I’ll never forget the day I met Hanif. It was an arctic night in January and I was visiting the Nuyorican Café in Alphabet City for the first time with a friend from work. I printed out a piece I wrote for an ex-girlfriend and wanted to perform it. Later that night, I decided against it because at the time I had stage fright and settled on just sitting back and enjoying the entertainment for the evening, filled with repetitive words, verse and long prose, corny rappers and prolific lyricists.
Though, I had no expectations. And that’s when I spot this confident, cool, and serious dude with a flawless Sunni beard hop on stage, cue the sound booth to play his track with a sharpness that said he’s been doing this for a while, and rocked the hell out of the venue like there was no yesterday. It was possibly the best 5 minutes of my life, to be honest. So, my first impression: if a mad scientist took the DNA of Live-Long-A$AP Rocky, Classic Gang Starr and Common, Total Control Ab-Soul, and Section.80 Kendrick Lamar, froze them in time, then put the soul of this monster into a body of tempered man. After he got off stage, I became stuck. Like, really trapped in my awe and bliss. But I rushed to the back to find him, spoke with clumsy speech, and told him to keep in touch. The rest is history.
So I introduce to you: Luck-One Conscious.
Part barber extraordinaire, part rapper, part investor, and all-round creative, there’s no denying that Luck is one hardworking dude. After an adolescence filled with chaos that resulted in him being sentenced as a teen to over half a decade in state prison, Luck returned to the free world with a uniquely authentic message for the hip-hop demographic. Instead of settling for trite tales of his misguided past, he has forged a listenership around the reality of the now, and the limitless potential of the future. A life based in struggle, Luck’s self-motivating and boundless attitude has landed him with 7 successful and highly acclaimed studio projects, the opportunity to accompany Macklemore and Ryan Lewis on tour, and share the stage with some of the industry’s finest talent such as Wale, The Game Bone Thugz N Harmony, Talib Kewli, Dead Prez, Naughty By Nature, Pharoahe Monch, and Andre Nicatina, to name a few. His strong zeal for knowledge, philosophy, truth, art, spirithood, human liberty, revolution, and consciousness truly sets himself apart from others because of as his gift for articulation. Defined as “to be productive in speech and compartmentalize grand-sized ideas into accessible concepts”, this aspect of Luck’s flow genuinely baselines his unique lyricism. There is no denying the amount of his emotional and spiritual depth has made Luck a diamond in the rough.
This past Tuesday, the self-identified gangster rapper invited me over to his humble abode up in Harlem to preview his album before it hit the Internet, and also to converse on general topics ranging from Gandhi, Henry David Thoreau, the military and prison-industrial complexes, death of black-owned businesses, the falsehood of nationalism, and corny conscious rap in between our listening to his album. From our private listening session, I discerned a list of my top 10 favorites from a 20 hour-long listen through of this monster 20-track project. You can read my thoughts here.Below is a neat fragment from my afternoon with Luck:
Interview with Luck-One Conscious,
private listening session,
February 9th, 2014
Me: What is the story behind Curse of the Pharaoh? Where did this all begin and has it transpired as expected?
Luck: “Death shall come on swift wings to him who disturb the peace of the King”. That’s the inscription that they found on King Tut’s tomb before they robbed his grave and were all inflicted with death. The idea is, when my tape drops, all these rappers gone die.
Who were your favorite people to work with during this project? Who are some others you would like to do work with in the future?
For one, I definitely had a blast with that Dekk track. He literally sent that track to me as I was in THE LAST session for the tape. It’s been some years since we worked together, we did two projects and wound up having a really ugly and unfortunate falling out. I went as hard as I could on the record. Hopefully this is the beginning of a third project we do together because we have really good chemistry and other than Shenequa, she’s my favorite producer period. As far as future collabs I’m open, really. I just love music.
Would you consider yourself a neo-conscious rapper? If so, how is your sound separate from hip-hop’s predecessors?
I wanna be clear about this. I’m a gangster rapper. I believe the only type of rap is gangster rap, everything else is just a bad imitation. And when I say that I mean that when the gangsters started rapping, circa N.W.A. and all that, they were speaking about circumstances in the inner-city that were being ignored by the mainstream media, and society at large. Situations and harsh realities of life in the ghetto that were being ignored while our government was spending billions to fight “for peace” in foreign countries. But people confuse the form for the substance. “Fuck The Police” is not about the police per se, it’s about the conditions, and oppressive realities we are confined to as the bottom wrung of society.
And so, whenever you speak for people who have no voice, when you shine a light what’s being over looked, you are gangster, because, in the end, that is what society will treat you as. These laws in this country were designed to protect property, not people. Those of us that speak for the people are outlaws.
You stated that your favorite philosopher is Gandhi. How has he influenced you in developing your epistemology as an artist, revolutionary, and a man of color?
Ghandi taught me that (corny as it sounds) love conquers all. The only way we can defeat oppression is to understand, and ultimately humanize them. You know, I like to say that if I can’t argue both sides of an argument, I won’t argue either. It’s something I learned from studying Ghandi. Nobody knows everything but everybody knows something. Everyone has truth.
Who are your favorite artists – rappers, creatives, producers, etc. – and what do you take away from their work?
It changes. Right now I’m on Nipsey really tough. His message of financial literacy and uncompromising street posture is too trill. Of course Tupac is the G.O.A.T. (west, west!) but I was raised up on everything from Wu-Tang to Brotha Lynch. Yukmouth is and always will be in my top ten (haha). My influences are really varied, for instance, I think – bar for bar – Drake is the best at it right now. But see, it contributes to me making music that has a wide spectrum, and that’s how it should be. You’re supposed to have more than one style.
How has your personal experience with the prison-industrial complex impacted your career and lyricism?
One of my favorite quotes is “Isolation is the sole crucible in which a man’s character can be forged”. There are certain things you will never be able to grasp until you’ve spent a week straight in meditation, or at the very least, certain things I would never have been able to. Though I refuse to allow my incarceration to be the defining moment of my present state as an artist and a man, I would be lying if I told you that my music would sound anything thing like it does if it were not for my life in the half decade that I spent in lockdown facilities.
As a self-identifying Muslim, how would you describe your experience as a rapper, artist and creative? How do you incorporate those aspects of yourself into your work?
My music will, and hopefully God willing, always be a reflection of who I am. No faking. My faith is everything to me. I try not to preach about my beliefs in my music (I try hahahaa) but ultimately, it’s those same beliefs that frame my existence. What else are we but a string of life choices, and the consequent events and resultant belief systems? But I try to use what I know to restrain myself from engaging in what I don’t agree in as opposed to promoting my own world view.
Islam is the reason why there is, in my seven project discography, no trace of sexism. It’s also the reason why I wrote a song about Palestine, but that’s one song out of…how many? You see, you can often times do much more to challenge a flawed social archetype by simply withdrawing your support than by direct confrontation. Most of us miss this simple truth, because we are too busy reaping the benefits of the same things we are so ostensibly in opposition to.
We had a pretty long conversation about idealization of the hero and why we should never discount their flaws as a part of their truth as revolutionaries. Could you clarify this a bit more?
Well, the dynamic of the hero is one promoted in the state educational systems, following in the false construct of duality that has been a theme in the imperialist agenda since day one. Good and evil. Malcolm or Martin. We can even go Tupac or Biggie, to hit a little closer to home. One or the other, we are always, with a pronouncement on what makes the two subjects different, promoting polarity instead of similarity.
But you see, this is the idiot-brain at work. A fool seeks polarity, the humanized mind sees similarity because it is circumspect in it’s investigation of the human condition. So we wind up with heroes and villains. Hitler, for instance, is a villain. The fact that the man did great things to advance the human and hard sciences can hardly be mentioned by people without them being understood as Nazi sympathizers. Similarly, Malcolm X has been deemed as a hero by the Black Nationalist. The fact that he lied about more than a few things in his autobiography is likewise, when mentioned, seen as an attack on his great contributions to the advancement of Black national consciousness.
The reality is that most all of us exist somewhere in the grey areas between “good” and “evil”,and that it is historical circumstance that allows either the heroic or more venal propensities of which we are in possession to become more, or less, salient.
What you do look forward to bringing to Hip-Hop this year, and for the rest of your career?
Changing the game forever, making my mark on history, and creating a timeless success story for all of my adoring fans.
For my review on Luck’s latest record, click here. To download “K.O.T.N.W. II: Curse Of The Pharaoh,” visit his Bandcamp. Or if you just wanna stream his album on your way to work, listen below.