Fighting the good fight in Hip Hop isn't always the most popular route to go in this day of platinum sales and platinum jewelry. One Man Army is a visionary leading the way in a battle for correctness in Hip Hop culture, and is playing his role in protecting a foundation that has weakened over the years.
His presence is commanding and calming at the same time - tall and lean, with a silent gaze that remains thoughtful as he speaks. His image is mysterious, with several aliases and intricate philosophies weaved into his music. He is a magnet drawing in people from all walks of life and all dimensions of thought.
Growing up in Pontiac, Michigan, One Man Army began dabbling in music at an early age, and enjoyed playing basketball. He was eventually offered a scholarship in the sport, but his life took a course that didn't coincide with the opportunities that were laid before him at that time. As he begins to explain the stages of his life, his career, and his relationships with his former Binary Star partner, Senim Silla, and current crew Subterraneous, the interview takes on it's own life. One Man Army takes the helm and positively directs the discussion into a captivating montage of comfortable speech - to the point that questions are deemed obsolete.
"Me and Senim went to high school together, and after high school we went to prison together. The three years we were in prison, we read books together and stuff like that - just built. We got home in '97 and that's when we started recording. When we came home we had cats in the crew, but we had been gone for so long - I felt like, 'I'm just focusing on this Binary Star' stuff. Cats was like 'we should do this, we should do that', but I felt like where I was at, just mentally, as far as wanting to do things a certain kinda way - mainly independently.
I ain't perfect - I ain't always right. I got people around me, they might tell you I'm real commanding, but I ain't. I could care less who feels what I'm doin' or agree with what I'm doin' - and I'm not saying that in an insensitive kinda way. It's just like, before I went to prison, which was a big point in my life - just from a Hip Hop point of view - Hip Hop was a beautiful thing. I grew up in a time, specifically '88-'92, these years Hip Hop was crazy. Little kids wanted to be like emcees, but the way we wanted to be like emcees, we wanted to wear African medallions and I was goin' around talking about stuff that I didn't know what I was talking about - it was 'Red Black and Green' and 'Fight the power' - and I didn't know what the hell this stuff meant, but that's who we was tryin' to imitate.
Now these kids, they tryin to imitate rappers still, but it's like platinum teeth, platinum chains - just garbage. When I went to prison, I was stuck in '93 and '94 - Pete Rock, Tribe Called Quest - just some of the stuff that was out then. When I came home, I'm like 'who the fuck is Master P?' - what is this shit? My connection with the Hip Hop world wasn't the same, so all I had was all I knew. This shit was crazy to me, because the Source Magazine in '93 was a totally different magazine than it was in '97. When I first started doing my thing in '97 I didn't have high self esteem like I used to. I was real cocky back in the day - now I'm like, 'I don't think these people are gonna even feel my shit. Is this what Hip Hop is?' Underground Hip Hop in '93 was not what it is today.
I listen to albums and why does every time they rhyme, why they gotta be hoes and bitches? Why can't it just be like 'hey Ladies'? I mean, you could say ladies - why you gotta say hoes? Is it to make money or is that how you feel? My sister is listening to my shit - I want females to buy my shit. It's a catch 22 because Hip Hop is not for everybody, but it can be. It's definitely a culture and it's definitely geared towards the people that's in the culture and the people that knows what's goin' on, but at the same time a lotta these emcees put up barriers between them and a certain gender or certain race of people.
For a long time I used to sit around like 'why is he doin' a song with them' and 'that ain't Hip Hop', but I started saying - especially when I seen this Master P shit - I woulda told this guy in '91 'don't even try it, don't even think about it - you don't have a chance in hell to even make it'. When I saw that happen the way it happened [I realized] I can't tell nobody what's wack. The only time I say something is wack is when it's just straight up death or poison - something that my little brother can't grow off. I don't even listen to this new bullshit - I bump X-Clan, old Ice Cube, Public Enemy - I'm buggin' cuz like ten, twelve, fifteen years later this stuff is still happening. It's still real and you can still say exactly what Chuck D said twelve years ago.
I'm maturing into an adult now, and my views in life are a little different than when I was sixteen. I wasn't always thinking about what I'm thinking about now. I see that Hip Hop is a tool. You can make money from it, you can famous from it, but to me it's a movement. I really believe that the people who started that movement had the idea of uplifting the community. The people who was a part of starting this movement was tryin to get kids off the street, outta the gangs, off the drugs, outta the fightin - and these wack emcees is tryin to take it back to that - sell dope, kill each other, smoke, get high, get drunk, get fucked up, kill, fuck, stab - and it's like all of this shit is killin' us. All of my songs ain't 'be cool stay in school don't sell drugs', but I do believe from my own life experiences that have absolutely nothing to do with Hip Hop.
My songs are like a journal for me. When I listen to my songs, to me they ain't even songs - it's like 'this is where I was at when I wrote that, this is who I was with when I wrote that, this is what I was goin' through when I wrote that', and I'm tryin to just convey that through my music - just some real sincere shit. Fuck being famous. I mean, I definitely gotta get paid and take care of my family, but what these wack emcees don't even understand is that you can make a billion dollars off an album, but you don't gotta exploit Hip Hop, exploit people, and exploit yourself to do that shit.
Binary Star was a good foundation for me, and Subterraneous - I feel like I'm more than just a solo artist. When you ask me, as a man, I'm trying to change people's lives, and I feel like I'm already doing that. It's always that one person who comes back and says 'you inspire me'. I used to say 'no, I'm not, yeah right, get outta here', but I can only believe it because it's people out here - not a KRS One or a Chuck D - but the guy who works at the gas station, my grandfather, a schoolteacher, I mean real people can change a life and impact you to the point where you're like 'she got a nice attitude every time I come to work, I gotta be more like that', or 'he he got a nice attitude with his kids I wish I was like that' - so I'm not tryin to win nobody's favoritism, I just feel like every time I open my mouth I could say a whole lot.
I'm speaking for me, I'm speaking for the people who feel like me, I'm speaking for the emcees - that's who I'm spittin' for and that's who I represent. When I say I represent Hip Hop, I'm representing the movement. I support anybody that's supporting the movement."
One Man Army and his Trackezoids production team - consisting of Decompoze, Magestik Legend, Malaki, Phrikshun, Chic Masters, Zhao and Ironiclee - are currently booking performance dates revolving around their Subterraneous Records' Waterworld Too project, and One Man Army is finishing up his own solo album entitled L.I.F.E.
For more information on One Man Army and the Subterraneous Crew, check them out at www.subterraneousrecords.com
~Sheepish Lordess of Chaos~
Courtesy of RIME Magazine