You already know we’re fans of Black ELement here at Metal Lungies, now I linked up with EL for a proper interview. Black talks about his meeting with Talib Kweli, his favorite New Jersey and Boston rappers, among other things.
ML: First of all, the meaning of the name. How did you come up with the name Black ELement? What does it mean to you?
Black ELement: Well there are 4 other elements of hip hop, graffiti, mc-ing, b-boying and turntablism. I’m the forgotten element, black people created hip hop as a form of self expression and a way to get through the day. My name is a homage to the culture’s creators.
ML: What rappers would you say have influenced you? Go into detail – this is always something I find interesting.
BE: I was heavily influenced by various emcees, besides the obvious (Jay, Nas and Biggie), I’d have to say I went to Rawkus Prep School as far as where I picked up the most. Mos Def showed me that soulful and funky music is still relevant, Talib taught me consciousness, Big L showed me swagger and Pharoahe Monche showed me how to think outside of the Box. They were the foundation of what molded me into what I am today. Outside of the Rawkus family, I would have to say that Outkast was a HUGE influence on me musically due to the fact that they pushed the envelope on every album they dropped. That’s something I admire and aspire to do throughout my career.
ML: I read in your bio that you got a chance to meet Talib a few years back. Tell me what that was like.
BE: I met Talib when I was 16 at a Common show. I was really nervous cause I was scared that homey was going to be a asshole and crush a younging’s dreams [laughs]. But Talib was real cool, when I told him I spit, he left me with the simple message “Do You. Don’t let anyone dictate your art.” and I have taken that message to heart every time I make music, I always do what I feel.
ML: Let’s talk about how you got started with the album in the first place. You had done tracks before you started recording it, right?
BE: Yeah, a lot of those tracks were the Missing ELements. I have others that I did too, that you’ll probably never hear until someone steals a brother’s hard drive [laughs]
ML: When did you start recording A Major Minority?
BE: Officially I started recording September ’07, I started to have a idea for where I wanted to go with it and I pretty much decided to record until I felt I had a album that didn’t have any fillers, and made sense with my concept.
ML: How did you hook up with the producers and artists on the album?
BE: Everyone on the album I know personally, and I met everyone at different times. I met Rami Afuni and NAV in ’04, then met BBoySpaz and Kush Klien a little after that because they all went to Berkley. In ’05 I met Jelani, who introduced me to Ryan Durkin. So I pretty much met everyone through someone else, and everyone I mentioned above went or is currently attending school in the Boston area. Danksta however is someone who I’ve known since I was in 5th grade, and I didn’t know until ’03 that he made beats, after that we started building and three years later he gives me the instrumental to “Quiet Nights”.
ML: Can we expect more BE/Notherground collabs? “The Itis” is a really great song too [produced by Notherground collective member 6th Sense.]
BE: Don’t forget “Confirmation” either! Yeah, you can expect more in the future. I always respected what Notherground brings to the table, and after being in NYC for the summer and chilling with them dudes, I respect them more. It’s funny cause even when people taste a little bit of fame, heads get cocky, but not them. They’re probably the most low-key dudes you can meet.
ML: I mentioned “The Itis”, which is one of several conceptual songs you’ve done. How do you approach writing lyrics for a song with a specific concept in mind?
BE: It might sound cliche, but literally the music speaks to me and I usually take it from there. I always try and challenge myself, and make the concepts as sometimes as outrageous as possible. “Down?!?!” was totally about getting ass on a airplane plummeting to its doom, that whole concept started out as a joke until Durk told me I should really do it. Sometimes it takes other people to tell me the idea I had would be interesting, or I just go for it regardless…like a Maverick. Take that Palin!
ML: Is there a certain sound or feel that you look for when you’re picking beats?
BE: When I’m working on a project I have a predetermined idea of what I’m looking for and I always stick to that. I passed on a lot of dope beats, because they didn’t fit on A Major Minority, but right now I’m just experimenting. But the feel varies. If I’m depressed I’ll take a depressing beat and if I’m amped I’ll get on some crush your face Lil Fame shit!
ML: One thing I think is interesting about today’s rap landscape is the rise of internet promotion. Talk about how you approaching promoting and distributing your album online.
BE: Well I started out doing the Missing ELements series which was me dropping 3 non-album tracks a week for 3 weeks, and that got me a lot of attention. The Missing ELements mixtape with Dub Floyd, did considerably well too numbers-wise and I truly believe it was due to the overhaul of free music that I blasted out to the blogs. The Internet has created a way to get your music out there quickly, efficiently and has no limitations. The reason I went this route was due to the fact that the internet puts so much emphasis on “good” product, if your music is good people will download it, if not well then they won’t. I mean look at Blu, the dude made a great album with Exile, someone bootlegged it on the net and 7 months later he’s everyone’s favorite MC. All I did was skip the bootlegging process and offer it up for free, and I have to say I think it worked pretty well.
ML: Do you plan to actually sell your music at some point?
Black: Yeah, possibly. I mean we are kind of moving away from paying for music these days. Stuff gets bootlegged eventually anyway. All I want to do is put out my music and make money through the only thing people can’t bootleg: shows.
ML: You’re Jersey born, and you live in Boston. Could you talk a bit about your favourite hip: hop records from NJ and Boston? Let’s say about 3 records each.
BE: The Outsidaz’ Night Life EP was my shit in high school, obviously I fucked with Redman and the Fugees. Jersey always had a lot to offer the hip hop scene, from Boston all I ever really fucked with was Reks, Project Move, Special Teamz and Statik Selektah.
M: Thanks for the interview.
BE: Thanks, appreciate it!