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One Be Lo - conducted by Bill "Low Key" Heinzelman  

Life Lessons

January 2005

New name, different attitude, same great music. Formally One Man Army of the Hip Hop group Binary Star, One Be Lo is a changed man. Now on his own, One Be Lo is as focused as he has ever been. With a new sense of hunger, his new solo album S.O.N.O.G.R.A.M. is a trip down memory lane to when Hip Hop was only about good music, not gimmicks. But behind the music lies the story of a man who has overcome the odds his entire life. One Be Lo is proof that you can make the wrong choices in life but through hard work and perseverance you can get your life back on track. This is One Be Lo, and this is his story.

MVRemix: Let's start by getting to know who One Be Lo is. So where were you born and raised?

One.Be.Lo: Born and raised in Pontiac, Michigan.

MVRemix: Not a lot of people are familiar with Pontiac, so what was it like growing up there over the years?

One.Be.Lo: Man, I never really thought about what it was like growing up in Pontiac. I would say that my life for the most part was pretty good. My family was good, my moms and pops were married for a minute. So the first half of my childhood was cool, because they were together. But when they got divorced, I was 14, and then things started changing for me. The money was obviously different, just being with my moms. Life at the crib was different, and I started getting into other shit. I was always into sports, as I was real athletic. I used to play basketball, football, baseball, everything. But the older I got, my interests started changing. I was real popular in high school and I started fucking with the girls. I was captain of the basketball team, that kind of shit. Then I'll say, at the end of high school I started hanging out with different crowds. I was rhyming, but I wasn't like, 'Yeah, I'm an emcee'. I was just doing it because I could. So sports and girls were my main thing. But I did have my little Hip Hop circle, as well as my athletic circle. However, I also had a circle of friends I used to do dirt with. So eventually I graduated high school, but that summer I got locked up and I went to prison for two and a half years. That is when my childhood really ended. You can't be no kid in prison. So before I went to jail at the age of 18, my childhood was pretty good. I wouldn't say I had a rough life, even though I was in some crazy situations. But I was the one who put myself in those situations. But ya know, I was just a normal kid who went to school all his life, even though I rarely went to class because I was an athlete. That is kind of wack, but that is the way it is.

MVRemix: Can you talk about what you did that landed you in jail? If you want to reveal that to the fans.

One.Be.Lo: I wouldn't want to reveal it so people think I'm trying to brag or build up my street credibility, because its not about that. I don't rap about that shit. But the only reason I do talk about it sometimes with younger kids and certain individuals is to let them know that you can make some decisions and fuck up, but you can bounce back and come out of prison and have a normal life. You can excel and achieve big things if you want to. You can go to college and have a career. Those are the reasons I would share my experiences, not so I can brag about hustling and doing dirt. But to answer your question, I used to hang around a bad crowd like I said. And we would get into everything and used to do shit just because we could. So we got caught up in the mix and I went to prison. I'm just going to leave it at that. I got sentenced to prison for armed robbery and it was the best thing that every happened to me. Out of that, I went into the grave and I was resurrected as a brand new person. So out of my prison experience I was introduce to Islam, to myself and to the Hip Hop business. Binary Star was also born out of that experience as well. So a lot of good things came out of me going to prison. And a lot of people gave up on me when I went to jail. They thought I threw my whole life away, but when I came out I was better than them cats! It was only because I came home and I was focused. I knew what I wanted to do, so I went out and did it. And now we are on the phone today.

MVRemix: How did Binary Star form while you were in prison?

One.Be.Lo: Me and Senim Silla used to be in a crew back in high school called The Spooks. It was me and him, plus four other guys. But me and him both got caught up in the mix and went to prison together. So we were sitting in the compound and I told him, 'We gotta pay attention to the signs. There is a reason why me and you got caught up and separated from everyone else. We have all this time to plot and plan so lets put it to use'. Basically, we came together to turn our situation into a positive. So we sat down to brainstorm and started studying. But we needed a name, and when we were in The Spooks, that name used to send a chill down my spine. So we needed to come up with a name that would have the same effect. I went back to my cell and started looking through the dictionary, because I'm all about concepts. So I'm looking up bi; binary code, binary digit, and then I saw binary star. Then I read the definition and was like, 'Oh shit! This is how me and man my get down'. So I went out to the yard, and showed my man the definition on a piece of paper. He read it and just cracked a big smile. And it was on from there. But that is how the idea got started.

MVRemix: With Masters Of The Universe, were you surprised how big that blew up in the underground scene and the cult following it had? Because I remember when it was re-released, everybody was talking about it.

One.Be.Lo: It's weird man because we make music to touch people, and we want people to follow it. So I can't say it was a surprise, but it was. The biggest reason it was a surprise was not because it wasn't good, but I think when I came home in '97 I was like, 'What the fuck is this Puff Daddy and Master P shit?' And the way the industry looked, I honestly didn't think there was a place for us. And we started doing shows in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and there is all these white dudes at the show. And I'm like what the fuck? Because Hip Hop wasn't white back in '92 to '94. And I'm not a racist or anything like that, but back then I didn't think that these cats could feel and understand where I was coming from. Especially with the Internet, which is a whole different world that I still don't understand to this day. But when we started making music, it was weird. Because I'm a student, I grew up listening to Krs-One, Rakim, ATCQ and all of that shit. And I would never ever put myself in the category they are in, because they are my idols. But to get respect and to influence people the same way that Hip Hop inspired me is amazing. That is the mission, but you never know if you are going to accomplish it. I still can't believe that one day we were sitting at this picnic table talking about forming Binary Star, and now you have a thousand people who are loving your shit. And some of these people know and love our music more than we do. And I think me being the humble cat that I am, or try to be, I don't expect nothing out of it. I just try to keep a low profile.

MVRemix: Why did Binary Star eventually break up?

One.Be.Lo: We just came to the fork in the road. Unfortunately, it came before we could actually get the group off the ground. We had been a crew for so long, but not in an album sense. So by the time the album dropped we had already been broken up for over a year. So it was news to everybody else, but we were like fuck it. And it came to the point that he was doing what he wanted to do and I didn't agree with it, and vice verse. Because music is all good but business is a different thing. We can make wonderful music together, but everybody can't work together, if that makes any sense. And its fucked up because you do something and the fans love it. And you give them the impression that its like this or like that, but everybody who can chill together and make music can't do business together. And I didn't like the way he was handling business, and I wasn't going to tell him how to handle his. And nobody is going to tell me how to handle mine. Because at the end of the day if I'm not paying my bills, I can't blame it on my partner, its on me, its my responsibility. So that is what it all boiled down to, business. And that is the nice way of saying it.


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"Me and Senim Silla used to be in a crew back in high school called The Spooks. It was me and him, plus four other guys. But me and him both got caught up in the mix and went to prison together. So we were sitting in the compound and I told him, 'We gotta pay attention to the signs. There is a reason why me and you got caught up and separated from everyone else."