This is the complete Q&A with Nashville MC E.T., and is supplemental to the Fringe’s feature, “E.T.: Positivity Over Persona.” Here E.T. discusses his Louisville, Kentucky roots, his work with NDPNDNT & Underground Senate, and his forthcoming collaborative release with Al-D.
In March you mentioned to Radio Now that you got started in the Louisville scene as a b-boy. Do you remember what first drew you to the community, who was Manifesto, and when did you first start writing as an MC?
My musical journey started very young. Manifesto is my cousin, we are the same age and basically grew up together. We both had a strong passion for music and dance most of our lives so when we were about 10 years old we started a dance group called Inter-Fusion, and we would put together full dance routines with a combination of break dancing and acrobatics. We used to compete in dance competitions all over and were featured on a few dance party television shows as well. Those shows were Day 5 Alive, a show on Fox that aired in KY and IN, and also on a remote location shoot of MTV’s The Grind in Cincinnati. We used to practice a couple of times a week at my house because my dad was a gym teacher and had plenty of gym mats lying around so we wouldn’t break a bone or something. When we were about 12 I said to Manifesto that we should do more and branch out, we should start to make our own music, write our own songs, and with this along with our dance routines, everything that we did would be original and we could provide new original entertainment to people out there because nobody was doing it at the time. So Inter-Fusion then became more than just a dance group, we were also a rap group and we wrote out first song at 12 yrs old. I still remember how horribly awful it was, but it was the start. It started out with two boom-boxes right next to each other, one playing music while we rap and the other boom-box recording it all. From there we graduated to a karaoke machine and thought we were really doing something (lol).
At this time computer software hadn’t yet reached the level it is at now so if you wanted to record and make music you had to actually go to a professional music studio. This was not cheap, but we made that next step and saved our money to do it. This drove me to want to do more. Not only did I want to make my own dances, write my own songs, I now wanted to learn how to record and produce these songs myself so that I didn’t have to rely on anyone else to get things done. I wanted to do it all myself. So from there I bought my first pieces of music recording equipment and began teaching myself how to operate it and efficiently use it. Over time I bought more and more and learned as much as I could until I eventually was at a level where I started gaining recognition not only as a rapper but now also as a producer.
Also forgot to mention that I grew up on the same block as B.Stille from the multi platinum selling rap group Nappy Roots. He and I have been close friends since birth, we went to the same church, middle school, and high school, and we have collaborated may times together along with the other members of Nappy Roots and Soul Factory. We remain very close and are constantly working together.
Could you tell me a little about what Soul Factory Productions was?
I began to meet more and more like-minded and musically gifted artists [and] several of us got together to form the Soul Factory. Soul Factory was a collective of artists, dancers, DJs, rappers, producers, and just all around good people. Soul Factory was the name that we would put behind everything that we did and everything that we associated with.
At what point did you land in New York? What brought you there?
The opportunity to move to NY came about in 1999 because my brother and sister in law were thinking about moving there. I was at a point where I decided if I was really going to make a push at music this was going to be the place and time to do it. What better place to persue hip hop music than where it originated at. My time in NY was brief but what I got out of it has lasted me forever. One opportunity was my sister in law was working with another woman whose boyfriend was Ed Robinson. Ed Robinson was at one point the drummer for the infamous group the Wailers and has worked alongside of Bob Marley himself. Ed got a hold of my music and called me one day. I didn’t know anything about this and thought at first it was a joke. He had expressed that he liked what I was doing and would love to work with me. I gained an enormous amount of knowledge from being around Ed and was able to meet many famous and influential people in the music industry. I still visit Ed and we still make music together.
When did NDPNDNT form and did the group have any other releases beyond The Next Testament?
NDPNDNT formed in the early 2000s. Members within Soul Factory would often get together and work on side projects. NDPNDNT started that way with myself, Caotic (MC), Boney B (MC), DJ Yng Steve (DJ) and Machine (dancer). Our only album release was The Next Testament, but we have several unreleased tracks whose future is unknown. That album was voted Best Local Album in 2004 by Velocity Magazine in Louisville. We did many shows in many cities all across the country.
What was the song called that the group wrote for the Louisville Fire? How did that opportunity come about and is the song available anywhere online?
As artists we were always trying to be ahead of the curve and tap into things that other people hadn’t done yet. One of the avenues that came up was theme songs, and sporting events. We had the idea of approaching the several sports teams in the Louisville area with music specific to their team. A representative from the Louisville Fire had actually seen us perform at a venue not far from their stadium. He got us in touch with the owner and the marketing department. We had a song on our album called “Fire” so we did a remix version of it that was for the Louisville Fire and they loved it and bought the rights to it. It became the official theme song and was featuring at all of their events, on their television and radio commercials, and we also would perform the song at some halftimes in the arena. Unfortunately the song is not online.
Did NDPNDNT break up in 2005?
NDPNDNT did break in 2006 up for a variety of reasons, some public and some private. The more public reasons were, Caotic had just found out he was having a baby and made a decision to join the army. I had just been given a job opportunity to move to Nashville and was thinking of taking it, and there were other creative reasons for the break up.
When did Underground Senate form, who was in that group with you, and how long did the project last?
I first moved to Nashville in 2007. My first year here was spent working, and meeting other people in the music community and started to expand my network. Within a year I was putting on two weekly hip hop events in the city and helping bring awareness to other good artists in Nashville. It was during this time that I met Knuckles McGee, Albert J, and Big Cho, the other founding members of Underground Senate. When we began to make music, we were all already high level emcees, it sounded like we had been together for years and it was an instant hit. We actually only recorded 5 songs, but those 5 songs brought us a Nashville Independent Music Awards nomination for Best New Group, as well as numerous packed house shows. I feel that the rapid pace that we were moving was too much too handle in such a short time frame that the pressure of it all brought out things in us that we did not like and so the project sort of just fell apart.
If I remember right, this isn’t your first go around in Nashville… What brought you back and what do you hope to accomplish as an artist in the city?
I moved from Nashville back to Louisville before the birth of my daughter, my first child. I moved to be closer to family and prepare for the big change that was about to happen in my life. After spending about a year there and devoting all of my focus to my daughter I decided it was time to again get back into music and plan my next move. I was either going to move back to Nashville and continue what I started or I was going to move to Columbus, OH and meet some people I had been talking with and try to recreate there what I have done at so many other places. That is what I love to do, I don’t strive to be a famous rapper, I strive to bring good hip hop music, a positive vibe, a positive atmosphere, positive people with positive messages who just want to be themselves and join in the celebration of hip hop music and all that it has to offer. “Rap” music is sometimes given a very negative stereotype so I want people to see the difference between rap “music” and the hip hop “culture.”
It all worked out to come back to Nashville because I had another opportunity for work there, so here I am for round two and while my focus is now shared with music and with family, my drive and ambition remains the same. I want to promote positivity, love, and togetherness and music has always been the best way for me to do that. Al-D is another person that shares the same passions that I do. Since I’ve been back he and I have formed a tight bond that extends far beyond music and we are diligently working together to keep hip hop alive.
What’s behind the title “I Hate Rap Music“?
I Hate Rap Music is a two-disc mixtape that I released that features music as old as 15 years and as new as 15 months, as well as some previously unreleased material. It is a showcase of not only myself but the many other talented people that I’ve had the pleasure of working with throughout my career. When I was trying to think of a title for the project I was just trying to think of something short, catchy, and also something with meaning. I Hate Rap Music basically means what it says. Most rap music I do not like, mostly mainstream music and music that sends a negative image to people. I feel that my music is the exact opposite of that so I thought it would be the perfect title.
Much of your music — back to The Next Testament‘s collaboration with B.Stille — deals lyrically with a plea for people to be themselves. How have you used this outlook in your own artistic process?
That message goes far beyond my artistic process. That message is what I live my life by and it is the same message that I am teaching my daughter to live by. Life is too short and too precious to go through it pretending to be someone you’re not. I always say “Be yourself and nobody else” and I truly mean it. I want people, especially people in rap, to realize it’s OK to smile every once in a while, everything doesn’t always have to be so hard core and negative. Enjoy life, enjoy people, and I promise you will be a much happier person.
Is there anything you’d like to say about your upcoming release with Al? Do you have a tentative release date for the album?
Al-D and I have been working together a long time, we are friends, business partners, writing and producing partners and are always collaborating together. With everything that we do together, especially the shows, it only made sense for us to put out a project together so we are currently in the studio working on it. It is about half way done now, and we do not have a date set for release yet, we will continue to work on it until we feel it is ready to be released and at that point we will drop it. The thing I like about this project is that no one has heard any of the material, and that is done on purpose. We want to drop this album and it be all new material that no one has heard from us yet and it will only add to the current catalog of music that we already have together. Al-D and I mesh well together and I think that will come across to the listeners of the new project.