KEXP Q+A: Scribes

photo by Morgen Schuler

With a recent KEXP in-studio under his belt, and a brand new album droppin’, Henry “Scribes” Kleaveland is a Northwest hip-hop force to be reckoned with. We got to chat with Seattle’s young MC. Here’s what he had to say.

Growing up, what were some standout albums that really shaped you as an artist and even a person?

I don’t know. I’d say that as a kid I didn’t really listen to albums. I mean I’d listen to my dad’s albums which were a lot of soul and rock n’ roll albums… Motown, Aretha Franklin, The Beatles, Al Green… stuff like that, but i mean up until middle school I was probably just bumpin’ the shit I heard on KUBE and other stations. I was a rap fan during elementary school. I’d buy albums like Master P, Dr Dre, Cash Money, Snoop, and Outkast. I didn’t totally appreciate anything but the singles on the albums until i got a little bit older. Then everyone started downloading mp3s for free.

When I was in middle school Napster and Morpheus were becoming really popular so I feel like most people listened to all their music in mixes. I bumped mixes that were compilations of all the shit i liked. Once i got into high school and started rappin’, I started bumpin’ full length albums. I’d grown up listening to 2pac, Nas and Biggie (and just about everyone else) but because of all the mixes I hadn’t really listened to their songs in album order. Listening to their albums helped me put their careers into perspective.

I’d say from that point, some of the hip-hop albums that really influenced me were 2Pac’s All Eyes On Me & Me Against The World, Eminem’s Marshall Mather’s LP, Nas’s Illmatic & Stillmatic (among others), Immortal Technique’s Revolutionary Vol 2, DMX It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot, Blackstar…

I was influenced by a lot of shit that wasn’t hip hop, too. Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Michael Jackson, James Brown, Marvin Gaye, Aaliyah, TLC… Part of what makes me the artist i am is that I appreciate shit that sounds good. I don’t give a damn about what you have to say if you sound bad. I love melodies and soul, but I’m also a hip-hop head and i love lyrics. I try to put both of those in my music.

What albums have you been listening to lately?

At work I’ll put in the iPod and play all sorts of old albums anything from Justin Timberlake to MJ to Kanye. Most of the time I go to YouTube to look for and listen to new music.

As far as contemporary music goes, I’ve been downloading and bumpin mixtapes. I’m really feelin Nipsey Hussle and J. Cole. I can really appreciate Nipsey’s sound and attitude. The songs are bangers and they set the mood, but his lyrics have hella heart and are well written and delivered.

I don’t know, i think that albums are kinda goin out… haha it’s all about recording short albums and callin em EPs or recording full-length albums and callin ‘em mixtapes… Maybe i should of called my album a mixtape…

What do you think of the rising hip-hop scene? What roles in it do you see yourself playing?

Honestly, I’m not a fan of the hip-hop that most local establishments are reinforcing. Sorry, just bein’ honest. I think there are some really talented people in the Seattle metropolitan area and I have nothin’ but love for them and the fans and people of Seattle. As far as the local shit that’s gettin put on, it’s really kinda ridiculous. It’s basically a clique. That’s not to say that I don’t like some of the people in that clique, as people; I think that some of them are talented… but as a whole I don’t like it.

It’s sad because I think that a lot of the most talented people in Seattle get ignored if they don’t join the clique. And being in [it] definitely doesn’t bring you success… It just means you’re a “cool kid” that has other “cool friends”… In the end it forces a lot of the most talented artists to have to pursue promotional opportunities in other cities, ultimately keeping Seattle’s scene forever local. I don’t think that any of the artists tryin’ to put seattle on through their music with the exception of Macklemore and maybe a few others, will ever rise past a local following.

Much of who I am as an artist is a result of my unwillingness to pledge my allegiance to that network of people and play their game. Nobody’s given me shit or helped me out. I’ve had to put in overtime and hustle harder than a lot of folks to get to the same place that some of these lazy, local, socialite, wannabe rappers are at. Again, I’m not sayin’ that about Seattle rappers in general… I think there are a lot of good artists here.

Ultimately it’s made me a smarter and stronger business person. I’m not bitter about any of it. i’m just focusing on doin’ my own thing and doin’ it right… My focus is my own art and career… not theirs. I want to be down for the city but at the same time i want to expand. I always want to perform and be around Seattle but i want to be national as well…. I don’t know whether Seattle will be the root or hometown of my business… I’d like for it to be. We’ll just have to see how it plays out.

What are some of your favorite Seattle spots to hit up? (for food, shopping, music, etc)

I’m feelin Belltown right now…hittin’ up the clubs. There are some assholes out there and it can be expensive but i like being able to actually hit up a place where people kick it and get down on the dance floor. i like goin’ to shows but i wish people danced! Too much clubbin’ isn’t healthy though, but I guess too much of anything is never good. I love kickin’ it at Nectar. It’s one of my favorite spots for live music. As far as food… haha I’m on a budget, so I’m eating in…

How would you describe your music? How about the lyrical content?

I would describe my music as very multi-dimensional. I’m lyrical and poetic, but at the same time I’m a mood-setter. You can kick it to my music, but You can also listen to it by yourself… it’s some hard hip hop head shit but also some smooth r&b type shit. I’m rappin and singin’. I think that’s what people will like about this album. It’s deep, lyrical and heartfelt but –first and foremost– it sounds good.

Check out more music and upcoming dates from Scribes on his MySpace

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