We caught up with Main Rock Records artist Baron Samedi, to chat about his name, previous releases, forthcoming projects and what he makes about the UK scene at the moment.
First up, please introduce yourself and tell us about the artist name.
Good morning, good evening, thank you, and goodnight. My name is Baron Samedi, aka Flowstorms, aka Dirk Slowdance, and I came to earth in the tail of a comet to save your pathetic arses from hiphop mediocrity. Before anyone wonders, no, I didn't get my name from James Bond, or the Goldeneye computer game, like some people seem to assume. I've always been interested in spirituality/world religions, and used to read up a lot on them. Baron Samedi is a deity (also known as a Loa) from voodoo folklore, who stands at the crossroads between life and death.
I like to think I stand at the crossroads between different forms of hiphop. That's why I picked the name, and it just stuck like chewing gum on a bus seat. There's actually some wack mc in the states with the same name, who once sent me an email telling me he was going to get his voodoo masters to put a curse on me… That was 5 years ago, and nothing's happened yet… maybe it's a very subtle curse. Haha.
Tell us something interesting that will keep us reading the rest of the interview.
Um, OK. I used to be a celebrity stalker, and later on in this interview I'll give you all a link to a video I shot featuring Mariah Carey, Jade Goody, Trisha, and Joan Collins taking turns to have sex with a badger in Michael Barrymore's swimming pool. If you're lucky… You'll just have to read on and see. Is that libellous? Oh well, them's the breaks…
Where in the UK are you from and what else is going on in terms of local hiphop?
You know what? It's hard to say where I rep these days… I was born in Sicily and lived there until I was 11, then I moved to Catford in South East London for about 8 years, and after that I've lived all over london. I'm currently based in North London, but I've only been livin' these sides for about 6 months, so I don't wanna step on no-one's turf and claim I'm repping these ends hard or anything. Basically though, London. I can't see myself ever wanting to live anywhere else. I love this city, despite all its faults. As for the local hip hop scene, well, I think everyone knows how we do in London. Haha.
What releases have you been involved with so far and what's the current release you're promoting?
I started off with a couple of rubbish solo demos way back in the day, as well as the Mandroids project, which I did with Shotslinga (one of the dopest mcs on the planet, for your info). That was some low budget steez, but I think the first thing I actually put some effort into releasing properly was my first album length CD with my crew Undercurrent, called 'Sons Of Celluloid', back in '02. That got a good response, and I followed it up with my debut solo album, 'Spit Happens', in '03, which was the thing which really started the buzz building.
Since then, I hooked up with Main Rock Records, the finest label in the country right now in terms of the quality of the roster, and dropped my 'Theme Music' 12" in '04, and the 'Undercurrent' EP. 'Pirate Radio' near the tail end of last year. Right now, I'm just about to drop my new 12" 'The Formula', followed up with my new album 'Ripping Yarns' a month later. All through Main Rock-a-fella. I'm quietly confident about this one, but we'll wait and see…
How did you link with Main Rock and how has this connection helped you along the path as an artist?
Me and Apoc' actually go back as rhymin' buddies and friends from before Main Rock was even concieved, so when 'Poc' approached me with the idea for the label it was an easy decision to go with it. It's been nice to have someone else put their confidence in you as an artist, and it's certainly freed my hands up to concentrate on the creative side of things, but in terms of my actual progression as an artist, I don't think Poc'd hold a grudge if I said it hasn't really affected anything. That comes down to the trust side of things though. He trusts me to provide him with the dope product, so the label has no creative input into my music, which I'm glad of. I'm kind of a control freak when it comes to my own material.
How would you describe your music and what sort of vocals and beats can we expect from the new wax?
It's a hard question, 'cause I'd just describe it as what I like to do. I've been compared to all sorts of ridiculous things, from Public Enemy to Morcheeba. Haha, I swear, some people need to look up what cotton-buds are for in the dictionary. I dunno man. I like to keep it varied. That's the main ingredient. Some of my favorite artists ever are Pharoahe Monch, Ghostface, Onyx, Big L, Wu-Tang, Jay-Z… but I dont actually sound like any of them I don't think! But yeah, if you like your lyrics lyrical, your beats, ummm, beating, and you don't want every tune to be about shottin' crack in a pissy stairwell or how many girls you wished you'd shagged, then I'm the artist for you.
What sort of themes and topics do you tend to pen your lyrics about?
Like I said, I like to keep my material varied. I see myself like a film director, but on wax, so you get bragging, story tunes, sad tunes, political tunes, happy tunes, funny tunes, sick tunes… The whole spectrum. At the end of the day, I make the music I make to reflect the moods I'm in, and who's angry all the time, or sad all the time, or cracking jokes all the time? The music itself is always a metaphor for how I'm feeling… For example, there's a tune on my album about being in a coma, which is followed by a tune about coming out of the coma, and realising what a beautiful place the world is. Obviously I aint actually been in a coma, but it's intended as a metaphor for a certain dark part of my life, which I subsequently broke out of.
I always refer people to George Romero's zombie flicks when talking about my music… George Romero always claims that the themes of the films aren't the zombies themselves. They are just representations of humanity's fears of other current political issues. Communism, racism, etc. You can take it as straight up entertainment, or you can choose to read deeper, but it's entirely up to my audience to make that decision.
What producers have you been working with and who'd be your dream beatsmith to collaborate with?
I actually produce all my solo and crew material. I think it's better that way. Atleast I can carve out my own niche, even if my earlier attempts suffered as a result. If I could do an album with any producer though, I'd fly my DeLorean back to the mid 90s, kidnap RZA, lock him in a room, and not let him smoke any weed until he'd made me 1000 beats. These days, it'd have to be Just Blaze. You heard that joint off the new Ghostface album? Off the hook like a lucky fish…
Are there any rappers you regularly look up to as a model of what you aspire to be as an artist?
There's rappers I look up to. I mentioned a lot of them before, but I don't aspire to imitate or be any of them. I just wanna do me, as do most females who know me.
How healthy do you feel the UK scene is and what other artists and releases could you suggest we check?
It's definitely in a much better state in terms of the music being made, than it was when I first started out, when I could probably count the number of crews I was feeling on one hand, but it's a double-edged sword… The whole downloading thing has really affected the sales these days, especially vinyl. I sold my first album hand to hand, based on word of mouth, so I know pretty much exactly who did and who didn't buy it. When people I know didn't buy it tell me they've got it and it's dope, well, I'm flattered, but I also think "you fuckin' leech". Still though, I think the best artists in this country are the ones still making a name for themselves… Conflix, Chemo, Beat Butcha, the Same Brain crew, Troy Scalpels, Skeptic and Jid Sames, Chain of Command, Rhyme Asylum, Stig, Logan… The list goes on. For anyone who hasn't picked up 'Character Assassins Vol. 2' yet, why the hell not? It's ill.
Are you out performing live much and what goes down at a typical Samedi live set?
I go through phases with the whole live show ish. It's not my favorite part of the art, but that's because I prefer to listen to other artists on record than see them live in a crap club, on a crap PA, with a crap microphone. I haven't done any shows for a little while now, but obviously with the new material about to drop you'll be seeing me out and about doing the promo thing… You can expect the usual mix of midget dancers, firebreathing, sword-swallowing, and I might even spit some rhymes if you're really lucky. Nah, on the real though, that's what I'd like my shows to be like, but it's usually just me catchin' some jokes with the crowd and tryna spit the tightest ish I can, you know? You try and do the best with your given budget. I hate watching acts who blatantly aint even rehearsed their sets.
Have you ever got into the other elements of hiphop culture like breaking or graffing?
I pissed around with graff' for a little while, mainly as a rebellious ting, but never really had it in me to get serious… As for DJing and breaking, well, you'd be better off asking Steven Hawkins to play basketball. I'm strictly about the words and beats.
How's your freestyling skills?
These days, pretty rusty. I'm ashamed to admit… I just don't get the time to practice. If I aint at my day-job, then I'm writing new ish, or making new beats, or on the hustle… It's all about priorities. If someone asks me to buss a free though, I'm not incapable… My usual freestyle partner, when I do find the time, is Troy Scalpels, who is probably the best freestyler I've ever heard, so that always inspires me.
Looking to the future, what projects will you be getting down to work on and when are they likely to drop?
Right now, me and Lixx, the other half of Undercurrent, are working on our mixtape, as well as a yet-untitled 7 inch dropping this summer through Main Rock. I'll be featuring on the B-side to the next Clarity single. I'm producing most of Lixx's solo album, the odd mixtape and album appearance, and then cracking on with my next album. As for when most of that'll drop, you'll just have to keep your ears peeled.
Have you got any shout out's or plugs to drop to wrap this up on?
Of course! Buy my new 12", 'The Formula', out now on Main Rock Records. Buy my new album, 'Ripping Yarns', dropping next month on Main Rock Records. Buy 'Character Assassins Vol. 2'. Hit up www.myspace.com/baronsamedi and insult me, and generally worship me like the rap god I would like to think I am. I hate big-ups, as I always miss peeps out, but 'nuff love to Lixx, Main Rock fam, Same Brain, Troy, G, Logan, Flix, Stig, Wytfang, Chemo and all the Speakers Corner crew, and anyone who's supported me through this shizzle. And big up yourself for this interview. Peace.