Running After Dreams: An Interview with 330

photo credit: s. deneen photography

It was after the instrumentals faded out on 330’s Mic Check that it really began to sink in that 330 is a star in the making.  Her flow takes you back to a time before rap gimmicks, before the money, the cars, and the unnecessary stunting…when pictures were painted with words. Yet 330’s content is futuristic and guaranteed to take hip-hop to the next level.
As a native of the suburb Harrisburg, PA, a Howard University Alum, with a Juris Doctorate from George Washington University, 330 seems like the most unlikely candidate to enter the hip-hop game.  So when we caught up, I had to know what motivated her to move beyond being one of the few  ladies rapping on The Yard with the fellas to pursuing her dream to become the newest rising star in hip-hop.
We are going to skip the usual pleasantries and jump right in. With a J.D. degree, you may very well be the most educated artist in the game; do you feel you have to prove yourself more to be taken seriously?
Nope, I don’t feel like I have to prove myself  as an hip-hop artist any more than any other artist.
It seems that Hip-Hop as a whole is growing up and becoming more educated.  Do you feel that helps your acceptance within the hip-hop community or does it even matter?
I was just listening to Lil B… so I am not sure how educated it is becoming.  But hip-hop is so powerful because of its ability to touch so many people from all walks of life.  We all know where the origins of hip hop are, and we pay homage to it.  But if hip-hop is becoming more educated then I think it is good. The result of more educated artists is probably more a result of society.  Society as a whole is becoming more educated, and I think that is reflective in hip-hop as well.
Sorry I’m Late is the title of your mixtape- I couldn’t think of a more appropriate title. Where have you been? Do you feel that waiting until completing your formal education has helped you develop as an artist?
Sometimes I regret releasing a project so late in comparison to other artists; but more so than not, I am glad I released it when I did.  I am less of a target to be manipulated by a label executive because I am an [educated] adult.  Also, I’ve been through so many life experiences- in my art, in my relationships- that helps me bring more relevance to my music.
Rap videos have glorified girl-on-girl interactions for over a decade now, then that seemed to trickle into mainstream media.  Do you feel a cultural glorification of girls liking girls will help your acceptance in a mainstream music market?
That glorification is and will help, but that is not necessarily a good thing.  But is a sad reality, our culture has always been more accepting of women to engage in homosexuality over our male counterparts.  It is a disgusting double standard that exists.  This is even more so in this industry.  I definitely have it easier than my male gay counterparts in this industry.
It seems that rapper Eve is making a comeback. I only mention her because it seems it has been a minute since a female emcee hasn’t been oversexed to sell an album.  How do you respond to the pressure of selling sex as a female emcee?
Personally, I will prescribe by simply saying no. That is not the approach I want to take.  However, I don’t have an issue with artists selling that sexy image; the problem comes in when you neglect other aspects of the person.  The question should be, “Can we also market her as a great lyricist??”  I understand marketing but it is important not to get lost in it.
My favorite track is Running After Dreams.  Who was the hardest person you had to convince that this wasn’t a hobby for you but actually a real achievable dream?
I’d have to say probably my mom.  I have had incredible support but my mother, while she is always so supportive she was the most difficult to convince.  I’ve had so many interests over the years- to be an actor, go into the Peace Corp, so because she knows me so well it was hard to win her over.  So now with all of the success, she is taking it more seriously.  But I love her for that because it makes me work harder.
What has been the hardest lesson you had to learn about the music business? Do you regret not taking a typical career path?
I don’t know if I had much of a choice in career matter because I am looking for a job…  But the hardest lesson I’ve had to learn is patience.  I am really impulsive, and I when I have an idea I want to impose it right then or the next day.  However, it takes time to build to a team, to push a project, and to build a fanbase.  The other lesson would have to be respect because there are some really arrogant people in this industry.  I had to learn to work with the most difficult personalities to achieve an objective.  It is very humbling.
 I said earlier that my favorite track is Running After Dreams, but I feel that Mic Check is the best display of your flow. What is your favorite track and why?
No One– the second verse because it is just like a stream of consciousness and the beat feels kind of ol’ school with no clear pattern.  It was very much reflective of me- kinda all over the place.  But I played with my words a lot on there.  Some of the stuff was serious and some was ignorant, so it was fun to combine that on one track.
And I love Lowkey because of the beat box. My dude Max is a genius. My homie Fred – we call him Cypha Chef because he is always cooking, is on the hook, so that was a fun one. My homie Strange Fruit was also there when we were recording that track.  I was in the booth rapping and they were dancing on the engineer side.  They were feeling it, so it was just a lot of fun to record that track. It brings back good memories.
What is something your fans may be surprised to find out about you?
They will be surprised to find out about the music I listen to. I listen to everything.  There are enough people in the world and enough consumers that every type of rapper has an audience.  Some people might not be into Nicki Minaj because they are not into being a Barbie, but a lot of people are.
I was listening to Lil B just a minute ago.  I was just listening to Mendelssohn, a classical composer, earlier today.  I actually listen to every artist who hands me a cd or email a song, I listen to everybody’s music. I am not perfect and may not get to it right away, but I will listen to it.
What about it? Yeah, I studied to classical ballet from the age of 3 to 18.  I stopped to go to Howard.  I felt I wanted to explore different arts at the time in the program didn’t really allow for that.  I wanted to incorporate all of this art and expression, and I couldn’t.
Do you feel like being exposed to the arts from such a young age has helped you with your performance?
Yes, it has definitely helped because I have a lot of areas to draw from.  My metaphors and ability to paint picture are more elaborate than a lot of people. As a rapper I am more rigid in my performance though. Now, my auntie who has been so supportive thinks I should incorporate both- ballet and rap.
Kanye did it.
Kanye is a genius. But I pretty sure my auntie meant she wants me to do ballet and then start rapping…
Hilarious! Well, let’s say it is a Monday night, 9 at night, where are you and what are you doing?
Monday night…well, right now I am sitting on my couch during a phone interview. Normally, I would be sitting on my couch writing music or staring at my computer… probably drinking.  I write a lot of music at night.  But I think I write better in the morning. I just feel this constant urge to get this shit done so the pressure is on to get a verse done now.  I can’t chill. I always feel like I need to be working on something.
330 is currently working on her second mixtape that is expected to drop in June.  Also be on the lookout for her new video, Money.  She will also be performing on June 9, 2011 for the ACLU’s Statehood Event on the West Lawn U.S. Capitol Grounds.
Find 330:
twitter: @330_music
mixtape: SorryI’mLate

Black Men and The Hustle

Welcome to another edition of Light Fridays

One of the things I love about Black men is their ability to hustle, well, just about anything.  There are good hustles.  These generally tend to be of the legal nature and require the completion of a W-4 form.  There are also good illegal hustles but that is a whole ‘nother story.  But the defining characteristics of a good hustle are based on its ability to generate the most money, in the quickest manner, using the least amount of effort, and posing the smallest risk.
Then there are bad hustles, sigh. For instance, let’s say, there is a man you work with that every 3 weeks or so he comes around the office, insisting you switch from a service provided by a reputable company to a company you have never ever, ever heard of ever that somehow he is now an investor in or something.  Let’s say for instance, it is something important like cell phone service or… ELECTRICITY.  Then he goes on to explain if you switch, and watch a 5 minute video you too can sell electricity.  Sigh.  Sir, your hustle is failing.
So real quick, here a 3 ways to know your hustle is failing and you need to go back to the drawing board and come again:
1) Turnover Rate:  If you have to come up with a new hustle, every 3 weeks whatever you are doing is not working.  And more than likely it is not the product itself, but your lack of skills to promote…well anything.  If you have a certain skill set, and you believe in the product, then you should be able to stick with it for longer than a few weeks and in turn actually turn a profit.  Otherwise, you are in the ranks of the lowly crackhead that will find anything to come up on $20.
2) Product Placement:  Product placement works hand-and-hand with knowing your customers.  This weekend in Black beauty salons all across America will be a man selling Mother’s Day baskets, purses, perfume, jewelry, flowers, and weaves.  Why?  Because he knows his customer!  So he will be where they are, saving them both time and gas money trying to find a last minute gift.  Similarly, his brother, cousin, homie will be posted outside of the barber shop selling bootleg dvds and cds because he too has mastered marketing 101.  Contrarily, trying to sell bootleg electricity to established professionals shows you don’t know your customer…at all.
3) The Come Up:  You may have missed it but the most important thing in a hustle is the ability to come up…on money…and/or time.   Now the men, that are always outside of the barbershop and grocery stores I am pretty sure they don’t have a 9-5.  But they get to set their own hours, make their own rules, set their own prices, etc and thus comes up time wise.  The man that comes in to the beauty shop on Saturdays usually works for  UPS or Wal-mart, you know, where supplies are plentiful… so this is just a quick come up financially.  If you have to work a full time job and hustle full-time, and only come up $25, you need to rethink everything you are doing because you are an embarrassment to the hustle.

By the way, Happy Mother’s Day!   

Black is the New White. Hispanic is the New Black: The Minority Hierarchy – Part One

We are well into 2011, and it has become apparent that the lines of racism have evolved.   There is no question that racism, from the subtle to the overt, is prominent within our society and Fox News.  There is still a very clear divide between the rights of White Americans and the injustices of Blacks (regardless of nationality) living in America.  Furthermore, within the Black Diaspora, we are fully aware of how American socialism has taught us to establish our own hierarchy within Blackness- the lightest being the highest to the darkest being the lowest. This self-hate directly mirrors the established protocol of slavery in America- the darker the skin, the bigger the burden.  What may have been impossible to predict that this once self-contained hatred would seep outside of the Diaspora and manifest itself into a Black supremacy ideology that subjugates all other races and nationalities, except, of course, the beloved and revered Whites.
Perhaps the most vulnerable to the ideologies and actions of this new Black Supremacy are Hispanics.  To be fair to Blacks, this ideology that they were slightly superior to Hispanics is simply a trickle-down effect inherited from mainstream America- not necessarily of their own thought process.  However, the inabilities to recognize and empathize with the plight of Hispanics as our own, rest solely on the failure of Blacks to thoroughly educate themselves.
It is the mindset of Blacks, mimicked by White America, that Hispanics entering a neighborhood instantly lowers property value.  Black women feel threatened by the presence of a group of young Hispanic men as they expect to be robbed.  It is automatically assumed when meeting a Hispanic that they are uneducated, don’t speak English, and have no right to live in America.  The familiarity of their story’s resemblance to the story of Black America is… eerie.  The fact this proven strategic conditioning has stood the test of 400 years is… insane.  The perpetuation of such ignorance by a very much still oppressed Black America is… inexcusable.

The Vision

Earlier this year, I was cleaning out and organizing my email accounts, and I ran across an email that I sent to myself in 2008 to create a vision board.  I do that a lot, send emails as reminders to myself; however, I suppose this one got lost in the shuffle.  But actually, my rediscovering of this email couldn’t be more timely.  I was feeling like I was in a rut and not moving forward.  Or maybe I was moving forward, but I didn’t feel like it was the right direction for me.  So I used this email reminder to create a vision board as an opportune time and method to refocus and gain new insights on what I really want to do and who I really want to be.
The items that came to mind surprised and overwhelmed me.  I realized so many of my reachable goals had been pushed to the background.  So many of my interests and hobbies that gave me life dissolved under workloads and strained relationships.  Since that time, I have gotten back to me.  I removed the expectations of others, turned to the sources of true delight, and then created a plan.   A new road map since the previous one…faded, dirty, trodden- it was best to just begin again.   And with so much on the to-do list, I began to get overwhelmed.  I grew frustrated over the time I’ve lost and opportunities I’ve missed.  But then I realized those frustrations were just distractions that had lingered too long.  I could only start from where I am.  I can only start with today.  And move forward. Focused on the vision of a better me.

Day Off

I am out running around and enjoying my day off from work so no real post for today.
However, in lieu of the news breaking last night that Osama Bin Laden was killed, I ask that you keep our President and our Country in your prayers.
See ya tomorrow ….