Sunday, January 19, 2014

Dopethought & Worth

I recently had the pleasure of speaking to a young hip hop artist who changed my ideas about hip hop for the better.  Dopethought interviewed with me on The Knix Mix in support of the January release of the Dopethought and Worth track "Godly Indigos."  The track was written by Dopethought in collaboration with AK and Issa from The Underachievers and composed by producer Worth.  I fully admit I went into my interview with Dopethought with a fairly narrow frame of reference about hip hop.  My hip hop music collection mostly runs to where hip hop meets electro-pop in the form of Afrika Baambaata.
Dopethought is from Salt Lake City, Utah.  He is half Dominican and most of his dad's side of the family reside in New York, Boston, MA and Rhode Island.  Dopethought said he grew up breakdancing and listening to hip hop.  He started free styling at age 17 when he was in high school.  When his family moved to Michigan, so his mother could to go to law school, he chose to stay in Utah with his grandfather.  Differing viewpoints had him moving out while still in high school.  He had an opportunity to go to college on a baseball scholarship, but he wanted to make a difference with his voice.
It was around this time that the name Dopethought was born.  An encounter with a psychologist who explained to him that dopamine is the main chemical of happiness in the brain and releases a natural state of euphoria.  While the word "dope" is derived from dopamine, it has a negative connotation.  It was meaningful to Dopethought that the term started out positive, and positivity can evoke progression in people's lives.  
People have naturally been conditioned to stereotype what hip hop is, as I have been, and Dopethought set about to create hip hop that is more than just about money, cars, clothes and women.  He was inspired by the independent underground hip hop artists he listened to, which includes artists like Atmosphere.  He realized you can actually speak from anywhere with hip hop.  "What those artists did for me is opened my mind to the possibility that there's more to it.  Like even what I'm doing right now with you or anyone that may have a negative connotation of hip hop, but now you're hearing I'm just as hip hop as anyone else but my intentions are different.  That's all it comes down to in life.  It comes down to what is your real intention behind it.  Of using whatever tools you use."
Dopethought likens it to the numerous genres that constitute rock.  "You have heavy metal, you have classic rock, you have punk rock...There are so many different styles it doesn't mean that if you didn't like heavy metal, you wouldn't like indie rock because it's two different sounds.  It's the same with hip hop.  It's hard to say it's this or it's that when all you know is on mainstream radio.  All they want to do is evoke people to buy the next hot clothing brand, go to the club and buy alcohol, do drugs.  It's easy to naturally think that everything I know about hip hop is true."
The New Age definition of an Indigo suggests someone who is curious, emphatic and strong-willed with a clear sense of self and spiritual connectivity, which leads them to a higher purpose in life.  Hence becoming a "Godly Indigo."  Dopethought explains "Not just in America, but probably all over the world, people are talking about the concept of Indigo  I'm a kid who was born in 1991.  Most of the Indigo's generation, from what I've researched, is from the 80's to mid 90's.  My perception of an Indigo kid is someone who goes against stipulations of conditions that have been planned by society to this point.  This is why people in my age group have an issue with leadership roles or like in a classroom.  A lot of Indigo kids have problems paying attention.  They have issues with authority figures.  I guess you could say it isn't that they're so much against authority figures.  Just the way the human mind is naturally evolving, it being the age of information. There's so much that you can learn at such a young age.  Things are so different from the way they were for the generation before."
"The song is mainly me and Worth, who is the producer.  He produced the beat.  It's kind of an old school jazzy feel but it has a little bit of the New Age twist.  We tried to bring in an essence of sampling as it was done when hip hop first started.  Hip hop is going in a circle now.  It's like they say history repeats itself, so hip hop is kind of transitioning (along with all kinds of music) back being more positive, more thought evoking.  There is less of a mindset where hip hop went to the gangsta era to more of a material gain era.  I think it's going back to kids still talk about the same things in hip hop, but they kind of have a broader view of life." 
Though they are well regarded in their part of the country, Dopethought said he and worth are trying to bring their music to a national audience.  "The Underachievers, who are from New York, are pretty well known. They had a mix called "Indigoism."  It was enlightening for me to meet kids with the same thought process. We didn't know if it was just us or if we were crazy.  When you figure out that there are other people you've never heard before, you've never heard their music, and they are on the same plane, it must be something that's going on in a general consciousness.  We just try to bring the issues, whether it be personal like with emotions or relationships, to the government or religious issues. Music, but especially hip hop, has the forum."  
Dopethought said his sound to this point has been directly from his soul.  "I'm trying to show that people still care about the essence of hip hop.  I'm very strategic about how I get my stuff out there and let it naturally build.  An artist wants to make what an artist wants to make.  It depends on what your perception of success is.  If your definition is a lot of money and winning Grammys, then you've failed by your standards.  To me, I've succeeded already.  I'm doing what I love and using music as a tool to make a difference in people's lives and give them a positive perspective in life that I think is lacking in the world right now.  I'm not perfect. I make mistakes.  I'm conscious of the mistakes I make and hold myself to a high standard.  I do have goals to win a Grammy.  I do have a goal to do all those things, but I use my voice to influence kids who listen to hip hop to not just care about material gain, degrading women, the use of drugs.  There are so many artists who have so much power, and they're wasting it to a degree because they make it big and stop caring about the influence they're having.  They get content."  
"At the end of the day, I want to effect kids to realize the power they have and effect all the artists that are big.  The change has to start within yourself.  Everyone can point out the problems, but I'm ready to talk about solutions and give positive feedback.  I think we're really tired of the negative that's taking over society's mindset.  I try to keep my focus on what I actually care about and what my goals are, so that I stay in that realm. On a general scale, the messages that we're speaking haven't hit a full mainstream level. They're still on an underground level.  More and more kids are awakening to the idea."
To learn more about Dopethought and Worth, The Underachievers, or the new track "Godly Indigos," you can find information on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, iTunes and Spotify.  Dopethought is an artist who wants to connect with people personally.  "If you want to learn more about anything, feel free to find me on Facebook.  I'm always down to have conversations.  I'm not one of those artists who want you to listen to me, but I never want to have a conversation with you."  
I was genuinely impressed with Dopethought, and his words went a long way in dispelling some of the assumptions I had about hip hop and hip hop artists.  I applaud his efforts at stepping outside of what has defined the genre in the past and using the platform of music for good.  I'll be watching closely to see where Dopethought's career takes him.  Check back in a few weeks for an interview with the producer Worth, who will be chatting with me about his hip hop album "13Love" set for release in late January 2014!

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