And yes, yes ya’ll and ya don’t stop…to the beat ya’ll! Well hello my good people, it’s Ms. HipHopUDontStop comin’ at ya once again with another installment to your weekly dose of our #MixedMonday series. Now I know last week we had to withdrawal you guys from that dope flava we provide you, but it is only because this week we have a special surprise. Womazing was blessed with the opportunity to vibe with none other than Jamla Records very own Actual Proof! We will rap it up with Sundown first, then later in the interview Enigma will join in. Oh, and for those sleeping under rock, Actual Proof is a dope Hip Hop group consisting of Sundown & Enigma. Not to mention they happen to roll with the one & only Jamla squad, which was created by Grammy award winning producer 9th Wonder. So without any further delay I would like you to tune into Behind The Beat of Black Boy Radio.
The musical story all starts with Sundown attending Ohio State out of High School, which at that point he had no interest in making music. But he noticed the different musical taste between him and his peers, and since it was a different style he felt he had to experience it on his own or in a small setting. So the more he dove into the venture of listening to different genres, the more it started affecting him personally. After getting caught up too deep in the whirlwind we call “college”, he returned back home and brought his new style of music with him. He came to find out that his friend by the name of @AMPMusic, who happens to be a member of the Soul Council, had a similar interest involving their appreciation for different styles of music which led to them building a musical bond. One afternoon, they received a phone call from a friend asking if they wanted to try out some beat making software. From there, well you know how the story goes. As Sundown put it “one day of having fun with it turned into going back more, and going back more, which led to days of not leaving til 6 am”. Even if they had work early in the morning, it didn’t phase them. After some time passed, they decided to build on their music, try new software, and as they got more comfortable with it they decided to truly put work into their new found passion for the sound of music making. For those that are familiar with 9th Wonder (former member of Little brother, alongside Phonte), then you know that he is from North Carolina, and he reps it proudly. So Sundown & AMP thought to themselves, well if 9th can make it, who is to say that they can’t? You don’t need fancy equipment and you don’t need to be from a big city to make it. So, that was all they needed to hear in order for them to continue to be about it and in due time, hopefully get recognized for their sound.
Sundown admits that it was hard at first because when you want to take the time to really practice your craft, if often means distancing yourself so you can focus. For those that have ever had a passion driven goal in mind, you may relate to the fact that we may get into our “zone”. We all know that this “zone” causes us to go hours on end trying to obtain whatever that goal. Well for artists, they spend what seems like forever in a day, trying to perfect their own timeless sound. So if you’re an artist I’m sure you can relate to the fact that sometimes – your homies just DON’T understand. As Sundown puts it, “It’s not a knock to them, and don’t take it as discouraging”. Him and AMP continued to ignore it and kept moving because they had their mind set on making moves happen, so they weren’t going to let anything get in the way of that.
Now although Sundown holds his own on the beats, he can also spit a few lyrics to his own beat as well. Despite the fact that production came way before his lyrical skills, don’t think that he sounds like a rookie on he mic. The story behind how he started dabbing in both artistry’s, all starts with the introduction of Enigma (who will jump into the interview in due time).
As the story goes, Enigma enrolled in 9th Wonders class at North Carolina Central, and the very first day of class 9th asked “Does anybody want to go see the office?” Of course 90% of the people were like “man whatever, I’m trying to get out here and be seen” and didn’t pay much mind to the remark. Much to their surprise “the office” ended up being a studio. So 9th ends up listening to a song in the studio, that amazingly enough had an open verse on it. Enigma worked up the courage to ask 9th if he could jump on the beat. After some thought, 9th gave him the green light, but warned him that if the other 2 artists or himself didn’t vibe with it – he was going to be pulled out of the booth. Although it was rightfully noted, Enigma took a chance – and he did it in one take. Soon after Sundown and AMP got the phone call to drop everything, drive to Durham, and bring their best beat tapes. When they arrived 9th wasn’t there, but it didn’t phase them so they hit they studio anyway and started messing with some beats. In the crowd stood members of Cooley High, M-1 Platoon, and a couple other emcees. After some time was spent vibing to the beats, the emcees in the room started freestyling and soon after 9th Wonder himself walked in the room. As him and AMP stood in the corner, they thought to themselves “Please don’t say these are wack”. So once 9th asked whose beats they were, they owned up to it and sat there in silence as they heard him say “skip this one, run that one, run it over, ok go back to #4…and just sitting there picking out what he liked”. It was at that point that 9th Wonder told them to “keep coming back” – so they did. If there was free time on their hands, it was spent in the studio which led to them becoming regulars.
One day 9th Wonder had a meeting in L.A., and soon graced them with a call explaining a label situation (which we all now know as Jamla Records) and he wanted to sign them. *Cue jaw drop*. You know those moments where you remember exactly where you were and what you were doing when it happened? This was one of those times. Sundown says that he remembers making beats in the crib with AMP and just standing in shock, and handing the phone to him so he could cut the disbelief. He even admits that it took him a good hour to compose himself. I mean, after receiving that news? Shiiiiiiiiii, i’d be shedding thug tears yo.
Despite the fact that the group originally started with AMP on the roster, he would soon have to leave due to Soul Council. So here we are today with Enigma & Sundown which represent Actual Proof in its most present form. At the start of their journey as a group, it started with Sundown on the beats and Enigma on the lyrical tip. Enigma soon expressed that he did not want to carry an album on him own. Not that capability was a factor, but he didn’t necessarily want to. Since they came onto this this venture together, they figured might as well follow through together in all aspects. So Sundown took up the art of rapping, “not even knowing what I was getting myself into” as he puts it.
Now although I can recite and appreciate lyrics for days, I can never imagine becoming a rapper. Let alone teaching myself how to rap. Word up to those who can though, including Sundown who did just that. He sat in deep thought as he tries to explain how he taught himself to rap, but no words came out. He said,
“I don’t know how I taught myself to rap…it just kind of happened. And no, not in terms of I woke up one day and ‘POOF! I’m a good rapper’ because I still believe I have a lot to learn and improve on. But everyday I set my mind to it and a part of the reason I learned how to rap is due to Enigma. If I’m going to be rapping alongside him, I got to bring something.”
Just like those embarrassing baby photos we don’t want anybody to see, Sundown prays that nobody hears the first tracks that capture his beginning days in the rap game. He says has a hard time trying to stomach hearing himself now, so hearing stuff from back then is a feeling he isn’t trying to revisit because he knows how bad it was. But nowadays he can’t do much but laugh and grow from it. He says, “Despite how bad at rapping I was, I stuck to it cause I cared. I cared about music that much. I cared about the group that much. I cared about our friendship that much. I figured – why not?”
Sundown expressed that him and Enigmas relationship goes deeper than music, they actually grew up together. Same thing goes for AMP. For those that don’t know, Enigma and Amp are brothers in real life. POW! Now you know. “There is a natural chemistry there because we have inside jokes, life experiences, and being in this group just makes sense. Luckily, it worked out for us”. They were literally brothers from other mothers, and they all had that deep connection that rooted back to family. He says that it was that “family bond” that pushed him to keeping rapping and giving his all to the group. Aside from his own success, he is beyond ecstatic to see his best friends grow as well and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“If I didn’t get to be involved with music with my best friends, I would’ve never gotten this far.”
As cliche as it sounds, Sundown can’t seem to find words to express how he feels about the crew other than “we’re really like a family.” Although he can be on another label, have more fans, or be more recognized – he is happy where he is at. “This is where I should be, this is where I want to be, this where I need to be…it just feels right” he says in reference to Jamla. Since being on this journey with Jamla he says,
“It’s inspiring to be surrounded by a mass amount of talent. But not around a bunch of ungrateful talent. Everybody works hard, everybody supports each other, and everyone wants to see the other succeed. Just being around a group of positive people that all have that right mindset…I wish everybody could experience what we experience on a daily basis.”
Aside from him Jamla family, he spoke highly on none other than the windy city emcee himself – Add 2 The MC! Aside from recognizing that the man can spit a mean verse, the first association that come to mind is that the man Add 2 is an all around good dude. “As great as he is a rapper, I think he is an even better person.” I couldn’t have said it better myself, word to the humble one man duo!
As I showed my appreciation for Black Boy Radio: Extended Airplay (which if you have not purchased, you’re seriously slipping) I was soon graced with a surprise with a conference call to the other half of Actual Proof – Mr. Enigma himself. And POW! this is where it “gets real” as Sundown puts it. First off let me start by saying that Enigma and Sundown are two humble, genuine people themselves. Even though it was an interview, I felt like I was just choppin’ it up with 2 of the homies. As they describe it, “we’re 2 regular kids who act like we’re 13. The majority of the time we act like we have no sense at all AND we just happen to make rap songs.” Despite the fact that they view themselves as just 2 regular kids, they take a high value in the respect that their fans show. “We hope to inspire the next Actual Proof” says Enigma “so that’s what why we do it. To hear that our music helped people get through school, exams and life curve balls is really awesome, and more so humbling.”
In music, it goes without saying that 9th is one of the biggest influences to them personally, Sundown says without him, he wouldn’t of even imagined that being from NC and making music for the world to hear was actually possible. Along with some other big names, he payed homage to Dilla, Premier and RZA. He laughs as he sits there and tells me that he was trying not to say a cliche answer as to who his influences are. So I ask him – what influenced you as a kid? He laughs even more as he admits that he actually didn’t even like music as a child. The reason being that his sister used to let out some notes as a shorty, and in his opinion – she couldn’t sing. So thanks to her not so harmonious tunes, he really resented music for wanting to make her sing all the damn time. But as soon as hit college and got to experience it on his own, that is when he fell in love with it.
“BUSH! I really love Bush”. No not that kind, get your mind out of the gutter. Sundown was referring to the band. As far as unconventional sounds go, he really appreciates the music of bands like Bush, Dave Matthews Band, and that different sound. “A lot of the kids I went to High School with influenced me musically, because they really opened up my ears to a variety of music that I wasn’t exposed to. Not that I didn’t care for it, but I wasn’t familiar.” Whether it was a personal intro or the CD happened to playing in his friends car, Sundown was able to enjoy and embrace the sound of The Beatles, Nirvana or stuff your parents probably grew up to. Sundown believes that
“If you only listen to one genre, it’s just weird.”
Why is it that we can’t fully embrace the other cultures and genres that influence our own culture that we call Hip Hop? Sundown says that his different appreciation has made him more conscious of lyrics and how he puts words together because he doesn’t want to sound like everybody else. Although he doesn’t make a constant effort to sound different, him being around a different environment growing up has definitely aided him into standing on his own in a sense. As for Enigma, aside from the ones that Sundown already named, he added Blu & Exile and Elzhi to the roster.
Their chemistry is undeniable, but as well as they flow together they are completely opposite when it comes to a musical approach. Since the both rap, I had to ask – Do you write the lyrics first? Or listen to the beat first? Enigma replied first by saying “I write specifically to the beat, and grab from that. I listen to how the beat is structured, I feel how I want to write on it, and then I just fill in the words. Whenever it take me, it takes me.” As for Sundown, he says “The beat doesn’t take me, I follow it.” They believe that their different takes on creative flow is what makes them work, because what one does, the other can’t do. So in turn they end up complimenting each other real well.
Now besides spending the rest of this interview telling you how their story came to be, lets shed some light on the story they’re trying to tell now. Their story now comes in the form of an album which many of us know as “Black Boy Radio”. The way that Black Boy Radio started was like any other, it started off as an idea. The idea all started with the goal to make the best sounding record that they can, and the concept would soon come. It grew to be one that was inspired by the question – how are we going to tie all this good music together? The concept is what makes the album, so of course as an artist you want to do what has never been done. Well one day in the studio, Enigma explains that 9th came up with a concept that included a little boy growing up in the 50′s and 60′s listening to his radio.
“What Black Boy Radio hopes to accomplish is to help show the importance of radio, for a young person growing up in that era. There was no TV, there was no internet, and it’s suppose to spotlight when people first fell in love with music.”
As a fan myself, I can personally say that this album does just that. Makes me reminisce on the good days, when the radio used to bump that dope flava all day. For this, my respect and appreciation for this group is undeniable.
As for the future, aside from promoting their newly released album ‘Black Boy Radio’, they’re really focusing on getting shows and promoting the album all year round. The already got the support of Jamla on their squad, but as far as building with other artists Actual Proof would love to work with some greats in the game including ?uest Love, Blackstar, Clipse (if it ever happens), Camp Lo, Common, and of course Phonte. But as far as new heads go, they would love to link up with Kendrick Lamar (again), Laws, and the man Add 2. They even revealed that they have a project that we will rightfully name “pandoras box”. Despite the fact that they can’t release details, just know that it is going to be BIG!
From the ladies over here at Womazing, we want to thank the Sundown and Enigma for taking time to talk about their story as well as Black Boy Radio. We can’t wait to see what ya’ll have in store for the year! A wise man once said, “Hip Hop is the perfect verse over a tight beat.” Thank you for covering both those aspects. Much love.