When you hear NPR, it is unlikely the first thing you think of is hip hop. But NPR's hip hop division, Microphone Check, is as well thought out, researched, and produced as their other programming. Frannie Kelly and A Tribe Called Quest's Ali Shaheed Muhammad have conducted interviews with everyone from Danny Brown to Nas. They have dug deeper with these artists and producers, than just what music they are working on, or who they think are the greatest rappers of all time. These interviews will make you change your mind about the those being interviewed, hate them more, love them more, and in general learn more about them.
In the first live Microphone Check, Kelly and Muhammad talk to Mannie Fresh, formerly a member of Cash Money. The underrated rapper, producer, DJ came across as a nice guy that has no time for nonsense. You are unlikely to hear about him getting arrested or caught up in a scandal. For him, it's all about the music. He commented that "right now I could play you two hundred songs." The producer said he just doesn't feel right unless he's making music. So while most people relish a day off from work, Mannie Fresh wouldn't be the same without it.
And he was not shy about how he feels about his abilities, place among other producers, and the current state of hip hop. When asked what he thinks about the music that's out now, he said "I keep hearing the same song over and over again, we just got a whole bunch of wannabees." Throughout the night he would start his statement off with "real talk," and every time it was something someone at his level is privileged to say. When discussing the advancement of technology in making music, he stated that "technology has probably killed a lot of things because you can go crazy, you don't have to think anymore." And that the use of software that comes with ready-made beats is "not art, that's just jacking something that's already there."
While he doesn't think it's art, he does embrace new technology. At the end of the interview and Q&A portion, he graciously played the audience a number of beats he has created over the use. Many of them getting a big reaction from the crowd. Including tracks that utilized the Showtime at the Apollo, Earth, Wind, and Fire, and Hall & Oates samples. He even played a country song that he put a bounce beat on. Which was one of the best things Mannie Fresh mentioned, that from classical, R&B, country, to pop, it's all music and it's what helps him make great music; not just sticking to one style or genre. Which you can her on a recently finished song he worked with Mos Def (Yasiin Bey) on, that he played for the audience. The track is a more edgy sound for the conscious rapper, and what Muhammad said is what's next.
Mannie Fresh, with his innocent smile and laughter, showed the audience a side to hip hop that some people don't get to see; driven, intelligent, vulnerable, and flexible. During the interview and Q&A, he discusses Juvenile's 400 Degreez, DJing, working on Lil' Wayne's Tha Carter V, Cash Money, Hurricane Katrina, and more. Look out for his interview on www.npr.org