Since being freed from prison last November [click to read], emcee and producer John Forte has slowly reclaimed some of the ground lost in Hip Hop in nearly a decade of incarceration. Late last week, it was announced that the onetime Refugee Camp member was unveiling his EP, StyleFREE by way of his JohnForte.com platform [click to read].
After seven years removed from releasing buyable product (2002’s I, John [click to read]), Forte told HipHopDX Friday evening about his intentions. “It felt like a natural progression.” He continued, “Unforced. Organic, I think that’s been a theme in my life since coming home...I think I’ve got an incredible team of people around me, they surround me and prop me up when I need it most.“
With Water, Light, Sound coming in the near future, Forte was adamant that StyleFREE is not out to promote his full-length in the traditional sense. “When people think of EP’s, they think of halves – as in this is half of what [will be heard] when they album releases. This is not that. This is a collector’s item in the sense that none of the songs you’re hearing on the EP will be released on the full-length. This is ‘get it while you can,’ seven songs, which scares my publishers. They feel its a lot of content, seven songs, at less than half the price of an album.“
Selling the release through JohnForte.com, the emcee explained the release’s title, which may confuse some fans used to free downloads in the digital age. “This release date of this album is very symbolic for me, as nine years ago, July 14, I was arrested. Now, July 14 [this year] is symbolic of something much greater – a 180, if you will. So taking that theory of flipping things, and redirecting them, my roots in Hip Hop and other genres of music began with me and a handful of my cohorts back then, freestyling in the parks. That’s how we got on. We got on by sharpening our beliefs, free-styling. So I’m not necessarily the consumate freestyle artist anymore, but the style is free. It just goes hand-in-hand with again, flipping meanings and turning things inside out.“
Forte was then asked about his pension for ’80s Pop song influences, first heard 11 years ago on the Poly Sci single “Flash The Message,” a near-cover of the 1984 German Pop hit “99 Luftballons” by Nina. The Brooklyn native candidly explained, “In the interest of full disclosure, Wyclef [Jean] [click to read] brought the ’99 Luftballons’ idea to the table. I wasn’t thinking about that at all. We were on tour at the time, and he played the record and said, ‘Hey man, this would be a good look.’ He pitched it to me and I ate it up. We went to Germany and did a remix [of ‘Flash The Message’] with Nina.” Reflecting, John added, “It was just a fun record, and it also went in line with what ‘Clef was doing [with sampling at the time].“
Now producing his own material, Forte explained the difference bettween “Flash The Message” and his 2009 re-entry song “Running Up That Hill,” an interpolation of Kate Bush‘s 1985 single of the same name. “Fast forward to the present: my exposure to ‘Running Up That Hill’ wasn’t exactly from Kate Bush. I didn’t actually know that Kate Bush sang ‘Running Up That Hill;’ my remix is based on a group called The Chromatics, who re-made the Kate Bush song.”
Now an accomplished musician, Forte also touched on how the methods for making music differ from his ’90s mentor. “It wasn’t a sample, though I stayed true to form. I used the same instruments, I played the song in the same key and I used similar sounding synths.” To Forte, inspiration comes from all places, and his association with ’80s Pop is not intentional. “It was my ode to just being inspired by that groove and the lyrics, not to kind of bow to the ’80s Pop that Kate Bush was a part of. But it’s a win-win situation, ’cause now I recognize the source of what I thought the source was.“
StyleFREE is available today on JohnForte.com.