Juice Aleem is an old timer who has been a mainstay of UK Hip Hop from time, involved with the New Flesh and Gamma projects. He was on the first ever Big Dada release in 1997 and helped open many doors for innovative UK urban music, and he is still making fresh, exciting, political tunes. He’s got his first solo LP out – Jerusalaam Come, so Nikhil Sharma caught up with him.
Tell me about your new release on Big Dada “Jerusalaam Come” does the album have a message, what was the concept behind the album?
Juice Aleem: I can't keep away from a good concept. It’s about a lot of things, mostly the city of old and new Jerusalem in an historic and religious sense. The city that’s founded in peace yet so many die and kill over it and make claims on it (like Hip Hop). The new city that's coming from the sky in the book of Revelation to take the last survivors who stayed on the path, off to live in its crystal walls. It’s about a return to the tradition of studying your craft or not surviving, being able to still be standing when the smoke clears because you stood for something in the first place. Its big, black, heavy, wide and goes deep.
What is your definition of REAL Hip-Hop?
Juice Aleem: Real Hip Hop is something that’s made with honesty and true expression of self. I don't even like the phrase ‘cos it's usually said by people who only want it their way. REAL Hip Hop is the music I listen to and feel. If you have to go around saying its 'real' all the time it probably isn’t. Under or overground, samples or synths I don’t give a shit as long as I feel it.
How long have you been involved with Hip-Hop?
Juice Aleem: Since the early 80's. That whole wave of Graff, Breaking and DJ culture that became a tsunami. Its been a while.
How are the crowd’s reactions when they hear something different from the commercialised Hip-Hop that they’re used to?
Juice Aleem: It depends on which crowds, which clubs and which country you’re in. Overall people have been brainwashed to like the same thing over and over so it can wake the more grounded person up or have them open jawed as they try to figure out what’s going on. Mostly, it’s a good reaction where people come and ask questions such as who am I, where can they get the music? Are there other artists out with a similar vibe?
How do you view the music industry as a whole?
Juice Aleem: From a very odd angle. There’s two words in the phrase 'Music Business' and I’m great at the former and not so good at the latter. Man coming up now don’t really talk about the music they talk about getting into the industry. Now the whole thing is folding and trying to regroup you'll see who is into this for real. The music industry is a con though. A bunch of guys patting themselves on the back and handing out Ivor awards to their friends. It’s a game for the business men and Life for the musician.
What do you like to do to unwind and relax?
Juice Aleem: Watch films, hang out with my seeds, read anything I can get my hands on, play with my beard and watch women from afar.
How has Big Dada been to work with? (They haven’t kept you in the basement most of the time have they?) Lol.
Juice Aleem: Big Dada are cool. As I say though, it’s an industry and things have changed so the reins are tighter than ever. As far as the everyday dealings they are good people to work with despite being kept down here for so long and being fed nothing but raw beats.
You’ve worked with Amazing talent how has it been to work with, Hexstatic, Adam Freeland and Coldcut? (Just a few)
Juice Aleem: Its exactly that, amazing. To think that these guys came to ME to record or work with them is even bigger. Its great being able to watch the process of some of these types of guys to see how and where they operate. From thousands of screaming Australians to mad small art exhibits and festivals on the Danube river or royal castles in Morocco it’s been a mad journey and I’m glad these kind of calibre of artists have helped bring me along for the ride.
Where did all these names come from in particular where did, Alpha Prhyme come from?
Juice Aleem: They come from my head after I zone out for a while. I hear the names in my own voice before I say it. Alpha Prhyme is an alter-ego of one of my other alter-egos, an alien to here just trying to understand humans and the weird things they do. Thats what a lifetime of comics, films and even crazier people will do to you. Most of these names are actually variations of the same name… Alpha was the first.
Are you performing at any events in Summer?
Juice Aleem: Working on that right now. I just got back from Glastonbury and had a pretty mad time on the Arcadia stage. Looks like some giant space-craft. Jets of fire blast out of the top and the sides every now and then with ladies spinning from ropes hanging from the sides. They must have known brother Juice was coming for his people.
What can REAL Hip-Hop heads look forward to you in the future?
Juice Aleem: More and more music. More shows more flows. It’s a work in progress, we got workshops, music, production and a bunch of surprises for those who have been watching close. I’m already working on the next LP.
Finally, can I get free tickets to your next show in London?
Juice Aleem: Depends on how this interview goes I guess. Let me know when you wanna reach.