ALLHIPHOP CELEBRATES INDEPENDENCELook into Linas eyes and youll see a bygone era when swing ruled the airwaves and defined the American songbook. For Lina, her affinity for older traditions is not a gimmick, but a way of life. Releasing her latest album Morning Star on her own label, Mood Star Recordings, Lina now attempts to navigate the perilous line between creative artist and bottom-line conscious CEO.AllHipHop.com Alternatives: Youve stated that with the new album youve streamlined the best elements from your debut Stranger on Earth and your sophomore offering with Hidden Beach (The Inner Love Movement). Was that a conscious decision you made before going into the studio, or something that developed organically as you were working on the project?Lina: It developed organically. I just evolved. I got more familiar with the business, and all my influences just kind of met each other on this album.AHHA: Now that you have your own label [Mood Star], youre juggling a lot of different hats while still being an artist. Have you had any difficulty separating all these responsibilities when its time to go in the studio and be creative?Lina: Oh yes. I didnt realize how really you have to go into a zone because I stayed [just] an artist so long and was able to just concentrate on being creative. I wanted to do the label, but once the business started coming and I had to take those business calls and make executive decisions, I couldnt be creative for a long time. I realized I had to balance both sides, and Im still learning. Im new at this but I have a lot of people helping me.When Im in business mode, I execute well. But making that transition [to artist], you have to take that down time and completely remove yourself. Its like I have a dual personality. AHHA: With your last album Hidden Beach had control and picked the songs they wanted from your catalog. Since theyre a neo-soul label, they picked most of your soul sounding records. If you had control over that project, how different would the album have sounded?Lina: It wouldve been pretty different. [laughs] It would have been more alternative alternative soul.AHHA: I remember when you first came out in 2002 you stated that you felt musically we were going backwards creatively and spiritually. Six years later do you feel the same way?Lina: Oh yeah. We are going backwards. [Theres] nothing new under the sun, whether its the 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s or 70s. Were in this recession right now and people just wanna feel something again. The standards of the music industry were tainted by video. Music was meant to be heard and felt, so the person could have their own individual experiences. But when the video came along, people became more about icons and presentation. So it diluted a lot of the real feelings and real soul in music, in all kinds.I think the only genre that kept its esteem was jazz. Everybodys in a funk now. There are all these influences. You got the soul/gospel people coming back now. And now I feel this shift happening in the music business because of the recession. [A lot] of music shook our foundation of love with the content and the impression it made on people, and how it actually confused a lot of us. Were seeing repercussions of that style of mainstream music that was really superficial. Now were going back to real stories of funk, soul, and jazz.AHHA: Being a CEO you now have to balance a musicians artistic freedom with the vision you have for the label. Since you are an artist does that make this task easier or more difficult?Lina: Its easier because I look for artists that I connect with spiritually. Im doing this so out of the box. A lot of my business managers have a different mentality about this and thats ok, because I need that for my protection. But when I connect with artists Im connecting with them on a level from an artistic point of view, artist to artist. I allow advisers to come in and advise them on the business.Its easier because I understand them. The things that happened to me in the business I wont allow to happen to them. I wont take on too many artists. I even have artists that have their own creative projection right now. They think they know what they want, but I know from when I thought I knew what I wanted and later on evolved. I know how to deal with them and knowing that spiritually theyll come around. If I have a rapper that raps about what he sees so far, but every once and awhile I hear him go there, Ill say Ok, I know hes gonna evolve to that. So Ill work with them until theyre ready. I understand that.AHHA: Love is a very big recurring theme and foundation in your music. With your label Mood Star, the actual motto is Life supports music because music supports life. How strong do you think music can be as a vehicle for social change and are there any limits on music in regards to if it can improve society?Lina: Theres no limits. Music is the universal language. I myself was raised by song. And I have a song called Whos Your Daddy that talks about some of the youth being raised by rap songs. We were raised by music. Its there when were alone; it speaks to our subconscious mind. Its music so its that thing like love; one of those things you feel but cannot see. Just the instruments and the spirit of music it is a spirit.[Musics power] is unlimited. If you listen to my all my records, Ive never written a true love song. Ive written about being strong, you cant do me wrong, I love myself, and even songs like I hope this is love, but if not Ill make it through. That was me in this society of self-glorification and superficial music; I grew up during that era too.I listened to a lot of the materialistic Hip-Hop. Then I had my own battle with the music that put women down and Im like, Im not going to be done like that. So I see how music affected me and my friends around the world.AHHA: Jazz music, particularly the Roaring 20s and swing have had a big influence on you. What in particular attracts you to those styles?Lina: Its the spirit. The people played with passion, and it wasnt about money. They were just being creative. There was individuality, independent thinking, and it was just no rules. It was the way they found joy and escape from all their problems. Whatever that thing is that they put into the music and pass along to the listener, that soul of it is what attracts me to [that sound]. It was purity, innocence, and genuine. I can hear it, no matter how low I feel it. Something about that music I have a connection with.AHHA: I want to mention a few artists from that era and get your feedback on what immediately comes to mind when you hear these names.Lina: Ok.AHHA: First artist would be Benny Goodman.Lina: Wow genius! [laughs]AHHA: Next is Count Basie.Lina: Oh my God phenomenal.AHHA: Duke Ellington.Lina: Class. Just high standards upscale. AHHA: Roy Eldridge.Lina: Ooh the truth! [laughs]AHHA: Dinah Washington.Lina: Soulful, beautiful.AHHA: And finally Billie Holiday.Lina: Oh my God. [Billie Holiday is] the epitome of an artist. The epitome of what our contributions should be as artists. I tell everybody you cant be an artist if you havent listened to Billie Holiday. And not even so much about her voice by herself, its whatever shes going through projected through her vocals. It had nothing to do with the track either; shes music.AHHA: With the new album Morning Star what are your favorite tracks off the album?Lina: My favorite track is Good Day because thats a song where I had to just keep it real on what I was going through. The album is not like the others. I call those my empathetic albums this is me and other peoples stuff. Morning Star is my stuff that I went through and things that Im thinking about. I was bold enough to put it on paper and get over myself. I have to keep it real with me and express myself. Other tracks are Piano Song and Breakthrough. I want all the ladies to listen to Get It Right.AHHA: Youre close to ten years deep as an artist. Whats the biggest misconception people have about Lina the artist or your music?Lina: Probably my vocals, I can sing. [laughs] I sing gospel, I sing R&B; Im not just one thing.AHHA: Visually your clothing and makeup have always been striking and distinctive. Has that always been your style or something you consciously started doing to separate yourself in the industry?Lina: No, I grew up with all women. I have six aunts who all grew up in the 70s. They were very fashionable and my mom had her own clothing line for a minute, and she was a beautician. So that was a thing my family was always into. And I always felt like an old soul. The things they were into were things I was into, while my peers were more modern.AHHA: Youre currently working on a jazz album. Have you named it yet?Lina: I havent named it yet. Im doing the jazz circuit now with all the festivals. The cool thing thats happening with jazz now is that theyre bringing in alternative and soul artists to do jazz who are versed in it. Im real excited about it.AHHA: With jazz theres always been that divide regarding what is real jazz. Do you subscribe to that or feel its too divisive with music?Lina: I know that they mean because a true jazz artist knows their history and the greats. They study and read music. Theyre very passionate. They make money but its about playing that instrument. Ive worked with jazz and R&B bands and its totally different. Jazz musicians are extremely dedicated to their craft.AHHA: Would you consider an album like Miles Davis Bitches Brew a jazz album?Lina: Wooo, how dare you. [laughs] It has a theme and respect for jazz but to me its something else too. Its all things.AHHA: Any closing thoughts?Lina: I want to thank all my fans for holding me down. Somebody asked me what was the difference between me and another artist they named. I do music to glorify God. I realize that as an artist I have a responsibility to make a contribution to the soul of man the way a lot of my favorite artists did. I want to reach out to all the artists out there we have a responsibility. Keep that in mind when were making music because were offering lives for the better or worse. Through some form make a contribution to the soul of man.