Rhode Island, though not thought of as a pillar of Hip Hop nor the United States for that matter, has a rich history of Hip Hop. From break dancing to rapping to graffiti, Rhode Island has it all just like most states and areas that are a part of the East Coast. The strong and influential culture of New York, known as Hip Hop, spread across the globe and every country and region has been affected by it in some shape or form.
You had top dance crews like Return to Burn and Top Master Crew, who had an epic battle in Rhode Island in Roger Williams Park which both crews stated that they won the battle in the mid-1980s. On the rapping side of things, you got the Magical Four, they opened up for RUN DMC, Doug E. Fresh, Melle Mel and The Furious Five, to name a few acts in the 80s that ran Hip Hop during the classic era of Hip Hop. With a strong culture building out the gate; Rhode Island still has never taken off. It's probably due to the small area the state occupies and the small population, but even still with their low exposure, they still soldier on and produce music out of the region with the likes of Freddie Black, A-God the Old Soul, and Flawless Real Talk (who later moved to Atlanta to get more exposure).
At this point, we've done an interview with Freddie Black cause we here at The People's Theorem, pride ourselves in finding artists that most will never listen to in the Hip Hop global community. We want to shine a light on these "underappreciated" artists and regions. So now, out of Rhode Island, A-God was gracious enough to grace us with his pen and paper to write out the questions we sent to him and we got ourselves a dope interview.
A-God is from Providence, Rhode Island which is the capitol, and Rhode Island is also the first state to renounce British rule (so their rebel nature is born with-in them). It is also one of the oldest towns in the United States. It's no surprise that an MC like A-God was bred out of such an area, a man who is one with wisdom (like an old soul) and one who can be rebellious to the ways of social conformity and politics (like Rhode Island in colonial times).
Rhode Island is also known as the Ocean State and a metaphor that can be drawn from that, is his lyrical is smooth and aggressive like crashing waves, as a man, he has always struggled with climbing past the limits of the levels of high tide and going backwards as well (like most people). A-God has in his life lived many struggles and lost friends to drug use. It most likely is the driving factor that keeps his artistry at a level of a constant high tide even in times of struggle and survival.
He is currently working on his first multi-producer project in 7 years, which will make it 11 projects released in 18 years of gracing the mic. But prior to this particular release, he plans to release a pair of short EPs. About the project he said, "this project is going to take the listener through one man's timeline starting with the inception of Covid, to the current day and beyond. Showing how the big wigs decisions trickle down into the average man's life, I couldn't be more excited about a project."
You are an MC with great lyrical delivery who is from Rhode Island, which like most places in the United States has a rich history of Hip Hop. How has your surroundings influenced your Hip Hop? How does it continue to influence your Hip Hop?
Peace bro, first off appreciate the kind words, but yeah, I'm pretty positive that Rhode Island(especially Providence) plays a huge role in who I am as an artist. Hip hop was just life here when I was younger, it was an escape for a lot of us. We aren't really known for many individual artists outside of Sage Francis(we in the shadow of Boston and NY) but we've always had a huge indie presence and a vibrant scene. Also, the cities in the state all carry that northeast coast griminess like NY or Philly does. I think there's a certain aesthetic and aura to it that just helps to breed a certain style. We looked at rapping like making the NBA coming up. I feel RI is a perfect breeding ground for an emcee, we tend to be quick witted and angry out here 🤣 , too much talent goes to waste here though.
When you start a project, how hands on do you get with? Do you pick from a range of beats and write to them and then hand them off to the producer and let them craft it from there? Or does your input massively weigh in on how the project is constructed?
My first couple of LPs when I went by just "A-God", I worked really close and in person with the producers, mainly Evil Genius (False Idol), and It's Knuckle Up (Interview with a God). Once I began meeting producers online it switched up the work flow for sure. My single producer EP's Brutal God (Brutal Caesar), Purified in Fire (Jus-Listen), Water For Shadows (Jack The Rich), Honest Pour(Whiskeyman), and Labor & Tribute(Skinny Bonez Tha Godfatha) all had a similar Genesis. For the most part with those I would feel out the beat packs for a few days and see what I can draw feeling-wise from it, and then create a outline/theme for a tape based on what kind of inspiration was brewing up. I'm currently working on a multi-producer tape that's totally a new approach comparatively though. In this I have a story I'm trying to tell in chronological order, and I'm taking beats from 10 plus producers and seeing what beats I can tell the story too. Also got a couple 5 track short EPs I'm planning to drop this year that I looked at more as loose singles, kinda short-mixtape-feel (It's Knuckle Up, Jack The Rich are producing those). So it really depends, I've approached it quite a few ways, and hoping to find more ways to do so tbh. When it comes to how to approach song writing in Hip Hop I'm really intrigued by Aesop Rock, Homeboy Sandman, Cage, Ill Bill, and Open Mike Eagle (to name a few). I always noticed these artists songs tend to have unique approaches and angles, and I def plan to head in that direction with the music.
Many artists choose to have a wide supply of features in their projects, you mainly rely on solo tracks, what is the reasons behind this? Is it to keep the story you are trying to project more intact by your execution? What makes you pick certain individuals to feature on your tracks? What are some deciding factors?
I don't really try to have, or not have features tbh. If I'm making something and think someone in particular (that I respect or work with) would sound good on it then I reach out, but I never force it. Not to throw shade on anybody's process, but I always dig more introspective and cohesive tapes, so I try to hit that mark myself with these projects. Mo Rukuz from Grimewav is probably the emcee I've done the most tracks with, but that was always organic cuz that's my real-life bro, ya kno. I trust Ruk gonna deliver proper, and it's a dual mission not a transaction. Theirs tons of emcees I'd like to work with, and I plan on making that happen in the future, just expect it to be more of a team effort than a feature when it does. And once again, ain't no shade in this towards cats with mad features, plenty of tapes I enjoy TF out of that are heavy with the features.
Is there any new school artists that you respect? You seem to only apply your lyrical talents over Boom Bap beats. Who are some of the artists you credit as influences to your style?
I'm not really too versed in much new shit that ain't boombap tbh. I don't even dislike the new type of sound, I just feel it's repetitive. I'm sure there's cats doing plenty dope shit with it, I just don't seem to ever hear it 😆I've always been an underground head, since I started listening at 9 years old; I been about the real shit. So I don't see that changing. My main influences probably Wu, Jehst, Styles P and Jada, Sean Price, DOOM, Ill Bill, Aesop Rock and Homeboy Sandman. I dig YOD probably the most outta dudes who newer on the scene. But I feel I've matured with my pen too much to not listen to other mature pens. I'm definitely a snob with it.
What do you feel makes you unique over other artists that rap over East Coast style arrangements? How did you focus on these differences and what made these main focal points to your musical journey as an MC? What has been the main focal point of your music creation?
I'm unique by default cuz I'm always myself on these songs. I'm trying to open people's eyes via my own story. I'm not looking for glory, fortune, or fame from this shit. I'm really not. I've always just known I had a gift, and I don't wanna deal with the shame of not using it later in life. I'm not here to compete with other artists, I'm here to drop these jewels I've earned. Hopefully I can stay blessed enough to keep that up.
Is it just real-life experiences that forms your song content? What type of observations in your past help influence your themes? What drives the heart of your content? What is it that you want the world to know? What are some aspects that you like to point out that you feel needs to change in our present local and international communities?
I'd say most my content's driven by my real life. My 2 most prevalent styles are self-introspection, and anti-authoritarian, I'd say. The younger me got in a lot of trouble, most of it was self-inflicted; now looking back. But nonetheless, I dug a pretty decent hole to climb out of, so there's an endless batch of stories from that. Addiction, crime, hustling, prison, loss, recovery, the state of the world, love, spirituality, psychedelics, and personal evolution are all themes common in my music because of that journey. As for things I'd like to see change, there's plenty lol, but if I can make any difference it's gonna come in the form of inspiring the individual. I wish people focused more on their personal, and spiritual growth. I guess that's the change I'd like to see, at least out of things I may be able to affect.
You just did a project with Skinny Bonez Tha Godfather; what was that like start to finish? How long did it take to create "Labor & Tribute"? It is described as (on Bandcamp), taking "you on a journey through the lens of a broken man trying to put the pieces back together", which makes "Kintsugi" a perfect lead single. Kintsugi is the art of mending broken pieces of pottery back together, and also is a philosophy that embraces the flawed and imperfect. With this being said, how did you create and mend words to fulfill the idea of Kintsugi? What does this song mean to you on a personal level?
Labor and Tribute came together pretty easily tbh. Skinny Bonez and I had an EP in the plans for a long time, and the end of 2021 he sent me over a pack of 9 beats. 8 of them made the tape, so that goes to show how easy the homie is to work with lol. I had just lost a close friend to drug addiction and was getting to the end of my road with my own personal battles, so rebirth and tribute kind of naturally just became the theme of the tape. One of the ways I feel I was able to mend myself was through putting way more effort into music, and some other aspects of my life, so naturally labor became another theme - therefore "Labor & Tribute". I had planned to use the kintsugi concept since I heard the term awhile back, and like you said it seemed to fit perfect leading off this one. I just think it's a perfect reminder that sometimes our weaknesses can evolve and become some of our strongest assets. I see a lot of hope in that and thought others would too. The tape didn't take long to make, writing probably took 2 months, but I was working on other shit as well.
You got picked to be featured on a track with the Queensbridge legend, Tragedy Khadafi on Whiskeyman's "Only Built 4 Fusin' Drinx". How did that come about and how did you guys approach this song? Was this beat created for the project and he picked you two to be on it? Have you ever seen Tragedy's documentary "The Story of Queensbridge"? What do you think makes Queensbridge such a huge contributor in the Hip-Hop culture? Who is your favorite artist out of Queensbridge and why?
I was pretty souped when Whiskeyman approached me about being on "The Agenda" with Trag. It's funny, it feels like one of them situations in life when things come full circle. My first manager was a dude named Yusef from Pawtucket, RI, and he had a connect with Tragedy. We were supposed to do a track like 12 years ago, but Yusef was murdered while working in his barbershop (RIP). Dude really believed in me and my homies (Hammer Beanz *RIP, Terry of POW *RIP and Robbin Hoodz of Takeover battle league NE). So it meant a lot to me that his plans came to fruition with some help from Whiskeyman. Hopefully made my homies proud with that one. But yeah man, besides all that it's just an honor to rock with the God, in general. He was always an influence of mine, one of the first to throw such deep wisdom into street music. But Whiskeyman def gets the credit for making that happen. I heard Tragedy's verse and was immediately inspired to pen mine.
My favorite QB artist coming up was Cormega, followed closely by Nas and Tragedy. I think QB gets the love it does cuz these dudes brought a new grimier, but wise sound to the table. Def a sound some of my favorites are still running w/ today. And no I can't say I've seen that documentary, but def going to now.
What is your favorite song you have ever been on? What is it about it that makes it defined in such a way? What did you notice out of it that made you proud to see who you are as an artist in a mirror's reflection sort of way?
Man...... this is super hard to answer. I really try to make each song it's own thing, and fully immerse myself. I got a few that made me really take a step back after some listens though. Single File, Mirror Studies, and On The Rocks come to mind right away. I always feel more accomplishment when I nail a detailed concept. Recently I went and took another listen to "The Honest Pour" which was Whiskeyman and my EP from 2021. It must have escaped me at first how dope "On The Rocks" was. It was the outro of the EP, and I think I pulled some serious emotion out of that one. It's about having an epiphany at rock bottom. A sort of drug and sleep deprived hallucination of a guardian angel, while I was homeless in the winter. It was about probably the lowest point of my life, and I didn't realize when writing it how accurately I captured the moment. It brought me back when I listened and I was overwhelmed w gratitude for being where I am today. So atm that one's hard to compete w/ when it comes to personal favorites. I gotta do a video for that eventually.
How did you get your name? What does it mean to you and how does it define you as and artist and a person? Do you use any other alias's when making music?
I've been known as A-God since little league man. It's literally my generic nick name from my first initial and first three of my last name. I've seen people get put off by it like I'm saying I'm GOD or some shit lmao, but it's just my name man lol. I added The Old Soul to it because there was multiple artists from Europe and Africa who had the A-God name, and the old soul thing has always been kinda my "brand" anyway, if that's the right word for it.
Is there any artist or producer or both that you would really want to work with? Will you ever try to approach them or would you like it to organically happen, if it is meant to be?
There's plenty of artists I'd be down to work with. Def would love to work with some of my favorites like Jehst, Aesop Rock, Sandman, Styles P, Evidence, or producers like Muggs, Madlib, L'Orange, or Bronze Naz. But working with ya favs is kinda a given lol. For things in reach right now tho, I'm trying to get an EP with Hanzo Bladez on the production. He fam, but I've been wanting to do a whole project to his beats for a while. Dudes incredible, every beat is next level. So, look out for that in the future, cuz that's happening 100 percent.
You said you are "excited to see the Grind Mode Cypher homies" on FB, is there an event we can all look forward to you being a part of and if so, what is it like working with Grind Mode? How did that come about?
I got a Cypher dropping sometime in the next few weeks with the GM fam. Just shot the "Bars at the BBQ" series with them, which is an annual event where the homie Lingo (who owns GM) hosts a BBQ and cyphers to give back to the artists. They're a good movement for Hip hop man. Give a lot of hungry emcees a chance to get some good exposure. Def all love in that circle. Look forward to doing more with them. I keep it solo most the time so it's dope to have some community in this shit somewhere. But Def nothing but love for them.