Thursday, June 4, 2009

DC's Head-Roc Tells It Like It Is

If you haven’t heard of DC hip-hop lyricist Head-Roc before, chances are that that won’t be for long. Head-Roc, a DC native and long-time performer in DC and in the tri-state area, recently began touring with his new afro funk band, GODISHEUS and has been headlining such noted events as the recent FUNK FENTY protest held outside of the administration building last month to performances throughout the DC area promoting his “Tip the Band” performance series. Head-Roc is unabashedly honest with his outlook on everything from music to the political scene in DC and here you will read a Q & A that will be sure to answer you want to know about this irreplaceable DC icon.

Liberated Muse: Head-Roc, you are known for both your high-energy shows, classic music and love of DC, most notably your political stance in many of your songs. How do you view the connection between music and politics in general, and specifically when it relates to Chocolate City?

Head-Roc: "For me, music is synonymous with life expression. It’s the nature of the spirit to produce sounds and to me all sounds are musical.

Now politics, in my view and very broadly, is whatever the set of factors are that determine how one behaves and decides to interact with other persons. the politics of a person or group of people can beneficially or adversely affect the life and livelihood of another person or group of people. They in turn have set of politics that will determine who they respond when acted upon. Our politics are born and shaped out of our life experiences which of course can be expressed musically.

So, it is quite a natural thing in my opinion that the expression of my political views come out in my music - as is the case when Robert Nestor Marly, Paul Robeson, Nina Simone, and all the other great soul expressionists made their wonderful rhythmic compositions. Unfortunately, there are groups of people on the planet who have disconnected from certain aspects of their music expression and they have organized themselves to promote a culture that actually devalues the importance and relevance of people doing so freely and uninhibited.

Particularly where playing percussion instruments are involved they have organized, apparently being so unnerved by the awesome and humbling effects of rhythmic human expression, to legislate when and where it is appropriate to express one’s self in such manner. So, we have to get permission from the institutions created by these groups of people to ‘redress our grievances’ as to their political decisions – which overwhelming disenfranchise our needs and favor their cultural desires.

The heartbreaking part is how this all relates to Chocolate City where the residents are majority descendants of enslaved Africans and this continent’s native peoples. The governing body, some members, share many of the same descendant characteristics with the majority of Chocolate City’s residents, but are, seemingly in full force, disciples of Western politics, ideals, and philosophies – which has been nothing but a triumvirate of oppression for us. So, now we are in a very dangerous situation where we are being oppressed by those who look like us, and because they do they are given a ‘pass’ for continuing disenfranchisement political practices. Our so called consciousness as a people erroneously have expectations and assume that our brothers and sister in political office actually will advocate on our behalf towards attaining long overdue fairness in this political process for us very special Americans, of which I am one. So, I try to write songs of empowerment in an effort to counter these complacencies. "

Liberated Muse: What is your opinion on the current state of music in DC and how can it change for the better?

Head-Roc: "I think there are many different aspects of DC music. I’ll answer this as a big fan of those who choose to trail blaze and stand firm in the creation and presentation of original works. that said, DC music is phenomenal! The diversity and level of proficiency in song writing, recording, and performing is second to none in the country I think. The Package, Krayola, Kokayi, Poemcees, Noon:30, Trophy Wife, Cornel West Theory, N’digo Rose, Elikeh, Chopteeth, See-I, Sitali, Asheru, W. Ellington Felton, Nea Posey, Ellisha “Teapot” McKinney, Deborah Bond, Mustafa Akbar, are a few notables who come to mind immediately. There are so many more… young bucks Lyraciss and ProVerb are my favorites from the next generation right now too.

how things can change for the better is simply that people need to play their parts and support one another. For instance, the best event planners/promoters need to connect with the best local stars for their events. at least for some of their shows, maybe instead of spending money to bring indie cats from outta town of comparable name recognition (and draw) to get people at their shows, they can put that money into popularizing the reasons why our local music lovers need to support the professional local indie acts - just like they do for out of town acts. Or, go ahead and bring those acts here to chocolate city but also include the best local talent as part of the event. Most of the local established artists have networks set up themselves, so a coordinated approach to promoting the event is mandatory.

Or, there can be more instances like when my man Nas Jota, who won the DMV EMA Best Video award, shot and produced for the “Warning” video featuring Enoch the 7th Prophet, The Package, Kokayi and produced by Suroc. I believe they all worked together in a wonderful agreement to create a product representing DC Hip-Hop to the fullest with high quality product. Not sure, but I don’t think any money was exchanged and everyone came to the table with their parts ready to be woven into one. The result is one of the hottest singles and video to ever come out the DC music scene. I am so very proud of them for making that happen. It was incredible to be in the video and part of that moment where a good many of the DC Hip-Hop movers and shakers were present for the shoot.

Liberated Muse: You are known as being a hip-hop icon in the DC area, however, your new sound with your band GODISHEUS is very rock-oriented. What are the influences behind this new sound?

Head-Roc:Funk, Funk, funk is the influence behind the new sound. Though I’ve been continuously active as an artist, I haven’t dropped and album since 2005 and part of the reason is that I’ve been searching for the right production. I like to be challenged musically and eventually I was able to convince Dwayne “Super Bad III” Lee, who I know is one of the baddest musicians in Chocolate City, to undertake being music director for what is now known as the GODISHEUS International Funk Train aka The GIFT, or simply GODISHEUS (gotta-see-us) – a 21st Century Funk, Rock, and Soul, Hip-Hop “People of Culture” empowerment band. It is the best thing musically I’ve been blessed to be a part of hand’s down! Keith “Blizzard the Bass Lizard” Snowden and Kenny “Kwick” Gross round out the group so well that as just a four piece unit of Drums, Bass, Guitar, and Lead Vocals, GODISHEUS is turning heads all over the city, and in every genre of music appreciated. We do hope to become your favorite band, DC!

Also a big part of influencing the new sound im rocking with is while out touring and running our Green Party President Campaign in California with my man Dr. Jared Ball (aka The Funkinest Journalist of FreeMix Radio/ and host of WPFW 89.3FM Monday’s “Jazz and Justice” radio show), he turned me on to a book called “Funk” by Ricky Vincent, and reading it has changed my life forever. It’s now my bible as it really gives insight to why I feel the way I do about music expression as a descendant of enslaved Africans living in the Nation’s Capitol, and all the challenges of doing so as a means to earn a living. It showed me that the Funk was the music expression of our people as descendants of enslaved Africans evolved from centuries of survival, and created by Soul Brother Number One: James Brown. It showed me that the substance of Funk is spiritual and otherworldly even allowing one to transcend the confines of this world’s imposed “Law and Order”. It helped me see that Rock is from Funk and only the Funk can hold Rock in place to fulfill a mission of creating music fellowship that brings people of varying interests together achieving the realization that we can do things differently on this planet, than what has been done."

Liberated Muse: You are a headliner in the upcoming Capital Hip Hop Soul Fest in Marvin Gaye Park. What led you to an event east of the river?

Head-Roc: "I am very much interested in doing events east of the river and even more so into being part of a movement that creates sustainable enterprises for hosting and nurturing dc music culture. The CHHSF is a wonderful investment and contribution and I am very honored to be a part of it, and psyched to be rocking it with GODISHEUS! I am actually currently looking to identify just what existing establishments can support live music concerts. As soon as possible I’d like to produce an event east of the river for the very good folks on that side of town. They deserve quality, responsible, and energetic entertainment just like the folks west of the river get on the regular, you know?

Liberated Muse: What advice would you give to a struggling performing artist in DC who wants to have his music heard?

Head-Roc: Plain simple, get organized. You have to organize your support base into a moving force that will follow you around to the different venues you rock. Keep creating, practicing and performing fresh material so as to give your supporters a reason to come and check you out each and every time you rock. Record and release in conjunction with organizing your fan base and your sustainability factor as in independent artist will increase.


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