While elder statesmen Bill Cosby has caused controversy by his highly critical remarks about the Hip-Hop generation, he has not stood on the sidelines making speeches, he took action and released Bill Cosby Presents the Cosnarati: State of Emergency.
Putting his money where his mouth is, he teamed up with his long-time musical collaborator, William “Spaceman” Patterson, pioneering producer Ced Gee of the Ultramagnetic MCs and three forward-thinking rappers: Jace the Great, Hahz the Ripper, and Supa Nova Slom.
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Supa Nova Slom, known as the Hip-Hop Medicine Man, is the son of holistic health guru Queen Afua and has used his art to address the mental, physical and social ills of our community.
Teaming up with Cosby was very fitting considering their mutual missions and Hip-Hop Wired got a chance to go one on one with Supa Nova Slom, who has appeared alongside Cosby on the mainstream talk circuit including performances on Jay Leno, a honor reserved for the likes of Jay-Z, about his work as a Hip-Hop shaman, the album Bill Cosby Presents the Cosnarati: State of Emergency and how with this project, Cosby is seeking solutions and not merely jabbing his jaws about the problem.
HIP-HOP WIRED: You recently were involved in this project with Dr. Bill Cosby, entitled Bill Cosby Presents the Cosnarati: State of Emergency. Can you tell us how this project came to be and how you came to be involved in it?
SUPA NOVA SLOM: Well the project started about a little over two years ago and it was already in production. How the story went was a Brother named Kevin Muhammad out of Newark, New Jersey was working with some brothers in this anti-violence Hip-Hop project sort of situation. He got brothers that was in the streets and involved in different things in the streets and got them to do songs that were against gang and youth violence and stuff like that.
So he had a relationship with Bill Cosby and Bill Cosby was asking him did he have any young men that were into doing lyrics that were positive and uplifting children and young people. So he pulled out and mentioned the Brother Jace the Great and brother Hahz were part of [his] project and he introduced Bill Cosby to them and they formed a great relationship.
And Bill Cosby in turn reached out to Brother “Spaceman” Patterson who was one of the primary producers on the project, along with Ced Gee from Ultramagnetic MCs, and expressed that he wanted to do a project addressing issues that young people go through, everything from teen pregnancy to drug abuse, gang violence and many issues that young people go through in this country, dropping out of school.
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So Bill Cosby linked up with Spaceman and Ced Gee and started the process and basically, the process was about Dr. Cosby articulating a lot of his concerns that he thought young people were going through and the MCs in turn were able to take a lot of his concepts and interpret them to some hot rhymes and concepts that were just articulating Dr. Cosby’s vision and just as a solution to a lot of the problems.
So anyway, that project when they were half way into the project, one of the engineers that were responsible for engineering Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions record, his name is Jeff Jones, also known as Jedi Master, he also mixed and mastered Slick Rick’s album, Adventures of Slick Rick, two classic Hip-Hop albums. He knew about me and what I was doing in the community and he felt it would be a good marriage for me to link with the brothers and what Dr. Cosby was doing. He called me in because they were actually recording in his home studio the whole entire situation with Ced Gee and Spaceman Patterson, who was a long time collaborator with Mr. Cosby anyway.
He was the guitar player on all of Cosby’s TV shows, Cosby all the way down to The Cosby Mysteries, so they were already in process. I came, met with the brothers had a great cohesive vibe, they checked me out, they checked what I had already been doing in the community and it just was a great fit. So I just put my voice with it we had came up with the concept.
State of Emergency was birthed out of that. Bill Cosby would call in the studio and give us ideas and have concepts for us to vibe on and we would come together and just build on those concepts so out of that we have songs like “Dad Behind the Glass,” where Brother Jace and Hahz address from a child’s perspective what it’s like to have a father or a mother incarcerated and the children have to go through the process of dealing with an incarcerated parent. Real poignant messages, we got songs like “Where’s the Parade,” when Dr. Cosby called the studio one day and said we need a song celebrating women throughout history who have done wonderful things.
We really don’t have songs out here that really give it up to our women that have really been sacrificing. So out of that we have a song called “Where’s the Parade” where we give it up to everybody from the Williams Sisters to Coretta Scott King to Sojourner Truth to Harriet Tubman, we just give it uplifting lyrics to the young folks from that perspective, so out of that came the range of those songs.
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HIP-HOP WIRED: You mentioned that Dr. Cosby would articulate his viewpoints and you all would take it back to the lab and create the songs. So he was pretty much involved in the process from inception to post-production?
SUPA NOVA SLOM: Totally. People joke and say he wrote the rhymes, no he wasn’t writing the rhymes but he was involved with the creative process with us. He definitely fueled us and got us hyped, we would play him back our stuff and he would get hyped and motivated and throw it back out, so it was a very good synergy and again he already started the synergy with Brother Hahz and Jace the Great. So I just came up in there with my swag and we just continued the movement. It was really cohesive between everybody involved.
One thing I’ll go on record saying this project is powerful because it’s an inter-generational project. It’s the first project in Hip-Hop where the youth and the elders are really working in cohesion addressing some serious issues. I think a lot of times these days the elders are on one side and the youth are on one side but now you have Dr. Cosby’s tribe, you have Spaceman Patterson and his tribe, the big homie Ced Gee and then you have us. All of us working together as creative beings and Black men in this business addressing these issues, it was very powerful.
HIP-HOP WIRED: What was it like to actually work with people such as Ced Gee from the Ultramagnetic MCs? You can see the inter-generational situation there. We have Bill Cosby’s generation and a person from the early days of Hip-Hop, and then we have brothers such as yourself. What was the chemistry like, what was the vibe like, what are some of the war stories you have from those recording sessions?
SUPA NOVA SLOM: It’s powerful, I remember when we were laying down the song ‘Running.” Dr. Cosby was very… he wanted us to address situations where young persons were running away from this responsibility of really taking his life on and being empowered. So we each had a verse writing from the perspective what we were running from, what our responsibilities were and working with the inter-generational chemistry was good because you had Ced Gee, he was at the beginning of all of that. He was involved with everybody’s records, from X-Clan’s records, KRS-ONE’s early records, Boogie Down Productions, so his insight on the business and how to approach things, like, we’ll get into our writing and we’ll throw it back at Ced.
And Ced he would let us know well, you’re a little too didactic there, simplify that, come again, ya’ll can go harder, and we were all humble with Ced because we knew his background and we know where he comes from. I think what makes a great creative environment great is when you can open up the creative energy and allow yourself to be free and not ego ridden with it and when you have a team like that. Like Dr. Cosby chiming in so when he couldn’t be there physically he’ll be on the phone, he’ll be like sometime, he’ll beat box a tempo. (Imitates Beatbox) And throw some horns (Imitates Horns) and Ced Gee and Spaceman would interpret a lot of his instrumentation.
So not only was he feeding us concepts as far as how to approach things, but he was also doing what I call instrumentative channeling. He would just channel different rhythms and percussions in his head because he’s a great arranger. He’s been involved in a lot of great Jazz projects throughout the years. So he would just call in and freestyle a drum solo or a horn phrase and then Ced Gee and Spaceman in turn would just take that and create a crazy beat around that. So he was very involved. I would say 360 degrees, with the project and it was very great having that type of cohesion.
HIP-HOP WIRED: It’s funny that you mention the concept of “Running.” Bill Cosby has come under a lot of criticism by people who say he’s a crazy old man that’s out of touch, coming down hard on the younger generation, when he should be addressing the causes and not the affects. But do you think there’s more truth in what he says than we want to face and we’re actually running as a people, community and generation from the truths that Dr. Cosby is presenting?
SUPA NOVA SLOM: I want to clarify a lot of where those early statements were coming from. He was really just coming from a perspective of wanting us to do better. He wasn’t attacking, people misinterpret that he was attacking Hip-Hop culture. He wasn’t attacking the culture. He was specifically talking about the brothers that are focusing specifically on the violence and the justification of the violence in Hip-Hop.
He was saying they could be taking that same warrior energy and using it to build the community not destroy the community. I think we all overstand that. It’s not about pointing fingers, that’s just knowledge. You’re part of the problem or part of the solution. He was very powerful and passionate in his delivery.
But in Hip-Hop, that’s what Hip Hop is, we’re very powerful and passionate in our deliveries, and I think rather than get blocked by the criticism to empower us by the elders, a lot of us want to make excuses, and just say:
‘Why the elders say that? He don’t like us. He this and that and that.’
That’s just an excuse and I think yes, a lot of us have been running away from our responsibility because the reality is, most of us, the Hip-Hop generation is gaining age. We’re becoming the elders in the age of Hip-Hop. The whole culture is like 30 years old now. So we got to have to have some accountability amongst ourselves.
We just can’t continue to make excuses, and I think when elders like Dr. Cosby, who is pretty much like a father figure for all of us in the entertainment business and Black culture and across the board, all cultures, is that we should be inspired by his tenacity to want us to do better because there’s a lot of elders his age who have power and influence and money who don’t really care, who are not even saying nothing.
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And this hasn’t been easy. He’s come under a lot of fire for even birthing the State of Emergency project. Everybody has not been fully supporting him. He has to really fight to get this point across, and it’s not just been easy because he’s got a whole lot of money and he’s a cultural icon. We’re fighting a serious battle in a sense that most people are used to receiving commercial Rap a certain way and he kind of shocked a lot of people by wanting to put his own money up. This is not corporate sponsorship, this is not no record label money, his own money up, to support socially conscious Hip-Hop or Rap music that would inspire young people to do better, and this is not the all end all conversation. It’s just an album just to begin a conversation that we can all have.
And it’s not about saying State of Emergency is better than a 50 Cent album, or a Jay-Z album or Lil Wayne. It’s really just a conversation that says the same fans that have Lil Wayne, that have Jay-Z, that have all these other main stream rappers, OJ Da Juiceman and all of them, they go through a lot of these problems. All these young people go through these things every single day, and a lot of times they don’t have material or music to really address some of the things that they dealing with all the time besides the music that gets them crunk, gets them hyped and allows them to party and have a good time. That’s all well and good and we ain’t saying stop that, everybody gone do what they go do. But this project is saying this is what we’re doing. We bringing forth this aspect of a conversation that we can have on a global level and a bigger level.
HIP-HOP WIRED: How can we find out more information about State of Emergency?
SUPA NOVA SLOM: www.billcosby.com and you can find out more information on purchasing the album and the listening parties.
STAY TUNED… THE CONVERSATION WILL CONTINUE… THE RUSSELL SIMMONS CONTROVERSY… SUPA NOVA ON GUCCI MANE… HIS WORK AS THE HIP HOP MEDICINE MAN… AND WHAT JIM JONES AND ERYKAH BADU HAVE IN COMMON WHEN CONVERSATIONS WITH A HIP HOP COSBY KID RETURNS…