Thanks to Ethan Everton.
Still riding the turbulent waves of remaining true to old school hip-hop, M.I. of Constant Deviants continues a lyrical career which has spanned over 20 years, with a string of solo, collaboration and of course Constant Deviants releases with group co:founder DJ Cutt under his belt. The earliest singles caught the attention of renowned industry manager Mark Pitts who had M.I. put pen to paper on a solo deal with Arista in 2000. As DJ Cutt engineered albums for Roc-A-Fella, the pair still worked on side projects until officially re-uniting in 2009.
With the establishment of their own Six2Six Records, their return to the independent sector was absolute, and the group’s release schedule would become prolific.
Having just released their fifth full length album ‘Omerta’ on June 28th, we caught up with M.I. to uncover exclusive album details, discuss his new film making career and to learn of his plans for Six2Six Records during the rest of 2016.
M.I., how are you feeling after the release of your new album? You had a run of radio interviews in New York at the time, how did that go?
We are feeling the same way we always feel, positive and happy to be doing what we love. The radio run went awesome. Met a bunch of cool people and had a chance to be heard
Speaking of radio, independent and college stations have been big supporters of Constant Deviants in recent years. Do you believe that stations such as these still play a pivotal role in terms of exposure for artists like yourselves in 2016?
Yes, we believe all of these different formats play a role these days. Our music is made for the people who want to hear what they like, not being force fed something and brainwashed into liking it. These stations play what they like, completely independent of any other considerations, so they’re very important to us.
When you were creating ‘Omerta’, in terms of the sound and concept, were there any other albums or artists you feel may have helped inspire the direction of it? We understand there’s a story relating to the late Sean P for example, and there are some precedents for themed releases.
Not really. We try not to listen to much when we are working on an album. Life inspires us to just create and have fun with it. It’s true we did perform with Sean P at a concert in Switzerland, and the energy and sound of the night helped inspire a direction, but it was only one of various contributory factors.
Aside from adapting the personas of Luciano & Lansky, what would you are the main differences between ‘Avant Garde’ and ‘Omerta’?
They are 2 totally different projects. We don’t feel there is much in the way of similarities other than it’s us making music. The overall sound of both albums differ significantly though that was a deliberate decision, we stay creative from project to project. Every one of our albums is different in its own way
M.I., you’ve been quoted as saying you tried to “put a little bit of the fun back into hip-hop”. Presumably you feel that aspect has been lost in recent years, so can you elaborate more on that for us?
It feels like rap music is just beats and rhymes now. The music is not cohesive. I have no interest in someone just rhyming words over a beat that doesn’t sound like it fits together. It’s like an outfit, you don’t wear blue sneakers, green basketball shorts and a pink button up ! I think your music should make sense and be fun to listen to.
While you’ve adopted a concept, is this album a conscious representation of the environment around you, or do the lyrics mostly depict fictional scenarios?
Everything I write is a representation of my surroundings. That’s not to say that every story or reference is absolute, but it absolutely happens.
As a lyricist, do you find writing an album a cathartic experience, expressing your thoughts and getting them “off your chest”? If so, do you always find there’s new subjects to address, or do you revisit them from different angles?
I try not to limit my creation or even categorize it at all. Art is subjective so my expression is one thing and people’s reception is another..
With your new ventures into film making recently, how do you balance the time to put so much time and effort into making this album while being busy with other projects?
It’s funny because music doesn’t take much time at all. It seems like living life alone creates the music. I wake up and just push through life, next thing you know there is another project being finished. I’ve found that film making is a far longer process than recording an album with all the logistics involved, but it’s not been a problem to balance the time for both.
I’ve noticed that “Omerta” doesn’t feature any collaborations, which has been consistent with all of Constant Deviants’ releases. Is it a conscious decision to take this approach, or have there been times when you have considered having more featured artists appearing on any of your albums?
Here and there we will have a feature or two, but when we do a Constant Deviants project we like to keep it that way. If we are going to do a compilation album, then that’s exactly what it will be. It’s hard to find a group or an artist these days that can hold down a complete album.
I haven’t seen any videos released for any of the tracks from the album. This is quite unusual, so do you have any planned or was this a deliberate strategy?
It’s not necessarily deliberate but at this point besides just making music we are running a music business. At the end of the day, videos don’t make money and they don’t generate money for us. We have to spend our money wisely. Can’t try to keep up with the plan the majors created years ago. That’s why they lost!
M.I., you are co:owner of Six2Six Records. Thinking in terms of operating as a team at an independent, how does this assist you on the logistical side? If for example we take the album itself, at the time of recording, artwork design, manufacturing, distribution etc, are these tasks spread evenly across a number of people allowing you more time to focus on the artistic side?
Well, we are a small company run by myself, One Speaker Supreme and Cutt. Supreme handles a good part of a lot of the stuff you mention, but we all take part. So that means of course that it does take up each of our time to handle various aspects, but at the same time working as a tight unit has its benefits. We all know what’s happening all of the time, nothing gets missed.
Six2Six Records have a recognized brand with an advanced distribution situation meaning you release on vinyl and Cd’s worldwide. So are you looking to expand as a label by recruiting fresh talent to the roster in the future, and if so, would there be some basic criteria you think necessary to fit with what’s been established ?
Thank you for the compliment. We would love to build the label further and have some fresh talent to build it with, help create classic music. I would say the only criteria for prospective artists would be that they’re open to assistance and helpful suggestion, and that they’re serious about their craft
You’ve of course also now set up Six2Six Films for your initial film releases. So a similar question, over time would you look to develop this so different filmmakers could release through your company?
We would love to team up with people. At this point I am still new to the film thing, so I don’t have enough experience to really speak on it yet. Ask me next year (laughs).
Now that we’ve entered the second half of 2016, how do you reflect on the year to date and what has Six2Six got in store between now and 2017?
We are just focusing on the new album “Omerta” and our two films at the moment. This will probably bring us into 2017. I’m sure by that point we will have more on the table but not as of yet.