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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

exclusive: auto-tunes, krs and house parties: a chat with moka only. part 1.


Over the years, educating my ears to the Hip Hop sound, I learned why Canadian Hip Hop has taken so long to be accepted by our southern brothers. To make it simple. They weren't ready for it. Maybe over the years, our sound has become more tame and well, manufactured that it has been taken in by the Yankee's, but a few years ago, I think our Hip Hop music was way too evolved for them. Maybe it's a bias criticism from a Canadian BBoy who would stand in the stance to defend his Canadian culture forever. Maybe it is fair. I just think that there isn't many American emcee's who could rap like ours. Who have the stamina and the work-rate like Canuk emcee's.

Like this guy. Enter Moka Only. He brings normacy back to the culture. Yes. Normacy. How the kids on the hills in BC pronounce it.

There's a lot you can say about someone who has been on the microphone for almost two decades and hasn't thought to change his style to fit in. Even if he did do some more commercial tracks with the likes of Len and most recently part of the Western Hip Hop giants, Swollen Members. However, his unique lyrical mannerisms have only improved. And that's also saying a lot with 40 projects under his belt. However, in an exclusive interview, Moka reveals that he doesn't think it isn't "that much." He said. "Maybe only in Hip Hop where cats are lazy and full of themselves" he writes jokingly. "You know, in the 60s a musical artist would often release an album every two or three months." He continues, "I dare anybody to go back and check the stats of how the music game used to be. I think my rate is like this for a few reasons. One is that I'm obsessive and neurotic about music so its only natural to want to be working on it at all times." Moka reveals. "Two is that yes,survival is important and i always want to keep coming with fresh material and lastly I like to have various themes and vibes on projects and I can't cram everything into only a few releases. I want to be like the jazz guys and just always be building with cats. Collabs, all of that."

In his recent project, the follow-up to his long line of Martian Xmas albums, Moka has introduced a couple new performers to the stage, who have heavy music backgrounds. "Sean O'Hagan of the incomparable British avant-pop group The High Llamas' to my audience." he announces on the album's press release. "This group has been instrumental in partially reshaping my scope of music making. I am also pleased to introduce to the world a new talent on the boards, a beatmaker by the name of Jules Chaz of Victoria , BC who comes from a jazz drumming background. I foresee great things for his future."

Speaking of the future, I asked Moka about what has changed in the game since he started. He thought the answer was easy. "The Internet" he said "That's the most obvious thing. The Internet and digital technology. Its made a big, big mess out of the music industry." Moka said frankly. "Not to say that the industry didn't have problems already but c'mon. Look at it. Nothing is sacred anymore. Took me awhile to get used to the new model so to speak and it seems like nobody is really sure of what that is exactly..including myself". He continued. "To make money in this now takes an unbreakable spirit. Its doable though but maybe just as feasible to have another business within or outside of the music industry to augment financial progression. Survivability."

Still speaking of the future and knowing his mad appreciation for music instruments to make original beats, I asked the tall nomad what he thought of the whole auto-tune craze. "Autotune is old news.. We were doing that back in the late
90s. Its just a pitch correct function that people have learned to have a lot of fun with. I think its whatever, really. Not my bag of cookies but if ya go back in my catalog you'll see that I used it in 2002 on the first Lowdown Suite album." he reminded me. "And even THEN I used it in tongue and cheek fashion. Maybe cats need to move on past it. Maybe not. Its just funny because its the same as the vocoder which I heard on records even from the 60s! So cats need to know its not new or revolutionary in any way. Its just fun and I can see how it could be addictive for an artist to do it" So what's his most sampled piece of vinyl? "I cannot reveal that" He says. "Nice try. Well, I'll just say that I probably have sampled from Progressive Rock the most, then Jazz. Yup. That's safe." However, he does love using his own beats. "I do own a lot of instruments and I use whatever I'm feeling in the heat of the moment. Obviously sampling is a big part of what i do too but I'm proud that I do know how to compose without using the machine if I so choose. I need to get a baby grand piano. Can't stand using pretend piano sounds"

Editors note: Just in case anyone has a baby grand piano. Send it Moka's way. Thanks.

I had to take it back for a bit. I asked Moka what album do you think is the most important in Hip Hop? "The most pivotal rap recording to me ever was P.E.'s Fight the Power. Yup. That's it. Can't let that message die either. One love to Chuck D". And how about emcee? "KRS-One is one of the most important voices from over the course of Hip Hop. Rakim was very interesting and advanced, too. As well as PM Dawn."

I knew someone else would feel the same about Dawn as I do.

Before ever getting signed, Moka used to do shows wherever he could with with another Vancouver based emcee named Prev, who he would later team up with to help comprise Swollen Members. Moka recollected on a few crazy stories during those days.
"Me and Prev used to throw basement parties back in the early 90s when Hip Hop was in its so called golden era. We would either throw them or go to other homie's parties. Man this one time we were at my homie RKV's basement party. He was DJing and me and Prev had a couple funny dance routines hooked up. We got into one in the middle of the party and everyone sort of moved outta the way and somehow a move wasn't co-ordinated correctly and we both ended up almost knocking each other out! epic headbutt!!" Moka laughed. "I had a HUGE deep,purply black eye after that and I'm light skinned so you know that it showed! Everybody thought I had been brawling or something." Moka continued with the stories. "At other parties we had it would start out with having a gang of girls and homies over maybe watching Martin on Sunday nights in '93 and then all the peeps would end up crashing out for the night. In one room." Picture it. Moka continues, "So you can imagine that me and my dudes would be trying to put moves on our female friends that was in the room.. In total darkness, fumbling and groping and hoping to not cross swords." He remembered "We were living in an one room crib at the time so it was just pretzels,yo. We called it the Winter Olympics or some shit like that - back in that winter. Then we'd share in our medals the next day. Ya know? telling the tales."

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In part two of this exclusive interview, We talk to Moka about his latest projects, his future projects, how it felt natural teaming up with his Nope partner, Psy from The Oddities, why he doesn't think of himself as a Canadian rapper and just more Hip Hop silliness with the Only one. Stay tuned.