Rakaa Iriscience – a member of the legendary West Coast group Dilated Peoples – is our latest guest in our WCS HipHop50 interview series led by our rock star Todd “DG” Davis! Read below for the feature!
First things first, this year (August 11th) marked the 50th Anniversary of Hip Hop — What exactly does that mean to and for you?
Rakaa: It means that the culture is more than just the music or any one style. It means that people who come from limited resources or even poverty can change the world. It also means that closed-minded people who said it was a passing fad were very wrong.
To quote the late, great The Notorious B.I.G., “You never thought that Hip Hop would take it this far!” — Was this something that you ever could’ve imagined?
R: Starting out, I never imagined the rise of social media and how that would help Hip Hop permeate global popular culture.
What are some of your fondest, most stand-out moments / memories from your lengthy tenure in this thing called Hip Hop?
R: There are too many to name. Recording, performing, and touring with people that inspired us to make music. Finding out that artists that I respect appreciate our music. Seeing a lot of the world. Hearing that a show, album, song, or lyric has helped someone. Too many moments and memories to try to name them. It has been (and continues to be) an incredible journey.
That said, what are your future plans and / or goals throughout the remainder of 2023, going right into ‘24?
R: Musically—I’ve been working on some things. Quietly. I’ll send out the word when the time is right. Been in the lab. Otherwise, just keeping the dots connected and raising my son.
Switching gears here, what exactly do you want people to get from your music?
R: Overall, I’d like people to be edutained. That’s what Public Enemy, BDP, Big Daddy Kane, Eric B. & Rakim, Native Tongues, and many others did for me, and they inspired me to do that for others with my music.
On a more serious note, are you happy with the current state of Hip Hop?
R: Some parts are incredible, some parts are trash. In a way, I guess it’s always been that way. The difference now is that everyone has access. You still have to work hard to be successful, but the gates are wide open. That kind of open access means the scene is diluted and even polluted, but it also means that a few amazing artists will make it though that may not have made it through otherwise. You have to take the bitter with the sweet sometimes. Shoutout to current artists doing it right—doing it for today, while respecting the foundation of the culture.
What do you feel has and will continue to be the key to your longevity?
R: The fact that we have always approached our craft and our position in the culture as cutting-edge traditionalists. We respect and maintain our connection to the roots, but we continue to grow our branches out as far as they can reach. Having Graffiti roots also inspired us to build our international network early. Those things, as well as the fact that we have always been nice in the studio and on stage, have been key to our longevity. Oh—and showing love to DJs from the beginning.
Do you have any other outside / additional (future) aspirations, maybe even completely away from entertainment?
R: In between albums and during natural downtime, I went back and finished my advertising degree. That led me to working on projects and campaigns for companies like Supercell, Red Bull, DNA Genetics, Weedmaps, ASICS SportStyle, and many more as a consultant.
What’s an average day like for you?
R: Wake up, focus my thoughts and intentions, quick workout, then take it as it comes. Between music and consulting, every day is different.
Please discuss how you interact with and respond to fans…
R: There has only been one instance where I felt bad for how fan interaction went. Nothing crazy, just bad timing. In general, I try to give out the energy that I want back in life. Social media gave people more ways to reach out and interact with artists, so it can be a little bit overwhelming to keep up with it sometimes, but I never forget that I’m a fan of certain artists, too.
What is your favorite part about this line of work? Your least favorite? And, why?
R: My favorite part is making a living and taking care of my family doing what I love to do. My least favorite part has been dealing with industry greed and politics. My experience has taught me a lot of hard lessons about human nature, big business, and ego. It has also shown me the beauty of creative energy, the results of focus and determination, and how powerful people around the world can be when we work together as family.
What advice would you have for someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?
R: I don’t know. Just study your craft, respect the architects and people that helped to carve out the path before you, and be better. There are more opportunities and distractions than ever, so think before you move.
What’s up with Dilated?
R: We hate each other. Ha! Just kidding. We’re just having fun when we’re together, and supporting each other in our solo endeavors. We headlined one of the nights at Back to Basics last year. We rocked RhymeFest LA in California, Royal Arena Festival in Switzerland, and Reggae Rise Up in Las Vegas so far in 2023, and the Technics DMC DJ World Finals in San Francisco is coming up in November. We’ll see what 2024 holds. Stay tuned.
Looking ahead, say five or maybe even ten years from now, where do you see yourself?
R: As a better version of myself. I keep my plans quiet until I’m ready to press the button.
Is there anything I left out or just plain forgot to mention?
R: Aside from what I hinted at earlier regarding cooking up something new in the lab, stay on the look out for what I’m doing with my agency ANGLES (theanglesagency.com) and more in the creative and brand strategy spaces. Check out Evidences label Bigger Picture Recordings (biggerpicturerecordings.com)—
Any “parting” words for our readers?
R: Respect yourselves. Respect the Hip Hop culture. Respect and explore the different cultures in these communities that we share. Only weak people attempt to see eye to eye by tearing down others instead of growing. Peace.