With mainstream now days, there isn’t much for high-minded hip hop. The majority of starting line-ups are just entertainers willing to do anything for a dollar. However… In a time when the dirt has been washed away from rock & roll, and consciousness has been banned from hip hop, one emcee is keeping his fists raised. He’s a jack-hammer to the layers of mainstream concrete, a man who has emerged dauntless.
One is an artist, a poet, an activist, and most importantly, a leader. He’s been rocking the stage worldwide since the mid 90’s — and in the first lap of this new decade, he’s leaving nothing but rings of fire across the track.
One Be Lo (Nashid) was nice enough to reach out & speak with our own Cory Clendening. Answering questions about his early days with Binary Star, plus his up & coming projects Labor & B.A.B.Y. (ALL slated to drop at any moment).
Here is that interview.
CORY: Over the years people have challenged the question, “is hip hop dead?” For a lot of us, we like to think it’s still thriving tremendously in the underground — being someone who is openly vocal about the profiteering and misdirection of Hip Hop, where do you feel the culture of Hip Hop stands now days? What is the problem that is keeping main stream from acknowledging the “conscious rapper” in trade for the garbage that is being forced onto our youth?
ONE: If you play conscious music all the time, you will promote and eventually raise the consciousness of the people. Conscious or educated consumers don’t buy just anything. I think if you dumb everybody down, they will buy more shit that they don’t need.
CORY: The demographic for mainstream Hip Hop has never changed, targeting an audience that normally still carries lunch money & backpacks. For fun, name 5 CD’s you were listening between the ages of 16-21?
1 – Whut, Thee Album- Redman
2 – 36 Chambers- Wu Tang
3 – 93 til Infinity- Souls of Mischief
4 – The Extinction Agenda- Organized Konfusion
5 – Chronic- Dr. Dre
CORY: In 1998 you formed an emcee-duo with fellow Pontiac native Senim Silla named Binary Star. You guys released two CD’s ‘Waterworld & Masters Of The Universe‘. Neither had much distribution or advertising outside of the local Detroit circuit (Waterworld only pressed 1,000 copies, M.O.T.U didn’t take off until finding national distribution in 2006) — yet, such songs as “Reality Check” have over 529,000 plays on Youtube in only a span of 3 years. Comments are still being left every few hours, comments like JulesTeaches — “best hip-hop song ever.” or MemoriaFtw — “sick beats and rhymes top 5 hip hop tracks of all time.” With these being said, what was life like during the Binary Star days for yourself personally? What was the reason you guys shook hands and went separate ways? And what inspired you guys to get back into the studio and work on another album?
ONE: Well we started Binary in like 95-96. By 98 we was putting out tapes and vinyl, maybe cd’s too.
During those days, we was rocking shows in Michigan, and going to the studio every now and then. We liked what we was doing, but never thought the world would embrace us the way they did. We saw 1,000 cd’s packed in boxes come off the UPS truck. Who woulda thought them cd’s would put us out there like that? When we went our separate ways, we wasn’t seeing no shine like that yet. It was about a year later. By then I was already on a new movement.
We working together now, cuz it make sense now. It didn’t before for whatever reason, even tho fans kept asking. We aint doing this cuz people want it, these songs sound doper to me than anything out right now. It feel like it did back then when we aint have no fans. We didn’t know what to expect we just did what we was feeling. These days, Silla is the best I’ve ever heard him, and i’m doing some cool stuff too. I’m looking forward to putting out this record, we taking our time with it tho.
CORY: You’re also a long-time member of the Seattle Dance Crew “Massive Monkees.” For the group you perform as the emcee, traveling to different high-schools speaking with the kids who might be peerless or surrounded by gang influences. What was it that got you into being an activist for the youth and wanting to be a leader for the future generations? What is it that keeps you still doing it to this day?
ONE: Yeah I’m down with Massive, and I also go to all kinds of schools, k-12 but mostly colleges. Im looking to frequent even more schools after I publish this book I’m almost finished with. I see Hip Hop as a powerful tool to not only connect with the youth, but people in general. I’ve have experienced some things in my life where in the past some teachers or organizers invited me their classrooms or whatever group they work with. Whether it’s music related or not, you never know how somebody may take from it. I usually get good responses from them and it’s a learning experience for me too. Some of us are blessed with the talent to put whatever knowledge into lyrics so i’m grateful for that ability and the responsibilities that come with it.
CORY: From the studio to the stage, your style & delivery is cloudless and crisp, you articulate a profound melody of multi’s & metaphors, at times probably going over heads. From Binary Star to The R.E.B.I.R.T.H. you’ve carried a heavy amount of substance — Lyrics such as –
“Tickets sold out, black and white kids, Diff’rent Strokes house/ Transform you pessimists to optimists and roll out/ Decepticons style, Megatron, bloaw!/ Check the rhyme files, 007 stretch beyond bounds/ Of the earth, moon, universe, soon to burst through/ Three sixty-five, prepare live, you April 1st, Fool/”
“Worse than Hollywood with that Hidden Agenda/ No propaganda inserts didn’t get censored/ Same reason magazines show the homicide view/ to desensitize you, so nothin surprise you/ Portray the victim as those who victimize you/ Despise you, religious extremes to terrorize you/”
A starving artist recited, feel the hunger inside it/ So vivid when I spit it you picture – I didn’t write it/ I lived it/ Dollar signs don’t inspire these lyrics/ Gold diggers for the mic – so enticing I’m Givens/ Partaking the game survival of fittest/ Of course Tiger Woods with the club banging Titelist, get it?/ Got it? Good. Record it with Bonnie and mix it/ Oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen – the mind of a chemist/ No green, pot of gold, isle of midgets/ I’m lucky just to see the rainbow – keep my eyes on the prism/ Intoxicated with colors, high and the sky is the limit/ I’m not flattered you biters, you can hire a dentist/
You constantly take on the approach of conscious lyricism ,what is it that makes you challenge yourself and constantly keep the goal line one step ahead? What is it that is keeping you from just jotting some half-assed lines and getting it out for distribution as fast as possible? ,
ONE: My number one policy is quality-lol I personally like things that stimulate me to think, and that’s how I write. I challenge myself to always come with a new concept or pattern, or approach every single time. I”m more technique than anything, but it’s like a ninja technique-lol
CORY: In November of last year you collaborated with the all-female group “Yin” during a local event. After turning sparks into flames, it ended up becoming an extended part of your family, you even decided to name yourselves Double007. Rumor has it that they are helping you on both your B.A.B.Y. album & the new Binary Star project, can you feed us fans and newcomers any details on how that whole relationship came about and what they’re bringing to your project? What is it that you’re trying to accomplish as artists?
ONE: DL7 is just another extension, basically. With live musicians I can do more, on stage and in the studio. We still building right now. I got this Labor on the table right now, and i’m already integrating them into the music. We been getting good response from the shows too, i’m looking forward to these projects dropping and them building their own presence.
CORY: B.A.B.Y. has been in the womb for a long time now, but like any creation in life there is Labor. Labor is stated as being a Mixtape release to help hold off the fanatics until B.A.B.Y., can you give some details on what we should expect from Labor and when that will hit iPods worldwide?
ONE: Literally any day now. The album is done.
CORY: You’re a traveling man, always somewhere with a backpack full of clothes and your Mac laptop. However recently you did something that added some character to the persona of One Be Lo — I’m talking about moving to Egypt. What inspired you to pack your bags and travel almost 6,000 miles east? Was it for artistic reasons, spiritual reasons, or did you just need to get the hell out of this country?
ONE: Haha- yeah, all of the above. I’m always working to improve myself, I still got a lot of learning and growing to do. The world is huge, I think everybody should go somewhere different for a while. Keep switching it up, keep learning.
CORY: Now we’ve touched base on the new Binary Star project & Labor, but it’s time to ask you about the much-anticipated album B.A.B.Y.(Being A Black Youth). What can you tell us about the project and what we should expect from the mastermind of One Be Lo? Any chance at squeezing a release date out of you?
ONE: I’m excited about the Baby too, and Labor makes it so much sweeter. Labor is all me, with a couple people on the hooks. On Baby I got features. I just wanted to remind people I can hold it down solo. Baby is nice too tho. I’m waiting on these lawyers to give me the all clear, then we ready.
CORY: And last but not least, the universal question, what advice do you have to offer the emcee’s & writers who choose to ignore mainstream mechanics and practice proper lyricism? The ones who use wordplay for piece of mind, the ones who sacrifice the greed for respect.
ONE: Everybody is different so I would give different people different advice. But in general, perfect your craft whatever it is. Now after you do that, perfect your hustle. Talent alone is like a car with no gas. Go out and work for your fans or whatever you call it and build that strong foundation. If you do that, it don’t matter how big you get, them true fans will support.