Oct 23 2012

One on One with Kumaserati: We Talk Black Wall Street, Kat Stacks and ’99 Names of God’

If you are a serious aficionado of “conscious” hip hop music, you are no doubt familiar with the name Kumasi Simmons, a.k.a., Kumaserati, a gifted hood-born poet with a unique flow that has attracted souls from as close as Brooklyn and Compton to as far as Paris, Jakarta, Tunisia and Ghana.

Kumasi has collaborated with some of the most creative and prolific artists in popular music, including Kanye West, Adam Levine, Mos Def, Malik Yusef and The Game.

When The Game heard Kumasi’s soul-stirring flow, he welcomed him to the Black Wall Street label as “Kumaserati,” BWS’s sole “conscious” contributor. After recording curse-free, drug-free, woman-respecting songs under the Black Wall Street flag, in May, 2012, Kumasi independently released a 27-track hood gospel project entitled Soul Music.

Soul Music is a majestic offering of uplifting, inspiring and cautionary songs with titles like Same Soul (f. Tara Ellis), Change (f. Mos Def), Highway to Hades, Promised Land (f. Kanye West and Malik Yusef), Be Kind to Your Mother, and, my personal favorite, Amazing Grace.

As if Kumasi wasn’t busy enough in the studio making his Soul Music dream a reality, last year this Compton, Cali native was sponsored by the U. S. State Department to travel the world as a cultural attaché, visiting developing democracies in Indonesia and Africa, where young, mostly Muslim, citizens are both curious and dubious about American culture and freedom of expression.

Kumasi performed with fellow Muslim artists via the group Remarkable Current in an unprecedented cultural exchange program through which they delivered messages of peace and brotherhood across barriers of language and ideology. For more information about this project, visit remarkablecurrent.com .

The video below (f. Kumasi), paying homage to Tunisian revolutionary hero Mohamed Bouazizi, is an example of the incredible creativity and passion hip hop music lends to messages of freedom and calls for progress around the world. Is it just me, or is this track SICK? And by sick, I mean AMAZING.

I recently caught up with this self-described “servant of God,” to find out what motivates him musically, what’s keeping him busy now and where he is headed next.

KC: When you released your first album, Change Gon’ Come, you used your given name, Kumasi. Now you have adopted this new moniker, Kumaserati. What’s the story behind this name change?

Kumaserati is an alias that was created to help young people remember my name. Kumasi is the name of a city in Ghana, and until I can popularize that name as an artist, I want to help people find me and find my music. I want to leave a positive impression on impressionable young people who will respond to that name because it is associated with something they value.  A Maserati is a vehicle. Kumasi is a  servant. Kumaserati is a servant of God first and foremost. The way that I serve may require different strategies.

Speaking of strategies, I understand you’ve joined a music group called Kaj (www.thekaj.com). What is Kaj and how is it different from the music of Kumaserati?

The Kaj is another strategy for Kumasi to exist in service to God. The word Kaj is a combination of the names of its members, Kumasi, Anas and Joel. We came together to do a project that is soulful and that is inspired by people that inspire soul music–like Curtis Mayfield. Like The Ojays. The Kaj is using the language and diction and the integrity of those times with the sound of today.

It seems to me there’s this gap in music today where some of us feel we really have to look and listen hard to find contemporary music that is still soulful or soul-filled. It sounds like this group is the perfect fit for us.

We weren’t really trying to specifically fill any void. We were just trying to make music that we like and that people like. Our intention is to create music that is about love, and is  also correct towards women. Theres’ a song about domestic violence. There’s a song called  The Sounds of Making Love.

Is there a percentage of The Kaj’s sound or style that you would call hip hop, or is it a departure from your hip hop roots?

That’s an excellent question. The attempt here is to be intelligent and at the same time be cognizant of using simple yet meaningful words. You won’t hear us saying words like “swag.” You might hear words like “darling” and “delectable.” The word choices are deliberate. Our music is supposed to make you feel happy and make you feel like you want to make love to your woman and retain the respect due to women.

On your new album, Soul Music, you included a track called “99 names of God.” Tell me three of those names that are embodied in your music.

“Sublime. Gracious. Mighty.”

How did an artist so focused on heavenly goals, end up at Black Wall Street with The Game?

He really wanted a conscious artist on his label. My affiliation with Black Wall Street provides an opportunity to broaden my reach as an artist. I will always have love for The Game for opening that door for me.

What is one quality of The Game that would surprise people?

People might be surprised that he has a great sense of humor. People may be surprised that he’s a family man. People may be surprised that he’s a man who is striving to be a better man and a better person. You might be surprised to know that he is in tune with his Creator.

You have collaborated with some heavyweights in the industry. Who would you like to work with that you haven’t yet?

I love Jamie Foxx as a person and Pharrell as well. After meeting and vibing with them, I would love to work with them. Also Will.i.am. I admire his creativity. Cee-lo is really gifted and down to earth–really for the people. I would love to work with him. Of course, Tupac, when he comes back.

Thank you for that awesome segue to my next question. If you died and God sent you back here as a woman. What would your mission be?

To be an example of class. An example of motherhood. We need more examples of strong women who are powerful generals who have command. A powerful woman doesn’t want a man with a nice vehicle with nice rims. She cares for her people. She cares to improve lifestyles besides her own. Some women believe that sex is their power. Their body is their power. But that is not the extent of a woman’s power by any means. If more women could set powerful examples, young women in our culture would create better humans.

Speaking of women and how we are perceived, in hip hop culture certain women are afforded a measure of respect and others are not. You were involved in a controversy in which you came to the defense of Kat Stacks, a self-described “hoe.” What made you think Kat Stacks deserved to be defended when she attracted so much drama and negative attention through her own actions?

When you meet a man in the hospital or grocery store that man is your brother. If that man is white or that man is black that man is your brother. If that man is Chinese that’s your Chinese brother. Whatever mind state a woman is in and whatever decisions she’s making that may be wrong, whether its to use drugs or to sell her body, that woman was born a princess. On earth we are all family members. Once you have that outlook, you can act accordingly. When it comes to a person like Kat Stacks you wish better for her. You don’t have rancor in your heart, you realize that that is a woman who was created by God and you have to respect that. He gave her lungs and eyes and she was not a mistake. She is a creation of God. How does God feel about that which God creates? If we ask ourselves that question we may find ourselves being careful to not dishonor that which God created, even if that creation has not begun to honor themselves.

You recently traveled on behalf of the United States as a cultural ambassador where you addressed thousands of young men and women whose impressions of of this country were deeply and positively impacted. Is this a new direction for Kumasi? How does civil service fit in to your goals?

This was another opportunity to serve God. I’m not into politics. I’m into people. I’m into peace. I was able to be peaceful with the people of Indonesia. I was also able to go to northern Africa. I did a song with El General (Hamada Ben Amor), the young rap artist who got locked up for speaking out against the president of Tunisia.  Last year, Time magazine named this young rapper one of the one hundred most influential people in the world.

It’s important to create alliances everywhere you go. In Paris I was able to do this. In Africa. Eventually if your voice becomes big enough you can invite people to hold hands. I’m very grateful for the opportunity.

What can we look forward to next from Kumaserati?

I am currently in the conception stage of a project that will ultimately bear magnificent fruit. I am collaborating with two women whom I deeply respect and admire, not only for their amazing talents, but for their pure intentions to help heal people’s pain and to serve the human family.

 Myself, Hope Shorter and  Tilly Key, along with producer Christian Shorter, are putting together a project that, in spirit, will be like having Lauryn Hill, Sade and Bob Marley collaborating to serve. I”m not trying to equate us talent-wise, though the talent here is crazy, but spirit-wise the intention is that huge.

The project is called “Child of The World,” and it will be geared toward educating young people about nutrition, healthy lifestyles and philanthropy via a series of non-profit concerts in major urban areas like downtown L.A., Chicago and NYC. We will bring music, message, and meals to the streets with the sole purpose of connecting to and serving our fellow man. 

Follow @Kumaserati

Soul Music is available at http://hoodgospel.bandcamp.com/album/soul-music $1 per track downloaded, or download ALL 27 TRACKS for just $3 !



May 27 2011

‘Under My Skin’ Exclusive Interview w/ Lauren London (Pt.1)

From the moment she hit the big screen starring opposite T.I. in the film ATL, Lauren London forever silenced those critics who said her early roles in music videos were anything less than saavy career moves.

If you’ve seen the way Lauren’s dimpled smile and girl-next-door demeanor can light up a screen, you know why her co-starring role with Hayden Panettiere in I Love You, Beth Cooper had fans heading back to the theater to see that more than once, why she was the actress Tyler Perry paired with Bow Wow in his film Madea’s Happy Family, why 90210 and Entourage fans are begging to see her in more episodes, and why nearly a million people are following her on Twitter just to see what she’ll be tweeting next.

When it comes to that .2mm covering all of us human beings have our own unique version of, Lauren London’s version is pretty damn pleasant to look at. But what is really going on underneath all that beauty? We’ve all read what the magazines and gossip blogs have written about her personal life and her career choices, but I recently met with Lauren London to really get under her skin.

The desire to attain “celebrity status” has driven many young people to pursue the elusive dream of stardom. Is that what made you want to be an actress?

I wish that was the case, because I’d be able to handle the attention a little better. No. I was an only child who spent a lot of time alone. Movies kept me company from a very young age, and starting from about seven years old, I wrote little plays and acted out all the parts by myself in my bedroom. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be an actor. It’s crazy though, because I’m such a private person. I was never interested in becoming famous. I still struggle with that aspect of my work.

Doesn’t every celebrity say that after they become famous? “I love my craft, but I wish I could just have a normal life.”

(laughs) I’m not complaining and I’m not that famous. I do get recognized, but I’m not being hounded by paparazzi every day. I’m human, so of course I like getting special treatment at times. But deep down that girl from the neighborhood  is still in here. She  might shy away from having her picture taken, and would rather blend in with the scenery sometimes  and just observe.

Have you ever walked away from an interaction with a fan that you wished you could do over?

Yes. Sometimes I say no to pictures because I feel like I’m looking crazy and I don’t always get a chance to really explain that I’m not feeling picture-worthy that day. Usually I’ll put on shades and do it anyway, but there have been a couple of times I’ve walked away and got to my car, then came back because I felt bad.

What about being famous has taken you by surprise? What did you not see coming?

The impostors. Really. Who are these people who have nothing better to do than spend hours and hours on the Internet pretending to be me? They send messages to fans pretending they are coming from me. That’s just sad. There are fake MySpace pages. Fake Facebooks. Fake  Twitters. My verified Twitter is @MsLaurenLondon and my Facebook is brand new (Facebook.com/TheRealMsLaurenLondon). I don’t do Skype, and if I didn’t hand you my phone number face to face, you’re probably not talking to me on the phone either.

Do you think the public really believes these calls and messages are coming from you?

Definitely. Some really do. People have really been tricked.

What is the biggest misperception people have of you? What misperception bothers you most?

That my son is the result of some kind of one night stand or groupie encounter with his father. I struggle with deciding when to answer or ignore the constant speculation about my private life, because I feel like that doesn’t belong to anybody but me.

Do you want to go on to the next question, or clear up the speculation now?

I met Dwayne when I was 15 years old. I’ve known him a very long time, and we were in a relationship that didn’t make it. We tried more than once to revive it, and we were engaged briefly years ago, but we eventually parted ways. People see the “Lil’ Wayne” persona and think they know who he really is. My son’s father is an intelligent, loving and lovable person who will always be a dear friend. That is all.

If you don’t mind another personal question, there is a lot of talk about how well the mothers of his children get along. What’s the real deal?

We are all good-hearted women who love our children and we want them to know each other. Real friendships have grown from that foundation and the result has been more love, less drama and less trauma for our kids.

What is one thing your mother did with you that you want to be sure to do with your son?

To this day, my mother never lets a day go by without telling me she loves me.

KC: What is one quality about your mother that you really admire?

She’s so optimistic. Nothing can get her down. The whole world can come crashing down and she will still have the ability to laugh and have compassion for people.

What’s the best advice your father ever gave you?

He just recently said to me that people love you with what they have to give. Whatever they give to you is what they have to give to themselves, and the way they love you is the way they love themselves.

What three qualities do you hope your son will have at age 18 that will make you feel you’ve done a great job raising him?

I hope he has a strong relationship with God, that he respects himself and loves who he is, and that he has an idea of his purpose and wants to follow it.

Stay tuned for part two (the playful questions) of this interview…coming soon.
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This is an exclusive interview. All rights reserved.

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To use the article in its entirety, please contact the author: email(at) kathleencross (dot com)