Trey: Many of the songs on this album are heavy, dealing with subject matter that’s simply too intense to bob your head to without “hearing the lyrics.” Is that a fair estimation and how would you characterize the project?
Emcee Noiz: Well, I think many hip hop songs deal with heavy subject matter. I’ve never seen it keep anybody from bobbing their head. The lyrics are meant to be heard though. They are meant to challenge people.
Trey: You’ve got at least one skit in there which draws on the conflict so many of us hip hop heads feel when we’re trying to bring our brand of music to our church where unless we’re in urban populations find that the majority of our follow brothers and sisters don’t understand.
Emcee Noiz: Yeah, “Midwest Messiah Radio.” The skit is based off of an experience I had at a church I played at in 2007. Some people left the meeting calling me a proprietor of “satanic jungle music.” I’ve done other church events where there have been similar protests. Cornerstone is protested every year.
Trey: And yet Toby Mac is embraced for his bubble gum pop style of crossover hip hop by the mainstream Christian music audience! What do you make of that?
Emcee Noiz: I don’t know Toby Mac, but I can assure you he’s been protested too.
Trey: I just want to start by saying that the album’s artwork is insane! It’s a post-apocalyptic world with what appears to be humans or mannequins hung in cages over this sprawling urban landscape of rundown buildings. What was the inspiration for that and do you see it tying into the messages in the songs?
Emcee Noiz: Thanks man. Yeah, the artwork is dope. It ties in to the whole feel of the album. Duality is a major theme of the record, and it is symbolized in the mannequins. When somebody sees the image, they should immediately get a feel for what they are getting themselves into by listening to the album.
Trey: The beats like the artwork are also very visceral. There’s nothing poppy or catchy – not that there should be. I hate to go back to comparisons with Toby Mac, but he makes a good case study. Do you think this kind of visceral spiritual hip hop not being accepted on a larger level is precisely because it’s not filled with syrupy lyricism praising God and focuses too much on the individual struggle?
Emcee Noiz: Were the Psalms syrupy? I mean, why does praise have to be so formulaic? The beats are interesting and sometimes spooky. The content is real life.
Trey: But there’s a lot of pain in these songs. I’ll just take one example. “Shattered” talks about financial problems, materialism, surrender, loneliness, etc. until the last line in which you grant humility as the key. Any thoughts?
Emcee Noiz: Yeah man, those things teach us humility. The goal of struggles and adversity is for us to grow. I would encourage anybody going through a hard time to give it over to God. It may not happen right away, but once you come though it, you’ll see God use what you went through to help someone else. I’ve found that to be true in my own life.
Trey: Yet “The Struggle” offers hope, right?
Emcee Noiz: The Struggle is primarily a battle rhyme. It offers hope to all except for whack emcees.
Trey: You’ve hooked up with Shadow of the Locust. How has that relationship been? And how do you see your role in this collective playing out?
Emcee Noiz: It’s great man. The crew is known for a unique style of music. I mean, when I hear the name “Shadow of the Locust” on a project I’m expecting some things. Quality, thoughtful content…dreadlocks.
Trey: So you’ve got the album “The Reckoning.” Anything else or anyone else you’d like to plug?
Emcee Noiz: Word! The Reckoning is available on iTunes as well as [work by] other emcees from the Locust crew, and End of Earth records. I’d recommend hip hop heads to check out all the artists in Shadow Locust and End of Earth.
Trey: So if you have one lasting impression you’d like to leave the Sphere audience, what would that be? What should we know about Emcee Noiz?
Emcee Noiz: Wow, one shot, huh? You should know that when all is said and done, I’m here to reach souls and to encourage. Sharing the message of Christ is my mission, and I’m going to bring it to you raw – no sugarcoating and no compromise.
Interview by Trey Palmisano