The Midwest is slowly showing it can hang with the coasts when it comes to making hip hop and making dope music is nothing new to the Chicago scene. But, Common is caught up in Badu-ism and Twista is getting the shaft at the ROC. So, it’s up to the underground to hold the city down. The Nacrobats appeared to be one of the most talented groups in the Windy City, but they have now disbanded as well. Through a few emails and phone calls I got the low down from Overflo, formerly of the Nacrobats, on the status of the Bats and we agreed to meet at Scribble Jam for some further conversation. The following is our conversation while admiring the graffiti and other sights Scribble Jam had to offer.
Blake G: How does it feel to be at Scribble, how many times you been?
Overflo: This is actually my third year here. The first year I came was in 2001. I always have a good time. It’s good to see people and build.
Sell your product?
Right! In form.
So tell us what you’re pushing today.
I just finished up this summer a CD called Unrap. It’s a collection of instrumentals and rap beats. I’m working on recording some new stuff with Psalm One, a record with Lord360, some 12 inches, a lot of nice things. We’re just trying to keep the music coming.
What about you personally, you’ve got the EP, now what is the next step?
Well, I did a beat for Diverse for his album which comes out this fall. Basically, I think he’s got a lot of talent and I really look forward to working on some more music with him. He’s going to be on this compilation I’m working on tentatively titled Albert Jenkins Goes Mad. It’s basically going to be a compilation with rappers, with rapper beats. Its pretty much going to be an upbeat album with some bangers that DJs can spin and I hope to also get some nice storytelling out of some guys. Also I’m working with Blueprint, Illogic and Brother Ali.
Brother Ali? Did you do a beat for his new EP coming out?
No, he’s going to be on the compilation and he’s going to be on Psalm One’s album as well. The 12 inch will be out this fall and it’s a song with him and Psalm over an ANT beat.
What’s your process when it comes to composing a beat?
For me, the beats start from the records, man. I really enjoy listening to records, going into record stores, and really just hearing music. When I hear good music it inspires me, you know what I’m saying. Music to me is letting people hear how I hear the world. What I hear I want other people to hear. Actually, a guy I know, Caural from Chocolate Industries, he said he kind of imagines using a record and making the beat as his imagination to picture what would happen next. So, I really just want to explain to people the shit that I’ve gone thru in my life. Let’em hear it. I really enjoy listening to jazz, rock n roll, classic rock, psych-rock, funk, soul music, modern shit, and rap that’s out now. Just to see what inspires me and going from that and making something into my own piece.
What are some of your standout inspirations?
I listen to a very wide variety of music; I’d say everyone from Jay Dee to Radiohead. Haha. I really like a lot of the stuff that is coming out these days. I like MF Doom a lot, Madlib, Galapagos4. I love the new Radiohead album, Massive Attack; I can’t wait for a new Portishead record. Zero 7, Quantic, Dabrye. Shit who else? Break Reform, Attica Blues, and Nirvana haha. I’m inspired by all types of shit and Lord 360 and Psalm definitely give me all types of inspiration. Thai-One, Memo?. I could go on for days. I love coming to a place like Scribble and seeing everybody has this music they want to just let people hear. That’s what I feel a lot, building with people on some music.
What are you thoughts on Common? Would you say he’s caught up in Badu-ism? Because for me, I’ve got Resurrection and that keeps me satisfied.
I think common is one of the greatest rappers of all time. I like every album he has released. I think he has grown as an individual and isn’t scared to let that illuminate his work.
Give me a view of what the scene is like in Chicago.
The Chicago scene is incredible. There are several stores that support independent rap. There are venues that will let you play. There is many outlets; a hundred colleges in the area, 9 million people. There are not a lot of huge acts from Chicago. The independent scene is awesome and I really feel that. The labels are putting in a lot of work and a lot of petty things in the past; people are really looking through those and really starting to build with each other and collaborate on some shit for the better cause to make a living out of it.
Is it competitive?
I’d say yes, due to the fact there is 6 independent labels with 10 releases or more. So there is some competition, but in the past year seeing people put things behind them like “ohh this record is not that style and that sound “or “that’s not some shit I would make.” But, realizing there is 9 million people there, we can all find people that will like our music, lets do that and do what is beneficial for all of us. It narrows down to people just being cool with each other, having a conversation and being professional. Which is cool.
I remember reading on your website of you possibly doing a soundtrack for a movie. What is the status on that?
Yeah, I was working on a soundtrack for this film called Blind. I didn’t get to do it, but some of the pieces will go towards my instrumental stuff. Not my rap stuff, but its something I really feel in the next year or two as it comes out people will enjoy it. It’s more soundtrack shit. Basically its mood music. My number one goal is to be original. It’s not the same old thing, its looking for people to have an open mind. A closed mind is a terrible thing. A mind is a terrible thing to waste; a closed mind is a terrible thing. Ok. I really want to open people’s minds and ears to what I’m doing. I’ve been trying to work with some films and skateboard videos. I’m actually working on a full-length DVD to go with my album.
What is the album called?
The album is called Down. There is going to be a prequel to it called Brown Skin Solo. It’s a reflection on African American life and Down is more of a down-tempo album with some really cool sounds and there is not going to be any vocal appearances on those albums.
Earlier you were talking with an old friend, you used to skate with. So do you get into the skating scene?
I haven’t, I used to roller blade up until I was about 14 or 15 and I started getting into chicks? I was a rollerblader. I wasn’t a competition rollerblader, but I rolled with some peeps that skated. When I moved to Chicago, I was in the city and didn’t really know a lot kids that skated, but I think that it’s the same shit. We feel their music; they feel ours; let’s break the walls. Over the past decade that has happened. I think skateboarding videos are very interesting.
Word, like I watch it and I recognize I can’t do that, but he can and they work hard to get where they can do that. You definitely see the musical barriers breaking as well. People write off that skaters all listen to punk, but then you see some guy skating to Wu-tang.
Right, Right, they hate rap as much as I do.
I say that a bit sarcastically, most of the skaters I grew up around were anti-hip hop, but now a days the cultures have overlapped exponentially.
How should we close this out?
Well, we can close it out like this man. The good things in life stay the same. Birthwrite is here to stay. We’re not only going to make rap music, we’re going to expand?..hahahaha.
You can stay updated on the Overflo and the rest of the Birthwrite family on birthwriterecords.com and make sure to check out the Nacrobats album while it is still available.