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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 - Urbalist
Monday, January 19, 2009

Growing up in the middle class suburb of Westfield, New Jersey, life was pretty normal for Urbalist. He had his own group of friends, and started rhyming in his mid-teens. In 1999 he went off to college at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, RI, met Moses "Moe Mentum" Hernandez, and the two formed a group. Something happened on the way to stardom, though, Urbalist received the news that he had cancer. Determined to beat it, Urbalist decided to write rhymes during the entire experience. Those rhymes turned into an album, Cancerous Flow: Lyrical Journal, that details his journey from the time he was diagnosed all the way up through his eventual victory over the disease. This week I sat down with Urbalist to find out more about the recording of the album, what it feels like for him when he listens to it now, and some of the other projects he’s working on.

Adam Bernard: Tell me what inspired you to create an entire album while you were going through cancer treatments?
Urbalist: Honestly, it was really for selfish reasons in a way. I mean, in the beginning it was all for me. In the end I ended up with this project that I’m able to use to help so many other people, and I love that I'm able to do that, but in the beginning I decided to do the album because I knew I would need something to keep me going, to keep me distracted from the pain and the chemo and the fear that comes with cancer, and I'll be honest, I think that’s the reason I'm still here. That’s why one of the songs on the album is called "How Hip Hop Saved My Life."

Adam Bernard: What kind of cancer was it and how quickly did they catch it?
Urbalist: It was Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and luckily for me they caught it really quickly. Most people are not that lucky. My tumor was in the bone in my arm and it was growing in such a position that one night while I was asleep it broke my arm and when I woke up I was in severe pain. I was misdiagnosed at first when the ER doctor in Atlanta thought it was bursitis, but as soon as I got some x-rays taken back in New Jersey an MRI was ordered along with a few other scans and that confirmed that I had a tumor. Then I had to have one surgery to do a biopsy of the tumor to determine whether or not it was malignant. When I woke up in the recovery room, that’s when I found out I’d have to have chemo. I was not pleased to say the least.

Adam Bernard: Yeah, that’s terrible. From what I've heard chemo can really suck the energy out of a person. With emceeing is a high energy craft how did you go about gathering yourself up to rhyme?
Urbalist: Well it was all about the schedule really. See it takes about a week for the horrible side effect of the chemo to begin, so I would get one week of treatment then two weeks off. Usually the immediate week after getting all the chemo was the worst. I was often hospitalized for a week or two right after the week of treatment so that’s when I would write. I'd sit up in my hospital bed with a pen and pad and write all the songs. I knocked out all of the writing in about two months and then I moved on to the production phase of it. I had all of my beat production software on my laptop and I would bring it to the hospital with me and make beats right there in my room. Once I had ten beats and I was happy with for the ten songs I had written I started recording. It took a lot out of me but I banged it out anyway. I had a friend, Edgar Cruz AKA Vertygo, come down to Jersey and stay with me for a week and he engineered for me and mixed the album down when we finished recording. Without his help I wouldn't have been able to finish it in the time frame I wanted. After all of that I did the graphic design for the cover when I was in the hospital again and once that was done I sent it all off for duplication. That was one week before my last treatment.

Adam Bernard: How does listening to the album affect you?
Urbalist: It takes me back, man. I can remember sitting in my hospital bed coming up with this line and that line, memories of being in my vocal booth with my backpack full of chemo recording this line and that line. It makes me proud because I’ve come so far since then, but it really affects me in two ways at once. It can bring me to a very dark place, or it can make me realize how lucky I am to be here. To be honest with you performing it is always much more emotional for me than listening to it.

Adam Bernard: What do you hope people get out of the album?
Urbalist: I'm just happy if it makes people stop and think. If they can get anything out of it I’m good. It can be something different for everyone. It’s very heavy subject matter so I know it’s not an easy listen. I’ve had people tell me that they burst into tears halfway through it and had to force themselves to listen to the rest because they found it that powerful. Obviously I would like to believe that it gives a person battling cancer, or a cancer survivor, hope for the future because after all it is a success story. I made it and I'm still alive. I’m probably healthier now than I was pre-cancer. I think it says "hey, you can make it to."

Adam Bernard: What other projects can people hear you on?
Urbalist: Myself and Moe Mentum, formerly referred to as Hybrid H and now referred to simply as Urbalist and Moe Mentum, have put out five full length original albums and we have each put out a solo album as well:

- Out of Hybrination
- From the Start to the Credits
- All In Mixtape volumes 1-3
- Last of The Moe-Ricans (Moe Mentum solo)
- Self Reflection (Urbalist solo)

Adam Bernard: Where do you see yourself going next as an artist?
Urbalist: Hopefully to a place where my audience is expanded and I have an opportunity to speak to more people on a whole. I like to believe that I make music with a message, even with my non-cancer related stuff, so I want people to hear my music and start thinking and building.

Related Links

MySpace: myspace.com/urbriskitallrep
MySpace: myspace.com/hybridh


posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:34 AM  
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