On Making The Album, Fostering Love

Just wrapping up another beautiful week in the studio with The Oneness Project, recording my first full length album, “Rites Of Passage”. It’s coming along smoothly. And its opening my eyes to a lot of new things. I’m really appreciating the journey that is taking place, and all the hard work that is being put in from every musician, and the love that is being fostered all along the way.

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PC: Yasmina Mattison

For me, this isn’t an ordinary project. In writing this music, I had to look deep inside myself, and relive a lot of experiences in my own life: pain, love, and everything in between.

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PC: Yasmina Mattison

This isn’t my first time in the studio recording music, or my first time composing original work. But it is the first time where I’m seeing the vision I fully intended taking shape in ways I never dreamed of, and where I’ve had to stop, and say to myself “we are truly onto something beautiful.”

 

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PC: Yasmina Mattison

But what’s more special is when you can find a group of musicians who can help bring that vision to life. The sound reflects a level of love and selflessness from everyone involved in the project. I’m grateful to everyone who was able to get behind on such a message that we are trying to spread with this album, and I can’t wait to share it with you all.

Stay tuned.

 

Making Meaningful Music: Inspiration Behind The Oneness Project

I don’t where to begin, but I guess I have to start somewhere. I remember 2 years ago being unsatisfied with music. I was playing with bands, writing music, touring, but it was missing something. I had been playing music for a long time. It’s always held a special place in my heart, and that’s why I was feeling empty. When you know how powerful music can be, when you’ve had the ability to touch people’s hearts in certain ways, even just once, when you fall short of that, no matter how “good” the music may sound, it just can’t feel right.

The Oneness Project is a response to that. I began writing the music a little over a year ago. These songs are dear to me, they represent spiritual growth, overcoming real hardships, and finding love in all things.  It is an understanding that your soul can’t be full, and your music will never reach the highest level, until all aspects of yourself, and your art, are ONE.

It was one year ago when we recorded the first and only video, and it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Since then, it’s only received great responses. it’s reminded me the power of music, and what purpose it should serve, and who. Now, a year later, I’m realizing I need to finish what I started, and do an entire album.

It’s a huge an undertaking, and I can’t do it alone. I’ve a started a GoFundMe Campaign, and I’m reaching out to all of you–my friends, my family, to people I’ve never met but who have continually supported me over the years–to help make this a reality, to donate, share, and spread the word to the people they know, and even the people they don’t. Here is the link. 

The goal is to raise $1,000, it seems like a lot, but making an album isn’t easy, and that goal will only help with some of the costs, the rest I will carry on my back.

Here’s what the funds will go towards:

1. Studio Time – Studio time is not cheap, especially when you want to make something that does not feel rushed.

2. Musicians – All of the musicians involved are amazingly talented, and deserve to paid their worth. From rehearsals, traveling across the region, and the actual recording, they will be dedicating a lot of time to this project. I want to make sure it is not in vain.

3. Distribution – Purchasing CDs, artwork, and shipping are all critical to getting the music you.

4. Most importantly: Through meeting this goal, I will be able to give away this music for FREE! I don’t believe in selling music, and I want this music to be accessible to everyone. You all can help with that.

Thank you to everyone who has helped, encouraged, and supported me this far. It’s meant a lot, and you all are the reason I am doing this.

Here’s to making good music!

-Mtali Shaka Banda

The Grammy’s Gentrified Hip Hop

images (5)That night when Macklemore won 4 Grammy’s and Kendrick came out empty-handed. This is why I stopped taking awards shows seriously. It stopped being about talent a long time ago, and last night it reached new lows when they straight dissed “good kid, m.A.A.d city.” Hip Hop just got gentrified.

Once in  a decade–and I mean that–an artist will come along and transform an entire art form. Today, that artist is Kendrick Lamar. He embodies all the things we look for in a hip hop artists: flow, consciousness, genius conceptions, and a gangster complex. Even before “good kid, m.A.A.d city” dropped, I was pushing the K. Dot bandwagon hard. So hard, in fact, by the time the legendary album did come out, most of my friends didn’t want to hear what I had to say, because they already knew the extent to which my man crush could carry in a conversation.

A lot of people want to compare him to the second coming of Nas, and “good kid” to the “Illmatic.” It’s not a bad comparison, and I think it fits. There is a lot weight behind that album, and so many layers that speak to me when I listen to it. The themes of being black, living in a cesspool of violence, and the unpredictable violence that follows is a heavy pill to swallow when you actually listen to it. So often we hear artists acknowledging where they come from, but how they conquered it. Kendrick doesn’t take that route. Rather, he shows that he is, in fact, a good kid in a mad city.

The fact that we would witness a rapper like K. Dot, who represents everything you could ask for in an artist, get dissed that badly proves there is always an agenda behind awards shows like the Grammy’s. And this year it was validating white hip hop–if that’s even a safe word to call it.

 

Kendrick Lamar’s Shock Therapy

k dotI’m sure we all heard about our boy Kendrick Lamar dropping one of the hottest verses of the year on Big Sean’s track, “Control.” I’m vibing with this track for so many reasons: the tasteful sample, the diverse approaches from all three emcees, as well as the buzz that was created over K. Dot’s words–in less than a wee–from the hip hop universe are all reasons to get  your blood pumping over this joint. It’s a special thing to witness a rapper name-drop so many other emcees, self-proclaim himself as the king of a city he isn’t even from, and the response isn’t hate, but rather other driven emcees simply answering his call to arms in friendly competition–but competition nonetheless.

It’s a common occurrence for people to divide themselves into two camps for hip hop: Old School and New School.  For as long as I can remember, the “old school” fans of hip hop always loved to reminisce on the “Golden Age of Hip Hop”, when rappers could do no wrong and the only thing that mattered was the integrity and quality of the music; as opposed to now, when most of the hip hop that receives publicity is mediocre at best, and revolves more around profit than actual content. These opinions are justifiable, there are a lot of mediocre emcees out there dropping a lot of trash that’s getting undeserved attention, but it’s not like this is anything new. We have a tendency to over romanticize the past and pretend like old school hip hop was this ratchet-free zone where every emcee was immune to imperfections. The reality, however, was that mediocrity existed then as much as it does now, it’s just that hip hop has become so large, reaching so many spaces around the world, that it’s impossible to not notice how much sub-par content currently exists.

That’s what makes Kendrick’s verse so amazing: he’s reminding us that hip hop ain’t dead, because many of its inhabitants are still reaching for greatness, determined to be all they can be, while at the same time bringing others along for the ride. The music may keep changing forms, but it is as alive now as it was before, it’s just we sometimes forget what to keep our ears open to. The one word that comes to  mind when I think of the music that has been released these last few years is “ambition.” So much innovation, creativity, and originality is coming  from this new generation of artists, and Kendrick Lamar reminded us that this is the new norm. You listen to “good kid, m.A.A.d city,” and you can sense the dedication that was put into such a masterful work. The same goes for so many other artists attempting to test their limits, as well as what our own ears are willing to handle.

So for me, K. Dot’s verse isn’t anything revolutionary, because it’s what I’ve grown to expect from him and so many other emcees who have been attempting to push the bar to another level: a determination for excellence, and nothing less than.