They say theres nothing more dangerous in this world than an educated African-American man with a platform. From the spirited, and often confrontational, championing of black America by Malcolm X and Huey P. Newton to the politico rap rhetoric of KRS-One and Chuck D, when intellect meets a mass medium the combination becomes a powder keg waiting to explode.
With their most recent release I Eat You Eat, the A-Alikes are hoping their album can be that blast. Members K and Ness have been on a ten-year grind thats seen them become Unsigned Hype alumni, Peoples Army/RBGz soldiers, and underground sensations. Now, fresh of the heels of touring with Ghostface Killah, AllHipHip.com linked with the A-Alikes to find out why the progenies of dead prez keep fighting the good fight and just exactly who the they are thats trying to hold them down. Salute!
AllHipHop.com: What role did you play in dead prezs Lets Get Free album?
Ness: We all came together, dead prez and A-Alikes came up in Tallahassee, Florida in the late 90s. You help your homies out. They got the situation with Loud Records, and me and K were still in the South hustlin, doin what we do, and when they get the deal, it was like we all got the deal. Loud was dealing with Wu-Tang, Mobb Deep, Big Pun. When we first came up to New York, we was immediately in Loud offices meeting with Sean C and Steve [Rifkind]. We got to see the whole industry experience firsthand. A lot of the beats on Lets Get Free, we played a part in that. Family s**t.
AllHipHop.com: Their situation with Loud was widely discussed, especially the mixtapes that followed, and them trying to get independent. What did that teach you, when you went into a deal with Nervous Records?
Ness: Capitalism parallels [with situations]. What they went through with Loud, we dealt with at Nervous. But we knew more going in. Guerillas learn from past experiences. We had certain goals in mind, dealing with Nervous. We didnt go in blindly. We didnt expect them to be doing a whole bunch of s**t. It was definitely a parallel. Labels is plantations.
AllHipHop.com: To a mainstream audience who may not be so familiar with the A-Alikes, how would you introduce yourselves?
Ness: A-Alikes is RBG, Guerilla Nation. A-Alikes is revolutionary street music. [It’s] the future of Hip-Hop. You can’t say you bust your gun in 2006. [We ask] why are you poppin your gun?
AllHipHop.com: Why do you say “the future of Hip-Hop”?
Ness: The world is a certain way and we are adjusting it. Our s**t is brand new, we’re not playing people like they stupid. People are blasted with a lot of info. Its not the old street music, it’s what’s your politic. Its our new single, “What’s Your Politic?”
K: It’s realer then its ever been. Hip-Hop is a weapon. Cats look to it for guidance. A-Alikes cover a lot of issues. A lot of topics people can relate to. We put you on to something new in every song. A-Alikes can spit. We were [The Source magazines] Unsigned Hype in 2004. If you ask why we not spittin about the cars, it’s because we trying to spread a message to our people.
AllHipHop.com: Please explain the RBG movement to and how do the A-Alikes contribute to it?
Ness: It’s a people movement, its not a rap clique. It goes back to Marcus Garvey. He gave us the courage that you see. The red, black and green, that’s the colors that Marcus Garvey gave us. This aint a rap clique. Everybody whos interested or supports Black people and getting us free. It aint so much you signed up and then you down with RBG, it’s a mentality. RBG stands for many things, red, black and green; and revolutionary but gangsta. We will bang for our freedom. Anyone whos down with that way of thinking is RBG. dead prez is part of RBG. A-Alikes help with the beats, with the rhymes, the same way dead prez help with our music.
AllHipHop.com: If people were more aware of the history would they appreciate A-Alikes music or gravitate towards it more?
Ness: I think groups like A-Alikes and dead prez would do numbers like 2Pac. But the difference is that he came out in a different time; people wanted to hear what he was talking about. As an educated listener, you respect the history. The sincerest feedback comes from cats that have been through some real s**t. This type of music is to distract the people. If you’re up on your sh*t, the best rapper is the real s**t. Eminem would not be the top sellin rapper or nothing closest to the top. The dude could rap, yeah you get that props but the top that’s the making of White hope. It’s steroids, it’s bigger than that. It would be different than that. We would definitely sell more. The more ignorant the audience the less we sell. They did the same thing to Black music since beginning of time.
AllHipHop.com: You keep referring to they. Who are “they”?
Ness: They are the enemy. When we saying the enemy, we say the system. The oppressor. It’s not just the police, it’s not just the president, it’s anyone that works for them. It could be you, it could be me. There’s always two sides; the pigs, the president, the system, the enemy. There’s two sides and it’s us against them. Whether its the police whoopin your ass or the judge saying you’re guilty.
AllHipHop.com: I know you were recently signed to Nervous Records, a label that had signed artists like Black Moon and Smif-N-Wessun in the past, how is that going for you? And what do you expect to accomplish under the mainstream umbrella?
Ness: We have a joint venture; it’s Nervous with Guerilla Nation as opposed to just artists signed to a label. We definitely rocking with Nervous for a while. Working on this album has been a learning experience. We got an up close taste of the industry. They pay for a couple of posters and studio time. We just making it happen. We using it as a tool to move forward.
K: We are distributed by them [and] they are distributed by Warner Bros. We gotta keep the independent mentality.
AllHipHop.com: Does Nervous have any creative control over your music?
Ness: Not at all. If it was a sample that costs a lot of money they won’t pay for it. Or won’t pay for a beat because they won’t spend the money. It’s only budget constraints. What you hear is the A-Alikes. No creative control [from Nervous].
AllHipHop.com: Who are some artists, producers or other collaborations you have on your album?
Ness: stic.man from dead prez is on four songs. M-1, Richie Pittsburg, Letia Larock sung on “Till We Free.”Papa Wu blessed us with some wisdom at the end of the album. Chuck D starts [the album] off. Bilal the R&B singer is on it. DR Period produced the single, Ayatollah, Fetty G, Forced Disciple, Black Jeruz and Hed Rush are some of the producers working with us on the album.
AllHipHop.com: You guys were involved in a police brutality situation a while back. What happened?
Ness: A couple years back, we had a photo shoot that we were doing for our Live or Die album. We were just taking pictures in Brooklyn. We invited the heads through, [Stic.man], Umi, Tahir, the whole RBG fam. We did that. On Bean Street and Bedford, we doin our thing. Across the street, here comes police, doin what they do, patrolling our neighborhood. These two police officers were payin a lot of attention to what we was doin. They came over, gettin all in our business. We just wanted to continue, we aint botherin nobody, doin nothin extra. We was just being young Black males, throwing up our bandanas, congregatin thats against the law or some s**t. They asked us to show IDs, [we refused]. Long story short, they aint like that, they called for backup. Mad pigs came out. It was on. I aint gonna get into specifics, but it went down, its in the books. Me myself, I was slammed to the ground in the struggle. We spent the night in jail. The movement came through real strong, shout out to Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, them brothers and sisters definitely showed and proved. Calls was made, lawyers was contacted, and they took care of us. [In the end], we went to trial. We filed a civilian complaint. We went through the whole process. We got some money out of it. Being what we about, a lot of people think we just shootin it out with the pigs. But its real life. Cats is out here goin at it everyday with the Jake. We got a song on I Eat U Eat called Protocol dealing with the whole situation, and the science of when Jake runs up on you.
AllHipHop.com: How has the response been from anyone who has heard the album so far?
Ness: Crazy. People have that funny look in their eye. It’s a breath of fresh air.
AllHipHop.com: Lastly, I know youre very vocal about Cuba, Fidel Castro, and socialism, and even have a debate with Pitbull in place. Tell me about that
Ness: Viva Fidel! We aint about celebrating one person. We shout out Huey P. Newton, Marcus Garvey, Fidel, and all them. Its not about them per say its about the people. As far as the far as the situation in Cuba, from what weve studied, thats an example of where we tryin to get to. They dealin with socialism. Fidel got sick lately. People are happy about that. Pitbull did a song [dissing] Fidel, happy that [hes] about to die, in support of the s**t that the U.S. do. The United States got a lot of propaganda, trying to down Cuba. Its working for a lot of people. They dont understand thats bigger than Cuba and bigger than Fidel. We support Cuba. Were not blinded, we just know the situation were dealing with here. Anything is better than here. Go to Liberty City in Miami, go to Carol City in Miami, and see whats poppin. Go to Brownsville, go to North Philly. America, all over the world, is ramming down its policy. Nowadays, when empires conquer s**t, instead of throwing they flag down, they puttin a McDonalds down. We not stupid. Pitbull, we heard what you said [about Black Nationalists] better not come down to Miami. Well, we comin! We goin everywhere.
K: We aint even Fidel professionals or experts. We just got the science on him. He advocates free education, free healthcare. Under his regime, they got the highest literacy rate. Youre talking about a real low HIV rate per capita. Its a lot of stuff hes down over there [thats good]. In America, if you dont have an education, you might as well be a slave. The grass aint greener over here.
AllHipHop.com: Isnt there a glass ceiling though? Literacy is great. But Ive always understood that the smartest people in Cuba are held down by a glass ceiling.
K: The glass ceiling that people talk about in America is not the glass ceiling that you talkin bout over there. To my understanding, Fidel concentrates on the common needs of the people. You could educate yourself, but you gonna have to be down for the cause which is socialism, communism, moving the whole country forward. Pitbull and everybody, they want the opportunity to come over here and be a part of that elite one percent that controls 99 percent of the populations money. Fidel aint havin that. He said, you can educate yourself all you want to. [But] if youre the best doctor, that means youre gonna cure a lot of sick people you aint gonna drive a whole bunch of Benzes. Thats whats up. Its a human thing. A-Alikes is about human things. White supremacy is anti-human, its cannibalistic, and thats my opinion.
Ness: Revolution takes times; its a process.