We recently caught up with Rapper, Activist and Sociologist AWKWORD, the man behind the the first-ever 100% for-charity global Hip-Hop album, World View, which we posted last month. We chatted about his background, how the project came together, his relationship with the late Proverb, his upcoming projects and more. Interview after the jump.
My name is AWKWORD. #itsoktobeAWKWORD.
Tell us a bit about how you got into hip-hop?
There couldn’t be any other way. Hip Hop represents the lifestyle, culture and art forms of the people, and rap is the soul and fire and passion of our people through music. There was always music playing in my house — from Motown to rock and roll to classical. And the fight for justice, equality and civil rights was always a priority for my mother who raised and inspired me. I was always a writer, i always identified with the oppressed and preferred the urban way of life, and it was all a wrap as soon as I first heard Public Enemy, Run DMC and NWA as a youth. I wrote raps and freestyled and wrote graffiti and went to shows. And as a senior in high school, at a diversity conference I put together with the Anti-Defamation League, I performed for the first time live before an audience. I haven’t looked back since, though I’d say my favorite part of this life is working in the studio. There, I am home.
Who were/are some of your influences?
From a cultural/stylistic standpoint: Fondle ‘Em Records and the early years of Rawkus, Co Flow, Non Phixion and The Arsonists. From a content perspective: Chuck D, KRS-One, Nas, Immortal Technique, Dead Prez.
Tell us a little bit about your relationship with Proverb – maybe tell us about “All A Dream”
I am one of the countless number of Hip Hop artists who benefited from knowing P the Wyse. Praverb interviewed me about my music and activism a couple years ago. And he was always an unwavering source of support. If I got emotional about something industry related, he’s the one I’d call to get a better perspective. And he never wanted anything from me, or anyone; he simply loved Hip Hop and loved people, and wanted independent artists to win. He will forever be a Hip Hop legend to me… Prior to his death, he, rapper Kev Turner, Finnish producer LX Beats and I were working on a song together. Unfortunately, it was not finished prior to his death. When we received the horrible, unexpected news, LX and I decided we had to finish the song. I re-wrote and re-recorded my verse as a tribute to Praverb. And we got DJ Grazzhoppa, another longtime Praverb friend and collaborator from Belgium, to provide the cuts. HipHopDX premiered the single, and we were able to raise good money for Praverb’s widow and young son.
The song will appear on a tribute album being put together by Praverb friend and rapper Idiomz, and all proceeds from the album will also be donated to P’s family… What most probably don’t know is that I’m also working on another song for a second Praverb tribute album. This album is being put together by Praverb friend and blogger Kyle W. Knapp. All proceeds from this will also go to P’s family. The new song I’m doing for this album is about being a good person (like Praverb) in a cruel world (like ours); it’s produced by The Militia from South Africa; and it also features Skyzoo, uMaNg and DJ Critical.
How did World View come about – what is the significance of the project?
World View is the ONLY 100% For-Charity Global Hip Hop Project. After five years of my nearly unassisted writing, recording, advising and dot connecting, the album dropped in February 2014, with 19 tracks and more than an hour of music, sponsored by The DJ Booth and The Morgan Stanley Foundation. (The FREE 19-Track World View Bonus Disc dropped in March). Co-Signed by Chuck D of Public Enemy, Executive Produced by yours truly, with The White Shadow of Norway, Mixed by Switzerland’s Vinyl Digger, and Mastered by Harry Fraud/Surf School Engineer John Sparkz, World View features contributions from six continents and 16 countries.
The album includes two tracks produced by Harry Fraud and another by platinum beatsmith Domingo, along with guest emcee appearances from the likes of KRS-One, Jadakiss, Joell Ortiz, Slug of Atmosphere, Sean Price, ILL BILL, Chino XL, Poison Pen, Daytona, Viro the Virus (RIP) and more. All proceeds from World View go to 501c3 nonprofit Guns 4 Camera, which works to combat street violence through the Hip Hop-inspired education and empowerment of our most at-risk youth. The album has been raved about by PrefixMag, TheSource, HotNewHipHip, YouHeardThatNew, iStandard, SpitFireHipHop, Boi-1da.net, DeadEndHipHop, ArtisticManifesto, TheNQM, and many others. World View can be purchased digitally via DJBooth at djbooth.it/wrldvw, on my bandcamp at AWKORD.bandcamp.com/album/World-View or on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Spotify, etc., and now, finally, also on CD via Amazon.
If you want to learn more about how I was inspired to create World View, or anything else related to the UNDER-APPRECIATED album, go to AWKWORDrap.com/World-View, AWKWORDrap.com/World-View-Press or AWKWORDrap.com/press/interviews.
Your top 3 go-to albums – go!
The Beatles – Revolver
Gang Starr – Moment of Truth
Non Phixion – The Green CD
What do you think about the current state of hip-hop?
Hopsin told the truth and retired. J. Cole sold 400K his first week, in this environment, with no radio singles and no promo. My old friend Harry Fraud’s got the whole world saying “wavy”. Immortal Technique stands with Common at the #BlackLivesMatter protests. Nas linked with Mass Appeal and runs his own INDIE label. Killer Mike and El-P are incredible, as is David Banner. Rhymefest is running Donda’s House. Jasiri X is modern day Malcolm. And Tef Poe has emerged. My brand of Hip Hop is being practiced by more and more artists, and heralded by bigger and bigger media. And I’m witnessing my own records influencing young people and aiding in activist movements. What do I think of the rap music industry? Nothing. What do I think of the state of Hip Hop today? I am grateful, energized, and even hopeful.
What are you currently working on – what’s next from Awkword?
I’ve been promising for a while that I would submit the AWKWORD edition of the DJBooth Freestyle Series to my homie DJ Z once I hit 7777 followers on twitter, and I’m less than 20 away. I have that record with Skyzoo for Praverb dropping. I have a verse on the upcoming DJ J. Hart album. There are two remixes of my hit World View single “Go!” dropping in the next quarter: The NYC RMX, like the OG version, is produced by Domingo, and it features Joell Ortiz, Donny Goines, K. Sparks, Aaron Cohen, Maffew Ragazino, Wordsworth and DJ J. Hart; the Boston RMX will be produced by “All A Dream”-producer LX Beats and feature Boston emcee Akrobatik and surprise guests. Like David Banner, I’m doing a joint with African Hip Hop group DOOKOOM. Keeping the international theme going, I’m working on a song, produced by Steel Tipped Dove (“#AaronSwartz“), with Nigeria’s Modenine, Jamaica’s Five Steez, and American Latasha Alcindor (L.A.). I got another song with producer Numonics (“Melting Pot“, “Gas Land“), this time on DJ Krazy A’s mixtape. I’m doing an unexpected joint for The Feminist Journal. I’m trying to finish an EP with producer Skammadix. And, finally, I have my song “Angels”, originally an unreleased Harry Fraud (“Bars & Hooks”, “The People’s Champions“) production that is now produced by L’Orange. It features Voli and surprise guests.
Any last words/shout outs?
Shout to my new wife Elena and two baby girls Ella and Anna. And, #ShutItDown. #ThisStopsToday.