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Interview: Preach

Posted by Joe Lazar on March 26, 2007

Garveyism was one of last year’s best albums, undisputeably. Preach was the man behind the record. Garveyism stepped out of the box for hip hop. In the middle of it all, it still had the overall vibe of hip hop, and the soul of hip hop, but it was obvious that the personality and creativity coming from Preach had it’s fingerprints all over it. Preach cooled down from his busy life to chat with me.

Headless Ponch: Now you grew up in Columbia, South Carolina. Have you lived there your whole life?

Preach: Yes, born and bred.

HP: Do you remember the first time hip hop lit a spark for you and made you want to be involved with it?

Preach: There were actually a couple of instances. Some of my early fond memories of the culture were when Rap City would come on, and my brother and I would hook up the stereo to the tv. So, when the videos came on, we would put them on cassette tape and play in our walkmans everywhere we went. I can remember being so happy and excited about the music, I want to bring those feelings back. I think that’s why I do it.

HP: Before we get into your album, I want to know more about your label Blusic Productions. What made you want to start it?

Preach: There’s this saying I’ve always heard, that goes; if you’ve never read the book you’ve wanted to read, that means you need to write it. Blusic kind of came from that train of thought. I wanted to be able to have all of the angles of what I do, to try and influence and help my people. I write, do photography, the music and also want to help other people put out their art. That’s ultimately the foundation of it.

HP: Do you want your label to serve as a platform for South Carolina artists specifically?

Preach: Yes and no. I say yes, because I’m here and I see the talent here first hand. But if I am able to help talented artists anyway I can that are from somewhere else, that’ll be great as well. But, the idea of having it focus on S.C. artists always had a romantic feeling to it. Sort of like the way Baby Face and L.A. Reid wanted to make ‘LaFace’ records focus on artists from the Atlanta area. I think that’s a great thing to be able to help people from your area get their voices out there.

HP: Would you put your career in the hands of a major label or do you just want to continue releasing albums on your label?

Preach: I wouldn’t mind going to a major. It’s all about how you look at things. Most indy artists look at going to a major as being ‘lack of creative control’ etc. But I look at it as ‘able to get my words to more people.’ I wouldn’t want to sign with anyone, major or indy, that’ll make me not be able to express who I am. Of course there’s going to be things that you may disagree with, like any other job. But when you can’t see yourself anymore, that’s when something’s wrong.

HP: Ok, You titled your album Garveyism. I’m a white boy who has lived my live exclusively in suburbia Midwest, so I didn’t have a clue what Garveyism was. But then I read into it because of your album and it is truly fascinating. First, I want you to explain what Garveyism is.

Preach: When I was working on the album, I was reading a lot of Garvey’s work. I’ve always had a love for his vision, like many other great minds of the 20th century. And one of the things that stuck out to me was the idea of investing in yourself, your work and your community. And I saw how it applied to Hip Hop and the younger Hip Hop generation. We have this idea that we should wait for something or someone to come and take care of our problems, instead of being pro active and finding ways to take care of things on our own. Garvey spoke of black ownership and taking care of your community whether it be investing financially, volunteer or morally. These are some of the key elements that helped me move forward with the project. Because many times, I was discouraged and wanted to quit.

HP: Why did you feel that Garveyism represented your album the best?

Preach: I feel that the art of album titles are going out of style. So many artists, even outside of Hip Hop genre, don’t have titles that move people or force them to think. Your art is suppose to make people think, make them question the conditions; make them want to do more. ‘Garveyism’ embodies all of that.

HP: How important is it for you to personally connect with aspects of the continent of Africa?

Preach: It’s very important. Recently I received a phone call from one of Marcus Garvey’s sons out of NY. He practices medicine and he spoke to me about the album and my work. I searched for Garvey’s sons (to my surprise both are still living) and found his medical practice. I sent a copy of the album, my photography work, and articles written about me and by me along with a long letter. I wanted his blessing. And I got it, and then some.

One of the questions he asked me was; “Have you been to the motherland?” I told him that I had not and he responded, “You will.” It’s very important because this is the continent of my ancestors. The origin of me. Not every black in America has to go to Africa. Some may not be able to afford it or may not have a desire to go. And that’s up to them. But being aware of where you come from and your history is what’s important. It’s only so much the history books can tell you about the pyramids or the culture, food, sounds and smells. You have to go there.

HP: I feel like you have all the angles in a scope. You MC, you have your own label, you work at a record store, and you write for numerous publications. How do you use each tool for insight on what you can do to heighten your own career?

Preach: I feel that it’s our job to exercise the gifts God has granted us. So for the most part, I look at it like, if I have a message that I feel needs to get out there, I have to use all avenues to get it across. Some people may not listen to Hip Hop. But may read an article that I’ve written or look at a picture that I’ve taken. That’s what it’s all about. If you have multiple avenues to reach people, it’s your duty to go out there and do it.

So many people get angry at rappers or singers getting into acting. And I’m like “Why not?!” If they have the opportunity to do it, then why not do it. Doesn’t mean that it’ll all be Oscar worthy performances, but Will Smith has been nominated to two Oscars. Some people know his acting work, but a lot of them don’t have “He’s the DJ and I’m the Rapper” on tape. So, it’s all about doing God’s work. If it’s good, positive and helps people grow, it’s your job to do it.

HP: Do you think that indie artists just making albums and touring is enough to gain mass success? Or do you feel like they have to be proactive like yourself?

Preach: I think even if you’re on a major, you have to be proactive since there’s so many people trying to do what you do. I mean, people have Fruity Loops, and home studios and able to get shit pressed and Disc Makers like anyone else now. And I believe that’s great. But it also means that you can’t just have a dope record and expect it to sell just because of that.

You have to find new ways to get your message and work out to the people. Show them, “Okay, I know there’s a bunch of rappers putting out cds. But this is why you need to buy mine.”

And I have a lot of respect for some great indies. I always love the energy of Stones Throw and how they’re always so hip. And Def Jux has always lived by “independent as fuck” slogan. I mean, I would be fine if I could live the life of Madlib. Having all the respect in the industry, able to do the albums that I want and having fun. If you can have you crib, pay ya bills, travel the world and people love you, indy or major, that’s a great life.

HP: I have had lots of conversations with one of my brothers about artists who truly are half about the music and half about the money. Or you can slice it whichever way you’d like, but we feel that in the back of most artists’ minds today, money is always hovering. We feel that they’d rather have 50,000 people buy their album than 100,000 hear it. Does money ever come into your mind when making music? Does money ever come into your mind when you are just shooting the breeze on the porch thinking?

Preach: When creating, money isn’t an initial motivation. The initial motivation is to get your voice on paper the way you want it to sound. I think that money isn’t something I think about first. It’s about making the music. And then when the music is done, then you want to market it to get the people to support it. I mean, I want to get money off this like everyone else. And artists that say they don’t are lying their asses off. Everyone wants to feed their babies with their passion. There’s nothing wrong with that.

But I do feel that there are so many people in the world, that no matter what you make, there’s an audience for it. Find a way to get it to those people that’ll appreciate it and you’ll be fine.

HP: On “Sunday Morning Reprise,” you say hip hop is not dead it’s just the people who are making it. Would you wipeout pretty much the whole current hip hop population?                                                                                                                    

Preach: No. I wouldn’t want to wipe out people trying to make it in the industry. Who am I to want to do that? But I do feel that we treat Hip Hop like it’s a person, and not a culture. And cultures exist when the people who are involved in it continue the customs, and maintain the integrity of it. People won’t say Christianity is dead, because you have people continuing to go to church and reading Bibles etc. If the religion died, it’s because the people aren’t upholding it. Hip Hop is the same way. Do the culture, live it. Just do what you do. I don’t care if your main objective is to make money, get bitches or to cure the world of hunger. Everyone has their reason for getting out of bed.

It’s not about everyone being on the same page, having the same outlook and purpose with the culture, it’s about finding the ways to respect the different aspects of the culture and how we can all live and be effective with what we do. Everything and everyone has their purpose. Doesn’t matter if I’m a fan of them or not. We all have our roles.

HP: On “Rise,” you say despite setbacks you won’t be defeated. What are some of these setbacks?

Preach: I spoke with a good friend of mine who played on the album, and is apart of the band I tour with. And he mentioned that in South Carolina (where we live) that there are three types of musicians. 1)Musicians that play for a church. 2) Musicians that plays nothing but covers. And then there’s the small percentage, 3) Musicians that try and express original material. Despite what people may think, that third one is the hardest to do. Trying to get people to accept something they haven’t heard before. Just by making the decision or accepting the calling of being an artist, you’re going against conventional wisdom. The wisdom of, get out of school and get a job. Trying to make a living with your art is disappointment at your doorstep on a regular. You have to have a strong will and a strong purpose to continue.

There’s so many great artists that I’ve known that could have had their shots but reality ain’t no joke. When you have no kids, it’s okay to be a starving artist ‘cause you’re the only one hungry. When you start a family and have bills, other people’s starvation can’t happen on your watch. So, many people stop because life ain’t no joke.

Those are some of those setbacks. I love Hip Hop, but the culture and way we attack and hate each other within it, sometimes is enough to make me say to hell with it and be a photographer full-time. But I don’t feel as if I have a choice. So, you have to “Rise” above it all. That’s what that song was about.

HP: Nowadays, hip hop is flooded with albums that have singles that kick, but the rest don’t do anything. Your album is perfectly sequenced, and it feels like an album. Why do you think the album is becoming an extinct idea?

Preach: Albums don’t exist anymore because the attitude about how we receive or music isn’t the same anymore. Back in the day, it was a ritual to get albums. The vinyl or tapes with the artwork, and playing it all night reading all the credits. Who produced what and who’s name is in the shout outs. Now, that element of music is slowly fading. People don’t anticipate anything anymore because there’s instant gratification. Instead of hearing a dope song and having to wait for it to play again on the radio and waiting for the album, we can just download that shit immediately. So, the record industry is just trying to adapt to that.

I believe that forces artists to make themselves stand out. Like, people can download your shit online, what are you going to offer with the packaging or extra perks to make me want to buy it? It’s a challenge and no getting around it now.

HP: You have production from one of my favorite producers Nicolay, who is part of Foreign Exchange and has done solo work, on your album. How did you and Nicolay get together?

Preach: Okayplayer is probably the greatest site in my book. Even though sometimes people that are members may have a love/hate relationship with it. But it’s like family. I met Nic on the boards and we talked on IM and I’m happy to get him on the album.

HP: What is next for Preach Jacobs?

Preach: I’m going to keep pushing the record as hard as I can. Hopefully some of these pending opportunities will turn into something significant within the next few months. So, I’ll be waiting on the edge of my seat the same as you.

HP: That is the end to our interview. Thanks a lot for doing it, Preach.
                                                                                                                                  Preach: Wooord booty.

— Joe Lazar


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