Though the temperature of underground Hip Hop is rising more every year, forecasts show a cold front moving in for the entire scene.
Previously known as OneManArmy, of the more popularly known formation Binary Star, One Be Lo has released his latest artistic endeavor on Fat Beats Records, S.O.N.O.G.R.A.M. Being that he is the proprietor of his own record company (Subterraneous Records), underground Hip Hop or not, I assumed I would find myself sitting across from a flashy, quick talking cat. Not the case’¦
Raised just outside of Detroit in Pontiac, Michigan, Lo spent most of his childhood growing up with the vibes of some of Hip Hop’s most legendary acts. Lo thought back to the reality of his existence that molded his ears and his mind. ‘The area that I grew up in was predominantly black. In the Motown area, [music] was an influence, and being from the Midwest it was a huge melting pot.’ Buried in his hoodie (a clear but chilly Austin, TX night), and confidently laid back, Lo began to let out his story. ‘We were inspired and affected by all kinds of different music, obviously the east coast style of music. [But] growing up on NWA and the Ghetto Boys, I pretty much spit for anybody. I got a little taste of all of that.’ Later, he would get deeper into his influences. ‘ Ice Cube, Heavy D, Public Enemy, they were telling us get your own shit, get your own crew, do your own thing. Express yourself; that’s what I was learning.’
Though being a Hip Hop artist has always been the path for Lo, he hasn’t always had the freedom to follow it. After spending a few years behind bars, he came out confidently informed, and most of all, determined to create his own niche. Lo talked about how he used his idle time to study up and prepare himself. ‘The industry is supposed to cater to the listener. These record labels of the industry will have an artist thinking like we’re doing [them] a favor. It’s about supply and demand. If you go out and have a real connection with the people, they’re going to determine who sells your shit, who spins it, where you’re going perform at.’
Not avoiding the obvious, I inquired what many people are wondering: what’s the story with all the identities? ‘I started off with the title The Anonymous. It wasn’t about people knowing me; it was about people knowing the music. So I came up with this concept called The Anonymous. Instead of me saying I’m anonymous I remain anonymous by using different names and identities.’ However, Lo explained how one name has stuck since Binary Star’s debut release of ‘Waterworld’ in 2000. ‘I had a song called One Man Army. One Be Lo is more so one of the identities and one of the personalities. I mean my name is Lo, and [I’m] One Be Lo. It also means One Be Lo on some cold shit. As in One Be Lo the surface.’
Though his birth name is Lo, he explained how he came upon his Muslim name, Nashid. ‘Um, its funny because when I first became Muslim I was looking through this book to pick a name, and I actually made a mistake. Nashid – ‘¦ one who seeks Allah, student seeking Allah, and I was like,’ excitedly he paraphrases himself, ‘’Yo, that’s me right there. I’m seeking.’ And so I picked that name. I found out later that wasn’t correct.’ Calming down, but his eyes still wide in surprise, he shocked me too. ‘I found out Nashid actually means a song that glorifies Allah. I was like man I made a mistake but that’s a dope mistake. I’m trying to do the best I can, balance and be the best person I can be. I believe that the person you are is the MC you are, or the person you are is the father you are.’
Hypothetical time: I’m giving you the powers of a mammoth concert promoter.
Construct a three-day festival for me. What artists are you inviting (alive or dead)?
‘KRS-One, Me of course (laughs). Man, that’s a hard question. James Brown, Fela, Wu-tang Clan, [and] Premier would hold the party down on the turntables. I could name millions of people, the original NWA. It’s a lot of people.’
What charity is it going to benefit?
‘It’s all about the poor people, the needy people who need it the most. The people who need hospitals, education. There are a lot of people out there suffering, the people who need it the most. The tsunami victims they need it, but we got people walking up and down the streets.’
What place in the world will it be?
‘One place, I’m thinking it should probably be in New York. Honestly, that’s not my favorite place in the world, but its gotta be in the middle somewhere where everyone will see it. Don King will have to promote it (giggles with seriousness). It could be in Africa somewhere, but Don King’s got to promote that joint (laughs).’
If you could tour with anyone, whom would you pick?
‘I would love to tour with KRS-One. KRS-One is ‘The M.C’. Just to be able to learn; I’m a student man, so I’m always trying to learn how to write better songs, how to be a better artist. My favorite artist to tour with, I would say, is Majestic legend cause he’s Muslim.’
So now that you’re caught up to speed, what’s on the radar for Lo these days?
Well, it’s rather simple. S.O.N.O.G.R.A.M. (Sounds Of Nashid Originate Good Rhymes And Music) banks on one thing and one thing only, Soul. Not the beats and rhythms type, but the kind that comes straight from your mind, heart, and soul.
A note to Lo: I review a lot of business and a lot of personal. I’ll admit to not giving this enough time to enjoy more (for a variety of reasons). No worries, the record will get it. It earns it. Keep tracking ‘em, soul-style music seems only to be a secondary talent to those humanitarian intentions of yours.