March 20, 2010
Hip-hop musicians Moe Pope and Headnodic collaborated as members of Mission (now the Crown City Rockers) until they decided to strike out on their own on their debut album Megaphone. The two took time out of their busy schedules to talk to Keith Wagstaff about their musical influences, collaborating together and the state of hip-hop today.
What were your different musical influences growing up?
Moe: For me personally, when I was younger, I was blessed to be in an era when MTV was huge on videos. I would come home from school and just melt into the music, whether it was head-bangers ball or Yo! MTV Raps. I ate it up … I honestly can say I love punk and old school hip-hop equally. As far as lyrics and vocals go, hip-hop ten plus years ago had a greater focus on making sense, being coherent and wowing the listener with how clever it could be. Not that today’s rappers aren’t trying to blow minds, it’s just that it’s not a requirement to blow minds anymore. For me having grown up listening to the pre-eminent rappers from New York, I’m not satisfied until I feel like the lyrics are worthy!
Headnodic: I grew up listening to everything as well. I was a bass player first so I was into every genre of music in an effort to learn how to play better, and understand music more. I feel like whatever we convey on the album is just what landed on tape for those particular songs. When we do the next record you’ll probably hear a whole new set of influences and feels. We both enjoy trying to do what we haven’t done yet.
How do you think your different styles contribute to an overall unique sound?
Moe: I don’t think me and Headnod’s styles are that different. I think having made music together for so many years helps us to understand the other in a way were he knows what I like and vice versa.
Headnodic: Yeah, for instance, I might sample an old soul song, with full knowledge that it will make Moe turn it into something aggressive, as opposed to crooning an old soul song over it. I’m very into flipping the context on samples. I geek off taking something that most people would think is lame, and flipping into something aggressive or soulful. I assume it’s a subconscious need to show everyone that all music is amazing. It’s my own little musical “Hands Across America.”
What is your songwriting process like?
Moe: Smoke-filled rooms, beats, a pen and a pad and the belief that something special is gonna happen!
Headnodic: I usually come with the beat, and Moe sits and writes. On that song Danger Danger, Moe had the beat in his head, and he coached it out of me. And sometimes Moe will say he wants some sort of mood so I’ll start digging for a loop or starting point that fits it, then flush it out with him. I like Moe’s work ethic a lot. I like that he wakes up and is tapping his fingers until we start, then it’s an all day affair til’ we have something dope (or several dope songs). It’s not often that I work with anyone as hell-bent on creating as I am.
You guys have lived all over the country. How do you think being a part of different scenes in different cities has affected your sound?
Moe: I’m in Boston and its cold. I definitely think it adds a grittier texture to the music. I feel a lot more smooth in Cali.
Headnodic: We’ve both lived on both coasts so it’s just more experience to add to the stew. But more important than that, when Moe comes to record an album with me, he’s not on his coast, and there’s no day-to-day grind or home distractions. I live in Oakland, but my sound comes from me living in the Bay, and keeping Wisconsin, Boston, New Jersey in the stew. Add to that Paris and Tokyo and NYC and Reykjavik, Iceland and all the other places we’ve had the chance to experience.
What are your thoughts on the state of hip-hop today?
Moe: Honestly, I love music so I’m gonna find something positive in almost all music, but I feel like hip-hop is not doing what it needs to and these major record labels are putting out sub-par quality. We know their product is garbage but we adapt. When I was coming up there was more variety. That’s missing from the airwaves now; everyone sounds alike and wears the same rap outfit. There are diamonds in the rough but mostly there is way too much rap-pop out there. This must be what grunge rockers felt like during the ‘90s. Yeah, that’s what I am. Grunge rap.
Headnodic: Yeah, I feel the same. Even the crap is fun every now and then though. I don’t listen to the radio, and I don’t have television, so I’m not bombarded with the same songs over and over, so when I hear a pop hit once or twice I can appreciate it as a good little commercial ditty. Most of the hip-hop out there holds the same weight as pop in that regard. But, the internet allows a listener to dig and find the music he/she really wants. So kill your television, and music is healthy again. It’s as simple as that.
For more information on Moe Pope and Headnodic visit www.moepopeandheadnodic.com