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Wise Intelligent
The New Intellect
Censorship blocks us from getting the things we need. So, we should be seeking alternatives to get those things. The reality is that the Hip-Hop community is being deprived of freedom to choose.
Wise Intelligent: The New Intellect         by Kennita Hickman
Music is culture, not a means to earn money...

At first glance, Wise Intelligent comes off as any other independent east coast MC. He's equipped with enough swagger to fill Madison Square Garden and enough venom regarding major labels that you'd swear he was personally screwed over corporate America… twice. Even the title to his latest release The Talented Timothy Taylor is the type of arrogance you'd associate with an artist especially hell-bent on separating himself from the manufactured mainstream rappers.

But, look again. Look past the album cover which shows him upon the handlebars of a lowrider bicycle. Look beyond his history as the front man for the 5% Hip-Hop group Poor Righteous Teachers. Look past your thoughts of Hip-Hop's co-option by the mainstream music industry, and you'll find that Wise Intelligent has a lil' somethin' extra to offer.

Depth. Substance. And, a message.

A message which has been a running theme in the Newark, NJ-born MC's lyrics since PRT dropped "Rock This Funky Joint" in 1990. Much has changed in the industry since then, and much has remained the same. Recently GLmag was able to speak with Wise Intelligent about the state of the industry, why it's now considered smart to be dumb, and music's role in preserving culture…

Let's talk first about the album, The Talented Timothy Taylor. First thing I think of is "The Talented Mr. Ripley" with Matt Damon. Are there any parallels between the Talented Timothy Taylor and "The Talented Mr. Ripley"?

No, not really. I'm way more talented than Mr. Ripley.

[laughs] But was there a conceptual idea to liken the album to the movie? What made you come up with this title?

The title came from my observations on how the industry was choosing the hottest MC, to marketing dollars now determining the hottest MC. I wanted to bring it back to that era when talent was worth something. So, in searching for a title that would encompass that frame of mind, that's how I came up with the title.

Now, Timothy Taylor also happens to be your government name, yes?

Yes it is.

I'm curious as how 'Wise Intelligent' became your stage moniker.

Actually, Wise Intelligent is more than a stage moniker. It's actually the name my brother gave me. I've had the name since I was 14 years old.

Let's talk about the actual music industry today. A lot of people are saying it's watered down and there doesn't seem to be substance in Hip-Hop. If you had to pick some artists who you felt like represent the true essence of a lyricist, who would those artists be?

From an industry aspect, I'd say Kanye West, Lil' Wayne… Jay-Z. Those are just mainstream artists that I'm talking about. I think lyrically they represent what Hip-Hop has always been. So, realizing the idea of a balance…. There's always been gangsta rap and all that. Most artists represent a certain idea of what Hip-Hop is. When the Poor Righteous Teachers went out on the road, we were out there with Ice Cube and Too Short. So, that just shows you the diversity that existed in Hip-Hop on every level. So the MC's that represent that idea are definitely Jay-Z, Lil' Wayne and Kanye.

You mentioned balance but you didn't really define what it's missing. So, based on today's Hip-Hop. What type of other types of Hip-Hop do you think corporate America is ignoring?

Mostly politically relevant messages. We're comfortable with the status quo. They're 'anti' those messages. They pretty much censor any messages that are socially relevant. And, that's the problem with the major corporations and marketing teams. It's almost like there's a concerted effort to keep certain ideas out of the public. And, that's what's wrong with Hip-Hop right now. In the past, you always had MC's that didn't say much. You always had the party and bullshit music.

But on the same palette, you had the artists who talked about "Fighting the Power," MC's that said, "You Must Learn" and were in heavy rotation with the Clear Channel stations. So, there was a balance. You don't have that MC that's willing to challenge the inadequate education in the public school system. Censorship blocks us from getting the things we need. So, we should be seeking alternatives to get those things. The reality is that the Hip-Hop community is being deprived of freedom to choose.

In talking about the lack of balance, I've noticed that the divide between mainstream artists and indie artists is a lot thicker. As independent artist, is there a part of you that would like to be on a mainstream label?

No, it's not that I want to be on a mainstream label. My desire is to be able to reach the people that need to hear my message. I don't want to be on a major label. I want to replace the major label.

I see...

It's like, would I want to be in cahoots with the oppressor? I'm not one to be in cahoots with the oppressor or be like the oppressor, I want to replace the oppressor. Would I want to go in the slave master's house and eat at his table and wear nice clothes? No. I would rather kill the slave trader and properly free the slaves and take over the house. That's my thinking. I don't want to be in cahoots with exploitation in any kind of way. I'd rather replace it.

And, that's what I think the problem is with the major labels. I would want to replace the major labels only in the way that it controls black art. I think the black community suffers so much when the control of the music is not in our hands. When it's alien to our community, the art becomes a force that doesn't drive a positive lifestyle and attitude like it used to. Our music has always been used to propagate ideas in our communities. Now, it's like it's just for dancing. As a people, aliens came in and destroyed our music… Chopped it up and spit it back out to us in a destructive way.

We need more control over our music. The way majors are running our culture says Hip-Hop is only good for making money, which is an absolute lie and slap in the face to every thing we've ever done musically in our entire history. Music is used to preserve culture. And, what we've started doing as a culture is thinking that if we dumb down our lyrics, we can double our dollars. We're thinking that if we actually write the stuff we really want to write that the majors won't sign us. We're thinking it's smart to be dumb.

While we're on the subject of propagating ideas, let's discuss the ideas you propagate on your latest album. What's different on this album as opposed to the first solo album?

I opened up on this album. I gave the audience a chance to see what makes me tick. What was the road that I took to become "Wise Intelligent". It's really my trip back to what got me here. Growing up how I grew up, those who are fans of mine… look at me and think "How can we credit him with being good if we don't know if he's been bad?" So, this album is me going back into my past and showing you the steps that brought me to being a Poor Righteous Teacher or Wise Intelligent. It's a very personal album for me. There are songs like "Passing of the Time" where I deal with the passing of my mother. And that separates it from the solo album as well as the work with The Poor Righteous Teachers.

Going back into your past, what was the one song that you heard that made you want to be an MC?

Melle Mel "The Message, because it spoke to me. He said things that I was feeling but couldn't articulate. I was Melle Mel and Melle Mel was me. That was my life. That song internalized those lyrics because they were already in me, pretty much. So, when he put that record out… it spoke to us. It was broken English, it was conscious… it explained a condition. That record meant so much to me at that time. It made me say, "Yo, I'm about to say something".

So what would your message to young black America be? What's your message to those with access to your music?

My message is it's no longer smart to be dumb, first and foremost. Meaning it's no longer smart to say things like "Race don't matter." It's not smart to be dumb.


Wise Intellirgent's latest release, The Talented Timothy Taylor, is available now through Shaman Work Recordings

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