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Growing up in Philly, it was inevitable that you were exposed to Hip-Hop. For those who were drawn to it, the love affair began and the culture grew. Since 1973, Hip-Hop grew from B-Boys, Beat Boxing and DJs to an art form relatable to everyone. The 1990s gave way to a generation of people who could appreciate Hip-Hop as an art form rather just a commercial entity because artists from NWA and Snoop to A Tribe Called Quest and Nas could co-exist. There wasn't one sound and people could hear different artists on local radio stations.
Coors Light and Power 99 would like to introduce The Movement, to give the mic to 13 local emcees and introduce the collective of real Hip-Hop artists that exists in the city. The Underground Summer Series, featuring 13 local artist performances, live in our performance studio, will take place over the 13 weeks of summer.
Penning his first rhyme at 14, Amir Taron grew with Hip-Hop. Growing up in Camden, the oldest of three brothers, music was everywhere. Although he was exposed to everything from Gospel to Soul and Jazz to R&B, Hip-Hop stood out. Influenced by emcees like Nas, Ghostface, Common, Big L and Big Pun, he realized his attraction to writing very early. The emcee was urged by Novel, a friend and artist, to rhyme; and in a cipher at about five in the morning; his ill vocabulary finally turned into true lyricism.
Feeling the frustration of Hip-Hop being stifled, he went on hiatus. After 5 years, he met some emcees who inspired him to get back to music. Amir Taron wrote for the next two years, and after Chemistry Music was started in 2008, he dropped his first album, watercoloroncanvas. Recognizing the inevitability that Hip-Hop would grow and spiral off into other art forms also helped him recognize his purpose and the fact that what was going on around him gave him something to talk about. watercoloroncanvas was his way of speaking to those who have been through what he's been through and giving them a voice to relate to; just like Hip-Hop had done for him at such a young age.
The album is a series of anecdotes than span from the depiction of poverty stricken streets to a more personal struggle; and a perfect display of his ability to paint a picture with flawless delivery. It was a well-received underground debut and helped solidify Chemistry Music. The emcee is working on his next project tentatively titled, Aerosol Diaries.
How did growing up in Camden influence your music?
Born in Camden… spent the first portion of my young life in Camden… until it was time to go to school… my mom didn't want me going to school in Camden so I pretty much stayed with my aunt outside the city and weekends with my mom. I lived in and out of Camden at several different points in my life and there's always been an attachment to the city. It really just contributed to my life in that I always had a heart for the struggle, for the people that struggle, for what struggle is, what it produces, and for the barriers that are placed in front of certain individuals in life that maybe other individuals don't have to deal with. Struggle is the main thing that I get out of that. It's not even just in my music… in my life… things in my personal life… the things that I put my time and my energy and my effort into… it's always about struggle and oppression. I don't think that you can look at me as an artist and separate me from a fight against oppression and struggle. If it's got my name on it, one way or another, you're going to know how I feel about those things.
I know you've spent time in Philly… what would you say Philly has contributed to your music?
Philly… growing up listening to the radio on Friday nights… Philly Hip-Hop… that was where you got it from back in the day. Philly always had its own flavor, its own style, and its own thing going on. It's separate. That's Hip-Hop in general… depending on where you come from; you put your own spin on it. What I get from Philly is a certain kind of freshness. It's distinct.
How do you think Hip-Hop has changed since you first started paying attention?
I think that Hip-Hop is in the process any art form, music or outside of music, goes through. You have a pure art form that starts off in its purity and it begins to grow; and along the way as it's growing there are people who see viability in it to market it and to sell it. Mainstream Hip-Hop (if you want to call it that, some people call it hip pop) is about making music, making club music, making sales, making your numbers for your record label and kind of gutting it for its substance. Just like any other genre, it spirals off into many other art forms. Hip-Hop has influenced the world. I certainly don't think Hip-Hop is dead or anything like that. You got underground Hip-Hop. You got mainstream Hip-Hop. You got your Hip-Hop fusions. It just goes and I think at this point I just can't be ambivalent about what's going on in Hip-Hop. It's just the inevitability of art.
How did you first get into music anyway?
We grew up on Gospel, Soul, Hip-Hop, R&B, even Classical and Jazz. I never knew that I could rhyme until I met one of my closest friends… he's like my brother. He said, "You got an ill vocabulary. You should write a rhyme." I tried to write a rhyme and it was probably the worst rhyme anybody's ever tried to write… and we just gave up on the idea of me being an emcee. This was like 94, 95. I was like 14… and then one day it just clicked. I wrote a rhyme and it just clicked. I never stopped writing ever since. Emceeing works. I'll always be surrounded by music until the day I die. It's like a heartbeat.
Which emcees have played a part in your music?
The number one influence for me would be Nas. Illmatic, It Was Written. Ghostface… he brings a lot of emotionalism. Big L influenced me for a long time. Common has been a huge influence. One thing I love about Common is the fact that he could say something real complex in a simplistic way and to do simplicity well is difficult. Pun influenced me. Those are probably my biggest influences.
What other things influence your lyrics… whether it be Business or Politics or Family?
Business influences my music because I hate business. I hate the flow of money changing the stream of art. Politics-I don't like the Political spectrum. What really influences my art is when I wake up in the morning and whatever thought is in my head, whatever emotion is in my soul; however I feel… that's what influences me in Art. Life is my biggest influence. Family is probably the number one influence. If you don't care about the people closest to you, then what's the point of caring about anyone else?
watercoloroncanvas was your first project and what were you trying to do with it?
It starts off with a Hip-Hop intro. The first track is about me… the man I see in the mirror, what I like about me and what I don't like about me… what I want to make better, what I'm striving for. The next track is about what I see when I walk down the street in Camden ("colorwaterincamden"). Proverbs is what it's like when you're dealing with yourself and you're dealing with people. The next song is about people who have so much talent and potential but they never use it and they throw it away by getting in trouble in the street. The next track talks about emcees talking about nonsense. The next track goes back to that old school feeling of "he's the DJ and I'm the emcee." "Then and Now" is just a narrative about one guy who doesn't know what he's talking about and he's trying to influence people and another guy who isn't strong and gets influenced and I put that all to the backdrop of people letting a beat control them and not listening to the lyrics. The last track is just a heartfelt message to somebody close to me. The premise behind that whole thing which nobody ever really got was that if you look at the track list… it's 10 tracks but it's really only 4 songs. It goes watercoloroncanvas, "colorwaterincamden"… proverbs and lamentations… charcoal and pastel… then and now.
And what do you have coming up?
The next one is made by a very talented up and coming guy out of Camden. His name is Mute. Mute Sweetenberg. This brother is just really really talented. I heard his beats. I was in Philly at Medusa. Medusa was a dope staple for Hip-Hop for a minute. His beats were ridiculous. What we're putting together is that really hard drums… that boom bap drum style that only Camden can do because Mute is so Camden in his beats. It's tentatively titled the Aerosol Diaries. Mute brings the aerosol to the equation. He's the tag on the wall. I'm the diary. I put chapters of my life over his ill production style so that's all that's about.