posted: 06-12-05
interview: sev statik
photo: snatched from www.rickwhispers.com
Rick Whispers, please explain the name and it's origin.
It comes from "A Bronx Tale." My man Chad started calling me Whispers and it eventually just caught on and evolved to Rick Whispers at some point.
You work with Pitch Control Music in Albany NY, "the 518". How has PCM and your city affected you as a person and an artist?
Pitch Control Music and Albany both represent loads of talent and creativity just waiting to be discovered. With PCM you have people that can do graf, rap, sing, deejay, produce, engineer, take flicks and the list just goes on and on. It's like a collective of talent trading between friends and people of like minds. Albany is one of the dopest cities in the world and in my opinion has one of the most overlooked music scenes of all time. You have some of the greatest hardcore and punk rock history coming right out of here. And it doesn't stop there: every genre of music is clearly represented out here.
How long have you been writing rhymes and do you think freestyling is an important factor in the art of emceeing?
I've been writing poetry, short stories etc. for as long as I can remember. As for writing rhymes: about ten years give or take.
Freestyling to me is definitely essential to the art, in my opinion it's the real grit of hip hop.
From your music, and personally knowing you, you celebrate a few slices of different cultures from the art of rhyming, skateboarding, graffiti, spoken word and you're also a pillar in the hard core and hip hop scenes in upstate NY. How were you introduced to these different cultures that you mesh them all into your life?
Kids I know skateboarded so that's what I got into eventually. Skateboarding in Albany brought me to the monument in Washington Park a lot and there were always kids freestyling there in the summer, especially during the festivals that they have there every year. After going there and watching long enough I just started getting into ciphers and battling. I also used to DJ house parties about five or six years ago. Graf has always caught my eye. Spoken word I got into through watching other people around here and just writing pieces. It's very different as far as presenting a piece of poetry to a small crowd and rocking a show. I've always been open to any kind of art so I think that helped intertwine all of this into what I do.
"The House Of Hearts" album is your debut record. How did that come together with the producers and your guests?
Well, I basically recorded the album all the way through two full times. The first time I wasn't happy with the way it came out. Shortly after I met up with Mashie and my man Dezin8ed through a mutual friend at Butcher Productions. And they were like: "come through to our studio and do your album; we've got you."
The beats and guest features were all people that I had been getting down with on bills for a little bit and it just came together real fast.
Listening to "House Of Hearts" you definitely make your point clear that you're independent and underground. Overall, your debut is reminiscent of early Rhymesayers and Aesop Rock. And being that you've only been rhyming for a few years do you go back that far in underground music as a fan?
My roots in rhyming go back a little bit further than some people think. However I never really listened to underground hip hop heavily until a couple of years ago. I was always listening to hip-hop like Boot Camp Clik, or Public Enemy. I've always listened to hardcore music and went to those shows more. To me independent music, particularly hip-hop and punk share some of the same common views about society. Rhymesayers and Aesop create a style of music that is easier for me to relate to than say Lil Jon or something. It just made more sense to me.
The imagery in your lyrics is enough to spark an epileptic seizure. What inspires you to write like that and be that descriptive with a concept?
To me if you can write something vivid and actually paint someone a visual of what you are talking about, it's that much easier to convey your points and ideas. The more tangible you make it the more attention the listener will give to it. I read a lot of books, authors like J.D. Salinger, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Stephen King to name just a few have always influenced my writing.
You accept and use the term "underground" to describe yourself and your music. Do you feel that title segregates you from the mainstream listener?
I try not to box myself in, but I think that there are things I do with my music that could be embraced by both sides of the fence. I mean I don't have goals or delusions of going "pop". I think it's hard because I don't specifically cater to an "underground" audience on purpose; it's that everything I've ever known in the way of art really has been independent or under the radar. I feel like it's less diluted and more artist controlled at that point. However I also understand that if something is really fresh and gets appreciated by a massive amount of people, then good for the artist. I have no ill feelings for the mainstream or people making it "Big".
Since you have a message in your songs would you alter or polish up your sound at all to reach millions of fans through a media like Fuse or MTV?
Maybe it's ignorant for me to say this, but I don't believe I would change anything that I do for anyone really. It's like this: if you aren't representing what you think and who you are clearly, than I believe your art will suffer from it. You can easier display your own true values and ideas than somebody else's pre-packaged polished thoughts of what your ideas should be. But on the same note if you are doing what you want and that happens to fall into the category of what Fuse or MTV is looking for than so be it.
There are two spoken word pieces called "Hypodermic" on "House Of Hearts." You're obviously in a first person character as if you were the drug heroin. What experience or relation do you have to this drug to write these powerful pieces?
I've been impacted by drug addiction directly my whole life. I've had family members and close friends become addicted to drugs - heroin in particular - repeatedly. It's a very disheartening experience to see people that you love get caught up like that and be completely unable to help them. Seeing this go on over and over again was bound to show up in my music. At one point it was like everyone I knew was a junkie.
On the song "Not Bigger" you're telling a story of a dead relationship that you were in. You said "it still fucking hurts" and "I can't speak your name that's why it ain't in this verse" then you call her a "bitch". You're very convincing with your anger and disappointment towards this person on this song. Where are you now with this situation?
That situation is over to me now. That was a dark place for a minute but I managed to learn a lot from it. When I wrote that song, it was a big help for me to bury that relationship and move on with my life.
For your debut album you shot two videos with one of 'em being a promo for the album. Please explain the concept behind the "Shards Of Smoke" video and who put it together.
The "Shards Of Smoke" video was a brainstorm between the creative heads at Mastadon Media and myself. I had wanted to do a video for this song in particular at the Shelter Skatepark for a while. And Jim from Mastadon had some ideas, and the Staff over at the Shelter is always down to help me out. So we hooked it up and I think this video matches the music for the song perfectly.
I would like to say thank you to both Mastadon and the Shelter for holding me down on this project, without them the video would still be on paper.
The promo video is a flick produced by Mike White: he took a bunch of footage from live shows and condensed it into a brief promotion package for "House Of Hearts". Both of these videos can be viewed in the A/V section of my site.
You've been on bills with cats like Hangar 18, The Perceptionists, AWAR, Icon The Micking and more. How do you feel about performing with cats like this who are full time in the rap game? Do you get overwhelmed or nervous?
If I said that I didn't get nervous I'd be full of shit. And also that I would be comfortable with what I do, and that's not a point I want to reach ever. I'd like to keep elevating my live show to new levels. The live show that The Perceptionists, AWAR, Icon and Hangar 18 put on are all dope. It's a party atmosphere - these guys do music for a living so you have to really come with it.
I know it's not finished yet, but you have a new album dropping later this year called "Awed By The Backdrop". How have you elevated your art since your debut and can you give us a hint as to who's on it?
I believe that I have learned a ton since the last album and lost a few things that were holding me back.
As for guests on it, at this point, I just did a joint with my man AWAR called "Growing". I have production from Jack of All Trades, Money Mike, PJ Katz, Vinylcologist, Dr. Khil, and Mashie.
How can heads get a hold of you and your music?
People can check me out at my site rickwhispers.com where you can purchase "House Of Hearts" or you can pick it up from undergroundhiphop.com
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