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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 – Swordplay
Monday, March 31, 2008

Sometimes the best way to learn about a new artist is from another artist. Take Swordplay, for example. My first contact with the Richmond, Virginia MC/Producer came thanks to former Artist Of The Week Domer, who gave him my email address after the two of them had worked together on a few songs. Swordplay sent me some of his solo work and I dug it, which is why this week I'm sitting down with him to find out more about his music, his thoughts on Hip-Hop’s current growing pains, and what wood beams and two by fours have to do with his idea of the human mind.

Adam Bernard: Let’s start with the basics, when and how did you become Swordplay?
Swordplay: I think it was July 4th, 2004 I started writing raps. I used the moniker “i drop” at first because it was a great way to start sentences, like "I drop bombs like knives," which I may or may not have stolen from a friend. It was all comedy at first. I still have a demo from that summer I made jokingly with a co-worker (Da Autopilot) called Time for Change with song names like "Sign Me or I'll Kill You" and "Boom Boom Ramsey." It was great for what it was, but fortunately not too many people heard it. Eventually I wanted to write some serious songs, which scared off the much more decent rapper from the collaborative joke. Autopilot was out. So I continued by upgrading from a Dr. Groove to FruityLoops and made a few songs that I played for everyone I came across. Eventually two friends of friends came along who made beats. We became friends and quickly decided to form a group. Honestly, I think I may have forced its formation. I really had envisioned multiple emcees and more performance oriented producers. Of course they were down for a Hip-Hop group, but we all had different ideas of where to go and what to do. After dwindling to duo status Chris Lauderdale and I put out the Tilt EP in August of 2005. The sacred chemistry of the duo was at the very least complex. We were each doing our own thing. By the time Chris moved to North Carolina people had started calling me Swordplay at shows.

Adam Bernard: From what I hear you have a wide background in a number of styles of music. Why do you feel you ended up drawn to Hip-Hop?
Swordplay: Aside from a quiet love for Outkast and DeadPrez I didn't grow up with a background in Hip-Hop or any real appreciation for the genre's greats. My dad fed me enough rock music to last me an entire lifetime so making the switch from half assed comedy to sweat and labor required a step outside of my creative comfort zone. There was definitely a catalyst to this event; a really tolerant roommate, probably sick of hearing me rap over monotonous Dr. Groove loops, lent me two CDs to check out at the same time, Personal Journals by Sage Francis and Selling Live Water by Sole. My perspective on Hip-Hop immediately changed. It was such an epic realization for me that I thought everyone else around me was going to buy the entire Anticon catalogue if they gave it a chance. I probably would have ordered the entire thing if it wasn't for discovering SoulSeek and Def Jux. These artists changed my thoughts on what Hip-Hop could or could not sound like mainly through their lyrical content. Without them I don't think I would have decided to start delivering my nonsensical writing via the mic.

Adam Bernard: Is Hip-Hop a stop for you on your musical journey, or a destination?
Swordplay: I think I missed that stop. For better or worse, Hip-Hop sounds like all sorts of things these days. If you are asking if I will ever stop writing raps, the answer is definitely a solid NO, and with the software that is available for production purposes these days the genre can bend any way you please, which means so can I as an artist. As a sample based art form I've never seen a problem looping banjos or folk guitar, setting it to a groove and calling it Hip-Hop. If that constitutes Hip-Hop, then by all means this is a destination, but a lot of people would say there is more to Hip-Hop than making a beat and they would be right. Sometimes I think what I do should be called something else, but only because I want to be careful to not confuse culture and music. It's always really gotten me how rock music seems to have endless amounts of sub genres whereas there is a lot of reluctance in the world of underground Hip-Hop to call it anything other than that. Why is "backpack rap" considered pejorative by even its supporters? Then there is "emo rap" which seems so ironic that maybe it might be cool, but I think there is a giant pressure coming from America's cool elite for rappers to play to a certain aesthetic that was born nearly a whole generation ago when Hip-Hop music was introduced to the mainstream. This mentality is counter productive to where the culture is actually at in 2008. This image everybody is trying so hard to keep real, I don't see it or feel it when I am out. Maybe it's just Richmond, VA, but I think it's pretty hard to find the four elements under one roof these days. Take the DJ for example. Most people I have met with turntables are much more interested in rocking a dance party than collaborating on a track or doing a show, and that's fine. Rap has evolved too. A lot of rappers I know aren't trying to host parties, or jump into an emcee battle at a moment's notice. They are more interested in kicking it at their home studio. There's nothing wrong with this huge diffusion of culture, but I don't think it's Hip-Hop like it used to be.

Adam Bernard: Last year you released an album titled Cellars and Attics. The title track includes the line "my mind's a house, and I'll still be inside it when the cellar tells the attic that he's seen the light again." Could you explain what you mean by that to everyone?
Swordplay: I'm easily influenced by my surroundings so I wanted to make a record about the houses I've lived in, people and porches included. I quickly realized this was going to be a pretty boring record if I didn't attach any significance to the house, hence the mind metaphor. As far as this particular line, firstly, the light is like The Light but after this consideration I had a hard time deciding whether to use the seller/addict or cellar/attic combination when written out. It would be easy to imagine a scenario between a seller and an addict in which the former is claiming to have this super new truth revealing product the latter is probably going to buy anyway. That seemed unnecessary. I liked the personified rooms better. So you've basically got one compartment in the brain telling another that he's seen something, that the truth looks a certain way. It's never one way or the other, though, and when it comes to the human mind there will always be an infinite amount of answers to the questions we ask ourselves in this internal back and forth battling. It's not what we communicate from room to room but how we communicate it that is crucial to understanding the bigger picture.

Adam Bernard: How do you think your music will change in the future?
Swordplay: I simply do not know.

Related Links

MySpace: myspace.com/idrop


posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:54 AM  
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