Interview: Spose — "This is a real independent underground hip hop album on a major label…"
Mon, 03 May 2010 14:59:40
Regardless of what people might think, Maine is actually the perfect place for unique hip hop.
Think about it…
The state is a bit secluded and strange. However, it's only an hour from Boston. There's a massive wooded area as well as mountains and beaches galore so there's no shortage of inspiration. Stephen King also calls it home and who's more prolific and creative than he is? Plus, you're not bothered by the same distractions that plague most "urban" artists in "urban areas". How many drive-bys and drug-deals-gone bad are going to happen in a state with such a huge moose population? Not many…
With that said, Wells Maine-native Spose has crafted his own brand of hip hop that's as groundbreaking as it is gargantuanly funny.
Spose fires off hilarious self-deprecating rhymes that are as punchy as they are poetic. He rips our Facebook obsession with a smile on debut single, "I'm Awesome," and he paints vivid lyrical pictures with each and every verse of his debut album The Audacity!. The songs bare an organic rock 'n' roll flava with live instrumentation and a genuine fire. Think Jay-Z meets Weezer and you've got Spose. He's Maine's Slim Shady, that's for sure…
Spose sat down with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino for an exclusive interview about The Audacity!, being timelessly funny in rap, why he steers clear of politics in music and so much more…
Even though you're rapping about a lot of current phenomena, there's still a timeless quality in the sense of humor that will allow it to hold up years from now.
You're right in a way. I think it'll translate in a few years even though a lot of the references are current. It's not so much about the in-the-moment references, because who knows if Twitter is going to be around in four years? Even if the content doesn't relate to what's happening ten years from now, it still captures a moment in time perfectly.
Did this perception just come organically in the studio or did you set out to make a record that completely broke from the hip hop norm?
I think it's a healthy mix of both. It absolutely comes naturally to me because I think one of my main skills outside of rapping—even if you're just talking to me and we're making jokes—is my awareness of what's relevant and irrelevant in pop culture and out of pop culture. I know there's no use making a reference to some political scandal that's going on right now because in three years no one's going to give a shit. I have an awareness of what's worth referencing and how to get the most out of a reference. I think that's one of my main skills as far as what my content is. I've know that for about eight years now as an MC that's what I want to do. It pretty much comes naturally to me, but it's intentional. It's not like I'm not consciously aware of it.
What's the story behind "I'm Awesome?" It sounds like there's something deeper there.
Thank you! As far as where the song came from, I've always had self-deprecating lyrics because I don't take myself that seriously. I've played hundreds of live shows and I know on stage that type of stuff gets a nice response. I knew that before "I'm Awesome." When I went to write it, I stuck to my skill of self-deprecation and tried to stay on the topic for the whole record. I came up with that hook in like five seconds and, from there, I just filled out the verses around it. I produced the beat to intentionally be corny as fuck [Laughs]. Your compliment and observation that there's something deeper is absolutely accurate. To hear someone say that is the greatest thing I can get out of this record because it is social commentary. It's about how reliant we are on this shit. I'm poking fun at stuff people find to be so fucking important, and it really isn't in the grand scheme of things. It's minutia—Twitter, Facebook, obsession with celebrity and not really taking any time to live your own life. Shit like that is the underlying message of the record but, on the surface, it's just hilarious.
It shows that hip hop can be smart without getting overly political or message-conscious.
Exactly! Here's my whole shtick as an MC. I want my shit to be entertaining the first time you hear it, so you're like, "Awe sweet!" Maybe, there's something you latch on to and you pick out a line. But, I want you to be 40 or 50 listens in and still pick something out. The rhymes are kind of dense. If I'm saying something political or this or that, I never want to be preachy. I think political hip hop, as great as it was for Public Enemy, really misses its mark 99 percent of the time. Even your best underground MCs totally miss their mark with these half-assed pleas to feed the hungry and watch out the illuminati and this shit [Laughs]. I don't feel like it's that effective. It's not something I would waste my time on really. If you have a lot of opinions, I feel like there's a time and place for it and it's not in hip hop that's supposed to be enjoyable. At least I'll let someone else say it [Laughs].
Do you feel like your songs come together more like rock songs?
Absolutely! I play guitar. I play keyboards and I produce as much of my stuff as I can. I do come from that rock background and I do love those records. We were sitting in a room where they had a gold plaque for Jay-Z's Reasonable Doubt. I was wildin' out because that's like my favorite album! At the same time, I saw a plaque for the Radiohead album Kid A. That's another one of my favorite albums! I feel if I can approach hip hop with a rock background, the songs come together organically and there's more to them than just a fucking loop and some rhymes. At the same time, if you break it down, it's just beats and rhymes. I really want to satisfy both sides of my musical interest in that respect. I feel like I have a license to go all over the place with the record and show everything I'm capable of. I'm really excited to broaden people's scopes. It'll be nice to expand the spectrum of what people think. I just want to give people music that they can enjoy and have fun with that they've never heard before. I released an independent album in 2007 called Preposterously Dank, and I'm looking at The Audacity! as my follow-up. It's my second album, and I made the record I wanted to make. It's a real independent underground hip hop album on a major label.
If you were to compare The Audacity! to a movie, what would you compare it to?
That's a great question! As far as the music being visual, in my rhymes, I would always use a proper noun as opposed to something vague. That might sound kind of nerdy [Laughs]. Instead of saying, "Drugs," if I can reference a specific drug I'll do that. If I can say a specific person instead of "She," I will so I can paint a picture even further in someone's mind. The better image you can give them of what you're going for, it's less convoluted and it's less up to them to decide what you're talking about. I'm really specific on purpose. I don't know if I could compare the record to a movie but hopefully it's just the story of my life. It's an autobiography that's all over the place. It covers the beginning until now. It's hopefully just "Spose — The Audacity: The Movie!"
It's surprising more rap doesn't come out of Maine.
Maine is such a great incubator for hip hop because when you go to a hip hop show, for instance in Boston, there are a lot of people mean-mugging with attitude. They're not really open to new shit. In Maine, if you get up on stage and you rock it, you're going to get respect to the point where you have an opportunity to get better and better and excel. The environment is more open to people experimenting and trying new shit. It's a real supportive scene. Regardless of where you're from, as long as you're honest in your rhymes you deserve to be heard. Maine is peaceful. If you walk out of your house at 10:30 at night, you can't hear a single thing. There's a lot of mystery. It's a great place to go on vacation and a great place to go hide a body [Laughs].
Being up there, you could totally do a concept record next.
As soon as I get the room to make a concept record, I'm right there! I'm describing life in the best details I can.