I was first introduced to New York City up and comer Awkword from his Harry Fraud produced hit Bars and Hooks which features Sean Price, The Kid Daytona and The Incomparable Shakespeare. His underground style instantly caught my attention, after listening to a few more of his tracks I was drawn to his conscious lyrics and the message that was present in a majority of his songs. I decided I wanted to get all the visitors of the site more familiar with Awkword not only as an artist but as a person.
1. Introduce yourself to the Dope Music Blog viewers:
My name is AWKWORD. I make rap music, sometimes as myself, sometimes embodying other people, places and things. I'm a sociologist, a lifelong activist and a professional writer, and in late 2009 I decided to take this rap shit serious. Since, I've been featured by The Huffington Post, The Village Voice, Complex, XXL, The Source, etc., etc., and, of course, the supreme Dope Music Blog. When I make music, I don't worry about what's going to be popular, I let the inspiration guide me. It's in the beats, it's on the streets, it's in the news, it's in my head. And 100% of the proceeds go to charity. I think what allows me to really connect with Hip Hop heads and music fans is my openness and my contradictions; the passion and fire in my voice; my wit and humor; my ear for instrumentals; and my commitment to civil rights and social change. Unlike most of your favorite rappers, I put ego aside and strive to connect. Hit me at info@AWKWORDrap.com or on twitter at @AWKWORDrap.
2. I was very much a fan of Bars & Hooks which featured Sean Price, The Kid Daytona and production by Harry Fraud. How did this collaboration come together?
I've known and worked with Harry Fraud for more than a decade, back when I was opening for then Interscope Hip Hop trio BLESTeNATION and worked frequently with BLESTe producer Fafu. I've been a fan of Sean Price for years, so Fraud and I reached out to him for a verse. Once we heard it, we knew that the other two verses should follow the same structure and the third verse should feature someone with a significantly different style than either P or me. The homie The Incomparable Shakespeare was in Fraud's studio when I recorded my "Bars & Hooks" verses, and I've always dug his choruses, so I asked him to hop in the booth and do the hook.
Not long after we got the hook and first two verses done, on Halloween last year, producer ATG, some girls and I went to kick it with Statik Selektah at a club where he was DJing, near Stuyvesant Town in Manhattan. As it turned out, The Kid Daytona was hosting, so he and I had an opportunity to build. I basically mentioned "Bars & Hooks" and it was a wrap. Daytona was in Harry Fraud's studio within a few days or something and just banged out his verse for "Bars & Hooks", as well as the entirety of his single "Low", both of which get better every listen.
3. I respect your design to donate 100% of the profits from the project to the World View Charity Aim To Live which is dedicated to eradicating street violence. What made you decide to do this?
I am putting the finishes touches on World View, the first-ever 100% For-Charity Global Hip Hop Album. Hosted/presented by The DJ Booth (DJBooth.net) and also sponsored by End of the Weak (EOW) and The Morgan Stanley Foundation, the “highly anticipated LP World View” (TheSource.com) is designed to connect us worldwide through Hip Hop music & culture. World View features contributions from every continent, approximately 20 countries and every U.S. region. The album boasts production from the likes of Harry Fraud, Domingo and Numonics, and guest emcee appearances from Joell Ortiz, Sean Price, KRS-One, Slug (of Atmosphere), ILL BILL and more.
For me, this is nothing new. Today I fight for change through music, but as I alluded to earlier, my activism began in childhood, with the guidance of my mother (RIP). I created my high school’s first (now annual) Diversity Day with the Anti-Defamation League. While earning my Bachelor’s in Sociology from Vassar, I founded the school’s Prison Reform Group, lobbied New York State Congress for the repeal of the Rockefeller Drug Laws and worked or volunteered at Green Haven maximum-security prison, an alternative-to-incarceration center, a probation office and an at-risk youth center.
From my World View project, all proceeds are donated to Guns 4 Cameras (Aim to Live), a 501c3-registered nonprofit dedicated to eradicating street violence through the Hip Hop-inspired education and empowerment of our at-risk youth. The organization’s founder, Hezues R’ was shot at 22 times at age 22 and survived to re-dedicate his life to saving the streets. He and the organization’s Spokesperson, Hip Hop icon Pharoahe Monch, have traveled the country speaking to the youth about Hip Hop, making the right choices, and putting down their guns and picking up their cameras (or their pens or their microphones) to be productive instead of destructive. Future plans for the organization include local gun-for-camera exchanges nationwide — and not for cash either, for cameras and inspiration.
4. What is your favorite track off your upcoming project World View?
That's got to be a trick question. They're all my favorite!... Here are a few more I'd recommend listening to and downloading for further absorption:
1) AWKWORD - "Thank You (A Tribute To My Mommy)" (prod. ATG)
I wrote and recorded “Thank You (A Tribute To My Mommy)” in honor of my perfect mother, who died 1/2/12, before she even reached 60. She was smiling and beautiful, even in her last moments. I wrote this song sitting beside my mom, as she stared at death — with grace, as she did everything in her life. Without my mother, I wouldn’t be here today. And thanks to my mother, I never shied away from expressing myself through the arts. “Thank You” is the most personal song I’ve released to date, and for me it’s the most important.
2) AWKWORD ft. Joell Ortiz, Maya Azucena & surprise guests - "Go!" (prod. Domingo)
COMING SOON! This song is going to be so crazy, it has to make this list. Plus, I start my verse by getting at my ex, so it just feels nice.
3) AWKWORD ft. Voli, The Incomparable Shakespeare & Fanesha Fabre - "Angels" (prod. Harry Fraud)
COMING SOON! In this hauntingly beautiful (and almost finished!) song, we personify fallen angels, from various perspectives. The beat and hook are dumb catchy and we're all rapping on a concept of great fascination to me. Just look at my logo, the caps I typically rock, and the tattoos on my forearms. (BTW, feel free to tell Fraud to hurry up and get this done, if you're ready to hear it.)
5. Who are some of your current influences?
I am honestly not influenced by a single emcee today. I honestly rarely listen to rap music, especially music that people say "sounds like" mine. I am inspired by my life, my psychoses, and the world around me.
But if I had to say anyone inspires me, it would have to be Harry Fraud, since I know him -- and how hard he works -- so well, and I am witnessing his catapult to fame.
6. Name a couple of artists that you would enjoy working with in the future.
Shoot for the stars. (That's how I got to this point.) DJ Premier, No ID, Just Blaze, RZA, The Roots, Nas, Chuck D, J. Cole, Talib Kweli, Mos Def
7. Tell us a little about "Doh" the exclusive you sent over for my upcoming compilation tape.
I just felt like going free association with it. I wanted it to be notably different from the type of music I am known for making... It starts out inspired by all the times spent in Harry Fraud's smoked-out studios and then just unravels from there.