Hailing from the birthplace of Hip Hop, the South Bronx, comes Oktober Zero. Known for his two standout releases, "The Zero EP" and "Less Than Zero", Oktober is one of the true rising stars in the underground scene. With his new LP, "Projekt: Building", dropping on August 24, Oktober took some time out to speak with MVRemix.com about his new release, as well as his history in this game. The interview was conducted by DJ L.K. (Low-Key) in August of 2004.
MVRemix: What was it like growing up as a kid in the Bronx?
Oktober: Basically, it's your typical story; you know how it goes in the BX. It was kind of violent, there was violence and drugs going on. But we all found something that could keep us busy, and that was Hip Hop.
MVRemix: What were some of your first memories of Hip Hop?
Oktober: Damn, I remember the cats on my block freestyling just for kicks. And I used to live right across from Joyce Kilmer Park, so right they always had the turntables out. I remember cats just rocking over instrumentals, and at that time, it didn't even cross my mind to rap.
MVRemix: How did you first get into rhyming?
Oktober: I was in high school, my freshman year, and my two homeboys wrote a rap to each other, battling one another. And one of them had mentioned me, so I just took it from there. So I was like "Yeah, I can do this too". So I just said something back about them, and it just started from there. And those cats donít even rhyme anymore, but it just stuck with me and happened like that.
MVRemix: From there how did you start getting a name for yourself in the industry?
Oktober: I guess when I hooked up with Dave Love. He is a DJ from the Bronx, and he used to get me into these showcases here and there. You know those NYC park and recreation foundation things? It's like a big truck that rolls through the park and the top of the truck falls out and becomes a stage. Well, I started doing a couple of those shows and I finally did one at Orchard Beach. That is where I met Bobbito Garcia, Cucumber Slice, and he put me on his radio show and I went from there.
MVRemix: How did the name
Oktober: come about?
Oktober: I was born in October, so basically October is when my word was born.
MVRemix: Tell us how 2 For 5 started?
Oktober: Me and Ace Lover met on the scene downtown, in Manhattan. We did a couple of things together, and ended up doing a track called "What's Ya Name". It was just supposed to be that one collabo track, but it ended up sounding so good, we just started to doing a whole album together. But thatís basically all you are going to hear from 2 For 5, that album, so itís a jewel.
MVRemix: So what happened between you guys?
Oktober: We each had our own ideas on what our music should sound like. So he took it his way, and I took it my way. I seen him on the street the other day, so its all good.
MVRemix: Looking back at "The Zero" and "Less Than Zero", are you happy with how they came out and were received?
Oktober: I'm happy on how they were received, but I was in a rush to get all my material out. I'm kind of glad I did it the way I did. But if I could turn back time, I would do it a little differently. But I'm glad I did it. It got me a little more exposure, besides the wax. That opened me up to be an entrepreneur also, just running my own thing. Cause those were released independently, no label, no distribution, and no promotion. Cause promotion was just through word of mouth. But it really helped me out though. And it was real strong when I released "The Zero", a lot stronger than I thought actually. And to this day, "The Zero" is still selling, believe it or not.
MVRemix: What were some of those things that you would have done differently?
Oktober: I would have been a little more patient, and try and get some professional manufacturing. Try to have a label put some money behind it and get some distribution. Some cover artwork, and all of that. But it was just one of those things, and I just felt doing it like I knew how. So I just did everything myself, but I'm happy I did.
MVRemix: Let's talk about the new album, "Projekt: Building". So how would you compare this album to your others?
Oktober: On this album, I am doing less compromising. With "The Zero" and the music I did before, I wanted Hip Hop to be one big happy family. But on this album, I'm much more mature, and I realize that if we are all not at peace, we are all at war. So this album is a little bit more angry, it's hard to the core. But it's still Oktober Zero, I never lean to one side. I mix the good with the bad, so I touch on both because that is what life is about.
MVRemix: Tell us the meaning behind the title?
Oktober: Basically, that is the project that I am working on. My project is to build, so that basically is it. And I know it doesn't stop here, this is only the beginning of many steps. Also, I wrote this album living in the projects.
MVRemix: What producers do you have on the album?
Oktober: Fresh Chest Pros, DJ Blak Panther from BK Academy, Spear 1200, Frequency, and Kno.
MVRemix: How did you hook up with Kno?
Oktober: He is down with the Cunninlynguists, and they are label mates with me. We met on the scene before that, but we really just hooked up through Fresh chest.
MVRemix: What about guest appearances?
Oktober: I kept it to a minimum man. I got J-Live on there for "Reset The Game", thatís a hot single already. It just made Billboard; I just got the news, so I'm pretty happy about that. I got Cashmere The Pro and C-Leather on "Stay In Line" as well.
MVRemix: So how did you hook up with J-Live for "Reset The Game"?
Oktober: It was a weird coincidence basically. I had met up with him at one of the shows we were doing together, and he just mentioned to me that he has heard my stuff before and that he wanted to work with me. And I had the same thing in mind, so I really wanted to do something. So a couple months pass by and I really needed a dope feature on the album, and I didn't want just any cat who steps up to the plate and calls himself a dope emcee. I needed somebody who was really an emcee. So I kept in mind what J-Live told me and I just pursued it. And he came through, thanks to him.
MVRemix: Since the track has a video game theme, are you really into video games?
Oktober: Yeah, kind of. I got a PS2, but I'm not a video game freak of anything like that. But when it gets balling, I may throw on some Vice City, some Project Gotham, or something like that.
MVRemix: What did you think of producer No ID jacking your beat for Ghostface's "Metal Lungies"?
Oktober: (Laughing) I'm not gonna go and say he jacked it from me, cause maybe itís a coincidence that him and Spear 1200 were digging for samples at the same spot. But I'm kind of honored though. Cause those cats probably don't even know who
Oktober: is, and that I have the same beat. But I still feel honored, and that goes to show maybe I do have a little commercial taste. Maybe, I could make some real money.
MVRemix: Overall, what do you want to accomplish with this album?
Oktober: I'm just trying to lay a foundation, as this is my first real official album. It's gonna be in stores everywhere, all the chain stores. So I am just trying to lay the foundation, make it strong, and just carry a whole mass of people along with me.
MVRemix: What is going to be the measuring stick on whether this album is a success to you or not?
Oktober: To tell you the truth, in mind my it's already a success. I'm happy with the music that is on there, and hopefully the people will be happy. But to answer your question, I hope to go overseas and travel the country more. That is the one thing that I am lacking a little bit in my career. I need to get out to other places, and be exposed to other people. I guess you could say that is the point in the measuring stick. I want to get out and travel and see more of the world.
MVRemix: Do you feel you have the right promotion team behind you that is going to allow you to really get this album out and buzzing?
Oktober: Fresh chest is doing all the work themselves, and I do believe they can do the job. But strength is in numbers, so a team that is really experienced in that, and actually does it on a daily basis, for a career, that would be hot for me to get. At the moment I don't have a booking agent or anything like that. But I'm working towards that and its really going to help.
MVRemix: How would you say you have grown as an emcee over the years?
Oktober: I used to think there was rules on what you had to say as a lyricist, or what you could and couldn't say. I used to restrict myself, but I think I have grown because now I just spit it how I feel it. And you are going to hear that on the new album. And whoever gets offended, it's not that serious.
MVRemix: What were some of those rules you felt you had to follow?
Oktober: I really felt like I wasn't supposed to curse in my rhymes. If you listen to "The Zero EP", there is really no curses on the album. For "Projekt: Building", I was really in that zone where I had a lot of personal issues, and I was angry, so I cursed. But other things besides that, I used to be a little one sided when it came to Hip Hop and when it came to underground and commercial music. But I learned to adapt to that as well. I'm not a mainstream artist, I am underground, but you can't hate on what the mainstream does. They are taking Hip Hop to where it is now and they are giving us an opportunity to make a lot of money.
MVRemix: What was the best place you have ever performed at?
Oktober: I would say Manhattan Center, for the Rock steady show. That was really dope, it was a huge crowd and big venue.
MVRemix: What about the worst?
Oktober: Ok, I am not going to mention any names, but I did this free show for someone I knew for a couple of years. They said it was in a certain place, like a church, but I guess I just gave that one away (laughter). All due respect to what people do, but this place was the size of somebody's bedroom. The stage was about four inches off of the floor, the sound system was a karaoke machine, I lie to you not. And it gets no worse than that, but actually, it did. There were only three people in the crowd. But I did it anyway. (laughter)
MVRemix: Who are some of the emcees you are feeling right now?
Oktober: I'm feeling my man Immortal Technique, he is doing his thing. I'm feeling Non-Phixion, and a couple of cats uptown in the BX who are doing they thing but they aren't really getting exposure like that.
MVRemix: What about mainstream wise?
Oktober: To me Jadakiss is aight. Lloyd Banks, Cassidy, they aight. Kanye West got some dope beats. But thatís about it, I really donít feel a lot of cats like that in the mainstream. But if Mos Def and Talib Kweli still count as mainstream, then them too.
MVRemix: Who are your favorite emcees of all time?
Oktober: To run a couple off. My man Canibus, that is like executioner style lyrics. Of course Big Pun, who is probably my all time favorite. Just for the simple fact that he had that lyrical battle style, but he could also flip it and do a club song or a song for the ladies. Plus, he could do a real serious song that means something, so he could do all of that. There are not a lot of cats who can do that, but he did it. My man Nas, of course, and his arch rival Jay-z. You can't front on Jay-z either! But the list goes on.
MVRemix: What is your favorite chill out spot?
Oktober: I'm usually on the streets on my bike or whatever, thatís how I usually do it. But I like going down to lower Manhattan, by the river. Basically, spots where I can light a blunt up. Williamsburg is pretty chill also, I can front on them. That is like the new village and shit. Besides that, I just like to chill at home.
MVRemix: Would you rather smoke or drink?
Oktober: Smoke. I like to drink, but I think smoking weed is a little less toxic. It just makes me feel better. If I smoke too many blunts I'll probably fall asleep. But if I drink too much, that may get a little dangerous.
MVRemix: Are you going to be voting this November?
MVRemix: Why not?
Oktober: I always felt that it really didn't mean enough when you voted. Especially with the last election, that convinced me even harder. It's really up to a certain hand full of people that are holding office that decide all this shit. Did you see Fahrenheit 9/11?
Oktober: Thatís crazy! His cousin was the one counting the votes for Florida, come on man! That's just not right! I just don't trust all that political shit, to tell you the truth. I know every vote counts, and voting is like your voice. But I would rather stay shut around these cowards, to tell you the truth. And not for nothing, they are all about the same thing anyway. Some are worse than others though. I'm an anarchist; so I feel we could run our own lives.
MVRemix: If Bush is re-elected, what do you think is going to happen to this country?
Oktober: I'm gonna tell you the truth, I fear the worst. Its not hard for motherfucker to do all this terrorist shit. They are acting like they got it so locked down, but its not really like that. Anything can happen! Its like a gang! When you on the street and the gang leader is the most hated person in the neighborhood, that whole gang is messed up. All around the world, people are looking at Bush like he is the real criminal. So what does that make us? We look like his little soldiers. So we are in it just as much as he is, cause he is the one representing us.
MVRemix: Yeah, Bush is the biggest gangster in the world.
Oktober: Yeah, word up. He doesn't take over blocks, he takes over your country.
MVRemix: Overall, what do you want out of this Hip Hop game? Is it fame, money, respect, love, etc?
Oktober: What I want is number one, to give us something to look forward to again. Something that is going to keep our minds busy. To tell you the truth, that comes even before money. Money is number two, cause I would like to live off of this. I have been doing this for 12 years, I'm 25 years old, I have been rhyming since I was 13. I started recording songs when I was 15. So I basically just started making records, in 2000 I put out my first record.
MVRemix: Besides the album what else do you have going on in the future?
Oktober: I am recording more albums as we speak. I got the full length with Spear 1200, that should be out in January or February. I also got a couple of guest features on the Under Studies joint. I'm gonna be on a couple of the Spit Kickers mixtapes. Everything is just moving the way it is supposed to.
MVRemix: Any tours?
Oktober: I'm still knocking out everything in NYC, but once the album drops I should have a tour set up, so I can visit the rest of the country.
MVRemix: Any last words?
Oktober: Support the "Projket: Buidling" LP. It's good music, it's from the heart, there is no fronting on that album. Even down to the artwork, it is me on the roof with a microphone. So it's straight raw, straight Hip Hop. So support the cause, real music. Visit the site www.oktoberzero.com