T-K.A.S.H.: Made in America

At 27 years old, T-K.A.S.H. sounds well beyond his years in wisdom. Aligned with Paris, the Bay Area radio personality and MC has a major agenda. He’s scaring the streets straight with true-life experiences of his time on the curbs, mixed with his education on a better tomorrow.

In person, there’s nothing scary about T-K.A.S.H. He’s jovial, with an infectious laugh that compliments his sincerity after the crack-up. Having worked with The Coup in the last five years, it’s finally time for his Guerilla Funk debut, Turf War Syndrome. The album blends melodic West Coast music with “hard truth” lyrics that cook up the brain.

T-K.A.S.H. discusses his agenda with AllHipHop.com. He alludes to the dangers of hard truth, as well as the racial barriers that struggle exceeds, and why “Laffy Taffy” is nothing sweet. Peep!

AllHipHop.com: Firstly, you’re the first artist releasing an album on Guerilla Funk that’s not Paris or his Platinum Production series…

T-K.A.S.H.: [hysterical laughter] That is true.

AllHipHop.com: What kind of responsibility or pressure does that put on you? Also, the Bay is famous for “do-it-yourself”, so why’d you align with Paris?

T-K.A.S.H.: With exception of Conscious Daughters being the first group Paris ever worked with on Scarface [Records], I am the first artist on Guerilla Funk to put an album out. I think the pressure really comes from the pseudo aspect of there even being pressure. Here’s the deal: everything that I rap about or talk about, and as far as Paris and what he does, I already do in the streets of the Bay Area. I teach a Hip-Hop Political Science class. I do a lot of community events. I was on the organized committee out here for the NOI [Nation of Islam], I was an activist for the Tookie Williams case, I’m registered in the Millions More Movement, so I do my part in other areas. So really, there’s not much pressure based on the fact that I’m already bringin’ a lot to the table. That was actually part of the reason Paris signed me was ‘cause he saw I was already halfway there. Really, it’s just takin’ what I already have and makin’ sure that gets cultivated under the Guerilla Funk umbrella. For instance, from now on, everything that I been doin’, now has a Guerilla Funk accent on top of it. That’s the new itinerary I have to up-keep.

AllHipHop.com: Being a radio personality in the Bay, do you ever feel that being an artist too, may be of conflict to peoples’ perception of you?

T-K.A.S.H.: Um, no. Here’s why: I’ve eliminated the aspect of me being an artist on the side. Clark Kent and Superman are the same person with me, man. With a lot of people and a lot of artists, they do radio – and it’s novelty, a cool idea. “Tight, uncle Benny has a radio show!” I’m just as popular and just as important to Bay Area Hip-Hop as a radio DJ as I am as an artist. In the Bay Area, besides AllHipHop.com and other entities that help out, what we have on the commercial level and the college level, there is no middle-ground. KPFA and the Friday Night Vibe, what I’ve been doin’, is constantly steady middle-ground for almost seven years under my guidance, per Davey D. We basically were the only All-Bay-Area formatted show for four or five years till recently. That wasn’t based on ratings, that wasn’t based on ads, that wasn’t based on anything that commercial radio bases their rotation and programming on. It was based on the aspect of me being able to control an aspect of my career, and at the same time, reach out to other artists who were in that dilemma. It just caught on like wildfire. I don’t think it conflicts it all. I don’t play my music all day. Up until now, I played my music maybe once on the show.

AllHipHop.com: In your press release, you called Turf War Syndrome your magnum-opus. Those words are used often and cheaply today. Tell me why you call it that?

T-K.A.S.H.: [laughs] Everybody comes along and says, “We’re going to raise the bar.” And the trend is, the people who say that, are not gonna be the ones who do it. I think magnum-opus is relative to the point that my project speaks for itself. It’s good quality music, and it’s strong messages to the streets, outside of rockin’ ice and rims and all this self-destructive nonsense that commercial Hip-Hop brings to the table nowadays. I don’t want to seem conceited, but I know that people are drawn to harsh reality captured on CD, when it comes to Hip-Hop. I basically scored the frustration in today’s society, and commercial Hip-Hop’s affect on our communities. I did it from the aspect of the so-called G’s and thugs of America. Not college students. Not the 13 year-old suburban square-bear standpoint. I did it from the streets, the ghetto standpoint. ‘Cause I lived that life for a lot of years, and failed miserably like a lot of people do. But there is hope.

AllHipHop.com: You bring an interesting point on perspectives. One of the only Bay groups that could tour on the East Coast and sell out clubs night after night is The Coup, who you worked closely with. I’m always fascinated as to why that is, and why so many White people are in the crowd, when critics refer to the group as militant and Pro-Black. Why is that?

T-K.A.S.H.: [laughs] That’s a good question! I’m glad you asked it because the reason why a lot of people outside of Black and Latin Hip-Hop culture [are drawn], is because the problems we’ve faced have overlapped into other races and other cultures due to economic and social hardship. “I may not be Black, but I relate to you, Black Man. I relate to The Coup. I relate to this hardship.” I think the perils in society are what bring people to Coup shows, and bring people to buy Paris albums, and T-K.A.S.H records. We can all relate to the pain and suffering, and Pop culture’s onslaught of masking that for us. I mean, they’ve got 34 year old men jumping up and down, dancing to “Laffy Taffy”, come on. Meanwhile, the kids are cryin’ and the phone won’t stop ringin’ with bill-collectors. And they got on pink.

AllHipHop.com: The Coup caught controversy for their album cover of Party Music. You have a controversial song on your album, “How To Get Ass”, which is a play-by-play of assassination. With the Patriot Act and all this, are you scared putting this out?

T-K.A.S.H.: Boots of The Coup put my up on this a long time ago: “They’ll come for you wheneva they wanna come for you.” It doesn’t take a Patriot Act – that was designed for everybody. But for Black folks in the ghetto, there was a Patriot Act for us years ago with the drafting of the COINTELPRO. Now as far as, “How To Get Ass”, when I say, “This is how you get assassinated” That’s what I mean: how you and me get assassinated. There’s a good chance that I’ll get death threats, that I’ll be under surveillance, investigated – all for my lyrics. Okay, if there’s something to die for in America, it’s definitely justice and equality. Of course, I don’t mean killing the president. That’s not my domain. My domain is speaking the truth, and it could get me killed in the process. I understand and accept that.

AllHipHop.com: Tell me about your Hip-Hop taste, and that element of your record. Because “Made In America” references Mobb Deep’s “Survival of the Fittest” and “In My Drawz” seems to me, to be referencing Snoop’s “Ain’t No Fun”…

T-K.A.S.H.: [laughs] “In My Drawz”, I’m from the West Coast, and if you’re born and raised on the West Coast and are from a certainly demographic, you listen to a lot of Oldies. I’m 27, so I grew up listening to a lot of Oldies and Hip-Hop. Parliament Funkadelic, The Gap Band, and “In My Drawz” came about from already having that kind of sound in me, instinctively. I wanted a West Coast feel, musically. But the message needed to be politically and socially conscious ‘cause that’s where [the West] is stereotyped. They think we don’t say nothin’. A lot of people compared me to Nate Dogg on that song. If I sound like that, cool. I grew up listenin’ to Nate Dogg too, but what I wanted to prove was that you didn’t have to be Nate Dogg to be somebody likened on that level. You can still have a point on top of that.

AllHipHop.com: A few years ago, I went to a screening of Kevin Epps’ film, Straight Outta Hunter’s Point, a film that you scored, which revealed the violence in San Francisco in no uncertain terms. Three years later, do you think that film brought any awareness to outsiders or people within the community?

T-K.A.S.H.: That’s a great question. It brought awareness to The Bay from people outside. We have the same issues and perils in our community – homicides, drug abuse, mental illness, gang violence, you name it as anybody else. Because we’re not motivated, you don’t hear about it too much. Thank God for Straight Outta Hunter’s Point and other documents like it. It was such a huge stone that was uncovered. Me and Kevin Epps met up on the streets man, and ran with it till the wheels fell off.

AllHipHop.com: Guerilla Funk has been so much against commercial radio. But for Bay Area Hip-Hop, is there hope when E-40 and Keek da Sneak are getting airplay like they’ve been?

T-K.A.S.H.: I’ll never associate hope with Clear Channel. I think that all Clear Channel does it bring more awareness, and that’s it. As far as people waking up earlier in the morning to go exercise and s**t, or go to rehab ‘cause E-40 is on the radio again is not happening. Look at the Chopped & Screwed situation [in Houston], or the Crunk era. Those trends were so big that commercial has to comply. Instead of giving people hope, it gives us assurance that we’re doing the right thing. Commercial radio can’t be aligned with what the streets are talking about and what the streets want. I will say, as a member of the Bay Area Hip-Hop community, we have nothing to say to E-40 but, “Thank you.”

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