Apr 30, 2014

Interview with Psalm One AKA Hologram Kizzie, Performing at CIMMFEST on May 4, 2014 at Subterranean

Interview with Psalm One AKA Hologram Kizzie for CIMMFEST, 2014
Performing on Sunday, May 4 at Subterranean (9 pm show)

For more on Psalm One visit www.regularanddope.com

Interviewer:  Melody Perpich, blogger and writer for CIMMFEST

Q:  Tell me about your new Moniker Hologram Kizzie. How did you choose it?

A:  My name represents the futuristic daughter of a slave.  The trappings of the things we can be enslaved by.  My name was actually Kizzie Tangents before I was Psalm One.  The name Kizzie, for me, was looking back to the past and Hologram represents the futuristic approach to looking at images.  The ideal of the future, like “flying cars”.  We don’t have those yet but we think we are getting there.  Being the person that I want to be but centering me to be the person that I am now but also parts of the past, present and future.

Q: You have also said that you are a rapper, mentor and lady and that you feel empowered as a woman to write about issues affecting women.  Does this affect the ratio of men and women in your fan base?

A:  I have not assessed the dynamics of my fan base.  Considering my skill set, men are interested.  Coming from the perspective of my stories, this attracts women intrinsically.  I would say that maybe 60%-70% of my fan base are women.

Q: You went to highly regarded Whitney Young for high school and attended The University of Illinois, Champaign majoring in Chemistry.  How did you become interested in science and chemistry?

A:  My interest in chemistry was academic.  I got excited by “Science Guy” and I took biology at Whitney Young during my freshman year and hated it!  I got discouraged from science until one of my teachers encouraged me to take honors chemistry.  I did well in that class and went on to take AP Chemistry.  It took me 4 and ½ years to get my chemistry degree at U of I but I really loved chemistry! After I graduated, I moonlighted as a rapper until I found a job as a food chemist and worked in food quality at a lab in Chicago Heights.  Eventually my moonlighting took off and I started getting recognized by some local labels.  It was tiring leading a double life – getting up at 4am, working until 1pm, taking a nap and then spending time in the studio, writing sessions and rapping at shows. I finally quit my chemist job in 2005.
Q: You grew up in Englewood, in the hood and now you are mentoring at-risk youth.  How was your childhood in comparison to these kids and did you have specific mentors or role models that helped you to become the person you are now?

A:  I am mentoring kids that range in age from 10-14 years.  My mom was a huge positive force in my life.  I learned how to persevere through education.  My mom lost her job when I was young so she decided to get a scholarship and went back to school to become a journalist.  We actually got to do homework together.  She started freelancing and made a career for herself.  I had no real mentors otherwise.  My father died when I was 2 years old.  I came to realize that my ability to write comes from both my mother and father.  I found some of my father’s journals and it was uncanny how similar our writing styles are.

Q: When did you decide that your dream was to write and perform? How old were you when you knew this was your passion?

A:  I wrote my first rap age 9.  There was unspoken pressure from my family to succeed in high school – it was super competitive.  Once I was in my bedroom playing Outkast vinyl and was rapping and my grandmother yelled at me from the other room “what are you doing!?” and so rapping was a secret hobby at first.

Q: You have said that you are a “college educated female rapper from the hood that is a productive member of society that does this edgy art”.  This sends the message that kids can become what they want and be productive despite growing up in a bad part of the city.  Is this the message that you try to promote?

A:  You can let economic circumstances drive you to do things but I was always taught that education was a viable option.  I was able to get a scholarship to U of I based on grades and my socioeconomic status.  My mentoring program stems from tutoring in science and math to make extra money.  It was a turning point for me when one of my students recognized me as a rapper and performer.

Q: How did you meet Fluffy?

A:  Fluffy is art director.  We went to high school together and are best friends.  She has taught me how to manage myself and helps me with management details that are needed.  She is a great artist in her own right.  She does back-up vocals and helps with the business end of things.

Q:  You talk about street music having it’s place but that you strive to write about more positive things.  Do you feel that your writing is different from other rappers and hip-hop artists our there in this regard?

A:  I am not going to glorify being disruptive to people’s lives.  People are getting paid for rapping certain gangs but there is a lot of bloodshed from the music.  People are getting killed due to activity based on music and rapping.  There is a mentality like  “hey I can do illegal things and rap!”.  A lot of successful rappers coming from dire straights is rare.  Maybe you should stay in school. You won’t benefit from gang banging.  I am not saying that what I am doing is better.  I came from Englewood.  There is a street savvyness but I rap more about being female, growing up in hip-hop, being a vegan.  Things that are important to my being.  My unique views through rapping.

Q: I read the lyrics for “Open Relationship” and it seemed very real and personal (not to mention rated X!).  I still felt that the relationship seemed one-sided although declared as “open”.  Almost like it was not a mutual decision to have the relationship be open.  Am I off base?

A: My intention with these lyrics was not to “slut shame” me.  This is more likely a fantasy rap but if I was sleeping with all these guys it would put me in that category.  R.A. the Rugged Man is a raunchy dude that never does it with girls unless it is like a B movie.  Freddy Fox, who played my boyfriend in the video, is a legend in the hip-hop industry.    In the reality of this song, I was just seeing Freddy on the side, not multiple guys.  There is a thin line between sexual liberation and being a slutty slut slut.  Being approached by Rugged Man to do this was an honor.  Women who have interesting voices in hip-hop are hard to find.  It is so rare to do this kind of project with him.

Q:  Tell me about your latest release “Hug Life”.  Do each of your albums have a theme?  What is the theme for “Hug Life”?

A:  The artwork of “Hug Life” mimics a famous Tupac photo where his head is down and you can see his tattoo of “Thug Life” on his abdomen. The artwork and the lettering on my record uses the same style.  The theme is conjuring up that being a thug isn’t normal and Chicago has a violent reputation.  In contrast, how can you get anything bad out of a “hug”.  This record for me represents coming out of a haze and not knowing what my next step or musical move will be.  It is embracing my next step as a musical artist coming into my own.
Q:  I loved the concept of your “Child Support” album, charmlab.org and the Rhymeschool.  Tell me about these connected projects and do you plan to keep the school going indefinitely and remain personally involved?

A:  I have a tour coming in June but I am committed to the Beethoven School in Bronzeville for a full year program.  One of the classes is thirty 4th graders as young as 9 years old.  It is rewarding to show them someone who is not “famous on TV” but can teach them life lessons.  In my absence, Fluffy will be involved and I will look for new instructors who have the balance between having interesting back-stories and a willingness to work with kids.  We are involved with 3 different schools and are getting more funding to continue.  Cool rappers have now visited the school and continuing is now a “sure thing”.  We want to expand and continue to keep the high caliber of instructors.  At Beethoven we were able to take over the music class based on the willingness of the music instructor and being a good fit for the school.

Q:  How did you decide to do your “Memoirs for Haiti” Project?  Tell me more about how this is going and how it will be released.

A:  The idea, working with the Carrefour Collaborative  (a 501(c)3 charitable organization in the State of Illinois) by going there was to help artists there to get industry quality music out to the marketplace.  It is very challenging to get one song done.  Here, every 3rd apartment has a recording studio.  In Haiti they are creating great music but needed help to get resources.  We visited a facility funded by Francis Ford Coppola.  The students there were able to do production by filling in beats and I wrote vocals on the spot.  We gave them stuff to produce and arrange.  We discussed the global marketplace for hip-hop.  “Memoirs from Haiti” is being released in blogs, we are on the 5th now.  There are three trailers and we are working on a music video.  We are trying to touch on all different aspects of what happened there.  Part of our mission is to reintroduce people to Haiti – by coming back years after the earthquake and seeing the devastation.  There are so many stories to tell.  There is no rush on rolling these stories out.

Q:  You have remained on your indie record label “Rhymesayers Entertainment”.  Have you ever struggled with deciding to go commercial?

A: I am the 1st lady of that label.  They put out my debut album.  There have been challenges but I have also been able to work with the Bonafyed Records label.  “Hug Life” is my emancipation from a certain sound.  “Hug Life” is not indicative of the Rhymesayers sound.
Q: What do you think of female rappers like Iggy Izalia?  Do you agree with others who say that she is a young white Australian girl struggling to be taken seriously?  Do you have to “sexualize yourself” like she does to be paid attention to?

A:  She is playing up the sexiness and she does not look like she grew up poor.  She sounds pretty street, black even.  That whole “sounding black” does not seem genuine.  When I grew up, I was given a hard time for “sounding white” because I spoke correctly. I took issue with that.  Iggy has a couple of jams but she talks extra street urban black girl and you wonder if it’s an act.  She is not hard on the eyes.  She is hot! Do you have to sound like a black girl?  Take Nicki Minaj on the other hand.  She is a great commercial success but she talks like a Valley girl and is not even embracing her “black side”.  Personally, I found her last two rap tracks (“Lookin’  Ass Nigga” and “Chi-Rac” to be disappointing.  Once you perform with Rihanna, you can’t go back!

Q: I read that Ryan Seacrest and VH1 is doing a show that follows five up and coming white female rappers trying to establish credibility.  Do you think participating in this show discredits them or could they become recognized for their craft by being on a reality show?

A: For get the white thing. Going on a reality show would work if you write a character and play it out.  I was approached to be a female rapper on a type of reality show and I was advised not to do it because I would never be able to sell a record.  Even if you are talented, the talent is marred by drama. Picking five female white rappers is good for ratings for the show but hard to sell records.  Seacrest is a media mogul.  If he wanted to help promote me I would let him, but not on a reality show.

Q:  Who are your favorite artists, rap or otherwise?

A:  Stevie Wonder is my all time favorite artist.  I have also had huge life moments with Michael Jackson, Prince, Janice Joplin, Bowie, Jay Z, and Snoop Dog.  I am lyrically influenced by hip-hop artist Black Thought from “The Roots”Jean Grae is my biggest influence as a female rapper.  She does a lot of speaking engagements now where she does mostly comedy and a little rapping.  She is smart enough to know that you gotta diversify!

Q:  Do you have any other amazing projects planned?

A:  Coming up there is the “Memoirs from Haiti” roll-out and then I am working on an album with producer, Oh No, who scored the last “Grand Theft Audio” video game and is a huge hip-hop producer.  Traditional hip-hop fans will be excited!  I am also working with rapper Prob Cause, my label mate, on “Running from the trap” which is a commentary on steering away from the drill scene and trap scene – bass heavy music that talks about selling or doing drugs.

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