After a couple years off from the game to deal with some misfortunes in his life, Wafeek raps over beats with one thing that many artists lack these days; passion. Along with having a style of conviction, self-reflection and aggression, this underground rapper makes true music. This Missouri native featured Killer Mike and Limotint in his latest 13 track EP, ‘Era,’ spitting over samples referencing the 90’s.
We chat to Wafeek about ‘ERA,’ and why he has been drawn back to hip hop, inspiration behind his EP ‘Era’ and he opens up about the tragic loss of his girlfriend. Adam Lunn writes.
Tell us the inspiration behind 'Era'.
I was working with my band The Flux exclusively since the end of 2010. It's a very different process creatively than making straight forward hip hop music. Lots of parts, influences, and the like to consider especially when writing a verse or a chorus. So when the opportunity presented itself to build an indie rap label and develop more hip hp leaning music I needed to press the reset button as an emcee. Get back to what inspired me to want to rap to begin with. Dig? Your responsibility to the song is significantly different. You're looking to play a much bigger role than just a front man. I mean there are rap records that are almost completely dependent upon what the emcee is bringing. The flow, the lyrics, can dictate the vibe of the whole show. In working with The Flux I am an instrument. In making rap records I am the entire song. Well me and the beat. Got to have beats! Especially in today's climate. I believe there have been three major "Eras” in hip hop and each one has been dominated by a different element. The early years were centered on the DJ, later it was more about the emcee, and now the producer rules the day. So I wanted to focus my energy on making a rap record that felt like what many consider the golden era of hip hop. It's the time period that (in my opinion) produced the greatest emcees of all time. It felt like being reborn, so it was only right to return to the styles and sounds that inspired me as a child.
How was it working with Killer Mike?
Intimidating at first. He is so much larger than life artistically. I mean the man wrote and recorded two verses in the time it takes me to write one. And I consider myself a pretty damn efficient songwriter. The thing that really struck me was how much he cared about the craft. He wrote another verse because he wanted to more closely word his ideas with mine. Once the brother spoke with me on that I loosened up and instead of seeing him as a legend and someone I have admired for years, I simply saw him as a big brother in this hip hop shit. Someone looking out for a young homie, willing to put in the extra work to help the record grow. It was dope.
What brings you back to hip hop and what keeps you going?
Man that's the easiest question to answer and the most difficult answer to share. In 2010 things were going pretty well. I was on a really good team who believed in a brother. We had quite a few reputable folks with real skill ready and willing to back our moves and everything was up. Ya know? Up! And I was lost. I didn't know what I wanted to do with rap. Didn't know who I was or if the direction I was going was where I wanted to be. And then there was the accident. My girlfriend was killed by a distracted driver while walking to work. It was so sudden and utterly devastating. In a moment all of these very important questions, meetings, releases, etc. The career stuff became nothing. I just didn't care. Writing music with the band for the sake of creating something, telling a story and expressing it how it was truly meant to be expressed became everything for me. It wasn't until I bumped into the homie Marcelo and he proposed The Black Lion Records that I even considered making rap music again. At that point my baby brother had gotten shot and I was motivated to seize any and all chances to express. Felt like I had something to say. All of that time away from it and all of the experiences within that time frame had given me the one thing I lacked when I already had everything else. “Era” was to re-establish myself for myself. The next one is going to be for the people. In short I rap because for one it's the only way I know how to process my life, and two I want to share that process with as many people as possible.
You also produce videos. Do you have the same creative process as recording in the studio?
For better or worse most of my projects, post genre love band, hip hop records, video, song writing are born from the same thing. Self-discovery. I read your interview with King Avriel and I must say I have always envied that kind of vision. The ability an artist may have to carefully craft a very specific message. I always feel like a bumbling detective. Following creative clues until eventually the case is solved. Almost as though it either solves itself or it doesn't. Each piece, a new melody idea, a couple of bars here and there is an adventure. Might sound trite but it's true. At least for me.
How does being on stage compare to recording in the studio?
I was born on the stage. Basically it was easier for me to find a stage in than it was to find a studio. It was easier finding myself on stage than it was in the studio. The pressure to perform is ever present but quite different depending upon the medium. The stage is unforgiving. Like a father watching his son on the field, judging success and failure as it happens. The studio is my mum, ever forgiving and ready and willing to give me another shot to get it right. They both have high expectations though. (Laughs) Okay simply put, I started off preferring one to the other. The stage, but I've grown to love them equally. At your best you're able to combine them both and get the absolute most out of a given song. In the moment as it happens or over time with patience.
What's next for you?
Next? We have a really talented team of artists so this summer is all about showcasing the whole crew. Working with Trackstar the DJ (WHAMMY) on a project that will hopefully be equal parts my contributions and the entire Black Lion family. Once we've had the opportunity to establish that space I am going to drop the evolutionary sibling of “Era”. If you consider that record an attempt to find my footing then this next one is me exhibiting what I can do with it. Having my past, present, and future at my disposal artistically. It's going to be fun. I wrote this down randomly the other night and I think it sums it up:
I feel good. I do what comes naturally. My music is about living in the moment. Embracing the here and now for whatever it is, and whatever it's worth.
What stimulates your soul?
Eminem said it best, "When you're real and you spit and people are feeling your shit."
Those brief moments when what you said, born from how you feel, resonates with someone else. They are so small that you will miss them if you aren't paying attention. And they are so big that if you catch them you will be humbled. They do more than stimulate the soul. They feed it and give it form. They give it purpose. All that and my mum. She is my heart and soul.
Want to hear more?