Keep it G wit me, I'll keep it G wit you
Planet Asia x Pound
More than 15 years in the game has taught the Fresno-born Planet Asia a little something about the industry, about life, and about himself.
Four years since his last solo retail album, and after the General Monks 2011 classic-but-didn't-make-it-mainstream, Each Step Becomes Elevated, this self-proclaimed "black belt" emcee is ready to unleash his new album on the masses. Inspired by an '80s saturday-afternoon T.V. show, Black Belt Theatre seamlessly blends the sharpness of kung-fu films with the unmistakable cool sound of classic blaxploitation movies. Featuring appearences by Raekwon, Talib Kweli, Camp Lo, Ras Kass, Fashawn, Paul Wall, and more, the album hits stores and internets near you on February 28th.
Pound: In your music you’re quite a balance between God and gangster. How do you maintain that?
Planet Asia: I like that. I like how you recognize that! I think the gangster aspect that you get from me is from the way I grew up. Now the Godly thing is something that you strive for coming out of a situation like where I come from. When you come from the streets you see a lot of negative shit youknowwhatimean, and you try to turn it into a positive. And the misconception about a lot of people in the hood is that they love negativity, but we really trying to get away from that. So I work with that balance, ‘cause I’m a reminder to let people know that we are one and the same. Just because you see me in a magazine or on T.V. that don’t mean that I’m different. You know I wash my dishes just like everybody else.
Pound: You’ve been through a lot in the music industry, from major to indie labels. There was a time that major labels became obsolete cause artists were doing everything themselves, but now some of these newer cats are signing multi-million dollar deals with major labels. Do you think the major labels are making a comeback?
Planet Asia: I think major labels have taken on the route, the marketing plan of the subsidiary labels. The majors are more working like the indie labels now. Like you talking about folks like Odd Future, or a cat like A$AP Rocky?
Pound: Yes, exactly.
Planet Asia: Or even Wiz Khalifa. The approach in the digital era is just easier, so all the money that labels used to spend on videos and shit, they don’t really have to do that, but I think they still take the same approach as an indie label now. They aware of facebook, twitter, and all these sites like World Star and 2dopeboys, so I think they’re utilizing it. But at the same time it’s a disadvantage so I don’t think that every major label is really flourishing right now like that, ‘cause there’s really only a handful of dudes that are makin’ real record sales.
Pound: What do you think about West Coast hip-hop right now?
Planet Asia: I’d say we in the forefront. We runnin’ things right now.
Pound: You’re most often referred to as an underground emcee. How do you feel about that term? What makes you “underground”?
Planet Asia: It depends on the energy behind it when a person’s saying it. ‘Cause you could be underground and still have fans out there or you could be underground and just so underground that no one knows you. When they call me underground I think it’s about the approach that I take when I make my music. I don’t really make the jiggy standard of whatever’s on the radio or try to cater to that. I’m not a radio caterer. I just keep it to my flavor and my liking.
Pound: Do you think they’ll come a time when more intelligent music will be radio friendly?
Planet Asia: Well, it’s about the people. We do have some intelligent music out there that’s already famous. The thing is that it’s always gonna be like that ‘cause not all intelligent people listen to intelligent music. Some of the most intelligent people I know don’t listen to intelligent music, and some of the most not intelligent people I know listen to intelligent music so you can’t really say what’s gonna happen. I think it is what it is, whatever makes money. ‘Cause you know, money is the key factor in this. So they don’t care if it’s intelligent or ignorant, as long as it makes money. If they're pursuing to play ignorant music on the radio, I think it’s just about the vibe of the people.
Pound: When did you get knowledge of self?
Planet Asia: In 1989.
Pound: How did it happen?
Planet Asia: Well you know what, I think it was like ’86, ’87, when I got that from my uncle. My uncle was up in the beast, he came out of prison and he dropped some jewels on me, and they stuck with me.
Pound: How does mathematics influence your rhyming?
Planet Asia: I would say that you kind of dealin’ with everything. Knowledge is infinite. Knowledge is the foundation of everything that’s in existence, just as the sun is the foundation of the solar system, and man the foundation of his family. So my mind gotta always be open to new things, and see things for what they truly are, not what they appear to be. So that’s how mathematics helps. It’s a universal language, it’s not just dealin’ with surface things. It’s beneath the surface.
Pound: Talk about the new album? The inspiration behind the name…
Planet Asia: Black Belt Theatre is a martial arts show that used to come on NBC out here every Saturday, so that was a big thing for me. As a youth, that was a big influence, so I had to bring it back. But Black Belt Theatre ain’t just dealin’ with that, there’s a whole aura to it. It’s like the Black Belt, like people say “the bible belt” out in Utah, so my music is like, for the “black belt” youknowwhatimsayin’? And it’s the level that I’m rapping at this point. At this point I consider myself a black belt artist. And all the cats on the album is people that I consider black belt artists. They’re dudes that I been wanting to work with. So be expecting an action-packed album.
Pound: There are a lot of features on the album. Who did you have the greatest learning experience working with?
Planet Asia: Probably Camp Lo. It was just the vibe, you know, how we came up with the hook, and the bridge. It was dope. If you listen to that song, there ain’t a cuss word on it, so it’s like automatically radio edited. That’s the beauty of that joint.
Pound: You said you want the album to play like a movie.
Planet Asia: Ya, it’s theatrical. You can feel the comedy and the seriousness. And it gives you those interludes.
Pound: So if it was a movie, what would the plot be?
Planet Asia: The plot is me bringin’ jewels back to the game! They tried to sit on the manual, but I upheld the manual, and I held it in a sacred place, and I still got it. So the manual calls for me…..So you feelin’ the record?
Pound: I love it.
Planet Asia: Thank you! So you think the world gon’ love it too?
Pound: I think so! I hope they embrace it like I have.
Planet Asia: Well me too!
Pound: I have some interesting tweets from your timeline. Can you elaborate on them a bit?
Planet Asia: Oh shit! Oh oh, what you gonna come with?
Pound: “And the finger bang award goes to!!!!!!!!!”
Planet Asia: (laughs) You know, I had just woken up and I just put that out there! I was just playin’. I joke around a lot on twitter. I be practicing my comedy on there, and I think it’s starting to work.
Pound: I have a more serious one, “Tomorrow ain’t promised so stop trippin’ on bullshit that has nothing to do with physical, mental or spiritual advancement!!”
Planet Asia: Exactly! ‘Cause people be wanting to talk about shit that don’t have nothin’ to do with building, or with life in general.
Pound: “When I see chicken mcnuggets I think of fried tumors! Don't ask why it’s just how I feel!!”
Planet Asia: Oh ya, they really look like tumors to me!
Pound: You’re vegetarian, right?
Planet Asia: I’m a pescatarian. I like fish. I might mess with some chicken if i'm feelin' it, but I draw the line, I don’t like a lot of that other stuff.
Pound: Ok, the last tweet I have is, “I keep having dreams about tornados. What does that mean?”
Planet Asia: Yes. I keep having ‘em.
Pound: So I looked up the meaning of this and found that first, tornadoes are a complex dream symbol and must be interpreted depending on the size and power of the tornado as well as your reaction to it.
Planet Asia: And you know what’s funny? That’s what I want to know, ‘cause my reaction was never really scared. It was just there.
Pound: Well in that case then–according to what I read, the tornado could be signifying some great change, and the fact that you were calm in its presence means that you are going to accept that change as the master that you are.
Planet Asia: That’s what’s up! I been used to change since I was born, I had to deal with change early, so it’s nothing that I can’t really handle. I got thick skin.
Pound: What do you think is bullshit?
Planet Asia: I think religion is bullshit. I think politics is bullshit. Those two things is bullshit.
Pound: Do you have anything to add on?
Planet Asia: Go get Black Belt Theatre February 28th! And shout-out to Toronto! I’m comin’ out there in March. Peace.