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Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Entertainment journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome.
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Artist Of The Week – Rabbi Darkside
Monday, January 21, 2008

How many MCs do you know of were signed to their first label after responding to an ad that simply said “Emcee wanted. Abstract, not commercial?” The real surprise is that’s not even the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the uniqueness of Rabbi Darkside. Born and raised in Buffalo, NY, Rabbi D has been living in NYC since 2000 and after a short stint on Sit-n-Spin records, the label he rhymed his way onto thanks to the aforementioned ad that he spotted in the Village Voice, he found his true home when he discovered the club Sin Sin in 2003 and with friends Farbeon and Hired Gun created both the group 3rd Party and Say Word Entertainment. Rabbi D’s solo debut, Building the Better Bomb, is being readied for a spring release, but I had to sit down with him now to find out more about his journey both to and within Hip-Hop, his travels to the Czech Republic to work with artists, and the video for his song “Bill Muthafuckin Murray” that’s been making the rounds on the internet.

Adam Bernard: With all the possible avenues available what drew you to Hip-Hop as a way of vocalizing what you feel is important?
Rabbi Darkside: Relevancy, curiosity, controversy and the cool factor. The first Hip-Hop music I tuned in to was Jazzy Jeff and Fresh Prince and the Beastie Boys circa ‘86 - ‘88. Talk about relevant. As I grew, I was much more into the music of my moms, which lived in the vinyl stacks in my house; protest rock, hippie music, jazz, jams, The Beatles. Then around ’92 I got heavy into Native Tongues music, which married the rhythm of the 90’s with the ideals I’d culled from ‘60s and ‘70s tunes. I think hearing “Can I Kick It?” after knowing “Walk on the Wild Side” was a paramount moment in my life. The artwork of political and social movements bit me early on. That’s the topical relevancy that still drives me today. When it comes to the curiosity and the cool factor I stand in the long line of Norman Mailer, Marlon Brando, Beat Poets and select Jazzmen as white Americans in reverence of and students of Black American culture. From the minute I started freestyling I was also studying the cultural family tree of Hip-Hop, both academically and socially. I am very aware of my status as a white rapper and make sure that I have my bases of knowledge covered. Yes, Hip-Hop is bigger than race in 2008, but the only way to appreciate that is to self-educate and know the history. The Hip-Hop arts have this amazing knack to bridge generations. Being Hip-Hop has made me a stronger educator, a better communicator and a more decent human being.

Adam Bernard: Recently a video has surfaced on the net for a song you wrote about Bill Murray titled “Bill Muthafuckin Murray.” What made you choose Bill Murray as the man you wanted to dedicate a song to?
Rabbi Darkside: Is there a cooler actor walking the face of the planet? How many 60 year olds can create sexual tension with Scarlet Johannson? The ultimate trigger for the writing came from the short in “Coffee and Cigarettes” with RZA, GZA and Bill Murray. Totally brilliant. But, admittedly, I always wanted to be a Ghostbuster. The video was a total surprise. My brother-from-another-mother DJ Kevlar completely surprised me this past Chanukah. He schemed silently for two months with his pal Francisco Bello of Ropa Vieja Films to craft the video for the joint. The song is two years old, has been hand-delivered to both Bill Murray and Jim Jarmusch, and had figuratively gone to bed. They gave it new life with the incredible video. What a gift.

Adam Bernard: As some folks may know, you are a beast when it comes to freestyling, why do you feel that is? How did you develop this skill and hone it?
Rabbi Darkside: Thank you, first of all. I treat freestyling with the utmost respect. This is my instrument and it possesses both lyricism and musicality. How fresh is that? I’ve seen freestyle transcend language barriers, age differences, disability… I’ve been able to freestyle for Czechs, Israelis, Brazilians, for 3rd graders, for Alzheimer’s patients and it never fails to bring a smile to everyone’s face. As far as developing the skill, I’ve always been around emcees who raise the bar. That is the best way to improve. I get sad when cyphering with school-age kids and they instinctively lean on battle raps. The higher you build the energy the wider open everyone will get. Absorb influence, give props to styles you like and READ. Everything is inspiration. Read the papers, read fiction, read history, read biographies, read philosophy. It is all fodder. I draw on everything around and inside me when freestyling. The ultimate high is reaching that unconscious / subconscious state of openness, where the words and images play out in front of your eyes.

Adam Bernard: You mentioned transcending language barriers and I know you’ve been traveling to the Czech Republic. What have you been up to there?
Rabbi Darkside: I’ve been working with these Czeski beatboxers named Jaro Cossiga, Fany and Nasty, along with the rest of the Czech Beatbox Allstars (Ivanhoe, En Dru, Johnny Typek). I appear on their debut album, Beat Apetit, and needless to say they are doing it big. My most recent four day trip was action packed and all business; DJ’d one night, two 12 hour music video shoots, performed on “Night with Angel” which is the Czech equivalent of Saturday Night Live, and hit the studio. These guys put me in a position to leave an impression, get my name out, wow some heads and sell some CDs. It also gives me chance to get insight into the state of global Hip-Hop.

Adam Bernard: What's important to you outside of music?
Rabbi Darkside: Creating teaching moments. Being a cultural ambassador. Traveling the planet. Improving myself as a man and an earthling. Drowning negativity with love. Reading and writing. Women. Health. My moms, brother and step-dad. The long-lasting relationships that provide insulation from this cold world. Buffalo Sabres hockey.

Adam Bernard: Finally, I hear we were just reading the same book at the same time, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. How'd you like it?
Rabbi Darkside: Honestly, it was making me a social deviant. I read Hunter S. Thompson’s Hell’s Angels right before it so I was already in this bizarre state of psychedelic journalism. I am amazed that these guys could have been so messed up on hallucinogenics and still write coherently. What I really dig is the coalescence of various counter-cultures. Partly partying for escapism, partly trying to reinterpret life and make other people reflect themselves off of you, but when I thought I was gonna start painting myself in Day-Glo and dosing everyday I had to put it down. It did set off a verse for a new track, though; “In this era of the scary gangster / where rappers carry anger / 3P is Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters…” I also just finished one of my favorite books of the year, The Road by Cormac McCarthy. It’s a post-apocalyptic father-son story. Heartwarming, with a touch of cannibalistic zombie. A must read.

Related Links

MySpace: myspace.com/rabbiraps
MySpace: myspace.com/3rdparty
Say Word Entertainment: saywordentertainment.com
YouTube: “Bill Muthafuckin Murray” video
Beat Apetit: beatapetit.cz


posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:58 AM  
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