PART 2: MI From Constant Deviants on Film Projects, Influences in Baltimore, Hitting Up Colombia and More
Written by streetsconnect on August 8, 2016
In part two of our interview, MI from Constant Deviants picked up where we left off, chronicling Constant Deviants journey through rap. We then get into his influences, Baltimore, the latest with Six 2 Six Records, new film projects and more.
In the first part of the piece we touched on the duo’s latest project, ‘Omerta’ and got into MI and Constant Deviants’ back story and how they’ve navigated Hip Hop. Catch up with part one here, and continue to read part two…..
We pick up with MI continuing the story of their major label experiences…
Interviewer: Was it the rap rock-stuff? Was it that rap-rock period?
MI: Yes. It was like the period when you know like that market that wanted me to kind of like…they wanted me to kind of like create this sound. It was just like we were…the music was real weird…honestly the industry at that time and the direction we were being pushed in, being with a major, they didn’t want samples and were trying to experiment with different sounds and stuff, and it was just a strange period. But like I said it was a learning experience and I’m kind of glad that none of that stuff ever really came to fruition because it left us open to be able to do what we’re doing now. We never had that mistake that we had to recover from. It was time lost but it was good because we were still working on a fresh slate.
Interviewer: Right, it didn’t impact your guys direction.
MI: Exactly, it didn’t hurt our purpose to be exact.
Interviewer: So who influenced you?
MI: I would say generically if I had to sit up here and name the…”Oh these are five people that influenced…” I’d give you the same list that pretty much anybody else would give you and say “Big Daddy Kane, Rakim, Kook G Rap, Guru…whatever, like Slick Rick, of course.. But my crew was just the people I grew up around, like Baltimore… I was around some of the dopest MCs like One Speaker Supreme, he was like one of my biggest influences.
I’m not sure if you’re familiar with Lab Tech 1, like Lab Tech 1 taught me about breath control.. We used to take walks and rap to work on our breath control and stuff like that. I mean these dudes taught me about writing and patterning rhymes, and like rhyme styles and word play and stuff like…I remember one time Lab told me…I wrote a rap and I was like “Yo…the words just did not come together…” and he was like “Man you can make any words have a rhythm, to make them come together it’s just about how you say them. You might have to say them differently.”
You know there was a lot of talented people in Baltimore back in the early to mid-90s that we used to go out, and they would like…cause I was younger than them…they would like throw me to the wolves. I’m going out there in front of that crowd and go out there and do my thing. And I was still young and trying to build my confidence up and get my breath control. I learned from these cats, but these dudes are like amazing lyricists. That’s a little off topic of what you’re asking about…
Interviewer: That’s actually exactly what I was curious about.
MI: They taught me the importance of not just rapping, but how to make this sound good and be good. And the fact that I was an Italian kid they always used to tell me like “Yo we want you…we want people to be like you’re dope, not he’s dope for being a white boy.” They always wanted me to just be dope. Then my voice, like people wouldn’t think, people would think I was a black dude or whatever, when they heard my songs…seeing me they would be like “Oh, hey he’s a white boy…”
They wanted to make sure that people never used that as like a way to describe me, or whatever. And that was always my goal, and I can honestly say it’s never really came into play much. Now it’s not just because of me and that’s because you had your Eminems…Ill Bills and other cats come out over the years that were just dope MCs they just made it so, it’s not just Third Base or somebody like that.
Interviewer: I feel like with real hip hop cats it was never about race. It was like the race thing was always brought up more by the outsiders, or like the industry heads. They didn’t really get it, if you were in it you understood.
MI: I don’t know how to do the Slim Shady thing or the Bubba Sparkxx thing cause I don’t come from that, that would be me being fake. I’m not being fake rapping about what I rap about and sounding the way I sound because this is me, so you wanting me to do that is going to be like what you think people are going to perceive me as doing this.” And I used to tell them like “Yo, what makes you think white people always want character white rappers? Like why don’t you think that there’s just white hip hop fans out there that just like the fact that there’s a white dude that just raps like he’s not playing off of the fact that he’s white. Everything isn’t racial.” But they couldn’t understand that because they’re coming from a marketing point of view…
Interviewer: Demographics and numbers.
MI: Yeah exactly. And they didn’t understand it, and I used to tell them “Like man, you just don’t get it, like you don’t get the other side of this. You guys are so boxed in in this machine that you don’t see what’s really just actually happening out here.” They can’t figure out how to put their shit in a bottle and sell it, that they don’t…they can’t create it. And sometimes you can’t bottle everything up.
Interviewer: Right. So you’re doing a movie right now too…
Interviewer: So is the movie connected to the project?
MI: No. We did do a project that… I did a project with like a sister company of ours, there’s a cat we’re working with in Switzerland name SWC is the name of the crew. They’re a dope crew like…this is like…I mean if you’re familiar with Europe and all, like they’re just all the way in like graffiti, production, DJs, rappers, they do it all. Their whole crew is just like…this a dope little crew that just like follows every aspect of this culture….
Interviewer: Right, not everybody’s a rapper, they do other elements…
MI: Yeah they do everything. They got like artists, whatever, it’s just different. They’ve got like dudes that paint in their crew, dudes that draw; and then they got dudes that do video; dudes that…they just do it all man, they’re all over the place with it. They’re just so talented, but their production is amazing, and I did a project with them called Swiss Banks which was actually the first movie we did, we actually did four videos and we created a movie about it and there was a nine-song album. And the other songs that we did and shoot the videos for were incorporated in like the score of the movie and stuff. And that’s kind of what started the bug in me to like want to get more into the movie thing cause I enjoyed it, I was like “Wow this acting thing is alright…” people liked it. So I already had a script written for the SIX2SIX…
Interviewer: So did you just decide to write a script and go?
MI: It was already done by that point. We did that, me and a friend of mine, Dean Salisbury, we wrote this script back in 2007, and it just was something we were going to do, we were trying to do at that time but it never really came to fruition, you know it just was a different time and kind of just was sitting still. But the guy that I did the movie with he knew somebody, her name was Cassandra Riddick, and she’s a producer, she’s a movie pro…she does Hindi movies, so I told him like “Yo, we want to do this movie, I’m down to do it but we need a producer…” because we did the Swiss Banks thing kind of just fly and dry …like we just went hard and did it. But I was like but to do a full feature movie, script and everything…I mean it is a big process, right, there’s a lot of characters in it, a lot of vocations and I was just like, you know we can’t…we kind of roped the Swiss Bank as we went along and made it real like minimize the characters in it, locations and stuff just to make it as easy as possible.
Interviewer: Did Swiss Banks grow out of the music? Like you were making these songs and you just couldn’t get this bigger story out of your head and it turned into a movie?
MI: It kind of, but me and him kind of collaborated and created the story for the movie as well, you know like it kind of grew from there. When he heard the album he was like “Let’s do some videos for this…” and I was like “We can…but we need to do something bigger than just videos…” cause videos you know in an independent world people ask about “Oh the videos for this album?” I’m like “We may do a video or two, but really like I’m off the video thing cause it’s like what is a video really going to do?” If I’m going to waste time doing a video I might as well…if I’m going to waste time doing two or three videos I might as well just be working on a movie. Videos, what do they really doing for us as a independent? It’s like nobody…it doesn’t sell more units for us at least, and it’s kind of like once you put it up it gets five/10,000/20,000 views and it doesn’t really lead into anything…
Interviewer: No, and it’s a lot of work.
MI: It’s kind of like what’s a video for? Yeah, it’s a lot of work for something that doesn’t really add up to anything, and a lot of the dudes that do videos have grown out of wanting to do videos cause there’s no money in it and there’s no growth in it, like if they do a movie there’s a chance that the movie could go to the festivals; there’s a chance that the movie could get picked up; but dudes that do videos they get sick of doing them because the only thing they can really do is build a brand that they do videos but nobody wants to pay for videos because videos don’t make you any money.
Interviewer: Right, it’s like they have to do it for free.
MI: …like and that thing like the going rate for a dude’s that’s actually decent at doing video is like 500 or a thousand dollars. If a guy got to go out there and shoot a video then spend a couple days editing a video to make 500 bucks I mean it’s like…it’s not even worth it for them guys to do it. And then you got artistes that are trying to sell dreams and they’re just smarter than that, they’re like “What do you mean…you got to do some videos for them to get your name out there…” It’s like my name out there to do what? More free videos? Everybody just wants free videos.
MI: So, what kind of like…we did a few freestyle videos for this project because it’s different you know, we do a little where we show live…live DJ, live MC…We do stuff like that just to be a little bit diff cause everybody is not doing that, and they’re real simple. It took about…it takes about 20 minutes to record them and then they’re really not nothing to edit, you just give them to somebody to throw in final cut, and then they color it a little bit or whatever, and it’s done. It’s not chopped up and it’s not a whole bunch to it.
Interviewer: So what’s SIX2SIX about?
MI: So SIX2SIX is a script and is a story we wrote. One of the characters, there’s two main characters in it, one is me and one is one of the artistes that was with my label when we originally wrote it, kind of based the story around our lives. They’re loosely based around our lives, they’re not like exact and the situations aren’t exact because it didn’t happen but we took our lives and things that we’ve been involved in or businesses we may have like owned or whatever, things like that. Like different situations in, girlfriends that we may have had, you know what I’m saying? Things like that, and made it about our lives, but loosely; but it’s not…I’m not MI in the movie, it’s just I’m playing another character, but the two lives are based around our stories a little bit. It’s like a six degrees of separation type story, like kind of keep bumping into each other throughout the day, it starts at 6:00 a.m. and it ends at 6:00 a.m., and we kind of just running into each other throughout the day and then something happens between us at the end that we realize where we knew each other from and stuff like that. So it’s a cool little story…
Interviewer: Yeah that’s a cool angle.
MI: Yeah it’s different you know, it’s not your…once again, even with the movie, it’s like I’m staying away from the whole shoot-them-up thing, bang bang. Me and my homeboys could go outside in the neighborhood, film a movie with the same old story line, somebody selling drugs, somebody gets robbed, you go kill somebody’s cousin and they want to come back and retaliate…
Interviewer: The cycle.
MI: Yeah, I’m trying to stay away from all of that type of stuff.
Interviewer: Plus being from Baltimore you could’ve made like a Wire type thing.
MI: And Swiss Banks has a wire feel to it, but it’s totally different because it’s about counterfeit money and Swiss bank accounts rather than drugs. There’s no… it’s not about drugs and stuff like that. It’s about these dudes…that’s what Swiss Banks was about, was about these dudes that were in to counterfeit money but they were tied in with these cats from Switzerland that put…they put their money into Swiss bank accounts. Yeah, so even when we’re touching the street stuff we’re trying to stay away from…
Interviewer: The clichés and…
MI: Yeah, cause it’s like…how many times I’m going to tell that story over and over again.
Interviewer: When you did the same thing with Omerta too if I understand, it’s not like a glorifying mafia lifestyle thing, it’s like you took that…
MI: Metaphoric…it’s all metaphoric cause we try to create that feel to it. So we try to create something a little bit different than what’s going on. And we actually just picked up by the Hip Hop Film Festival…
Interviewer: Yeah congratulations.
MI: Thank you…we won the 24-Karat Gold Award which is…
Interviewer: Oh you won? Wow!
MI: But not…we didn’t win the festival, but when you get accepted into the festival, you can either get accepted with the silver wings or the 24-karat gold wings. Twenty four karat gold means that all four things that they judge it on, you surpass. Like you can be good at three of them and still get accepted, but then you just get the silver wings, but if you get all four of them then they give you the gold wings, which means you’re already in like a little bit better shape going into the festival than if you just were accepted just because they like certain aspect… they like every aspect of it.
Interviewer: Well it sounds too like you’ll be able to get this past just hip hop film festivals.
MI: That’s what we’re…that’s the whole biz, that cold sign right there helps out a lot, so. So that was actually the first film festival we presented it to. We just started presenting it to festivals, so…it’s a good look so I feel positive about that and right now we’re working on our actually second full-feature but third film because if you consider Swiss Banks which is Can’t Live Without My Radio, and that’s a comedy about a radio station and it’s kind of showing the transition from the radio station, the way it was in the 90s to how it is now, yeah so it’s a dope bomb, it’s a dope concept. And then it’s kind of like got this little Network feel to it, I don’t know if you’ve ever seen Network but…
Interviewer: I mean these are really creative ideas. This is all you?
MI: Yeah, well you know me and other people, other people that are around us. Yeah I didn’t write…it’s funny, I didn’t write Can’t Live Without My Radio but me and a friend of mine came up with the concept and then the guy that wrote it was actually the DP of the movie, and when we told him the idea, he was like “Yo, let me write it. Let me write it, I want to write that…” It was like “Go ahead…” because that’s how we do it, like we’ve got so many things going on, like he was so excited about writing it, it was like “Go ahead and write it.” He did an awesome job writing, you know I’m saying, it’s like I don’t want to hold up and wait so I can write it because I can’t…
Interviewer: And then it never happens, right.
MI: Exactly. Somebody comes up with an idea, and if somebody is ready to jump on it, let them do it, like it’s not “Oh yo, it’s my idea. I came up with it!” Like we got…hey man I’ve spent…I’ve released four albums this year and two movies, and I’m working on my third movie in a year. Why am I holding on to the ideas? Like I get a chance to be as creative as I want to be, I want to see other people be creative too. So this just how we do, we share ideas, I hate to say “Yeah I came up with that idea…” because collectively I just keep myself around creative artistic people and we all do stuff and share it in the end, and share the fact that we created something so excellent.
Interviewer: I think that’s a really good point like it’s so easy I think for people to… especially when you’re a relatively new artist to be like waiting for this perfect moment… and it never happens…
MI: If you’re familiar with Avant Garde, I have a song on there called The Perfect Moment, that was the name of the song and that’s what that song is about, waiting for the perfect moment to finally be out there, cause that’s what happens. We wait as artists, we wait cause you think like “I’m going to miss the beat with this one…” or it’s too soon…or whatever, and that’s what happens. And when you do that you just stay in a cycle, like you keep recycling yourself and then you end up having three or four projects out that are like, you know people like them but “Yeah they’re cool, they’re cool…” and you’re like “Damn but I’m so dope…” you know what I’m saying?
Interviewer: Yeah, and they don’t even know it.
MI: It’s like you never gave them your dope stuff you always gave them the stuff that was kind of good. So if you’re waiting to be …for that perfect moment to give them, what was the greatest stuff you can give them? So definitely, I think…I’m sure, I’m sure that there’s tons of artists that do that from painters to…I’m yeah sure we all do that.
Interviewer: So when does…is there like an actual release date on the film?
MI: No, cause we’re going to give it a …still going to give it a festival run real quick…
Interviewer: So that’s how that works?
MI: They don’t want it to be a previously…out, so we’re not even going to distributors, we’re not going to networks, we’re not going to put it on Vimeo yet. It will go on Vimeo sooner than later because it’s part of the SAG contract that it has to, cause if you have SAG artist or actors in there that does…although I’m really not that familiar with that side of it, but I do know that it’s like some stipulations there, so sooner than later it will end up on like a Vimeo, where it has to go on the Internet you know somewhere where it can be viewed there. So that will happen sooner than later, and I’ll make sure that when it does that John gets in touch with everybody and let’s everybody know where they can check it out and stuff like that.
MI: We’re going to Bogota in the Summer…
Interviewer: You’re going to Bogota?
MI: …Colombia. Yeah.
Interviewer: Oh talk about that. How’d that come together?
MI: That’s been something that we’ve been working on for a while. You know we do…let’s say we release all of our stuff on vinyl, been releasing a lot of material that was archived from Baltimore, not even just our music, so our bread has been built pretty strong in like Europe and South America and stuff like that, Colombia, and different…Japan and Australia, and just because there’s so many people that collect vinyl. I guess in Columbia there’s a big audience for that, and they’ve just been buying, you know they’ve been buying vinyl from us pretty much since we started. So they’ve been talking about it and we finally locked it in. I think… I haven’t even gotten the date yet, but it’s either going to be late July or early August that we’ll be doing that. So I don’t have the date solid yet but we did solidify it. So I’m really looking forward to that.
Interviewer: Are you going to link with some Colombian hip hop artistes?
MI: Hey yeah, definitely. I mean the crew that is bringing us out there is a DJ crew, I’m not sure if they have any rappers or producers down with this but I know that they’re all DJs, and like I said they all collect vinyl, DJ and stuff like that. So if they have any…pardon me one sec…
Interviewer: Oh it’s all good man.
MI: So, yeah definitely, when we get out there…I mean that’s what I like to do anyway, I like to just work with people and just do that. Like that’s what we do, I mean I have projects with people from Australia…Def-P from Australia; Dwayne from France, we have project coming out with like I said, we did a project with people in Switzerland; we got a project working on with a couple of people from the UK; different…that’s what I like to do. So of course when we get out there if there’s somebody wants to rock we definitely can deal with them.
Interviewer: Yeah man, I’ve always been…that’s one of my favorite things to do is anytime I go somewhere I want to see what their hip hop culture is like. I love it. Do you got a favorite place in like Europe or anything?
MI: No…I like…I love France. We haven’t been to Germany yet…
Interviewer: Oh yeah, they’re huge in hip hop.
MI: Yeah it’s huge in Germany, but it’s very clique-ish it seems like, they’re very particular. But Switzerland is like home to me now, it’s like we’ve had so many…because I told you that we’ve teamed up with SWC at this point and they’re like family at this point and their crew is such good people, and that the people in Switzerland are just so laid back and it’s such a beautiful place. It’s just everything about it I really dig you know, other than the fact I can’t understand what the hell they’re talking about…we’re talking French. Well we go in the French part…it’s difficult. You go to the German part of Swiss and they speak English and German so it’s a little easier, but where we go for the most part is the French part. We go to Lausanne and Vague and Geneva, in that area, and they speak French, it was just so difficult, I mean the women are just incredibly beautiful there, it’s just…it’s insane there but it’s just hard to communicate, I don’t understand French.
In Bogota it’ll be easier cause I know some Spanish, you know what I’m saying? I don’t speak Spanish fluently but I can get by.
Interviewer: Well I was going to say I love Spain, Spain is my place cause they got…I like their hip hop cult…their graffiti culture is bananas.
MI: …we have some stuff set up to go back over to Europe, and Barcelona is one of the spots, but I’ve just been kind of chilling on Europe right now just because of all the stuff that’s going on, I’m just kind of like when I go I want things to be a little smoother.
Interviewer: I mean you don’t want to go over and feel like restricted.
MI: Yeah, exactly. That’s exactly what I feel like.
Interviewer: I still got some footage I need to edit. I was in Barcelona last year and I took a bunch of graffiti footage just cause they got so much, the scene is just insane there.
Interviewer: So who are you listening to like right now?
MI: You know it’s funny man, when I’m working on an album I try not to listen to anything new because I don’t to get caught up in like what’s going on. So like I’m still…I’ll still listen to the same stuff I’ve always listened to, old stuff like… like I said, normal stuff that you would listen to from the 90s really like that’s what I listen to, cause that’s what I like. When I’m listening to my music or I’m listening to just jazz or soul music or whatever, listening to sample of sounds or whatever, like I’m really not even up on like current rappers and stuff like that anymore because I just…I find myself always in a creative place and when I’m there I try to stay away from listening to stuff. For like the last three years now I’ve just like done nothing but create, so.
Interviewer: And it’s like with there so much being out there just being aware of everyone that’s coming and going is like a full time job. Like I have to… I just have to ignore it. I have to ignore some areas because I don’t want to… like I don’t want to sit all day watching the same fucking music video.
MI: Definitely not.
Interviewer: But like the only way I’m going to be able to like know everything that’s going on is to do that, but you know.
MI: Pick and choose your battles.
Interviewer: Yeah, you have to pick and choose. Man this was a awesome conversation man, I really appreciate it.
MI: Definitely. I appreciate you too man. Thanks for the opportunity.