Long time no hear, here’s a new interview with Gang Starr Foundation member Afu-Ra:
Before we get into the good stuff I just want to sincerely thank you for showing us love and rocking this interview with Lyrically Fit. How was the name Afu-Ra born exactly?
Afu-Ra is an old name. It’s Egyptian. I chose the name from the Egyptian ‘Book of Dead’. At a time when I sought direction in my life because of its meaning in ‘Body of the Life Force’ I saw it very clearly it was me at 17/18 years old. This name brought me to a natural presence with uplifting spirit
Coming onto the scene initially who were some of your biggest inspirations that may have drove you to create music? Any specifics you care to name for us?
Back then in the early 90′s – from growing up around true masters. I was around a great mc who had a style never witnessed by the masses. I got inspiration and knowledge on how to rhyme with quality and un-mimicable style, then I started hanging with Jeru who again has showed me the same but a different essence of Hip-Hop. Before that I’ve known and loved Run-DMC, Lord Shafique, Rakim, Special Ed, and X Clan. So when my own homies were doing it as ill on a street level I began to craft my own style by just being a freestyler, until Jeru made his first album I only had 1 written rhyme. “Mental Stamina” was my second.
In 1994 you were featured on Jeru The Damaja’s “Mental Stamina” off ‘The Sun Rises On the East’ – than again on his “Physical Stamina” not long after on his ‘Wrath of the Math’ lp. What was the chemistry like early on with Jeru and how did you two link to rock these records together?
Jeru and I are from ENY Brooklyn. We were homies before deals or Gangstarr, so when Jeru met Guru (who introduced him to Dj Premier) it was just two homies chillin’. That’s how we had that connection. Before that I was with Jeru when he was making his first rhymes and I was absorbing from my older friend who was (and is) my brother so to speak.
What is one of your most memorable moments in life as far as music is concerned and why? Any standout/highlight moments that come to mind?
Stand out moments? My first time doing “Mental Stamina” on stage. Fat Joe had a thing at the infamous Club Fever in the BX and Jeru had a show. I was Jeru’s hype man. Lady of Rage was there too. I was SO nervous but I played it off and killed it. That became my signature; be nonchalant then kill it – never let them see you coming. I learned that technique from watching kung fu movies. If a real master is in the room you will never know until he is forced to reveal his secret techniques.
2000 was a big year for your fans, with your classic debut ‘Body of the Life Force’ in which I personally still keep in rotation. Amazing debut. Though you had a buzz prior; what kind of responses were you getting after this release?
I received very good responses. At that time – one of the top mc’s on wax in terms of styles and product, thanks to DND. But I didn’t see the richness of it. I was like many others – a piece of paper in the wind. I would have to say it is only because of many mistakes and through growth that I can expose this to the world. Still in all it was a great time, great album and all the experience that goes along with it.
If you could work with one artist dead or alive who would it be, and why?
I would love to work with Big Pun or Bob Marley. Those two artist I have always dreamed to work with.
Do you mind talking a little bit about the importance of martial arts to you, and that whole culture? How do you feel those facets play a role in your music career?
Martial arts and the philosophy behind it – the fusion of the mind body and spirit together to use your physical capabilities to your benefit is the over structure of martial arts. The training and knowledge of different art forms structure everything in my life. This effect one will know only if they’ve studied or deeply admired martial arts. As you know my lyrics are a combination of many styles just like martial arts. To draw all or draw from all your knowledge and/or instincts at any given time with or without thought. I believe I developed from training consistently with a martial form and so on. However, the brain is like a computer so once in tune with ones self-anyone can do wonders. The studying and practice of taekwondo, tai boxing and trying to learn about martial arts in my times may have the direct conditioning of my person as I previously described.
Dj Premier is one of many renowned producers you’ve dropped jewels with. What was the chemistry like on your earlier records with Preem as far as the studio and overall connection? I would imagine natural considering the quality level of jewels you’ve dropped with him.
Precisely the connection with me and Dj Premier was just very natural in those days. It was a family thing. Premier definitely coached me when I was in the booth. “harder..stronger..more this..more that” – I was an untamed artist and rapping next to recording your vocals are different. He gave me this knowledge through the work we did.
What do you think about the current state of Hip-Hop? Is Afu-Ra listening to any newer cats these days?
When it comes to Hip-Hop the state isn’t the same. It has been even worse the last almost 10 years or so. Certain companies have a monopoly in the radio. Also retail and marketing areas of the music industry that control the minds tastes – likes and dislikes of the masses (this is a global conditioning). However, let us not get the industry confused with the realness! HIP -HOP is still the beats and rhymes, and the love and inspiration fashioned through the art form.
Keeping the topic on the present-day, what is Afu-Ra currently working on? Should fans be expecting any new material from you in terms of music, or any other cool stuff you have going on? (shows, lp’s, collaborations etc.)
Thanks for the time and energy in this interview. Please look out for the new singles and album this fall. Secret collaborations you will love! Afu-Ra takes it back to the street, back to the boom-bap, back to the lyrics and more. Keep it locked on my Facebook (see below). Many people in society these days are suffering from depression that need unconventional help. I’m reaching out to people to get in touch with me if they need an ear to talk to or a mouth to listen to. That is something I’ve been focused on as well. Be on the lookout for the Worldwind Squad. More info coming real soon!