I stand on the train platform just waiting for my train toward Tokyo
to emerge through the tunnel, but my train was late that night. When the
train finally came screeching to a stop beneath my feet, I gripped my
backpack as I step onto the crowed train and a rush of humidity hits my
face. A slur of voices in a different language echo off the train’s white
walls, as my headphones convey an
Elected Official beat consisting of a
sped up sample and the thumping of the bass. A familiar voice comes
over the sample and with poetic genius paints a heartfelt picture. The train
speeds by in a modern marvel of technology and Japanese functionality.
Funny, that I'm traveling this too crowded train to listen to the emcee
named the Listener drop vagabond doctrine about a Train Song, and to
interview him after his set. Listener is the rapper from the super crews
DeepSpace5 and Labklik, and hails from northwest Arkansas and had grown up
in Springfield, Missouri. Listener has completed around 12 albums, including
solo, Deepspace5, and Labklik recordings, currently signed to Mush the
record label that released his solo album entitled Whispermoon.
The train comes to a stop and the door slides open at
Itabashi, a desolate train station in the middle of Tokyo. I rummaged
through my bag, searching for directions to the show Listener was having.
Clutching the crumpled paper of directions in my own poor penmanship, I
followed them to a small building. When I got to the door and glanced in
unsurely, a friendly Listener motions me to come in and I have a seat at the
table that he was sitting at. After a few moments of introductions, I was
motioned to follow the flow of people down to a small stage which would soon
come alive with Listeners energetic set. After the show, Listener and I made
our way back upstairs and took a seat at a small table, and thus the
How did you end up at Mush?
I finished Whispermoon in March of 2003, and started
shopping around the finished product to labels here and there. Since I've
been on the road full time I really need a label to handle all the "putting
out" of my product while I handle the live aspect. Mush and a few other
labels were interested, but Mush had the best offer and track record, so I
went with them. Basically I had an album to put out and Mush liked it and we
decided to put it out.
What inspired Train Song?
A poem I heard at a poetry reading in Decatur Georgia. That
stemmed into my dealings with various homeless people all throughout the US.
I play in downtown areas and club areas all over the place and basically
park my car in their house and we always have talks about watching my car. I
was just thinking about the honesty and tragedy that surrounds them, and how
God speaks to people in different ways if we'll listen.
When the song was completed did you feel that it would
become such a hit?
I like all my songs, but in different ways. I really liked
this song, but I've like most of my songs, so I didn't really know. I've
only written a few story raps in my career, and people seem to like them,
I'm going to write more.
How did you get into Graphic Design?
In college I got into computer-aided graphic design. I think
I've always been interested in Art and being an artist, whether it was
painting or drawing or writing prose, poetry or whatever, I've always dipped
into a creative side of me to find calm and escape from stress and troubles
in life. I especially like text layout and font design. I also do website
design; recently I've gotten a bug to weld. I haven't done anything about it
because it requires a good bit of equipment and expense, but I think I’d
like to do metal design and sculpture, mostly functional pieces though, not
necessarily abstract or studio pieces.
How did all the artists from Deep Space 5 get together?
Manchild from Mars ill (before there was mars ill) got us all
together. Just MCs and producers with like faith and goals, and we made some
music. This was like 96-97 when the Labklik was still doing 1-2 albums a
year, and the pride was still together and Sev was coming out on the scene.
We made an EP in Orlando Florida at a hotel at this rap convention, and the
rest is history. We did an album for Uprok, and added more members and we're
still going. Everyone has their own tours and solo stuff and what not, but
hopefully soon a label will be interested in putting out another full
length. It takes so much to get us all together to record, it’s quite an
undertaking, but the raps that come out of those meetings are really pieces
that I quite like.
Any plans for new Labklik and Deep Space 5 albums? If so
Yes, Labklik and DeepSpace5 at the beginning of the year
(2005) or somewhere around then. Look for it in Illect records. The
deepspace5 record is by the Beat Rabbi, and will be featuring all of us DS5
MCs on his beats. It's called Deepspacesoul. The Labklik album will feature
me and ill and no guest MCs and will be great.
What do you feel is your biggest accomplishment musically?
Being able to make a solo record and tour on it, I hope there
are many more, it's almost a parent type of thing to make something and see
it grow and go out into the world. Some people pick on it, but I pick it
back up and keep touring and pushing, and one day it will grow up to be a
What song do you feel is your favorite on the
"You Will Be My Music" is probably that, maybe "Train Song",
or “Ways of the Wind”.
What made you decide to do a solo album?
Touring mostly, I have been full time as a rapper for over 2
years now and I needed live material to do and sell and a reason to be out
on the road, and it's hard to be full time in a group unless everyone is
full time and really going for it. So, the solo stuff is what I'm on the
road for doing the miles and paying the dues.
What would the ultimate reward for you be?
To be able to be used by God with what I do, whatever that
looks like in peoples lives, or on a grander scale. Also to be able to be
artistically viable and true to how I want to make music, to be able to make
a living, support my family, and feel like I've given something to the
community, whatever artistic community I reach in to. Rap can be sort of
limiting and not cross over into too many places, people pigeonhole rappers
as mindless thugs, but there are some thinkers and artists out there making
a stab at it all.
Who do you feel is your biggest influence and why?
It’s not ever one person or group musically. For me it's a
whole movement of artists and musicians. I am really motivated and
influenced by artists who are almost anarchists. The people who are bucking
the system and doing the art that they feel from inside and creating
beautiful original inspiring pieces of music and art. That’s what influences
I glanced at my watch and realized I should have left
a while ago, for I needed to catch the last train home. The trains in Japan
stop at midnight and I had an hour and a half of a train ride back to my
house in Yokosuka. I thanked Listener and said my goodbyes and goodnights as
I rush onto the street and make my way to the train station. Hearing the
train approach I ran onto the platform. As the door swish closed behind me,
I sighed a sigh of relief and settled down in an empty plastic seat for the
train ride home. The train suddenly stops and everyone who is left is
ushered off the train and I was informed that this was the last station the
train would stop for the night. So there I was stranded in the middle of
Tokyo until the trains open again at 5 o’clock. So I walk around endlessly
without destination, mumbling and singing doctrine commonly heard of
vagabonds until the morning awakens the train station.
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