James McCall, professionally known as NoCanDo, battled his way through the ranks of LA's legendary Project Blowed and can be seeing battlin' it up all over YouTube both before and after his 2007 Scribble Jam victory (click link to see him take the trophy!).
Now living in Oakland but still making the weekly trip back to LA to be the in house MC for Wednesday nights at Low End Theory (L.E.T.) and more focused on writing songs, LAHHE finally caught up with Mr. Do before his show at The Roxy this Saturday with Signal Path and DJ Blockhead (who coincidentally produced the full length album of Scribble Jam's 2004 champ, Mac Lethal).
LAHHE: You released Jimmy the Lock about 9 months ago so how is it doing?
NoCanDo: It's doing great. I got a couple of national tours, national press, like NPR, things my peers aren't getting. I'm surprised with how many people will buy a copy at a show just to buy it because they have already downloaded it elsewhere.
LAHHE: Sounds like they want to support you.
NoCanDo: Yea, it is from the battle stuff.
LAHHE: So what is "swagnostic?" Do you have a definition worked out for that or is it whatever I think it is?
NoCanDo: The definition in my mind is anything goes. Whatever tools you wanna use, the best way you can to execute, use it. I feel like people think hip hop is this, you gotta have swag, no autotune...I'm rebelling against it. I don't believe it. For me, I was raised on the hard purest hip hop...and when you're agnostic you are not sure, you're not an atheist that doesn't believe...if I didn't give you enough then that's what I meant to do.
LAHHE: (laughs) Nah, it's ok, I can roll with that. What's your ultimate music goal?
NoCanDo: I'm trying to take it one step at a time. In 2011 I want to make the best hip hop record...the most original. I know it sounds corny but I definitely want to make a statement.
LAHHE: Do you want to stay indie of are you trying to get a major deal with one of the big four?
NoCanDo: Whatever is the best deal for me. There is almost no reason to go [to a major label] unless you know they'll treat you like you're all they have. I started Hell Fyre Club [imprint on Alpha Pup Records] and I can pool all my resources and DIY and still fulfill all I want videos, tours, festivals and right now I'm figuring out radio. Unless they can enhance the machine I'm building, then no.
LAHHE: You know Kandi Cole, right?
LAHHE: She's on a tour that she put together and you did the same thing right?
NoCanDo: Yea, earlier this year I did the Hell Fyre Club Tour with Dumbfounded, Open Mike Eagle, Cookbook and Intuition and we ended up seeing her. I know her from this open mic they used to have on Thursday nights at Leimert Park and she was like the baddest broad rapping there, she was agressive but not too tough.
LAHHE: Is there any female rapper out there you are checking for right now, mainstream or otherwise?
NoCanDo: I'm a big Nicki Minaj fan! Her verse on "Monster" is amazing! Do I lose street cred for saying that?
NoCanDo: Since I was a kid I was in love with Japan and her whole swag is like it's based on a Misako Takashima character.
LAHHE: Are you and Customer Service working on any projects?
NoCanDo: No I started Hell Fyre Club and Kail will drop a recond on that label. Everyone kinda grew up and couldn't be vagabound artists, some figured out this is not for them.
LAHHE: Are you full time music now?
NoCanDo: Yea, I went full time music around October 2008 [or maybe 2009..that's still up for debate]. I was working as a video game tester and they laid off about 200 of us in one day. By then I was making enough money from L.E.T. and CDs to pay my bills so I figured I might as well put my nose to the grind stone.
LAHHE: Who is your go to person, when you finish a song?
NoCanDo: I'm a horribly alone in a crowd kind of guy. I don't have a go to person. People around me are afraid to give me critism. I think it's something about my face, people handle me with kid gloves. I usually play for people that haven't been effected by my emotional terrorism. I'm all kinds of wrong but I'm a good friend for sure.
LAHHE: How did you get hooked up with Signal Path and Blockhead for the show this Saturday at The Roxy?
NoCanDo: My booking agent, Peter Agoston from Panache, Blockhead mentioned me, it's a big compliment. His production influenced the music I do. His sound is kind of dark with like white boy swag, for lack of a better word. And I'm a kind of dark dude too. It's an honor to work with him. It took a while to hit me that I'm working with someone who I have looked up to, this is my dream.
LAHHE: So what can we expect from your show?
NoCanDo: A lot of sweating, get close it's like holy water. Expect really, really dope beats, someone forcing their opinion down your throat, if you like that. I connect with my audience in a very human, primal way.
When: Friday, September 24
Where: Shattuck Down Low, Berkeley