Detroit, Michigan’s Wisemen are a movement that has amplified its Wu-Tang Clan roots to impart a theme of hardcore, soulful traditional Rap for the people. With emcee/producer Kevlaar 7, brother of Bronze Nazareth, finally releasing his debut album, Die Ageless, their movement takes a tone of immediate relevance and continues their effort to promote their Black urban lyricist movement that plans solos from Phillie, Salute, June Megalodon and Illah Dayz all this year.
Kevlaar 7 is active in his Detroit community seeking to share his art and awaken people to the pathways out of their oppression. Rarely wavering in that intensity, he plans to release an all-produced Woodenchainz album in August and an LP fully produced by Bronze at the end of the year. For now, he takes a moment to give HipHopDX his thoughts on the real Detroit battlefield, his writing techniques and beat choices.
HipHopDX: Immortal Technique recently noted he at least saw negative gentrification and the illusion of progress in US cities. All but Detroit. What’s the connection with that and all of the progressive Hip Hop music coming from Detroit?
Kevlaar 7: Detroit is like a beautiful nightmare. I guess the artists are portraying beauty when they put it out in music form. It comes out beautiful because it’s so ugly sometimes. It comes off as a release and then I’m not gonna front, [Immortal Technique] is right. It’s fucked up. I got seeds. You always want your seeds to grow up good, in a safe neighborhood and play outside. It’s like it’s almost time to get away. If it was just me that I had to think about it’d be cool. I love it. With those to take care of and protect, you make different types of moves on some grown man shit. For real.
DX: People have told me that 8 Mile is really just a barrier. It’s not really the heart of that gutter, ill street ghetto.
Kevlaar 7: They’re right. I have to tell a lot of people that 8 Mile is just the dividing point. On the South Side of 8 Mile is Detroit all the way down. On the other side are the suburbs like Farmdale and Warren. The south side of 8 Mile is Detroit and farther down south that center line it’s really hood. On 8 Mile you could get hurt on certain spots if you on the south side of the road but if really you want to go to some of the war zones it’s on 7 Mile. You also gotta think about the southwest, the number streets. That’s where Phillie is from. Salute is from the Diggs [Housing] Projects. That’s on the East Side, right off of 75. It’s crazy.
DX: Where exactly was your studio?
Kevlaar 7: Our studio was on Greenfield in the Grand River area. It’s more in the city. The farther you get in the city the more hood it’s gon get until you get downtown. In fact we had to get rid of the studio because we had so many break-ins. We was working on it. We had tool-boxes and building materials and we lost all of that shit in the course of about 10 break-ins. We brought it there on purpose trying to bring some positivity to the area. Now we moved the studio to Bronze [Nazareth’s] basement in his crib. We had to do that cuz niggas was doing crazy shit. They would chisel through a cinderblock wall in the abandoned building next door. Walk in through that chiseled wall and run in and out with everything.
DX: You are the most overtly conscious militant of the Wisemen. How do you bring that message to the Detroit community?
Kevlaar 7: There’s a certain sound to the independent artists in Detroit. We’re not just talking about bitches booties bouncing and making it rain. It boils down to the trickery done on the minds of our people that has them dumb down and not want to listen to shit that makes them think and become free thinkers. We still go to open mics, show up at a club and just chill. We don’t have to be performing, just show our support.
DX: How did you come with the album title for your debut, Die Ageless?
Kevlaar 7: I said that in a verse years back. I had a list of names to choose from as far as album names and that stuck with me. What it means is that when I drop this album on the 29th, that’s how I’m living forever. We live once and I’m going to die, it’s inevitable. But I’m ageless because I put this material out and to me it’s so poignant that I live forever through that shit. I tied that with Paragone with Celestial Productions at www.CelestialProductions.com, for the album cover design. That’s my son on the cover writing in the background. That’s actually a verse I wrote seen there and behind is a pile of books. I also live forever through my son when he has offspring too. Even when I’m dead I’m dying ageless because my mark will always be here.
DX: On “Someday,” produced by Bronze, you paralleled his verse to be mirror images of each other but distinct. Both of you are speaking about someone passing and feeling less alive.
Kevlaar 7: We sat down and did that on purpose. He wrote his verse and it was ill. He said I want you to write a verse that’s symmetrical. So when I said, “when Tyler died I felt less alive” it is at the same point he had said it in his verse. On the same bar. That’s part of the reason why that song was so epic to me.
DX: Die Ageless also deals with the choices we make as in “Solstice” when you say, “a good nigga is what I saw, almost perfect but one mistake captured his soul inside these verses/y’all listen and learn that this violence is worthless …” Tell me about the stories on “Solstice” and “Fallen Angel.”
Kevlaar 7: Those are both true stories but at the same time I embellish a little bit. It was in my junior or senior year in high school and we’re playing basketball in the driveway and there’s a corner store right across the street. But long story short, a dude got bucked on the pay phone by the store. So there were brains on the floor and it was my first time seeing that. The shit was crazy to me. The beat I made just put me in that mode to write that. It just fell out of me. You know how I started off, “1995, early autumn I saw the fire from the hammer / As soon as I bent the corner / Drop to my chest this block is hotter than a sauna / Peer from a spot and seen the nigga that was shot…” That’s exactly what it was and I embellished a little bit with The Bible and Quran trying to draw people in. Sometimes to make mothafukas take the right medicine you gotta wrap sugar around it.
And that was basically the same shit with “Fallen Angel.” I was living in a high rise in Detroit and right on Jefferson there was this club right behind the crib. I’m coming home one day and just trying to park. This nigga was just wilding and I’m trying to park and he’s yelling to get the fuck out of the way. I’m talking shit but then he pulls up and got the joint on the edges and I’m gon’ get done. That’s what it turned into with me now using my imagination because he was the devil. The passenger, his woman, saved my life, telling him that I’m just trying to get home, leave him alone.
That was deep to me and Bronze did that beat. Ghostface Killah had actually picked it out before when he picked nine beats from me and 21 from Bronze and that was one of them. When Bronze told me that Ghostface Killah had just picked it out too, I was like “Get your [money and recognition]. Give it to him. We’re trying to grow.” Eventually Ghost didn’t use none of them beats so I was like, “Yo, I need that beat!”
DX: The tracks, mainly from Bronze and Woodenchainz and some others are extremely drum dominant with lots of drum rolls, stutters, sharp snares.
Kevlaar 7: Exactly! That’s how I like my drums. This album me and Woodenchainz just did [Sophisticated Movement], he and Bronze are kind of the same. They like their drums to blend into the sample whereas me, I want my drums heavy. I want the kicks kicking and I want the snares to fuck your eardrum up. About half the time I tell them to raise the drums up.
DX: Ultimately, this album is your wake up call to the people to just struggle. You express that on “Now,” saying you’re here for the cause. What’s the cause?
Kevlaar 7: The cause is my people. That’s the current theme throughout the whole album. I’m connected with my people with my heart. Everyday I’m reading and want to elevate my mind for my people. But it frustrates me and you’ve seen my posts on Facebook so you know. The other day I said something like, “a man who knows the truth but still lives by the lie is an ultimate form of self-destruction.” Mothafuckas know the truth but they’re like “Fuck it.” That frustrates the shit out of me. We can change and I know it’s a slow process but we won’t change if it adds up to tens of thousands of mothafuckas who refuse to. It boils down to you being too lazy to change. The truth is a hard pill to swallow and a lot of people don’t want it.