read in: 26 min
Ebony S. Muhammad (EM): A much deserved congratulations on your latest album, Photon Phever! The name alone is intriguing. Tell me a little bit about this project and the story behind the album title.
Wazeer the Great (WG):First off thank you so much! That means the world to have a creative appreciate your creation.
Well this project started off originally as a film idea. It was set in a post apocalyptic future after the world had been in an intense global war and all the cities were in ruin. This left the planet in complete darkness. In the film there were those who carried the light known as the ‘Light Bearers’. There were also those who were in power, known as the ‘Dark Hearts’, whose sole mission was to keep the light from the masses. The majority had been made to forget light existed.
The whole idea was that there would be a “rise” of the Light Bearers and they would be spreading the light. To combat their efforts the Dark Hearts would be spreading propaganda that the light was a disease and to stay away from anyone who possessed it. The name of the disease was “Photon Phever”. A photon is a particle of light. This represented the truth. I chose to call it Phever (fever), because when your body has a fever it raises your core temperature to purge impurities.I wanted my album to serve as a mental and spiritual fever that raised the frequency of the listeners’ thoughts while purging out the mental and spiritual impurities that we take in everyday. Another definition of the word fever was sensation. As the light was spreading in the film, it became sensational. So it is with the truth in this day and time.
EM: How does this album differ from “My Way”? What direction did you want to take this time around?
WG: Well the first difference is that I had the whole concept for “Photon Phever” before I made one beat. On “My Way” I was kinda figuring it out as I went along. The second difference is that I had a specific sound I wanted to achieve with “Photon Phever”. I wanted it to feel huge like one of those big hair rock bands from the 70s. You can hear that style heavy on my intro. I also wanted to have some funk flowing. I got that influence from going to see Bruno Mars live in the Toyota Center. It was amazing! I was like somebody has to bring this to hip hop!
I was also in love with Janelle Monae’s Electric Lady before I began creating this project. Another difference would be the time it took to create it, which was 2 years as opposed to “My Way” which was like 7 or 8 months. The last difference would be that I recorded and mixed “Photon Phever” at a full profession studio. The recording process was about 6 months, and let’s just say it was expensive but definitely worth it. I also upped my lyrical ability to be more precise and have triple and quadruple meanings. Not to say that it’s equal to scripture in any way, I would never be so arrogant, but I formatted the messaging in a similar way to be broken down and dissected for deeper wisdom.
EM: Not only is the album title unique, but the cover art is as well. Who is the artist and what is the meaning behind his work for your project?
WG: The artist behind the artwork is a friend of mine named Jaylon Hicks who I’ve known since I was 6 years old. So it was really dope to work with him. He is a rising star in the art community here in Houston and around the country.
The front cover is a piece that is supposed to be one of the propaganda posters that would be in the film that the Dark Hearts were using to slander the light bearers. That’s why you see light coming out of the eyes and sharp teeth like they are monsters. One eye has a heart to represent love, spirit or energy. The other eye has the universe representing physical matter. The “light” is the marriage of both.
EM: How have you grown as a Hip Hop artist from your first album to Photon Phever? What challenges have you encountered as well as the gratifications?
WG: I’m more conceptual. I have learned to articulate my thoughts precisely. As far as the beats or rhymes, I am closer to doing what’s in my mind than I’ve ever been. I also have gotten more into pointing to the source of a lot of our issues rather than just the symptoms. I’ve developed my fearlessness to stay true to MY ideas and not change them to make certain people comfortable. This album was unfiltered imagination. One challenge I’ve had is the balance of rapping at my full ability and not have things go over people’s heads. I’m also suffering on the video side. I have these ideas that I want to achieve, but I can’t afford the people who can make it happen. I’m working on that every day.
EM: You were featured on Sway Calloway’s show between both projects. What was that like?
WG: Wow! That’s one of the biggest highlights of my career so far. Second only to meeting the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan! I made my way to Austin,Texas by riding along with a funk/rock band who’s SouthXSouthwest (SXSW) set I planned to film. When we arrived, their show got canceled so I just went to hang out with my friends who were also in town for SXSW.
The next morning, which was my birthday, we went to a sneaker shop where a friend of mind worked, which is where Sway was hosting his show. Half the room was filled with people, all hyped to see our hero Sway live in the flesh. And then he asked, “Who in here is an emcee?” I threw my hand up and was like, “ME! You should let me rap! It’s my birthday!” He looked at me and jokingly said “How old are you 17?” By the way, I credit my youthful appearance to How to Eat to Live. I told Him I was 22, and he told me to come up and do my thing. I ripped it and ended up winning some shoes for my bars! I’m actually wearing them now! I will remember that moment forever. Sway is one of the taste makers for our culture, and I appreciate the opportunity.
EM: What are your views on the music industry, especially Hip Hop, and the condition/position it’s in? I heard Tyrese on the Breakfast Club express how R&B isn’t what it used to be. Therefore, he released what he describes as an authentically R&B album, independently. Do you see more artists taking responsibility and being the change they want to see in music? As an artist who is already doing that, what do you believe is holding others from being that change?
WG: Well if you judge Hip Hop solely on the radio, it can feel like we are in a repetitive, misogynistic, murder-promoting, drug induced cesspool of bad b*tches and trap ni**as. If you look at Hip Hop as a whole, it’s actually full of life, color, energy and variety. You find many people being honest and their true self. There’s a change going on. Artists like J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, Jeezy, Vince Staples, Tyler the Creator, Logic, Joey Bad A$$, Big Krit, Big Sean, Jay Electronica, Rhapsody and countless others are pushing for that change. The artists who are not are the ones more focused on their possessions or are not in full control of their voice. Yet, I have faith in the culture. We are headed in a good direction.
EM: On the subject of compromise…Have you been approached to alter your image, message and brand in exchange for “more exposure” or money? From the inside as an artist, what pitfalls have you personally witnessed that many fall into and don’t return from? How are you guarding yourself and your brand?
WG: Well I’ve never been approached by anyone to change my image to gain any popularity or money. Sadly the only judgment I’ve gotten in that area came from the “conscious community” of which I was raised in. Being told by one or two that if I want to break out of this group I need to speak the “people’s language”. Basically saying I need to cuss more. I’ve also been judged on my physical image. During the creation of the album I didn’t cut or comb my hair. I saw my hair as an antenna that connected me with the frequencies of the life, vibrations and magnetism of the earth. It also connected me to the struggle my Black brothers and sisters with bold kinks. It was an experiment to be as in your face as possible.
The scrunched up looks and judgment I got from other races was expected. Let’s be honest, when we cut our hair it makes them feel more comfortable around us. They can’t take that physical representation of strength. I do understand the discipline purpose it also serves. When I got ridiculed by my own people it honestly hurt. Like I wasn’t a “real” Muslim because my hair was long. I got a view into how some, not all, of the “enlightened” or “holy” ones treat our brothers in the street. I saw this as betrayal. That’s why in my song ‘Burn’ I refer to myself as a “Nappy headed nuisance to a Judas”. On one end I was being a nuisance to those who go against the Jesus and Messenger of Allah (God) in our midst, but also to the Judas who look down on the Jesus that is in our Black people. I encourage those of you who are inflicted with this hatred of your own to look at us as God would.
EM: How important is image as a Hip Hop artist and how do you find the right one to best represent who you are?
WG: I don’t care about image, and there’s a group of people who don’t either. I think we want to have a real connection with our artists, something image alone can’t provide. We need to know who you really are not who you portray yourself to be. Yet, there is a group that is greatly influenced by the false and/or destructive images some artists choose to broadcast. It has many youth glorifying what they should reject and rejecting what they should glorify. These are the ones I’m trying my hardest to reach.
The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan with various Hip Hop artists. #JusticeOrElse
EM: The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan speaks very highly of those in Hip Hop as it relates to your influence, talent and leadership. How have you and how are you internalizing his sentiment and instruction as an artist?
WG: His words on Hip Hop have really put everything in perspective. He’s shown us that we have the power to make real change in the hearts and minds of the people. I wanna be found at all times supporting this effort.
EM: There was a recent meeting among the Hip Hop artists here in Houston. What was the objective and what is coming out of that gathering?
WG: It was to unify the artists first and then to go forward in using our art to support the movement. We are now creating a sound track to our liberation. It’s beautiful. It’s inspiring.
A Brighter Day Productions (Akilah Nehanda, Isa Ibn and Wazeer the Great) in “10,000 Fearless”. #Artists4Justice #JusticeOrElse
EM: You were recently featured in a documentary for Hip Hop artists. Tell me a little bit about that and how it came about. Who is the film maker? What other artists/speakers were a part of this project? What part did you play and what is it going to showcase to the world regarding Houston’s Hip Hop scene?
WG: It was a documentary titled “Kendrick Is From Compton: An Exposé on the Under-exposure of Conscious Southern Artists” directed by filmmaker Julisa Jones out of Louisiana State University. It dealt with the Houston scene and what conscious artists exist on this scene. I was off my game that day and forgot to mention my big brother K-Rino. He is the embodiment of what it means to be a conscious artist in both Houston and internationally. I wanna publicly apologized for forgetting my big brother!
EM: What upcoming appearances and projects do you have approaching and how can readers learn more about you and support your work?
WG: Me and my crew ABD (A Brighter Day Productions) will be dropping tracks and videos in line with the Artists for Justice movement. To stay updated on all events and projects follow me on Twitter: @WazeerTheGreat and IG: @wazeer_
Be sure to get your copy of Photon Phever today! #RedistributeThePain with Wazeer the Great!