Our man, the Hip Hop Informant caught up with Charlie Slum and found out about his background, influences and got his views on some of the most pressing topics of our time including talking on the current state of Hip Hop, Pittsburgh and the happenings in Ferguson. Read on to find out more.
How long have you been involved with Hip-Hop and how did you get started?
Charlie Slum: I’ve been rapping since the age of about seven years old. Little bullshit here and there. Then around 14-16 I started recording, doing shows etc. We (Greenhouse Hooligans) got serious as a collective though I’d say, in the past four years with varying degrees and patterns of seriousness and success. I’ve been doing music with Vaguz Nerve since we were like 12/13 and B1S since I was 17.
I notice you have influences from Tupac to John Coltrane. Can you give me your top five Hip-Hop artists and why?
Charlie Slum: I just love any music my ears perceive to be good. As far as a list, I mean this will be strictly in terms of personal favourites and not really in order of best to worst but…
- Nas – To me, Nas is the textbook definition of the perfect rapper and when I was just learning, honing my skills, and finding my sound it seems like he was breaking down how to rap in the process of rhyming… the phrasing is always superb, stories so vivid and intricate. He’s Scorsese.
- MF Doom – Crowned king of abstract rap in my mind, I love Doom’s flow… possibly my favourite ever. His word choice is impeccable and he can develop the dopest shit out of pure nothingness. Doom is also vivid like Nas, but in a mysterious comic book like delivered fashion. To me, the man is pure genius. The listener feels like they have a bond with Doom no one else does. Each line can be interpreted 1,000 ways when coming from Doom. The man’s lyrics are a drunken Stan Lee narrated, LSD trip, in sonic form.
- Eminem – In all honesty, I often say Eminem might be the greatest based solely on skill (if there is a greatest, too many different styles). Eminem helped me get in touch with my comical side, along with the dark and angry. As a rapper, there is nothing this man can’t do perfectly.
- Slug – Slug’s honesty and the common man element in his music are what drew me to him aside from the fact he’s dope as fuck. Then I heard Scapegoat and my life changed. I love Atmosphere as a group, been hooked since I heard Trying To Find The Balance. But since I rhyme, Slug is just the fucking man to me. He’s like your super cool ass dad that can rap better than you.
- Black Thought – One of the most effortlessly raw and aggressive MC’s ever and has never disappointed me once lyrically. He’s a giant with words. And not many people can hang when the rest of the Roots are in session, he spits his ass off.
- Mos Def – The melodies, the vibes, the love you feel in that man’s music. No one can bring it as clean and smooth as Mos. Respiration, Brown Skin Lady, Thieves In The Night, Travelin’ Man, Niggaz In Paris, Umi Says… these songs are all staples in my life.
- Rakim – The God. Nuff said. Voice, presence on the mic, flow, delivery… he’s haunting almost. I don’t think any of the other rappers I’ve stated, would exist without Rakim. Aside from just being able to rock a mic sum’m stupid, he’s the foundation. The Ghetto was one of the songs that first solidified my love for hip-hop in general. Nobody Smiling.
- Tupac – Tupac helped get every 90’s baby through their teen years and I was one of them. The man was just so goddamn relatable. The emotion he expelled through his voice, the crippling stories of pain and agony you thought no human being could withstand, and there was Tupac, proud to have seemingly made it out of the struggle. Tupac transcended music in a special way, unlike any other. I think people try to downplay his lyricism but Tupac wasn’t trying to be a battle rapper, he was a poet. Respect the work as such, poetry.
HipHopInformant: Hooked on the track "The Conversation" what is the meaning behind that track?
Charlie Slum: We’re just trying to progress the culture past materialism and things of that nature. There’s nothing wrong with touching those subjects but the game is so saturated with people that sound similar. We want people to open up a book, expand your mind. It doesn’t even have to be a book, experience the new. Dive into a new genre of music and test the waters, be open minded. We’re trying to encourage that. And we (Greenhouse Hooligans) feel like we’re criminally underrated, so the whole ‘sit down’ thing is telling the naysayers to take a seat and shut the fuck up because if you’re not for this evolution of man through music shit, then we weren’t even speaking to you to begin with. Shout out to Ski Beatz for supplying us with that instrumental btw.
What do you think about Hip-Hop in 2014?
Charlie Slum: I like it man, people bitch about the state but there’s so many artists with dope and unique sounds. They just don’t receive as much attention as the mainstream artists. If the public shifted the tide a bit in terms of their musical interest or at least variety then I think we’d hear less complaints. It falls in the hands of the listener, media, and the artist. Everyone’s responsible. But I like a fair amount of ‘new’ music.
What tracks are you listening to at the moment?
Charlie Slum: I’m listening to a lot of Mac Demarco right now, and Handsome Boy Modelling School. Sade, Freddie Gibbs, Mick Jenkins, Art Pepper, Joey Badass, Your Old Droog, Willie The Kid, Boldy James, Action Bronson, Mac Miller, Moruf, Roc Marciano, TDE, Oddissee, Melanin 9, Madlib, Quasimoto, Fat Jon, Homeboy Sandman, Grandmilly, Robb Bank$, SPEAK!, Fiona Apple. a lot of experimental instrumental driven hip-hop too. But somehow, I don’t feel like I listen to that much of other artists’ music because I’m so focused on my own right now.
Where did the name Charlie Slum come from?
Charlie Slum: I used to go by Tragedy, which was kind of mirroring something my father had said to me years ago during a rough patch. But when my lifestyle changed and I noticed other people had that name then I tried to go for something new. I wanted something straight and to the point, catchy, easy to remember. My middle name is Charles, but I figured it was too formal, so I chose Charlie. And I speak for the underdog, normally those of the slums… bam, Charlie Slum was born. People normally think I have a deeper story for that. There’s a story to the actual middle name, but that’s for another interview. My real name is Cameron though, if any rap fans were wondering.
What influence does Pittsburgh have on your music?
Charlie Slum: Lots man. the food, the people, the weather, the economy, race relations, sports, the blue collarness… it’s all in my rhymes man. I’m all sides of Pittsburgh, that’s part of the reason I think other cities and markets have been more receptive to me than my own. Pittsburghers don’t know how to stamp me. I’m waiting for diagnosis. I come from two very proud and known families out here too so that’s represented as well.
What are your views on the situation in Ferguson? Is Hip-Hop to blame?
Charlie Slum: I definitely don’t think Hip-Hop is to blame in this particular situation, the rioting has been highly sensationalised and there have been riots for centuries, before hip-hop was even thought of. Ferguson left a sour taste in my mouth but there will be many more Fergusons and the likes if we don’t start realising that we’re all brothers and sisters regardless of this predominantly imaginary guideline society has set forth to categorise one’s physical features. I have more personal beliefs on it, but I’ll keep some of those to myself until ‘justice’ is served. Fuck Darren Wilson though, and people regardless of any colour but specifically minorities need to stop killing each other as well.
What do you think the future for Hip-Hop is?
Charlie Slum: I think the future of hip-hop will be wacky and very different from now but still definitely identifiable. I see drum patterns becoming more random and challenging. A turn to makeshift instruments, and more influence from electronic music. I also see the sub genres of today’s hip hop making its way into the mainstream. Self sufficiency will reach a new level in the industry on that day.
Charlie Slum: Shout to my GHH squad, B1S and Vaguz Nerve. I love my team dude, not to have my head up our ass but we really kill shit and we depend on nobody but ourselves atm. There’s nobody in my city or in the world better than we are. Shout out to MF Doom and Nas, they probably won’t see this but I need to work with them. I’d make the best shit ever with either one of those cats. Shout out to my man Miles Doban, Bilderburgh (and friends), Swoozy, TBG (and friends), Joe Kellem, Kid A, Real Deal (no that he needs one, people know the name)…man there’s so many dope artists in my city idk where to start, we all just need the proper light.
By: Nikhil Sharma | http://hiphopinformant.blogspot.com