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by Marlon Regis
17 February, 2004@12:00 am
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HHS: The title, Pangaea – as far as Visionaries are concerned, what’s your significance for having a title like this?

Key Kool: “The concept of Pangaea was – the world before it became seven separate continents, was just one continent. Kinda just like how the musicis for us. We came from all these different walks of life and stuff, and then it just came together through the music. We became and function like a family through the music. Pangaea basically represents what the music is, or more what our group stands for now – togetherness.”

HHS: Being on a label as Up Above for all your albums, as opposed to being tied to a contract on a major, which I’m assuming was an option at some point, how important is this direction on an independent for you as artists to represent to the fullest who you really are?

LMNO: “I think the blessing in disguise is that a major label truly wasn’t an option, so to have this blessed opportunity with Up Above, is like truly heaven sent from ‘Up Above’. Just seeing what major labels can do for artists, I feel we’ve been truly blessed. We’ve gone through our obvious times and tribulation to be able to appreciate it, but it’s a blessed thing over here.”

2 Mex: “It just came to be that way. After the second album, Sophomore Jinx, we actually had pretty much made up our mind that we wanted to be at a major label, ’cause we felt we needed some kinda bigger push and then all the preparation, all the working to get towards that, it actually ended up that by that time, Up Above were… not that they weren’t ready before, but they were really actually fully ready and soaked in and had tenure and had their foot firmly in the ground to be able to actually be the obvious or best situation. Because of the loyalty that they had to us, it worked out.”

HHS: On the album cover, there’s such an illustration of artistic forwardness. First off, who’s the artist?

LMNO: “That was Mear 1. We gave Mear the green light to give his interpretation to what that was.”

HHS: And, what map or territory is your cartoon portrayal properly situated over? Some sort of map of the ancient world?

LMNO: “We found that in a treasure chest, we dug that up,” he laughs, as if it’s a secret amongst them. “More or less, that was his interpretation. That’s what he brought to us. The concept of the album, we had a sitting with him about, and this is what he created.”

HHS: And also, those open eyes specifically displaced on each person’s faces, clearly showing your eyes shut, maan, what an image huh?

2Mex: “Yeah, we’ve known Mear 1 on and off for about ten years, so we’ve known to respect him as an LA artist. A brother like that, it’s not something you can come to and tell to do this and that, you ask him to do his own interpretation. Actually, that’s some of his simpler work from his other work. Very straightforward and simple.”

HHS: Now on your 3rd album, Pangaea, there is a sense of definite wisdom and bravery in touching topics you’re obviously lived, researched and experienced – especially on one of my favorites – the title track, “Pangaea”. Everyone’s sort of denouncing world corruption and spilling the whole truth. Take me through each mindset, according to one’s verse?

Key Kool: “As far as my verse, it was speaking for our group starting together, but it wasn’t really speaking only on that – it was speaking on all of mankind starting together as a group, or one as human beings. And it’s so applicable, whether it’s to our group, or whether it’s to all humanity. And so, it’s just in reference to the very beginning – the acknowledgement of all of us knowing that. We’re all one in this, and that’s generally how my verse starts it off directed towards just the whole beginning of things and the continuation, but sometimes people just don’t realize it.

LMNO: “The second verse, it ah… basically just in regards in ah…damn, it’s just all in the verse,” he pauses begins to rhythmically rhyme his verse fluently – ‘The planet’s so small with all the origins/ which ever one yuh in we get the light torn in’ – that right there…I don’t know man, I can’t just sit here and break it down other than just – PANGAEA. I agree with you man, I feel this track, the energy is there. It’s very rightful to be the title and everything…”

2Mex: “I think verse by verse, each member just gives a different angle of how everything’s connected, from the most basic to Zen’s verse, which was bringing in all kinds of history and science references; 2Mex’s verse, speaking of different continents and tying the world together in that sense of man bodies and actually the whole planet; as well as Dannu’s verse, speaking basically of the duty of those to reach out, without trying to be too preachy too, the weight of the world is basically on everyone’s shoulders. It goes all around for people to just begin to wake up and realize what’s going on.”

HHS: What is it about your environment, Los Angeles, you feel ads and makes your hip hop something truly worth listening to. Something exciting, valid and magnetizing for hip hoppers from any part of the globe, including other states in the US, to gravitate towards?

2Mex: “The sunshine first of all, people are drawn or trying to come over to the sunshine. There’s a contradiction – Hollywood, the glamour, which isn’t anything really. It’s a combination of all the disaster that LA has, but at the same time, within all that disaster, there’s fakeness and the bullshit, and then there’s a lot of people that are creative, and our musical or artistic fans. I think we’re the children of people that are of creative minds. All of us are children of the creative, and I think in Los Angeles, there’s a huge pool of people that would rather attempt to live creatively, than live 9 to 5-ish. So we’re just the children of that. And like I said, Los Angeles has, for all the fakeness and all the cutthroatness, and all the sadness and imagery that it has, inside in all of that, there’s a lot of creativeness, it’s an eclectic place. Even though it sucks sometimes, and it’s not all it’s cracked up to be,” he sarcastically smirks.

HHS: Your ethnicity is something I would like to touch on. This, despite being sort of acclimatized to it being normal in a city like Los Angeles, is very unique or different for hip hop in many other parts. Break it down, if you don’t mind?

Key Kool: “My parents’ grandparents came from Japan; Dannu – his parents came from the Philippines; same with Rhettmatic; James’ parents came from Europe; 2Mex is a Mexican; Zen is African-American with some indigenous blood as well.”

LMNO: “The box of America yes, we’ve been to places where people are shocked at the diversity yuhknow. Li-versity ’cause there’s nothing dead here. Maan, we definitely have this torch, yeah, I feel that. Like to us, we’re immune to it, ’cause we’ve grown up around it, even before Visionaries. Just having that multicultural upbringing. Back to living in a box though, we notice that, like they notice us being diverse. We notice that fact that they don’t have this. You go to other parts of the world, you just shocked man. You see a crowd of LMNO’s, and you just like what da… We’re accustomed to like seeing out in the crowd more like a mixture – yuh see 2Mexs, you’ll see some Rhettmatics, you’ll see some Zens, you’ll see some Key Kools. It’s pretty shocking how the flip side is when you travel away from LA.”

HHS: You’ll seem pretty conscious, aware and righteous, especially relative to the rubbish being broadcasted to the masses on the airwaves today. You already know your album isn’t going to outsell Chingy’s in the US. Do you’ll totally shut your minds off to the rest of what the masses are really into, or are you very well aware of AL your peers in this game?

LMNO: (BIG LAUGHTER!!) “Hey who says!!?” (More laughter!) “We stay aware, probably not track for track, but we have to be aware.” (SILENCE)

Key Kool: “I think from a certain point, there’s always been a different or the whole spectrum of hip hop, even in the times where people look back and talk about the golden years of hip hop – you had stuff that was commercial or stuff on the opposite spectrum of it that, we might look back and say wow, that was just fun music, or commercial music, or at the time you had your Public Enemy or something diluted or what not. I think there’s room enough for everyone to exist within it, but maybe the mass media or mass populace might not completely understand or get a chance to be exposed to it, ’cause we don’t have that major marketing or promotion, or political vehicle on that level like the Sony’s, the WEA’s. But the longevity aspect of it is our success, in the sense of who we reach. Those people who relate to what we’re speaking. That’s something that’s not just gonna come and go. It’s more ingrained.”

HHS: On the international forefront, you’ll have toured extensively outside of the US. Do you see, slowly creeping into other societies and cultures, the similar sort of capitalism at its highest as far as the musical climate. Or, it isn’t even close to the non-diverse stage front as here?

2Mex: “In different parts of the world, it ain’t no way as out of control or blatant as it is here in the United States. Here in the U.S., we’re professional salesman. The whole United States is about the selling of something, whether it’s even real or not. The projection of an image, that simple. Going to Japan, Europe, Canada and other parts of the world, I don’t think that in anyway any of those places compete with the U.S. as far as the projection of, or the way of pushing music and the way they propoganderize any and anything. The U.S. runs on that image. It’s like the guy that has an Escalade and barely pays rent. The U.S., and in the music industry, it lives and dies still on that vibe, and fortunately it’s dying I think. Things change. A CD costs a few cents and then it sell for over $10? It’s been like organized crime man, the turnaround is legal and it’s better than selling crack. That’s why everybody is trying to get into the music industry. The turnaround is so gangster! The art has taken a back seat, but it isn’t our mission to change that, it’s just our mission to be who we are, and history will depict that we did this and some people did that.”

HHS: “If you can’t say love” – I just love this after I listened to this track, and for men in hip hop to turn this side of their personalities intoa song, shows a great deal of maturity and comfort within themselves. Describe the climate of hip hop fans, which we can’t forget are young, especially as it pertains to the entire industry’s trust in a song like this being acceptable?

2Mex: “We’re just at a point where within ourselves, our fans and our people, we’re so content that we’re not afraid to say that we love something, we’re not afraid to be vulnerable when we rap and when we write songs, we’re not afraid to – for Key Kool who just recently got married – to be like yo! I’m proud of you, you have a wife. A lot of these old bull shit, machismo, the way other artists have been like kinda hiding all these things, or be like ‘yo! I’m all about this, I’m all about that’ – that’s just not us. We’re pretty much not like that, it isn’t a confident thing either, it’s just how we are. We’re just a bunch of nice guys, pretty much. We’ve all sacrificed a lot to make this situation happen, and that songstems from somebody actually telling us not to make a song like that.”

LMNO: “Yeah, I was just gonna bring that up, because J-Rocc (the producer of the track) had actually mentioned, ‘DON’T go doing one of those Visionaries love songs,’ and then we’d come back to the studio like – ‘Ayy, J wanted to let us know that ah…..’ and before I could even finish the sentence, 2 Mex would come in and was like, ‘If You Can’t Say Love!’ So it was a perfect testament of the guns we gotta stick by man. Yuh see, even the homie that made the track was trying to deter us, so you can’t budge love.”

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