An interview with Witness

In the track “Sylvia Plath,” you combine hip-hop and an early Jazz style — you seem to be fond of combinations like that. What brought that about?

I think jazz is one of the more interesting genres of the last century. I’m certainly no pioneer of combining it with hip hop, but it’s a combination that I still think has more room for exploration. In more recent works, I’ve been focusing on Brazillian jazz and jazz from other countries as primary influences. I’d like to eventually make an entirely jazz influenced album.

You obviously have a wide range of influences. What would you say are the most prominent?

Honestly, my biggest influences for my writing aren’t musical. I find the writings of various authors and poets to be most influential. Kerouac, Murakami, Bukowski, etc. Although, I’m not as versed in them as I’d like to be. My musical influences often change as I progress, but the ones that have made the biggest impact on me have been Rakim, De La Soul,The Pharcyde and of course artists like Atmosphere and Sage Francis for opening up the doors for the independent hiphop movement. Other genres would include The Cure, Billy Joel, Jorge Ben, Joao Gilberto, Bob Dylan and Nina Simone. A lot of indie rock as of lately.

What inspired the creation of Recollective?

Recollective was originally intended to be a music label. However, with the current situation of everyone starting a label and just as many people failing at it, it seemed pointless to spend effort and money on trying to make ours stand out. So instead, it became a sort of network of artists from different parts of the nation to sort of group together and promote each other. Trading fanbases with other artists has been a long lasting tradition in expansion and since we all make music that we personally feel can span genres, in some way or another, we help one another out. It also allows for the full growth of the artists in the collective, without any of the exclusivity of a label.

Why do you write music?

I started writing for my own personal enjoyment. I went through an afrocentric phase at a period of my life where I wanted to fit in with black kids I knew that rapped and so, I sort of forced myself into performing in front of others. It was a masculinity thing as well. In retrospect, it’s a pretty ridiculous, unimpressive story.

However, now I write because I think music can make an impact on others. A very deep impact, in a positive and negative sense, depending on the artist and the listener. Certain artists have positively affected me and that’s something that I’d like to give back. I’d like to make people aware of their feelings, their surroundings, their government, whatever..I want to simply provoke different thought patterns. Life isn’t viewed through one looking glass and sometimes the perspective of another can greatly enhance one’s own. I don’t personally think that my perspective is that much more important than another’s, but I think someone else might find it worth listening to. At the very least.

How do your personal views play into your music?

I try to make sure my views play the same way they would in a conversation with me as they do in a song. I think presenting your actual personality within your music is important for the listener. Although, I think it’s important to try to compact what would be a longwinded conversation in reality about politics or love, into a fairly brief, concise song in my opinion. Again, if music is meant to impact others, I think it’s important to have a message in your music. Preferably, one with substance. Things about respect for women, appreciation of all cultures and how the proper milkshake could bring most, if not all, of the boys to the yard.

Is there some underlying philosophy to your musical paradigm?

I’m not sure. I try to keep my philosophies on the table. I think hip hop lyrics, unlike other genres, can provide a medium for expressing one’s musical philosophy in a very blunt manner. I try to avoid that when I can, but just as other artists will sometimes submit to a more cliche aspect of their genre, I like to as well. When I make a more “battle” oriented song, I try to poke as much fun at myself as I do at others. Balance is important.

I like to meet each cocky statement with a confession. I wouldn’t mind making more punchline oriented, crowd pleasing songs for fun, but they most likely wouldn’t be representative of how I actually feel about myself. So I struggle with how I go about doing them. If there are any underlying philosophies at work, they’re most likely subconscious and I haven’t realized them yet.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.