The Post-DOTK Interview with Speed on the Beat

It's time to restart the (DAR) machine.

Today, I sit down with my brother Speed on the Beat (S-O-T-B!!!) to talk his future, DOTK, his next (and possibly last album), TEAMDAR, rumors of him getting married, Ferguson, Genesis, Exodus, and some of his craziest lyrics. This time, I thankfully don't need to make any disclaimers; the fades won't be, at least.

True God: First and foremost, how are things with the family? Jovanni is getting older now, he's a little man for real I see. 

SOTB: Yeah, he'll be four in February. He's talkative as all hell these days, getting into stuff--good stuff, mind you--and just being an awesome little dude.

TG: Now, I have to ask. You posted a pic to Twitter with the caption "She Said Yes." Are Speed and Raquel getting hitched?

SOTB: Yep. After years of messing around, losing my mind, and all that craziness, we're getting married. 

TG: What let you know that it was the right time?

SOTB: Just felt it. It's cliche, I know, but I just felt that now was the best time, even with some of the wildness going on.

TG: Now notoriously, in 2012 and 2013, you went on a pretty wide run with the ladies. Single life was crazy for S-O-T-B at that time, and I was there to witness some of it (laughs). Do you think you'll be able to stay faithful with all these women out here? No more Dezeray? No more Tiffany references? No more Ashley's and Treeka talk? (laughs)

SOTB: There’s always gonna be Treeka talk. It's like a running joke, even between Raquel and me. Sorry, Treeka. Besides, there are things about the relationship that no one, not even you, will understand. I don't even understand it all. And that’s probably best for everyone. 

TG: Moving on from that, how do you feel DOTK was received? Were you pleased with the reception to it? (Ed. Note: If you haven't heard the "lo-fi, art rap epic," check it out below.)

SOTB: I knew it was going to be an album that people were either going to rock with, or not get. I'm fine with it either way. All I know is this: it's done more streams than Songs For... and probably has done more sales. But, I did it as therapy, to help people like me feel better, and to finish the Songs For trilogy. 

It’s an “out-there” album in a lot of ways, so thanks to those who actually were able to rock with it. If not, that’s cool, as well. I’m not really doing this for sales or money. If I was, I would’ve walked away from all of this a long time ago.

TG: So, with this 4th album that's upcoming, From Juke Joints to Greatness, is this really your swan song?

SOTB: Yes. I've had a thing that I want to be done musically by 27. I've got a kind of wonky mind as is. I don't want to end up like Cobain and them. I know, "Cobain and them" were actually well-known and all, but they still had the fame and the pressure get to them. So, yeah, FJJtG is the last one. After that, I'm done. May drop some stuff I've recorded over the years, but nothing new--just new to y'all. Music doesn't really appeal to me that much these days. Aside from winning a Grammy and working with Big K.R.I.T., I've done more than I ever expected and I'm happy with my successes.

TG: Has the industry taken a lot of you mentally? Does that motivate you to want to retire?

SOTB: Not the industry, per se. More so, just life. Yes, the industry has made me a bit more cynical with regards to music. Hell, that's probably why you always put disclaimers up on my Q&As. I hate music, fuck it all to hell (laughs).

But, nah, things happen and you have to re-prioritize your life, like, what's really important. Music is important, but I'm so much more than the guy who did abstract "no-fi" albums and talked about bipolar episodes openly in music. That’s partly why I’ve moved more into the “interview” side of things with, versus just hip-hop--or just Speed on the Beat-centric hip-hop. So, I use what I have to help get everyone else where they want to be as well.

TG: Your legacy as an artist tends to go overlooked; do you feel that you'll get more credit after you've walked away?

SOTB: I wouldn't say people are exactly “overlooking” anymore. DOTK has done a wild amount of streams. I guess the hipsters love it. Regardless, I don’t really care about titles and fame and recognition. If they get it, they get it. If not, it's whatever. Maybe it'll hit them in twenty years when I'm at Jovanni's college graduation like "damn, that Speed on the Beat guy was ahead of his time." I thank people for the support, but I don’t trip off someone saying “damn, Speed’s wack” or whatever. Acclaim doesn't mean everything; some of the innovators of music aren't as acclaimed as their contemporaries.

TG: Switching gears, while your artist legacy is still being paved, you have a hell of a production resume. Do you feel like you are one of the best producers out today?

SOTB: Yes, I think that I'm dope. You'd have to be stupid to not believe in yourself. But one of the best? Like I said, I'm not hung up on titles and all that stuff. If someone wants to think I'm the best, hey, I'm the best to them. If they think I suck? Okay, fine. You’re entitled to your opinion, regardless of how off-base you are (laughs). All I know is that I'm still, at the end of the day, doing this for me and to help others. Opinions are cool, but they don’t really faze me either way, to be honest.

TG: What are your top 5 favorite beats that you've made?

SOTB: One of the Wild Arms video game flips, "Destined," "Whatever You Like" (since that was kind of a venture outside of what I usually draft up; still wish I could've been on that), and two tracks I did years ago "Take It There" and "iWitness News." I mean, they took Baltimore news TV promos and turned it into an anthem-like kinda boom-bap, heavy beat. I may have to revisit that track for the last album or one of y'all albums.

TG: Now, one thing that has occurred is DAR reaching out to outside producers for a good bulk of the upcoming releases. As the main producer of DAR, does that bother you? Or is it like "cool, I get a little break?"

SOTB: Why would it bother me? I've got one foot out the door. If I were all-in, then yeah, I'd be like "the hell are y'all doing?" But, I've done my time, earned my DAR stripes. It's time for the new generation to get their DAR shine. But, here's the thing. Before DAR, we were all missing something that kept us from being great.

Yes, DAR is your baby, and we all were great outside of DAR. But until SR1 happened, we were all missing something and we all have made it what it is today. I was missing a team, since I was a lone wolf for so long. That's not saying "oh, everyone needs a team," because some people work better outside of one. But, looking back, I needed a family outside of flesh and blood. And, between linking up with DAR, my various other issues, and my son, I learned to stop being so damn selfish.

I can't full-on speak for you and Apollo or Axel even, but I know that we all were missing something. If it weren't for that? None of us would've been able to grow from those initial experiences as DAR, back when it still only stood for "Dreams are Reality" and whatnot. But, that was the original era. It's a new era. Like I've said before, I've helped set up the roadwork along with the other originals. All I want is for the new cats to keep that "DAR feeling," even when they mix it up production-wise.

TG: How pleased were you with the overall product and success of Genesis?

SOTB: While the buzz should've been bigger, considering how amazing the work was, I'm happy. 

TG: Reflect on the overlooked The End Is Coming mixtape from December 2012. Looking back, what are your thoughts on it now, two years removed?

SOTB: It's weird listening back to it now, since we're so young--and tired-sounding. It could've been so much more. I just feel like we missed an opportunity on it, probably because of everything else in the world at the time. I had my issues with Raquel and all that, you had everything with your situation. Our minds were in different places, and weren't all that focused on music, I'd say. I haven't really listened to it that much since 2013, truthfully. So, my opinions are probably biased. I don't hate the mixtape, but I don't really revisit it that often.

TG: This upcoming album from Team DAR, Exodus, what can the people expect from it?

SOTB: It’s a more cohesive album than Genesis. This is the beginning of my last hurrah with DAR musically, so I know that I'm firing on all cylinders. And I know that the rest of the team is as well.

TG: Going back to Genesis for a moment, some of the highlights of that project were your outlandish lyrics on "Late Night Adventures," "PLW,” and “Glide.” What's your inspiration when writing these verses?

SOTB: Well, it was mostly me trying to one-up you, Apollo and Axel in terms of ludicrous notions. Axel would have, like, "stick a thumb in they butt," Apollo would say something like "she's snorting a gram," and you start talking about pretty vaginas. So, I said, "let me just turn up the raunchiness level to over 9000 and go from there."

With "Glide," I was drunk. That's all I can say with that one. There was no logic behind it. I got in Luke's booth, drunk since it was my birthday party or whatever, and just starting going "running white collar crimes" and all that. Plus, with the albums, I tend to be more “serious.” The DAR stuff is more me just goofing off lyrically and experimenting with styles and approaches outside of the norm.

It's funny. Those lyrics aren't my "craziest," though. That probably goes back to my high-school and college days where I'd say anything and everything on my mind. I'm a grown-up now, so I've got to keep it somewhat classy (laughs).

TG: Now, as an original team member, how does it feel to have Apollo back in the fold and Axel in the squad as well?

SOTB: It feels good, as it takes the pressure off of me to have to keep working. But, seriously, it's good since it brings diversity to DAR. I mean, we've heard True, we've heard Speed. As much as people love to rock with True and Speed, it can't be just True and Speed if you want DAR to grow and expand and take over as you've mentioned before.

Axel is, in some ways, my polar opposite musically. I'm more solemn with verses most the time, and he's, as you've said, the Energy God of DAR. But, just like you and Apollo bounce off each other musically, Axel and I do as well. Like, he'll turn up and start ad-libbing, going "WHOO!" and dancing, then I start going "S-O-T-B!!!" and whatnot. It's not a competition for who's the most out-there, because Axel's energy trumps even my most turned-up moments musically--aside from, maybe, "The Mental Breakdown" verses on DOTK. But, the way we all bounce off each other is great for the music.

TG: What do you want for Team DAR in 2015?

SOTB: The world, chico, and everything in it. Plain and simple.

TG: Getting to a serious matter, what is your take on the Ferguson and NYPD incidents? Do you believe there is such a thing as "good cops?”

SOTB: It's messed up. How can we trust the system when the system is always picking us off? But, yes, I do believe there are good cops. I don't hate cops, and I think it's stupid to hate all cops because of what some have done. But, I'm not going to stand around and say that the police state and the policing state of our country isn't in need of an overhaul. Eff that. 

On another related note, I don't think there are "evil" people, just misguided ones. And that's either because of, for instance, ascribed traits they’ve been taught to accept as universal truths or, like, the set-up of the system. Since our system is designed to keep people separated, but “equal,” “racism” and those sorts of things will arise. No one is immune to the atrocities of the system. So, I don’t hate killer cops, racists, whatever. I honestly feel sorry for them more than anything. And I feel sorry for we who have to deal with their ignorance. A change will come, though, and soon.

TG: What can be done from our standpoint, when the system won't even give us justice?

SOTB: Revolution, in any way possible. It doesn't have to be a violent one, either. Not saying that there won't be bloodshed. There already is. However, there are more ways to get your way than just beating the hell out of someone who doesn't believe like you. The main thing is respect. Now, I don't like a lot of people in this world.

I respect their lives enough to be able to work with them to achieve a goal. We're too divided as a people. And until we all can respect each other's rights, any revolution will ultimately fall on deaf ears. When we bring violence into the situation, or a “violent revolution” as the first answer to the question-slash-goal of peace, we ultimately are no better than those we are protesting against. That’s, again, not to say that violence is unnecessary, but it can’t be the first move people go to.

TG: Here's a hard question. We are both fathers. How do you live with the sad reality that you can be murdered in cold blood for nothing by police and never make it home to see your child? What do you tell your son about this reality as he starts to get older?

SOTB: Funny you mention that. Well, not funny, but still. Raquel and I keep asking ourselves "is this going to happen to our kid?" And, I want to say "no, because XYZ" or "no, because not all cops are power-drunk imbeciles who get off on abusing their power and the rights of people." Eric Garner, regardless of what he did prior to that incident, he was pretty peaceful before the officers choked him and killed him. I’m not holding the man as a patron saint, as we’ve all sinned. But, he, regardless of whatever he did prior to that incident, was peaceful in his approach to the situation. And that? That’s both saddening and infuriating. So, I’ll tell him one thing: regardless of whatever anyone else says, your mother and father love you. That love, my son, is the thing that will help change this crazy world we live in, and it’s the thing we need more of.

TG: Final question, with all that you've been through, what's next for Speed on the Beat?

SOTB: Nothing and everything at the same time.


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