Verbal Kent - conducted by Bill "Low Key" Heinzelman
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The city of Chicago has certainly been on a roll the past couple of years. From Kanye West, Twista to Vakill, the windy city has produced some of the hottest talent. Looking to add his name to such a list in the future is up and coming emcee, Verbal Kent. With a combination of crafty lyrics and strong conceptual material, Kent has gained himself a strong buzz in the underground with his debut album "What Box". MVRemix got the chance to speak with Verbal Kent about his debut album, as well as his struggles coming up in this Hip Hop game. Pay attention, because Verbal Kent is on the come up. This interview was conducted by Low-Key in October of 2004.
MVRemix: First off, for those not familiar, can you introduce yourself and tell the
people what Verbal Kent is all about.
Sure. I am mc from Chicago, IL. I write to stay focused, to stay sharp. I’m in love with hip hop music and what it stands for. It makes me who I am.
MVRemix: Where were you born and raised?
I was born and raised in the city of Chicago. I grew up in Rogers Park and I still make my home there.
MVRemix: What was your childhood like?
I spent 90 percent of my time fucking around in any park I could find, playing basketball and talking shit with whoever else was on the same shit I was. I grew up in a mixed neighborhood. I guess I was a happy kid. My folks were cool and all. My father worked too much, but he did it for us so I learned allot from that. Traditional education wasn’t my thing. I got by, but sports and the arts had my heart and focus.
MVRemix: What artists did you look up to growing up?
Man, Just like any head who grew up in the late eighties I bumped
Tribe, that old Wu shit, Nirvana, KRS- a little later the Roots, Buckshot and
them, Redman. You know how it went.
MVRemix: What got you into rhyming?
An old friend of mine named Jason Lee used to come to my crib with a Dr. Rhythm beat machine. He would make dreadful tracks and rap over them. I used to write, but never wrote out loud. His courage inspired me to try, and he didn’t judge me at all. I learned slowly with him. Then my guys Mr. Burns(now Racecar of Modill) and Eqwivallent (now Vandell) got my confidence up to where it needed to be. I owe all of them allot.
MVRemix: Tell us about the long and hard path any emcee takes to get his foot in the door. How did you do it, what barriers did you face, etc?
It's not different than any other art and the transition any artist makes from out of his basement. I used to bomb open mics and I sucked. It didn’t matter then, and It doesn’t now. I used to free write and read that crap to other mc's and they would show no interest. I used to run up in ciphers, listen and then rap but get cut off right away. Shit changes when you believe in what you do. People can feel that shit. Having confidence in your job is everything. I will say that being a white mc used to be strange. Em hadn’t blow up, so I was always treated differently. Now Cats don't seem to care either way.
MVRemix: Tell us about Organic Mind Unit?
Six cats, four instruments. I’m going after my own shit now to make it easier for the rest of the band later. We’ve been playing for 5 years. Like I said the focus is on my solo shit, and on Lance Ambu (the other mc). There will be a time for the band. They are fucking great at what they do.
MVRemix: What can fans expect out of your debut album "What Box", as far as concepts and songs go?
“Power” is the joint that people respond the best to. It's about the abuse of power in the states. It's about the lack of focus we have. “The city” featuring Iomos Marad and Lance Ambu is a track with three mc's giving you their perspectives on life in Chicago. There’s a lot of that old fashioned battle rap. I think its a easy album to listen to. It hits the way it should.
MVRemix: Who is doing the production on it?
Kaz 1, The Opus, K-Kruz, Overflo and DJ Spontaneous. They made me proud, and they would any mc.
MVRemix: Any guest appearances?
Yeah. My guy Rusty Chains, Lance Ambu and Alltruisms spit on a few joints. Iomos Marad and Qwaazar are some killers who blessed my album, and big One Man
Army and Wordsworth appeared and repped their homes.
MVRemix: How did you hook up with Wordsworth?
Rusty and I did a show with the GZA in Colorado. and Words and J-Live were on the tour with them. Words seemed down to get up on something, and Rusty and me had been in to his shit for years. He's a quality mc man. We picked a track out, and he felt it.
MVRemix: Overall, what do you want to accomplish with this album?
A little respect, and a couple doors open. I just want to make the music I love and be able to live off it. That’s the goal. It’s my first joint. My expectations are high considering that, but I just want as many people to rock out to it as possible.
MVRemix: How is the promotion going for the album? Are you frustrated with the fact that it is hard for any independent artist to get their music heard on a broader level due to the fickleness of this game?
Promotion seems to be going well. It really just started. I understand how competitive this is. I’m cool with it though. The good music always wins in the end. I believe in Tim (Gravel Records) and myself. For now that’s enough.
MVRemix: Are you going to be voting next month in the Presidential Election?
MVRemix: What do you think about the current political state of our country?
We need to come together. We need to learn the truth as a whole. Our country is hurt. It's at a sad point. We all have a choice in this country. Live ignorant or live informed. Until enough of us make the right decision those in power will milk anything they can.
MVRemix: Anything else you have going on that you want fans to know about?
I’m working on a album with Lance Ambu as we speak. Also look out for
Alltruisms to drop his shit real soon too. Oh, and Kaz 1 with that “Gravel Pit” compilation heat.
MVRemix: Any last words, shout outs, plugs, etc?
Thanks for your time. Check out the site at www.gravelhiphop.com. Peace and be well. Cop the album y'all!