posted: 03-29-04
interview : tadah
Cryptic One. Member of the Atoms Family. Gearing up to release his debut album "The Anti-Mobius Strip Theory". Offering one topic to talk about, along with what else the Atoms Fam is doing, politics and getting jiggy with it.
I read an interview with you (on ukhh.com), and there you mention that you studied to master all styles of rap. So are you going to get jiggy on your album?
(smiles). No, no. I'm not gonna get jiggy on my album. But I could, if I wanted to. That reference was more towards production than rhyming. I'm always going to rhyme the way I rhyme. But as far as production, I can do any type of production. If anyone comes at me and wants some jiggy stuff, I can do that. Or some danceable stuff, some jazzy stuff, some dark 'kill your mother' stuff; any type of style that I wanna do, I can do.
But with a name like Cryptic One, you're probably going to get type-cast.
Yeah, I mean, I get type-cast already, just for who I associate with. That's just part of hip hop: people always wanna put you in their little comfortable box and keep you there. But, you know, I can pretty much do anything I want. It's music. I might upset some of my fans with what I do, and gain others. And a person that might like this album, might not like my next album. That's just part of life.
Why did you study all these other styles of rap?
Music is more of a learning process to me. And I listen to everything. I appreciate all types of music. And if I can learn from Jazz, Rock, Polka, Classical; if I can learn from that, I can learn from all hip hop too. I think the best producers are the cats with the most open minds. The more I take in, the more I can put out.
And wherein lies the challenge in doing that?
There is a challenge. As much as people like to think that a keyboard beat is easy to make, it's not easy to make it if you've never done it before. So I'd rather be well rounded. And even if you hear a Cryptic 'jiggy' beat, which I don't even wanna call it that - but even if you hear one, I'm not going to bite someone's style. I'm still gonna have my style to it, but you'll be able to dance to it.
So how about inventing a new funky name, ghost produce stuff, and bawoosh, you're on the Memphis Bleek album.
(laughs) Naw. But if I can get on the Memphis Bleek album, I'ma get on it in a second. But I'd be on it as Cryptic One. You know, the name is just a name.
You mentioned a 'this album' before, so let us talk about 'this album' a little bit. What can you tell us about it?
The name of the album is "The Anti-Mobius Strip Theory".
Okay, hold right there: what does that mean?
Yeah I know. I have explained this so many times already though. Basically, if anyone doesn't know what a Mobius Strip is: it's a one sided three dimensional shape. So basically, if you break it down very simply: anti means against. So: against one sided theories.
I hear you're really enjoying yourself to explain this. But that kinda comes with selecting a title like this.
Exactly. The reason why I selected it, because I'm cryptic. By definition, I'm difficult to understand.
So what 'against one sided theories' means is, it's basically okay to be somewhat hypocritical with some things. Like today I might feel this way about something. The same thing I might feel completely opposite about tomorrow. Like I've been going through my phases, where I was like: "fuck hip hop. I hate hip hop. I still make hip hop, but I hate everything that I'm hearing." And there were albums that I wrote off as completely wack in 1997 or 1998 that I go back to and listen to now, and I'm like: "oh shit, this is actually dope."
So the title is essentially saying: we're all human and it's okay to change your mind.
What else can you tell us about the album?
It's a conceptual album, obviously. It's a personal album. It's the first time that I really put a lot of my life experiences on track. It's cryptic. If you know my past stuff, it's not that far off from it. It's different subject matters, but it's the same approach.
As far as who's on it: there's not too many guest appearances. I tried to keep it mostly me. But there's Windnbreeze from the Atoms Family and Hangar 18. Aesop Rock is on it, Alaska does a hook and Jestone helps out on a hook. Those are the only vocal appearances.
And I assume you did all the beats?
Actually I did not. There's seventeen tracks total. I know that sounds like a lot, but just to clarify: there are three joints that are just one verse and one joint is an intro. So let's see: Blockhead did three beats. Jest did one. Blueprint from Weightless did another. And I did the rest.
Now, you said that you're complex and also that you're difficult to understand. What reminds me of the severely overused and misused - considering the context it was said in - Bigg Jus saying: if you don't understand it, it's not meant for you. Are you alienating people?
I think I'm alienating people, but it's not purposeful. I like puzzles. I like when emcees give me a puzzle to figure out. And it's really just naturally how I am when I rhyme. The things aren't difficult to understand for me, obviously, because I wrote them. And sometimes I don't even realize how difficult it is to understand. Until someone asks me: 'what does this line mean. What do you mean by this?' So it's not really a deliberate thing being cryptic. I got my name because I was cryptic, I didn't get the name and then decide to be cryptic.
What you tell me about the album is probably in the tradition of a Cannibal Ox record and the other releases we know from the Atoms Family. At the same time there's a Hanger 18 album to come out, which is going to be very different.
In some ways they are very much different and in some ways they are very much alike. They are still done very much in an 'Atoms' way, where it's not all laid out for you. It's clever, it's witty. But Hangar 18 have an element of where it's happy and fun and party. But it's not done in a Nelly sort of way, but in an Alaska and Windnbreeze sort of way.
I think that's the one thing about Atoms: we all have our own personalities and our own different things that we bring to the table. And whether we're rhyming about something as simple as waking up and going to work, or doing whatever; we're going to do it in our way.
So what would you say is holding the Atoms Family together?
A love for each other's music. And outside of that we're friends. That's the one thing I can say. We do other things together that have nothing to do with hip hop, like we go out to a bar together. We see movies together. These are my friends, you know. Outside of the music. I mean the music was the common bond that brought us all together, but they are my friends.
What is holding Cannibal Ox together? Or should I ask: are they still together?
Yeah, they are. That's another internet rumor that took off. They are still together. I mean those guys went to high school together. They grew up in the same neighborhood. They've been friends for longer than any of us has known each other; those cats have known each other. They are two of the original four that started Atoms Family.
Would you say that you are the head of the Atoms Family?
A lot of people say that (smiles) and somehow I got that position early on. I think later, like in the past four or five years, everybody has found their own way to do things. I think at one point I would have considered myself the leader of Atoms Family, but we all play equal role now.
But you're the head of CP Records?
So how come that CP now teams up with Day By Day?
Basically, I lost a distribution deal with a company that wound up going out of business. That's another reason why my album was delayed so much. So I was kinda stuck with no distribution and I was trying to figure out what I really wanted to do. Then I got in touch with DJ Fisher, who I had known from when he worked at Boiling Point. I was just kinda watching what was going on in the scene and I really liked what Day By Day was doing. So it just seemed natural to hook up with them.
People always theorized that the best combination would be if CP Records would team up with Definitive Jux. Why didn't that happen?
I don't know. A lot of different reasons though. Number one: I've had the label since '96. And I wanna do things my way and on my time frame. You can call me a control freak. It's still all cool with Def Jux, and I'm still going to do stuff with them in the future. But I want my own little empire. Even though it's going to be a much smaller empire in comparison to Def Jux. But, you know, I just want my own thing.
In the interview that I mentioned at the beginning, you talked about an Atoms Family album. And you promised that it'll come out at the end of 2001 (smiles).
(laughs) Yeah, there's been many promises. We made promises to each other, to ourselves. We even made it to the point where we laid it all out, we figured out track titles, we picked beats. But people have different schedules. It's hard to get eight people into the same room all the time, when they have all this other stuff going on. But we have been talking about it again recently, because, this year especially, everybody from Atoms has an album dropping within the first six months of this year. So we've been definitely talking about it again. I'm not making any more promises that I can't keep (smiles). But it's definitely again planned. We're very good at planning (smiles). The execution, that's the difficult part.
So, Vast's album is scheduled for April the 20th. I'm not sure on the date for Vordul's album, but I think he has about 90% of the album done. And as mentioned: Jest has his, then there's Hangar 18's album and my solo. And we'll see what happens from there.
Plus, me and Vast are doing a project together also, which is about halfway done. And I'm also working on an instrumental album.
With the beat that used to be on the CP Records website?
(laughs) Yeah, that's actually going to be on there. I have had the idea of making an instrumental album around '96, '97 or so. And I still feel the tracks that I did back then. So I'm just going to rework them a little and make it happen.
It's kinda crazy how that has become like the 'new' thing to do. You got all these people blowing up doing instrumental records. I just kinda kick myself in the ass a little, like: "what the fuck was I thinking?" I should have done it when I first had the idea.
We both know that there's a million and more dope artists out there. And they all got their demo and an envelope waiting for your address to be written on it. Do you accept demos?
Okay (smiles). I always accept demos.
You need coasters?
(laughs) Naw. I always like hearing what people are doing. I'm always looking to find someone new that really hits me as something that I can do something with. I'm always open to put new people out there. The thing is, I'm looking for something special. As many dope people that are out there, there aren't that many people that have something special, something different, unique. And, to get into the business motive: something that I can sell. That fits with the rest of the roaster. If I could sign every dope emcee on the planet, I'd do it (smiles). It's just not realistic.
I could play the devil's advocate and say that if you have to start your own label in order to release your own music, your music is probably not that good.
You could say that. I mean, I don't know. I obviously don't agree with that. I started my label in '96 when it was a very different climate. Especially here in New York. It was just starting with the whole independent movement. I went the whole trying to get signed route. I've had deals on the table. I've seen people get jerked. It was just to the point at that time that you became anti-industry. And you're just like 'fuck everybody, I'm just going to do this myself.' So we did it ourselves and shit worked out.
Today's climate is a lot different. Unfortunately technology makes everybody a producer and emcee and everybody has a label. 'I got my label.' - 'What's your distribution?' - 'Soundclick.com' (laughs). It's very different today.
You can't blame it all on technology. But it's very simply to sit down today, download a program, make a beat, record your vocals into some shitty computer mic and call it an album. It's kinda scary in some points, but it's good in other points. Because I've seen kids who took advantage of that technology and make some really dope shit.
You mentioned before that the Atoms Family has a rather big fanbase. Now considering the rather few actual Atoms Family releases, do you think that there's a discrepancy between the number of releases and the name that you have?
I'm not sure what you mean by that. I think the reason, if you ask why we have a fanbase, a lot of it might be because we haven't really said much. I think it becomes like this sort of mysterious thing. You know, the first thing we've put out was in '96 and we didn't put anything out until I think '98; late '98, almost '99. It drove the anticipation and it gets people talking. They talk like: 'have you heard the Atoms Family?' And people don't wanna sound stupid, so they are like 'yeah, I've heard them.' (laughs) It just snowballs from there.
Hopefully the things the people have heard, they've liked. I don't know. It's really strange to me, to tell you the truth. I mean it's not like other groups, bigger groups like Living Legends. It's not like we're like them, out, doing a million shows all around the world. I don't know. It's just strange.
Obviously later, when CanOx came out, that helped a million times. But there's still a million people that have heard of Cannibal Ox and have no idea what the hell an Atoms Family is. (smiles)
With the success of Dangermouse, the success of Aesop Rock or Little Brother, will that success rub off on the rest of the 'independent', 'underground' artists?
You mean, will they catapult everyone else to a new level? To a degree, yeah, I think so. I think the problem is that in the end there's a lot of people in power that know nothing about the music. It's gonna help in one sense that these people are going to look for that next thing that's going to be as successful as an Aesop Rock. But they don't know good music from bad music half the time, so who knows who's gonna get selected.
Obviously good music and bad music is all opinion. There's people that think that Aesop Rock is the worst emcee on the planet. A second later you'll see a million people saying that he's the best emcee on the planet.
I mean, it doesn't hurt (smiles). I think it's great that those guys are doing good and are opening doors for other people.
Aesop Rock has been mentioned by Defari, on how his type of rap is wrecking things. Now Murs is saying something about how the faces of the fans have changed. Frustrated artists or do they have a point?
Frustrated artists. There's actually enough money to be made for everyone. You just have to know how to get out there and make it. I understand why Defari is mad, I actually understand why both of 'em are mad. But in Defari's case, I think he's just pointing his finger at the wrong people. You can't pick and chose who your fans are. Plain and simply. All you can do is run with the fans you have and try to make that fanbase grow.
With the Murs situation, I think he was just speaking his heart and his mind on the track. I mean, coming up in the scene, it's a very different scene right now. If you go to a hip hop show now, like he said, it's ninety percent white. It doesn't bother me. But he's just pointing it out, like: 'listen, shit has changed.' And as a Black person, it is kinda upsetting to some degrees. It's frustrating; you wonder why. What happened to those Black fans? Where are they now? It's discouraging. But as I said: I don't care. As long as there are fans, I don't care. (laughs) Not to sound money hungry or money orientated, but green is green. I don't care who's hand it's coming from. As long as you're paying and you support our music, that's all that matters to me.
You mentioned earlier that sometimes you go back to an album, and while you didn't like it back then you like it now. And you also said something to the extend of you're not always being very happy with rap. So do you get more inspired by rap music, or not-rap?
I'm not saying that I'm not happy with the state of rap. I actually think that rap has been better in the past years, than it has been in a while. So it depends really. As a producer, I'm definitely more inspired by not-rap. I have a pretty huge record collection. And that's where all my inspiration making beats comes from - from other forms of music. As far as rhyming, to get inspired, I need to hear someone ripping a mic. So from that aspect, definitely hip hop.
Now, if I wouldn't be sitting here talking to you, I would watch TV, namely "The Comeback Show". Now, the Comeback Show is like American Idol. You have a couple of contestants that sing, you have a jury that criticizes, and you have a public that votes people in and out. The only difference is that it's not nobodies that compete, but as the name suggests, it's formerly known artists that try to 'come back.' There's people like Emilia - you know the 'I'm a big, big girl, in a big big world' chick, there's The Weather Girls, there's Limahl, there's Chris Norman of Smokie and there's Coolio. As funny as it is to watch Coolio perform songs by Busta Rhymes, Nelly or the Sugarhill Gang, my question is: if you'd have the power, who would you bring back?
Hmmm, let me think about that one for a second. Uhm, Big Daddy Kane. Although I know he's still doing music now, it's not the same. Hmm…let me think… Black Sheep. Definitely bring them back. And on the more underground independent tip: Natural Elements. I'd bring them back full force.
I was actually invited to come to New York, but I haven't yet made up my mind. So you need to convince me to come, by telling me about your favorite place.
From a hip hop or any perspective? My favorite place changes every week. That's the beautiful thing about New York: there's just so much to do. As far as like going out and partying; right now, I think it's Lotus Bar. If you can get in. That's the problem with that place. I took Blueprint there the last time he was in town, and he said he felt like he was on a set of an old Biggie Smalls video. It's just that kind of women all around. And drinks and people partying having fun.
But as far as hip hop wise, I don't know. I don't even go to shows that much anymore. Obviously you got Fat Beats. So I'd hit up some record stores.
Michael Jackson has his favorite tree that he climbs up. Do you have a favorite tree too (smiles)?
(laughs) No. I have a favorite place, and that's my room. My studio, digging through my records. And that's about as far as I go. I don't go out too much anymore.
To get a little more political: I'm sure you saw smoke coming out of the Twin Towers. To put words in your mouth: you must want some revenge.
I don't know if revenge is the right word. I just want justice.
So if you wanna get political: I don't feel like this Bush administration is doing that at all. I think they have their own agenda. Which obviously has nothing to do with justice. So that whole situation is an upsetting situation. I feel like a lot was said, but I don't feel like enough is said. Like when you go back to scandals and you look at the Clinton administration: dude's just got his dick sucked, but it was like everywhere. And there was this big uproar; people were upset. And I don't feel like people are even half as upset about what Bush has done. Which is crazy, because… getting your dick sucked vs. bombing people for no good reason. That's kinda strange.
Are you going to vote?
Yes. Who am I going to vote for?
Well, that's on you if you want to say. But I mean the answer is probably pretty much obvious.
(laughs) Yeah, let's just say: not Bush. And we'll leave it at that.
You know four years ago a lot of people said that they are tired of always having to vote for the lesser of two evils. But this time around it seems to be that you have to vote for the lesser of two evils.
That's exactly what it is. I just really don't wanna see this country going through another four years of Bush.
I'm actually desperately trying to come full circle back to the album. But I don't see an opening anywhere. So let me just wrap this up with the obligatory open space for your final words, comments shout outs and what not.
Shout outs to everyone and anyone who's down with me, first and foremost Atoms Fam and of course Day By Day - shout outs to you guys. But also, and most importantly to the fans, to the people who have supported us since day one. And even to the people that hated us since day one. (smiles)
There's something that I talk to a lot of people about: if you are not being hated on, in some way shape or form, you're doing something wrong. If you get nothing but praise… I can't think of one artist that got nothing but praise. And when you think about it, there's people out there who hate "Illmatic". That might sound crazy to the average hip hop fan, but there are people that hate that album. And that's probably one of the most talked about classic albums. Just as there are people that don't like "The Low End Theory" and thought that sucked. So… if you're not getting hated on, then obviously, you're not out there enough.
But at the same time, not everybody that gets hated on does necessarily do things right.
No. That's true too. But the way I see it, there's a niche for pretty much everything out there. If you make music, there's going to be somebody that likes it, just as there is going to be somebody that hates it. And hopefully you can find the people that like it and get it to 'em.
» back to top | last changed : 29.03.04
2000 - 2012.08 by urban smarts | contact