Published on February 24th, 2012 | by Corina Corina1
Interview | Has Lo: Not to be slept on
I was first put on to Has Lo when I heard his verse on Radio Dial, a feature on New York based duo PremRock and Willie Green’s critically acclaimed self titled 2011 album. His verse is smooth as hell and his flow is almost technically impeccable while sounding effortless at the same time. I instantly wanted to hear more from the Philly emcee. It turns out Has Lo’s entirely self produced album, In Case I Don’t Make it (ICIDMI) was on countless websites and Pitchfork added it to their list of Overlooked Mixtapes of 2011. The common critique is not of the emcee himself but of hip hop fans for sleeping on him. Has Lo finds this all very flattering and has faith that the masses will catch onto him eventually.
“A lot of times it’s not even so much about the masses as it is about the people with the resources. The people who provide the content we tune into everyday. If they don’t know you or fuck with you it’s difficult to reach critical mass. The people WANT good new music, they just don’t always know where to look. Likewise, on an independent level, we don’t always have the money, connections or skill to push it to a larger audience. You never need to dumb yourself down to be commercially appealing. You just have to be appealing. The appeal part always takes intelligence. It took someone smart to realize that stupidity sells, but they’ll only sell it until something more appealing comes along. That something might be a complete 180 from the last thing. Find out what makes you appealing and somebody will want to sell it if you don’t figure out how to do it on your own.”
Has-Lo’s first big break was as a top five finalist in the the 2007 MTVU Best Music on Campus contest. Shortly thereafter, he released his first solo project, F*ck Has Day. This was the first time he had handled the production on a project of his own in its entirety. Classic tracks such as The Usual Way, Unsigned Emcees, and the title track were early indicators of the bright future he had ahead of him.
Has-Lo’s second EP, Small Metal Objects, includes The Quiet Things, one of the most well received tracks of his career. It was around this time that Eric from bloggerhouse.net introduced him to Michael Tolle, owner of the up and coming indie label Mello Music Group (MMG). Has Lo signed with MMG in the Fall of 2010 to release In Case I Don’t Make It, His first official commercial effort enabled Has Lo to have a much larger push behind his album and was even awarded XXL’s Chairman’s Choice.
According to his fellow emcee and collaborator PremRock, “In Case I Don’t Make It has the brooding tone of a young man coming to terms with just about everything. Has examines his alienation from the rest of the world, his retreat within the comforts of hip hop music and just why shit is the way it is.”
There’s clearly been lot of growth since the more aggressive F*ck Has Day, ICIDMI is easily one of the most personal and existential hip hop records I’ve heard. I wondered if this is the general direction he’s moving in as an artist or if it was just a reflection of where he was at the time he recorded the album. According to Has Lo, it’s a bit of both.
“I’m not a battle rapper, but that kind of aggression or energy (on F*ck Has Day) was somewhat a sign of the time. It was 2007. The climate was a little different. The things I wanted to talk about were more in line with preserving the culture and my desire to be IN the music industry professionally. By the time I started working on ICIDMI, I was interested in different ideas altogether. To tell the truth, a large number of the songs on In Case I Don’t Make It are old songs that I had never recorded. Songs I always thought deserved a spot in the sun. My personal life facilitated the song selection. It became a thing of it’s own.”
His dark and moody beats are reminiscent of the RZA and many blogs like OkayPlayer have even called his sound Dilla-esque. “The productions bolster the feeling of every track so well that sometimes it’s almost suffocating in conjunction with his knack for weaving lucid imagery.” (rarefrequency.com) Although his influences are no mystery, there is no doubt that his style is his own, and has been refined over the course of all his projects.
“It has been kind of rocky but interesting. One of the most interesting parts of producing and writing is where it’s going next. As for the immediate question of where I’m going, it’s brighter. I’m dying to have some fun after making In Case I Don’t Make It. Maybe I’ll end up being that depressed again, but right now I am not.”
In the late fall of 2011, Has Lo released a a complete re-imagining of ICIDMI, this time there was no shortage of guest producers. Exile, J-Zone, Oddisee, Kev Brown, Eric Lau, Apollo Brown, Brown Bag All Star’s Audible Doctor and more lended their extensive production powers to the project. UndergroundHipHop, called the project eclectic, melodic, chaotic, bleak and brutal all at once. During a time when here are so many great underground acts blowing up and with so much buzz around Has Lo, I’m anxious to see who his next collaboration will be with.
“I’d like to do something with Quelle Chris. I’d like to do something with Planet Asia. I’d love to do something else with Exile, Blu of course would be nice too. Serengeti, Kendrick Lamar…he’s not exactly underground. I’m forgetting a lot of people, but a lot of the emcees and producers I really want to work with aren’t underground. I’m inspired by musicians who’ve been able to break out with something totally against the status quo. People who are crossing these made up boundaries and winning acclaim for it. I don’t want to be underground, you know? I want to be heard and loved by as many people, as widely as I can be.”
No stranger to the New York audience, Has Lo will be making the trip to Brooklyn this weekend to perform alongside PremRock & Willie Green at Cameo Gallery on February 25. He’ll also be sharing the bill with his good friend and frequent collaborator Zilla Rocca, also from Philly.
I very much look forward to catching his live show for the first time and know I will be in good company.The future is wide open for Has Lo and as a fan of hip hop music I felt it was my duty to share him with iHEARTDilla readers because Has Lo hearts J Dilla too!
For Has Lo’s catalog check out: http://has-lo.bandcamp.com/
For more information Has Lo’s upcoming show at Cameo Gallery click here.
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