Photo by Damien Randle
Substance, sound, and showmanship are among the necessary ingredients to achieve longevity in Hip-Hop. Some wRappers are crudely manufactured, while other Hip-Hop MCs organically evolve. H.I.S.D., a Houston, Texas, manifestation, is an organic group whose members - Savvi, Scottie Spitten, EQuality, and King Midas - represent the South’s diversity.
Savvi’s spectacles slip down the bridge of his nose; an expert finger automatically readjusts them. His laid-back demeanor is betrayed by his passionate statement, “What is your voice? How can you actually add, or contribute to the lineage of what’s came before you, and take it to another place? Knowing the history and understanding where Hip-Hop comes from, and having a plan on where you want to take it [is essential]. After that, the most important thing is having that understanding of self, knowing who you are in the context of Hip-Hop.”
With that, AllHipHop.com delves into an exclusive interview with H.I.S.D. The group discusses: the concept behind Spacing Up, the inherent responsibilities of an MC, and what determines a classic album.
AllHipHop.com: Why Hip-Hop? What motivated the transition from being the listener to becoming the lyricist?
EQuality: Hip-Hop was the first music that I could claim, the music of my generation. I can’t claim Jazz like that, because I wasn’t around at the peak when those guys were getting it. I wasn’t around for the birth of a lot of other musical genres. But, with Hip-Hop, I felt a connection to it. It’s almost like you had something to be proud of and lay claim to; I want to be a part of that. Plus, I can’t sing, and I can’t play any instruments that good. My voice is the best instrument I have.
AllHipHop.com: Given that you’re working within a four-man collective, with respect to each member’s experiences, musical tastes, and personal schedules, how do you make it work?
Savvi: It was a journey and a process to become the machine that we are right now. We meet every weekend, and we celebrate the end of the Weak. We’ve committed to ourselves at least one day of the week where we will come together, to brainstorm and to bounce [around] ideas, and to record. That happens every Saturday. Having more people made it take a little bit longer to get something off the cutting-board floor. But, it’s like an in-built quality control, because basically every man in the crew has to feel strongly about it, and co-sign it, before it makes the cut. The process is more tedious; but the product has become what you guys are now hearing.
AllHipHop.com: Savvi, in a previous interview, you’re quoted as saying, “The whole concept of H.I.S.D. is that we consider ourselves students as well as teachers.” Throughout your journey in music, what lessons does H.I.S.D. want to learn? How will H.I.S.D. educate the public?
Savvi: Our goal is to teach the public what we learned during the process of [creating] The Weakend; we learned how to Space Up. There are five steps to "Spacing Up": 1) There’s not forgetting your Lando; 2) Seen Green; 3) Always Rockin’- Feeling Good; 4) Take Your Cranberry; and 5) Being Aware and Conscious of Automatics. So, that’s the five steps of Spacing Up. As far as us, we had to learn those lessons ourselves, first and foremost. This is a constant process, spacing up, and now after being, Spaced Up, the end result is being Spaced. Life is a continuous cycle of learning, you know. That is how we treat the music as well. So, it parallels.
King Midas: Personally, one lesson that I’ve learned is you have to learn how to be a good teammate. You have to learn how to be a winner. To get the best out of the team, we learned how to deal with it and work together. It’s not easy; groups break up all the time. The product suffers because of internal battles that start to happen. So, we really did a lot of homework. We’ve really been checking out on different groups to see who made and it and didn’t make it, and why.
AllHipHop.com: H.I.S.D. has already earned critical accolades from some of Hip-Hop’s finest. You’ve even been compared to Golden Era Groups like A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul. How do you pay homage to these groups while reinforcing the core of H.I.S.D.?
EQuality: Being a group is one way to pay homage. There are not a lot of groups in Hip-Hop. Growing up, we all listened to those groups. Being from the South and being from Houston, we were able to witness what was going on with the Geto Boyz firsthand. We also had exposure to what’s going on the West Coast and what’s going on in New York. Even if you weren’t [physically], there you were able to get the experience from listening to A Tribe Called Quest’s Midnight Marauders and [The] Low End Theory. It was the same with and listening to groups like N.W.A., or Public Enemy. We try to learn from what they did and what they could have done.
AllHipHop.com: Are you helping to reinforce Hip-Hop’s credibility? If so, in what ways?
Scottie Spitten: We’re trying to give Hip-Hop fans an alternative to what is considered to be “hot.” Obviously, our influences stem from a certain era of Hip-Hop. That aspect may come across in our music. So, in a sense we do want to reinforce that credibility of being able to make music with substance that people still can gravitate to that is heard [and] played on the airwaves.
AllHipHop.com: How does The Hue AD emphasize the established foundation from The District and The Weakend?
Scottie Spitten: The foundation for us, from day one, has always been to be humble enough to get better. So each album takes on a life of its own. Each one is a new beginning. Progression is the key to us spacing up. The Weakend is an extension of The District. The Hue AD is an extension of The Weakend. They all are different, but they all tie into the foundation of H.I.S.D.
King Midas: It’ll be like watching Michael Jordan or Earvin “Magic” Johnson or Muhammad Ali in their prime. Not to say that young Michael wasn’t cold. Young Michael Jordan was cold, too. Young Magic Johnson was cold, too. But, it’s a difference between watching him as a rookie, as a sophomore, versus watching them in their prime. Hopefully, in our journey, if we all become Spaced, you’ll be able to see H.I.S.D. in their prime, because you haven’t seen it yet.
EQuality: To use the Michael Jordan reference, Jordan was "Spacing Up" when he was dunking on everybody. He became Spaced when he got the turn-around-jumper. He didn’t have to use his legs, he didn’t have to exert as much energy that he was [doing] when he was younger and trying to dunk on folks. When he became Spaced, that’s when he learned that he could use the faded-away-jumper, and that’s when he started winning a lot of the championships.
AllHipHop.com: What inherent responsibilities should an MC possess?
Scottie Spitten: MCs should never be satisfied with mediocre lyrics and/or songs. Put some thought into your lyrics; be creative! Say some sh*t a 10-year-old couldn’t just come up with. [laughter] An MC should be an instrument on a track as well. The track should not sound right without the MC on it. That’s how cohesive a record should be. Be able to rock a crowd. Give the people a show. Something they will continually pay money to see.
EQuality: It’s hard to speak for all MCs; but I think one thing Hip-Hop is missing is the acronym for an MC, the Master of Ceremonies, or the moving the crowd. The live performance element is one thing that’s missing. A lot of people don’t even use the [term] MC that much; they use 'rapper.' An MC means that you have to be able to move the crowd, to be able to master the ceremony. A true MC puts time and effort into everything. They put as much energy into the recording as they do the live performance. People pay a lot more money to come see live performances than they do for the CD. We don’t like to feel like we’re short-changing people. That’s one of the missing elements of MCs in Hip-Hop. In Hip-Hop, you can get away with being Mili Vanilli. If Mili Vanilli didn’t sing, and they were some Hip-Hop artists, nobody would be mad at them.
King Midas: I’ve seen it happen plenty of times - even with people that I grew up admiring.
AllHipHop.com: [still laughing]
King Midas: Put it this way, people shouldn’t be able to get your show tape on iTunes. If an MC came down here and was like, ‘Yo, man, G; I don’t have my show tape. I need you to deejay for me, or put the tracks on.’ I shouldn’t be able to go on iTunes and just play your show tape. That’s illegal; that’s not right. That’s cheating. That is steroids! That’s part of the criteria to be an MC. Your live show is [essential]. Please, don’t be rapping over your vocals like that.
EQuality: Being an MC, and emceeing, transcends Rap. James Brown, was an MC; and Cab Calloway, was also an MC. A true MC is like a true singer; they can go.
AllHipHop.com: From ’05 until now, there has been a definite maturation in your production and your lyrical growth. As an MC and as a producer who strives for betterment, what does H.I.S.D., need to do to accomplish that classic album?
King Midas: Classic by whose standard?
AllHipHop.com: Classic by your standard.
King Midas: The whole thing about "Spacing Up" is that you continue to get higher and higher. I don’t know if we’re at that level yet. But I do know that there are people in this world whose opinion’s are extremely respected, and they tell me it’s a classic. I don’t know what I can do. I can’t say it’s not if you feel like it is. Then it must be. But the thing is; that’s not for me to decide. My job is to make music and to do it the best ability that I can this year. And then the next year and then the year after that, and then after we’re done, we can sit back and say, ‘This is still jamming.’ You can’t say you got a classic until, probably 10 years down the line, when you can go back and listen to it and be like, 'Damn, this is still good.'
EQuality: Time is the best judge of a classic.
King Midas: That is one thing we strive for; we strive to make timeless music. If you can succeed at making timeless music, then you will succeed at making a classic, as well.
AllHipHop.com: There’s almost 24 hours in each day - why should people invest their time into discovering the music of H.I.S.D.?
Savvi: The way we create music, it’s beyond space and time. Today, there are people who just discovered The District, and they think it’s a dope album, a classic album. To us, it’s old material, but to some people it’s new. Our hope is that when [our music] does stumble upon someone’s hands, is that they feel like, not only that they need this, but that they need to listen to it again, and again. I can’t tell anybody why they should listen to it. I just hope that when they do listen to it, that it becomes part of their human experience. I hope that it takes them to a whole different place.
AllHipHop.com: Until the next time we’re able to converse, what would you like to share with the public?
King Midas: I would tell the public to "Space Up". During the weak-end, it will not be a good time for those who aren’t "Spaced." I would definitely begin by learning the five steps and striving to be the ones, like Arsenio Hall.