[Podcast] EP. 47 Illa Ghee - Willing to Die for the streets
Illa Ghee shares his story of adversity and reinventing himself to become a well respected Hip Hop Artist, Screenwriter and Independent Film director. www.illaghee.net
Beats by www.insane-beatz.com
02:55 TD: We gonna talk about New York MINUTE. We're gonna talk about Suede Cigarettes because those are your current projects that you have right now, but before that, tell me what it was like when you were growing up as a kid.
03:11 Illa Ghee: My childhood was pretty awesome. I would say no, but looking back at it was awesome. Had toys, had a brother, got to played, ran around. Just basic child stuff.
03:31 TD: Basic child stuff, so to paint the picture a little bit clearer, were you still in Brooklyn as a child as well?
03:39 TD: Were you in Brooklyn when you were a kid as well?
03:41 IG: Yeah, yeah. Born and raised in Brooklyn. Grew up in Brooklyn, from the housing. Like I said, I think I was a pretty happy child.
03:54 TD: Okay, okay. So, what was your dad like?
04:00 IG: You said what was my pops?
04:01 TD: Yeah, what was your father like? What was his, you know what I'm saying, his demeanor, his character?
04:07 IG: My pops was... Coming to find out a lot of things about my pops, but me, like me and him one on one. He was cool, but he had his ways. He was like, like he was around somewhat, but I only really learned one thing from my pops, to tell you the truth. And that was just, "You don't buy jewelry to be scared to wear it." [laughter] And that's the only thing he really ever told me.
04:40 TD: So break that down.
04:43 IG: Basically, he had a bunch of jewels on and we was walking somewhere and this is like early '80s, and I was like really nervous of the jewelry he had on. I was like, "You're not scared to wear that?" He was like, "Oh, you don't buy jewelry to be scared to wear it." [chuckle] And that's the only thing really that stuck in my mind that he ever told me, you know what I'm saying? Other than that, what I've learned about him was shocking, the things I know about him now.
05:16 TD: Okay, okay, okay. So how did you get involved with the streets?
05:25 IG: Pretty much it was a combination of selfishness and kind of the insane.
05:35 TD: So explain that. 05:40 IG: It was... I was very, very naive and nervous as a child. I were pretty much like my back really, really had to be against the wall before I fall back.
05:52 TD: Okay. 05:53 IG: I was scared of any and everything. At the end, it just got to the point of selfishness of, you know, I wanted things and I couldn't afford them. I was just kinda tired of being scared and got tired of being broke and I wasn't looking at things correctly. There were pressure and everything. So the pressure of feeling like you don't have things you should have, when your parent is doing the best they can. Or they have a plan and you don't understand their plan, and they was raised a different way. So I decided to take matters in my own hands and take the things that I wanted.
06:45 TD: But it sounds totally opposite of you saying that you've been scared but then when you say you were tired of being scared, so you basically, you wanted to get yours.
06:54 IG: Yeah, I did but I was also, like I said, I was scared in... The neighborhoods was rough and I was scared. I have known for a fact I was scared of everything. I was scared of everything, if I get approached by dudes, but not realizing I was only like 10 or 11 years old. Yes, I should have been scared.
07:18 TD: Right.
07:19 IG: It was just, you know what I'm saying, I was just like, I was just nervous, just like a nervous dude.
07:24 TD: What was it like the first day when you was up north?
07:31 IG: I was like... Downstate in Virginia, and it was... I felt... It was a lot of lessons. I was taught from family members and friends, mostly family members. I had a lot of family members on the street. And it was the feeling of "suck it up, this is what you signed up for". So can't, don't, you better not run to anybody, you know what I'm saying, you can't climb, this is too rough, it is not like you know the rules. You know the rules when you step into it, just you know, of course, you gonna have it natural. This is new nervousness, but this is like, prepare to go to that extra mile to prove your point. I was in that. Prepare to go that extra, extra mile to prove your point.
08:32 TD: And what do you consider that extra mile?
08:35 IG: If you gotta stab the shit out of somebody stabs the shit out of you. Don't just whip their ass, punish them. Punish them to the point where they need to really understand what their next move is. Either they're gonna leave it alone or they really gonna have to come at you.
08:56 TD: So before you take it to that place of punishment, what goes through your mind? Is it just like kill or be killed. Or
[09:05] ____ I just gotta go out loud, like what is...
IG: [09:09] Queenis son gotta make it home.
09:11 TD: Okay.
09:13 IG: Yeah, just, I gotta make it home.
09:17 TD: Got you, got you. So once you went through that, what was it like, the first day home? 09:25 IG: It felt, everything felt crowded.
09:30 TD: Really?
09:32 IG: Yeah, everything felt crowded, like just looking, when you are in the mountains everything is peace. I mean, except for the inside, but it's just like, you're in a country environment, the yard is big, everywhere you see trees, everything is not so close together. So when you come back, you just feel like, "Wow, this is totally different." This is where I came from. Everything seems cluttered. I kept looking at the apartment. Like wow, this is... Like this is so... I felt cluttered, like this is cluttered. Why does it look like this? It looks depressing when you come from a different, it just... It looks depressing. [chuckle]
10:22 TD: Is it depressing just because of the scenery or depressing because of the condition, I mean, you coming from a...
10:29 IG: The condition is like... Everything is like you see everything, from being, from stepping out of it and then you're coming back to look. Yeah, everything look depressing, the scenery, everything. Like everything, you're like "Yo, damn, this is where I came from?"
10:48 TD: You know what, so interested about what you're saying because what you're describing in reality is the exact opposite of what they put in movies, right? [chuckle] Most of the time like we watch, let's say like, I don't know, we could take any hood flick and when people come home, it's almost like, "Yo, you back home." Like, yeah, I'm excited. Yeah, we got this bag of money for you and you looking at it like, this is some bullshit, like who wants to live like this.
11:16 IG: Yes, I mean, it was just, it was everything. I mean, I dealt with that too. I have friends that was happy to see. I mean everyone was happy to see me home, but I have friends that felt like, "Oh yeah, my boy is back. We love
[11:30] ____." And I was just like, "No, no." [chuckle] That's it. It was like, you know what I'm saying, that's it. I'm not doing that again. Some of them really got pretty pissed off and it was like, "Yo, [11:46] ____. I was like, "Ah, I can't do it."
11:49 TD: But what made you say that you're not gonna do it? Because most of the time when people come home, they get stuck right back into doing the things that got them there in the first place 'cause that's all they know.
11:58 IG: Yeah, but it's the fact that as they say now I didn't know the terminology for a dentist like you have to reinvent yourself.
12:10 TD: Okay.
12:11 IG: It's just like, "I was willing to die for the street." Like I knew the aspect of that. I was willing to die. If it happened it happened, you know what I'm saying. And it was just like, "Okay, well, am not in that space no more." I learned a lot. I've read a lot. I've learned a lot. My direction has changed and, you know what I'm saying, you wanna do some things.
12:40 TD: Okay.
12:41 IG: You wanna do different things plus I like women. [chuckle]
12:44 IG: And while you may have some CO's here and there in jail but there is pretty much no women.
12:53 TD: Gotcha, got you. So when do you find your passion for art and when do you get into this deep creative process of music and drawing, when is all this come about, when do you really take it there?
13:10 IG: Well, I will say the passion from art probably came from my mom's. My mom's know how to draw. My mom's is very of course like most anybody, other black homes, my mom is playing music, you know what I'm saying, like old temple soul and R&B and she knew how to draw, my brother knew how to draw, and so I drew. That's where most of it came from, yeah.
13:44 TD: So when does the art move into the physical aspect of drawing going to poetry and writing rhymes.
13:54 IG: I guess I started learning that I see things a little different.
14:02 TD: How so?
14:03 IG: The same way somebody may see a parked Range Rover on a corner, I may see and pay attention to the front two tires that is tilted to the right of the parked Range Rover on a corner.
14:20 TD: Okay.
14:20 IG: I would focus on that rather than the car.
14:24 TD: Okay, okay. So now we're gonna talk about some of your projects you have going on. Let's talk about New York MINUTE first. How did that whole thing come about? Because it really seemed random like you just dropped a show like out of nowhere. Like we knew you could drop a music but then where did the show come from?
14:44 IG: New York MINUTE pretty much basically came from me watching a couple web series and not liking them. And just felt like, you know what, I'm one of the people like just don't sit there complaining about something if you don't like it. If you don't like it and if you feel like you can do better, then do better.
15:04 TD: And you really, as you told me in the beginning, you actually headed to film class, now you would never produce, directed, nothing for show.
15:16 IG: No.
15:17 TD: So what in your mind gave you the motivation to be like, "Yeah, I could do this." Were you even scared a little bit? Like thing, it was gonna come out like trash.
15:28 IG: Any art form you have or you do it into you always gonna be, you're worried about what people think of it or how they would receive it and, you know what I'm saying, it's just like, I can't make this bad because I talk entirely too much shit.
15:58 TD: Okay.
15:58 IG: You just go for it.
16:02 TD: Okay. So describe to us what's gonna be the backdrop of the show for those people who don't know anything about it.
16:10 IG: New York MINUTE is about... Let me get it right here. [chuckle]
16:22 TD: It's your show, you better get it right.
16:24 IG: I gotta get it right because it's about a heartless criminal trying to escape his old logic of entering the streets, becoming aware of his black pride. After being released from prison, the heartless criminal, he's faced with what caused the actions of his past, rallying to change his future. 16:45 TD: Okay. I could dig that. So we're gonna get real random right now. What do you consider your favorite comfort food?
16:55 IG: Comfort food, favorite comfort food. If I roll with anything, it has to be salmon.
17:07 TD: Salmon really. And how is it prepared? Is it baked? Is it honey glazed? What's going on with it?
17:15 IG: I would say it has a little skin to it, a little charred skin.
17:26 TD: Okay.
17:29 TD: So... Go ahead finish. I'm sorry.
17:31 IG: No, that deliciousness to it. [chuckle]
17:35 TD: That deliciousness to it. Very cool. So what's your fitness routine like now?
17:41 IG: My fitness routine, I do a lot of CrossFit stuff since I'm trying to come down on weight. I do a lot of clean and presses and five exercises with only 30 seconds rest.
17:57 TD: Now we gotta talk about Suede Cigarettes because it was supposed to be out already. What makes this project different from Metal Detectors?
18:05 IG: Well, this one, I'm trying to be more of an open book inside Suede Cigarettes. A lot of times, for years, I avoided being an open book because a lot of our street ties or whatever, and to being too much of an open book feels like absolving.
18:25 TD: Gotcha. Gotcha. So what motivates you every day?
18:30 IG: Life. My kids. Not to lay down. People see me as far in a different place, but I don't feel I'm where I wanna be. So I fight. I become a fighter. I feel I have to always push towards and constantly chase goals to push toward of.
19:00 TD: What do you do to control your anger?
19:03 IG: Exercise.
19:04 TD: Gotcha.
19:07 IG: Because people don't realize frustrations and everything, energy builds up in your body. And when you don't release it, it is diagnosed as pretty much anger, or stress, and so on and so forth. So if you release it, it brings you back to an even balance.
19:25 TD: To learn more about Illa Ghee, visit www.illaghee.net.