Integrity means many things to many people. Members of the band have attracted equal amounts of love and hate over the years. They have been a controversial unit who have set the bar pretty damn high. Both aesthetically and musically, Integrity has swayed a whole generation of hardcore fans and musicians away from the posi oriented jargon of bands like Youth of Today, and off into an abysmal, dark, and metallic place of despair. I can definitely get down with that. Last night (9/282015) Integrity made a surprise appearance at the Foundry in Cleveland, Ohio. Only about forty lucky fans and friends were there to witness the madness, from what I am told. Here is a video from the show of them doing the classic “Micha”, courtesy of Bill Zakovec.
Hybrid Moments (Misfits cover)
Greenlander has produced a ton of music and is a hot name in the noise/underground electronic scene of Los Angeles. In his hometown of Youngstown, he is widely ignored when it comes to the raw sounds he makes. I even saw him get kicked off the stage at the Lemon Grove once. A place that was supposed to be a hub for the artsy and weird was kicking a man off the stage that was perhaps TOO artsy and weird for a baffled audience of hipsters and dinner goers. Greenlander doesn’t care though. He doesn’t need acceptance and largely creates music for himself, locked away in a dungeon of solitude. This video was created using his music set to visuals by artist Cristopher Sea, a man whose art has been featured in such magazines as Juxtapose.
IL: I started writing short stories as a child in elementary school. I was always in love with words. I used to have to read the dictionary and learn a word a week. I started to watch Rap City and Yo! MTV Raps and then it was over.
MG: When did you start linking up with the likes of Aesop Rock and Slug?
IL: I met Slug, Eyedea and all of the Rhymesayers through Dose One of Anticon. We both went to the University of Cincinnati and he knew all of those guys. At that time people would trade tapes and it was the early days of the underground hip hop boom of the late 90’s/early 2000’s. At that time Rhymesayers was the crew Headshots and they were the first crew that I ever knew that was touring. We met when Atmosphere was in Cinci for a show in ‘98. Actually Weightless and Rhymesayers started the same year. We were all of like minds and whenever they came to Columbus we would open for them and the rest is history.
With Aesop Rock, again Dose One hipped me to his music around ‘98 but we didn’t actually meet until 2000 when Weightless did the Unforseenshadows and Up To Speed re-issues on CD. They were only available on tape before that. Atoms Family and Aesop Rock came down from New York and opened for us. Atoms Family at that time consisted of Vast, Vordul (Cannibal Ox pre-Cold Vein), Cryptic One, Alaska, Wind N Breeze and Kazim. This was also Aesop Rock right before Float came out. Aesop and Wind N Breeze actually did my backups on the song “Verbage” at the release party. It was a memorable show that is still considered a staple in Columbus Hip Hop History.
MG: At what point did you know that you could have a viable career making independent hip hop?
IL: Honestly I’ve never had a viable career with hip hop (laughs) but after we released Unforeseenshadows and the people started responding we knew we had something. Once we dropped Got Lyrics? I really started touring. Eyedea (RIP) actually took me on my first tour. We (Weightless) were the first crews out of Columbus that actually started touring regularly. To this day the fans have allowed me to continue to make music and make an impact on their lives and I am greatly appreciative of them for that.
MG: Columbus, Ohio was once a creative hub for hip hop. There was Blueprint, yourself, The Spitball crew with DJ PRZM, MHz crew with the likes of RJD2, Copywrite and the late Camu Tao plus more emcees than I could even count. At the same time Cincinnati had Scribble Jam, Lone Catalysts and even Dose One at some point. Where did all that creative energy come from and what was its collective pinnacle?
IL: Honestly, I have no clue (laughs). Ohio has always been a hotbed of musical talent from the great funk bands of the 60’s and 70’s to the talented rock bands and jazz musicians that we have produced. I think we are just in a place where we draw from everywhere and make our own interpretations of the world that people are drawn to. I think this goes for the Midwest in general.
MG: What would you say separates an Ohio emcee from those of other regions?
IL: I think it’s our perspective. It’s that same way with artist from all regions. Our perspectives come from our surroundings. I think that all regions have their time in musical influence. The East Coast had their time and the West had their time. The West Coast time was secretly ours because they stole the funk sound of our 70’s groups. I don’t think that we have a specific style or time because we pull from everywhere so our time has always been.
MG: Have you noticed a decline in the popularity of underground hip hop? If so, when did it start and how has it affected you personally?
IL: I don’t think that there has been a decline at all. I think the lines have been more blurred as to what underground hip hop is and what it is not. I think now “underground” is more of a style as opposed to a genre, because in all honesty Drake is or was an underground artist. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis are underground artists along with countless others, but in the same vein so am I. Underground used to mean that you didn’t make as much money as a major label artist. It used to mean that you did not have the notoriety or the reach. Now the class system of underground and above ground artist has been turned on its ear. Much of that is due to the internet. Now I would describe underground as going outside of the box or coming with something from left field that no one else is doing.
MG: These days, rappers usually take one of two routes. Either they have a label doing promotion or an agent booking their tours. On the flip side, some have taken a road that is do-it-yourself for ethical reasons or out of sheer necessity. Which path would you suggest that independent artists use?
IL: I would say do what is best for you and the furthering of your career.
MG: Your lyrics are often deeply personal, poetic, and honest. Those factors can strike a cord in the listener. What is the best thing a fan has either said or done for you?
IL: Fans have done a lot from tattoos to paintings. Just knowing that I have touched people’s lives in some way is enough. When a fan tells me that I have helped them in some way or got them through a difficult situation in their lives that is the ultimate reward.
MG: What other mediums besides hip hop would you like to explore?
IL: I have a few books in the works right now. I would also love to get into producing because I do have a musical background and a good ear for samples. I really would like to have my hands in everything that I possibly can. You might even see me DJ sometime in the future, I don’t know, I don’t like to limit myself at all.
MG: You have been rather prolific when it comes to releases in the last few years. Do you have a favorite one?
IL: I love all of my music. All of it has it’s time. It depends on the day. My fans favorite is Celestial Clockwork though.
MG: What does the future hold for Illogic? Do you have any surprises up your sleeve?
IL: Lots of music, a few books as I mentioned and I would love to hit the road heavy this year. Other than that, just taking care of my family and loving life.
RUST BELT HAMMER CAN BE FOUND @RUSTBELTHAMMER OR ON FACEBOOK https://www.facebook.com/rustbelthammer