Wordsworth - conducted by Bill "Low Key" Heinzelman
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Grown Man Talk
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Wordsworth has always been a talented emcee but the stigma of being a battle artist has stuck with him throughout the years. With Wordsworth fully aware of that, he quietly sat back, observed his surroundings and took it all in. Now with his debut album "Mirror Music", Wordsworth is finally ready to show the world the maturation process that has been taking place the past couple of years. Words is no longer concerned with woman, parties and battling, instead he is a grown man looking to stake his claim as a conceptually dope and gifted emcee. "Mirror Music" is proof of Wordsworth becoming a new man and maturing into a great emcee. The album features a variety of concepts and topics, ranging from storytelling tracks to personal and intimate efforts. Wordsworth recently took some time out to speak with MVRemix about his new album, as well a variety of issues.
MVRemix: What was it like growing up as a child in Brooklyn?
Wordsworth: It wasn't rough like that, as alot of people around me were way worse off. My friends mom's were on crack or their parents didn't care how long they stayed out or if they spent the night at someone else's house and didn't tell them until the next day. So a lot of my friends didn't graduate high school, as I was probably the only one out of my friends to even graduate. And around the corner they used to stay in this abandoned apartment, well it wasn't abandoned, but the apartment was for rent. But somehow they broke in and used to stay in there and cut school. But for me, it was more or less about being observant and being cool with everybody. I had really good family around me that kept me focused. I was one of those dudes who was cool with everybody, but I never really got into those troubles.
MVRemix: What are some of your first memories of Hip Hop?
Wordsworth: I think my first memory was watching Video Music Box back in the days. Also having the Run DMC album cover for "Here We Go". I used to play that record crazy, that big beat was crazy. So I remember opening up the stereo in my room and putting that same record on for a long time. I used to listen to other stuff like "Whip It", and all different types of music. But that was really my first thing, because I have an older sister and she was able to get a lot of music ahead of time, or go purchase it and put me up on it.
MVRemix: Who were your favorite artists growing up?
Wordsworth: I would say Run DMC. I used to love Run, he was the man.
MVRemix: How did you first get into rhyming?
Wordsworth: I had an older cousin who used to rap, his name was Elliot. I actually talk about him on one of these songs I got called "Wild Life". But he used to freestyle a lot and my sister used to be into it on the dancing side. So from then I used to just watch my cousin rhyme and freestyle and I always used to be like, "Wow, that's kind of ill". So I just wanted to get good at that, and then we just started banging on car hoods outside and rhyming. It was natural like that. But I started writing rhymes about 7th grade, and that’s when I realized people were actually writing rhymes. Because I ain't know people were actually writing rhymes, because you could just go outside and do Hip Hop without a quarter, and you could watch it on TV too.
MVRemix: How did the whole Lyricist Lounge thing come about?
Wordsworth: If you have the Lyricist Lounge CD Vol. 1, there is this cipher at the end, and its just all of us rhyming back to back. So it was during that session at Firehouse Studios, and we were sitting down, and they were video taping each rapper. So I was like, "Man, when the camera comes to me I have an idea". So I started teaching into the camera, like making a home video for people to learn how to write rhymes. So I started acting like the wall as a blackboard, and then people started raising their hands around me, so I started answering their questions in rhyme too. So then that tape go around and circulated, and a guy named Jake Septimus from Mic Media was like "Yo, this could be a TV show". But I was like, "Yo, whatever". But then they found out they were holding these auditions for a TV show at MTV, so we wrote up another sketch that was similar to that one, which everybody calls The Professor. From then, we flew out on a Thursday, got the audition on a Friday, and got a called back on Monday. So that is how that really sparked, from me just rhyming.
MVRemix: How do you think you have grown since your Lyricist Lounge days to now with the new album?
Wordsworth: I had to learn how to make the transition from just battling to speaking about things that I think people care about and that I care about. Because that is the longevity for a career, to just relate to people. So when I did the Lyricist Lounge things, I was more in the context of doing it because the Lyricist Lounge was about up and coming talent, and the game was more about battling around then, as far as just being a ill emcee. And I was still learning and I was young. So after I put out the single "On Your Feet" and I did the Lyricist Lounge show, I took time to grow and figure out what I want to do. Do I want to just be rapping because I can put some words together? Or do I want to rap and relate to people and hopefully change some lives and let people know who I am? Because I think a lot of people had a lot of misconceptions about what I can rhyme about. So I felt I had to give people another side of me.
MVRemix: That was going to be my next question, do you feel people were quick to label you as just a freestyle emcee?
Wordsworth: Yeah, that is definite. Its like, if you can battle rap, people are automatically going to be like, "but can he make some songs"? So then you got dudes out there that are trying to make the transition into making songs without trying to actually take time out to make the song. Like after they figure out what they want to rhyme about and they are trying not to be a battle artist but they are in the same realm because they can't make good songs like that. And they are just saying it so it can be a plug for them to actually try and get a deal, or for them to say they are better than someone that can battle rhyme. You run into a lot of little kids….I heard kids say "Yo, he just battle rhyme, you gotta make joints". But I'm like these little kids ain't even got nothing to rhyme about. But what it is, they heard the radio and they hear people saying those things, so they think that's what its about, not to be good at nothing else but trying to making songs. But its like, yo dog, you can't even make them yet or don't even know what you are talking about. You are just following the hype or what everybody else is saying.
My thing is, its just better to listen and learn. Even when artists are on the radio talking about their sales, now you have little kids talking about that. I remember Method Man was on Rap City talking about, you have kids knowing about sound scan. So they are picking their favorite rapper, or what makes you dope is how much you sell. You know what I'm saying? So that is the whole thing with the battling. You do get the stigma of being a battle emcee if you can do it, but I think people are not giving anybody else a chance that can do that.
MVRemix: Let's talk about the new album "Mirror Music". What is the meaning behind the title?
Wordsworth: I got that title because I felt the songs reflected the emotion, time or period that either I went through, someone next to me went through or somebody that might not even know me went through. And when I look at people, the audience, and they look at me, I think they see a reflection from me in my music. And I reflect the audience, that is why I write about things that I feel like I can be the voice for them. And I think a lot of artists are, that is why we have fans and that is why people listen to the music, because we try and be voices and speak about things that other people are thinking. That is where the whole title came from. Basically the music is an audio mirror of what is going on.
MVRemix: After all these years, how does it feel to finally have your solo album out?
Wordsworth: Man, I feel real relived because I think a lot of people are surprised at it. I think a lot of people didn't think I could rhyme about anything else. So I think a lot of people are relived, because a lot of people believed in me. People were like, "Yo, this dude is ill, but I gotta hear the album". And that is always going to happen for everybody. For your first thing they are always going to say, "yo, you are ill but I gotta hear the album". But I feel mad good, because when I was doing it, I knew what I was doing, rather than just recording some songs. I knew what I was doing and what I was aiming for. So now that it is finally out, I feel real content about answering a lot of questions that I think people had about me. I think people had a lot of questions about song making, a lot of questions about as far as what I am going to rhyme about and who I am. But I think the album answers a lot of questions, so it feels real good.
MVRemix: You really have a lot of variety on the album, but the thing that stands out to me is your short stories. So in your opinion what is the key to pulling off a good story track, because a lot of people try and do it but most fail?
Wordsworth: My thing when doing stories is, I feel like I didn't want to beat nobody in the head but I wanted to give out the same messages that the regular person would want to. You don't want to lecture people, but you want to put it in a way that is entertaining. Just look at Slick Rick, "Children Stories", that joint is crazy. You still be wildin' off of "Mona Lisa" today and stuff like that, you know what I'm saying? Those are stories, but they are fun and entertaining. I wanted to make it real cohesive, but I just wanted to make sure the track was dope first, like head nodding. That was my first thing, and after that I just went with what I felt was good. I think to keep a good story interesting, you need to have a good beginning, a good middle and a good climax. Its something we have been taught in school. So I try and stick to a lot of those measures, as far as having a good intro, medium and climax. I think the key to making a good story is making it real relative and graphic as possible.
MVRemix: One of my favorite songs on the album is "Trust", which talks about how things changed when you had your daughter. So can you tell us about how the birth of your daughter changed things for you?
Wordsworth: We did a video for that, for "Trust" and "Gotta Pay". But man, that was like the illest thing to every happen to me in my life. I don't think nothing could top that. I was there during childbirth and everything. I seen it go down, I cut the umbilical cord and everything. I cried when she came out, like instantly. It wasn't no delayed reaction, it was instantly. It’s the illest feeling in the world. And even before having her, I always felt it when woman used to say "You wouldn't want no one treating your sister like that" or "If you did this to your daughter, you would be thinking different". And I used to be like, yo that would be ill, but I kept it moving. So I would hear it and it would go in one ear and out the other. But now that I have a daughter, it definitely brought more of a sense of family. Now when she sees me and her mom together she is mad amped. So I am like, wow, I want her to keep that feeling of being excited when she's around the both of us. I don't want her to see us bickering or see us apart, and it made me realize that this music is not only about me no more, and I'm not living for myself no more. I'm actually living so she can have examples that she can play off of, so she can have a better future. So she definitely opened my eyes to making my future brighter for her.
MVRemix: Overall, what do you want to accomplish with this album?
Wordsworth: Just really to touch people. I want people to be touched and really feel the music. My whole thing is, I remember getting the Curtis Mayfield album and the feeling I get from Curtis Mayfield and even some of the old Bill Withers stuff, I don’t get that feeling too much from Hip Hop. Its so wild, because when I drive and listen to Curtis Mayfield, I feel like when I am looking through my window that my windshield is a TV screen and while I'm driving with the music inside, the music is becoming a soundtrack for what's going on. Hip Hop is that in some form, but for some reason I feel something move in my soul when I hear a Curtis Mayfield record or something like that. So I am trying to capture some of those vibes. I want people to come to the show to feel like they are being touched. So that was my whole point for doing the music. So its just the whole vibe of just trying to move your spirit.
MVRemix: I'm really feeling what you are saying about the windshield, but do you think Hip Hop has become too formulaic, that is why you don't get that feeling anymore?
Wordsworth: I think so man, I think at times that is why I don't get that feeling. Because I can automatically tell off of the bat what this guy is trying to do. Trying, that is really the main thing. A lot of the music is dope, then a lot of it is not dope because for the most part everybody deals with affiliation and association, so a lot of music you may hear on the radio is because its the DJ's homeboy. And I'm not against that, because if the DJ was my homeboy, I would be like play my joints too. So I'm not against that, but I think the quality of music being played should have a little radar to it. And even if I was a DJ and my boy gave something to me, I would be like, "Na, I don't like this". I would just dead it right there, instead of supporting it to support it. But I think that is really it, there is really no buffer. So that messes up the game.
And being able to make something in your crib, its so easy to get something in the store on consignment, and it takes up space for what is good. Then you get to the point where there is so many things out there that I go to the store and I don't even want to buy anything because the wall is so huge and massive and full of stuff I never even heard in my life. So I don't have time to play that, or I can't buy it to hear it. So its just crazy man.
MVRemix: What did you see in Halftooth Records that attracted you to them?
Wordsworth: Man, let me tell you. I was in Seven Heads office and I had some songs, and I was just trying to sign with anybody brother. I called El-p from Def Jux, I was talking to Fresh Chest, Third Earth, I hollered at all these indys. I hollered at all of them. But for the most part nobody had money for me to help propel the project. The things that cats could offer me, I was like, man I could do that myself. I put out records my own, I got people to help distribute it, Fat Beats looked out for me. So I was in Seven Heads office and David Schrager from Halftooth came in and he was fixing the correction for Oddisee's name. So I was like, "you got a record label", and he was like "yeah". So I was like, "I want you to hear some stuff". So within two weeks we started negotiating. And I felt like dealing with Halftooth because I feel like you need someone to help propel you in order to make other moves. I didn't want to deal with a label that could do as much as I could do on my own. Halftooth felt the vision of my music too, they heard the music and was like, "Yo, we feel the music and what you are trying to do". So that was one thing.
The main thing though is if you believe in me, I'll rock with you. I think that is the worst thing any artist can go through, having someone second guessing you, or not believing in you but still rolling with them. That is the worst thing in the world for anybody. But they believed in my vision from the get go, and that was one reason why I rolled with them. Then they explained to me what they were trying to do also, as far as taking it to the next level and not just being your average indy. So they let me do what I wanted to do with the music, because I'm the executive producer on the album too. They let me rock on there with that and also I felt where they were going with their artists, because I heard of Oddisee and Ken Starr. They are dope! So I felt it was a dope foundation to build from, because if I really didn't dig them then I would have probably been like, I don't know if I can really bombard the industry or try and start a blitz without a strong backing everywhere.
MVRemix: What about promotion wise, are you happy with what they are doing?
Wordsworth: Yeah, I'm happy with it because I know they are trying to do as much as they can. I know we went over the budget crazy, cause my budget was nice, but they went over it to get a lot of other things accomplished. They got with one of the best publicist in the country, which is dope. They got me a video, which is something a lot of us don't get, and that was after my recording budget and the advance. They are definitely trying to help, but they are a small company though. There is no real marketing team or anything like that, so a lot of things are dealt off of me helping out to. Emailing people, trying to spread the word, telling people to preorder, doing a lot of shows and stuff like that. So I honestly believe they are pulling out all the stops as far as they can go. I wish promotion could be way larger, but for the most part I am not mad at them, because I see they are trying. If they weren't trying, I would be bashing them right now, but they are trying.
MVRemix: What's going on with you and Punch? Are we ever gonna see another album from you guys?
Wordsworth: Right now, I think Punch is working on his own solo stuff. Me I got some other projects possibly coming up with Soul Live, and Da Beatminerz album is coming out soon, I'm on there too. We have been talking about doing it, but my thing is, I don’t want to do it just because it is Punch and Words. I think since me and Punch have done music before we have both grown to actually see that its not about rhyming about girls and battling. There is more to is, as far as showing people and showing yourself. I want Punch and Words to mean something, I don't want to do it just because we can rhyme. I don't think that is what I'm about anymore, I'm trying to make some classic songs that people can feel.
MVRemix: Switching gears a little bit, are you going to be voting this November in the Presidential election?
Wordsworth: Yes, this is going to be my first time voting. I did the Slam Bush thing, and I didn't even know what it was really going to be about. My man Beko from Contraband.com hit me and said, "yo my people are trying to do this Slam Bush thing". So I was like, let me know what its about. So I went and did it because I wanted to support the cause of getting people involved. There are a lot of people that are way more into politics than me, and I'm aware of that. But then there is a lot of people like me to, that don’t even care about voting, that just be chilling and complaining. So I felt like I have a voice and when you rhyme people do tend to follow you. So I was like, I'm not going to be complaining and just be watching the news, wildin' out and chilling. I would rather do something and try and get other people involved. That is really why I got involved with the whole thing, because we can't keep complaining. And its better to try than not to try at all, because then you really can't say what the outcome would have been, you don't have an answer. You can't say voting doesn't make a difference because you didn't do it.
MVRemix: Would you say your more anti Bush than pro Kerry?
Wordsworth: To tell you the truth man, I would say right now I'm against the Bush situation but as far as Kerry, I haven't really listened to what he has had to say. I actually got some paper work on him that I have to read up on so I can find out his political stand on things. I have been talking to my man John who used to do the morning Hip Hop thing or whatever, and he was like, I'm gonna send you some documents so you can get some more awareness. But me, I'm not really feeling the Bush situation, and I'm not gonna say I'm feeling Kerry until I read up on him. My whole stance is just getting people involved and hopefully they will register and feel amped about trying to do something. That is really my focus, trying to get young people to actually do something instead of just chilling and complaining. And say we don't get Bush out of office, even after all of that, you can't say that you weren't involved in trying. You can't be there complaining saying why didn't you vote and just come up with some excuse. At least you could say you tried and feel good about it.
MVRemix: It seems that you have a good relationship with Masta Ace, so what do you think about all the talk that his new album may be his last?
Wordsworth: Yeah, I don't think its going to be his last, not at all. I think he wants to help out cats like me, Strick, Punch, all of us. Because he is around us all the time, he is on our albums, we tour together and things of that nature. Like he said, being an artist, you can't really step to the forefront to help us not make mistakes when he is an artist. So he is talking time off to help concentrate on making sure our things go on a better path. He has Strick, he is coming out next off of M3 Records. I think he wants to take time out to concentrate on getting the label started. Then he'll probably get something happening next, like his next album or I think we may do a collaboration with all of us together on an album. But its just really a hiatus to watch what is going on and to really get things started. Its hard to run around touring everywhere and start a label.
MVRemix: Who is the greatest emcee to come out of Brooklyn, Biggie or Jay-z?
Wordsworth: Man, I think Big definitely left his presence as being the best from Brooklyn right now. Jay, I would definitely say is either second or third because Big Daddy Kane is the truth. I can't front on Big Daddy Kane brother. So I would probably say Big, because he was incredible, but Kane is definitely up there too. Its between those three, but I would say definitely Big before Jay.
MVRemix: Besides the album, what other plans do you have?
Wordsworth: I want to get this Word Wide Communications off the ground, that is my label, I want to get some huge distribution for that. I want to try and put out some artist, but not only that, I am trying to do other things. I want to get into other business things, not even dealing with clothes, but whatever. Things that people would not associate with being an artist. Just being involved with a whole bunch of corporations, maybe some more TV shows, as I'm trying to get some people to bite on this show I have. I don't want to discuss it yet though. But I just did an ESPN commercial that is airing in Philly and Chicago right now. And just things of that nature, just writing and coming up with different ideas. I got this screen play that I am trying to get picked up as well, it's a movie about my college life. So there are a lot of different things, but my main focus is getting this music right, because a lot of people thought I was an actor rhyming, they didn't know I really rhymed. Which is crazy, so I wanted to get rid of that. Because a lot of people that have followed me have been waiting for the music, and I feel I owe it to them.
MVRemix: Any tours?
Wordsworth: I am trying to get on a tour right now. I am trying to get on the Spitkickers thing, we'll see if that happens. I think I'm going overseas from the end of October to the middle of November as well. But I need a tour over here, I wanna get on some huge tours and just wreck 'em and do what I do, just have fun.
MVRemix: What about guest appearances, you going to be appearing on anyone's album?
Wordsworth: I did Kweli's mixtape, "The Beautiful Struggle Mixtape Pt. 2", me him and Musiq Soulchild did a song together. I did a lot of stuff with Soul Live, they are a real dope band. But right now I have been focusing on rhyming on a lot of underground peoples albums, my man E-Dot, this kid Access Immortal, etc. I am trying to keep rhyming on all them underground joints to build my following. That is all I'm focusing on, just to stay rhyming on stuff. I'll rhyme with everybody, until I'm featured on everything. I also got this CD out called "For People Without Turntables", which helps people catch up to what I have done prior. I put it on CD because a lot of people don’t have turntables. So I am doing a part 2 and part 3 to that as well. There are like 3 CD's worth of features that I have been on. But I am going to stay doing the same things I have been doing. I don't want to change my work ethic, I just want to increase on it.
MVRemix: Any last words?
Wordsworth: Go out and get "Mirror Music", it comes out September 14th. It can be preordered, try and get those up crazy, because if I don't sell a certain amount or whatever the distribution company's will flake on you. That is the truth. So if people cant find it or whatever the case maybe, or don't get it, the blame ain't going to fall onto them for not doing what they do, it is always going to fall onto the artist. But that is how it goes. And thanks for the interview, and there is no me without y'all.