Music is the love of my life. The most beautiful forms of music have no boundaries and communicate to your soul what your ears wouldn’t have heard otherwise. Artists like L*A*W accomplish this effortlessly. They get that music is not just business or a big paycheck; it’s a lifestyle. L*A*W lives and breathes music and defines his own style. His creations are infectious and worthy of his 7 Grammy nominations. Now, you get to see what incomparable artists like George Clinton and Amy Winehouse saw in L*A*W and why NOT working with him wasn’t an option.
– La Tasha K. Mason. Follow me on Twitter @Tash1216
What was it like working with Amy Winehouse?
Creatively, she was amazing as an artist.
What about Amy the person? How did her death affect you?
Working with Amy was an absolute joy. It was finally refreshing to hear a current artist who sounded great live like they did on their records. What many people don’t know is that Amy was a very sweet, caring soul who truly loved & respected the roots of this music biz. Her death affected me a great deal because I knew the industry would never be the same again. Both of her albums especially “Back To Black” brought real music with substance back to the mainstream just when it was starting to look like the cookie cutter s*** was starting to take over completely. “Back To Black” was still holding up for the last 3 years since its release, showing how vital she was to the scene. People couldn’t WAIT for the next album.
In what capacity were you involved with her?
You can get the complete story on my You Tube Channel, but I did work with her on 2 American Television Debuts for David Letterman & the 2007 MTV Movie Awards. Based off of a strong recommendation from 2 of the Dap-Kings, and my MySpace page, I was chosen to be a Back-Up Singer/Dancer for her. Heshima and Zalon Thompson are Amy’s original back-up singers, but Heshima had some TV Actor obligations. So, I was chosen as his replacement. You should interview them. THOSE BOYS ARE BAD, AMAZING VOCALISTS!! That David Letterman performance we did changed the game for background singers who are mostly known for just being all the way in the back & not moving. I was only supposed to do just the David Letterman show, but they used me again for the MTV Awards Show. I guess they like what I brought to the table. Amy’s boyfriend, Blake, (who later became her husband) had let Amy hear the demo version of my album, and she flipped. She and her manager, Raye, fought Universal Records to have me be her opening act for her sold-out show at The Highline Ballroom in NYC. I believe in my heart that no artist of her caliber and of the same demographic as me would’ve done that for me. She didn’t have to do that for me. She owed me nothing so the fact that she did that for me, I’m forever in debt to her and no matter how the media and world judges her, I’M ALWAYS GONNA LOVE HER.
What songs or work of yours have created the most memorable moments for you?
It would definitely have to be “Get Hollywood On Em” & “Brooklyn” because both songs were featured in MTV’s The Real World for both seasons of the same city names. My song “Walk The Train Car,” which is my musical homage to The Minneapolis sound, started by Prince and my good friends, Morris Day & The Time, will be featured in the new Playstation 3 game, “Dance VS Battle,” this summer which is very exciting for me as a dancer and certified video game head to have a song in a video game that caters to both of those sides of me . Another memorable moment would be when was Teena Marie flipping out and wanting to work with me after she heard my song “The Description.”
What seven instruments do you play? How does one find the time and dedication to learn to play 7 instruments?
I play the Guitar, Bass, Drums, Keyboards and Harmonica….I was driven and always got bored quickly. I used to see how other artists had to always depend on a band when it came time to record in the studio whereas artists like Stevie Wonder, Prince, Shuggie Otis and Lenny Kravitz were doing it themselves.
I’m listening to your song “With Your Heels On” right now. Tell me about the musical arrangement in this song and the inspiration for that particular song?
I had the track for about a year and decided to pull it up again when I was creating the album. The beat had this Euro-Techno Vibe with a splash of Straight up Funk that reminded me of models walking the runway in Paris. Inspiration came because I felt women needed a hot dance, non-degrading song that spoke about what they love and EVERY WOMAN OF EVERY COLOR LOVES THEIR HEELS! Plus, I love a woman with a mean shoe game . “Sex &The City” and “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” shows gave me extra inspiration. And yeah…some personal encounters helped too. (LOL)
You’ve opened for a lot of the big names in the industry right now including Rihanna, The Black Eye Peas, Ne-Yo, Bruno Mars and Alicia Keys…Tell me about your encounters with them. Did they pass on any words of wisdom for you and the release of your new album?
Well for one, Alicia and I have a serious connection because so many of my artist/musician friends who I came up with or worked with in the industry like Sara Devine & Arty White have toured with her extensively. Plus, I saw Alicia’s first shows when she was starting out. Rihanna is a serious sweetheart who I’ve worked with twice in addition to me being a huge fan of her work, and I am enjoying seeing her evolve as an artist. She, along with her background singers, actually stuck around & checked out our sound check with Amy Winehouse back in 2007 for MTV Awards.
I enjoy all kinds of music no matter the genre as long as it’s GOOD music. Admittedly, my preference is R&B. I’m sitting here jammin’ to your album. How does it feel to know that people that may not typically get down with your style change their mind when they hear your work?
It’s a super great feeling beyond words especially since some record labels fronted on us and told us that “The Genre Mix would never work”, “It’s too Retro & you are all over the place” or “Planet 12? Are you serious? NOBODY wants to hear that.” Thanks to the over million hits on MySpace and my dedicated fan base on Twitter and Facebook, we proved them wrong! Those are the best compliments especially when someone tells you things like “I never listened to Hip-Hop until I heard your stuff and saw your show,” “Thanks for the bringing the Funk-Rock element back” or “I love the fact that you don’t forget your roots though you are a new school artist”.
Every show that we’ve done, it’s always been that kind of crazy response to my hybrid. I have a sophisticated, diverse, hungry audience. It only shows that the Planet 12 brand is that special. That was the mission from the beginning…to musically transform and open music lovers’ minds by eliminating all barriers. I always joke about how I have female fans who like the underground raw stuff as much as they like the commercial fun stuff plus their 5 and 10 year-olds love my music too because it’s safe, and they can sing along with it. Most older, white fans who didn’t listen to R&B/Funk or Hip-Hop do now because of us while most older/younger black folks who didn’t listen to Hip-Hop, Hard Rock or Heavy Metal now do because of the album & our high energy stage show.
You were born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. I’m told that’s not the easiest place to live. How did you make it out to the level that you have? Does that fact that you are related to some musical power houses have anything to do with it?
I made it out because of determination, ambition, the support of my family and even my St Mark’s Avenue hood in Crown Heights. My family somewhat played a part in the beginning but as everyone knows, being related to legends means nothing if your music isn’t good or you don’t have the talent to back it up. So, I thank God for the years where it was just me doing all the grind work and investing in my vision when I didn’t tell anybody who my family was. Unlike most artists these days, I paid my dues and then some. You name it; I did it . Because I have real street cred, folks listen when I speak. I want kids to be able to say “he’s from where I’m from, dress like I do & HE’S SINGING, RAPPING AND PLAYING ALL THESE INSTRUMENTS”…in most hoods, you were usually laughed at or hated on if you did something that was totally against the grain so me being out there will inspire more kids to pick up an instrument or listen to other kinds of music than just the normal redundant s*** played on the radio.
How did you get connected with George Clinton and end up being a member of his group “420 Funk Mob”? What was it like working with such a legend?
It started with my musical brother Gabe Gonzalez who was the drummer for The P-Funk All-Stars, 420 Funkmob and leader of his own P-Funk unit called “Enemy Squad.” He made me the front man singer/rapper for that group after hearing one of my early demos in which he began to incorporate one of my songs in his show called “Time To Get Stupid”. Gabe was the first P-Funk dude to recognize what I could bring to the camp. When they went on hiatus, I went to Florida to live with & produce under my mentor George Clinton in which right after, I was approached by P-Funk legend, Michael “Clip” Payne, to be a part of the 420 Funkmob collective. So overall, I’m a member of the P-Funk organization.
Working with George Clinton is beyond a dream come true because he and The P-Funk Dynasty is the very reason why I created my Planet 12 vision. I’ve wanted to be a P-Funk member since I was 10 and even had a rap group in High School named after one of his phrases called “Tha Bionic Iddiotz”. Like George, I was the ringleader, so I use to walk, talk, act and even sing like George. It was the “Mothership Connection” album that made me create Planet 12 because George himself was more than just Funk. Funkadelic is the first black heavy metal/acid Rock band that also played Blues, Soul, Classical Pop and even Country. THAT’S WHAT I WANTED TO DO WITH MY MUSIC!
How would you classify your music or is it just different for each song? As I listen to your album, I honestly have to say that there is something for everyone. What is your preference or do you have one?
My music is the Planet 12 Sound. It’s not just a sound…BUT A STATE OF MIND. It is a combination of the Analog world meeting The Digital world. Whatever musical mood I’m in is what I do. I get out the way of the music and let it move me. My mission was to change the overall people perception of what they think a black artist should be doing. Record Labels in the 70’s created these dumb ass Black Divisions where it became more about color than music. All of a sudden and theoretically, black artists weren’t supposed to do Rock (which we invented) and white artists weren’t supposed to do R&B/Funk.
Thank God for my musical heroes like Prince, Neil Young, Earth, Wind & Fire, George Clinton, Elton John, Lionel Richie, Run-DMC, David Bowie, Outkast, Stevie Wonder & Lenny Kravitz who all showed me to never ever be confined to a trend or just doing one style. Fans mostly tag me with Hip-Hop and Funk-Rock/R&B, but I have no preference. I do it all, and the fans as well as my peers accept all the styles I do. I just finished producing Rock/Folk/Pop artist Nikki Lang’s entire EP which is gonna put the Planet 12 musical mission on a whole other plateau and break even more barriers because people are gonna look at us like “they are from 2 different worlds” not realizing that Nikki and I are verrrry much alike.
You sing, dance, rap, play seven instruments, produce and write music, is it safe to say that music is the love of your life? When do you have time for anything else? When you do get those moments to live outside of music, what do you enjoy doing?
Music is my escape-ism and my drug that I can forever get high off of. God always makes sure I get some kind of time to do what I love like playing video games, shooting pool, bowling & watching DVD’s. Plus, I’m grounded in family so sometimes, something has to give LOL!
When was the moment that you first fell in love with music?
At the age of 3 hearing Rick James, “You & I,” on the radio and singing the female parts in the chorus. By the time I was 4, I was already operating my father’s record player.
Are you already living your dream or have you yet to realize it?
I’m living my dream now but there is so much more to accomplish. I will never ever be complacent.
What are your greatest achievements?
My greatest achievements have been being able to do what I do without the help of a major record label or management…being able to be myself musically and have fans of various ages and races loving my music is an accomplishment within itself. When you have people like Diane Warren, Rosanna Arquette, Karen Gravano (VH-1’s Mob Wives), Megan Mullally (Will & Grace), Chico Debarge, Janelle Monae, Janis Gaye (Marvin Gaye’s Ex-Wife), Hazel Gordy & the late Teena Marie co-signing your work, you must be doing something right. I’m also proud of the fact that I’m the first Hip-Hop based artist to play the legendary Bitter End club in NYC. Lady Gaga, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Diamond & other Rock/Pop/R&B luminaries got their start there so up until I came along, they were NOT checking for the Hip-Hop element and even refused it. Since we opened that door, there have been at least 8-10 Hip-Hop acts that played at that place. I’m also the first Hip-Hop based artist to play at The Songwriter’s Hall Of Fame Showcase 3 consecutive times when the general rule is you are only supposed to play there one time.
One thing that is well known in the music industry is that there are always women just waiting to throw themselves at men in your position. How do you deal with that? Be honest…do you consider it a perk? Or do you see it as something that makes it hard to know who your soul mate is?
Good question….I deal with it by just taking it all in stride. It comes with the territory. See, unlike most artists, I experienced that lifestyle way before I had a record out. When I first began, it was all about Music, Money & Girls which is the name of the book I’m writing now about my life growing up in this biz. I started in this business very young and by the time I was 13, I was already playing clubs and had lost my virginity so that would give you an idea on what my teen years were like . Your mind has to be clear in order to know and find your soul mate and that comes with maturity and growth as a MAN. I found mine just in time, so God has been good to me.
Put together the perfect song. If you close your eyes and reminisce: lyrically, what is the all-time best song? Now do the same for musical arrangement and singer.
I get asked this question a lot on Twitter LOL. But I would have to say the greatest lyrical song ever written would have to depend on the genre so for me, in Hip-Hop it’s “F*** The Police” By N.W.A….In Rock, It’s “Hotel California” By The Eagles….In Funk, It’s “Tear The Roof Off Tha Sucker” By Parliament & lastly, In R&B, It’s “My Girl” By The Temptations. The Perfect Musical Arrangement would have to be by Quincy Jones and singing that song would either have to be Michael Jackson, Jermaine Jackson or Stevie Wonder.
I’ve read that you have some Grammy nods…for what work of yours?
Take me through the emotions you felt when you received the news.
I was calm over the phone but once I hung up, I JUMPED UP & DOWN LIKE A 5 YEAR-OLD KID! Again…no major record label push…no management…no publicist and here I am being considered for a Grammy Nomination. 7 Times at that for a few of my songs, and my album in the Hip-Hop & R&B Categories. I didn’t make it to the top 5, but I beat out 100,000’s artists to make into the top 20, top 50 & top 200 slots.
Your music has been heard on a number of popular reality shows such as “The Real World,” “The Bad Girls Club,” and “Making the Band.” Has your work made it to the big screens yet? If not, is that something you’d be looking forward to do?
We are working on that now as we speak, and it’s definitely something I look forward to doing.
I hear you like to free style. Spit something for me real quick and incorporate me and Gumbumper in the rhyme.
This is L*A*W chilling on the Gumbumper set….Giving yall a interview that you’ll never forget ….
You are now tuned into the Planet 12 nation…Me chopping it up with LaTasha K Mason
I’m going to name pairs of things, and I want you to tell me what you would select if you HAD to choose:
2Pac or Biggie?
Both….they both brought something to the table for Hip-Hop
Michael Jackson or Prince?
Both..they are James Brown’s top students in which all 3 artists influenced me the most !
Freestyle or written?
Both….Freestyling is challenging & fun while written is channeled creativity that can be used
Kobe or LeBron?
Kobe Bryant….hands down!
Usher or Chris Brown?
Usher….WAAAY better singer with the better songs!
Fantasia or Jennifer Hudson?
BOTH!! They represent the new movement of Soul/R&B Female divas who we will be talking about 30 years from now!
LISTEN TO THE ENTIRE ALBUM HERE