I caught up with Vice of Street Soul Productions to talk about his diverse talents from emceeing, production, event promotion and the world of hip-hop in general. He’s a humble cat who deserves some exposure for the work he’s been putting in, so make sure you check him out on myspace and grab his CD 'Con-x-ions' when it drops…
Vice: My name's James Kennaby aka Vice. I'm an emcee, producer, workshop leader and podcast host based in Birmingham.
What's the scene like up there?
Vice: Birmingham's kinda strange hip-hop wise. There's tonnes of dudes into the scene, but hardly any outlet. Birmingham's big into its cheesy student nights. There's a couple of real heavy nights that are worth checking out. Firstly there's Louis Den, which is a continuation of the online beat battles created by Kosyne. It's a dope night. It runs every two months and nuf big names pass through. Also check out The Unseen, run by the what supreme, and Soweto Kinch's Live Box and Battle In The Box nights at the Drum.
How did you get into hip-hop originally?
Vice: Ah man! It's hard to put a timeframe on it, it feels like forever!
My friends used to have tapes that they'd been given by their older brothers. It would be all sorts of music from Nirvana to Run DMC. Then in ‘96 I first heard Fugees’ The Score. At the time I didn't really get it, but I made a copy and sat in my room for hours listening to it on loop. More than anything I loved the lyricism and wordplay, I’ve always been into poetry so I guess it's a natural evolution. Around that time Biggie died and I got really into Ready To Die. It followed on from there really.
Tell us about your workshops?
Vice: I've been doing music workshops for just under two years now. I've always wanted to share my skills with other people, I find it's a great way to keep on your toes and stay fresh. I started off teaching lyric writing and it built from there. I'd done the thing of working in dead end jobs and getting ridiculously bored, wanting more, and writing lyrics all day. Then when I started working as a waiter making less money than a 16 year old I decided it was time to make a change. At first I didn't really know what I was doing, and because I couldn't afford a laptop I'd haul my entire desktop unit around with me! I built up my equipment, got better at what I was doing and spanned out into schools and working with young offenders and allsorts. At times it gets mad frustrating when the kids don't want to learn, but I wouldn't change my job for the world. I want to make a difference in my community.
How do you go about setting up a clothing label?
Vice: You tell me! Well Sketch Clothing was something that both my girlfriend and I wanted to do for ages. Then eventually we found a 100% organic printer / supplier. Next we recruited some amazing artists, including Street Soul's very own d. C., illustrator Gemma Lewis, designer Stilts, Secret Wars Heavyweight and then me!
Each designer has a limited edition range of six designs which will run for a year (1 design every 2 months). Each designer will take a cut of the profits and the rest will be pumped back into Sketch.
A lot of the restrains lie in finding square funds. We just print what's needed to avoid a stock build up and lost revenue, and instead we are currently looking into setting up a shop in Birmingham. For the time being we have a temporary and very rough site – Sketchclothing.bigcartel.com
We've got tonnes of stuff in the pipeline so stay tuned.
Who are your major influences in life / music?
Vice: In life my mum is a big one. I know it sounds stupid but she has to be one of the most genuine and living people I have ever met. Everyone I meet inspires me to either follow in a few if their footsteps or remember to avoid the routes they are taking.
Musically I guess it would have to include, Blade, Black Thought, Akrobatik, J-Live and production wise the usual I guess; J Rawls, Nicolay, Kosyne, Dilla, Premo, Exile, Damu, D.C. And many many more!
What are the plans with the Basement Sessions podcast?
Vice: Lots to be honest. I've been running round like a headless chicken the last couple of months getting interviews and guest mixes sorted, but it's starting to come together.
So far the guests have included, Asaviour and DJ IQ, Kyza, Kosyne, M9 and more, and Lucy Pink. Planned features include Sonny Jim, Sir Smurf Lil, Disorda, DJ Cro, Panacea (Rawkus), Spin Doctor and loads more.
Were planning to move the show into a live event involving various guests from the previous shows and also create an exclusive mixtape which we'll drop around for promo and more importantly to make people aware of the talent that's all around them.
We've been getting around 1000 hits a month which is a great start so I guess our plans are to keep building. Check out the show at:
How did you know about artists like Dan-e-o, and how did you get the featurings?
Vice: Myspace bruv! I first linked with Wio-K about 2005 and we set to work on a track. Dan-e-o liked what we were doing and jumped on. We still keep in touch and help each other out on the promo tip. I just figure that if I want to work with someone, what's the harm in asking! That's how I managed to work with my now friend K.Murdock and Raw Poetic – the Panacea duo who rep Rawkus records and got number one hip-hop album of 2008 in hip-hop connection!
Tell us about your album and your hopes for it…
Vice: I've been working on Con-x-ions for nearly three years. I wanted to make a worldwide hip-hop album, connecting emcees, singers, producers, poets and anyone else with passion.
It's nearly (finally!) at mastering stages so I'm just getting some sax, keys and additional bass put in the mix then it's ready to roll!
I'm proud of the project, it has taken a really long time, but that has given it more time to evolve and grow, and now it's finally ready.
We are going to be launching the project on iTunes, Napster, eMusic, HMV, and more online stores including shops dotted round the country. Additionally each of the artists involved in Con-x-ions will receive a bunch of copies as a thank you, so the project truly will be distributed internationally.
What other projects does Street Soul productions have coming?
Vice: I've got an LP coming out at the end of this year with our producer d. C., who is working with artists including NY Oil, Supastition, Wu Tang int., Masta Killah and more! Were going down the classic one MC one DJ route. We've already got ten tracks so the project I'd building nicely.
Halo is releasing his debut album entitled for the live of the music. He is a serious spitter, known on the live scene in Ipswich.
Venom is releasing a concept album entitled northern soul to follow up from his yours sincerely mixtape earlier this year. He's a DJ and emcee, and consequently has a great ear for creating great music!
Rep is finishing off a nice lowkey album entitled the distant traveller expected late 09 early 10. He's on that UK chilled vibe offering up tongue twisters with a political message.
And d. C. Is working on his first production album with features from some of the artists I already mentioned and many more.
Where do you see hip-hop in five years?
Vice: Evolved! This art form goes with the times. Like Bruce Lee we adapt, it's in our nature. The underground will stay underground, mp3 sales will build I guess, vinyls will still be pressed, heavy emcees will still rock venues and we will always have love for the greatest musical movement the world has and ever will see!
What equipment do you use to make beats?
Vice: I run Logic 8 on my Mac alongside an Alesis drum machine, Oxygen midi keyboard, SE condenser mic, two turntables a mixer and CDJ, a 4-string jazz bass, acoustic guitar, and percussion! I tend to make jazzy / funky beats so the live sound is important to achieve. In addition I run Cubase and Ableton for my workshops.
Who's the best emcee you've heard?
Vice: Um! Live would have to be Doc Brown for his energy alone. On wax I'd say Akrobatik, Insight, Black Thought or Roots Manuva.
Who (in rap) should keep their mouth shut? (Westwood?? haha)
Vice: Fiddy cent! Yeh man, Westwood for sure! Lil Jon, man I ain't a hater. I can't think of anymore! Just think of any annoying obnoxious rappers and get back to me!
How would your life change if you won a million pounds?
Vice: I'd buy a beautiful house for my family. Grab a Dodge Viper and then a Hummer as a family car! LOL. I'd help build my friend Nathan’s business along with Street Soul, Sketch and help my girlfriend set up an office. I'd take a month off and go to New York and pay to record an album with Talib Kweli… And then I'd be broke again… So I guess it wouldn't make much difference! LOL.
Do you value the vinyl sound over CD / Mp3?
Vice: Dude I'm old skool! My studio is cluttered dusty 7"s and 12"s! It's tricky, because I love my iPod, and the idea that music is so easily accessible is brilliant but it has its flaws. The hip hop junkie in me loves nothing more than to dig for hours in a dark and dingy record shop waiting to find that rare joint you've been searching for for years, but with the move into the digital age, and DJ's ever more rapidly moving to traktor and the myriad of new digital DJ tools, I think it's only a matter of time until the crackle of vinyl won't be an option for music buyers.
What's your opinion of (hip-hop) producers who don’t dig for samples?
Vice: Each to their own man. Peeps like Nicolay are big into their synths, and 9th Wonder was slated for using Fruity Loops’ bass loops, but I don't care about that. If I like the sound they are creating then that's enough for me. People don't over analyse the lyricists so why do the same to the producers / beat makers. We all know that it's one thing to have a dope sample, but it's another all together to make a dope beat from it! Dilla sampled anything from anywhere, that's the way I look at it. If you like the sound then roll with it.
What other artists would you recommend?
Vice: Too many bruv! At the minute on the UK side I'm feelin Asaviour and DJ IQ. Their album the A Loop Theory is amazing! Also Jack Flash, CLG, Akrobatik, Blu, Sonny Jim, LG & Biscuit, Sir Smurf lil. Ah man there's too many!!!
What you think about downloading?
Vice: Honestly? Great! I agree with Sway. Underground hip-hop has never sold well in shops, it's always been street selling, shows and stuff like that. If people like your music enough to want to download that's brilliant! What greater promotion can you get than your fans building the buzz for you! Hip-hop is a sampling entity, so we don't really have right to moan when technically we are bootlegging other artists every time we chop up a sample.
What are your political views or views on religion?
Vice: Politics wise, I listen. I think a lot of people are quick to shout about political views that they don't fully understand. I'm still trying to understand the difference between the various parties and also the monarchy’s involvement. We are blessed not to have a repressive society like so many other countries. It's something I'm eager to learn more about so I can formulate my own opinion.
As far as religion I guess I'm more on the spiritual tip. I never really believed in anything like that until my friend died a few years back and I felt like he was still there. I guess from that point I've liked the idea that as opposed to following a religion I just like the idea that people live on inside us through our memories and our love.
Vice: The Street Soul family first off. My bois Venom, Rep, Halo and d. C. And our extended fam Carvalho, Remedy, DJ Ascend, JD Sykex, Geographic and everyone else who has, and continues to, support us along the way.
I have to give a massive shout to my girlfriend Kerry. Our baby is due late December! Big things are happening! A big shout also to Cro for supporting us and offering incredibly useful nuggets of advice. Shout to Punch Records for believing in me and of course shout out to life!
By: Esh | For international hip-hop: http://www.myspace.com/ibmcs