With an agenda like few others, West Yorkshire based UK Hip Hoppers Knew Jeru'slum bring it hardcore on their new single 'Non-Apologetix'. The boys answered a few of my burning questions about their music and their faith:
Certified Banger: Introduce yourself please (who are you, where are you from, what do you do?):
Jonny Alpha: We are Knew Jeru’slum: Myself and Watson G on the spits, my beautiful missus Belinda Hards on the vocals, and on the most part, production from Yorkshires illest – Brutal Artistry. We’re from various ends of West Yorks – Hudds, Falihax and Bradford. Knew Jeru’slum is a project we started a couple of years ago really, me and Watson were getting some ideas together, then he and his lass introduced me to Belinda – her sister, and when I was chatting her up I found out Belinda’s an amazing singer too, it all linked there, then we met Miki B and loved what he does plus we all got a love for the gospel, so that’s us.
CB: Whats in the name?
Jonny Alpha: Knew Jeru’slum comes from the new earth, the resurrected earth in the bible after the second coming; we are associating ourselves (and everything we know) with our stakes in heaven. The ‘knew’ part is our knowledge of this and the ‘slum’ part is our recognition that we have some way to go before we get there. We also thought it just sounded dope too!
We’ve had quite a few Jews adding us on Myspace recently. We’re not Jewish, just want to make that clear.
CB: Let’s talk about your new single ‘Non-Apologetix’. What’s the idea behind it? Is it a statement of intent for the rest of your music?
Jonny Alpha: ‘Non-Apologetix’ is kind of an intent for the album. When it comes, peeps who listen in detail will hear stuff they may not agree with – yes, we are Christians, yes, we write about that, but yes, we do write about the same stuff everyone else does –that is – personal experiences, life choices, loves and hates etc -things we spend time pondering about.
Watson G: The name came from the books (Apologetics) peeps write to explain their beliefs, so we went with the double meaning of it, to say look we’re explaining our beliefs but we aint sorry about them, cause we aint got nothing to be sorry for, its just other people come with their preconceived ideas of what a Christian is and straight away think negative things, we’re all about good vibes, we aint hating anyone. Word!
CB: The single features Manchild from Mars ILL. How did that come about? Is Mars ILL a group you listen to a lot?
Jonny Alpha: Mars ILL are dope, Manchild is one of my favourite artists and has been for years now, and Dust is seriously underrated. I emailed Manchild and told him such things followed by the following question: ‘will you drop a verse on this track please?’.
CB: Mars ILL are known for an underground, credible approach to Hip Hop that often has a Christian message. How similar to them are you as a group?
Jonny Alpha: When I started looking through artists with a Christian message, I found few I could actually feel… a lot of its cheesy, preachy, commercial… lightweight to be honest, Mars ILL on the other hand got dirty beats, basslines, and Manchild just keeps dropping magic verses. No one can pigeonhole mars ILL, they make very good hip hop that anyone can listen to and if you listen well, you’ll get educated. Its very important to us to be ourselves in this, to speak about what’s important to us and let people get an insight to our lives, none of that’s any good if its confined to the bottom shelf in a Christian bookshop – who’s gonna hear it then? We make hip hop for all heads, where ever you come from. This single and album contain Christian content, but I don’t class it as ‘Christian hip hop’ at all.
Watson G: I second that actually, I aint a Christian rapper, I’m a rapper who’s a Christian, so our music just reflects our life like any others, we try stay away from the cheesy and just be honest and real.
CB: Do you listen to a lot of Gospel Hip Hop? Does that influence you at all? Could you recommend any artists?
Jonny Alpha: Not really, I do like some of Pigeon John’s stuff, Corey Red’s tight, Peace 586, Greenjade and Zionnoiz; we ciphered a bit with some of them guys in Birmingham which was fun, all dope, all safe. I listen to more gospel reggae and soul, Adelaide Mckenzie, Ife, Sherwin Gardner, Beres Hammond…
Watson G: also check out KMA Reveal he’s a top artist.
Jonny Alpha: Yeah top guy, he’s working on an album too, you can check him on Myspace. Props to Homecut too, looking forward to his album.
CB: The production on the single reminds me of Public Enemy. Who did the beat and is that a sound we can expect from the rest of your material?
Jonny Alpha: A few people have said that. Brutal Artistry Productions, he’s producing most of the album, but being the eclectic guy he is and [the eclectic guys] we are, you can expect a lot of variety on there.
CB: Can we talk about the album? How’s that coming along, when can we expect to hear it? What themes do you rap about on there?
Jonny Alpha: Well, the ‘Jerus and Gentiles’ LP is well on the way, we are hoping for a late summer release God willing, but it is going well.Some of the themes include spiritual dryness, Belinda got a solo on there which will turn heads, we got a dark one letting rip on some fourth dimensional tip. It’s a journey, an insight, its personal experience – a diary so to speak.
CB: Who features? Who does production? Any good tales about collaborations, recording experiences etc?
Jonny Alpha: As I said, Brutal artistry on the Productions and collaborations wise we have some guests on there, all who share the faith: Andy H (First Word) I’ve known him a few years now, and he’s an amazing Turntablist! He was happy to jump on there – sound guy! Pigeon John features on the next single ‘Hibernation’, which is a double A side with ‘Elevation’ by No Pretense ft. Prince Po on the flip. If we had a couple of Gs to fly there, Pigeon was inviting us to go record at his yard and vibe with him…until I pointed out the ‘UK’ part of our email address, he never noticed that but we’ll possibly be linking whenever we get to the US. We got Naryckin – check him on Myspace, he’s a soul singer and gospel choir director from Pennsylvania, a good friend of ours, we’ll be doing some new stuff next year with him and a couple of other guys, recording it over there too, but more later about that.
CB: So you’re collaborating with American artists. Are you hoping to push it out there and to the fans of those artists?
Jonny Alpha: Yes. The UK is a small place really, we get more positive feed back from across the seas – it’s strange! Got some other links happening on our next EP ‘Plastecine’, which is completely different. Got some whole other level going on there and the peeps over there who have heard the first tune for it are going bananas. Looking forward to going over there, got invites to eat Chinese in Philly so you know I’m down!
CB: It’s coming out on the newly formed Don’t Talk To Strangers label. How involved are you with that? What are your thoughts on going so indy?
Jonny Alpha: I’ve been involved in DTTS from the start, one of the original members (and co-owners) working hard to become independent and to progress the music for ourselves and for others. Me, Bane, Muz and Dead have been at it for years trying to get to the stage we’re at. Watson joined later and has been chipping away with us since. Brutal Artistry, Wigz, Spida Lee are all now pursuing progression under the DTTS umbrella. I love being indy, it’s important to us all not to be in charge of anything but our music and to encourage others to up their game to be challenged ourselves, and to see the fruits of our labour being bought and then being recognized and appreciated. DTTS has grown and developed just as we have as artists, and now it’s time to flood the market.
CB: What’s it like for you coming straight outta Yorkshire, a place most famous for its ripper, puddings and dales?
Jonny Alpha: It’s ace. I like it a lot, you can take it for granted quite easily, but I don’t, I hate big cities and 52 lane roads. I had a bad experience in Stratford after Fresh 98 – I crossed a road and bent down to tie my laces then 3 cars emergency stopped. I was in middle of the road! Then me and Bane chilling after that outside the Victoria station and this crazy women tipped a crusty old man out of a wheelchair on us! Give me Batley or Dewsbury any day! No one ever asked me "where you attt???!!" up here either which is a good thing. Not gonna write an album on the topic though.
Watson G: I don’t tend to talk about geography and where we’re from either that much because I aint that bothered really, I’ve moved all over anyhow, so I try not to let it affect my lyrical content to much, because I want people to connect with it everywhere not just West Yorkshire, Halifax where live.
CB: Cool, well it’s good that you’re repping us in the wider world, we appreciate that! Thanks for the interview, hope the single and album go down well! Round up in a way of your choosing:
Watson G & Jonny Alpha: Thanks so much for the encouragement, cop ‘Non-Apologetix’ on itunes, Play.com, Amazon etc. Etc. From TUES 31/03/09! Peace to all! Certified Banger for a Bafta! 1.