Not only a Just Blaze protege, but also University educated, Naledge goes by a befitting moniker.
Alongside his partner Double O, Naledge is set to help try to bring Rawkus back to their late '90's success, a time where everyone and their mother looked for a Rawkus record (well, backpackers and coffee shop chicks anyway).
These are the transcripts of an interview with Naledge aired February 26th, 2006 on DJ Hyphen & J. Moore's "Sunday Night Sound Session" on Seattle's KUBE 93.3 FM. For more info. on DJ Hyphen click here.
MVRemix: Introduce yourself to the people…
Naledge: This is your boy Naledge Born, Prince of Chicago. The rebirth of Rawkus Records. You know the demo. “Broke Diaries” the album coming soon this August, look for it. Check it, bootleg it, [laughs] pawn it, whatever.
MVRemix: Just listen to it any way you can…
Naledge: Get your hands on it ‘cause it’s going to be something.
MVRemix: Yeah man, you mentioned Rawkus Records, congratulations you guys made the announcement a couple of weeks ago that you signed there, you and Double-O. How did you guys first link up? It was in college right, to form Kidz In The Hall?
Naledge: Yeah, it’s kind of ironic ‘cause I was coming into school, Double O was leaving out. I kind of met him on a recruiting visit. I used to play baseball, Double O ran track… we forged a relationship from there. The rest is history. We always kept in touch and it’s just ironic how things work. I went to an Ivy League school thinking that would be the most non-musical experience of my life and it turned into being something that was the complete opposite. You know? So…
MVRemix: How did the deal actually come about with Rawkus Records?
Naledge: Shout out to John Monopoly, I don’t know if people are familiar with John, he’s president of G.O.O.D. Music, but he runs Hustle, which was basically his baby since back in the day when he ran party promotions. He’s done marketing and consulting. He’s just a person that knows how to cross T’s and dot I’s. He’s a deal maker, one of the hottest executives in the game right now. He basically saw me as a talented emcee and being the next thing out of Chicago and me carrying the torch. He also realized that I was bringing back the golden era so to speak. That’s what he likes to call it. He’s like, “You’re a throwback emcee and I got the perfect deal for you.” He was very close with Brian and Jared and Rawkus, he knew they were trying to make a resurrection happen and he basically came to them and said that I’m the perfect artist for the job. Which, in due to time, we will see.
MVRemix: So at what point did you catch the eyes of Just Blaze? ‘Cause I know you have some affiliation there.
Naledge: That’s a very round about kind of situation. Just is actually real cool with Double O, they’re both from Jersey and they knew each other just from travels, they’re both real into technology. Anybody who knows Just knows he’s a gadget head and so is Double O. Both of them were like computer majors. So some of their conversations are way out there but they have a friendship that way and musically they talked about production all the time. Eventually, after they’ve had a good relationship, Double O just kept tellin’ him, “You need to hear Naledge, Naledge is dope… Naledge is dope… Naledge is dope.” Finally, Just took me out of that pile that sits on his desk and popped it in, I think put it on his iPod, and went away with it for a minute and came back and said, “Yo this is fresh, I wanna do something with you.” So we recorded like two joints, and that was my demo. That’s pretty much what got me the deal and garnered me most of my interest. And he hosted my mixtape, “Off The Love, Off The Strength.”
MVRemix: I know that he produced a track you did with Cornel West called “My Country” that was off the last mixtape. Is that joint gonna to make the album, and if not is he doing any other beats on the album? I know he’s executive producing it…
Naledge: Yeah, yeah, you can look for a lot from Just on the album. We got some surprises. We got some stuff we can reveal and stuff we can’t reveal. Now “My Country,” everybody loves that song, I think it might end up being the crown jewel of the album when it’s finished. The finished version. Right now, the streets kind of have the mixtape version...
MVRemix: It’s still kind of a snippet huh?
Naledge: Yeah, I mean instead of letting people leak it all over the net, we figured we’d just put it on a mixtape and let people hear it that way. If people are clamouring for it anyway, we might as well let ‘em hear it. I’m all for the people man, I’m all for hip-hop. That’s my main goal: to bring back a feeling that I felt when I bought Rawkus LPs. The feeling I got when I popped in ‘Resurrection’ for the first time; the feeling I got from Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth, Gangstarr and all of that stuff. I’m coming to say this isn’t outdated and this is something that’s still relevant and this is... We need balance in Hip Hop and I think I provide balance.
MVRemix: How close are you to being completed with the record?
Naledge: I mean I’m an artist, so I’m always working. There’s no such thing as being “done” for me so I’m always recording. Realistically, I say we’ll probably record for another month and then start chopping it down, put songs on the chopping blocks and see what we wanna include on the album. But we have tons of material lined up. I record at least three songs a week.
MVRemix: Another question for you, with the success of a couple of other Chicago artists, notably Kanye and Lupe [Fiasco], and you can put Common up there too, it seems like you guys are producing the more notable, ‘every man’ emcees, rappers that focus on of everyday life issues, that most of the people can relate to and the same could be same for you. Is this a conscious effort at all? Or is this something that you’re naturally drawn to rapping about?
Naledge: It’s funny you ask that. I just spoke with one of my friend’s from Mass Appeal and we were talking about that. I think it’s because of the social climate of Chicago; Chicago is such a rooted “blue collar” kind of town, it’s very urban, it’s very metropolitan, and at the same time it has a gritty feel to it. There are such social issues that are inescapable when you’re growing up. It is very racially segregated here. Geographically there are so many boundaries in Chicago that it’s still separate and it’s still unequal, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure it out. You can just walk outside everyday and realize the ills of the inner city. I don’t know… There’s so much crime, and gang banging is a huge problem in Chicago and it’s a social institution. Also, Chicago is a religious center. Most people don’t think of it that way, but The Nation is headquartered in Chicago so you got a lot of brothers who are streetwise, but intellectual as well. So all of that mixture, you brew it up in a pot, you stir it around and you get Chicago. It’s an acquired taste but Hip Hop’s coming around to it.
MVRemix: Speaking of kind of the intellectual side of it, being an Ivy League grad, how does your level of education affect your music, and how you interact with the industry and understand the industry?
Naledge: Truthfully, I get asked that question so much… I don’t think necessarily that me being an Ivy League graduate, the title of “Ivy League,” necessarily means much as far as only thing that it really means is how people interact with you. The minute you lay a resume on a table and it’s got an Ivy League school on it, people look at you differently. People expect you to have a certain level of intelligence. So I guess it helps in an aspect that, if you know how to talk to people, you know how to conduct business, you know how to be presentable, you know how to be marketable ‘cause you probably studied it. But I don’t necessarily think the Ivy League title does much. I’m the son of two doctors, so I think that makes me more intellectual than me having gone to Penn. I think what Penn gave me was a lot of social experience and a lot of social capital. I know a lot of people. I am able to talk to a lot of people and I got my foot in a lot of doors. I got to kind of party with a lot of kids that I probably never would have met ever on the south side of Chicago. When you go to class with Donald Trump’s daughter you have to look at yourself like, “Wow! this is the reality that I’m actually here.” The social aspect of the Ivy League community helped me out. It made me more diverse, it made me more well-rounded.
MVRemix: So when is the album expected to drop? “The Broke Diaries,” when can we expect it?
Naledge: We’re lookin’ at August, we’re lookin’ at August. To get the whole school theme… I’m out of school now, but we’re takin’ it back to school. Right around August, orientation.
MVRemix: Ah yes, late August every year! I know it well. Thanks for your time man, we’re gonna definitely keep in touch with you. We’re gonna continue to burn your music out here. Burn it as far as airplay, not necessarily as far as CDs.
Naledge: Ah yeah, yeah, I need my royalty checks.
MVRemix: No doubt, gotta get that ASCAP, BMI poppin’. What’s the best way people can check out more information on you guys? You guys got a website or somethin’?
Naledge: Yeah, www.Kidzinthehall.com. I gotta give a shout out to Double O, ‘cause he’s gonna hit me on the head if he hears this and doesn’t hear his name. So Double O for president whenever he runs.
MVRemix: Speakin’ of running, he’s like an Olympic athlete, huh?
Naledge: Yeah, 400m hurdler.
MVRemix: That’s crazy…
Naledge: He ran for a third world country though so whatever.
Naledge: He didn’t have any competitors [laughs]. For real though, he’s a world class runner.
"Sunday Night Sound Session" with DJ Hyphen and J. Moore airs every Sunday night on KUBE 93.3 FM (Seattle) from 11 PM PST - Midnight.