Thursday, April 23, 2009

ART/MONEY : Interview with CRIS PROLIFIC

Brussels-based producer CRIS PROLIFIC likes to think outside the box. One of the hardest working men in the game, Cris has released several solo hip-hop projects, collaborated with international heavyhitters such as TA'RAACH, jazz legend-activist KAHIL EL ZABAR (ART ENSEMBLE OF CHICAGO), folk-soul singer AYO, world-renown Cabo Verden legend CESARIA EVORA and has done remixes for THE ROOTS, RZA, ERYKAH BADU and PHAROAHE MONCH & MR. COMPLEX among others. Cris recently finished his first international full length hip-hop album ART/MONEY (a word-play on 'Harmony'), a multidisciplinary project involving art exhibitions featuring the work of painters JEROME LAGARRIGUE, TIM OKAMURA, and American writer/poet TROY GILBERT. While paying homage to the jazzy beat-driven sound of masters such as J. Dilla, Pete Rock & C. L. Smooth, just like Cris' previous projects, ART/MONEY is a raw and fresh take on hip-hop incorporating Cris' various influences from afrobeat to soul and psychedelic rock. This album is wicked (flow, flow, flow & crazy beats!) and I'm super excited to be the first to give it some love. Stay tuned for the release coming up in June 2009 and for Cris' US tour dates.
L: I pick up in your music many influences, hip-hop, of course (Dilla lives!), afro-beat, funk, and psychedelic rock and a whole slew of others. Did you grow up around music? Tell me about your roots…how do they reflect in your work?
I think music has always been part of my life. Growing up, my parents were always playing some vinyl '7 inches' at the time and they really opened me up to different genres. The Afro-Caribbean music was also part of their roots so they were playing some from different horizons as well, whether it was African, Cuban, Dominican, Haitian and others...so I think they're all part of my influences. My roots are Guadeloupe, Marie-Galante and also Capo-Verde from my great-great parents. I don't know how they reflects on me but I feel them deeply. I think there is an interaction between my roots and my music. The more I know about my roots the more it affects my compositions. There are a lot of things I'm still learning about my roots and I need to explore them as much as possible because music is to me a sanctuary which reflects my identity.


I wanted to play an instrument and my first idea was the violin but I have finally got into playing the piano (classic) for 6 years. So while I was into the piano lessons, my brother was at another level playing the bass and got me interested in his influences. So quickly he steered me into other music styles especially jazz-rock (70's) and that was a new beginning for me and simultaneously he made me discover HIP-HOP and all the representative forms which are part of the culture. I became a dancer and practiced all the moves my brother showed me whether it was in smurf, breakdancing, poppin or freestlyle.. it was huge to me.. Dance still has a serious role in my music because I think each of the tones is a step or a move to me..I mean this is the way I always felt and still feel. So making music to me is almost like dancing and when I do a beat I always apply a move to it! Like Charlie Parker used to say 'What we did not live, we cannot play it'
L: What & who were your main influences in your musical evolution?
I think my influences are still quite the same not that I'm square or stuck with them but they still influence me today. So in no particular order I would say : Africa, my family, nature, life, dreams and nightmares, places, people, arts, sports, books, movies..

If you're talking about personalities : James Brown, Jay Dilla (RIP), Ease Mo Bee, Wheather Reports, John Coltrane, Diamond D, Pete Rock, DJ Premier, Shawn J Period, Q-Tip, Ali Shaheed Mohammed, Mile Davis, Frank Zappa, Herbie Hancock, Quincy Jones, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Afrikaa Bambataa, Burning Spear, Ray Charles, Thelonius Monk, Eroll Gardner, Nina Simone, Harry Leahey, Shirley Bassey, Jacque Brel, Léo Férré, Gilberto Gill, Jorge Ben, Erykah Badu, Manu Dibango, Gladiators, Bob Marley. [artwork by:TIM OKAMURA ]

L: Hip-hop, a Bronx-bred cultural movement has by now grown into a global phenomenon. Like many other music genres (jazz, blues, funk, soul) that originated in the African-American life experience, hip-hop has become a universal language able to express a certain type of life experience outside of the US as well. Why do you think it appeals to so many people around the world? What is the main power of hip-hop for you?
Hip-hop appeals to people because it's about You and your life and life is real and so as HIP-HOP. This movement has been able to evolve in different art disciplines such as djing, graffiti, b-boying-b-girlng, MCing. There's not a lot of movement that I know of that can pretend to have that many crossroads, so I think that is why HIP-HOP has built up a lot of interest as well worldwide. Concerning its popularity I think the underground radios really contributed to its expansion. If I recall on my experience because they were supporting the cause, so it became worldwide quickly but the official medias were trying to play it like it was some corny fashion movement that they tried to suppress or suffocate (as you wish !o!) but it was stronger than them. And the fact that you didn't have to pay for anything if you wanted to be part of this, was already a sign of unity, it's just about YOU and your skills, even the skills to be around, I mean there are some people who never really expressed themselves through the different disciplines but were like into it and still part of it..so it's a wide range of individuals who feel part of this movement. [artwork by:TIM OKAMURA ]

To me its power is that it touches people because it requires that you challenge yourself to be better in what you do and improve your abilities no matter what skills you have and it's open to everybody in the widest sense of the term. Also there are various branches in the disciplines thus that gives it a wider impact. And lastly it keeps evolving.

L: Where do you see the future of hip-hop?
I see it growing with its inner crisis but still holding to its roots searching to innovate in different spheres.


[artwork by:TIM OKAMURA ]
L: You have done a lot of dope remixes such as THE ROOTS 'YOU GOT ME' with ERYKAH BADU and EVE, the track 'CAN YOU DEAL WITH THAT?' of I-CUBE with RZA, and MR.COMPLEX & PHAROAHE MONCH for the track 'SCREAMS AND SHOUTS'. Do you have new remixes planned for the future?

Yes I've recently remixed a track for the band called MADE IN JAPAN (BELGIUM) 'BABYSPACE' feat. VINYLIC & GEORGIA ANNE MULDROW which is already released on CITYWURL Records. They came to me because we're friends and they wanted to reach out to three producers to rework their version so I helped them out to get in contact with the right ones: GEORGIA ANNE MUDLROW and DJ MITSU. Check it Out !! word up !!

L: You seem to have many musical journeys under your belt…You have worked on music in Paris, Brussels, Montreal, and in the US with artists from a wide range of musical genres and traditions, such as TA'RAACH aka LACKS, jazz legend activist KAHIL EL ZABAR (ART ENSEMBLE OF CHICAGO), folk-soul singer AYO from Germany, and world-renown singer from Cabo Verde, CESARIA EVORA. How does traveling and working with musicians from other countries help you grow as a musician?
I like challenging myself and I love traveling, so having the opportunity to meet different artists is a chance to evolve with other perspectives. It is a good process to exchange our differences and continue in a common or unknown direction..actually I like unknown directions because they can bring the best or the strangest out of you, but still it's YOU..the one you never knew!
It is also interesting to work with artists from different horizons because the language gives a different rhythm to the music and also gives you a different way to listen to it. Traveling to me is more than necessary in order to interact with a new environment..you're able to listen, watch, compare, think differently, adapt perhaps and to be inspire. It makes me use my senses from a different approach which is meaningful for any art forms. I think that all the places where I've been have a tone in my music and I think they merged with my afro-roots.


[artwork by: JEROME LAGARRIGUE]


L: As a visual artist, one of the things that got me very intrigued about your music is that you integrate other art forms into your musical projects. Your new album, ART/ MONEY (harmony) is associated with exhibitions and is a multidisciplinary project involving many painters and a poet, right? Could you tell me more about the album?
Yes it is..to make it short and clear I wanted to be able to work with my bests friends from Brooklyn, painters JEROME LAGARRIGUE & TIM OKAMURA who used to be graf-writers way back and TROY GILBERT who is a poet from Washington DC. So the idea that I had when I was in Brooklyn was to illustrate their paintings with my music in order to combine our art forms into a thematic journey. It was an idea and now it's becoming real and we're still working on putting together the exhibition & show so that it will see the light in proper conditions soon. The album with all the directions that I took, it is totally me. This album is hardcore, raw, crispy, smooth, jazzy, semi-experimental in a rough way.
L: When and where can people buy the new album?
I don't have the date yet but it's coming really really soon and it will be available worldwide.

L: Any plans to do shows in the US?
No doubt !! Coming to the US soon.

L: Dream project for 2009?
ART/MONEY !! traveling !! new music !! 45 SCIENTIFIC rise !! Word Up *

L: Love, creativity, unity?
LOVE : Love for music
CREATIVITY : Endless inspiration
UNITY : An unaccomplished dream..

L: Shout outs?
To You Licsi and thanks for your kind words. To 45 SCIENTIFIC, my family, my cousins, my best friends and friends in Paris, Belgium, United States and all over the world and of course all the artists who collaborated to this album in order to make it possible. Thank YOU ALL!
[artwork by:TIM OKAMURA ]

We're All One !'


Art Money Lps snippet.mp3 - Cris Prolific
(note:there is a chance that the widget is not playing on every browser, in that case just follow the link to Cris's imeem page.)

2 comments:

.Blank.Bare.Clean. said...

Great interview! I love the combination of music and visual arts.

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