MW: Thanks once again for agreeing to this interview.
EA: Thanks for having me, I appreciate it a lot. Especially coming from Poland, that's honoring.
MW: Why don't we start at the very beginning - what was Your discovery of hip-hop?
EA: When I was a young kid, I listened to my older brother's collection. He had a big influence on me - he would play everybody from Raekwon to Mobb Deep, also the earlier stuff, like Slick Rick, Special Ed or Chi-Ali. From the young age I was interested in the craft - putting words together in patterns and creating captivating stories. I wanted to do it myself - that's how it started.
MW: How do You remember creating Your own very first song?
EA: My very first raps were in a composition notebook. Back in the day, I used to get the thesaurus and look up words, and then trying to rhyme them, figure out what rhymes with certain words. Then I started to put concepts together. I got the program called CoolEdit, to create music, we used the microphone from the computer, I believe it was Dell. So we rapped to the microphone wrapped with a sock, on the instrumentals from the Internet.
MW: Fast forward to 2016 - You have Your very first project...
EA: I was surprised that "For the Sake of the City" came together so quickly. I was always told to rap and put together a project. I didn't want to be one of these guys that know how to rap, but nothing ever comes from it. I wanted to do it - so I did it. The first song I've recorded was "1990 Now", that happens to be the song a lot of people love the most. I gravitated towards that beat, made by Nu Vintage. It gives me that 90's vibe. Even the hook - where I basically say some gibberish - the plan was to find a DJ to scratch all that stuff. In the studio, I laid down all the vocals, made it how I wanted to sound with all the scratches, and my boy Miguel said to leave it just like that. It happens to be the thing people love the most about the song. The whole project came together quickly, and I am happy to put it out to the world for the people to hear it and give a response. 2016 was a good year.
MW: I found a very interesting quote about You: "Influenced by the soul sound of the 70's, bravado of Harlem hustlers of the 80's and lyrical MC's of the 90's". What are the elements You're most interested in, most influenced by in these three aspects?
EA: I think it encapsulates all of these things - the 70's and the way, the bravado they carried themselves with... I don't know if You're familiar with blaxploitation cinema - the characters in these movies were larger than life, that's how I like to think of my music as being. 80's - coming from Harlem, it was all about being custom-made, all about fashion. Think Dapper Dan. The drug dealers of the 80s mirrored the 70's bravado. Rich Porter, Pappy Mason... All these Harlem gangsters had this style. 90's was just about lyrical content - You got Nas, Jay-Z, Raekwon, Big Pun... They influenced me to put the meaning in my words, not just to put words together so they can rhyme, to be able to tell stories and captivate the audience - all of these things influenced me.
MW: In an interview with Kira Deevah You said You wanted to bring hip-hop back to the essence. How can You define the essence of hip-hop?
EA: For me it's saying something with a meaning, with a purpose. Public Enemy's "Fight the Power". Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five's "The Message". Kendrick's "Alright", which speaks about police brutality and the fact that no matter the situation, we're gonna be alright. For me, that's the essence of music - to captivate the people and speak to their emotions. I'd love to see the artists to tap into that feelings, not just make trap music.
MW: Let's talk about Your main single, "All Time Greats". How do You remember creating the video for it?
EA: The whole "plot" of it was to get a feeling of where I was coming from. There was also a performance part being close to the beach. And also showing my influences - in the video there are flashes of Jay, Big L, Muhammad Ali, Nas, Derek Jeter... People I aspire to be. I think everyone has a genius-level talent. They were able to tap into theirs, I want to be able to tap into mine. The video was made in different locations, for example in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where the great Muhammad Ali mural is still there. Muhammad Ali was one of my greatest heroes. All time greats are someone we should all aspire to be.
MW: What does it take to be the all-time great, in Your opinion?
EA: There's a quote, by George Bernard Shaw: "The artist's role is to create the art work that cannot be surpassed". So if Your goal is to create something You feel no one else can outdo, surpass - then You're on the path to being an all-time great. I think knowing that responsibility - being able to say to yourself "I'm able to create something. I want it to be the best" - that will put You on the path to be an all-time great. Doing something not to be a piece of something, but a memorable piece.
MW: Going back to the album - You recorded a track on the 9th Wonder beat, "9th Wonder Kind of Love". Could You tell us something more about this collaboration?
EA: There are actually two beats on that song. The first one is the 9th Wonder sample from Little Brother's song. I'm still a big Little Brother fan, even if they don't make music anymore. Shout out to Phonte and Rapper Big Pooh. On one of their projects there was a skit with that exact sample. I asked my engineer Shafu to loop this sample for me. I laid out my verse. I wanted this song to be like a play on two different beats - first part would be about how good love is, being with someone You love. Soon as the beat switches, it speaks about negative aspects of a relationship. There are 8 wonders of the world, I feel like love could be a ninth one.
MW: Constructing "For the Sake of the City", did You have a criteria for choosing beats?
EA: There are so many different producers on the album. People I've connected with via Soundcloud, like my man Cinsere, who produced "Soul". They all came together almost synergistically. If I hear something and gravitate toward it and hopefully if it is within the fabric of what the album became it was able to come together like this. I was very lucky in that regard. Most of the time I use the beats I gravitate toward and feel like I can tell the story on, I can say something prominent or my flow sounds good with it. I could probably do a trap song, but the message I'm trying to convey plus my flow do not mesh well with a trap beat. It's also about staying close to Your roots, to what You learned about hip-hop when You first got into it.
MW: Eno Abasi means "God's gift" in Nigerian. I'm curious - do You actually look for an inspiration in the Nigerian Music, for example in Fela Kuti's afrobeat?
EA: Speaking of music Mt. Rushmore, Fela Kuti is definitely one of the faces on it. Particularly in Nigeria he's a very powerful figure. Rest in Peace to him. Given my background, it can lend to Afrobeat. There are many talented artists, like Wizkid, D'Banj or Wale are inspired by Afrobeat. The influence is in there particularly in the roots of hip-hop, I'd love to be able to marry it one day, but I haven't yet found anything that speaks to my skillset.
MW; Listening to Your project, I was amazed by Your lyical prowess and rhyming skills. Who influenced You to construct Your verses like that? How did You perfect that?
EA: Practice, listeing to the music that You love and wanting to be able to rhyme like them. From a rhyme pattern perspective, my biggest influences were Lupe Fiasco, Phonte from Little Brother and also Freeway. Freeway has a distinct way of rhyming opposite sentences together. Check out one of his popular songs, "What We Do": "When the teeth stop showin' and the stomach start growlin' then the heat start flowin', if you from the hood, I know you feel me, keep goin', if a sneak start leaning and the heat stop workin', then my heat start workin', I'mma rob me a person..." I always thought his way of rhyming was dope, more challenging than the way the rest rhyme. Obviously, I don't do that much in my music, but being able to understand that - rhyming more than just the word at the end of the sentence and connecting ideas... Lupe was so dope in that, connecting ideas and having super deep and complex metaphors. He had a song about cheeseburgers! Lupe is in my Top 10 of all time, for sure, though he didn't put out anything close to the level of his first two albums. I grew up wanting my music to be like that, to have that same amount of influence. On "All Time Greats" I rap: "The Black Thought of New York with my African Roots". Complex lines like that are what I love.
MW: By chance, were You also influenced a little by battle rap?
EA: A little bit. I haven't had the chance to listen to it that much, but I've been a fan of Canibus too. Canibus used to be one of the better battle rappers, and I still think "Second Round K.O." is better than LL Cool J's response. I'm in the minority when it comes to this one, but I think Canibus killed LL on that one. Battle rap was always something I've watched from the distance, but was never that into it. It's definitely a skillset to see a competitor in front of you, put words together to dismantle that person and then be clever with them. There are a lot of battlers that put together crazy metaphors.
MW: By chance, do You follow the European scene?
EA: Not as much as I probably should. I know hip-hop is huge in Europe, but I'm not sure who is the biggest artist right now. I know of the grime scene in London, but outside that - I really don't know much.
MW: What are Your plans for the future? What can You tell about the next project?
EA: The next project is on the way, man. I'm very excited about it. It's called "Dat Boy Good". It's a simple title. I feel like "For the Sake of the City" was my introduction to people, for them to get to know me and understand my influences - and this project is about highlighting my skillset and letting the world know it's on the level or surpassing artists that are out today. It's coming out, I wanna say, this fall. I'm trying to shoot some videos. "For the Sake of the City" came under the scope, this time I want to make sure to line up everything perfectly. I want it to have more of an impact than "For the Sake of the City". Look out for "Dat Boy Good".
MW: Do You have any message for Your listeners in Europe and Poland?
EA: Shout out to everyone in Europe, man... If there's a showcase You guys want me to do, let me know, I'll definitely come. I appreciate all the love and support across the world, I hope to see You guys soon. I appreciate the fact that even though hip-hop wasn't born in Europe, Europe has a certain level of respect for it. It keeps the our essence of hip-hop relevant today. Shout out to you guys for all the work that You do.
MW: Thank You for the interview!