May 9, 2012

[INTERVIEW] Rapper Mega Ran talks "Language Arts", The Beastie Boys, Hologram Tupac and more!

I was fortunate to score another interview with the one and only Random aka Mega Ran.   Our interviews typically cover a lot of topics both hip hop and non, and this one isn't really that different although it's a bit more restrained than some of the others I've done with him.

Here we talked about comic books, video games, the Beastie Boys and how he broke the news to his mother that he was leaving his teaching career behind for a full time gig in hip hop, with a brief cameo by Hologram Tupac.

Read on for more!


SFCB:  So you caused a lot of concern recently when people felt that you were saying you were going to retire the name "Mega Ran".  Could you elaborate on that situation and what you meant?

RANDOM: I think that got a little misconstrued. I think I said that I won't make any more albums with the name Mega Ran in them-- meaning I won't make any more albums based on the Mega Man series. I just don't want to be known as a one trick pony. However, I'm not stupid, and there are probably more people in the world who know me as Mega Ran than Random, so it would be a bit foolish to totally abandon that. I used to try to separate and differentiate, like when I rapped about games I was Mega Ran and when I didn't I was Random, but it's just too  difficult to maintain that. Plus when it comes down to it, Mega Ran is a very much more google-friendly term than Random, although I do find it cool that when you google "random rapper," I come up first, haha. 

I'm also a huge fan of the Swedish chiptune artist Random (http://randomizer.se/) so I feel like out of respect, I should try to differentiate. So it will be Random aka Mega Ran for a while... But for the immediate future, there will be NO MORE new rap albums from me based on any Mega Man games. So sorry y'all. 


SFCB:  As many people who follow your career are aware of, you have gone from being a teacher in Middle School who rapped in your spare time, to someone who now pursuing hip hop full time.  You chronicled this in your web series "Life After Lesson Plans".

There was an interesting aspect to the whole thing that I hadn't thought of when you first announced the jump, but after thinking about it I realized how major it truly was, and that was you explaining to your mom your decision.  No matter what your age, your mom's still your mom and you want to make sure that she's cool with your decisions.

Talk about how that conversation went and what her thoughts on your walking away from the Education system and into a full time career with hip hop.

RANDOM:  Well my mother thought I was joking initially, I believe. She said "OK, whatever," and I walked out thinking this was much easier than I thought it would be. However, she later talked to me about it and said "You can do this music thing for the summer, but after that, I think you should get back in the classroom." I appreciated her advice, and told her that, and in an attempt to appease her, responded with, "alright, I'll try."

She knew that meant I was going to do what I wanted to do. She gave me the "You're a grown man" talk, then decided she was going to let me do what I had already made up my mind to do. Strangely enough, now that it's been a year doing music full time, she is super supportive of my move, even coming to shows and inviting the family. She hadn't been to any shows prior to me making this change, so it's awesome to see her out there cheering me on when I'm back in Philly.

SFCB:  Your new Kickstarter program is called, quite appropriately for a former teacher, "Language Arts".(READ PRESS AT BOTTOM OF THIS POST)  When I first saw the title I laughed because I hadn't heard that phrase in forever, since when I was in school.  It's weird how we often don't use that phrase in our lives, except in school.

Now your "Language Arts" campaign has just concluded, which involves not only an album but also a video game and a comic book, and you have raised four times what you were hoping for.  Talk about "Language Arts", and how this extensive project came about.


                                     MORE AFTER THE BREAK


RANDOM:  I'd been working on this album since 2009. A lot of things happened that kept it from getting off the ground-- my DJ and engineer DN3 had left town, my original comic artist vanished,  I had other ideas and commitments-- some of them totally changed my life for the better, like Forever Famicom, Heroes and Black Materia-- but I'd been sitting on the beats and concepts for LA for so long.

The idea came to me on a whim, like most others. I just thought instead of me pushing other peoples trademarks and brands, why not try to build my own brand and franchise? The "Language Arts" title was easy--it's what I taught in school. I just wanted to create something bigger than anything I had ever done before. I've done practically every medium possible, from CDs to DVDs to vinyl, and on... but never comics or video games.

I read comics, I play games, I make music. Just made sense to go back and combine all of those things into one cool package. The video game portion was the last part-- I never expected that to work out, but I met a developer who was excited about the concept and we hammered it out.


SFCB:  So who are some of the people you are working with on this project?

RANDOM: Man, since it's a 3 album set, and since it's unlike anything I've done before, I enlisted a lot of new faces, as well as some of the old favorites. Most of the production is done by EOM, who makes some amazing beats! K-Murdock appears, DN3 does a bunch of crazy tracks, Lost Perception, and there's assistant production by Bear McCreary and Danny Baranowsky. Richie Branson produced the title track, I'll probably be sharing that soon. On the vocal side, there's Punchline and Wordsworth of EMC, Ariano, MC Frontalot, MC Lars, mc chris, Wax,   Storyville, and the whole album is narrated by voice actor Kyle Hebert, who's done more anime classics than you can shake a chopstick at.....was that offensive? 


SFCB:  You are, safe to say, becoming a veteran of the Kickstarter business model.  Having had several successful projects through the site, I wondered if you would be able to give your thoughts on it.  If you were approached by someone who was an up and coming artist, and they told you they were thinking about setting up a Kickstarter, what would be some things that you would advise them to know before getting into it?  Perhaps things that you were not aware of until it was underway or done with that you wished you had known.

RANDOM:  Well I can't give away too much, but I'm working on a new blog entry called "How To Win At Kickstarter," and most of my secrets are in there... But I can give you the main 5 pillars of advice: 1) Timing is Everything 2) Seek Help 3) Consider the Costs 4) Research What Works 5) Give Great Rewards.

There will be more expounding on those in this future blog. The main thing I can say to anyone considering it is that they must be SURE that people are willing to spend money on them. if you've never made a dime on your music or art, it's probably not the time. Also don't forget about shipping!!

SFCB:  You're a life long comic book fan, what's it like to go from reading comics from others to putting out one of your own?

RANDOM:  It's unreal. I can't really put it into words.. Unfortunately I don't have much of a collection anymore after my mom trashed a bunch of my stuff during college, but those books got me through so much, and kept me out of trouble, so it'll be fun to be able to read my own comic. More than anything I just want to inspire someone else who came from what I came from, who's been through what I've been through, that above all, it's okay to be yourself.

SFCB:  In recent years we've seen the introduction of comic books being released in digital form.  While clearly not the same as holding it in your hands, what are your thoughts on comic books being released digitally?

RANDOM:  I'm so old fashioned. I always said I would never buy a digital comic, or a digital song, and eventually, I caved. It's hard for me to get used to, but it's good for the environment, and lets face it, these books aren't gonna be worth anything later on anyway... might as well enjoy the reading and not have to worry about that. If not for a comic app on my iPhone, I wouldn't know about the awesomeness of The Walking Dead, or many other books. Some though, I just have to own in paper form, like the new Spider-Man and the X-Men vs. Avengers stuff... I'm still nostalgic like that.

SFCB:  As with anything that gets a digital release there is an issue with piracy.  We have often heard from the RIAA and MPAA that piracy affects their bottom lines, and that they are losing massive amounts of money due to online piracy, despite some who point out that those claims aren't what they are made out to be, Do you think that digital comics piracy poses a legitimate threat to the industry?

(VIDEO BY "Copyright Activist" VIA  The Young Turks' "TYTNATION" CHANNEL)

RANDOM:  Yes I can see that. it's just as easy to pirate comics as music these days, I would imagine, and it hurts because comics don't make millions like these greedy record label execs, so I actually feel bad about comic piracy much more than music. One thing I don't like, with my app for example, is that digital comics cost as much as hard copies.

I really think they should be cheaper to encourage people to buy them. No company likes to lose money, and there really isn't any way to know how much they're losing on these piracy claims, so they should probably chill and be happy that folks are reading comics still.

SFCB:  You are a frequent collaborator with Panacea producer K-Murdock having already done the Forever Famicom project together, among others.  I've always felt that you two worked well together and brought out the best in each other.  Do you have any projects lined up in the near future with him?

RANDOM:  We do! K-Murdock mastered the Language Arts album, and produces several tracks on it. in early 2013, we are gonna work on our Forever Famicom follow-up, "Sega-City," dedicated to all of the classics and overlooked Sega treats. until then, I'm gonna try to take a short break from video game stuff, though I'm working with a lot of video game music composers, like Danny Baranowsky (Super Meat Boy), Bear McCreary (The Walking Dead, Battlestar) and many more.


SFCB:  You are involved with a tour called "The Vs. Tour" with Willie Evans Jr.  Talk about the tour and what all is going on with that.

RANDOM:  The VS tour is actually over, but I had a blast out there with Willie Evans, DJ DN3, Adam Warrock and my Writers Guild partner RoQy TyRaiD. Next we're finishing up an EP, "The VS Project," featuring me and Willie rapping over fighting game beats. My Man Philly is working on a VS Mixtape that'll contain everyone from the tour as well. I'm very proud of the tour and more importantly what it represented, because it was the first extensive tour I booked solely with my own management team. Achievement Unlocked! I have to thank Miss L. Jay, Will and the rest of the crew for holding us down. Can't wait to do it again!

SFCB:  Recently at Coachella we were blessed/cursed with the wonder that is Hologram Tupac.  I admit when I FIRST saw like a crappy youtube video of the Holgram and Snoop doing "2 Of Americas Most Wanted" I was hyped and thought it was cool, but then when I saw the full performance and realized it was like some computerized vocals and he shouted out Coachella, it took the shine off for me.

I guess I imagined that it was like a video of an old live show he had done that they had beamed on there and Snoop had his timing down not just with the lyrics but with the movements on stage so as not to step on each other's lines or spots.  But when I found out it wasn't that I just kind of lost interest.

Reaction has been divided on this.  What were your thoughts?

RANDOM:  I was stunned the whole time. I had no idea what to say. Very creepy. I watched the whole thing in silence with my mouth agape. It's pretty amazing. I'm waiting on the MLK and Malcolm X Holograms next. I just don't think they should be altering peoples vocals and making them say things they didn't say..There's a lot of harm that could potentially be done. If there was a point to this, like his birthday celebration, or in a 2Pac museum, I'd be all for it, but they're talking about touring with it, and I just don't know about that.

SFCB:  Recently the hip hop world lost Adam Yauch of The Beastie Boys. I was like 11 or 12 years old when I bought Licensed to Ill brand new on cassette so it was like the only thing I listened to for months and months on end, and thought it was easily the most amazing thing ever, as most 11 or 12 year old kids hearing that probably did.  It's amazing to look back on their career and just marvel at their impact and legacy and realize just how long ago they came out.

What are your thoughts on the Beasties and were they a group you listened to much growing up?

RANDOM:  Dude...I was a HUGE Beastie Boys fan...MCA's death hit me hard, I mean like Michael Jackson hard. Licensed to Ill was my first cassette I owned, I even bought it twice. My next door neighbor and I used to play it back to back for months, and knew every word. They are a major reason I rhyme now, Probably one of my biggest influences, and to know that a piece of that is gone, makes me feel so weak.

I don't know who would've thought they'd have left such a mark on hip-hop and on history way back then, but we owe so much to the Beasties. They're a huge part of American history and their legacy and standing can never be tarnished. I never got to see them live, and I can just hope that the guys can be able to go on and continue to make noise. My prayers go out to all of them and to Adam's family and friends... My heart is heavy for them.

SFCB:  Now for the "Random Questions With Random" section of the interview.  I'll throw some general questions at you to get your thoughts on a few other topics.

1.  One thing that the two of us have in common is that we are both avid gamers.   What has been some of your favorite video games of 2012 so far?  For me, Trine 2 and Journey on the PSN and SSX has monopolized almost all of my time, but I also have Prototype 2 and Max Payne 3 coming up, not to mention NCAA 13 which will totally rule my summer.  How about yourself?

RANDOM:  I can't really answer this one as well as I'd like because I've still been catching up to games from last year and beyond! Mass Effect 2--- yes 2, that's not a typo-- has been all I've played this year, besides sports games. Max Payne 3 and Borderlands 2 are the ones I can't wait for! I played a little bit at PAX East this year, and all that did was get me even more excited for those! I told myself I have to beat Mass Effect 2 and get to 3 before all these new games come out.

2.  You recently released a track inspired by the PSN game "Journey" by @ThatGameCompany (exclusive to the PSN).  Talk about your feelings on the game itself, and the reaction to your track.

RANDOM:  I talked so much about Journey when it came out that people are probably sick of hearing about it, but oh well-- that game is AMAZING! I loved it! I really enjoyed the experience, and I felt like I was doing more than mashing some buttons, but I was truly immersed in the land and the game...the soundtrack as well, which led to me making a remix beat tape about it called "Journey: A Hip-Hop Excursion."

I was fortunate enough to have the soundtrack composer, Austin Wintory, even give me props on my beats, which really made my year. I only make music when I'm inspired, and that game left me completely awestruck and motivated, and so I made beats, which is something I rarely do these days! That led to me producing the first Language Arts single "Wake Up." Funny how things work!

3.  You are from Philly but also have lived in Arizona as well.  What are your favorite sports teams in the big three (Basketball/Football/Baseball), if any?

RANDOM:  76ers, Eagles and Phillies. All Day, Every Day. That was easy. I'm Philly even when I'm not there.

4.  What movies have you seen lately that have really impressed you? No cheating so you can't say Avengers.

RANDOM:  I can't say Avengers? That's totally not cheating because it is the last movie I saw. If not that then I'd say that I finally watched the documentary "Waiting for Superman" this year.. and WOW.. a must watch for anyone with even a bit of interest in the education of today's youth. Also, I didn't think Hunger Games was that great. Maybe I need to read the book. shrug.

5.  Growing up I wasn't majorly into comic books but one super hero comic I always really dug was Cloak & Dagger. I was thrilled that they made an appearance in the Marvel Civil War series.   

What was your favorite Super Heroes in Comics growing up?

RANDOM:  Ahh good one. I loved X-Factor and X-Force back in the day.. my favorites were Cable and Deadpool. I really hope they make a film for those guys, I would really enjoy it.

SFCB:  That's it for the questions, before I let you go, what are some projects you have coming up for the rest of 2012 that you can talk about?

RANDOM:  Language Arts 1, 2 and 3, the comic, the game, The VS Project, an EP with one of my favorite MC's Jermiside, and many more surprises!

SFCB:  Thank you very much for your time, and congratulations on your successful Kickstarter campaign, and best of luck in the future.

RANDOM:  Thank you so much for the opportunity and the great questions! Peace to all of your readers!

-----------------------------------

PRESS RELEASE


PHILADELPHIA, PA - Hip Hop musician and educator Random, aka Mega Ran is elevating the game with his next release, an ambitious and creative journey into the life of the "TeacherRapperHero" called "Mega Ran in Language Arts."

"Language Arts" will combine all of Ran’s loves of the past 30 years and will simultaneously launch as a hip-hop  album, a comic book, done by the artists at J1 Studios in Philadelphia, and Flash/iOS video game, produced by Lunar Giant Studios. 

In the story, a character loosely based on Random (born Raheem Jarbo) will face all of the tragedy and triumph that a musician, family man and teacher can handle on the quest for justice.
"Think 'Dangerous Minds' meets 'Daredevil” and “8 Mile,” says Jarbo from the studio. "This will be a great project, and fans of comics, hip-hop and a great story will all enjoy it."

In perhaps the biggest news, the album will be assistant executive produced by critically acclaimed composer BEAR MCCREARY (The Walking Dead, Battlestar Gallactica) and narrated by esteemed voice actor KYLE HEBERT (Dragonball Z, Street Fighter IV, too many anime classics to list). The album will be primarily produced by Virginia-based producer EOM of the duo WaxEOM, with additional production by DN3, K-Murdock and Random, and will feature guest vocals by Wordsworth, Wax, Chaundon, Mela Machinko, Storyville, Ran’s crew The Writers Guild and many more. The album has been almost 3 years in the making, and Ran wants to make sure it feels like it.

“I’ve been working on this album for what seemed like an eternity… Before Forever Famicom, before Black MateriaLanguage Arts has been on my heart,” says Ran. “It’s the most ambitious thing I’ve ever attempted, and this is from a guy who rapped about Mega Man on an entire album.” I’m so glad we got the fan support to put this together as greatly as I imagined it. 

The fan support Ran refers to is an amazing Kickstarter campaign where Random asked for $3,000 to help complete the album, and is now over an amazing $12,000. 

"Mega Ran in Language Arts" will release in 3 installments, with Volume 1 releasing May 22, 2012, Volume 2 releasing August 21, 2012, and Volume 3 releasing November 20, 2012 as a joint venture between J1 Studios, River City Records and RandomBeats Music. The comic will be available online at j1studios.com and the Flash game will be playable at www.lunargiantstudios.com.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Feel free to leave a comment below. Any racist, homophobic or otherwise discriminatory type comments will be deleted. If it gets bad, I'll just turn on comment moderation again. You don't have to agree with my views, but as this is my blog, I will demand that you be respectful while disagreeing.