The West Coast is the home to so many talented rappers on the come-up and one of them is the Iranian/American story-telling lyricist Azad Right. As the son of well-known blind poet Majid Naficy and trained in classical music, Azad has been putting his creativity to use since early childhood and has brought that creative mind over to his career as a Hip-Hop artist. After a period of paying dues, learning, making mistakes and witnessing the advancement of his peers, Azad seems like he’s ready to take that next step in his career. With poetry flowing through his veins and a unique story to tell, AllHipHop.com sat down with the young gifted writer so that you can learn more about him. Ladies and Gentlemen, here’s Azad Right.
How did the art of Hip-Hop become a part of your life?
I lived in Venice, CA and grew up listening to Eminem, Dr. Dre and Nas. Those were my three introductions to Hip-Hop. I was surrounded by people that weren’t in to the inner-city lifestyle. I never took part in gangbanging but I could relate to the street poetry of Nas. With Eminem, I would print out these lyric sheets and highlight the patterns – the schemes were so intricate. At first, it didn’t make sense how he would rhyme something on bar one and come back around on bar four, so I highlighted it and wondered how I could get my stuff to sound like this. I spent the better half of my teenage years trying to master the multi-syllable compound rhymes. My mom’s boyfriend, R.I.P, would play 2Pac in the car and that also gave me an introduction to the culture. Around my high school years, I took it seriously and would go to open mic events and the Fairfax Poetry Lounge. I saw the come-up of a lot of the artists out here that are now on a high level.
Was there any clash between your Iranian culture and Hip-Hop?
Just to give you a little background information on my family, my parents have both been politically active with beliefs that did not exactly line up with the Iranian government. My father never imposed anything on me but my environment caused me to think the way that I think. My Culture itself probably clashes with Hip-Hop but my parents are very open-minded. I grew up in Venice. My producer, who I grew up with, is Guatemalan and Puerto Rican. My other friends were white and black. The Iranian Culture came when I started putting music out they felt like they could relate to me because I’m doing what they have always wanted to do but they got f*cked over doing what they’re parents wanted for them. A lot have told me that they have a voice now because of me.
Do you get any backlash at all?
It’s been overwhelmingly supportive. I’m sure there are people that say things behind closed doors, but I don’t care. I love what I’m doing. I’m not where I want to be yet but I’m having a great time doing it. If you like it, then you like it. If you don’t, I don’t know about it.
Your father is a blind poet?
Yes and he is the single most influential person in my life. He inspires the passion for what I do. When I was younger I would go to shows all around the world with him. I would watch the reaction that people had to his writing. All walks of life are touched by his stories. He’s followed his dreams his entire life without sacrificing an ounce of integrity. He told me that whatever I do in life, as long as I do it one hundred percent, nothing else will matter. Actions speak louder than words. A lot of people say that sh*t but he’s really walking that path.
Do you have a favorite poem of his that stands out to you?
Yes I do, it’s actually a collection of poems that was dedicated to me called, “Father and Son.” There’s so many more too. The trials and tribulations that this man endured is – I don’t think even he’s at peace with it all. I still think that there’s a lot more that he wants to get done in his life. It’s inspiring to see someone who’s been at it for so long, still have a hunger and a desire to do more.
Seeing him work on his poetry must have gotten you started at a young age.
My mom just showed me a video of when I was 4 years old, sitting on a piano stool, writing journals. The journals were taken to Kinko’s to be copied and I would sell them out to family members on holidays. I was low-key getting my entrepreneur and writing skills going.
When did you start to feel that your writing skills were really developing?
I got expelled in High School because of a record that I participated in putting out which dissed a local gang that kept jumping my homies. Fortunately they let me come back after I completed an independent study to graduate with my class and go to Prom. There were 4 of us and one of them, whose name I won’t reveal, is in the NFL right now. Another is an MC from Los Angeles who is starting to do well right now. Looking back on that, we’ve all come a long way. I quit rapping for a while after that because I blamed rap and the Hip-Hop culture for getting me in to that situation, as opposed to blaming myself for being a f*cking idiot for doing that. I didn’t even know the people I was dissing. I was going off of what other people had told me. I felt like an a**hole after that and I had months and months to reflect on it. My parents wanted to move because I was getting threats from all over.
This was a “real” gang that you dissed?
Yes, a real gang. It was some dumb a** sh*t and I learned my lesson – I got my a** beat!
They got you?
Of course and I will never go down that path again. It’s all love now. I’ve got homies that are in it and they want me to win. This is the life that they can’t live and they want me to win doing it the right way.
How did your school find out about the song?
By my senior year we had put out 3,500 copies of the Mixtape with the song and there are 4,000 kids at Santa Monica High School. It was getting around. Back then I went by the name Pudge After High School, I went to Santa Monica College and I failed my a** off but I learned that you can use that school to get any internship that you want. I applied to MTV, Universal, and Interscope. My homegirl was already at Interscope and she saw my Facebook status. She brought me in and I got the gig and it changed my life forever. I worked at Interscope 25 hours a week, just doing stuff for free, but learning the music game. I was running reports, looking at Soundscan, looking at blogs – they schooled me the right way on how to do this. A & R’s started to hear my tracks because my boy would put me in the mix with Drake and J. Cole back in 2008 when nobody had really heard of them yet. They were surprised by the tracks and I thought they were going to sign me but instead they brought me in for my good ear and asked me who was bubbling on the Los Angeles scene. I put them on to U.N.I. who I thought was one of the dopest groups and everything comes full circle because the person who was their road manager is now one of my managers.
That’s amazing for an artist to get that kind of business education first hand. If only all artists could intern at a record label to see how the business is run.
The most successful people In this industry are the ones that know how the business works. A lot of artists just throw out music with no plan. Where is your press build? What do you stand for? What is your identity as an artist? These are questions that are asked by people like the ones at Interscope. You have to learn how to balance creativity and commerce. So shout out to everybody who got to intern at place they wanted to, doing what they love, and with ulterior motives without letting anybody know them (laughs).
Tell me about an incredible experience of yours in the music business so far.
I opened up for Kendrick Lamar at The Music Box and it was the show where Dr. Dre first came out on stage in support of him. I got to meet Dre and DJ Green Lantern backstage. I saw Kendrick before he blew up and that night let me know that this can really happen to me because I saw it happening to him. I need those moments in my life because I’m a realist. After the show, 200 people got my CD, I was taking pictures with girls – it was great.
Do you ever have moments where you want to quit?
Quit? No. Do I get frustrated? Yes. The moment you lose passion for whatever you’re doing, that’s when you need to move on. I have that passion and fire still burning in me.
What frustrations you about this business?
What you just said, “business.” Nothing about the artistry frustrates me. Being in the studio and not being able to come up with something, inspires me even more. On the business side of things where you can’t get this placement or put this song out because people have boundaries and want to box you in – that’s frustrating but you can’t let that effect your craft. The craft is the most beautiful part of this. Cherish those moments of being in the studio and having writers block. At least you’re trying to do something and the art is telling you to go live some more.