PREMIEREHIPHOP.COM lost a co-founder, our brother Kevlaar 7 of the Wisemen. A poet, philosopher, musician, loving father, an honorable poor, righteous teacher and as fellow MC Genghis Khan noted, one of the “true freedom fighters and artists of our time.” We, here, are dedicated to sharing the best of this music and culture that is Hip Hop and so much of it is unknown and unheard for the worst of the worst instead. We won’t allow that and we bring you this endless series that will reveal the artistry of Kevlaar 7 and so much more. Easily one of the greatest lyricists of this era that ranks in the entire cannon of the music, Kevlaar 7 was also a true and living great mind we must not forget.
Published in 2010 off the release of the second Wisemen album, Children of a Lesser God….
“I give you power with my words/ it’s a gift and a curse/ like nursing a dead flower back to life…”
–”Panic in Vision Park” (Children of a Lesser God LP, 2010)
2010 has already witnessed its greatness and the crowds of popularity and sing-a-long song smother the taste and fervor of the last proponents. The last people that are just Original, poor and oppressed and love a great break, beautifully captured sample and an ill lyric as the next meal. They now wait for Kanye to save them on Good Friday and contests to construct the Wu again.
The 2010 greatness is Wisemen’s new album, Children of a Lesser God. The Wu legacy has a family of contemporary family from Sunz of Man to Allah Mathematics. Yet, the evidence of the legacy’s continuation is in the success of discipleship. After Bronze Nazareth’s classic, The Great Migration, we have an superior MC preparing his own incredible beds of drums and soul. Bronze ushering in his peoples, The Wisemen, led to a debut, Wisemen Approaching, of respectable MCs that served as a well extended Greater Migration.
Like his mentor The RZA, Bronze MCs, produces and brings his family in. With their Children LP, we have a similar path but fresh innovations and the mandatory recognition as all six of the Wisemen are truly MCs of a profound caliber. We also receive a prelude to the next great musician, Kevlaar 7. A-alike his brother Bronze, they provide Children with music that succeeds in the direction RZA has oft articulated, a progressive hardcore sound filled with live musicianship. Children is what them ol’ great albums are—something to explore and thus be rewarded for.
Before Children’s release, I had the opportunity to build with Kevlaar 7 on the sciences of everything in life that now must include his burgeoning skills as the next great MC/producer, a Hip Hop musician with an ear for the perfect bass/melody/break assortment and the pen of a composing lyricist. Here are some of the snippets…
Sunez: I actually don’t see you all as beatmakers but MCs first even thought most may see it otherwise.
Kevlaar 7: Exactly. That did come after. Both of us started rhyming first. Bronze been making beats since ‘94. I was just an mc from 94 to fukn 2002. But eventually in 2001 I had a thought and even though I think I’m the illest MC I made beats. I’d send them to Bronze, Cilvaringz. They was like ‘Damn. You got good quick as fuck!’ From then on I kept goin. I’m definitely a lyricist before beatmaking.
[Kevlaar 7 & Sunez building on Riverside Drive, NYC]
Sunez: What’s the mindset on this album?
Our mindset goin into making the record [starts] with the group we worked with, the live band, they from Seattle, Project Lionheart. They did shit on 60 Second Assassin’s album [Remarkable Timing]. We wanted to bring that rugged gritty Hip Hop shit but update it with real music. And a bigger sound as far as sound quality. You know how Dr. Dre’s sound quality is as far as the quality of the mixing and the mastering. We wanted to bring a crisp sound like that but at the same time keep the gritty shit in.
When I hear a sample I’m already formulating what I’m— ‘oooh I want these drums. Man, I used these drums back in 03.’ Pulling them back out and seeing what I can do with them. That might sound good on that. It’s just shit like that and usually when I pick out I might pick some drums that I already did or pick up a new drum pattern and shit. Grab me a new snare, a kick from over there. [With Children of a Lesser God] we would make the beat first how we wanted it then we’d be like, ‘you know what do with this.’ Add a horn, c major. Whatever we thought sounded good this band would do it. This is how we enhanced the beats. Now I used to be able to read music. I used to play the trumpet and the piano but you know, life gets in the way.
[Kevlaar 7 & Sunez w/Paragone, graphic designer of Kevlaar 7’s Die Ageless debut LP cover]
That was another thing too. Me and Bronze was talking about this too. We want our own brand, our own sound where muthafuckas hear you and be like, ‘That’s the Wisemen.’
Sunez: When you do the whole body of work, you have all the tracks on the album, do you go ‘I’m repeating drums’ and we can’t have a whole album with this repeated or that repeated?
Kevlaar: That’s like a process that happens like when we’re making the album. We’ll listen to what we got. We don’t have this type of song, or this type of joint. We need to do them type of joints but can’t nothing sound like anything else.
Sunez: Well explain that for me only cause people think when you say “that type of joint” or “this type of joint” they may be thinking commercial joint–insert here. What do you mean by “that type of joint”?
Kevlaar: We take it deeper than ‘we need a commercial joint, one for the bitches.’ We don’t really do it like that. Most people do it like that on some straight cliche ass shit. But we be like, ‘we need a real soulful joint,’ cause Phillie and Illah sound ill on that shit. They write deep shit on those. We need some hardcore, bring you some “what the fuck is you looking at” type shit. We do it like that. You can do it that other way and you might come out with some deep shit but from the start we take it deeper. This is not just a song for the bitches. We taking it deeper. We wanna know how they feel about whatever…That’s another thing. You gotta have four or five concept songs. Shit that’s about some shit.
We gotta joint named “Lucy.” Illah Dayz came up with the whole concept. Bronze did the beat. It’s an old soul sample saying “Love ain’t what it used to be” and then the beat come in. We rhyming on some–Illah comes raunchy. Another called “Do It Again” That’s the one dude that made the album. He’s from Detroit named Supaa Maine. He did the beat. You probably never heard of him. He really ain’t got no name. We met him at a show. My man from Black Wall Street introduced us to him. He made some shit we would do so Bronze, Salute and Phillie jumped on it. Then I jumped on it. It might be a radio joint yet we keep our integrity. We still doing us but beat wise it has a mass appeal to it. It’s an old sample but its got the knocking drums that would appeal to the masses. We tried to keep the shit hitting from all angles. We got some shit, “Get U Shot” and basically…I’m telling a story on my verse about some dude who was a thug ass nigga and that’s what his life was about. He ends up shooting a block and accidentally hits somebody and the dude is a vegetable. Then how ill revenge is and his moms came back and killed him. But in between the verses me and my man from South Carolina, my brother in law, we be on some comedy shit talking like them ol’ niggas. Like “don’t go near them muthafukas will get u shot boy.” Shit is hilarious. We tried to inject some comedy in the shit too and everybody we let listen to it is like ‘you muthafuckas stupid man.’ [laughs] So we sounded like some Richard Pryor shit. We try to incorporate everything but at the same time not force it. To us, it’s always been a thing to us–everything has to come natural. We don’t ever force shit. It don’t sound right when you force it.
Sunez: Now with Illah Dayz and June Megaladon coming back into the fold, how are tracks constructed? Who gets to be on tracks?
Kevlaar: Ain’t no yes men in the group. If five other niggas is telling you that you can come harder then you gotta look outside yourself because one person can’t always tell what’s goin on around them. Someone else will have to tell him or five other niggas will have to tell him. You can’t always take your own opinion and trust it all the time cuz the people that love you is gonna tell you the truth. That’s the first thing too. We’re family. Me, June and Bronze grew up together. I’ve only known Illah dayz since 2002 but the reason he wasn’t on the first album was because he was in an accident. He’s paralyzed from the waist down. It was after a studio night and that’s why he took a hiatus. He was going through therapy. June’s Pops got killed when he was seventeen and he was part of the Unknown [group] so he took a hiatus and became the man of the house. So he was at home taking care of his mom, sisters and all that shit so he kind of got away from it. But really they just came back to the cipher.
Izayaa (photographer): How do you put your lyrics? Alotta people in education and other fields say our people can’t write. How does your process of writing happen? I know it sounds high class but how do your lyrics come out?
Kevlaar: It don’t. I appreciate questions like that. Alotta people don’t really analyze shit like it needs to be. I be wanting to know what peoples’ deepest thoughts about the shit are. My writing process can go any number of ways. If I’m working on my own shit I already have beats picked out for my album or project I’m working on. Depending on how I’m feeling that day I’ll go through the beats and I’ll hear a beat that makes me wanna–it brings the shit out of me. Bronze’s beats do that. Some of my beats do but it be hard to write to your own shit. If I listen to my beats over and over it makes it hard. I don’t know why but Bronze’s bring it out of me. However, the beat makes me feel those are the lyrics that come out of me. Usually I write down the first line that comes to my head. I’ll write four bars first then I go back and I keep repeating it and repeating it. Then I’ll be like ‘nah, throw this word out. Put this word in. Place this word with that word.’ It’s like a puzzle. And I do that with however many bars I’m writing and by the end of the shit I’ll have it memorized.
Sunez: The use of the metaphor. How does that work in extending the metaphor so deep and extended?
Kevlaar: It might be a mental sickness [laughter] but seriously I just keep writing until I feel it in my heart I’m finished. We was influenced by RZA with the metaphors. You might say “we gon shoot you,” but he taught us to say it in a different way like “I’ll thread your needle, nigga.” You just say shit different and I might take one thing and think of thirty different ways to say it.
Sunez: You do a lot of word coupling and you’ll also double time your verses with the beats almost stuttering along.
Kevlaar: We do that with the beats so it’ll be more noticeable. We get that from [Kool] G Rap. Just take the last verse I heard from him amazed me. He rhymed every single word in the rhyme.
Sunez: Word. And the rhyme schemes are double timed. Like on “Associated.”
Kevlaar: Actually I’m a tell you the story. Bronze sent GZA like 30–just bangers. Turned all of them down. We let him pick the beat for our album. Bronze was like ‘fuck it,’ and just sent like ten more of them. Didn’t care which ones he threw in the folder, sent it and it ended up being that…We was like “that beat?!!”..Me and Bronze was like ‘there’s nothing wrong,” but we wouldn’t have picked it out for the album. We was like ‘fuck it, let’s do it.’ And it turned out sick.
Also interesting is that “Introducing” was really the first song we recorded for that album and “Wisemen Approaching” is actually the last track. Dreddy had wanted three more tracks–“Iconoclasts,” “Associated” and another track I forget. We had just moved out of our crib with a studio in the basement. Bronze moved with wifey and I moved in with Salute so we was like ‘fuck, we ain’t got no studio right now.’ So we set shit up in the closet of the apartment. “Associated” and “Iconoclasts” were recorded in the closet.
Sunez: I would have never guessed that shit. I would have said the Unknown album was done in an apartment closet.
Kevlaar: Yeah! Exactly, we did that shit in a fuckin real studio. The shit is crazy how you learn to uplift the quality of the music no matter where you’re recording it.
Sunez: Any beats of yours peoples getting on?
Kevlaar: I sent Jay Electronica some beats. That dude is ill, real ill. I sent Rae a few. Me and Bronze sent Raekwon a few. I think he chose one of Bronze’s for the Shaolin Vs. Wutang.
Sunez: Rae should have you two do the whole thing.
Kevlaar: Word. That’s what we waiting for. When we rocked with Killah Priest in Detroit, we rocked a couple of shows with him. We brought him to the studio and he did the track that I produced. He jumped on it and it’s on Bronze’s album (School for the Blindman). That shit is crazy–”Sodom and Gomorrah.” Priest was like, ‘we need to do a whole album, just us three.’ We was like ‘Word. Let’s do it.’ We gonna make it happen but Priest is all over. He’s never in one spot for too long.
Sunez: For me, Detroit has the best new MCs. Are you all in contact with other MCs like Royce Da 5’9”, Black Milk or eLZhi or any other expansion?
Kevlaar: Yeah, it’s coming. Matter of fact, Bronze just did a joint with Royce last week for one of M-80’s projects. And I did a joint with Kurupt, Tri-State and Ruste Juxx.
[Peace to Kevlaar 7 and the Wisemen]
Sunez: How is Die Ageless, your debut solo coming along? What are you building on?
Kevlaar: I speak on a lot of issues, like inner city issues especially in Detroit–Gun Rule. The joblessness, homelessness, ignorance. The people that’s oppressing us ain’t the only problem. We do it to ourselves sometimes. I got a joint on my album called “My People” produced by J-Skrilla from D.C., DMV area. I think Reef the Lost Cauze is gonna jump on that. I got this song called “Solstice” where I’m telling a story but it’s a true story. Me and my man was playing basketball after school and a nigga got bucked right across the street at one of the payphones. Then I go into it on some enlightenment shit. We did go over there and look at the shit and see brains all over but I went deeper and made up some shit–”I looked into his eyes and this is what I saw/ 1995 early autumn I saw/ the fire from the hammer as soon as I bent/ the corner dropped to my chest/ this block is hotter than a sauna peered from a spot/ seen a nigga that was shot/ alotta, screaming and yelling and tires peeling out/ I lay for five minutes forever no doubt/ I rose up slowly, looked into his eyes/ and this is what he told me”– There’s more but I wrote that like six years ago and I did the beat and it gets real deep. I gotta song for the women cuz you gotta address the Earths. It’s called “Losing Hand Gamble.” Basically what I’m doing is I’m comparing relationships in the past when I was wild and ignorant and it’s called “Losing Hand Gamble” cuz I gambled that shit. It was good for me but I didn’t see it. In the first verse I’m comparing one of my real relationships to a game of Bones. The second verse it’s another relationship in a game of chess. Then Brix, she’s from Boston, she’s gonna come in on the third verse and give the female perspective and compare it to relationship. She’s down with the Wolves–Krumbsnatcha and them. Bronze did the beat with a Ray Charles sample. It’s crazy.
Sunez: It’s mostly other producers working on it?
Kevlaar: Mostly it’s me and Bronze producing the album. I got a brother named Woodenchainz from Indiana. That’s my song about money called “Federal Reserve Note.” The evils of that shit but also the necessities. My man Central Intelligence from Albuquerque. I think that’s it. Other than that it’s me and Bronze. I haven’t gotten the exact date but it’s early Februrary. I probably have about 3 more songs to write. I also got a joint with me, Sha Stimuli and Ras Kass. I’m fans of them dudes so I was happy to do that joint.
“Everyones’ stressin/ expressin/ they fake knowing you heartless
Listen, pick apart this/ even my cousin of death heard me rhyme/
bleeding my brethren stealing my time/
it’s my second resurrection/ my lines are perfection
drop the needle, we need you to bring your lessons
so I grip the fifth/ swig my shot and spit/
and lifeless lifetimes/ I’m echoing this,
How many times/must I drop out the sky
and teach the lost how to fly/
How many times I gotta tip the bottle’s eye/
to quiet my tension, Pass the vodka dry”
–”Makes Me Wanna Shot” (Children of a Lesser God LP, 2010)