Look at this picture and tell me straight up you don’t think that’s funny. It is so! That this is the way you and I get to meet Drazah Backwards…well – that’s awesome in my books. And for an artist like himself, having been through what he’s been through – he knows full well that some people will be on the inside of this joke and others will be easily spotted their perception of what’s happening in that photo. Let’s face it – if a picture can say a thousand words – this one might have gone on to write a story!
I appreciate the real heart behind the fun and games of what Drazah creates. There’s no denying he’s having a great time – you can hear that in the music and definitely read that in this interview. A genuine guy to talk to and an observational character. Definitely hoping that we hear from him again some day!
That is…as long as he’s not flicking that in OUR direction!
Interview with Drazah Backwards
SBS: First impressions right off the bat Drazah – I have got to mention the picture you sent me! There are a lot of things I dig about this picture from the Flash logos to Super Mario hanging out around your neck to the overall style and fun nature of the picture itself. I mean – this was the FIRST look I got at you and you chose to send this! Who wouldn’t have a good chuckle pulling this file open for the first time right? I could offer insight all day long as to why someone would send this as the first element of visual representation, but I think it’s best we hear it from you my friend – what makes this picture the number one choice to send?
Drazah: First and foremost, it’s a picture of me which is always a good start. [laughs] I chose this picture because it allows me to choose the viewer’s prejudice. People judge you because of the way you look, dress, walk, etc. Before people get a chance to play the guessing game, it’s nice to be able to dispell all the pre conceptions that come from being a 6’2 black guy with a rugged beard and broad shoulders.
SBS: I also examine things as closely as I can. Now – in this picture – I see two other things I want to comment on before we start talking music here… I’m thinking there could only be two options for the explanation of the physical location of your index finger in this photo.
You are in direct “mid-flick” of the ultimate booger.
You were horribly appalled at the idea of this promo shot and only put the minimum amount of finger in there.
I like to believe in option #1 for the record. But one has to wonder when you look at just how little of your finger is in there…I mean…we’ve all seen people KNUCKLE DEEP in there right? So I think that leads us to the obvious question that would come from this scenario – Drazah Backwards – are you an artist who truly commits to your work?
Drazah: You would be correct. Pictures very rarely show the commitment. It’s only until you realize that we had no napkins at the shoot so the “goo” had to go somewhere. But to answer your question, I am very committed to my art!
SBS: Your Facebook tagline is “Fresher Than A Urinal Cake!” I think I’ve been trying to form a question around this since I saw that line – it’s only fair that you know you got my wheels turning on that one, and another good laugh out of me! My first thought was, “Well…good!” – cause you know…props for that my friend! But obviously by now I can also understand that the sense of humor runs deep through all aspects of your work – so let’s ask you something to get a real good overall sense of who you are! Presumably this positive, upbeat and comical way of viewing life has come from somewhere – so what would you say has contributed to the way you view life?
Drazah: I can’t take all the credit for that one. The line comes from a conversation that another musician by the name of Illdot Logic and me had back in like 2006ish. In all honestly I don’t remember who said it or the context it was used it just kind of floated in the back of my mind until I found a place where it fit. Since we’re being fair I want to let you know that you’ve inspired me. I’ve decided that whenever I do an interview, my goal is to get the interviewer’s “wheels turning.” At that point I’ll consider it a success. So thank you. Ultimately, I feel like if you can help it then why not be happy. Why not be someone you can enjoy being and be proud to be.
SBS: How about when it comes to your art? The rhymes are on point and the beats are both unique and correct. So it can’t always be one big joke despite lyrics or metaphorical content – there’s WORK going in to this as well, clearly. Take me from one extreme to the other – my first impression was the comical aspect – but how serious does it get over there when it comes time to make these tracks come to life?
Drazah: There’s a saying that goes something like “our sweetest songs come from our saddest thoughts.” I personally have found that to be true. However, to be honest things can get really goofy while recording but that’s all done on bought time. In my case it’s sometimes a part of the creative process. At the end of the day, I’m all about quality. If an office worker can get all his work done correctly and fly paper airplanes why stop him? If that keeps him from going postal, hating, or even quitting a job he does well at then why? Because it’s not the norm? My level of seriousness is not reflected in the qualities that reflect another person’s level of seriousness. So my answer is it gets very serious in ways that can’t be comprehended from a second hand post.
SBS: Each and every day on Earth walls are torn down socially and then put up again politically in a never-ending battle for cultural balance. I can recall a track from ICE-T’s rap-metal band Body Count called “Freedom of Speech” which goes into a scenario where he was told to change his then deemed “controversial” lyrics if he wanted to play his show in Columbus Georgia. That’s a heavy ask in my opinion – and they didn’t so much ask as tell him. They had already arrested Bobby Brown and LL Cool J for similar “outbursts.” Has that time passed on? Tell it to us straight Drazah – in this day and age of the internet – can we really say what we want? Does true freedom of speech exist?
Drazah: There’s a Black Star chorus that says “not free we’re only licensed.’ I’m not sure if they were the first to say it but that bar stuck with me from the moment I heard it. In my mind there was never a time for that. The difference is there was a time that revolution was cool. Just like there was a time order out of chaos was the IT thing for kings and would be usurpers to do. If someone has to give you a freedom then is it really a freedom? Movies and even cartoons depict a future where obedience is the IT thing to do. We just happen to live in an age where maintained order is the big thing to do. So it all depends on what you define as a freedom. On a side note It’s crazy Body Count is still around! That’s like late 80’s early 90’s two decades!
SBS: You mention in the bio at the official hazardbackwards.com site that you’re an artist who is redefining the “very definition” of the genre. Brother – I’m sure you can appreciate that doing this interview thang we have heard this countless times! Convince us all; how are you accomplishing this?
Drazah: The bio was written by someone else so that was more of someone looking in.. but in a word, boundaries. It’s all about your understanding of them. They’re like rules in the sense that you can break em or you can bend em. I attempt to bend boundaries and blur lines. I don’t do this because my goal is to create a new genre or become a forefather of some musical uprising. It’s just where I’m most at peace. For example the beats that are often most appealing to me are things other artist have completely passed over and not because they don’t like it per say. It’s just not something they can see themselves on.
SBS: We’ve got the mix-tape “Ketchup” and the upcoming “A-1 Dopesauce” – what up with the condiments homie?
Drazah: It’s funny that you brought those two up. I want to give you the full deep meaning behind them but in this case there isn’t one and these are the only two titles that don’t.
SBS: They say that of all MC’s, studio-wise, Jay-Z is known for going in and spitting it out flawlessly take after take after take. But in fairness – I don’t know that he’s ever written a track like you wrote with “I Wanna Give You.” By that I mean hilarious from front to back. He’s surely written tracks that have parts to make you laugh, but I don’t know about something that’s as funny as this from beginning to end! So tell me about yourself in the studio my friend – is it even possible to get through the recording of a track like this without making yourself laugh?
Drazah: Well first off, thanks for the complement kind sir. When I record these songs I’ve worked out most of the goofs and giggles that can’t be controlled while working. The crazy part of these recording sessions are the looks of the parties that didn’t know what was about to be recorded in their presence. That and the ad lib tracks. On Illdot Logic’s QWERTY mixtape, we had a song we code named ‘Crazay Brain’ which was all about sexual favors to the sounds of honky tonk samples and a slew of animal noises that we did as ad libs. We laughed more at the audio engineer’s reactions to what he was hearing then ourselves. That joy of making the song is what I wanted people to experience when hearing the song and the same can be said for “I Wanna Give You. ” I have to do this so excuse me, produced by Lord Northstar a.k.a. Al Slapya for Run The Gauntlet productions.
SBS: Alright brother…like I said…I do as much research as I can and I try to notice EVERYTHING I can see and find that stands out. I found one here that is JUMPING off the page at me dude. On your reverb nation page – I’m seeing now that you have management currently – Trane Nixon. What I’m ALSO seeing are the brackets to follow that, which read “(contract will soon be up).” Now – to me this is the indication of something gone sour – cause you could have just put up plain old Trane Nixon and left it at that – but you’ve clearly chosen to mention the upcoming ending of this relationship. Give us some insight into this experience with management for you – was it positive or negative overall?
Drazah: Nothing sour. He’s decided to take on a new career and has joined the U.S. military, A very admirable path. He’s still been really supportive and he’s kind of sitting as acting more so than active manager until someone new approaches me with a better offer than the last sucker who wanted 40%. That guy was sour, he was a stranger and he tried to hustle me – a triple whammy.
SBS: Once that relationship ends – what’s the next step? Will you be looking for new representation or will you be joining in the worldwide revolution of independent artists who believe they can do this without this industry in this day and age? We believe the industry to be the unnecessary middleman in the artistic pursuit – but can you get to the level of success you’re personally looking for without going through a major industry label?
Drazah: I’m currently hoping for something. I have a few things in the works as far as management goes nothing official to report at the moment though. I definitely do not need a major deal to achieve what I believe to be success.
SBS: One of my absolute best friends Andrea comes from your city and state in Jacksonville Florida – so as far as I’m concerned…me and Florida? We’re friends. What’s your relationship with the city itself? How much support is there right where you’re living – are there lots of opportunities locally to have your music played or get the live exposure you need?
Drazah: Beautiful! Jacksonville considers you the homie now! I love my city! The local scene is not as powerful as it is in some cities I’ve seen but it’s certainly a melting pot of talent and knowledge. I think we could always use more support from the city. The scene is growing though and support is becoming more abundant than ever. When I first hit the local scene there were like five places that I could see live performances, and that’s not just my genre. Now there are countless spots that show me and colleagues love. There’s a DJ here by the name of Triclops who has done countless things for indies. He’s even worked his way up to owning multiple bars and clubs and making them available to us. I actually just performed at The First Coast Music Festival which combined a different genres in 4 venues within a two block radius downtown and they’re promising a high rate of growth and talent with the next festival this winter. So it goes to show the maturing of the local scene is still ongoing.
SBS: I have an incredible need to avoid complacency. The idea of settling into anything remotely “comfortable” to me nearly suggests creative stagnation. So believe me Drizzy when I say that I have complete respect for the fact that you made time on your page to say that you promise “to keep stepping out of your comfort zone” and expand your horizons. HUGE respect for that man – tell me why this is such an important element of you and your music? What happens in life when you step outside of that “comfort zone?”
Drazah: The honest answer is, I get made fun of. Then a bit later I get props when it’s irrelevant and unexpected I don’t really get it myself but it validates my music while pumping me up to be myself. I could make a song about Subject A people will make fun of me then months later I’ll perform Subject B and someone will be publicly telling everyone about how original and dope Subject A was. I’m always dumbfounded when that happens but hey whatever it’s positive energy.
SBS: How “comfortable” do you ever find yourself at any point musically Drazah? How intense does the creative process become? I kinda envision you as one of those people that when it’s time to make an album there is NOTHING else going on in the world – and if people need to find you, they can find you at the studio – with the doors locked, cause it’s time to make an album! At the very least I’m picturing someone that is absolutely absorbed into the work, the process and the material – because again, I think you can hear that through the music. You’ve clearly taken your time with it – so give us all an idea – how much time and how is it spent when creating your mix-tapes?
Drazah: It’s dependent upon variables. I don’t have a specific creative process or any order that I get everything done or planned each time. There are times when chorus and topics come like nothing and that’s all I can get then days when all I can do is verses. Some days it’s just ideas. Sometimes I just say this would be a good title and build the whole project around that. On days I can’t do any of that I just read. Google things like how to release a single, how to build your fanbase, how to effectively gig, things like that or whatever I think may be relevant to my career in the near future. It just depends on the day.
SBS: Like many interviews we’ve done lately – I got this to you late. The spike in interest and requests we’re taking has led us to a massive time shrinkage over here where I could personally swear that these 24 hour days have somehow become only 12 hours long. Time seems to just disappear doesn’t it? You’ve always gotta be on the boards promoting something, tweeting something or posting something to maintain a relevance in today’s world – and we all know it can be exhausting to keep up to. But we all do it because we love it – and you do too I’m sure. Still – tell us about that struggle to get the word out as an independent artist because I truly feel there’s not too many people that can understand what it’s like and the work that it takes on your side to get that ball rolling.
Drazah: Actually, you gave me a window and today is last day of the window so technically you’re right on time. [laughs] I’m completely against promoting all the time. I’d rather people like and enjoy me than just know I exist and ignore me. So for me the personal struggle is finding that fine line between negligence and spamming. I’ve read about promoting effectively through social media but with my current schedule, I can’t post at the times when it’s best to post. I’ve posted while in the E.R. on my music page from my mobile and reached almost the totality of my active fans on facebook in 5 hours or while when I post a midnight post I’ll wake up and see only see a couple of hundred people have seen the post in seven or eight hours. I’m still maturing in that area.
SBS: At this point, with multiple mix-tapes and more recordings on the way – you’ve gone through that spike in popularity and seen the effect of people gradually turning on to your work. Now that you have that credibility and a large fan-base – how do you keep those intact over time? As an artist making something that initially comes from within yourself – is there a responsibility to your group of fans to keep it at a certain level or is the music making process more individualistic than that?
Drazah: I do try to keep my fans in mind, keep them happy, speak to and for them; especially the ones who reach out whether online or in-person. I still feel like I’m maturing in this aspect as well because for a long time I only had the support of “frans” (friends who are your only fans.) I now try to make music enjoyable which surprisingly isn’t the first thing that came to mind when I chose this career choice. [laughs] This wasn’t even something that was apparent to me until I had the chance to be on an opener set for Watsky and Dumbfounded earlier this year when a kid asked if I would sign the inside of his Iphone case. That really stuck with me because I personally didn’t expect to make any new fans between how last minute everything was and the lack a time to prepare a real show in addition to the fact the stage had a lot of equipment which prevented me from engaging in my jumping and running on the stage which left me feeling like I gave a lack luster performance. They loved it but I did everything I could to get a show at that same venue A.S.A.P. to redeem it and I think I did just that.
SBS: Even through humor – actually sometimes especially through humor – I believe we can learn something great. I also believe that a lot of artists, through their need to create and communicate – are really just “teachers in disguise” more or less. That need to express is always born from something you know? So tell me Drazah – what’s going on there? If your musical body of work was all put out with an overall theme or intention to tell the world something – what would you say that is? What are the core values of your music?
Drazah: I just want to encourage people to experience life. I personally want to always have fun. I know that’s unrealistic to some but hey, my goals are my goals.
SBS: I fully admit to not knowing a ton about the world of mix-tapes. I’m quite simply a never-ending music fan – a true fan of sound itself. I do know the question of who influences you in the world of mix-tape is nearly irrelevant; those samples tend to come from everywhere and from all time periods. But fill me in – who are the giants in the genre? You know – the best of the best?
Drazah: Wiz Khalifa is who I’d say is the one. There’s alot of people out there who do great things with that medium though old and new. From Curren$y to Lil Wayne to Cassidy, I think they all revolutionized the whole mixtape genre in the 2000-2009 period. Even today, people like Kendrick Lamar, Starlito, and even Ludacris are using the medium to make different impacts and all are using it effectively.
SBS: I like that you included some in-studio footage in your posted videos. That’s also huge to me. I know I asked about a different track earlier – but this look at you recording “Hot Mom” was awesome to watch! Really gives you that feel for where you’re at – that’s a tight flow busted out perfectly. I wanna talk about lyrics for a second though. I know when I first started out singing – I was TERRIFIED. Zero confidence; that’s simply not how we started as a band – we evolved into that element. At first I wrote a series of songs about Your Mom (Not yours specifically Drizzy – the universal “Mom”) and other joke-filled songs to simply get me out of being uncomfortable at the mic. It wasn’t until I got my confidence up that I was able to get serious about it and believe in what I do. You’ve clearly got the confidence – and songs like “Bad Bad Man” I think are showing that possible growing “more serious” side of Drazah Backwards… Sorry – I’m clearly rambling here brother – I guess what I’m asking is, does any of that make sense to you or were you lucky enough to simply be born confident at the mic?
Drazah: I don’t think I would call it confidence. I think I’ve spent a large part of my early career ignorant of just how terrible I was so that when I was able to improve it, I was already comfortable recording. It’s like kids who suck at something at age 6 but if you meet them at 16 you would think they were born a pianist or a pro skater. Same thing. My second stage performance was well planned but awkwardly executed and what’s worse, I have it on DVD to this day but I’m a bit of a rambler myself as you may have noticed through this interview. So my answer would be, lucky enough to not be self-aware until it’s too late.
SBS: Also – I incredibly respect and appreciate just how much you include your fans in your page statements, how you’re thinking about what they want out of music as well and what they might want to see on screen. But another thing I respect perhaps above a great many other traits is that of loyalty – and I think you show that is generous amounts. Loyalty to your music and style. Loyalty to your fans. Loyalty that runs so deep that on your homepage you have a dedicated section to “Carmen.” Tell us “the real” on Carmen – what made her such a standout character that she became your most trusted advisor and personal assistant? What characteristics does a person like that possess? Cause I’m thinking this person has GOT to be incredible!
Drazah: Loyalty. That’s what makes her what she is. She believes in me, she works hard, and she’ll slap the fire out of the fire out of my mouth if it’s what’s truly good for me but those qualities can be found elsewhere. The loyalty that she has though is a rarity in today’s day and age. I would say she’s incredible but she’ll use that to win all of our arguments from here until forever so I can’t bring myself to give her that fire power. She is my PA but part of her job does include keeping me on a straight line so I can’t make it too easy for her. She works from behind the scenes and most people aren’t actually sure she exists because she refuses to be in pictures or needlessly make herself known. Which shows a little more about her core, not wanting the spotlight or anything like that because she LOVES taking pictures. She just called me to make sure I wasn’t slacking. She’s good.
SBS: Rap can a lot of times be accurately accused of being all about the image…the brand etc. Visual representation through videos on the internet can be posted in multiple ways now though – you can do lyric videos, or flash-animations, and of course there’s still the traditional methods of concept videos – but the choice and the option to physically be in these is always present. How important is it for you to have your personal image tied to your musical creations?
Drazah: It is and it isn’t. I want people to know and respect that it’s me. However, I’ve been looking for years for a good animator or at least half decent animator as I have ideas that actually require lackluster animations so if you know anyone who does that or who make nice lyric videos please point me in their direction after the interview. Essentially, as I told you before the interview it’s an art not a science so I do believe there is ground to be covered that is best explored absent my image.
SBS: I should ask one more question about that original picture…I’m a comic book guy myself somewhat…all about Batman and Green Lantern for the most part…you’re obviously all about The Flash – so go ahead and nerd-out with me for a second here – what is it about that character that you like and identify with?
Drazah: I won’t lie to you. Trane is the super comic nerd. I read comics but I can’t say I’m a nerd in that aspect. I’m closer to an otaku or a gamer. I even made plans to make working smaller scale tesla coils and sell them at one point of time. Comic books aren’t where I’m found. Now throw a me a classic kung fu flick, a cosplay, a good song, a great anime, or an epic video game (not COD epic, more like Final Fantasy 13-2 ending cinematic cut scene epic) and watch me convulse in multiple nerdgasms.
SBS: Alright homie – I feel brutal about being so late with your interview! Shout out EVERY known link that you want to for people to find your videos and music and ALL that good Drazah Backwards stuff!
Drazah: Check the official http://www.hazardbackwards.com
SBS: My friend – I want to thank you so much for your patience in waiting for this to get to you and not rushing my art. That was perhaps my favorite piece of correspondence from you, when you let me know to more or less chill and that it was in fact about the “art.” I like to think that’s what my words and our collective interviews become…if only in my head. So thank you for that, and for doing this interview with SBS. We have a traditional “open floor” – or the “open m.i.c.” in your case. In any event – if there’s anything we didn’t cover that you wanted to include, or shout anyone out – here’s your opportunity to say anything you like or mention anything we missed. Thank you again Drazah!
Drazah: Well I want everyone to know, put God first! To him be the glory and praise! Thanks to the parentals for the daily lectures that I’m going to get til I’m 50. Shout out to the losers and lamos who support me. Yal are all coolies in my book. What up Illdot! Big up my mentor Tough Junkie and my PA Carmen. I want to give congrats to my round Beezie who just signed to UAA Music. Make sure you keep an eye out for my new EP “Purple Ameobas” on iTunes late July early August this year! Thanks for having me brother.