Adé Hakim On His Role in the Modern Renaissance And Being On To Better Things

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Adé Hakim, (AKA Sixpress) is a Bronx creative, who has been creating his own sound alongside sLUms the NYC hip-hop collective for some time now. He was credited with the production on Earl Sweatshirt’s recently released single “Nowhere2go” and is at the forefront of a new generation of artists in NYC.  He stopped by the WKDU station on April 20th for a short on-air playlist of beats themed “Black History Month Lives On”, and a conversation to discuss what he’s been up to, the modern renaissance, and his latest project: On to Better Things, along with much more. After our interview,  Adé went on to play a prodigious set with fellow New York producer Sporting Life at Big Mama’s warehouse to an audience of fans he was quick to unify.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

To start, how much did, and does being from the birthplace of hip-hop, the Bronx, play a role in your music, both in your initial involvement and your creative process? 

Whenever you say the Bronx, anywhere in the Bronx is considered deep. Anywhere. But I really feel like it’s just a way people hide their true feelings for the Bronx. People are afraid of the Bronx, people disrespect the Bronx, you know, but it’s the birthplace of hip hop like you said. We are the most overlooked borough out of all boroughs, beyond New York, one of the most overlook boroughs ever. But um, how it affected my music? shit, my mom listened to Slick Rick all the time. Like when I was younger, Children’s Story. I know he’s from the UK, but he came out and laid the foundation while living in the Bronx. He came out and did his thing in the Bronx just like a bunch of other Bronx artists. My dad would listen to KRS-ONE and he really respected his, his lyrics and how he painted a message and stuff. But hip-hop has to expand no matter what. It moved from the Bronx to Queens to Brooklyn to Staten Island, to New Jersey, to just worldwide, from all over to the West Coast, you know, Philly.

You’re completely self-taught, right?

Yeah. Yeah.

So obviously there’s a lot of work that goes into being self-taught, especially to get to where you’re at now. What can you credit that drive to?

Well, I started off rapping. And the drive for producing came from knowing at really early, like really early age, that it was corny to rap on YouTube beats. So, the drive was to make my own beats and then I fell in love with beat making from there and kind of neglected rapping because a lot of people abuse the mic, you know, you have to respect the mic. You have to respect what you say and you have to respect what you dictate into people’s ears. Beats are more free. You can let loose. You don’t need to have any lyrics, you could just let the mind create an image for his own. Rapping is more manipulative. I was talking to my homie Last Name David about that. Rapping is more like you’re forcing someone what to see, so if you don’t treat that influence with caution, then you can make a big left in terms of influence, you can abuse that influence on the mic. I just focused on beats more than anything.

Just to expand a little bit, what is the state of sLUms and its members right now? Is it still a cohesive team effort?

Yeah. Yeah. To keep it a buck, the industry is going to be the industry. But sLUms is a brotherhood. Everybody in sLUms is thriving. We had to thrive together for us to be good independently. You know? We needed each other to ride out this long, you know, and yeah in due time we’ll come together. We started off as a collective communicating that we’re a group, but we also our own people. We’re our own individuals, so, yeah, we’re good.

When you are writing/producing, what kind of environment do you prefer?

Um, home, ha-ha, home.

Do you like to have people around when you’re creating?

oh, uh, I can, I’ve been getting better at it recently. My newer music has been with company, around company. As of the last few weeks, all I’ve been making is collaborative music. When people ask me what I’ve been working on or who I’ve been working with, my response is always like: “nothing much, yeah on my own.” But, shit, I worked with Sporting Life the other day, been working with Lastnamedavis, you know, working with Mike, Darryl, you know, King Carter. I’ve just been working with other people a lot as of late. Just taking advantage of being able to collaborate because I don’t do that as much I feel.

This past September you released the project On to Better Things, how long did it take you to complete it?

Well in London, I was finishing up Untitled Part One and Untitled Part Two and On to Better Things started like uh, let’s see what’s the oldest beat on there? I guess it would be…”Golden Niggas”, “this gold inside. It’s more than that hold” I think I made that around February. Yeah, it started around February then I dropped the first part of the project in September and then dropped the deluxe version in November.

Did you have goals or conceptual bottom lines going into projects?

Sunny Path was completely conceptual and that was the longest project I’ve worked on. It took like a year and a half. That project was focusing on how it was a trend at the time for emcees to rap about how depressed they were and how that’s when people will feel it the most. On my debut project, I had a song where I’m telling myself I’m lost. I remember how much people were moved by it, how many people were like, “Yo, I felt that one, I needed to hear that.” I thought it was cool, but I wanted to move people with a positive message, but it was hard because I was still figuring myself out. I could have a negative mindset sometimes, especially through my music. There was a lot of self-doubt before actually being really confident with myself. So, on Sunny Path I was going to experiment on staying in this sunny path, not just the dark, don’t absorb the darkness or the so-called shadows. That was the basis of the concept for Sunny Path. Knowing that wherever you’re walking, there’s light above you and it’s not just shining above you, it’s shining on your path. So just continue to be yourself because it’s your path. No one else’s same path. That’s what it was. The concept of On to Better Things was me disassociating myself from a lot of bullshit.

Did that tie into leaving the name Sixpress behind?

Yea, on to better things by just disassociating myself from stuff that wasn’t true to me. You know, I liked doing certain things for validation. I found myself doing things for validation, doing things that wasn’t really true to me. Like hanging around environments when I was no longer needed, mooching off of other people, hanging out in other people’s cribs, you know, living the real artist’s life in terms of hopping from couch to couch. I dipped out of my mom’s house for a couple months and I was struggling. So, I made a vow to myself that it would be the last summer that I was struggling and relying on other people to put some food on my plate. I was literally on to better things cause I had to break a cycle that I didn’t want to continue, you know, cause I’m getting way too old to act like a baby.

How do you feel about how it was received?

Oh yeah, I’m slept on it.

Yeah, I agree.

However, I’m totally content because the supporters and fanbase that I have are really strong right now.

It’s really special to have like a fan base like you do. Especially nowadays people are so apt to being fair-weather fans.

Cancel culture is big right now. People just want to cancel black men left and right. So you got to just be appreciative for what you do have in the moment. The fan base is amazing. I’ve been dropping these videos and it’s like there’s fans on different platforms and they all come together. I recognize them “Oh that’s the dude from Twitter or that’s the dude from Instagram”. But sometimes there’s people that solely know me through YouTube, or solely through Twitter. Cause not everyone has every platform, but they still find their ways to support. Some only know me from Soundcloud and they’ve mentioned to me that it’s amazing how much access the consumers have to content nowadays. So like, even if I changed my name once more and never tell anybody, someone would find out. Someone would find it and spread the word. It’s amazing.

Do you have a favorite track from On To Better Things?

Yeah. I love “Dance with Me”. “Dance with Me” is one of my favorites. I’ve had that since like March. That’s one of the older songs too. I performed it before I dropped it, I was performing it for a minute. Then I added an extended version, one that’s slowed down. But yeah, it’s one of my favorites just because of the pace of it, the overall feeling and the message. I give Thebe and Sage a shout out, that was cool. But, um, the, the main message was just to live in harmony, you know? Especially for the time that I wrote it, there was a moon cycle of harmony and love and no contentious energy. I don’t really know, but it was inspired by staying harmonious, you know, and it always feels good performing it. I’m gonna perform it tonight, I love that song.

You’ve said previously, that there is a modern-day renaissance happening right now, can you speak on that?

Okay, so at the beginning of the DJ set we just did, I said that I’m a producer and an MC. I’m also a videographer, editor, I work on animation and I’ve also done clothing designs. I tried to tell all my people, all my loved ones, and just anyone I meet that’s into art, that you don’t have to limit yourself as one type of artists. The idea came from an omen, a good omen I met on the train.

Tell me about it.

It was around the time Donald Trump got elected. Like right around election day. In New York it was hectic and, on the trains, a lot of people just wanted to preach, you know, because a lot of people are asleep and sheep, on the train especially. People view everybody who makes an announcement on the train as crazy. But this guy was speaking to me. He said, “we’re living in a renaissance period.” I can’t take credit for it. He said, “In 1920 there was a renaissance and now it’s come back full circle.” It inspired me because he was asking people on the train “what are you going to do in these times? It’s beyond the presidential election it’s beyond who’s in office, beyond political parties. There’s a lot of sick shit happening, but like, what are we doing? How are we going to control our own actions?” For artists, you can express yourself through many different platforms. I tell everybody that. For example, MIKE had been rapping since I met him and then he began producing and now he’s producing for himself fully in terms of making his own projects and mixing them. He can no longer be categorized as just a rapper, you know, he’s anything he wants to be.

The concept of the renaissance man.

Yeah, exactly. a renaissance man. So, I met that dude on the train, the good omen, and I think I shared that with Mike, the idea of us living in the renaissance period. But it doesn’t just apply to us, it applies to many. It’s not my message to take ownership of, it’s a message to spread! Because we all have something creative to bring to the table.

You are credited on the production of Nowhere2go, Earl Sweatshirt’s first single on Some Rap Songs. what does that mean to you?

Uh, that credit means, uh, we flexing. That’s, that’s a flex, you know, I think Earl was flexing on that song, flexing his flow. You know, the track wasn’t as lyrical compared to the rest. It was more about appreciating the beat and how you could flow on it. Daryl and I had produced that beat. Yeah, it’s just a very flex-worthy track. Not because of the co-sign or the production credit, the vibe of the track is a flex-worthy beat and it has flex-worthy energy.

How did that track come about?

I had already made a track before with Thebe (Earl). We started hanging out in the Summer of 2017 way more than we ever do now. We was hanging out, trying to understand each other more and he really gravitated towards my production. We cut out a track called “Veins”, the original one you haven’t heard. We cut that track and then I felt like we sparked something, sLUms and the whole New York helped spark something out of Earl, sort of to motivate him to complete the project because he was on his grind mode after that. So, I made that “Nowhere2go” beat with Darryl at my house and as soon as I made it, I thought about Thebe and I sent it straight to him. He sent it right back to me. Like he flew out of NYC back to LA, and once he touched down he recorded it and then sent it to me. I was a just a flex cause he shouted out, Mike, Medhane, Glen, Sage and all that. It was just a very bromantic moment, you know?

What was it like being at the New York stop of Earl’s tour? The energy on-stage looked crazy.

Oh yeah. I asked him (Earl) after the show, I said to him: “Did New York bring the energy?” And he was like, “Bro, like of course what kind of question?” ha-ha, he was looking at me, like “that is a stupid question.” But I just wanted to emphasize the fact that hip-hop started in New York. So regardless, if you’re a true MC and you’re serious about your craft and you bring that craft to New York, especially with somebody like Earl, with the fan base that he has, the energy is going to be like no other. I’m not going to say it’s the best, I’m not going to rank it, but it’s going to be special. The energy was amazing. There was mad people I knew in the crowd but I didn’t know they were there at that moment. I feel like there was a lot of love radiating there because a lot of people who’ve supported me- I’m just a regular dude, you know? I don’t consider myself to be a celebrity and I don’t think I ever will. That’s not me. But a lot of people who supported me saw me up there and were really inspired. I got to inspire a lot of people that day because we’re breaking boundaries of what can happen and what can’t. It is really just a stage, you know, it’s just a platform. I produced that track and I was like, “if I hear that beat, I’m running on a stage. I don’t give a fuck, there’s no invitation, but I’m hopping on stage.” It’s a flex, he came to New York to perform that and people who support me in New York were there too.

One theme, that as a listener drew me to your music from the beginning, is the honesty you elicit. talk to me about how important transparency is to you when writing?

Yeah. That’s why I take a long time to make writtens because sometimes I’m just on rapper talk shit mode and I don’t gravitate towards that for myself because I know it’s not true. When I open up about some family issues, when I open up about current living situations, that’s when there’s more meaning. I leave something behind in that track, you know? There’s more meaning when I’m not putting up a front or putting up a guard while trying to write something that sounds cool or sounds hard. It’s more like I’m leaving a part of me on the track for people to resonate with. Because we all one in the same, you know, we’re not too far away from each other besides class levels and privilege levels and all that, we’re still all human. We still understand emotion, and for the people who listen to beats and the lyrics on top of it, I just try to leave as much realness as I can behind. Less of a front, you know, we all have a mask too because that’s a part of being human in this society. We all have a mask. I just try to show my face rather than hide. It makes me prouder of the work.

Any word on what fans can expect from you in 2019?

Um, no, no. I mean I’m working a lot. I’m not working on anything specific but I’m working a lot. Working with Sporting Life on a lot of beats – those beats can go anywhere and everywhere. Um, I’m working with my blood you know, shout out to him or her.

Any other shout outs?

Um, yeah, shout out to all of sLUms, Slauson Malone just put out a project and also shout out to Plaza Llama, and AndyFrenchToast.

Andy was the one who did the video for the Ginger Tea, No Dairy and Roadrunner, right?

Yeah. Yeah. We also did “Dance with Me”, “World Full of Lies”, “Good people” and “Cold Awakenings” together. We worked on a lot of videos. Ashley had helped me with two videos while we were out in Saint Lucia. It was “Wise Guy”, “Nectar” and “Golden Niggas”  Also, shout out Lafi, she shot “Tomb Raiders”. We were in the Metropolitan Museum in the ancient Egypt exhibit, we’re not supposed to record in the museum but we were.

Do you want to talk about the philosophy behind Tomb Raiders?

Oh yeah. Yeah. I’d love to. The main message of that song is the fact that we as black folks are always pressured. Black men especially are always pressured every time we go outside that somebody is trying to shoot us down, somebody is trying to knock us down our square, or that someone was trying to stress us out to death. We stress ourselves out because that’s somebody’s dream. However, we don’t belong in the grave is the main message. We don’t, that’s not where we belong. We don’t belong in the tomb, and it’s really important to know your worth while you’re here. In ancient Egypt or ancient Kemet, Egypt is a Greek name for Kemet, There were so many tombs of black ancestors that got raided and all their tombs, the paintings on the tombs, which are beautiful, if you’ve been to the met, really beautiful but still, it just got raided. These people passed away and now their stuff is on display, their statues, their tombs are all on display. So if you connect that with today, we’re always being trying to get knocked off our square, but we’re worth something. For example, let’s say an artist passed away who got scrutinized their whole career. Once they pass away, you can separate people from their art and then their album gets pushed up so people can profit off of somebody’s death. It’s the same concept. Tomb Raiders is a feeling of being violated, you know? And I kind of connected it with the what they did in the Met to comment on how people act like you’re not worth shit but then they want to be you. And the first line is kind of saying “why am I trying to play smooth for the game?” Because “I make my mistakes cause I’m a human in pain” It’s really thoughts from all over the place coming into one song.
How does it make you feel?

It’s hard to explain, but this is how I’ll do it: I’m a Jewish man, right? I was raised Jewish, not religious, but taught the importance of tradition and our history, yet I don’t know about my ancestors much at all because the Holocaust really wiped it all out, all of our people’s possessions, papers and things like that were destroyed. I understand that I’m still important, even if my ancestors weren’t treated that way. It’s obviously difficult as a white man to understand exactly where you’re coming from because that’s a unique perspective to black men and women. But it goes back to the honesty, I appreciate that you’re being honest about yourself and also educating people.

It’s true. No, you’re right. I was kind of having trouble with trying to express that a lot of our history has been wiped out, you know. But the black history month lives on is an idea is to basically pay homage and give people a platform who didn’t get their due credit. As a producer, I didn’t and don’t get my credit a lot, you know, I know how it feels. I think I’ve played a huge part in sLUms success. Selma Burke carved out the image of FDR that was used on the dime, we all use dimes, you know what I mean? Just bringing light to the little things of how we get discredited for a lot of stuff, but man, life goes on.

 

It’s a message that is really important right now for the public and political sphere. Thank you man. I appreciate you coming in and taking the time to do this.

Yea, of course, Word. Thank you man.

 

Twitter: @kingsunnydey

Instagram: @sunnywalkoflife

Soundcloud & Apple music: Adé Hakim or Sixpress

Deluxe edition of On to Better Things: https://6press.bandcamp.com/album/on-to-better-things-deluxe-edition

 

 

 

          

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