Landon Wordswell is a 30 year old Phoenix, AZ resident by way of the St. Louis area. Those cities combined have influenced and crafted the emcee’s tenacity, perspective, and insight. Landon’s stage performance and delivery have been praised on tours both nationally and internationally for it’s captivating crowd appeal.
Wordswell specializes in utilizing intricate rhyme schemes often being coupled with tightly knitted personal lyrics and a bold truth. He has mastered his stage performance over the years by performing nights with audiences enjoying intimate settings as well as honing his skill in state of the art venues mounting in as many as 10,000+ heads in attendance.
Along with touring the United States with his frequent tour partner, Gift of Gab (Blackalicious), he has also completed a full European tour with the Artifacts and and national tour with the very legendary Talib Kweli.
Landon Wordswell has also performed alongside greats such as Mos Def, The Game, Talib Kweli, Slum Village, Warren G, Mobb Deep, Binary Star, Blackalicious, Lyrics Born, Skyzoo, Black Milk, Zion I, Raekwon (Wu-Tang), Jeru The Damaja, Guilty Simpson, Sir Mix-A-Lot, Devin The Dude, Aceyalone, Freestyle Fellowship and many, many more!
1) Talk to me about the making of your latest project. What was the inspiration behind it?
Making the last album was a complete therapy session. It was influenced by a few things actually. My lady is pretty socially aware and the more we spoke and got to know each other the more I noticed how much I had been citing and sourcing a ton of my information from a book I was reading by Michelle Alexander.
The book is called “The New Jim Crow”. In this particular political climate we are in I’m sure you can see why that talk came up between us so often. Everything I started writing had to do with questions on how a system could even begin to be so corrupt.
That was just it though – there isn’t just one problem to point at; there are various. So, we (Surebert and I) began to focus on making an album to tell the story of how innocent bystanders can turn into the perfect prey for the justice system.
In this case we took note that I couldn’t tell a story better about anyone than myself. As son, a father, a rapper, a sinner, and a person with very little options at his disposal at one point this seemed perfect. There’s no one the (in)justice system loves more than a man of color with little options. We understood that.
So, taking a look back at my life I noticed I went from nothing to something on my parent’s accord and hard work. Then entering my adulthood after my time with college and the military I began facing a long stint of homelessness.
Basically trying to get back on my feet through hip hop in Oregon was a task in itself. I had to do less than savory work to bring food to the table and all of it reminded me of this Numbers Game that we had been speaking about. Some people in this country can do what they want to and some do what they have to. So, we saw a story line in it.
2) With the music industry tanking and record sales falling, how do you currently make money as an independent hip-hop artist?
You dont! I’m joking. Honestly, most of my income come from helping others that I see a ton of promise in. Im a manager for a few bands and a few solo acts and that supplements my tour income.
Most of my money comes directly from touring actually. I tour roughly 6-8 months a year. With a son that’s not ideal, but at this point in my career I see the light at the end of the tunnel with the kind of touring I’ve been able to pull off with bigger acts. You get on tour with a bigger act that brings out a few hundred to a thousand people a night then merch becomes gold.
Flipping every 1000 albums for 10 k becomes your bread and butter after you get your formula right. Living in San Francisco after my homeless stint taught me to hustle. Everyone there is a hustler.
Always having more than one hustle and utilizing and exhausting your skill set becomes essential for a decently comfortable living.
3) From a business point of view, which artists in the game do you think are really pushing the boundaries and changing it up?
I’m not a fan of medicines. I actually don’t take them. Like ever. I’m more of a herbal remedy or self medicate type of human, but I saw recently that Nas’ Pharmaceutical businesses he has built has sold stock for 1 billion.
Leaving him with a 40 million dollar check. I thought that was savvy for sure. Business and music doesn’t have to be one dimensional. 3-D is where it’s at. Seeing all sides of an equation will allow us to divide and conquer our dreams.
Putting people to work is big in my opinion. Finding people’s passions and letting them be free to hone their skills is what I’m about really. I see a lot of others do it and it’s impressive. To answer completely, Nas really is attacking it differently in my eyes. His company also had a hand in Lyft apparently from what I read. That’s incredible.
4) What business lessons have you learnt from the music industry so far?
I’ve learned that not all money is good money. Not all people are trying to help you just because they extend an olive branch. People generally want something from you and that’s completely fine.
There’s nothing wrong with that, but just know what YOU want. Know that you can always find a different ‘yes’ that is more in line with the vision that you have for your career.
5) What do you love about hip-hop music?
I love that it has no boundaries and knows no color. Ive played from the west coast to eastern Europe and noticed that people aren’t just vibing with you because you can rap.
They are vibing with the energy behind what you are saying. In a room of thousands of people in eastern Europe they might not catch every word, but they know if you’re genuine or not. That’s hip hop being translated and well worded.
6) What still surprises you about hip-hop?
It surprises me that people that are extremely talented in the US get no play. I run with a lot of cats that make music that people would pay legs, arms, and all sorts of limbs for.
A lot of cats that just can’t seem to get out of their home state and go tour. That’s wild to me. It shouldn’t surprise me, but it does still. It also surprises me what some rappers aren’t willing to do to get their dream from their head to someone’s speakers.
There is a level a discipline that comes with the smallest amounts of success in this industry. It’s surprising when folks will say that they will do anything to get on, but aren’t willing to thug it out on tour a little bit to further their vision.
It’s surprising how many don’t see that building your career is the same as building an independent business. It became real to me when I started doing my taxes as an emcee and what that entailed.
7) If you had the power to change one thing about the hip-hop industry to help independent artists – what would it be?
Exposure. The thing about mainstream artist is that you have a group of people who have the absolute best sound sonically on earth. There are so many separating factors between us independent artists and major label ones.
One is the sound of the music. How hard the 808s are hitting and etc. There are always folks that are doing their very best with what they have to compete with that sound. My engineers, Carl Roe and D-Sane, being some of them.
As an artist when you dump 5-10 grand into your album it’ll sound good. Trust me – it will. The work these guys are doing deserves Exposure. If the playing fields were equal and fans got to hear everything I think our charts would look different, but we work in a time now in this industry where people only want to hear what they know.
That’s also fine, but if I could do anything I would give those artists the exposure they deserve and allow people to make decisions on what they like instead of being force fed it.
8) Who do you think are top 3 rappers doing it at the moment?
My all time favorite rapper is, was, and probably forever will be Black Thought from the legendary roots crew. That’s seriously probably never going to change. I like that people are showing him more love this year – dude deserves it.
If Joey Badass continues what he did on his last Amerikkka album I think he’ll be untouchable. That album was pretty flawless in my opinion. And the third would be a tie (I know you said three, but I cheated) between one of my tour mates, Skyzoo, and his homie, Oddisee.
Both of their last albums get continuous play from me. Sky’s “In Celebration of Us” is incredibly written and Oddisee’s “The Iceberg” is as well.
9) So what are your plans for the future?
Currently I’m on the road to my upcoming album’s release. I have quite a few things I’ll be doing for the promotion of that album. As a new Phoenix, AZ resident I’m proud to team up with Phoenix’s own AWAL Records for the distribution of my album’s new gear.
Surebert and I are real proud of this album. Before the album drops I’ll be on a run with Blu and Skyzoo across the states getting my buzz up. Afterwards I’ll have about 40 shows or so from September – Mid October from the south to the southeast then from the southeast to the Northwest.
Once that run is done it sounds like my team is currently putting me on the road with Fashawn and Planet Asia. The first date of that is November 1 which coincidentally is the release date for my album. Should be a great year ahead of us and we hope you guys hear a ton about the album.
I appreciate you taking time to shine some light on what we are doing! Surebert produced this whole album and I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way. This guy is unreal beat and chemistry wise.