Antagonist is a West coast artist with an East coast background who is now going international with his collaboration with DJ Ames. He has big plans for world domination and has five releases so far in 2009, with a further five planned! Check out what he had to say to Alex Humphrey.
In 2009 alone you have already released five mixtapes, the most recent of which just came out, is this all part of your plan for global domination?
Antagonist: LOL. Yeah fam, fo sho. I spent many years of tedious studio work perfecting both my delivery, and my production, yet not releasing a lot of material. After my tracks “Money” and “Diamondz & Fame” received some very strong attention in late 2008, I decided it was time to move forward. My goal is to feed the world with no less than ten solid tapes this year, leading up to my first widely promoted album.
How important to you is the internet and the growth of digital distribution as a tool for getting your music heard?
Antagonist: I honestly think it’s the main reason that I am where I am today. Being an artist / producer, unsigned, and with a limited budget, I spent the past several years studying the digital movement. I made a choice that if the industry didn’t come to me, I was going to knock it’s door down by myself. I was able to not only go nationwide in the US with my music, but was also able to attract worldwide attention. None of that could have been possible so quickly without the internet, unless I had a 6-7 figure promotional budget. I see the digital movement only growing until it overtakes the tangible “CD” market. I want to be ahead of the game.
UK based DJ Ames put together your new mixtape, how did you two hook up and what was it like working with him?
Antagonist: Building off your last question perfectly, Ames and I hooked up over Myspace. I was looking for a DJ to host the tape, and he had seen some of the moves I’d been making, and offered to host “International”. In the months leading up to the tape’s release, Ames won an SEA award for “Mixtape Host of the Year”, which added significant weight to the project. Everything was done through email correspondence, and file-sharing. Throughout, Ames was professional, did exactly what he said he would with the tape, and has gone above the call of duty to promote it in Europe. He let me make the tape exactly how I wanted, then added his touch to put the final package together. I look forward to building on our relationship as I work to spread the movement beyond the US.
The title of your latest release is ‘International’ what are the major differences you’ve found between US and UK hip-hop?
Antagonist: The message of hip hop tends to be the same worldwide. Brilliant songs of struggle, bravado, and the opposite sex tend to permeate the industry these days. The sound is what differs from place to place. I think that the US market caters to a more “pop” sound, and rides trends very heavily. The UK market, and the rest of the world in general seem to allow for a bit more experimentation. I know the UK seems to be into a more upbeat style, and a sound they call “Grime”. I didn’t necessarily cater to just the UK, but tried to build a disk that was worldly accessible. That’s why I took a lot of the chances, I’ve been wanting with my song-writing on “International”. It was a great experience to be able to dive into different sounds, and push my production limits.
Are you a big fan of the UK rap scene and who have you heard that you really rate?
Antagonist: I don’t usually stick to regions, as much as I stick to good artist and good songs. As far as UK artists, I really respect Real Life who I featured on “International”, also producer Nikki Nitro. They are up and comers to really watch out for. Also my dogs S.K.I.T.Z. and Angry of JPMD. I plan to work with them very soon. My favorite UK artist / producer of all time though gotta be Baby J. “Birth” was one of my favorite albums of all time. I’d really like to work with him on some tracks.
Who are your heroes, musical or otherwise?
Antagonist: Hmmm tough question. Growing up in the age of media “hit men”, so many of “Generation X & Y’s” hero’s have been tarnished. I believe in the people that are with me, and I see hero’s in all of my friends, family, and associates.
What was your childhood like and how did you start rapping?
Antagonist: I travelled around a lot between when I was born and when I started school. I came from humble East coast roots, and still have pictures of being the only Caucasian dude in pre-school outside of Detroit. I moved to Northern California when I was six and spent most my life all over California. I always loved hip hop music, and can remember groups as far back as Whodini, LA Dream Team etc. I always had a fascination for music, and started playing piano and guitar in my early years. This broadened into learning how to produce, and in the early 90’s I was began rapping into 4-tracks as much as I could.
What factors in your life shaped and influenced your style and flow as a rapper?
Antagonist: Obviously my Cali roots have a huge impact on both my productions and my rhyming. That, combined with my coastal transition to Florida, has really made my sound unique, and non-regional. Growing up very independent, and continuing that lifestyle, also has had an impact on both my song-writing, and my business viewpoints. I don’t tend to follow trends and make songs to sound like others. I just try and do me, and whatever I’m feeling at the time. I believe that has helped me become very versatile.
There is a lot of emotional expression in your lyrics, demonstrated perfectly by the track ‘Alone’. How do you go about writing your rhymes?
Antagonist: That’s a great question, and I appreciate that you notice that in my music. I usually write my beats first, and they tend to reflect whatever mood I’m in at the current time. It might sound strange, but music honestly speaks to me. The lyrics just flow once I have an instrumental, and a feeling / mood to build upon. It’s the times when I sit down and try to force myself to write a certain way, when I have the most difficulties. So as I’ve grown as an artist, I take my time and let things flow.
You are also a producer, where did you learn the craft and which do you prefer, making music or rhyming?
Antagonist: Another great question! I started out “producing” when I was probably eight years old. I used to get tapes and sing along to them while recording into an old boom box. LOL. My love for music / song-writing in general grew to recording on 4-tracks, then to computers. I had the opportunity to learn the foundations of audio production, microphone technique, and overall sound theory from jazz composer George Stone. Then went on, and received an audio engineering degree from the Los Angeles Recording School. Since that day I’ve spent roughly 10,000 studio hours and written / recorded approximately 700 songs in my quest for perfection. As far as which I like better, that’s an impossible question. To me, and my musical goals, they both go hand and hand. I want to be known as somebody who does both very well.
The new mixtape has a whole host of producers on it including The Hook, Cam-Bodia, Stupid Genius, Nikki Nitro and Maro, some veterans and some new talents. Who was your favourite to work with and why?
Antagonist: I searched out all of these producers on my own, and believed their sounds would fit my vision for “International”. I wear the A&R hat well, and I feel I have a good ear for making a good song, so it’s hard for me to pick a favorite. If I had to choose though, it would be “The Hook” (Stevie K and Courtez Banks) on this project. They are part of the Full Circle Entertainment / JMB Publicity / BeatBakery.Com click, who have welcomed me with open arms to their team. Plus the fact that I listened to the beat for “Caught Up” once, wrote the song in two hours, and it was a wrap the next day. That’s something special when an artist / producer connect like that.
You have your own company, CaliFlorida Productions, do you think it’s important for rappers to know as much about business as they do about rhyming these days?
Antagonist: No doubt. Not only so you can protect yourself, but even more because the industry is changing. We are entering a time where you can go platinum on your own, if you have your business game down. Artists need to realize how much really goes on behind the scenes, and learn about all facets of the business. That way, when you finally achieve your dreams you won’t be taken off guard by the difficulties that are presented.
What advice would you give to any young hip-hop heads out there that want to make it in the rap game?
Antagonist: Don’t ever give up! Don’t ever listen to anybody who says you can’t do it! If music is your passion, pursue it with all of your energy. Your life is what you make it, be wise, and don’t believe the hype. It’s a long hard road, and unless you get EXTREMELY lucky, it’s going to take hard work and dedication.
What do you have planned for the rest of the year?
Antagonist: You never can tell in this industry, but if all goes according to plan I will: Release at least 4-5 more mixtapes, do a world-wide tour for two months, and brace the world for the best album ever first Quarter 2009 if not slightly sooner.
Lastly what antagonises the Antagonist most?
Antagonist: People who judge, people who hate, and just people who bring others down in general. I also have a real pet peeve for people who follow and don’t think for themselves. There’s a ton of great things waiting to be discovered, if you take your blinders off, and look outside of the mainstream.
Thank you for your time.
Antagonist: I want to thank BritishHipHop.co.uk for inviting me to do this interview and thanks to all my fans for their support.
Please feel free to contact me at any of my sites below:
By: Alex Humphrey
- Facebook Group: CaliFlorida Productions & Antagonist