SELLASSIE: WAR, PEACE & THE EMCEE
Interview By Kirk Walker aka Mr Critical
KW: What made you decide on Sellassie as your artist name?
Sellassie: The name Sellassie was given to me by my mother at an early age, she would call me little Sellassie because I always was a leader, always the one plotting the scene.
KW: What influence does Halle Selassie have on your life?
S: Not much, I’m familiar with the brother and respect all he’s done for the people of Ethiopia and the African Diaspora.
KW: What is your take on the state of hip-hop?
S: I think the state of hip hop today is in trouble because we as a nation of people are so starved for images, that we accept negative images. We have allowed hip hop to slip out of the hands of the ones that produced it, the indigenous peoples of the ghetto. And now it’s run by corporations who have no interest in the culture, which is much broader than negative, insecure, barbaric, genocidal lyrics and concepts that influence these youngsters so heavily today.
KW: What are the most important things you learned during your period of self-education and how are things or lessons reflected in your music?
S: Never make excuses. Free thought, free expression are at the soul of truly being free. If you allow your art to be compromised for money or fame or vanity you have allowed someone or something to control you - you have become a spiritual, emotional, mental slave of some sort to that entity. If I had to be controlled or censored in a land that was based on free speech, I’d just work at the post office. It is reflected in my music because my music is totally creative and deals with topics that every black man in American is faced with - trying to stay alive, trying to feed his family, trying to have fun and dodging the police, the courthouses & unjust laws set up to railroad black youth.
KW: What truth are you exposing and what stand are you
taking with your music?
S: The truth that I’m exposing is the hypocritical government taxation, homelessness, racism indoctrinated in education, police brutality and racial profiling. I’m trying to stand up for the African Americans in this country and put us back into the respectful commentary of history. And to include Africans in the discussion of the contributions to world civilization, past, present and the future, from an afro-centric stand point.
KW: How do you feel set up to fail as a young black man and how would you advise young black men to avoid or counteract this “set up”?
S: Scarce to unlimited social resources, a generational attraction to drug abuse, alcohol abuse, the fascination with the block & the illusion that you actually make money selling drugs. Read.
KW: What can you tell those who glorify street survival and street life about the actualities of street survival and street life?
S: Half the time the cats ain’t even really from the block. They watch tv and see what they think someone is suppose to look like on the block and the emulate it. Half these rappers are insecure with being themselves in the first place, how are they going to tell someone else to be secure. Anyone who’s from the block like me, knows that drugs have destroyed every black community across America, and we’ve lost hundreds of thousands of young black men and women from the ages of 14 to 35 to senseless black on black violence and petty drug disputes. Me - myself in the past 10 years have lost over 100 homeboys that I grew up with since I was a kid and everyday faced the reality that I could be one of them too. So if you’re secure like me and a black champion and you have knowledge of self, you’d be one of the biggest house niggas to sell your people’s struggle for money. And any rapper that does, I aint fucking wit em. They work for the F.B.I. trust me, they work for the f.b.i.
KW: How did your start in writing short stories and screenplays lead to your writing rhymes and becoming a MC?
S: I’ve always write in class as a child and read a lot and got a good imagination.
KW: How do artists as varied and disparate as the Ohio Players, Bob Dylan, Too Short, & Teena Marie influence your music?
S: All the music was funky, soulful and had substance. My music is filled with substance. You might not like the beat, but you can not say that I do not speak on something. That’s the kinda music I grew up with. I mean from like KRS-One “Self Destruction” to Too Short’s “The Ghetto.” With Teena Marie, she has a lot of passion in her music like “Portugese Love” singing about Rick James, one of my favorite artist. And Bob Dylan was one of the first rappers. I mean if you listen to some of his stuff today, its crushing 95% of what these emcees are talking about today. The industry now is not set up for the people. Never has been, probably never will.
KW: Are you eventually going to release all of the 200+ songs you have made? If you come up with new songs while you’re in the midst of releasing these 200+
songs, would you release the new songs first or would you work to release some of those 200+ songs?
S: No. Because some songs aren’t for the public. They wouldn’t like me probably. but the 200+ songs was a personal goal I made 2 years ago and it just kinda blew up. I went from saying I wanted to get 50 songs, I got 50. Then I said 100, and then I wanted 150, and to this date, I have 226 songs and will have 300 by the summer. so fuck it, I’ll have 400 by my birthday, Dec 31st.
KW: What advice would you give to aspiring MC’s that have a mindset similar to yours who are trying to get into the hip-hop industry or simply trying to get exposure for their music?
S: Have drive. Don’t be afraid of ”No.” All anyone can tell you is “yes” or “no.” No has always inspired me to get more yeses so if you’re not afraid of everyone telling you “no,” do it yourself. If you don’t believe in yourself, who will?
KW: How can you get your music to be received by the mainstream hip-hop fan base when militant, conscious, and political style rap isn’t exactly the most popular
or supported form of rap these days?
S: Beats me. Maybe I can get a movie deal like Tupac cuz mind you, Tupac from out here. He did his first album at Hyde Street Studios in SF. I got partnas that really roll with ‘Pac in his Marin City, San Francisco days. And he wasn’t popular mainstream until he went to NY for “Juice” and by chance, the director wanted him. He wasn’t even originally cast. So opportunity & chance and I’ll tell you this, A&R’s would have balls if they signed me because I’m capable of getting the whole world behind me.
KW: How have your previously released albums been received by the fan base?
S: It’s a breath of fresh air when you listen to a radio station that plays the same songs 20 times a day. Some of my fan base are scared for me because Im too real, kinda how Obama feels right now.
KW: Can you describe your upcoming collaboration with the Slap Factory?
S: Very Exciting. Cuz these are all young guys, 19, 20 and 21. But they’re very talented. They all go to school for music and they make something that is the original hyphy, what we call here in the bay; Slaps. Cuz that’s the Bay sound, conscious lyrics with slappin’ ass beats. Hopefully with my releases, I’ll be able to expose some of the great talent here in the Bay that’s not given an opportunity to shine by the mainstream chicken-shit motherfuckas.
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