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Aloe Blacc – Speaks to the Gateway in this Xclusive Interview


22 June 2003 No Comment

Thanks for taking the time to talk to us, how are things doing? 

ALOE: Things are going well right now. I am making a lot of good music and all my performances are getting good audience responses. I am excited about what’s happening with Aloe Blacc right now.

Can you tell us a bit about who Aloe Blacc is and a bit about Emanon? 

ALOE: Aloe Blacc is a young man who wants to live an extraordinary life. I’m a writer, producer, performer, musician, scholar, public speaker, businessman, friend, brother, son. Aloe Blacc is a lot of things, and I have to be, there is a lot that is in store for me in my life. EMANON is the union of Aloe Blacc and DJ Exile. Together we have been making and publishing music since 1995. Whenever we initiate a song or concept, our goal is to make a timeless piece of work that can be visited and revisited time and time again.

Where does the name Aloe Blacc come from? 

ALOE: The name Aloe Blacc has a lot to do with my self-concept. The aloe plant has many uses, most of which are related to healing. I like to think of my lyricism as a source of natural healing. Writing rhymes is like therapy. It helps me release my creative energy. Sometimes people tell me how a song I wrote helped them get through a situation or certain period in their lives. I spell Blacc with a ‘c’ because it means more than the color black. I wanted to symbolize a state of mind and attitude, so I spell it differently so that people can consider it in a different light. The man, Aloe Blacc, comes from Southern California, but my family is Panamanian, so my upbringing was a mixture of the beauty of the afro-latino culture and the relative sterility of American culture.

I see that you did your own production, what equipment/software do you use? 

ALOE: I sample and arrange songs through the computer sometimes to make songs. Other times I use the Triton to write and arrange music.

I digged that sample on the first track, would you be willing to share where you sampled it from? 

The first track on the Aloe Blacc EP is called “Get Blacc”. The sample is actually me playing the trumpet to a tune that I learned back in 1992 called The Russian Sailor’s Dance. The tune stuck with me as symbol of power and
force. When I started producing I always knew that I would use it. Eventually I wrote the perfect song to go with the force behind the big brass sound. After I played the trumpet into the computer, I took the sounds and made them sound like other brass instruments like the Tuba and Trombone.

Tell us a bit about your backgrounds, how did you get involved in all of this? 

ALOE: I have always been into music. I started writing raps when I was really young. I remember a time when I was about five or six years old when I was freestyling with my dad and older sister. I didn’t know it was freestyling back then, we would just try to make up funny lines to joke about one another, but now when I look at it we were battling. I met Exile in 1995 and we started making music together. We have been progressing together ever since. Now we both are putting out solo projects and working on other things, but we have about three projects together that we have not released yet.

What was it like for you growing up? 

ALOE: My childhood was not bad. I always look back at the family events. When I was small, my parents and their friends had just come to the US and they would have parties all the time. My favorite memories are of being at
someone’s house crowded with Panamanians speaking Spanish and laughing and dancing and playing dominoes. The salsa music and calypso and reggae would be blaring out the speakers and I would be running around with the other
little kids. Those were the days…I would like to recreate that with my generation, but it would be hard to get the same feeling because we were all born here in the states.

How did you hook up with the folks at IPOWAX? 

ALOE: I met the owner of IPOWAX years ago when Exile and I were putting out our second mixtape together. He actually let us use his miniDAT recorder, which helped out a lot. Over the years we lost touch, but he was in contact with people that I was in contact with and we started doing business recently.

What artists influenced you back in the day? 

ALOE: I have many influences, but from the past I would say the Native Tongues, back in the 80’s I used to listen to LL Cool J. In the 90’s I listened to artists like Common, OC, Mobb Deep, Black Moon, Blackaliscious. 

What is it that you listen to now? 

ALOE: Now I listen to whatever is good and that tells a story or makes a point or is put together with clever insight. There is a lot of bad music out there. 

What’s the first thing that comes to your minds when you think of South Africa?

ALOE: Oddly enough, and probably because of my Panamanian background, I think of people who know how to celebrate life. Images of South Africa that I have seen look a lot like my memories of visits to Panama. You have your industrial area with good infrastructure and other areas with tin roof houses and dirt roads. Of course I think about South Africa’s history and leaders, but what comes to my mind the most is how it seems like despite the struggles in the past and present, and partly due to them, South Africa’s people live closer to life and appreciate the beauty of life.

If people had to meet you for the first time what would they expect to find? 

ALOE: I’m an easy guy to get along with. I like to laugh and have fun. I always hear elders saying that the key to long life is to smile and laugh a lot, so I take their advice. I like to have a good time with whatever I am doing and I like to learn new things whenever I can.

What are your favourite foods and drinks? 

ALOE: My favorite drink is cranberry juice and my favorite food is cereal.

What has been the craziest best place you’ve ever performed at? 

ALOE: The craziest place I have performed at was in room full of 250 coworkers. I was the new guy and they make the new people entertain them in a talent competition, so I sang a song that I wrote. The song has a really sad ending and some people were crying at the end. Fortunately, I won the competition and received a free travelers check. Other than that, I really had a good time performing in Paris, Berlin, and Tokyo.

And the worst? 

ALOE: The worst place I have ever performed was at a rave where the music from the drum and bass room was so loud that it was skipping the needles on Exile’s turntables. We could barely make it through the show. No one could hear us and we could not even hear ourselves.

Do you ever battle? Do you have any memorable ones? 

ALOE: I used to battle, but not anymore. At this point I just like to support other people who are getting into the game. Back in 1996 I won a significant battle in my area. Now, my favorite battles happen between the pen and the paper. 

When is the next Emanon album coming out? 

ALOE: I am not sure exactly when, but within one year “The Waiting Room” should be released. It is pretty much done, we just have to take care of business things first.

What would the ultimate Aloe Blacc collaboration track be? 

ALOE: I would like to do a song with Stevie Wonder, or Anita Baker, or Cat Stevens. India Arie makes very good songs too, I wouldn’t mind making a song with her. 

What would you say is worst thing you experienced in this music business life? 

ALOE: The worst thing I experienced in the music business is a distributor who would take my product but never pay for it. Needless to say he is not in business anymore because he was treating everybody poorly. Luckily, I have had good fortune with the people I choose to work with.

And what are your best memories of hip hop? 

ALOE: My best memories of hip hop are of a weekly club that used to happen during the 90’s in Los Angeles called “Unity”. I saw all of my favorite emcees and groups perform at this venue and the price was really low until Wu Tang started to blow up. They changed the game for the underground in a lot of ways.

What do you prefer, working in the studio or performing live? 

ALOE: I prefer performing live. When I am in the studio, it is strictly business, just record and get the job done. When I am in a production studio, and I am creating something new, then I can have fun and be creative, but in a recording studio I just do what I have to do. Performing is great. I enjoy being in contact with the audience and making up new parts of the show during the performance.

If there is anything you want your listeners to gain from listening to your album, what would you want that to be? 

ALOE: I want them to understand that Aloe Blacc is more than just an emcee. This is my solo debut and I have a lot to share in the coming years. I just want the people to know that I am going to make all kinds of music, all styles, all concepts, everything.

Are there any plans for touring? 

ALOE: I should be touring the US in the fall and heading out to Japan and then Europe. I am sure I will make it out to South Africa at some point soon. The Professionals, my management team is really working hard at making all of this happen.

Where do you see yourselves at the end of this year? 

ALOE: At the end of this year I see myself being hated by a lot of other emcees in the game and envied by a lot of hip hop heads trying to come up. The things that my music will bring to the culture are going to set different standards in hip hop. Emcees are going to have to start taking more responsibility for their own development because I won’t make it easy for them to look like their worth listening to.

What are your favourite tracks on this ep? 

ALOE: The entire EP is full of my favorite songs. I have plenty of solo joints recorded. The EP is a compilation of my favorites. The 12″ single will have “Personal Business” and a bonus track that I produced called “Been
There Done That” featuring Oh No, which will appear on my solo LP (all production by Oh No) called “Be Somebody.”

If people want to hook up or learn more about you what can they do? 

ALOE: To learn more about me just get some EMANON music or some Aloe Blacc music. You could also go to www.emanonhiphop.com to get more information. Or, come to a show and talk to me.

We’d like to thank you taking the time to talk with us, any last words or shoutouts? 

ALOE: Big fat shout to Africa’s Gateway…thanks for giving me the chance to speak to you and your readers. Shout out to Dream Sequence and DJ Exile. Shout out to Oh No, Black Love and Trek Life. A fat shout out to Eastoar in
France, Wenod in Japan, UrbanSmarts in Switzerland, and GrooveAttack in Germany. I would like to thank my management team The Professionals for making things happen so well with my solo career.

Learn more about Aloe Blacc at www.emanonhiphop.com and www.ipowax.com

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