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It seems you’ve been doing fewer rap shows, is it reflective of Edmonton’s rap scene?
I think I don’t get called as often, I would love to do more. I kind of binge at Wild Style Wednesdays, but it just starts so freakin’ late. It’s not premeditated. I find that often times now, when I book the rap show, I book Old Ugly rappers, so I’m still doing rap shows, but with a little incestuous progeny of rap stars and it’s nice because none of us care about money. We’ve set up this mentality where if 100 people come, it’s ‘cause we’re amazing; if 5 people come, it’s ‘cause nobody gets us.
How many albums do you have?
I put an album out in 2006 which I’m not fond of and I came out with a mix-tape the same year. I recorded Float or Flail, most of that was written in the fall and winter and it still hasn’t come out. Ut Oh is going to help pay for that one.
I notice a lot of religious subject matter coming out of your music. Why do you rap about it?
Like I said, my first album I wasn’t particularly fond of…not because I don’t believe in what I believe in; more my presentation of it. My presentation was tactless…I don’t like any kind of art that comes off as self-righteous, no matter what it’s talking about and mine came off as self-righteous. Nowadays, my music’s rather polarized: I’m either being really cheeky or I’m being really serious, there’s no middle ground. My earliest music is heavy-handed and over the top.
So why is it important to rap about you religion?
If music and art all together is self-expression…then it’s important to express myself.
Do you get a better response playing a folk/electronic show or a rapitty rap show?
I sort of mold my set to the crowd, so I get a good response from both – but a better response from college kids…
Does rap music ever offend you?
I certainly used to, but now I think it’s so funny. Soulja Boy is the funniest thing I’ve ever heard in my life – I can’t get enough of it…and like Lil Wayne, all that stuff is great, I love it. I don’t own it, but I love it.
I don’t know man…reading a lot of literature and realizing what art is. Have you ever seen that video “Turn My Swag On”? – That’s a sociology degree in 3 minutes. It’s really hard to offend me these days…why would anyone who believes in God be that insecure? What’s the point? If you really believe in God, then how is that supposed to worry you? I’m trying to teach that to my parents.
I kind of want to set the record straight, I feel like a lot of people assume that you only rap about Jesus…
I know, I’ve been pigeonholed from day one…I’ve tried to be as legit as anyone else by being at the open mics and hanging out with people. The first thing I put out, I gave it to every rapper I loved in this city. I remember giving one to [Crow-box One-String] from Eshod Ibn Wyza; and to Max Prime, I saw him at a show; I remember giving one to Rollie – I saw him on the corner and just being like: ‘you’re the best, take this record’ – because they are people I look up to. I’ve had to live in the shadow of myself ever since. So let’s set the record straight, give me another shot, listen to my music, maybe you still won’t like it.
Tell me about opening the GZA show in Edmonton…
I booked that gig the same time I started writing this new album, so I thought I had to write some rap songs…like hip hop songs for this show: I’m going to slow down, use a punchier flow – but none of that seemed to matter…when I walked on stage wearing tight jeans. It was over. The main populace there were like 18 year old kids, in Wu-Tang hoodies who had traveled out of town who had never seen a rap show. Touch did a lot better…he sounds like the missing member of Wu-Tang.
You seem to think that you didn’t do a very good job, what gave you that impression?
That was the first show with all those songs. I’ve played big rooms, some even bigger on privileged opportunities…it was just weird to play to actual rap fans. For the first time in a long time, I felt I was up against something…’cause I always go in convincing people that rap is okay, but these people know rap is okay, then I have to convince them that I am a rapper. It’s been so long since I’ve had to do that. That show made me really level with myself; I was like ‘I can rap for anyone,’ – but I did it and I realized that over these past few years, I’ve really cushioned myself with a lot of yay-sayers. Wu-Tang is the most distilled, purist hip hop I could really think to name.
Do you think that if you were opening up a Wu-Tang show in a different city, the response would be different?
It would be interesting to see what would happen – as long as I wasn’t wearing what I was wearing that night. If I just came out looking like I wanted to be there, I didn’t look like I wanted to be there [based on the way I was dressed] and it’s sad that that’s a part of it.
In Edmonton (and other rap scenes), it seems like the biggest supporters of the music are the people who make it. Do these cultures suffer because of that?
I think Edmonton’s scene is dope. It’s more concentrated because there are less people, the art scene seems to be [about] iron sharpening iron. The theater scene is huge, people who aren’t actors see plays that’s awesome. A lot of the rappers [in Edmonton] make rap for rappers.
My wife Bethany, my parents, Mikey Mabey – he’s the best rapper I know in the world right now and no on knows about him, we have a crew called Rapper’s Are People, Old Ugly family – all of our bios are short stories I wrote, they are completely unrelated to their music.
For more on The Joe and Old Ugly, check olduglyco.com