Mustard had the pleasure of speaking with Strange Famous Record’s Blackliq. Together we discussed expression through music, their multiple creative outlets, their album “Time is the Price”, and so much more!
1. Mustard is thankful to have Blackliq join them at Music Shelf. How are you doing today?
It’s an honor. And for real, I too am thankful. That’s how I’m doing, no matter what I’m doing.
2. Growing up you found out through music you could express yourself through lyrics. What are some albums or songs that had a significant impact on you?
Wu Tang Clan – Enter The 36 Chambers, Ice-T – OG, DMX – It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot, lots of Eazy-E and NWA, NaS, Mobb Deep, OGC, Pastor Troy, Three 6 Mafia, 2Pac, Notorious BIG, Fiona Apple..I could go on and on.
3. Additionally, Music is a form of communication for you. How does songwriting allow you to be your most authentic self? How can humans work on being more authentic?
I think a lie is the biggest waste of creative energy. If not a waste, definitely a misuse or misapplication. Writing for me gave me a way to let go of things, to no longer carry the burden of my own thoughts in my mind. It also gave me a way to view my own problems objectively, which is only possible if you are honest with yourself in your art. I tell my story to help others who may be going through the same things that I’ve been through. Friends passing away, family members getting incarcerated, poverty, self doubt, feeling like no one cares or understands, fear, uncertainty, it’s just as long a list as my inspirations because all of those uncomfortable situations and experiences are my inspiration.
4. In an interview with Minnesota Spokesman Recorder you said “Every Single Person has a seed of greatness from within them.” Could you elaborate on that?
The mind is a garden, what we cultivate grows. So many of us are taking hard life lessons and thinking we are just digging holes, but that’s how we actually have a chance to sew more than just seeds of doubt. We have to see just as well that like any seed it takes time to take root, more time to break the surface, and even more time, work, and effort to bear fruit. These days we go beyond craving attention, we are starving for it, however most attention we get is not food for the soul or thought. It doesn’t help us grow, even if it helps us become more popular or whatever. There’s a reason why going viral doesn’t sound healthy! I think that seed of greatness though is our own unique, authentic character. We end up trying to bury it instead of planting it, most frequently out of ego.
5. You’re more than just an artist. You’re an educator, radio host, and journalist. How do you balance each of these? What are some lessons you impart on your students as an educator?
I work a to-do list every day and I’m the same person no matter what I’m doing. Staying organized and being authentic without fear or doubt are what allow me to allow myself, as I need no one’s permission to be myself. None of us do. What I teach students is that the quality component is of character, not of cool. That getting to know yourself means learning to live with yourself. HipHop has allowed me to get to know myself, and accept that. It’s also given me a way to tell the world who I am. If we don’t figure out how to do that, the world tells us who we are. That’s not the place or way to be, nor does it have to be, especially since those labels usually carry a negative connotation or a meaning or status that comes at the expense of the individual.
6. You mentioned going from being a contributor to RVA Magazine to being an artist at Soundset who was originally invited by Slug of Atmosphere. How did it feel to perform at Sunset? Do you still contribute to RVA Magazine?
My relationship with RVAMAG will always be an open one, most of my most recent writing or contributions have been sadly to eulogize a friend that has passed. I’d always be down to write something for them, though I don’t think I would want to go back to reviewing artists’ music. As for Soundset, it was the definition of a dream come true. There’s nothing like walkin up to Sway and him knowing who you are without introducing yourself while you watch Kool Keith person, equally in awe. Or casually kickin it in with Young Guru, talkin shit with Slug and hanging with his family. I have so many stories about that weekend, I did 12 interviews back to back. I love Rhymesayers more than I could ever put into words, for them it’s anything anytime anywhere.
7. What is your creative process?
I put on a beat and let it tell me what to say and how to say it, then I write it and record it. It usually takes 3 hours from the first word to a finished session that is ready to be bounced out and sent for mixing. I don’t do much re-recording, I don’t like to punch that often or overly layer vocals, and these days I rarely finish writing the song before starting to record it. That way it can happen on its own. I don’t explore concepts too specifically beyond the starting part, I let the songs and the things they make me see decide, as that synesthesia-like inner vision is a major part of my process as well. one thing that has and probably never will change about my process is I write by breaths instead of cadence or melody. Everything I do I have to be able to perform, and being I’ve performed extensively I know my range rather well. Writing punk songs for my band Armagideon Time really made that fun because prior to that process I had never explored or defined by range in that realm or physically demanding performance art.
8. 2019 marked ten years with of radio with WRIR 97.3 FM and WDCE 90.1 FM. Could you share some of your favorite moments whether they’d be on or off air?
Anytime we freestyled and I blacked out, that was a moment. The friendships I’ve built, giving people their first spin on the radio. Seeing them get excited and their family being hype…that’s the stuff that matters to me. When an artist would come through and I would get them out of their usual shell by making them freestyle without writtens or cursing, that’s one of the best parts. Helping people see their own talent and recognize that there is still so much more we are all capable of. My focus on radio right now in the post pandemic area (is it ever really going to be over?) is breaking records for artists both nationally and globally since having guests and all that comes with whatever implied risk these strange days come with.
9. You’ve released 12 volumes of NOW mixtapes. When did the idea come to put these all together? Can fans expect volume 13 in the future?
My career first turned a page when I released like 10 albums in one year. doing NOW was kind of like that, but it was mostly to help me really take a look at what I’ve been doing and celebrate that. It was an intense process to go through all those broadcasts and freestyle. I had to listen to me be imperfect for hours at a time, and accept that, then try to figure out a way to make that a pleasant experience for the listener. I consider that series to be timeless, I hope as things continue onward and upward for me that people go and check those out. I’m talking about things I never write about, in ways I would never rhyme on a record. I love them. no plan for vol 13 for now, i think I’m currently living it though.
10. 2019 also saw the release of your album “ANTi” What was your goal with this record?
Business-wise I made that album to have something to carry me forward and reset the tone for where I was going creatively after I had done the more reflective thing with the Fiona apple inspired release Title and the collection of unreleased records called Fall For The Fly that was an album made of songs that i never wrote down. Some of those songs I recorded in 10 minutes. I learned a lot about my process from that, so ANTi was me getting back to form, blending those styles, approaches, and techniques, and being brutally honest about the dark place I was in and the challenges I was facing. It really did help me reach a new level, not just with soundset but as an artist and performer.
10. Mustard had the pleasure of interviewing fellow Strange Famous Records roster mate Seez Mics. Could you share more about how you joined up with Strange Famous?
Seez Mics is amazing, he and I ran into each other back in the day in DC when I played a house show with Educated Consumers. I met B Dolan when I was hanging out with Atmosphere in Norfolk and he was on their tour. We all got super into talkin about Nicolas Cage and just hit it off. back then I threw events at a venue called Strange Matter (ironic right?) I had a show series called Face Melt Friday that was bi-monthy and it turned out Epic Beard Men were asking about a date I had already booked. I let them have that date out of love and respect and rocked that show, that was the first time I met Sage. Fast forward to strange matter closing after my 43rd event, then the world closing and Sage sending out beats for a like a strange famous and friends thing. I was super aggressive about recording for that and did like 5 joints in a very short amount of time, which caught Prolyphic who is now Mopes’ attention. He hit me up to see if I wanted to work on some stuff and things just developed from there.
11. You got to feature on Atmosphere’s “WORD?” album. After being invited to Soundset by Slug, what was it like being on one of their records? Are there any plans in the future for more Rhymesayers features?
I certainly hope so. Like I said, whatever Rhymesayers need from me they can get, that’s family. Slug hit me up one day and was like “hey i need a favor, i need your voice.” He got 2 verses that night, I sent him 1 in the style i was working on figuring out and he said “nah do your other thing, with the pockets!! and don’t worry you have like a month to do this.” he got the verse you heard on the album that night! id love to work with Ant on a project or at least a few records, as well as Plain ol bill or even HEBL.I have like 2 more albums to put out after this Ohbliv project on Man Bites Dog Records and some pretty big singles coming in the mix of that during 2023, one which is some life changing stuff for me. I’m also working on a LP with Armagideon Time so ill be shifting to singles and features at some point in 2023 unless something just demands my creative spirit. Its during that time that i’m gonna start knockin out the long list of people i’ve wanted to work with or have talked with about it for a long time. Maybe i’ll do a BlackLiq and Friends album…..
12. “Time is the Price” tells your story in the most simple and honest form during what you described as a “personal shitstorm.” How did it feel to tell your story in this way? What do you hope fans get from this record?
Writing Time Is the Price was very much catharsis for me. I really had just stopped caring, not that I cared much ever, about trying to find cool ways to talk about things that were very uncool. Mopes gave me such an amazing foundation to work with via his production, I had no idea the entire time we were working on that album that it was going to be the one to get me my first deal and release with a label. Hopefully people get from that project that you don’t have to fake it to make it. you just have to keep going and hopefully keep growing. self doubt kills dreams.
13. As a condiment Mustard has trouble grasping the concept of time. What are some ways you think humans can best utilize your time?
make more of it for yourself by investing it in yourself instead of spending it with others who aren’t investing their time on anyone or in anything but themselves. also make decisions that speak to sustainability. I believe we can all do and be anything, we just can’t do and be everything. I go to sleep around 430/5a every night and wake up around 930 then start working out for 2 and a half hours at around 10:40am, 5 times a week. My life is built around making the most of my time instead of asking for more time. My to-do list really keeps me always working. I also for the most part don’t watch tv unless I’m working out, I don’t have time to binge a series etc. I think being sober for more than 10 years has something to do with all that, but I always worked and worked out like this. Even when I was drinking 40’s every night and smoking a QP every month.
14. What is on the horizon for Blackliq?
BlackLiq x Ohbliv – What Will It Take drops 12/16 on Man Bites Dog Records, first on bandcamp then 30 days after on DSP’s. It’s for the collectors. I’ve wanted to do something with Ohbliv for so long and people in Richmond have been wanting to forever. We both have been operating in this city yet connecting with the world for over a decade and he’s a major source of inspiration, who has been recognized by people like madlib. After that I may have a lil something dropping before my next Strange Famous album it Mopes in late March. I’m also working on a book so hopefully that will come together in 2023, and I have another album that I intend to drop in the fall that I can’t talk about yet. There’s also some other huge things floating around, a few tours both with Armagideon Time and on the hiphop side. besides that more speaking engagements, community building and work, and working in education, teaching at Sabot at stony point and possibly some guest teaching spots at University of Richmond. 2023 started for me in May 2022, I have no intentions of slowing down.
15. For those who may have lack confidence or not see their self-worth, what advice would you give them?
Nothing and nowhere are the perfect places to start. It doesn’t matter which voice is the loudest, all that matters is which one you decide to listen to. When things get crazy in my mind I just remind myself that my goal is to fail, that way I always succeed. And lastly better will always do more for you than best. The measure of progress is just progress. Tomorrow becomes today on its own, there’s no need to rush or force anything. You most definitely need to catch up, which I’m sure Mustard can relate to.
16. Where can readers listen to your music?
I’m on all the platforms or just go to BlackLiq.com Also if you’re an artist and you have music for my radio shows, teh submit instructions are on my IG page post highlights. Follow the instructions and send me something clean!