Rapper-producer Modefi just recently dropped his third project, Ursa Major. The 9-track tape was produced entirely by himself and features no guest appearances, strictly Modefi with his own thoughts and rhymes.
1) Tell me about the story behind Ursa Major. It sounds like there’s been a lot of thought put behind the mixtape’s concept.
This album hits you at different levels for sure. The story of Ursa Major (as the constellation) for those that don’t know is of a woman who loves a god and when the spouse of the god finds out turns this other woman into a bear.
To me that resonates with the idea of how I feel about hip hop and yet other lovers of hip hop try to keep me from doing me.
The other level of this is that this originally started as a 7 track EP that corresponds with the different Chakras. A Chakra is a particular source of energy that can strengthen or weaken depending on how you live your life.
So if you read up on which chakra’s represent what – I tried to relate those feelings and abilities in each record. Higher levels of meditation include the 8th chakra as a universal connection to all beings.. and So i had to do a track that reflected the essence of leaving it all behind and just being.
A lot of why I did this was to be able to push myself in a different direction. The music industry is so saturated with hip hop music that the content is really more crucial than ever to stand out.
I wanted to learn about something while I created something from my discoveries. Literally days would start with my head in books and end with my ears soaked in music. Focus like that helped me put everything about my life into perspective.
2) What’s your process in the studio? Does it vary track by track or do you have a routine?
Well usually I go into my writing process with just the beat first. I spend weeks on the music portion getting the breaks and the fills right, and also to keep referencing my stuff on different audio systems.
I won’t put vocals on something that doesn’t sound just right in my car. When the vocal tracking begins my brain switches and analyses my delivery, the sibilance, the message or the reason why I’m saying what I’m saying at a given on the record. Its just as important to give actual rapping as much attention as the beat for me. not even how listeners feel about it but for me. that’s my life in 3 or so minutes you’re hearing so why half-ass the story you’re telling?
Tracks like “Camouflage” took several versions for me to to really feel good about it. Whereas “Prologue” was great to me as raw as I could keep it.
3) As an independent artist grinding it out, what are you doing to differentiate and market yourself?
In today’s industry I always maintain a student/businessman mentality. I’m a student to everyone who’s been successful without bias. Theres always something to be learned from those who achieve similar goals to yours.
As a businessman, or rather an artist approaching what you love to do as a potentially successful business, I have to realize that certain decisions made, no matter how dope in the moment might actually hinder success – like pouring tons of money into a photoshoot and good production and not having an album marketing plan.
These days labels aren’t so eager to scoop up new talent unless they see potential for income. So my position is why wait? The info and how-to is out there on the web, so why wouldnt I take advantage of that for my music? What makes me different from everyone else is that I’ve never stuck to the confines of being labeled a rapper. I’m much more than that.
4) How do you feel about hip-hop today and where it’s headed?
Hip-hop today is shifting. Personally for me, I write newer hip-hop music because thats what I get excited about. I came up listening to old school rap (A Tribe Called Quest, KRS One, Biggie, Wu-Tang, etc.) and that plus my own experiences make up what I create.
Now, I’ll go and play a show and depending on the region some crowds are stuck on that old school. And some love the new school. That makes me feel like the acceptance of new styles versus the concept of new styles are debatable topics among crowds.
The key for artists is one of two ideals – to be able to adapt and conquer or to push your own individuality. Either way the content of your raps has to stay true to who you are.
5) Which 3 rappers would replace in these lyrics: “Argue all day about who’s the best MCs, Biggie, Jay-Z or Nas?”
Talib, Lupe, or Wale (Logic would def be in there too)