Catching Up with Lateef the Truthspeaker

Posted by Billyjam, January 4, 2012 05:09am | Post a Comment
Throughout Lateef the Truthspeaker's recently released album FireWire on Quannum Projects the longtime Bay Area emcee / Solesides founding member shows nothing but pride and love for his hometown of Oakland,  CA. 
LiveWIre contains countless shout outs to "The Town" including mentions of Interstate 580, SoulBeat TV, and Skyline High School. In fact the East Oakland born & raised emcee even arranged a Skyline High School rap reunion of sorts on the new album's lead single "Oakland" which features cameos from two fellow alumni of the Oakland high school: Del the Funky Homosapien and The Grouch.

One morning last month I caught up with Lateef at World Ground Coffee cafe on MacArthur in East Oakland's Laurel District where he was grabbing a hot drink before heading out on the road, along with fellow Solesides/Quannum member Lyrics Born, to travel up to the North West to do some shows. The two emcees, who as well as having their own individual careers collaborate together as Latryx, (but had not in a long while) had just done two nights of "reunion" shows at The Independent in San Francisco along with such other local artists as Bayonics, Honor Roll, and Hopie Spitshard. "Awesome" was how Lateef described those two shows. In addition to being one of the founding members of the Solesides crew/hip-hop collective that morphed into Quannum Projects Lateef is also part of The Maroons (with Chief Xcel) and has another side career recording with Fatboy Slim. He told me that he and Lyrics Born were busy working on the long overdue follow up Latryx project - that he and Lyrics Born, along with some help from individuals like DJ Shadow and Chief XCel, began almost two full decades ago - but haven't released anything new in over a dozen years with the exception of a few new bits on a mixtape CD (and now a download for sale on LB's site) Latryical Madness Vol 1 mixed by DJ Zeph .  "We are about six songs into it [new Latryx album] right now with production on there by Amp Live, Cut Chemist, the Bangerz [formerly Finger Bangerz] are on there doing some stuff. And a few other cats as well: DJ Shadow and [Dan the] Automator is supposed to give us some stuff. And Chief Xcel is supposed to give us some stuff. We've got a bunch of stuff," he said.

Lateef "Oakland (feat. Del the Funky Homosapien & The Grouch)"

As for the wonderful LiveWIre album track "Oakland" featuring The Grouch and Del The Funky Homosapien Lateef shared that, "I like to tell people that don't know that all three of those emcees; we all went to high school together. Del had graduated before I got there from Skyline [High School which he also name checks in the album track "Testimony"] and The Grouch and I both went to Skyline [at same time] and so that was kind of a reunion of sorts. And I always wanted to do a song with The Grouch who I've always respected," said Lateef adding of the Living Legends member's contribution to the new Lateef album track that, "I thought that he really came with it" with his mentions of such Oakland landmarks as Children's Fairyland. "In the video he holds one of the keys," laughed Lateef of the music video for the lead single which should be released someday soon he promised noting that it coincides with the  all the local / Bay Area publicity and radio promo he is doing right now. "All the local radio, and then we're going to try and spread it out after that. We've already been getting a bit of love from 99.7. DJ Party Ben has been playing it there. Miles the DJ on Live 105 has been showing a lot of love, and Aaron Axelsen too."

As for the feedback on the album Lateef said that, "I'm pretty happy with the responses that I've been getting to the record. I thought it was a pretty risky record." Why so? "There's rapping stuff on there which everybody knows of me, I rap, but there's also a lot of singing and genre-bending stuff - kinda like The Pixies meets me rapping. There's just all different kinds of stuff on there. Some of it is kind of new wavey, electro-hoppy, and people have generally been receptive." Among the things about the new album that Lateef is "proud of" are the two songs - the Chief Xcel produced "We The People" and "Hardship Born (feat. Lyrics Born)" which he described as, "political. I am not afraid of political songs. I think every record I've done has had a political song on it and without being preachy. I think it is an aspect of my personality. It's a responsibility to express and I would like to express it, to say what I feel about the world and what is going on."

On the topic of the music business today when people expect to get music for free versus when Lateef started out when people paid for their music he said, "The album itself has become a loss leader. It goes out there and it does what it does and people hear it. But it creates opportunities to do shows and to get licensing and to make money in other ways. And that, really to me, is what an album does right now," adding that in this digital age, where file sharing is rampant and making money from music is extremely difficult, "If you are making music right now it must be because you really like making music cos there is not that 'Oh I am going to make a lot of money' off it. Yes there is always a chance that you could make a lot of money if you had a hit record but the chances [of that] are slimmer than ever now. And its funny because I am at my most prolific right now. My mixtape [Truth At Sea] had 18 songs on it. My album has 13 songs. And I just did three exclusives on the mix I did with Lyrics Born."

And as for that long overdue official Latryx follow up project Lateef assured me that it will be worth the wait. He believes that when he and Lyrics Born record together that "we make something that is truly unique" something that "nobody does." So why so long a space of time between the last Latryx project and this forthcoming one? "We each had our separate things we had to do. Lyrics Born had his things that he wanted to do and I had mine too. We were always talking about 'Let's do another record, let's do another record' but we always had other projects at hand when we were talking about it. And now it is interesting getting back together now. We are both super sharp [now]. It's something else. The stuff we are coming up with right now is really something else!"

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Solesides (3), Latryx (4), Lateef The Truthspeaker (2), Quaanum (1), Dj Shadow (22), Lyrics Born (13), Interview (341)