MR GRAY Interview w/ IMAGIIN360 of HEADNOKKA FAM for BATTLEROYAL ENTERTAINMENT
It would be easy for an artist to follow the formula used by commercial radio, and come out of the lab with an album that would be lost in a sea of overused content about materialism and strippers. If you want mindless lyrics and simple hooks that won’t provoke thought, The CITIZEN PROPHET LP may not be for you. IMAGIIN360 aka EL PRESEDENTE of HEADNOKKA FAM has made an album that HIP HOP “purist” will appreciate.
From the first Track “WHAT’S LIFE” IMAGIIN360 talks about and asks the question about the purpose of our existence. Track 2 “MIND OF WRATH” featuring BOBBY TREACHEROUS, immediately gets the point across with the use of vocal samples from MARTIN LUTHER KING JR and MALCOM X. Track after track you hear very introspective rhymes and stories that make you want to hit rewind and learn every word that was written. “CUT MY LIFE” featuring ROOK DA RUKUS, is probably one of the more amped up tracks with lyrics like “I try and stay focused….but the whole world is Bogus” is something I know most people can relate to. CITIZEN PROPHET shows its diversity by not just having features from DOPE MC’S like fellow HEADNOKKA member SOLO350, but also from incredible vocalist like FemSoul ON “RIDE wit NO BRAKES” and JNelle on “ALL WAS LOST”.
The production from start to finish is all on point. Even though multiple producers were used, there never seemed to be an awkward change in the tone of the album. WesBlizy, Zombee Boy, and Brixton Bang are just a few of the producers and beat makers that put in work on this album. Head knocking beats (no pun intended) help drive home any message that is being conveyed by IMAGIIN360.
I was able to speak to IMAGIIN360 a few days before the HEADNOKKA performance at 2nd AZ1 AWARDS.
MR. GRAY: Thanks for taking time to talk to BATTLEROYAL ENTERTAINMENT. Before we get started I’m sure HEADNOKKA FAM fans would like to know, how is SOLO350?
IMAGIIN360: He’s doing MUCH better. It’s still a long road to full recovery, but he has the tenacity and strength to climb out of this journey stronger and more prepared. We’re all looking forward to “the comeback” performance of course. J
MR.GRAY: I have to say Congrats on the Album; I’ve got it in rotation on my mp3 playlist. Was there a certain direction you wanted to go with it while putting it together?
IMAGIIN360: Thank you! That’s always good for an artist to hear and we always appreciate those who express it. I wouldn’t say I had a specific direction, but the overall idea of Citizen Prophet was to really focus in on key points of my life from being a single father in 2005 to now where I’m back on my feet. It’s been a journey and I tried to capture the ups and downs of that journey into one album.
MR.GRAY: You’re in a part of the country where the dominant genre of music is either Trap music or Radio friendly HIP HOP. Has that influenced your writing or creative process at all?
IMAGIIN360: Somewhat. I really just do what I want when it comes to music; so not a lot of decisions themselves are influenced; but being around other types of music, getting to know those artists, and watching different types of performances does tend to “flavor the juice” so to speak. I think EVERY genre and subgenre has great strengths to it, so sometimes I might pull something I like into my music.
MR.GRAY: I’ve heard you refer to your type of music as REAL LIFE RAP. Can you explain that?
IMAGIIN360: It’s exactly how it sounds (intentionally). I have heard a lot of people call my music conscious, but sometimes I’m not so positive. Sometimes life is not cherries and wine; so in an effort to define what we do as a team, we chose the term “Real Life Rap” because it’s pretty much what we do. We document our journey through our music, good and bad. No filters and no fluff… just REAL LIFE over beats.
MR.GRAY: I was actually going through some personal issues at the time I listened to the album the first time and certain songs really had me relating to them. Do you think you relate to a more mature HIP HOP audience?
IMAGIIN360: Great! That was my goal! I wanted people to listen to it and identify with it in times of trial and victory alike. While an older crowd may be able to identify easily with my music, it wasn’t just them I was aiming for. Honestly, we ALL, young and old, have these experiences at some point in life, so I really believe the music has the ability to survive OVER time and relate to a GROWING audience as opposed to an already grown one. Sometimes the younger crowd gets lost in the subject matter; but I’ve also experienced those who went through an experience later and then began identifying with my music, and that’s always a rewarding discussion. Sometimes I think we underestimate the younger audience, and I prefer to think of them as EQUALS despite what my fellow “elitists” would prefer.
MR. GRAY: One of my favorite tracks is “CUT MY LIFE” with ROOK DA RUKUS. You seemed like a real laid back easy going person and ROOK is a high energy person most of the time. What was that experience like working on that song?
IMAGIIN360: Honestly, it’s a topic me and him both went through together, so there’s an untold story behind that track we both took into the booth with us and unloaded with. Additionally, we both are Hip Hop Culture at heart, and we both have gone through our own share of trials within this community of artists.
Musically speaking, it was a good contrast for me and his energy is exactly what the track needed. He’s always been one of my favorite artists out here because he’s so off the wall with his style and presentation. Personally, I think he was one of the best features on the album.
MR. GRAY: You have features from J’nelle and Fem Soul, these 2 ladies can sing their you know whats off. Did you feel a need to change up your flow or lyrics on those songs because you had 2 soulful voices on them?
IMAGIIN360: Hmmmmm….. (pause)… yes and no. Like most features I do, I try to just be me 100% and I prefer the featured artist be themselves 100%. I don’t think any collaboration works without that. Each artist MUST stand on their own within the track. The “switch up” of any flow really happens at the musical level. If the production is mellow and melodic, the delivery has to either flow with it or contrast it well enough to compliment the song. This is how I pretty much think through tracks like these.
And, yes, they BOTH can sing (no auto-tune necessary), so having these two talented ladies on my album was an honor for me. They made me look good and the tracks were both good offsets in the flow of the album to me.
MR. GRAY: You filmed the video for PASS BY while you were at A3C in ATLANTA. How was your A3C experience? What did you take away from it?
IMAGIIN360: Yes, we did. It was very impromptu and I was very happy with it. The whole A3C experience was an eye opener for me really. It helped me realize I was thinking about things the right way; and I just needed to trust my business instincts and enjoy my musical outlet a little more in the meantime. So many people claim to know the business and claim to know people who can help you get to this proverbial “top” that everyone falls off of a few years later. I’ve never really been interested in the top so much as I’ve kept my focus on LONGEVITY. A3C solidified that thought process for me.
MR.GRAY: HEADNOKKA FAM is nominated for best group at 2nd ANNUAL AZ1 AWARDS? How does it feel to get nominated as well as perform?
IMAGIIN360: I think any artist who says they don’t care about recognition would be lying to themselves. It feels good to be recognized, especially by those closest to home. Though I’m not a huge proponent for AWARD SHOWS, I like the fact that we get to perform there. I think I’m more excited about the performance to be honest. The location is classy, the event was planned well and the team at Az1 has kept a good communication line with all of us involved, so it’s been a good experience so far.
MR GRAY: I’ll say straight up, I’m letting it be known that HEADNOKKA FAM has my vote. Congrats on the nominations. I can’t wait for the performance. I want to thank you for taking time to speak to me and BATTLEROYAL ENTERTAINMENT. Are there any shout outs or acknowledgements you want to make? Floor is yours.
IMAGIIN360: Thank you sir! I’ll try this without writing a book. My thanks go to my creator; my family who has stood by me, even when they barely see me some weeks; and my team who has been through not only music, but EVERYDAY LIFE and the challenges that come with it.
To all those who support my music and anyone I stand with, I APPRECIATE YOU ALL. To those promoters, management companies and other business outlets who do business with honor and integrity because YOUR positive commitment to maintaining that level of professionalism is what helps us all build a stronger network.
And lastly, thank you to Mr. Gray and BATTLEROYAL ENTERTAINMENT for the insightful questions on this interview. Sincerely, #elPresidente