Apr 11, 2011

Interview: K-Murdock (Panacea Producer)

SFCB:  The influx of social media in the past decade has really created a new outlet for artists to market themselves, and as a result it’s a great way to discover new talent.  I know Questlove of the Roots often uses twitter to highlight artists that appear on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and recently one of the co-founders of twitter mentioned that 25% of all tweets have links in them, whether it’s video, pictures, audio or whatever.  It’s really allowed the artists to bypass the more traditional methods of marketing to essentially kill the middleman and let the audience get it straight from the source.

I know you have a fairly wide presence on social media from Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, to the Bandcamp page and your Kickstarter programs.  How has social media helped you out, and has there been any drawbacks to it?

KYLE MURDOCK: Social media basically has allowed me to earn some kind of living off music, not exclusively, but some kind of one. It's all about word of mouth and being visible online. Once people see something you tweet, post, etc it can be like wildfire especially if someone feels compelled to retweet or comment or share it.  It can be very hit or miss, but I will say what works in my favor is that I got a track record of solid material so I don't just drop and solicit anything.  That, I have found, turns me off from many labels/artists who essentially whore themselves via social media. There's a tact to it so you can walk the line between self promotion and ad nauseum pandering, lol! So far I haven't had anyone be like "Yo K, chill on the solicitations" so thats good.  

As for Kickstarter, it was a blessing but I don't think many are prepared for the aftermath of the monsters we create on it, but nonetheless I love the service.

SFCB:  One thing that seems to be popular is the whole “Hip Hop is Dead” meme, that seems to have been around for quite awhile, but picked up steam after Nas released that album.   I think it’s a bit too easy to fall into that mindset where you look around and things aren’t like it used to be, in your mind.  Personally I was a big fan, and still am, of the mid-90’s era of hip hop.  And while I don’t care for a lot of what’s coming out these days, I think that something a lot of people don’t consider is that everything is cyclical.   When we were kids, we had the party & having fun music (Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, Kid N’ Play) and we had the social change music (Public Enemy, KRS-1) and we had the Gangsta shit too (NWA).

Today we have those same groups of artists, but I think people concentrate too much on the “Party & Bullshit” music, rather than the intelligent serious artists such as Dead Prez, Talib Kweli, Mos Def, and the list goes on, not to mention the new school, so to speak, of the intelligent socially conscious artists like Malcolm & Martin and others.

What are your thoughts on this whole “Hip Hop is Dead” meme?

KM: Personally I'm so tired of this "Hip-Hop is Dead" stuff. It's silly as it's just one famous rapper's stance on how he felt that naturally many others echoed, but I don't think many really felt truly as Nas and just backed the bandwagon because it seemed like a fad or the thing to do and thats silly as hell.  I personally don't feel it's dead.  I am heavily involved in disproving that idea via my hip hop show Subsoniq which celebrates the new wave of hip hop that is out, there's so much stuff out there to refute that idea, people just need to listen closer. It's ridiculous that even with the advent and accessibility of the internet, people are still listening to the same ish and not being exploratory and then the blogs who are supposed to be the taste makers, many of them, their scope of "hip-hop" is as myopic as the MTV, BET and radio outlets, that it's almost laughable to me. But to me it's not dead, it's evolving,  What it is evolving into, I guess we'll see, but thats part of the fun!

SFCB:  By that same token though, I do sometimes feel like I’m getting old and this world is passing me by when I see some of the artists that are emerging, particularly this “Odd Future” group.  Now I’ve never pretended that I’m up on all the latest trends or anything, but I had heard so much about these kis and when I watched a clip of them I just kind of shook my head and was wondering what the fuss was about.   They seemed to take offense to a recent article by Byron Crawford in which he labeled them as the “Black Insane Clown Posse” but it’s kind of hard to really disagree with that.

They seem to take the shock value route in their content and image, and credit to them they’ve developed a large following.   I know you recently had the chance to see them at SXSW and was wondering what your thoughts on them were.

KM: I saw Tyler & his crew, OFWGKTA?!?, at SXSW and was unimpressed and shaking my head. They got a movement of young rebellious teens who seem enthralled with Tyler and his crew's utter disrespect for... everything.  Sadly, Tyler seems like he can kinda rhyme and even play piano, but I'm not into the shock value shit, its entertaining but i can only take so much of cats beating one another up, talking about rape and violence, and oh yeah pulling there fingernails off after getting effed up off some mystery brew they concocted with a blender. WTF?  I'm just too old for this.  Reminds me of stuff groups like the Flatlinerz used to rhyme about. On top of all that, there music is very a-melodic and I just tolerate the sounds. But good luck to the guys, be interested to see if they are still on this whole FTW vibe once they get closer to my age (30). lol

SFCB:  Speaking of SXSW, I know you and Random went there recently.  I’ve never been there, but I hear it’s a ton of fun.   Tell us how that went for you this year.

KM: SXSW was fun. After going for the second straight year i know a bit more what to expect but still its very overwhelming just walking through the streets and seeing fans and artists alike commingling and taking it in.  Show highlights for me were Blueprint, Macklemore from Seattle and this producer named Fresh Kils from Canada whose live MPC beat routine was bananas!

And of course the set I rocked with Random was dope, definitely way more packed and live than last year we did it ;)

SFCB:  The Grammys were just on, and as usual there were many people who felt that the right artist didn’t win.   Leaving the Bieber Nation aside for amoment, what were some albums of the past year that you felt didn’t get the proper attention, or perhaps an artist that should have won in your opinion but didn’t?  I know, personally, I felt The Roots’ album “How I Got Over” should have been Album of the Year, not simply relegated to the Rap Album category, where Eminem won for "Recovery".

KM: Honestly, I didnt listen to a lot of new music in 2010 so its hard to answer that as I was too busy crafting my own stuff.  I know that's a smug artist response, lol, but true.   My fave hiphop album of 2k10 was by a group from Houston named H.I.S.D., their album "The Weakend" was phenomenal!  My fave of the year hands down!  Not a Bieber or Drake fan so I appreciated the fact that Esperanza Spalding copped the best new artist award.  Her album is dope!  I actually listen to it and its nice to see Jazz win that category as its rare but gives me hope that somebody on that Grammy panel is listening ;)

SFCB:  A lot of old classic videogames have been re-released for the next gen consoles with upgraded graphics, including the Prince of Persia, Tomb Raider and Sly & Cooper series, not to mention  God of War 1 & 2 as well.  What are some games you’d like to see released with upgraded graphics for the next gen consoles?

I'd love to see Final Fantasy 7 or Chrono Trigger remade, or even the game Little Nemo The Dream Master, as thats always been a cult classic with me.  Retro is the newness nowadays as fresh IPs seem lacking these days, its all sequels or retro-creations, so  i guess we'll see. Either way, I'll still be gaming on something.

SFCB:   I know you’re a fan of the Madden series.  A lot of people have been critical, myself included, of the fact that due to EA having an exclusive rights deal with the NFL, they’re the only company that can use the NFL likenesses, logos and whatnot for the players, teams and stadiums.  This has led Madden to not really do much to improve the games year after year.  Each game is virtually indistinguishable from the last, save a few bells and whistles that often come off as more gimmicks than actual additions to the game.   

How do you feel about this, and would you like to see other companies get a crack at the NFL game business?

KM: Ironically, there's a recent lawsuit out against EA regarding their monopolizing of the NFL franchise.  I think they did a smart business move as they realized 2k Sports had their number with NFL 2K5 and they got scared and went the bitch route by doing the exclusivity thing, which sucked for fans.  Though I did love Madden NFL 10, I copped Madden NFL 11 and returned it after 2 weeks as it was the same shit with slightly better graphics and worse controls.  

It's like EA had it the formula down and decided to eff it up after finally making something decent football wise, so as of now, eff em, I'm done with sports games.  I'll keep playing Fallout New Vegas till the exclusivity deal expires after 2013, I believe, and if the NFL is smart they WILL NEVER do that again, hopefully.

SFCB: In recent years there’s been a push by a lot of fans to get rid of the BCS system in College football, and adopt a playoff as they do in basketball and virtually every other sport in America.   Yet there’s also a push back by those BCS loyalists (and those who view this as the most profitable system) to keep things the way they are.  How do you feel about the current BCS system in football, and do you think it should stay the same or should there be a playoff system?

KM: Though I'm a big NFL fan, I don't watch college football unless it's a player's highlight reel for scouting draft picks, lol.  I only pay close enough attention come Feb with the NFL combine aka "The meat market" so I know who are the prospective ballers or busts. Plus my Bears haven't had the best of luck drafting the last few years so I don't have motivation to pay attention. not to mention that my college's football team (Howard University) was never good so I wasn't into college football, but if I had to pick a side, I say dead this BCS stuff as its confusing as hell.

SFCB:  Over the years, the comic book genre has really come a long ways from being viewed as simply something for kids, to a legitimate form of literature.  What do you think was the turning point that changed people’s minds to where they were like “wow this is deep and intelligent art here”?

KM: Although im not a big comic fan, I appreciate the stories and artwork and think that there's gonna be some good and bad storytelling like any genre.  Some comics are just more ripe for better stories than others where as some seem to live off their amazing artwork, some others are known due to great story arcs, etc. I think if comics were just relegated to thrive from the amazing artwork in them, then we wouldn't see all the story arcs and stuff as you still need something to push the characters.  

I also think since many kids who started reading comics are now adults, at some point writers had to make the content more adult-savvy so they'd stay reading them and to make sure they didnt stay simply as a kid thing as i know many adults who still frequent comic stores. Hell, one of my fave Chicago Bears players, Linebacker Lance Briggs, is a super avid comic fan who even runs his own comic community site. Pretty cool for a 30 year football player.

SFCB:   Recently you took part in a Japanese Relief album  release called “Hope For Tomorrow” with your remix of “Tokyo Twilight”.   I think it’s nice to see people in hip hop standing up for Japan, considering how much love Japan has given to Hip Hop over the years.  Not to mention how many hip hop heads are big on Japanese culture, Manga and whatnot.    How did your part in that project unfold?

KM: Basically, i did this remix for my homie Substantial's Bop Alloy project and the song paid homage to Tokyo, a place  Stan himself has been to many many times as detailed in the song and i loved the vibe of the song so i decided to remix it, make it more bubbly and bouncy, lol, and been siting on this remix for a couple months when the unfortunate double whammy earthquake/tsunami hit Japan and I was contacted about contributing, so that song was like too perfect as it shows Japan love and thus it worked out where I felt like I could really do something to aid, that also paid respect to a place I have personally yet to visit but owe so much to as far as influence in my music and beyond.

SFCB:  Last year I did a review of the Hidden Beach release “Yes We Can!” which was a sort of soundtrack to the grassroots movement that got President Obama elected.  In the review I pointed out how difficult it was to review it at that time with the disappointment that I had with how things had turned out.  I know a lot of people who voted for him have been a bit frustrated with how things have played out.  What are your thoughts on the situation, where we currently stand and how you think the next election will go?

KM: It's crazy to think that Obama's time has flown so fast as President.  I know people are a bit frustrated by how things have panned out in his term, but I think he came into the situation handicapped to Bush's eff ups and has spent too much time doing damage control from the prior eight years.  That being said, I don't see anyone else who I feel would qualify as a better leader for the next four year term so he'll get my vote in 2012.

Not just because there's not much adequate competition for him at the moment,  but because I want to see him actually get more into the stuff he campaigned for in 2008 since he's spent so much time in this go round cleaning up Bush's messes ya know.  I think we all are frustrated, but shame on us for thinking Barack was a Black Superman, he is just a man after all, just in a very unenviable position of leading our nation. No pressure ;)

SFCB:  In the recent interview I did with your man, Random, we talked about the fact that a lot of Republicans are pushing for a defunding of the school system.  The thing that irritates me is that it seems they want to push things back to the way it was before Brown vs. Board.  Where there was no forced integration and there are schools for black kids and schools for white kids. They want these schools to go away from public funding and back to the way It was, with these "charter schools".  And I wonder if it’s a situation of these politicians being genuinely clueless as to how it worked back then, or if they know, but they just don’t care because they can afford to send their kids to private schools and as a result, their destructive policies will never touch their lives?

KM: From my experience in the past, volunteering at both private and public schools, both are in trouble as they all seem understaffed and the kids don't always have the tools they need readily accessible. Maybe it's just Washington DC area schools but the distinctions between the two weren't as glaring as I thought!  But I do feel ya on the idea that many of these rich Republicans who can afford better education for their children will turn a blind eye but ideally any and all parents if they could and really cared for their kids would try and get them the best education money could afford.  Unfortunately we can't all do that and thats why its key we get public schools better equipped to keep up with private ones.  In the end the kids lose and thats wack!

SFCB:  One of the causes that I’m a big supporter of is the anti-Capital Punishment movement.  I am very much against the Death Penalty, not because of a “cruel and inhuman punishment” type deal.  I realize there are people who are flat out evil and they perhaps need to be put down for the better of society.   My deal is that you can’t guarantee that only the guilty will receive it.   We’ve seen case after case after case of innocent men (more times than not, innocent Black men) being exonerated after spending 30 years or so in prison, and many on Death Row with some coming mere hours from execution.   

Many of these were due to police misconduct, false eye witnesses, witnesses lying on the stand or false confessions beaten out of the suspects.   I just feel that unless you can make it 100% that only guilty people are going to be executed, and that racial bias is not playing a part, then it has to be done away with.   What are your thoughts on this issue?

KM: You pretty much nailed it GA.  I completely agree with you.  After watching the documentary on Mumia Abu Jamal and how some of these guys sit on Death Row often have evidence to overturn their cases but have to wait and in some cases die because of the slow bureaucratic justice system, it's hard to argue for the death penalty if it takes an innocent man's life!

SFCB:  2010 was a big year for you, in which you not only released Forever Famicom, with Mega Ran, but also Panacea's 12 Step Program was also released.   You also had two highly successful Kickstarter campaigns for both of them.   You went to SXSW, Comic-Con and was featured on the Japanese Disaster Relief project  “Hope For Tomorrow”.   What do you have planned for 2011, that you can talk about?

KM: 2010 was great, and so far 2011 is shaping up to be great too.  I'm off to a slower start but readying lots of projects for spring, summer & fall including: a new EP called The Ronin, my long awaited side project The Ebony Bed which is more on the soul tip, and me and Random are prepping to do another videogame themed album in celebration of a classic franchise this summer.

That and a couple other things in the works, but I'm just steady focused on growing as producer and expanding my production company to garner more work. It's a lot of hats to wear but I'm not complaining as I chose this life and am beyond blessed to live it.  OH YEAH,  and I would be remiss not to mention that Raw P of Panacea and I are taking a break in 2011 to do our side/solo things but coming back hard (PAUSE) for 2012. And in the meantime, I'm doing a special 5 year anniversary re-release of our first commercial album, Ink is My Drink, on hard copy at the end of April.

Ok, thats that. Back  work for me ;)

SFCB: Thank you, Kyle for giving your time to answer some questions again.  Always good to hear what you have to say.


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