Albe Back: South Bronx's Thespian
Mira! Mira! AlBe's back. But he never really left. Albert AlBe Back Daniels, known to many for his role as Brooklyn beside T.I. in ATL. However, he is also known as a wicked slam poet that recently graced the digital world with the release of his first album Hi. As a Hip-Hop artist, he'll have your head spinning with the way he twists words and his poetry doesn't end there. AlBe's already working on his next project Buy and jumping on tracks with everyone from Kidz In The Hall to Gym Class Heroes' Travis McCoy. The writer, producer, and musician talks about getting back into acting with Fabolous' new film Loso's Way, being the voice of the South Bronx, preserving his cousin Big Pun's legacy, and even drops his two cents on the Drake hype.
AllHipHop.com: So congratulations on the record. What's the response so far?
AlBe Back: Thank you. It's amazing. You work so hard your whole life for one thing and now that one thing is completed. People allowed me to express myself and who I am and my music, and a project that meant more to me than anything I've ever done.
AllHipHop.com: The track featuring KRS-One and McLyte, 16, 17, 18 is story like and feeds right into your album. Were you going for a concept album?
AlBe Back: If a lot of people they had the opportunity to do a record with KRS-One it would be called Hip-Hop, and if you had MC Lyte it would be called something else. I had the opportunity to have a concept: that he takes 16, and she takes 17, and I take 18. It always has to make sense to me. And that's what I want to stress and hope people see that throughout my career, and ask, Why did Albe Back make a song with that person? Because it made sense for that moment. I don't just do features and just on people's songs. Like KRS-One, I'm from the South Bronx, for me to do a song with him, it's like oh my god, it's like chilling with Jesus. With Fab, doing a song with Fab, what are you gonna do? You're never gonna be as flossy as him; he's the fliest of them all. You're not gonna be as laid back or trying to mack to chicks or nothing, and I felt like no one's tapped into that with Fab being half Dominican except me in Hip-Hop history. That's what I wanna do I wanna make marks of creativeness. I want to say what hasn't been said.
AllHipHop.com: So why did you decide to give it away for free?
AlBe Back: The album is called Hi. So you know the first time is free. It dropped on April 20. I have dope ass song with Fabolous called Mira, Mira and I felt like people are gonna go and listen to the record and want more of that. And I wanted people, when they came back to even research who I am because they like that song, to have something to they could hold onto. I couldn't put a price on this one.
AllHipHop.com: You're a real Do-It-Yourself type of artist. Even with working with T.I. And Kanye, you've never waited for someone else to make it for you. Why don't you ride that wave of fame?
AlBe Back: Yeah I have that problem. I grew up with seven sisters and one bathroom; you've gotta figure out what you're gonna do and just do it. There's no, I'm hungry, I'm hungry, I'm hungry. Go get something to eat and make it yourself. So I can't wait for nobody. And maybe that's the reason behind some of my failures as well. It's because I'm supposed to be a little more patient on people. I haven't seen anyone win in Hip-Hop without a successful team, so the more I build my team together the more I become a little more patient, but it's not easy. I'm usually: idea, create it, put it out.
AllHipHop.com: You're not just a musician and poet; you're also a director and producer. What other projects are you working on?
AlBe Back: We're doing Loso's Way the movie, I acted in that. I'm slow walking with music right now because I worked so hard on Hi. I want to jump on other people's songs and have fun with other artists right now. I'm not really focused on the next record which is called Buy. It's pretty fresh. So far a record I'm doing with John Legend, Guapalay, Stevie Wonder. Music, music, music.I cannot wait 'til the world sees my show. The show it just amazing because we fused that poetry and that New York street style of storytelling within the music, so it's like one big movie.
AllHipHop.com: A lot of people know you as a slam poet from NYC and many have seen Spit. But how do you take your skills a poet and artist and put it towards music?
AlBe Back: When I first started writing it was always not only what I want to say, but what hasn't been said yet. So when I approach a beat, I'm listening to what I think the beat is saying and what I feel, and also, what feel hasn't been said. So yeah, that's how I approach every song and how I approach most of my poems. I push myself to push the language and the barriers of thinking and say, Ok, you guys said this but I'm gonna say this and go one step further and say something no one's every said.
AllHipHop.com: You're music is definitely lyrically intelligent and keeps people thinking. Comparing that to what we hear on the radio these days. How do you strive to preserve the lyrical value in your content and still appeal to a larger audience?
AlBe Back: Well my song is on the radio right now. And that Mira Mira song it's so funny because the other night we were outside of Dave & Busters and whole bunch of kids attacked me and go Brooklyn! and one girl stopped them and was like, No! That's Albe Back, Mira, Mira I love that song! And we so we were tripping, and it was like Mira Mira there's so many metaphors in that record. From the This new Vogue got you Pink/Vicky see you hicky'd me. And even the Cookie Jar song I did with Olivia that has so much metaphor in there and if you listen to it you think there's so much that's disgusting, but then you break it down and you're like, Ohh ok I get it. And when I said, Are you gonna give the crew a lick, my mom was like, Ok, now you Snoop Dogg, what are you doing? And I said, No mom, I said, 'Are you gonna napkin, which is nap, which is sleep, are you gonna napkin, which is wipe your face with the cookies, or are you gonna give a crew a like, which is like acrylic, which is like your fingers, so it's like are you gonna lick the chocolate off your fingers.' And that's what I respect about Drake and these young MCs because it's just smart, smart music.
AllHipHop.com: What are your thoughts on the hype around Drake?
Albe Back: Talented kid. I think he, along with myself, I don't want to be too cocky, but I pride myself on double meanings...One I love about our form of Hip-Hop is dual meanings that people do, and I think he's got a line in a song it goes like, Does anybody like girls as much as me/Let's be honest... Yeah, I think that was just incredible. I like smart Hip-Hop, smart rap.
AllHipHop.com: So who is Albe Back?
AlBe Back: Man, this Bronx kid, who not only has a passion for words, has a passion for the art form, but a passion for the microphone and the stage. And has a message that people form the Bronx how we grew up matters, you know. And even though we're voiceless right now because there no one speaking for us. I can be that voice for the kids that grew up like me, look like me, that rock their clothes like me. And my neighborhood. Albe Back is definitely the voice of his neighborhood. And even though the Bronx has a rep of being a tough town, it's not guns and crack. It's not a hundred guns a hundred clips. It's not that. That's 2 percent of New York. New York is the subway, it's the 9 to 5 blue collar, pretzel on the street, running from this meeting to that meeting and on the way seeing somebody you know. That's who I am: the Bronx.
AllHipHop.com: Pun wasn't just family to you, it's much more than that. How did he attract you to the music?
AlBe Back: He's smart. He pushed how he said things. To just say, I shatter dreams like Jordan. If you're a New Yorker, you understand what he meant. Like, I shatter dreams like Jordan. Done. That is definitely a dream shatterer. He never graduated high school; he never went to the tenth grade. So this guy who used to sell reefer on the street to take care of his family, who his whole plan to make money was over this lawsuit he had jumping over a gate, so he's all right we're gonna make this money and be straight and provide for his family. To spend it all in a year and a half and it's done, and to have to look in his kids' eyes and say, I don't know what I'm gonna do. I don't have an traits, I don't have nothing. I wanted to be a boxer, but that's gone. I have this little mini shotgun and that's gonna leave me in jail on day. And he started rapping at 19, 20, you know, most of the people have been rapping for years. Pun started as an adult and then in five years became the first Latino to go platinum. So it was the work ethic and being the illest. And that's what I love about the Bronx. The Bronx was never about, Oh snap you got those Jordans, I want to wear those, too It was always like, Cool, ok, I'm gonna do this and survive my way, and you survive your way. That's just something I appreciate about him, something that he gave me. But I think right now I think my song's on the radio, so he's on the radio. I'm in a movie, so he's in a movie. Puerto Rican Day parade, I will be bringing him all up and down 5th Avenue. As long as I am alive and I have air in my breath, his name will be spoken.
AllHipHop.com: While you're talking about Latino pride, how do you feel about President Obama's recent nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court?
AlBe Back: It feels good, doesn't it? I mean it's feels like we're capable of doing anything. And not only that it feels like, Duh. I believe in my heart that the majority of us, brown people, if we had the opportunity, we would excel. Give a Puerto Rican an opportunity and watch what she does. Just watch what she does it's gonna blow peoples' mind. That's why I love the Puerto Rican Day parade because all these Puerto Ricans come together and their not spoken about the whole year. Nobody talks about Puerto Ricans, unless J.Lo has another baby or Fat Joe has some beef. Nobody talks about us. It's just a beautiful thing. Give us the opportunity and watch what we do.