Mr. Lif conducted by Alex Goldberg  

Mr. Lif Interview

June 2006

These are the transcripts from a phone interview with Mr. Lif [Definitive Jux]. On June 13th, 2006 he released the album Mo' Mega, a follow up to I Phantom [2002, Def Jux]. He is currently an hour outside of Columbus, OH...

MVRemix: Why did you become an MC? Why not a dentist or a novelist?

Mr. Lif: I don't know, it's just natural. I love hip-hop. I like writing too, but there's so much form to it, and I don't like all those protocols and grammatical structures that they force on you. No one can tell you how to write a song, hip hop is more free like that.

MVRemix: Do you feel you, as an MC, have responsibilities to teach, to instruct?

Mr. Lif: No, I don't. I don't. I feel I just write and rap what's on my mind, you know what I mean? I don't feel like I have to. I just want to share what's on my mind, I don't feel like I have to do anything with it, except that.

MVRemix: On Collapse, you say, "9 years in the game and not too much has changed." It's hard to believe that after 9 years, not too much has changed. What do you mean by that?

Mr. Lif: I mean I'm still right here, sitting in the van, on the road. I did this is 98, and I'm doing this right now. And with my music, it's all me, just as it was back then. I mean, a lot of things in my life have changed, I'm a lot older, but the way you become a nine year vet is because you have a strict doctrine that you follow, your work ethic, how many hours you'll keep, etc. So in that way, not too much has changed.

MVRemix: Do you think you'll stop touring soon? Settle down?

Mr. Lif: Yeah, I mean, it's not fun. Shows are fun, and the reality is, I'm addicted to hype shows and communicating with my fans. I mean I wish I could fly sometimes, the van isn't fun.

MVRemix: I read in an earlier interview that you say you are "trapped in a political box." What led to this entrapment?

Mr. Lif: I mean, I created it by my battle raps. I wrote songs that were a bit more competitive with stronger content, and people attached battle rap to that. I have the urge to write what's on my mind, what's pissing me off these days. Of all my songs, I think about the subject matter greatly before I attempt to write it down. You know though, I don't want to limit myself to political hip hop. With The Perceptionists album, I talk about a lot of different topics, not just politics, and I hope people can start seeing that I'm not strictly a political rapper and that I can write a song about anything.

MVRemix: What issue really pisses you off these days?

Mr. Lif: Well the issues that I address on the album. Like, apathy towards people who are suffering globally, people who are disenfranchised, people who are starving. I mean, how long have these countries been struggling, been poor, starving?

MVRemix: Do you feel you being labeled a political MC, helps or hurts you as an artist?

Mr. Lif: I think it helps me. I think it helps me in a lot of ways. Like, when I wrote, "Home of The Brave" it just exploded my career and put me into a different realm. At the same time it feels very limiting. There are a lot of issues that piss me off that I want to write about, not just political shit, and I want to write about other aspects of my life. Issues, like rape, for instance inspire a lot of energy and strong, powerful music. But it is limiting, and I want to have more diversity in my writing. Mr. Lif Interview

MVRemix: Do you feel you've matured as an artist since I Phantom, or do you feel as though I Phantom was completely different than Mo' Mega and it's hard to measure artistic growth between two very different albums?

Mr. Lif: I think Mo' Mega is a more mature album. I Phantom was more of a conceptual attempt as a masterwork. Whether it is a masterwork or not is debatable. It was that highly ambitious first record that you want to blow the doors open to the world, and I think that it made a big open for me. Mo' Mega definitely shows my maturity, and my growth - everything from the art on the album to the album itself.

MVRemix: But you don't think that Mo' Mega is your peak that you can still go up from here?

Mr. Lif: I think that Mo' Mega is a pit stop. It's so weird, I've been working past that record since the day I made it. Like, I'm cooking up two albums simultaneously, I keep making music, I keep writing. To me, Mo' Mega is a drop in the well. I'm now more driven to make more music, always make more and not to dwell only on the past.

MVRemix: Do you feel as you get older you are moving more towards serious topics or just having fun...As you get older are you moving more towards party or politics?

Mr. Lif: I mean, yeah, party is definitely evident in The Perceptionists album that mostly is all party jams. With Mo' Megathere's a lot of really dark shit on it, which is my calling card, but I like the freedom to throw in like comedy and party songs. I do feel though that I'm moving towards just having fun, getting the party going?

MVRemix: Is the track, "Long Distance" an attempt to show the world that you are also into sex. Are you in the process of becoming the Definitive sex symbol of Def Jux?

Mr. Lif: [Laughs] No, not at all man. I'm just talking about how I feel. When you live on the road, you know, it's hard to be in a relationship. If you want to be with someone, you gotta come down hard and fucking represent and let her know that she's the one. It's such a reality that I can't believe I haven't written a song about that before.

MVRemix: Hip hop has had a history of controversial sex songs. Do you find yourself part of the hip hop sex narrative or on the peripheral?

Mr. Lif: I mean, it's really controversial in hip hop, because of how much a lot of MC's attempt to degrade woman. But like, if you love a woman, be respectful to her, take care of that, stop fucking around, be a man, you know? I'm still waiting to hear a complaint from a woman about my songs [laughs].

MVRemix: On the track, "Take, hold, fire" did you ask Ace and El to be on the track, or did El tell you that he wants to be on the track? How much say does El have with your music? Do you have complete artistic freedom with your albums?

Mr. Lif: It was El's idea for the concept of that track. I was having major writers block at that point. I don't remember what the hell is going on, like, I'll wait around till the fucking deadline is cutting through my skin, that I'll get off my ass. Like I had a month a half before the deadline, and I guess it wasn't urgent enough for me to get off my ass, so El was like, ok, here's the concept for this that we should go with. But at that time we didn't know who was going to take which part. El ended up with Fire, I did Take and Ace did Hold. I didn't really get a chance to work with Ace on I Phantom, and he was like, what's up man, you gone a hook a verse up for your boy? And I always want to work with my friends, so I gave him that section of the song.

MVRemix: And you prefer to work with friends on your albums?

Mr. Lif: Yeah, definitely. There are a lot of people in the industry who can't handle constructive criticism, and I'll tell them, do you think you can make this louder, or take out that word, and some cats are just not trying to hear that, and if I can make a successful album with my friends who can handle the creative criticism, then that's great. I mean, there are times when I could do work with acquaintances, not just friends, but that's not as much fun, that's more business.

MVRemix: On that track you say, "I wish I could wring the blood out of your clothes, give you back your afros and your strong black nose, but what's done is done." This is a two part question. Who are you talking to/about in this song? And what does it mean when you say, what's done is done in the context of this song?

Mr. Lif: I'm talking about the black people who have passed away, apartheid, the massacres. It's about the black people who have been killed by pure hatred. Once they're exterminated there's nothing we can do about now, what's done is done, what's gone is gone.

MVRemix: If you could make an album with any three mc's in the history of hip hop who would you work with?

Mr. Lif: Ooh that's a hard one. It's more about me, transporting to an era. Maybe if I could teleport to one show with PE when they were at the height of their career. Maybe, I don't know, I'm tempted to say that I want to be around De La [Soul] at the height of their career.

MVRemix: What else do you listen to besides hip hop?

Mr. Lif: Aww man, I listen to everything. Like, I listen to everything from Beck, to Radiohead, to Pink Floyd.

MVRemix: Do you think you'll ever make a non hip hop album?

Mr. Lif: Well, I mean, if I could sing, then yeah, but I can't really sing.

MVRemix: And you don't play any other instruments?

Mr. Lif: Nah, I mean, I make beats, I do production, but no, I don't really play other instruments.

MVRemix: If you could ask George Bush any question, what would you ask him?

Mr. Lif: What is the price for your soul? Is it because you were born into that lifestyle or you saw your dad be that type of person that you are the way you are?

MVRemix: Any last comments?

Mr. Lif: I want to thank my fans, and I gotta a lot of energy left, so I'm going to keep making music.

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