Hailing from Cambridge, Mass just up the road from the likes of Edo G and Brick Records comes Virtuoso. Making his debut on Boston based Brick Records “Rebel Alliance” LP, Virt was immediately recognized for his intricate wordplay and his social awareness. After dropping the acclaimed independent favorite, “Word War I: The Voice of Reason”, and several 12″s, he is back with a new album and some insight into the industry.
Let’s talk about the beginning, the Rebel Alliance LP, how did you get hooked up with that project and with Brick Records?
Yeah that was the first thing I ever appeared on, I was like 16 when I met those guys. They were older like 21 or whatever, I had actually already made “Omnipotent” and I had been gaining a reputation in my High School as an ill freestyler, and battling cats in corners. Then I met Fakts One at the Concrete Click’s (Kay-Gee from NBN old group) release party. I was battling some cats in the corner and he invited me up to ERS and then from there some people came up to my High School and invited me to do a showcase. I ended up linking up with Madsoul and Esoteric and then met Lif later at the party. They let me know what’s up with the Brick Compilation, Brick hadn’t really had anything out so I gave them “Omnipotent” and then Eso asked me to drop a verse on “Be Alert” and the rest is history.
The new joint “Fahrenheit 9/11″, why that name?
I had a lot of political s#it about society on the record, and I had a friend that was younger than me join the military at like 17, and now he is over in Iraq. Then 9/11 went down and I don’t really agree with what we are doing over there so, I had been writing a lot of this stuff before everything went down. Then right about the time my album came out, the film (Fahrenheit 9/11) dropped and I wanted to give Michael Moore props for putting it out there on such a high level and exposing a lot of stuff. I had a lot of songs on there but it was one of the more recent ones and I just wanted to update some stuff and give Moore props.
So you have the full length “Evolution of the Torturer: Word War II” and the Mixtape “Fahrenheit 617″, what prompted you to do both of those?
The mixtape was just kind of a promotional tool; we threw on some songs from the album and some freestyles and what not to give the people a little something extra when they bought the album. “Word War II” is the actual album, but honestly it has been done for quite sometime, a lot of the political material has been done for like a year and half or 2 years. This album was actually going to be put on Hiero, but they pushed all their release dates back to 2005 so I had to switch up business situations due to the fact I wanted to get this album out around election time.
Speaking of Hiero, I noticed there are not one, but two songs featuring Del. Are you guys good friends or was this a strictly business deal?
I actually met Del in like ’98 or ’99, we did a tour with him in Europe. It was me Del, Casual, Lif and Esoteric in support of the “Rebel Alliance” LP. Over the years we have stayed in contact and he was actually on my first album which came out in 2000, we have made a lot of songs together. On “War of the Masses” we trade verses back and forth and then we have the other joint that also features Jaz-O. We just happened to be working together a lot at the time and making a lot of songs and the two that ended up on the album, just kind of fit. It wasn’t really a planned thing that he was going to be on 2 song it just kind of worked out that way. He’s been a really good friend for a while, good guy and a dope artist.
You have a different style and voice than most people out these days, would you call yourself a political emcee IE Public Enemy, Dead Prez or more of a battle rapper IE Copywrite, Juice?
I wouldn’t call myself either one of those; I just say that whatever I’m talking about it, it always ends up being intricate with the lyrics and all that. I just have the voice I have, but sometimes I’m yelling more and my voice is higher pitched. I would say a lot of the songs on my new album are me rapping in a more natural tone using my normal speaking voice because it’s more of a straight forward record, it’s not really about ripping up emcees. On the first album I had a lot of songs about society, but on this album I have a song talking about my real life and real experiences. “Devilish” is a song about my life, my childhood, high school, and how life changes as we get older. I would call my self a “real-life” emcee, I can always take it to a battle, but I wouldn’t characterize myself as one certain kind of an emcee, I would just say I’m a lyricist.
Right now the industry has been called in a state of emergency, do you feel this is a correct assumption, or are people blowing it out of proportion?
It has already been a problem, I wouldn’t say it is in a state of emergency, but it is definitely a turbulent time. I mean there is a lot of stuff wrong with the industry and it does need some change that is for sure. People have to be creative in what they are doing right now, it is a tough time for entertainment and everything is a little down, it’s a crazy time.
What are you thoughts about MTV and BET and the lack of independent artists and labels on those 2 channels, or any channel for that matter?
S#it, it would be great if they would play that stuff all the time, if they dedicated half their time to good music. But, you know whatever is greasing their pockets is what they are going to go with. Personally, it sucks; it sucks for the people working really hard to get on. I mean sometimes they play some stuff under the radar or BET uncut or whatever, but it is a serious lack of support for Indies. I mean the gap is getting larger and larger between major and indie labels. The major labels aren’t really messing with Indies anymore, because they have lost so much money. Right now it’s all about an image, so people can hear the music as well as see the music. The majority of music isn’t really saying anything, I’m not saying that every song has to have a crazy message, but I think it is important to see some things talked about in the music. Right now mainstream hip-hop is really at an all-time low, it’s really really bad. It’s close to the time when it was shiny suits and all that. It has become so repetitive I would think even the followers have to be getting tired of this S#it.
Do you have any interest in signing with a major?
I have talked with people in the past and I wasn’t interested in what was coming up at that time. Until you have really made a serious dent yourself, you can’t really get things on your terms. I’m not interested in getting robbed, or somebody telling me how to do my music. I think that if I was ever going to do something like that I would rather do a collaboration type thing, where I still have a lot of control. That’s kind of why I started my own company because I was tired of having my stuff in other people’s hands. So me and my partner Snipe started Omnipotent Records, we have just been working on building the label, building the Virtuoso thing, and working on getting to know the business better. I’m not interested in being a slave, but I want my music to reach as many people as possible. If the right thing came along I wouldn’t say no, but I have seen some crazy things and some real bulls#it in the game. At the moment I’m not really gunning for it, but I won’t rule out the possibility.
So let’s talk briefly about the label, do you think you are going to step back as an emcee and really mentor and run the label or stay in the forefront?
I have been doing a lot of different things; I have been in the studio doing a lot of studio work as well as producing. I have a lot of different interests and I love to do business, I am definitely going to be out there as an emcee, but we have a lot of things about to drop. Jus Allah formally of JMT and T-Ruckus of Knights of the Round Table (T-Ruckus, Mr. Lif, and Insight) will both be dropping soon, plus the compilation “Era of the Titans” which are songs from all of us plus C-Rayz Walz and some others, so we have a lot of stuff coming. I’m also working on a new album which is half way finished. I’m not going to speak much on the album, I’m not going to really let the cat out of the bag, I’m thinking I might switch it up a little, but you’ll hear about it.
So since Fakts was one of the first cats you met, you think you’ll use some of his production.
You know I haven’t really spoken to Fakts, but that is a good idea I’m glad you reminded me. I have a crew of cats that I have been developing and working with, but yeah getting at Fakts would be dope.
Thanks a lot Virt, we appreciate you taking the time during the holiday season to sit down with us. “Evolution of the Torturer: Word War II” is in stores now on Omnipotent / Raptivism records, so stay tuned big things in 2005. Shout Outs?
I want to thank hiphopsite.com, you guys have always been big supporters and if the readers want to get at us, www.bigvirt.com and the label site is www.masshiphop.com.
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