I caught up with RPHH’s own Ayatollah Jaxx and his Good Company counterpart Fundamental to discuss their latest album This Time Next Year. This release was highly anticipated after the success of last year’s Hello, Hip Hop and their first effort The Damn Good EP which was covered by hip hop blogs worldwide and garnered well over 25,000 downloads combined. This Time Next Year is the tandem’s first full length album and documents the struggles of dealing with external conflict while breaking into the music industry.
Your new album cover contains some symbols, can you explain what those are and what they mean to you?
Mental: I’ll let Jaxx take that one. He headed the cover art. …and I can’t speak Japanese lol.
Jaxx: The main symbol is the toki. That’s kanji; the Japanese character for time. I basically just wanted something different. Every project I release, I want the artwork to be just as unique as the music. I was looking for artwork ideas online and some add came up in Nihongo (Japanese) and I was like, yo, I know what I want. I drew it out first, took a picture then sent it to Alex and the designer.
Where do you do all of your recording and why?
Jaxx: We do it all in Pittsburgh and Toronto. If we don’t record together, I gotta regular studio I go to lay the vocals and then send em to Alex to mix and all that.
Mental: I do all my recording at my spot. Jaxx does his recording and sends it all to me. Once we have all our vocals, I do the mixing at my crib as well.
How do you think your earlier music compares with this release?
Mental: I think our songwriting and subject matter has improved. Our subject matter has expanded. We’re now able to talk about more than just hip hop. I’ve always felt hip hop was best used as a tool to tell your life story or get out whatever you need to get out. If you’re only talking about hip hop, the music becomes less personable to the listeners.
Jaxx: TTNY is something that’s more personal. It’s a concept album, the first time either one of us have ever done something of its kind. Like Alex said, our overall songwriting and subject matter expanded. I dealt with personal relationships on this album: my ex fiance, old management, opinions people had about me, all of that. Plus TTNY was way more concentrated. It was only nine songs, so we put alot of substance in those songs whereas on Hello, Hip Hop and other shit, I had more ground to work with.
What is your favorite album of all time? (in general, not your own music lol)
Mental: lol, that’s really difficult. But If I had to just pick one, it would be moment of truth by Gang Starr. Reason being exactly what I mentioned before. The realness and honesty on that album was above anything else. R.I.P. To Guru.
Jaxx: I couldn’t possibly name one album. That’s too daunting a task to ask.
What artist do you most admire?
Mental: As a group, De La Soul. They’re the only hip hop group I can think of that put all the bull aside in order to keep the group alive. They’ve been the most consistent and long lasting.
Jaxx: Admire is a strong word. I really look up to Lupe Fiasco though, we have a similar set of ideals. We’re both Muslims and dealing with a lot of stuff that exists in opposition to Islam, especially in the music business. The way he carries himself and portrays Islam in all of his songs and lifestyle, even in this business is admirable. I don’t know him personally, but just the things he says in his interviews resonate with me on a personal level.
What inspires you to do hip hop?
Mental: The creativity. When you create something that you, yourself didn’t even think you could do…there’s no other feeling like it. Also, it gives me a voice and a platform to use it. I’m a quiet dude, but I got a lot to say.
Jaxx: Life. Hip Hop is my reflection and interpretation of what happens around me. I mean there are so many components to that question. I love listening to new music, because that fuels such a passion in me to create something new. Hip hop has a place in my heart so any time something really emotional happens in my life, be it good or bad, it inspires me to write. My inspiration comes from my determination to succeed.
Jaxx – will we ever see you battle rap again?
Yeh, haha. I’m entering Grind Time actually. Whether I’ll do Grind Time Mid West or King Of The Dot, I’m not sure, but I’m jumping back in it to set a few examples.
With the success of rappers like Wiz Khalifa, in what direction do you think hip hop is headed?
Jaxx: I think hip hop is headed in the direction the people take it. Hip hop represents the attitude of the people. I think its cool Wiz is out there doing his thing because he initated a grass roots fanbase. Say what you want about him, his fan base is serious. I just hope people don’t think with Wiz and Mac coming out of Pittsburgh that this city is all about party music and niggas smoking weed, cutting class, what ever. For every Wiz and Mac you need an A-Jaxx and Jasiri X, you know what I mean? And I think that’s how Good Company fits right in with the progression of hip hop. Whereas people might say, “Oh, Jaxx can’t do a song with so and so, that doesn’t seem right” and they couldn’t be more wrong, but Good Company can do that. Genres are being knocked down in rap every song by every new artist, so thats the new path I think.
Mental: I really like a lot of the new cats. I like that hip hop is becoming more and more independent again. Wiz is a good example of how you build up a fan base first. You get that fan base and respect them, they’re going to hold you down. If you look at hip hop now, you can’t say that people aren’t trying to be creative. It may sound like crap lol, but at least artists are trying.
Are you planning to do a music video?
Mental: Yip yip! Most likely for “Time”. Were discussing it at this very moment.
Jaxx: “Time” seems the best bet but we may do ones for, “On The Go Back” and or “Clear Conscience” as well.
What’s next for Good Company?
Mental: Hopefully we’ll be doing more shows and we’ll be releasing EP’s every couple months leading up to our next full length.
Jaxx: I just started up this human trafficking ring, it’s been pretty lucrative thus far. So I wanna really continue to focus on that. But on the music side…
We initially planned to do 4 EPs this year and one full length LP. We’re gonna release at least 2 more four track EPs in 2011 and then really try to build something concrete and make power moves with business. Definitely a lot of shows too, for sure, I’ll be rocking with Stalley at Pitt on April 1st.
Check out our review of This Time Next Year: CLICK HERE
follow @ayatollahjaxx @fundamental10