An Interview With The Hip-Hop Storyteller, SHO BARAKA!
Posted On 02 Dec 2016
Meet the latest storyteller in hip hop- Sho Baraka. Earlier this fall, he released, The Narrative, his 4th studio album, and debuted at # 6 on iTunes hip hop albums chart and #26 on iTunes overall albums chart.
Sho tackles some “meatier” issues including social consciousness, issues of everyday life and the struggles we all face as humans.
He dives deep into racism in our country and pays homage to black history – this album will disturb some, maybe even cause anger, but hopefully also draw discussions to start talking abut the issues we face in today’s society and help shape our future.
Distributed by Fair Trade Services, the new 14-track project will catch your ear due to the heavy influence of jazz and soul, giving the album a musically sophisticated feel, setting it apart from other hip hop records. Amongst the cultural sound, you will find other recognizable voices, including that of Lecrae, Vanessa Hill, Jamie Portee, Courtney Orlando, Jackie Hill-Perry and Adan Bean & C. Lacy.
Learn more about Sho Baraka in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time! Now that we are well into the fall of 2016, what are some words you would use to describe this year? What have been some of the highlights for you and your music? What are you most excited about for 2017?
2016 has been very interesting, surprising and energizing. I’ve been in a creative closet for many years. This year has catapulted me back into many different arenas whether it is music, consulting or lecturing. The obvious highlight is releasing an album after being silent for a little more than 3 years. I also did a 7 city lecture series that dealt with Faith, Politics and Race in America. I’m excited about the chance to continue touring my music and speaking.
Growing up, did you always want to be an artist? Can you recall your earliest musical memory?
I always knew I want to entertain or work within entertainment. I grew up the son of a Professional football player. My aunt also worked in Hollywood so being around celebrities and entertainers was pretty normal for me. I remember being about 9 years old and writing my first rap song. I was TERRIBLE but my family gave me encouragement to continue to write. I picked it back up around 15 and continued to work hard.
How do you think your music has grown through the years? What has changed about the way you create music?
I have recently become a better student of music. I try to study Jazz, Soul and gospel music so that I can be a better communicator and artist. I’m learning to trust and empower musicians around me so that they can create the music that will challenge me as an artist. I don’t want to just be a rapper who raps over beats. I want to be an artist who performs to well dynamic instrumentation.
I’m curious to know how your education in television/film, anthropology and English has helped you be a better artist today?
Television and film helped to expand my creativity in ways that challenge me to paint musical pictures and stories. Flirting with directing, editing and writing in TV/F taught me how to be disciplined in the creation of music. What’s the most important element in the creation? What needs to be cut? Who is my audience and what do I want them to know? The study of culture and humans has expanded how I address topics in society. The more anthropology and literature I read the better I understand culture and society.
How would you describe your unique sound to someone that has never heard it before?
It’s JazzyGospelHipHopSoul. (Laughter) That’s how I would describe it.
Let’s talk about your latest collection, “The Narrative” which was recently released. What was the inspiration behind this album? How long did it take to put it together?
I wanted to create a project that told a sophisticated but complex story about identity. I wanted to create an album that spoke all the musical languages I loved. I wanted it to live in all the diverse neighborhoods I’ve lived in. I wanted it to speak to all my friends. I wanted to create a story that would address America’s history successes, problems while pointing to a hopeful resolution. I began working on the project in late 2014.
I understand that you worked with a lot of recognizable voices on this album. How did you go about choosing what artists to work with?
I really don’t like to have a lot of features. I believe we tell our own stories the best and to have an album flooded with features would cheat the listeners and my fan base that wants to hear from me. I did have a good friend Lecrae on the song “Here, 2016” which we haven’t worked together since 2012. Most of the features were singers because I can’t sing ha ha.
What if anything has surprised you about the music industry? What do you think has been your biggest challenge? And what do you think has come really naturally to you?
I’ve been discouraged by the amount of politics within in industry. The most talented people don’t always get opportunities to thrive. However this just means they must work hard to create a demand apart from the machine that is the industry. I think that has become easy for me. I’m a natural entertainer and galvanizer. So I just concern myself with my Tribe and if people want to join our movement then they are invited.
Who are some of your favorite artists and what bands continue to inspire you and your music? Who would you still love to work with in the future?
My favorite artist dead or alive are people like; Coltrane, Common, Kanye West, Kirk Franklin, Stevie Wonder and Sam Cooke.
I would love to work with bands and artists like; Snarky Puppy and Leon Bridges.
When you aren’t performing, working in the studio, what do you like to do for fun? How do you unwind from it all?
I love to travel, read and watch International football (soccer).
At the end of the day, what do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope listeners take away from your songs?
Apart from hoping that people are pleased with the sonic appeal of the work, I want people to recognize a few things. God has created us in his image therefore we all have dignity and purpose. That dignity and purpose was personified in the person of Jesus. He taught us how to love, serve and live. I also want us to love one another and serve each other despite our differences. Lastly I hope to inspire other “creatives” to use their art and work to challenge and shape culture for the better.