isn't great. The money is a great thing because I can afford to buy more studio equipment and make more music. I'm not out there buying cars and shit. As a matter of fact I don't even have a license. I don't even have a vehicle. That's about to change, but I always like to keep it simple. My life seems to work better that way.
MVRemix: Any last words/comments to your fans/potential fans?
Moka Only: I guess I'd like to thank my long term fans for sticking with me through what you could call a "transitional"/"growth" period. Those people that have been around for a long time, I see them at shows and I feel a sense of family. Hopefully they can look forward to the future and help spread the word. Keep it "real," as cliché as that sounds "Keep it real" with yourself.
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Canadian Underground Hip Hop - exclusive interviews, reviews, articles
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