Jbutters: How was the show last night?
Onemanarmy: It was dope. It was in Ann Arbor, Michigan in collaboration with this kid named Havoc. I host the battles and after the battle we do like 30-minute sets so it was like a show/battle.
J: Was this a Onemanarmy show or a Binary Star show?
O: It was more like a Subterraneous show. They really are Onemanarmy shows but I have the rest of the crew there so every now and then we do some posse cuts. I haven’t done a Binary show in like a year.
J: Before I get into that I want to ask you about your aliases. From Mr. Ree Man to The Anonymous you have a lot of different names. Do each of them have a lot of depth?
O: Back in the day around ’95-’96 my MC name was Lofat. HipHop is forever growing and changing and some MC names have time limits. To me a MC name is real personal but at the same time it’s like a tattoo, you feeling it for the first six or seven years but when you 50 years old that ain’t even you no more. To me it isn’t really a name thing it’s more like an attribute thing or a way to express myself through different means. I felt like if I was Onemanarmy I couldn’t do no love shit cuz Onemanarmy don’t do that but Mr. Hide do love stuff. One Be Lo is another side of me, Boy Wonda is a different side of me. Another person would say it just sound like you got a lot of nicknames but if you pay attention to which name is on each joint its different trains of thought. Every time I sit down and write it’s a different mission. Sometimes it’s a creativity thing; sometimes it’s a battle thing or a storything etc. I didn’t explain that enough on Waterworld. On the album people got confused with all the names just on the track. They all stemmed from The Anonymous. My whole mission on the mic is like I could care less if people know who I am I just want people to respect my music. The Anonymous can’t keep dropping albums left and right. Its another way for me to put out a lot of music without cats saying “That’s Onemanarmy. How he gonna do some shit like this”. Then you got kids saying I ain’t feeling Lofat, but I love One Be Lo, Onemanarmy he’s ok and they don’t even know it’s the same person. I’m more so a conceptualist. I don’t go and change my voice or put on wigs for different characters. The name thing is just a concept, me stepping outside the rhyme and continuing my concept that’s how I remain anonymous. If I tell everyone I’m the Anonymous I won’t even be Anonymous anymore.
J: Yea that makes a lot of sense going beyond the song allowing the mc name to become apart of the concept taking it one step further. So let’s talk about the Binary album..
O: This Binary shit is like 2-3 years old.
O: Some of these songs are damn near 5 years old. Being an artist I make new shit everyday, I got so many new songs this old stuff is actually kind of annoying, as a solo artist, mainly because we haven’t recorded in almost a year. With the album just dropping it’s like the Ghost of Christmas Past, now I gotta go back and be Binary Star again.
J: That leads right to my next question. There have been mad rumors going around about Binary Star that you guys broke up after Waterworld. How did the rumors start and what is the current situation with the group?
O: Obviously we weren’t trying to start a rumor like that because it isn’t helping Binary Star. The kind of fan I am I love artists, I could care less about a beat or rhyme I respect the artist. If you drop a dope album and then tell me the crew ain’t together anymore I’m not gonna have no faith in what I’m listening too. I love Senim Silla to death and he is still one of my favorite MCs but the thing with Binary Star is that we basically had business differences. We both had our own way of doing things. I felt we had a formula for success and it was working. We had a whole lot more work to do and I felt that cats were content with the state we were in. I’m the type of artist that feels that nobody is going to tell me how to do what I’m doing and I respect other artist where I wont tell them how to do the shit they doing. So basically I said you do things the best way you know how and I’m going to things the best way I know. I don’t believe in democracy when it comes to my shit. It wasn’t creative differences it was that cats had they own goals. Of course we aint gone always agree, but if we a crew we can’t be disagreeing 9 times out of 10 and then say we a crew. But that shouldn’t be a surprise, I said on the album that “a lot of people will look at Binary Star and think that we a crew, but in reality, we just two emcee’s that revolve around each other, and that’s how we shine.
J: Is there a possibility for another Binary Star album?
O: I’m sure we’ll record again but right now that isn’t even my focus. I’m pro Binary Star. It just got to the point where kid’s started disagreeing just because they had the right to disagree, and I felt like that wasn’t why I was making music. It ain’t no beef or nothing I’m just keeping it moving with or without Senim. My album is recorded, Waterworld 2 is already done, Maliki 12″, Majestic Legend’s album is halfway recorded, my whole crew is tight. My solo shit was ready along time ago but I couldn’t drop it before the Binary album because people would have been confused. Don’t get me wrong classic material don’t ever die. I love this shit. I love it for who we were when we did it and the experience we had. If I had the chance to do it all over again, I would it exactly the same.
J: Waterworld and M.O.T.U seem to be essentially the same album explain the differences between the two.
O: The Waterworld album was originally supposed to be a compilation featuring Decompoze, Athletic Mic League, basically cats in my crew. I went to everybody and told them we were doing a compilation and we are going to call it Waterworld bring your shit here’s the deadline. Underground cats don’t believe in deadlines. The deadline comes and nobody got shit but Decompoze, he got 2 joints. So I’m like we got all these songs we can put on it because it’s going to cost the same to press the CDs. The whole point was to do the compilation to make a couple dollars so we can put out the real Binary album. We worked on $500 budget. We made a lot of mistakes and we weren’t even trying to correct them because of the limited budget. Senim and me dropped every verse in one take.
J: That’s what I heard and to me that sounds crazy to do every verse in one take. Did you freestyle at all or was all your material just that well practiced before hand?
O: Me and Decompoze mixed the songs without a digital board, we didn’t have shit sequenced we did all the drops by hand yo. Every time I hear a snare drop or a drum kick back in or drop out I feel that shit cuz I can see me pushing the button on every single drop. That’s why I was loving that shit. The thing is me and Decompoze worked hard, we was going to work taking our paychecks so we came in with a totally different mentality than the kid’s who wasn’t paying for it. It was like you can come in bullshitting if you want too but you gotta have this shit tight before you even get here.
J: How do you respond to the critical acclaim you have received and still stay focused on your solo work with all the hype surrounding Binary Star?
O: We’re heads that got something to say. If MCs were doing what they supposed to be doing I wouldn’t even be rhyming. I got sick of taking up for all the Nas’, Wu Tang’s etc. I know some of these cats cant even look themselves in the mirror without a $100 bill hanging in their face. Some cats do it for money, women, or fame. Its my sole responsibility to do what I gotta to the best of my ability and at the same time shed light on cats doing the bullshit. So when you say how do we feel about heads responding to this saying its classic or they feeling it, that’s how you supposed to feel. I wouldn’t put out any shit that I didn’t feel like it was classic, so it feels good when at least one head feels that way. Everyone has there own definition of what’s good and what’s bad. To me it’s like how can you write a wack verse or make a wack beat. We was anti industry on Waterworld, no hooks, no choruses, fuck 16 bars, we making music for heads. If its live then heads gonna say its live an accept it. We not the kids who just started listening to hiphop; we have been doing this for a long ass time. We grew up in on era where you didn’t even think about touching the mic unless you had skills. I meet kids everyday like “Yo I just started making beats 2 months ago, I want to get you on my joint”. To me that’s disrespect but I don’t tell them that, but I believe you have to crawl before you walk. Half the albums dropping the past few years wouldn’t get the same love if they were dropped in ’92-’94. That’s because the overall state of HipHop is so low you can drop a mediocre album and still shine.
J: It’s all about marketing and promotion these days
O: I know for every 1000 people loving Binary Star there are a billion people that don’t even know. So if you get gassed up cuz some cats is feeling you, you might be humbled going somewhere else. This ain’t for everybody so we don’t try to make dope rhymes we make good music. If it’s a good song everyone will feel it. As far as doing my solo shit in the midst of the hype, my album has been done since April. Binary has been done since ’99. I sent off the M.O.T.U masters in April. The first release date was August, then it got pushed back we been waiting forever for it to come out. I was two seconds from saying Fuck it but I put too much into it to walk away from it. This Binary shit was definitely a big test for me.
J: I’ve seen Subterraneous records proclaim to be not just as label but a movement. Describe the movement you are trying to achieve?
O: The definition of Subterraneous is one who lives underground. It’s a movement to activate these fans and these heads to realize that they have responsibilities. It’s about supporting HipHop whether you buy my shit or not. Where do you buy your records from Tower or the mom and pop stores supporting HipHop. Do you download music or do you go buy that shit. Are you to good to pay to get into shows, because every time you don’t it tells promoters this type of music isn’t marketable. Somebody has to support artists. It’s your responsible to boo wack cats off the stage and if you see heads you feeling show them some love. HipHop isn’t just MCs, DJs, and production teams. HipHop is people. I don’t want people to feel that they have to be a b-boy or dj to be HipHop. It’s in the heart. You have a lot of people that don’t understand HipHop because the people who live it are like fuck it, it ain’t for them anyway. How are they supposed to understand it when we exclude them from the jump? MCs, DJs, fans, promoters all have responsibilities to support other artists too. People tend to use HipHop to try to get you to buy their shit. That’s called a career they not doing it for HipHop.
J: I heard you have a Onemanarmy comic book series coming out. Tell me a little about that and whose idea was it.
O: The comic book overall is my struggle with the industry. I put all the characters into it like the Onemanarmy and Mr. Ree Man and they all do different things. Then you have the industry in the comic as a big, evil kingpin named Shady Biz. He goes around with his army of wack MCs and A&R’s terrorizing a world called HipHop with an evil force called rap. They poison the airwaves and take the Onemanarmy’s family hostage. In other words my little sister is into this rap shit and that’s my way of saying Shady Biz has my family hostage. You run up in the record store and there are jars with deals in them and wack emcees run into the store vandalizing and stealing deals from real MCs. Everything is symbolic. So the song talks about what the comic book will be about. I’ll spit a verse to you:
“Once upon a time lived a man named Lo/ Everywhere he go he make the crowd say ho!/grown man flow for the boys and girls now let me tell you kids about a place called Waterworld/ shaped like a mitten/ I rock the mic higgin/ my block recite copywritten rhymes I be spittin/ nobody knows the true identity/ It’s a Clark Kent thing one superman army/ straight out the sound booth timberland boots/ my necklace alone could pierce any bullet proof/ So now that you know who the good guy is/ every story has a villain this one is Shady Biz/ kingpin all about the dividends/ panties, wack emcees to torture HipHop citizens/ with some powerful force he call rap/ but the Onemanarmy here to stop all that/ chop all that/ Navy on the mpc/ literary military on the m-I-c/ one man up against a whole army/ full of a&r’s, wack emcees, and r&b/ Industry y’all nothing but snakes to me/ HipHop Waterworld is the place to be/ no place Shady Biz or fake emcees/ we bout to set y’all free just wait and see”.
I’m working with my man Kenji on this comic book series. He is the kid that did the Binary Star artwork. The way it came together was that he came to me with some Onemanarmy shit.
J: Will you package it with the single?
O: I’m only coming with the content and concepts he is coming with the drawings. For the Waterworld 2 CD what I want to have is a prelude or pre-version of the comic book. We are trying to get the comic book done as soon as possible. The storyline is coming along. I’m almost literally a one-man army. I’m promoting, booking my shows. Making beats, coming up with the budgets, doing the comic book, doing posters, the newsletters, etc. so it’s a slow process when your doing it by yourself.
J: Financially supporting all avenues of your music including recording, promoting, and distribution must be draining. What are some examples of how the business has influenced your social life?
O: HipHop is my social life. All my friends I either rhyme with them or see them in the clubs. I go to sleep at 4 am and get up at 6 am. I can’t go to sleep knowing that I didn’t do shit today. One day in Shallah I can get all the sleep I can get. Right now though it’s a struggle. My shit has to get out there, the comic book has to get done, and these posters got to get done. I’m getting thousands of angry emails saying shit isn’t in the stores. I gotta clean up TRC mistakes and I’m doing the best I can. They fucking up the 12″ covers and I have to explain that too, but I’m positive cuz I know Allahu-Akbar. When its time to get it done its getting done. Its just sad that people just hearing Binary Star today are like wait so you mean they aren’t a group anymore? We still Binary Star in the sense that if someone wanted to book tours that we could do that but as far as working on future shit I’m not even thinking about it right now.
J: With the experience in the studio do you prefer to do all aspects of creation yourself? (I.e. engineering, mixing, production)
O: When you’re working with other people it boils down to communication. Personally I think it’s all about knowing your product and where you want to go with it. Sometimes you need other people’s input sometimes you don’t when I write a verse I already know how I want the track mixed. I haven’t really worked with any outside producers. I have a problem with letting other people mix shit cuz not everybody focuses on the same thing. I’d rather work alone or with a cat that is on the same page. I’m open for suggestions but if I don’t have any control of the outcome I don’t want any part of it. I only work with people that are consistent with not talent wise but feel and concept.
J: How do you even have time to write rhymes and make beats when you seem so pre-occupied with everything else your responsible for?
O: I’m always doing something. On the way to where I’m going I may be listening to a song to see how I’m going to critique it in the studio. I might go to the T-shirt shop and scope out inks and all that. From there I might work on some newsletters. Then if I’m at home not doing anything I may make a beat or Majestik Legend might come by and we write to another track or I get a call from Jbutters and we do an interview. Since I’ve been home from prison in ’97 i’ve never had a day off. HipHop is my life, HipHop is about people and people are your biggest resource. I love the fans because that’s whose been street teaming for me. Cat’s reviewing the album and posting it everywhere keeping it alive. I have nothing but love for them.
J: With the popularity of Eminem and respect garnered by Binary Star has Detroit’s HipHop scene evolved?
O: It’s more Eminem and Slum Village wannabes. A lot of people don’t want to work. I’m from Pontiac, right outside Detroit. In the beginning the Detroit cats weren’t showing us any love cuz we weren’t from Detroit. The fans were screaming Binary Star cuz nobody was fucking with us onstage. Then the Detroit cats started asking us to do shows trying to use us but we needed the exposure. Heads around here so busy screaming 3-1-3 but when you go outside Detroit nobody want to hear that. My motivation is Allah, the fans coming to me saying they feeling my shit.
J: How do you want to end this interview?
O: Let the fans know to come to www.subterraneousrecords.com for all the updates. Be on the lookout for the Onemanarmy joint. I’m going to hold the album for a minute. I want to let the Binary Star album accumulate then I’m going to drop a few Onemanarmy 12″s with a few different companies. With Waterworld 2 I’m taking the Waterworld concept and I’m doing what I originally wanted to do. Its going to introduce the world to Subterraneous Records, Majestik Legend, Maliki, Decompoze, Kodac, Illite, 9-5 Colony and I’m telling you if cats is trippin over this Binary shit they gonna go crazy when they hear this Onemanarmy shit. If I got something to do with it its gonna be classic, I’m not saying that in an arrogant way I just want to guarantee these heads that if you ain’t got nothing to play no more stay tuned. We already added a Binary Star album to your collection and we gonna keep adding. Anyone can be Subterraneous, if you believe in HipHop and you want to preserve this culture then you already subterraneous. Stop supporting the bullshit and support the real shit.