Publication: CBC Manitoba SCENE
Written By: Nadia Kidwai (Interview with Lyrical Militant)
ORIGINAL ARTICLE LINK: CLICK HERE
1) What inspired your album ‘Prelude to Revolution?”
This album, like all my music, was inspired by all the different things I see, think, experience and feel in my life. I wanted to make more than just a bunch of songs but try and go for a bigger concept. Prelude to Revolution is the first of 3 planned albums that will all be related in their theme (Prelude to Revolution, Revolution, Evolution). “Prelude” is about my take on the a lot of different aspects of life today. Sometimes it just feels as if everything in the world, literally everything, is at a tipping point – and the only solution is revolution. Not necessarily violent revolution, but serious change.
2) What kind of themes and issues do you deal with in your songs?
I touch on a lot of different themes. Hope, struggle, money and greed, sex, drugs, partying, religion, spirituality and personal change, terrorism – a lot of different things. All my music is very personal – it’s about what I feel and do. People (and even I) say I’m more of a conscious artist than not, but at the end of the day it’s just me getting my thoughts and feelings out so I don’t go crazy. And that might include something conscious, political or philosophical but it can just as easily be mainstream, “ignorant” and carefree.
3) What impact did 9/11 have on you personally, and as a hip hop artist?
Growing up I used to be a bad kid who was focused on really negative things. And even though I was always somewhat politically aware because of the things we’d talk about at home, I had different priorities. But 9/11 was almost a catalyst to a serious interest in geo-politics, social issues and what was going on all over the world. After a while I began to focus on that more and more and it just naturally crept into my music because I was more consumed with it than all the other BS I was focused on before. You could say 9/11 kind of influenced my direction in life, in terms of my education and musical career.
4) You don’t get too many Muslim rappers, especially in Manitoba- how does your identity as a Canadian Muslim inspire and speak to your music?
Firstly, I wouldn’t call myself a “Muslim rapper.” I consider myself a Muslim and I am a rapper, yes, but I talk about a lot of different things – and not all are compatible with either my identity as a Canadian or as a Muslim. Being a Pakistani Muslim born and raised in Canada is a struggle in itself so that no doubt speaks to my world view and the paradigms I live under. And because of that it influences what I say and how I say it in my music because it is everything that I am. There’s an internal struggle to a lot of my music – spiritual vs. material, secular vs. religious, good vs bad – because it’s all a part of my overall identity.
5) Have you faced any kind of challenges as a Muslim in the hip hop business?
I think most of the struggles that I face in the hip-hop business are the same struggles that everyone in this music game faces. It’s a tough grind. But I think some people, just on the surface, take me less seriously because I’m a Pakistani hip-hop artist. And being a Muslim, I think a lot of people have certain expectations of what all my music should be about. Sometimes other Muslims expect it to be all about religion and Islamic ideology, which is fine it’s own right, but that wouldn’t be me being real.
6) Some Muslims may find you a bit controversial: For instance some believe that music is frowned upon in Islam, even forbidden, there is swearing on your tracks, you’re launching it in a club, alcohol will be served etc.How do you reconcile your faith with the rap persona?
It’s funny, some Muslims would find me controversial but some non-Muslims would find me just as controversial. (I can’t make anyone happy.) I don’t have a rap persona or whatever you want to call it. My musical life is just an extension of my life as it is. A better question would be how do I reconcile my faith with my actual daily life. And the answer to that is sometimes I can’t. I struggle with temptation and things that are considered forbidden in Islam, but it’s because growing up, it’s all around you. And sometimes it’s HARD to “be strong.” I have so much respect for Muslims in this country who don’t succumb to the types of temptation I did and still do. There are some things in mainstream Canadian life that don’t fit in an what some would consider an “Islamic” way of life, and people everywhere struggle with that every day. But I am a believer in my faith, and I try to do the best I can. At the end of the day, God is my only judge, and He really knows me, my actions and words, and what’s in my heart and mind. As for the music in Islam part of the question, it’s, no doubt, something I’ve struggled with. But I personally believe music is a tool that reaches and affects people like nothing else can. And it is truly a passion of mine. So if it is forbidden, my whole life is just one big ball of “sinning.” And that’s something I just don’t believe. Music can be used for good and for bad, so to completely condemn it makes no sense to me, personally. It’s a tool, and like any tool (even a hammer) it can be used to either build or to destroy.
7) Has there been a time where you’ve had to compromise either your religious principles or your credibility as a hip hop artist?
It depends on how you look at it. Like I said earlier, I’m not the perfect Muslim – not even close. And even though hip-hop culture was a major influence in my life, so was Pakistani culture, and Canadian culture. Even corporate and academic cultures influenced me. Have I ever had to compromise who I am? I don’t think so. I mean I have to dress a certain way and bite my tongue at places like work, but is that compromising my principles or my credability? I don’t think so. Have I ever done things I’m not “supposed to do?” Absolutely. I still do. But that’s just being human.
8) What do you parents think about all this?!
My mother was actually the first and only one to truly support me following my dream when I was younger. My father was more of a battle, but he fully supports me now. He’s always willing to help me out in different ways and support the pursuit of a music career. He originally didn’t like it, but that’s more because, like most Pakistani parents, he insisted I go into science, engineering, medicine or law – the “safe” routes. But when he realized music was really my whole existence and what I was truly happy doing, he supported it. I don’t let him listen to all my music though! He wouldn’t like some of it. hahaha.
9) What do you want people to take away from your music?
I want people to enjoy my music on any level they can – whether its lyrically or musically or based on my content – whatever. If they don’t, that’s cool too. Not everything is for everybody. But whatever someone takes away from my music – whether it’s feeling like they’re not the only one struggling with conflicting ways of life, or thinking about a certain issue a different way than they had before, or even just enjoying some different Hip-Hop – it’s all good.
10) Tell me about why a portion of your album sales are going towards the Canadian Cancer society?
Like I mentioned before, my mother was the first person to support me fully with the whole music thing. And she was a HUGE influence in my life growing up. The album is being released to the public on January 20th, 2012. My mother actually passed away from Leukemia on January 20th four years ago. This whole project is dedicated to her because of who she was in my life. We were close. She really taught me a lot, always supported me, disciplined me when I needed and helped me to grow into the person I am today – even though she’s no longer here. I’ve still got a long way to go, but it’s what she left me that will help me get there. And again, she was all for me getting into music as a career and pursuing this dream. So I think it’s only right to donate a portion of album sales to the Cancer Society in her name. She never got to see me do any of this stuff, but it’s all thanks to her.