Feature ·

Part Two: Despite the hold ups, Music, Magic, Myth isn't compromised

Last Emperor

[Part 2 of 2]

Here is the second part of the interview with the Last Emperor...

 

Prefix Magazine:
What's the process you go through to come up with a song?

 

The Last Emperor:
It can come in a number of ways. Sometimes a producer can give me a track that when I hear music, when I get beats from guys, I automatically paint a visual picture of what's to be said and it just takes me a little while to write the script in my head. Or it could work the other way, where I have a concept and I write it out to the best of my ability and then I hunt for beats that I think will complement that. It can kind of work either way. Sometimes I'll be walking down the block and a line or two will come in my head, so I'm pretty flexible in that way. It can happen in a number of ways.

 

PM:
Do you ever think about how you can get your music out to more people? The Black Eyed Peas were sort of underground, but they just teamed up with Justin Timberlake. Is that something you would ever consider, teaming up with a pop star to get your music out there?

 

The Last Emperor:
No. I would never approach it thinking, If I work with this artist, this is what will take me to that next level or plateau. But what I do enjoy is the ability to collaborate with other artists, genres of music, if I respect their music. First of all I have to respect their music and to a certain degree enjoy their music and hopefully you (the collaborator) like and enjoy my music. If we collaborate and something good comes out of it, cool. But I don't think it should ever be a contrived issue: "Let's collaborate so we can get each other's audience." A lot of times that can backfire. The listeners are really intelligent and they can pick up when something's not genuine and done just to sell some units. So I just try to make it as organic and natural as possible and work with people I respect and at least somewhat familiar with and we complement each other.

 

PM:
Do you think rappers are giving enough back to the community?

 

The Last Emperor:
Some are. It's kind of hard to gauge, since obviously some artists aren't as vocal with what they do. So, it's always kind of hard to gauge. But I always feel there's room to do more. There are certainly enough millionaires that have benefited from hip-hop that our communities should at least have more community centers for recreation, whether it be for music or athletics, where young people can really divert from some of the negative stuff in the community. I always think there's more room, more things that can be done.

 

PM:
What's your favorite track on Music, Magic, Myth?

 

The Last Emperor:
I would say my personal favorite is maybe "Animalistics" 'cause I like to tell stories. The sound effects, the beat, it just all came together in the most cohesive way and that's my personal favorite. But probably the one that touches my heart and soul the most is "One Life," which I did with Poetic from the Gravediggaz, who is an individual I grew up admiring and listening to all the way back to the days of "God Made Me Funky" to his work with the Gravediggaz. Just his skill as an emcee and to have him on a song is phenomenal. And on top of that to have him talk about an issue that was very personal to him in dealing with his bout with cancer and how he dealt with that bout with cancer. This is one of his last recordings, so it's something that's personally stuck with me to this day. To have his involvement was a blessing. And also the involvement of the singer who's on the record, named Esthero out of Canada, who is someone I respected before I even met her as a vocalist. So that song is probably the one that touches me most.

 

[Ed. Note: Poetic died of colon cancer July 2001.]

 

PM:
Have you heard feedback from any of the people who were mentioned in "Secret Wars" I or II? [In "Secret Wars," Last Emp pits his favorite emcees against his favorite superheroes.]

 

The Last Emperor:
No, but there's been a few times when the artists have been there. When I performed "Secret Wars I" on the Lyricist Lounge tour people like KRS-1 and the Boot Camp were there. Earlier on I was a little apprehensive of how people would relate to the song, but I got a lot of love from it. I've developed a certain relationship with the Cocoa Brovaz and Heltah Skeltah from Boot Camp and all those dudes. They really appreciated the song. Anyone who actually listens to the song hears me explain that these individuals are my favorites. So, I think any artist that really listens to these songs realize it's really a tribute to them. So who's to say? We don't know how they'll react the first time they hear the song but I would hope that they'd realize it's a tribute to them and a tribute to hip-hop in general and they'd really like it. So far it's been good.

 

PM:
What do you want people to get out of Music, Magic, Myth?

 

The Last Emperor:
I want people to literally get the three components I put into this album: The Last Emperor music, magic, myth. I want them to obviously see that in terms of music, hip-hop music is the platform I use to express myself and display to the rest of the world who Last Emperor is the magic that comes with hip-hop, the magic that comes into hip-hop. I think there's a magical quality to hip-hop when I go to a concert and I see my favorite rappers really perform and give a good show. The way that they captivate an audience is quite like seeing Siegfried and Roy at a magic show or going to the circus, whether it be Ringling Brothers or Barnum & Bailey or Cirque de Soleil or Universal Circus, there's something very magical about seeing a good concert or listening to a classic album. There's a certain magic that's involved with that in terms of the relationship between the speaker and the listener.

 

And the myth, some of the myths surrounding who The Last Emperor is and all that he encompasses. Some of the myths we deal with in everyday society. I heard someone like George Lucas explain it best or Stan Lee: that some of their works, whether it be the Star Wars Trilogy or Marvel comics, the reason they appeal to mainstream America and popular culture so much is because they've kind of developed a venue for modern day mythology. Characters like Luke Skywalker or Obi Wan Kinobe and Darth Vader or, on the Marvel side of things, whether it be characters like X-Men or Captain America, the Hulk, they're like modern day mythology. So what I tried to do in my songs is also display my own level of modern age myth, not only in the songs I write, but just the mythology of who I am and the mythology surrounding the character I created.

 

PM:
Who's your favorite comic book character of all time?

 

The Last Emperor:
Without a doubt Spiderman. I've always been intrigued by Spiderman, the way that Stan Lee approached and developed these characters, again dealing somewhat with mythology based in or founded somewhat in a level of truth. As science progresses we learn more about gene splicing and the altering of genetic manipulation and some of the things of that nature. Some of the things that Stan Lee sort of dealt with in the '60s in terms of radioactivity and gamma rays and things of that nature, science is catching up to these things. Spiderman to me has become my favorite and culturally become an icon worldwide.

 

PM:
"Secret Wars" is a Marvel storyline. Do you read DC or the other comics outside of Marvel?

 

The Last Emperor:
[Laughs.] Yeah absolutely I read DC. Obviously Marvel was more influential in my upbringing then anything else. I think DC is a little older. A lot of those characters are older, but you know I'm down with DC as well. Obviously Superman, Batman, the whole Justice League was very influential on me growing up. I mean even the other comic book imprints, whether it be Dark Horse or Image. There's a lot of good stuff going on now. Dreamwave has been putting out a lot of dope stuff with Transformers now. So, there's a lot of other dope ones aside from Marvel out there.

 

PM:
I wanted to get your thoughts on some of the random things going on in the news ... What are your thoughts on Kobe Bryant?

 

The Last Emperor:
I think it's a scary situation. He's a public figure; he's someone who people worldwide can easily recognize. There's that classic saying: "With great power comes great responsibility," and with his position there's a great power that comes along with it and sort of like the frivolity that many people that aren't famous can use to our own advantage or discretion. He's not able to do that. It just brings to mind so many other social issues, from human sexuality to entertainment to legal matters on so many levels.

 

Only he, the young lady involved and the divine spirit or the creator are the only forces that really know what happened with that situation. But I just feel that it's unfortunate for someone with that much potential ... I mean no matter what happens and no matter how the verdict ends up, his career is going to be damaged for good, his status definitely will have more then a chink in its armor.

 

I just think it's so unfortunate. Entertainers, those of us not so well known to those like Kobe Bryant who are known worldwide, we have to be really careful in our actions and the company that we keep. And it's just an unfortunate situation all around for him, the young lady involved and for that town in Colorado. It's got to be a circus out there.

 

PM:
Iraq?

 

The Last Emperor:
I'm completely opposed to acts of intervention in Afghanistan as well as Iraq because when all is said and done they'll do more to heighten the terrorist threat in this country than to stop it and to hinder it. I think the U.S. has things that need to be corrected here internally before we go to someone else's country and say your system of government is incorrect and it needs to be changed, even if that very may be the situation. I feel the Saddam Hussein regime had lots of flaws to it. It certainly wasn't for democracy or treating people fairly. But I think we need to get our own thing straight before we go somewhere else. There's the potential for other countries to get involved and this intervention could escalate. We have North Korea that potentially could get involved. And again at the end of the day I think we have a lot of things to fix in the U.S. before we fix things in other places.

 

PM:
You got the NBA wristbands on. Who's your team? The 76ers?

 

The Last Emperor:
Absolutely. Through and through.

 

PM:
How far will they go this year?

 

The Last Emperor:
Well, we got the Big Dog, Glen Robinson. So there's a lot of potential and they've done exceptionally well in the past several seasons. I just think that there needs to be more cohesiveness between the players and the coaching staff. I'm kind of sad to see Larry Brown go because I really felt ... Obviously the team is based around Allen Iverson. That's just the fact of the matter and I think that it seemed that he and coach Larry Brown had came to some sort of synthesis in their relationship. Now Larry Brown has gone to Detroit. But I think they can get to the Eastern Conference finals and maybe even to the NBA finals again. But the Lakers have been dominant and even more dominant since they acquired more great players. It's going to be tough but I think the Sixers could have a really good year.

 

PM:
What's the best place to get a cheese steak in Philly?

 

The Last Emperor:
The best places are not the "gourmet places." You have to go to some of the roughest neighborhoods. Even some of the outsides of many of these stores and these greasy food joints don't look so good on the outside, but when you go inside the real stores in the hood are the places where you can get the best cheese steaks, not downtown and South Street. Obviously there are places like Pat's Steaks and Jim's Steaks that will give you good quality gourmet cheese steaks, but to really get that real Philly flavor you have to go to the hole-in-the-wall spots that you can find at the corner of any inner-city neighborhood.

 

The Last Emperor - Part One: Despite the hold ups, <i>Music, Magic, Myth</i> isn't compromised The Hives Stomping out new sounds, but they still don't play funk
Tags
The Last Emperor

Find us on Facebook

Latest Comments

    Recommended