Denee reached out to me to get involved in this film project. We put together a nice piece of work with this. She had directed 3 of the films and I got my director on Nolan style for 1 of the films then we collaborated on the last one. I then went and got my maestro on with the music. We all fed off each other and everyone involved brought they A-game. Things went very smoothly with the shooting and post production. We spoke about the ideas we had and how to incorporate all the parts into one unified work. The premiere was great too. People were clapping opera style and i heard the talk though the night was extra heavily positive. Still weird to see myself on the big screen though haha. Much love to Denee for getting me involved with this. It was a great experience all around.
Hooked up a remix real quick.
For the 20th anniversary of Illmatic i decided to highlight Nas as well as the producers that made the album the masterpiece that it was. I gathered up different beats from Primo, Pete Rock, Large Professor, Q-Tip and L.E.S. and went bezerk real quick. I do so much production that i forgot how much fun it is to just catch wreck over a classic beat you grew up on. I sequenced their beats to match the tracklist on Illmatic and i also got Tone Blunt to fill in the Brooklyn guest spot role.
I also used lines from Illmatic to title the freestyle.
The second part of the tape is me remixing Illmatic era Nas. It was dope to zone out to the vocals and really appreciate how incredible he is as a lyricist.
This took about a week to hook up and i gotta say it was mad fun to put this together because it brought the fan out of me. I was in the middle of finishing up the project when the homie Slew hit me up and we started to build about why Nas is so dope and he was dropping so many fly stories i decide to tape it and put it throughout the second act.
Salute to Nas, AZ, Olu Dara, Primo, Pete, Extra P, L.E.S. and Tip for what they did. That album raised a whole generation of MC’s to sit down and really think before they put pen to paper and by extension birthed other classics in that already exceptional era.
One random day, i got a phone call to perform at TEDx Baltimore. Reeling from the fact that i was asked to participate in something I’ve watched for years i said yes and began worrying about the show till it happened. “What the F?” was the constant thought that popped in my head about it. TEDx had people that were making huge strides in society and i’m just a dude that is obsessed with music and loves to make it. I bumped into a friend at the store one day and he said he looked me up online and was amazed at everything i have done so far. The money that I’ve got from music never really registers to me cause it’s all about the love and any accolade I’ve received makes me feel good but i tend to always be stuck in the “Whats next to make” mind state. I felt like “damn i’m not a huge star so what can i say?” As i saw the speakers lined up my sense of confusion grew exponentially, Harvard Graduates, Chess masters, business owners and……………me, crazy haha. Backstage i was a nervous wreck cause it was hard to read how this would go down. I performed “1995”, “I wonder ( remix )” and “Here Now” and the applause i heard after each song eased my nervousness. Post show my twitter blew up with people giving props and asking about the lyrics. The interview backstage really boosted the experience cause i make a lot of music but i rarely get to talk about it. This was a great experience and i hope to go back and actually speak at TEDx in the future. The dope thing is after i did it i saw that GZA, Combat jack and Comic Book Girl 19 did TEDx talks so it was dope to know that i at least have that in common with people i respect.
Here is the video of the performance
Here’s the interview as well
By Jourdan Ash
At the recent Tedx Baltimore, an inspiriational conference filled with leaders of all different backgrounds and works, some speakers seemed to relive their story as they spoke to the audience. But, artist and producer, Tokyo Cigar took a different approach.The artist, formerly known as Oraza Allam, chose to tell stories through his music.
His choice of songs, “I Wonder” and “Here Now,” touched on everything from his international childhood to growing up fatherless. As the last of 18 speakers, his method of personifying his life through lyrics left the audience on a good note.
“It went from a love to an unhealthy obsession,” said the artist while speaking about his craft. Influenced by a love of music and by rappers such as Nas, KRS-One, and Jay Z, Allam was once insecure about his rapping abilities. “I felt like I wasn’t smart enough to rap,” he said. But, after hearing Jay Z’s 1996 hit “Politics as Usual,” Allam knew rapping was something he had to do.
Growing up, Allam traveled frequently but it never impacted his creativity. In fact, it only influenced him more. “Moving around played a huge part in my education,” he explains. With Nigeria’s corporal punishment, Ireland’s more relaxed approach, and America’s grading system, Allam always felt disconnected from the educational system. After three years at Montgomery County Community College, music became his “main thing.”
“I always thought of Ireland as the place with leprechauns,” he says about his boarding school experience in Ireland. But, Ireland was nothing like he expected. He witnessed rallies and protests for Philadelphia political prisoner, Mumia Abu-Jamal. Though he expected some racist moments, Allum says “The Irish and black have a special kind of bond.”
With fifteen years in the music industry, Allam still gets star struck. He is currently working with Wu-Tang affiliate, Hell Razah, on a new album. “Wu-tang, to me, will always be the greatest group in hip-hop,” he said “[When Hell Razah called] I had to pinch myself.”Tokyo Cigar plans to release the mixtape he’s working on with Hell Razah, “Spiritual Kung-Fu” in the spring. “’Spiritual Kung-Fu’ is for anyone who’s ever been through anything,” he says. “If you’re fighting every day, you might as well learn Kung-Fu.” Though “Spiritual Kung-Fu” is his current focus, in thefuture, Tokyo Cigar plans to write a script for a movie, work on a solo album, go platinum and hopefully work with Jay Z.
So………………..I just got back after performing at TEDx Baltimore. WOWWWWWW. I’ll expound further on the event tomorrow. ( spoiler: IT WAS EPIC ) I’m doing the twitter thing right now and i was asked if i had my lyrics online. I just typed them up yesterday to give them to a lady that was gonna translate it to sign language ( between the experience of typing my lyrics for the first time ever rather than writing them down on paper and seeing a lady signing the words as i was rhyming it was a real epiphany moment ) so here is the first post every of my rhymes. SHAZAM
Where I’m from/ they teach hard work to the daughters and they sons/ kids at the market they used to run/ up to car windows selling dodo/ Muslim cats they get dough/ Hausa ,Yoruba and plus Igbo/ a couple of more/ tribes co-exist on the same side/ women keep babies tied/ to they backs surrounded by gats/ different army cats/ Ikoyi ,V.I., Ikeja, Festact/ African black/ ran streets alley cats/ studied philosophies of hustles/ dude they got a lot of muscle/ working with they hands/ F a work out plan/ most of us natives/ we born creative/ do things innovative/ this is where Fela learned how to play/ and world famous writers learned what to say/ it showed me beauty and it showed me stress/ I seen a man get/ beaten to death/ they left him by the gutter/ never found out why the reasons undiscovered/ my uncles and cousins they got shot/ pandemonium plot/ but the night life showed me how to rock the body body rock the body body rock/ we used to play soccer on blocks/
Seen him gleaming/ weed leaning/ empire steaming/ Victoria station/ meeting a fly Asian/ summertime in London/ BBC watching ITV switching/ London was the first place I got lifted/ hit the spots right/ I’m flying back to Ireland in like/ two nights/ to the Blackrock section/ blue and white rugby jerseys they repping/ no jive very live my girlfriend used to glide/ her tongue on my tongue/ smoke a fat one/ doze in class/ play the hallway with my Walkman on blast/ walk around Grafton street/ Tommy Hilfiger physique/ flirting with Irish chicks mad Joy/chilling at the Savoy/ Fly s**t/ but Dublin is Dublin Live s**t/ was always liable to happen/ them white boys were getting down scrapping/ donnybrook action/ life mixed with passion/ up in Belfast gats were blasting/ school locked us down when they thought beef would happen/ a lot of protests and rallies/ the city architected beautifully/ plus the country had magnificent scenery/
“I wonder (remix)”
My best friends were my headphones/ head blown/ off the melody/ before weed and Hennessey/ self-therapy/ like NLP/ my life’s a crazy flick but the film score is sick/ ever emotion that I had got hit/ I’m dead inside my feelings mad numb/ roots I have none/ living life on the run/ relationships didn’t last/ over too fast/ grab my passport/ pass/ another time zone/ another home/ another hood that I never known/ adapting environment/ I love Depeche Mode but I don’t enjoy silence/ drowning it in boom bap and violins/ cats hate me/ music set me free/ they seen I’m a star in the making too strong to be faking/ when I shine I seen em contemplating/
( Chorus x 2 ) THE PAIN THE LOVE THE STRESS THE SHAKES/ HEADS HELD HIGH WE ACCEPT OUR FATE/ TELL NO LIES RESPECT NO FAKES/ DO IT FROM THE HEART EARN YOUR PAPES/
You know the feeling right?/ in the lab late night/ Styrofoam Chinese food/ ashtray interlude/ writing rhymes at work/ inspiration burst/ like a supernova/ you made an ill melody when you were making quota/ you referenced mythology in your rhyme while mixing coke and baking soda/chemistry/ capitalist philosophy/ peace girl your writing rhymes in your bed room/ sitting at the window sill for extra leg room/ performing at the bar you a genuine star/ five deep in the car/ hit the music seminar dream chase the new Nas he caught a case/ the new illmatic never got release date/ some of us blow/ some of us slow/ to get dough/ but we still making music though/ you can spot us up in guitar center spending mad dough/
We the chosen few/ our life is musical/ it’s beyond a habit/ it’s like magic/ old man 65 play guitar live/ young boy with an SP studying Tribe/ Lady singing the blues till her soul cried soul cried soul cried Lady singing the blues till her soul cried soul cried soul cried ( repeat )
(Chorus x 2)
I was raised by rappers I never met/ my father left me fatherless/ young and searching for wisdom hidden in the dialect/ I learned for certain a dress where you hide a Tec/ same day I learned that sleeps the cousin to death/ mind correct/ heavy intellect/ plus learned respect for gang sets/ life in a capsule/ speak up don’t be bashful /graduate and flip your tassels/ do it like it aint a hassle/ cause the world smiles with you but you cry alone/ same way your gonna rest underneath your tombstone/ I put the polo on and then I think/ grab the water and took a drink/ the seeds grow/ one generation flows/ into the next/ trends resurrect/ I light a cigarette/ deep in introspect/ staring at the taxes that they just took out my paycheck/ hella stressed/ rubbing the back of my neck/
(Chorus x 4) MY PEOPLES HOLD IT DOWN/ DON’T SLEEP OR SHUT IT DOWN/ TAKE A LOOK AROUND THEN YOU FOUND/ YOU’RE HERE NOW
And it gets greater later/ the reanimator/ brought the soul to soul back to life/ back to reality/ can’t control the spite/ perfect your strategy/ don’t fold do it right live like a majesty/ party for the right to fight assault and battery/ talking to shorty/ her name Kenya/ we rolling up and then we chill listen to Enya/ after dinner/ a bunch of naked sinners/politicians argue over who got a right to live/ couldn’t walk a mile in shoes that they did/ senate debating/ got hungry families waiting/ foul shepherds leading blind sheep/ keeps/ drama infinite like bio shock/ life’s a first person shooter but you getting one shot/ if you blow it/ cant reload it/
(Chorus x 4)
And life is game of thrones/ the sinners they chill and throw stones/ some of the kids never make it home/ even without white walkers with rotten bones/ war is king weapons make the iron throne/ some good men they still die disgraced/ just for having guts to stand up in the face/ of wrong/ we know the words sing along/ time is either gonna soften or harden the blow and I seen it all before so I play to win made the choice from within trying to die old and rich with scars on my skin and a satisfied grin/ a hundred years from now everyone is maggot food/ only the lucky get to die feeling gratitude/ balance the attitude/ longitude/ latitude/ move/ put the needle to the groove/
Ivy rest in peace I gotta say Biggie smalls rest in peace I gotta say
2pac rest in peace I gotta say Big L rest in peace I gotta say
Guru rest in peace I gotta say ODB rest in peace I gotta say
Big Punisher rest in peace I gotta say Paul walker rest in peace
(Chorus x 4)
It was written…………………………….shout out Nas.
One day back in ’01 i headed over to the radio station in The University of Maryland to give a copy of my CD to PMD ( who eventually became Peter Rosenberg…..small world huh ) in the hopes of getting it played on the late night show. While there i struck up a convo with this scruffy white kid who knew a lot about hip hop and kept on telling me about this group called Atmosphere. He bought a CD ( which he still has ) and told me he was gonna play a song off it on the radio. It turns out he was interning with Rosenberg and had a couple of nights on the show to himself. Well………….he played the song and invited me back to the show to freestyle ( he still has the tape ) We got very cool and started hanging out a lot, running thru the university, chilling with his crazy college roommates, getting blasted and recording mad songs at G.C.’s lab ( he still has the tapes ) Fam eventually moved south but we stayed in touch and hung out when ever we could ( man i got the memory of blacking out after bar hopping to prove it ) and all that led to this……………the creation of his first ever album. Pretty neat huh.
I’ve worked with a lot of people and i say this is one of those albums that was the most interesting in retrospect. You know how artist always say their first albums “took my entire life up until that point to make” well this was a case of me actually watching parts of the life that ended up on the album take place. nanigan has always been a pull no punches dude ( actually he’s more the throw punches than pull em type haha ) but he also has a good heart and really cares for people even at the expense of himself. He is thoughtful enough to sit for days just to write a few bars but he can also be a cocky bastard that flies off the handle and all that comes splashed across this album in magnificent technicolor for all you crumbs. I watched some of these songs evolve from phone conversations, to song concepts to the actual songs, down the line everything stayed consistent. “2 story condo” went from Bell Atlantic hosted therapy sessions venting about a certain female ( who i met ) to one of my favorite moments on the album. “Mic brawl round two” was born from a studio session many moons ago for a project i was working on and grew into a sequel with the same exact cast of characters. Everything on this album is rooted in reality. I actually met the dude that told nanigan to “keep it Spicoli” and went through one of the nights that inspired “Land of the lotus eaters” and “Put away those fiery biscuits” ( i refer you to the blackout i mentioned earlier ) Countless stories he told me about adolescent hi jinks in Frederick growing up with Ciddida ( who is on the album ) morphed into “Ghosts and goblins” etc. If the great Brad Jordan hadn’t already appropriated the title “The diary” this album could have been a fitting home for it. The album is also extra dope for technical proficiency with rhyming. He is a supreme syllable counter. His patterns of flowing is surgical to say the very least. It was fly to hear this album come together in the aspect of looking to see how he was gonna tackle songs flow wise. It’s been wild to see him evolve stylistically from “the attic sessions” ( he still has the tapes ) to now and he is still growing cause even from demo stage to final stage he would take things further.
I kept the music fly but somewhat understated to let his words soak in. Some of it gets heavy though to reflect the intensity of emotions he puts into the rhymes. I told him i’ve been producing this album since heads been riding around in his Honda that had that damn rawkus sticker on it bumping God loves ugly. Some of it reflects nights navigating around vomiting college kids expelling excess liquor in florescent light kissed streets along Knox road, others reflect the clear field drenched country side roads that blanket myrtle beach. I wanted to evoke feelings of riding shotgun at 4 in the morning on a dutch master and munchies run and also laying in bed staring at ceiling fans like Andre 3000 in “elevators”.
Over the years i have made a lot of music with my crew and nanigan still has those tapes. Now, he has his own tape……………and that is very fucking cool. Salute fam.
On a random brisk November day in Blackrock College ( Dublin Ireland Stand up ) i was walking out the lunchroom to the dorms and i saw the homie Hassan, a fellow African who was a year ahead of me. He called me over and handed me a tape as he usually did. I looked at the cover and stared at it so hard he was like “you okay?” “yeah” i replied half dazed from how scary/interesting/original the cover looked. We talked about how FAT the cover was and how it had a certain hard to place element of intrigue to it. Rap covers at that time were usually straight mean mugging rappers gloriously rocking ghetto attire fit for a king of a future covered in barb wire or some painted/designed pictures a la prog rock/funkadellic albums. But this was different. The masks they rocked appealed to the kid i was, a kid that grew up hooked on Ninja movies. WHO THE FUCK were these guys? We opened it up and i was struck by how even when they showed their faces ( minus the incarcerated members U-God and Method Man ) Ghost stood in the middle still rocking a mask. In the hands of a less grimy group that would have screamed “GIMMICK” but for some reason they had an element of “wow i think the cops might really be looking for this guy” to them that made it seem more necessary than meditated.In the pre internet era where you were forced to use your imagination i had no reference point for the cover to strike me as being reminiscent of……………….I dunno……………..anything. Funny thing is i look at it now and it makes me think of a horror movie in the vein of “SAW” and “The Purge”. Having previously heard “Method man” and “Wu tang aint nuthin to fuck with” i was already stone cold blazed from how fly the music was but was in no way shape or form prepared for the sonic assault to the senses and life altering philosophies i was in for when i pressed play on my walkman.
Wu tang still blows particles from my subconscious 20 years later after a slew of classics that people were salivating over have been awarded the honor of having settled in to the minds of millions. But this is not about the music. Nah Playboy, this is about everything that went into the music. I had a conversation with my fam Rome in the bookstore about it and he was dazed at how many points i brought up. Wu tang as a whole were such a phenomenon because they represented everything beautiful and tragic about the generation we grew up in. I was listening to the Combat jack show ( craaaaaaaaaaaazy show btw ) and an interview N.O.R.E. had with them really put into perspective how fucked up the golden age of hip hop was. Yeah………….i said it…………….FUCKED UP. We were blessed with magnificent music every Tuesday to the point that masterpieces were over looked. ( shout out “All we got iz us”, “The Natural”, “Hold it down” , “The aftermath” [ which had a production line up damn near as potent as "Illmatic"], “The Turnaround: a long awaited drama” etc ) but the n.o.r.e. interview really hit me when he told Combat Jack that he hates to listen to “The War report” ( which i still say is the last of the seminal criminal east coast rap albums ) because it takes him to a dark place. That album was haunted by souls of people that were shot, killed, paralyzed, traumatized etc aaaaaaaaaaaaaaand to top it off Capone was in jail while it was being made. The album has fucking skits of one of the members in jail as your listening to it. Let that sink in. The music was so glorious it was an overwhelming immersing experience to hear it but when N.o.r.e said he wrote that album when he didn’t know how to use his imagination it fucked me up because it really dawned on me that that lines like “put the bogey out in your face” and “bloody up your goose/ now who scream for truce/” were more diary entries than action movie script. I also thought of the underlining sense of rage that seethed through a lot of the best hardcore albums. You had to be a certain kind of person to appreciate the beauty in a loud abrasive drum loop and to take samples that came from love songs and turn them into the beat you could rap about witnessing a close friend die to. A lot of people lost their lives for albums like “The infamous”,”Illmatic” and “Enta da stage” to be born. I also thought about all the crack fiends and shattered families i saw on a recurring basis when i was in Greenbelt MD/D.C. and the sheer numbers of them it took to give birth to an album like “only built 4 cuban linx” and the fact that screaming “Bring da muthafuckin RUCKUS” that convincingly suggests a life where violent encounters had been honed to the point of muscle memory. Wu tang was the voice of those left to die ( Ironically, the only kind of people that would survive if the world suddenly turned to mad max like conditions ) and they instead impressed everybody out in the world with their display of marvelous talent and wisdom because they are hip hop and that is what hip hop does. Hip hop is not having a band and wanting to make music, hip hop is not having access to galleries to display your art, hip hop is not having shit but what is laying within arms reach and then turning that shit into gold that shits out diamonds. These dudes were high school dropouts that were smart as fuck ( the facts of Rza becoming a chess champion and Harvard…..yeah that Harvard invited the GZA to come and speak to their students attests volumes to that ) based on 5% teachings and a life where knowledge of everything from social customs and economic strategies to how to read body language literally held the keys to life and death. I thought about people i met that one second detailed extreme acts they committed ( the kicker is when they tell you how much doing certain things fucked with them psychologically afterwards ) and the next spoke to me about how to build a computer from scratch or something else that required a lot of brain capacity to do and Wu tang took on another level of importance because they showed that when the people were shipped off to places to die, their captors didn’t notice they were carrying books, lots of books. They were also armed with the same curiosity we all had as children. As they grew up they were inspired by Bruce Lee and watched, the killer, Voltron and Underdog too just like the children of the people that condemned them.
They were also the generation raised by parents who were around to talk about “That brother Malcolm X” from a first person perspective. They were jagged reflections of Black people that fought for dignity and carried themselves with an air of class ( i mean damn look at dudes like Sidney Poitier, Gordon Parks, Miles Davis etc black folk sure can get fly and classy when we feel like it ) The slacks turned to army fatigues but the self love that poured through even made a champion hoody look as flashy as a Hefner robe or a Sinatra tux. The idea of unity was also strong enough to outgrow neighborhood beefs between members and showed how people can put aside past hurts for a better future which is lucrative for all, something y’all politicians out there can STILL stand to learn from. These dudes didn’t send someone to shoot for them, they did the shooting and were still able to come to the round table and work it out. If they didn’t they could have all died like their captors intended. But one did die……………….DAMN. Not in the war zone as intended but on the other side. In the tradition of countless other talents that succumbed to the temptress of intoxication. The war zone they came from is pre packaged with trauma and people cope with trauma several ways, the most popular being chemical. This reminds me of people i saw heroin swallow up whole around the way only to spit them back out as hollow cheeked zombie like folks and the friends i have that casually push the limits of their tolerance at the expense of their health. Sad. “After laughter comes tearz” R.I.P. Russell Jones and the others that fell.
People try and articulate what made the group as great as they were and it aint that deep. Look at where they came from and it will make sense cause of how it doesn’t make sense. I can relate to that cause i come from a place where we earn our scars and learn to give them back at a tender age no matter how secure financially we are and i chose to live a life where me and my people still wonder how something horrible kept on narrowly escaping us and oh yeah violent trauma and i have been on a first name basis for a while now, so even though i’m not a NYC 70’s baby like the Wu was, i get it. I also was blessed to see a lot of things and places and stayed curious about stuff that “Black people weren’t into” so even though i wasn’t a project kid reading up on Bobby Fischer or walking into a Chinatown store to buy books based on Asian culture that was thousands of miles away from where i was from, i get it. Voltron is the shit, i get it. But really, Voltron is the shit, i mean it. This album was followed by others from the crew that shook up hip hop as hard as this one did but it will forever be know as the first step of a thousand mile journey. The kid’s didn’t die, they grew up, the scars didn’t disappear they just don’t hurt as much and the books they carried into the killing fields didn’t burn, these brothers just put it on wax and still told kids to go read the books. Rap music now is based on what you have when before it was showing what you could do with what you didn’t have. Not saying it’s good not saying it’s bad it just is. I’m always happy to see people feeding their family in a positive way. When i visited New York last i heard this guy say “the bad times are gone” people actually feel safer. Is that a bad thing? No, of course not. But sometimes it’s good to remember what overcoming adversity feels like cause that is the spirit that birthed the Wu movement and looking at this clip from Method Man reminds me that even without big jewelry on someone dressed in a skull cap and a simple winter jacket can be just as fly as anyone with a mink coat on when they can spit stuff as intelligent as this……………..