Andy and myself, noyz319, had the pleasure of sitting down backstage with Moka Only after the Battleaxe Warriors concert in Edmonton. I videotaped the interview and included a few clips to supplement the text.
The first thing i really noticed about your show is that you’re really high energy, kind of more like a b-boy style
With the poppin’ and shit right
Exactly, so how did you start off initially moving into emceeing; as a b-boy or something else?
That was the first thing. But trip on this though, because i was too young to understand everything i kind of just went with it, this was like 1984 you know what i’m sayin’, the first influx of hip-hop on the west coast, I mean in Canada, you know in Vancouver. I was living in Victoria at the time, going to a private school as my grade school, and other people brought it and i tuned into it. Motherfuckers would be on cardboard at recess and shit and i was just enthralled. And that same year Beat Street came out, which coincidently was the first movie that my mom let me go see by myself, you know what i’m sayin’. So that had the impact, breakin’ was the shit. I loved the art of emceeing and stuff, and i did kick a couple raps back then, but i wasn’t serious. From there, it went into graffiti writing. I started at an early age, fucked up my bedroom, i caught heat for that. You know, my first burner was in my bedroom, and that led to heat.
And this doesn’t have a lot to do with hip-hop, until now, but i was a skateboarder for most of my life. I was one of the only skateboarders who was a b-boy, who was a hip-hopper. And the emceeing just came out of nowhere, i mean the people inspired me were BDP, by that time Native Tongues rolled around, De La Soul, Rakim, and all of that, so that’s a few things right there.
Who would you say are your major influences right now, as far as the whole new wave of artists? Moving away from like 94′ to the current era.
ya, or more like respect.
You know what, i have to give it up to my boys Mystic Journeymen, if i’m gonna name people outside of my crew, because they helped inspire me. And Too Short, the whole ethic of saying fuck waiting for a label. When the whole time you could be waiting for a label you could be putting out music. It don’t matter if you made it at your house, it’s still your heart and your fuckin’ life, you know what i’m sayin’ That did a lot for me. And now that Living Legends, City Planners is like fam you know what i’m sayin’. And some new things are developing, you guys might of heard, i did an album with Sunspot. And Sunspot is actually meeting us tomorrow in Saskatoon, he’s doing the rest of the tour with us. But i mean ya for influences, that’s one major influence. Let me see contemporaries, Hiero and shit, I mean that’s crew. Just basically anybody who said i don’t have the time to wait around and i wan’t to make dope music, so i’m going to put it out. My first tape was Upcoast Relix and it was dusty as fuck. I mean dude, you heard this shit you know it was pause tape style, i was adding little jazz snippets here and there just to put some flavour into it. That shit was dusty as fuck. But that started it off because in Vancouver and the outlying area, including Victoria, i can honestly say that i was one of the first, perhaps the first to do this underground tape movement, and is has spread. I’m not trying to take credit for everything, but you know you go out there now and kids are on the corner literally slangin’ their tapes at the same places we were selling them years ago. And i will never stop making underground tapes, my real heart is doing that stuff. I’m proud to be a Battle-Axe member, and you know we got a tight team and we do what we want to. And you know i got this Universal record that i’m working on in January, for Universal Records. But it really comes down to your heart and soul in your living room, or in your little studio, you know just making music. I got nothing else to do, i’ve been doing this shit for too long to just jump into the “mainstream” and then be somebody’s slave, that ain’t my style.
So are you more with a collective, like with what Cryptik Souls was trying to do, or more for an independent movement like this is Moka Only the man?
Honestly i’m me first, because i’m the dude that has to eat. I can’t be waiting on other people, including my crew, you know what i’m sayin’. If they see me doing something and i’m putting my heart and all my time into it, and there’s some success to it, i hope they might be a little inspired and follow suit. Like such as my boy Ishkan and stuff. A couple people in my crew still have 9-5 jobs, that’s all cool because you gotta live, but i just couldn’t do that anymore man. I just couldn’t! The last job i had was a waiter job and it was 1994, and i remember this one particular night Pharcyde was playing in Vancouver and i couldn’t get the time off work. And i was like why am i’m doing this? That could could be me at that club, i mean i’ve been doing shows since ’89. I was like that could be me, why am i wasting time i’m just gonna quit. So i just straight up quit, i remember i just didn’t show up, and that was the last time i worked a 9-5 job. That’s not for everybody though, there’s nothing wrong with a 9-5 job if you feel that’s for you. I don’t like to be talked down to by psuedo-authoritive figures, you know. That shit just don’t make sense to me. I mean you sitting there you’re tallying up your income and stuff and you’re trying to tell me how to do my little slave job and stuff, and clean up after your spills, when i could be running my own shit. So, mammal music was born.
So is that the whole meaning behind the whole durable mammal persona you got going on?
You know what, haha, for real Durable Mammal, that was a joke dude. When i first started making the tapes, Upcoast Relix, Dusty Bumps, Apenuts, all i could think of was the funniest titles. I had a tape out and i was thinking like Preferable Camel, Insurable Elixir and all this shit and Durable Mammal just popped into my mind. Because i’m a mammal and i’ve been through hella shit that maybe a lot of people would have been scared from. I’m not going to name any particular things, but well me and Prev for instance lived in a dumpster. We lived in a garbage can.
For how long?
Off and on for a while in ’91. And just coming out of situations like that, i mean there were times where we almost lost our lives for just being in the wrong place at the wrong time, on some gun shit. Just moving to California with absolutely no money and just the gumption, that those are the things that make you durable and strengthen you. The whole shit about not eating or having to eat just the saporo ichibans and all that.
Hehe, unsigned and hella broke
Unsigned and hella broke [head nodding]
Are you in any super groups right now, like those 3MG looking type things?
Yes, Perfect Strangers is me and Madchild, that’s a little side whatever. I just recorded a whole album with Abstract Rude and Prevail, we are Code Name Scorpions, coming out on Battle-Axe Records in spring or summer, so that’s that. Me and Sunspot, we got our little thing whatever, we just take it as it goes.
What about the Benevolent Brothers?
Hah, me and Sole.
That was just made up right?
Ya, but you know what, i already did two songs with Sole and i’m sure were gonna do some more. Kirby Dominant, that’s another close close friend of mine and we got the Dominant Mammals album that we put together in Oakland last May and were gonna put that out real soon. Kirby’s actually pressing up a single for it, and i’m going down to Oakland after Christmas to shoot a video for it, that’s the first single called “Fresh and Dope”. I guess that it’s sort of a super group, we don’t have any huge thing you know. In City Planners we have me and Ish are Nowfolk, me and Jeff are The Rappers. It dates back to the jazz era, because you used to see that. It was like ok here’s Sonny Rollins, and then Eric Doubtree drops by or some shit like that you know what i’m sayin’, Mcoy turner. These are people who are all doing different things with different people but they had no hesitation and no problems from the labels to like be together. They were like session artists, you know what i’m sayin’. And i look at like hip-hop can be the same way to. There shouldn’t be anybody saying were making too much music, if the music is good and consistently different. Does that make sense consistently different?
Oh for sure.
Yeah, you know what i’m sayin’.
You seem to be really influenced by jazz, what’s you favourite movement? Is it more towards something like Ornette Colemen or do prefer something like classic Miles Davis or what?
No i would definitely say the Bee Bop shit, and Ornette Colemen goes more into the era of the avante garde stuff, which i get a little kick from. I used to feel way more avante garde, i was influenced by groups like Fishbone and shit to, Bad Brains and like all kinds of different groups. But Jazz really did it and does it for me, it was the Bee Bop era. And you know Scat was really big part of that to, Scatting which was essentially an early form of rap you know what i’m sayin’. Don’t get me wrong, i like the funk shit to. I listen to classical music as well a little bit. I’m big on country music!
So where so you see yourself going in let’s say the next 3 years? You mentioned you got signed, i heard rumors you signed with Sony or was that Universal?
No, no, no i just got with Universal now. But, like i said that might just be a temporary thing. I’m doing one album with them for sure, you know what i’m sayin’. It’s really about the shit we do ourselves. And we own Battle-Axe, nobody owns Battle-Axe, we make it happen. Because we set tours and collaborate with people. So i’m just gonna to be the Mamma man, I mean i don’t know what’s gonna happen. I don’t even know what’s fucking happening tomorrow man, all i know is that we’re going to Saskatoon, anything could happen between now and then. Anything could happen when i leave the club, and i hope it’s positive shit, you know what i mean. We don’t condone the violence thing, we’re quick to break that shit up.
Have you ever been to a show where there’s like some big riot or somebody does some dumb shit?
Ya there’s been a few times, i remember this one show i did in ’92 where people got exited and there was more than one fool in there packing and they started shooting at the ceiling and letting go dude. I mean that’s not a cool environment man, we’re trying to make people party and shit.
So what’s you take on the Edmonton scene? I mean this is like the first show we had in the last eight months, it’s just weak right now, any advice how to improve it or what’s you thoughts on it right now?
m: Bring artists more frequently, you know what i’m sayin’. If it takes the people, if it takes people like ya’ll, because ya’ll are doing your part. You got the website stuff going on. Just talk to promoters, go to clubs and say listen we need a little bit of a change, things have got to happen you know. And i’ll personally do my part to help out the Edmonton scene. I already just organized, as you seen, to come back in the near future. So i might be back here in like two months or so.
So when is Lime Green going to be dropping?
February 15th, February 15th
Prevail: Heeeeeeey! [Prevail from Swollen Members enters]
prev: Moka Only!
Yes sir, that’s my boy Prevail
prev: That’s my man Moka Only
This was the synthesis really, Sound Advice was me and Prev. We just came into it together.
[Prevail has a seat beside Moka]
What’s up sir?
prev: What’s up brother?
Just letting muthafuckers know that me and this man are still very tight, expect the Spilt Spheres LP in summer time.
prev: oh that’s a definite, if that doesn’t happin’ then I quit rappin’, that’s for real
Delve in my realm
prev: Hah, delve in my realm
[singing] Delve in my realm baby
damn man, i could talk for hours, what else do you got?
Who’s you favourite emcee?
prev: Haha, that’s my answer.
I don’t even have to think twice about that. You gotta look at it like this, your the only man who completes yourself completely, your in control of your own destiny. People might come close, everybody’s gonna have their own opinion their own vibe. You might be digging their shit then all of a sudden they turn around and make they just make the worst pop song, you know what i’m sayin’. It doesn’t even have to be music orientated, you can get influence of people get some good ideas, but at the end of the day it’s you. Your in bed by yourself, you gotta feed yourself, i’d definitely put me as the answer, you know. And now for influences, i influence myself, because i surprise myself. I’m not trying to be on the egotistical like “i’m the shit” but, i’m the shit.
prev: [in the background laughing]
You have to be, you have to be the shit.
prev: Haha “i’m not trying to be egotistical and shit” but i mean, shit.
No, but you got to look at it like that, it’s your finger on the button every time.
prev: That’s for real.
I mean you can sit here and complain about the state of hip-hop, but fuck it. Shut it out, we make our own shit, you know.
Just finished a video two weeks ago with Sunspot, for a song called “The Man I Used to Know”. And that’s coming out, that’s on Lime Green. And it’s also on our album we did together, but it’s coming out on Lime Green first. So February 15, but the video is gonna come out sooner, maybe like just after Christmas or something, January.
Why is it that Rap City (Much Music) is not playing “Imagine Me” more?
Request it, that’s all i gotta say. Rap City, they’re a little slow. And you know, they’re paid to play the major label videos. The payolla shit is going on hardcore, you know what i’m sayin’. They’ll play your shit, token every once in a while. They’re like “Oh ok we’ll please the underground people”, you know i’m sayin’. But just request it dude. If we bother these people enough, you know what i’m sayin’. If you want to see Mystik Journeymen’s video’s and shit, just let it be known. Don’t wait and expect it to happen, make it happen. I want to see my video just as much, i don’t really watch the television that much, i only seen it a couple times, it’s only been out a month mind you.
Have you given it to BET or any of those other stations?
m: BET, they’re not gonna get “Imagine Me”. It’s a real low budget video but, i did a Videofact thing for the video with me and Sunspot and we had a much larger sum of money to work with. And i’m telling you, i’m not even bullshitting this is like some Juno shit dude, like some award shit. For real, it’s a story, it’s brilliant, and nice bright colors. I’m rhyming in the lime green kitchen, Sunspot is in the red bedroom. We got a Dalmatian up in there, it is a story, there’s a real concept to it and it’s just funny you know. And that’s what we need dude, i think we need more humor and people will lighten up a little bit dude, in hip-hop you know what i’m sayin’. Don’t get me wrong, i mean i listen to Jay-z. I listen to… well i don’t listen to DMX, but you know what i’m sayin’, i’m not hating on it. I listen to De La then i’ll turn around and listen to [laughing] Beanie Sigel. Know what i’m sayin’, i listen to shit man, give it a chance know what i mean. Definitely i listen to the under shit, i like listening to stuff people don’t know about, MF Doom or whatever.
As kind of like a final question, what’s your favourite album released, and what’s one that you can just listen to again and again and say wow i missed that?
Del La Soul Three Feet High and Rising. I put that shit in now and i’m like, oh damn i didn’t even pick that shit up, they said that? And plus they were so stylistic, you know they had so many styles on that album man. And there’s other albums and shit, Tribe Called Quest Instinctive Travels In The Paths of Nunchucks or whatever. [laughter] know what i’m sayin’. And there’s even newer shit. Yo, one of my favourite shit right now is Quasimoto. It’s got that jazz influence, and Madlib has everybody fooled right now because that’s just Madlib with his voice fucked up. I even did one of those songs for this new shit.
What’s you alter ego?
I want you guys to be the first to have this, [hands us a tape] this is a pre-release because this isn’t coming out for like another probably a month. I just had to make a ghetto cover right now, this is me and i got with Deceo again. Last week we just finished this, it’s Flowtorch, a new alias. That’s me, i’m Flowtorch, featuring Candy Bananas aka Ishkan. So he’s on just to add a little flavour, so you guys can share that, dub that, whatever.
Thanks a lot dude
That’s the only one i have you know.
Any plan’s on re-releasing any of the classic stuff like Apenuts?
Yeah yeah, ahh man. I want people out there to know you can get a hold of me through my new email, you guy’s now what that is, [email protected] I’m looking for people who are interested in doing a little investing in getting some of the old shits out, you know. I hooked up with No Distribution, they’re putting out a new album of mine, under Mammal Music, called Road Life. And that’s coming out January 15th worldwide. But i want to put out the old shit again, i’m completely down if anybody wants to work with me. It’s just i got so much other shit i got to do, and you know finances only go so far. And people stand to make some money from it themselves, so i’ll put that word out there right now.
I could go on, but i guess we should cut it.
yeah no doubt, were running out of tape. It’s been a pleasure.
So ya man, let’s do some business. I’m open, i’m not like a big head motherfucker you know what i mean. And that’s my word, Moka Only, Durable Mammal, Underground Enigma.