Ness (aka P. Red) and Karaam (aka A. Black) met in 1996 and soon after joined forces with Dead Prez and other freedom minded artists to collectively form RBG. Like many rap artists, A-Alikes uses their music to tell stories about daily struggles and hustles, but unlike others, Ness and Karaam do not omit the causal role of political structures and institutions. Check out what they had to say to Danielle Fear…
Thanks for taking the time out to do this interview with us…
The last year has been immense for you so lets catch up and see what’s been going down…
The new album "The Hustler And The Hunted part 2" was released recently, what feedback have you been getting from that?
The Hustler and the Hunted: Part 2 is a follow up to Part One which we did right before our last album 'I Eat, U Eat' last year. Both were mixed and arranged by DJ Victorious. We call it a street album because even when we do 'mixtapes' they have an album feel. We don’t do rap for rap sake verses or freestyles. Everything we do is concept driven and has a theme, but at the same time it’s not the follow up album to 'I Eat, U Eat'. It’s a warm up to the next album we dropping in a few months 'One Life, One Death'.
We've been getting great feedback from the homies, other artists and from people who've bought it online. People been sending messages on the myspace saying they love it and telling us they favourite songs.. We get text messages, and emails on my sidekick all times of the day from artists we cool with that’s on the road telling us they listening to the CD so its all love.
What is the meaning behind the title?
The title Hustler and the Hunted was taken from a line in our bio for our last album 'I Eat, U Eat' written by one of hip hop's premier journalist Dream Hampton. She writes, "… They never judge the next man’s hustle though, and on songs like “Greyhound” and “They Wanna Murder Me” they bring depth to what it is to be both the hustler and the hunted…", that line accurately describes how we see ourselves in this world. When we say we, we talking bout our people, anybody that ain’t the oppressor. We hustling no doubt, we chasing that guap, but at the same time we being chased, we under attack, we being hunted… u know. So its like we felt that title could put our experience in the proper context… Yeah we bout revolution, we want freedom but we out here trying to survive everyday ‘til we free. Hustling and being hunted.
Your first album "I Eat You Eat" was definitely something different to what was circulating at the time, did people embrace your ideas and sound from day one?
People have embraced all our music since, "Walk With A Bop" off the 'Birth' LP with Baby J and before that when we was just rapping in the hood. We always felt it was a blessing to be able to connect with our people with our music. Some industry cats and people who ain’t ready for revolution try to say that the music is too rebellious or radical to sell a lot of units, but them people ain’t listening.
"I Eat, U Eat" was definitely revolutionary in a sense that we made it clear where we stand against the powers that be but it was really a human story of two brothers banding together under some crazy circumstances. We've been thru a lot over the years and we wanted to show people tha A-Alikes is more than just our rap group’s name. We lived it out. 'Comrades in the face or adversity', that was the theme for "I Eat, U Eat'.
Who influences you within your own music?
We influence each other, our RBG comrades Stic.Man, M-1, cats we grew up listening to like Tupac, Nas, Kool G Rap, EPMD, Mobb Deep, Rakim, rappers from around the way that you've never heard about, great leaders like Huey P. Newton, Marcus Garvey, Assata Shakur, Bunchy Carter, Father Allah and Justice, our families… life its self is a strong influence.
A Alikes are part of a larger family, the R.B.G.'z, tell us about that?
RBG is a mind state Red, Black, and Green. Revolutionary but Gansta. If u down with the code then you RBG. RBGz is a collective of like minded individuals but at the same time we aren't like a big rap group. Its way more than that. Its more like a community or a family if you will. A bunch of us grew up together and have known each other for many years so we've learned a lot from each other but this thing is worldwide. We still growing.
Your music travels deeper than that by a lot of other artists out there today, does your music represent your own life experiences?
True Indeed. The best teacher is life experience. We just sharing what we've been thru to make our point clear. Revolution is the only real solution. The system don’t love you. Be careful out here. The police is the enemy. Sometimes when you out on the grind you need that soundtrack, that theme music but we not giving you that 'glorify the grind' rap we giving you a realistic portrait of what’s really going on… the consequences, the pitfalls, the so called Trap for real, for real.
In your first single "What's Your Politic?" you in your own words, "ask the streets to stay true to whatever it is they chose to represent", what do you mean by this?
It’s a question "What’s your Politic? What you about? How do you see the world? Whats your policy on Life? What side you on? When you meet somebody ask them that question and see what they say. It'll probably save you a lot of time dealing with people that ain’t on the same wavelength or better yet you know, where someone stands and what to expect from that person. Our politic is People over the dollar. Power to the People.
The A Alikes movement seems to be about empowering people, creating a strong mind, spirit and body. Who empowered you like this whilst growing up?
Mom, Pop, O.G.z… reading bout strong people like Malcolm X, Black Panthers, listening to hip hop that told us to love ourselves, be proud of who we are. We need music like that now more than ever. They killed off and put in jail a lot of the 'leaders' or strong examples… the real riders.
What can we expect from the A Alikes in the near future?
We're going to continue bangin' on the system, pimpin' the system, staying alive, fighting the good fight… doing our duty. Music-wise we're working on two albums at the same time. The first album that’s going to drop is "One Life, One Death", its some real classic hip hop shit almost like a throwback album but not some dated shit. Just real back to the basics hip hop for our peoples that love that shit. If you got our album "Live or Die", which came out a few years ago, you already know. We got some surprise guest appearances, dope concepts and production… we're real excited.
After dealing with Nervous Records and the WEA system with the last album we felt like we wanted to release a project without all the red tape and industry bullshit so right now the plan is to release "One Life, One Death" ourselves on our label Guerilla Nation, unless we can partner up with a label that understands what we trying to do and we find the perfect situation where we can avoid all the extra shit. Our people ready for some new music and we want to deliver it to them asap. STAY TUNED!!
The next album after that is called "Us Against Them" and that’s more of a follow up to "I Eat, U Eat". Its an epic album, it has a bigger sound, more melody, more 'mainstream' producers and collabos… all A-Alikes RBG to the fullest. Some real powerful shit. We're currently shopping that album to various labels. The industry is in meltdown phase right now so we're really on our independent hustle right now. We'll be releasing Part 3 to The Hustler And The Hunted series, a few other projects ourselves and some DVD projects in the coming year.
Got any shouts?
Free all the political prisoners… Mumia Abu Jammal, Aaron Patterson, Herman Bell, Russell Maroone Shoatz, and all our brothers and sisters behind enemy lines.
All my RBG comrades, The Gods, Earth, and all the children of the Universe, black and brown people worldwide, anybody on our side and ready to ride. Anybody who knows who the real enemy is, shout out to you… Keep pushing forward. Stay strong. Stay focused.
RBG LOVE…A's Up!
What words of wisdom and advice would you like to leave with our readers today?
Everyday is a chance to make it better than the last. Any day can be your last so take advantage of the time you have on this earth. We've lost a lot of people in our life over the past few years and you realise that life is a blessing that should be cherished regardless of the circumstances. The system can’t beak our spirit, we too powerful for that shit. When shit gets crazy don’t get discouraged. Look at all the good shit that you've accomplished and use that as motivation to keep pushing forward. Real talk.
If you don’t got it, make sure you get our latest CD.
Real shit for the people by the people!
"mixtape of the month" www.hoodintellegence.com – October 2007
Interview for British Hip Hop courtesy of Underground Promotion UK.