Add–2 has been a steady presence on the Chicago Hip Hop scene since the mid-00’s, and has begun to make noticeable waves nationally after catching the eye of renowned producer 9th Wonder. We sat down with him to talk about some of his favorite things that have happened to him in his career, what it’s like to work with 9th Wonder and what 2015 may hold.
GLM: Groundlift Media with Add-2 today.
Add-2: Add-2 aka the Black Aladdin riding on a magic carpet for all you Jaffar ass niggas.
GLM: And that’s word. To kick off on this gorgeous, tropical sunny Sunday… who are you and how did you get here?
A2: I’m a random black guy and I drove here via Ashland. But really, I’m Add-2, the one man duo. I’m from the South side of Chicago. I’m an MC, teacher, lecturer, poet; I do a little bit of everything.
A2: And I cook pancakes!
GLM: And you cook pancakes?
GLM: Do you do the Mickey Mouse, the standard…?
A2: You see, the Mickey Mouse stuff is for kids…
GLM: Maybe but we could all be children at heart!
A2: Yes, but I’m a grown ass man today.
GLM: Funny you brought up the pancakes, I just created a breakfast sandwich. I actually began my campaign yesterday to get this on the “Specials Menu” at Cozy Corner on Milwaukee and California… Fuck a McGriddle, McGriddle second fiddle.
A2: I see what you did there. I dig this. I’ll actually have to see it in the flesh to make me a believer.
GLM: Maybe we’ll get it some time. Once it’s on the menu, we’ll get sandwiches. Moving forward, tell us a bit about your preexisting history?
A2: I started rapping when I was in junior high school. It grew from there. My friends would keep telling me, “You should rap, you should rap, you should rap.” I really didn’t care about it that much. And then it ended up being something that I loved later on. After I get into it, I started hitting up the scene. I would be at different open mics. I was too young to get into the regular spots so I had to do open mic poetry. The 1st time I came up, I was rapping my little “gun” bars and they was not feeling that at all (laughs). After that, I switched it up- if you’re gonna talk about something, talk about something real. That’s what I’ve been doing ever since.
GLM: You’ve worn a lot of hats. You are wearing one right now!
A2: Yes! I’m wearing a fedora like thing now.
GLM: The way that we even sort of met was through you being a radio host at Valparaiso.
A2: Wow, that’s right!
GLM: Remember, I called in very drunk?
A2: Wait a minute!!! That was you?
GLM: Yeah, it was the sex talk portion of your Hip Hop radio show.
A2: Oh wow. Me and my homie- shout out to Reggie, he just got out- we were just talking about this. We had a lot of crazy people call but that one took the cake.
GLM: Top 5 dead or alive?
A2: Yes. Oh my God, never could put a face to this. Mind blowing.
GLM: You were also doing contributions to HipHopDX?
A2: Yes, DX.
GLM: I remember you had a great article, “How to Define if Someone’s a Stan?”
A2: We had one about the Stan’s. We had the Sucka MC’s list. I had one on R. Kelly, he was doing some random thing. I was writing. I was doing the radio thing. I was getting a lot of placements with a lot of those publications. AllHipHop, HipHopGame, etc.
GLM: Where do you draw your inspiration from?
A2: The easiest thing is life. I love to watch a lot of documentaries.
GLM: What’s one you’ve seen recently that’s inspired you?
A2: I watched the documentary on the Central Park Five (The Central Park Five), I watched one on Muhammad Ali recently. That one was pretty good. I also watched the Black Power Mixtape, that was very dope. Random video game stuff. I wish I could play video games but I love watching people review old ass video games and finding all the messed up stuff about them.
GLM: It’s funny that you mention such a broad spectrum visually, because I know in the past year, it’s amazed me how in my downtime that sort of media, even trashy stuff, can have an interesting affect on one’s outlook. With some of my friends, one minute we’re watching Law & Order: SVU, the next we’re watching a documentary about Mussel Shoals. Good to mix it up.
A2: You’re right. At the end of the day, you don’t want to be lock step with just one thing. If you don’t change your palette up a bit, it’s just going to be black and white. Throw some color in there!
GLM: The same can go for music.
GLM: What’s your feeling on Hip Hop these days? There’s definitely the “Real Hip Hop” camp, they exist. There’s also people that are on some super futuristic, “fuck everything that came before, I am God” tip. And then you have people like Oddisee, with his Rock Creek Park project, did a great job of blending Jazz with Hip Hop, in the best example since Jazzmatazz minus the MC element being at the forefront.
A2: That’s where I believe we’re kind of getting to. Me myself, I’ve gotten bored with Hip Hop. I kind of feel like when Malcolm X started changing everything he believed in phase of my life. I remember buying into all these tenets that they said were Hip Hop and I was like, “You’re saying you gotta pay dues.” You’re cosigning all these whack motherfuckers! Half the stuff that you thought was real isn’t, Not to mention, you woke up and found out your parents are Santa Claus! That’s what I’ve been doing lately, seeing how this is not the way I thought this was. I still listen to a couple people- J. Cole, Kendrick, Drake, K.R.I.T. I may be listening to old school R&B most of the time. You look at half my Pandora stations, it’s R&B stuff- Stevie Wonder, I like stuff like that now. A lot jazz- love listening to John Coltrane, Miles Davis. I like to hear different things that actually inspire me. I don’t care how many time you can tell me you’re gonna steal my girl. I don’t know how to relate to this- you steal my chick and have her in the club and I’m supposed to like that? (Laughs)
GLM: A little touch of the devil is always fun. What I’ve really gotten tired of is hearing the message of being inadequate pushed forward. It’s not a healthy mindset, this “You suck, I’m the best” mentality. I understand, when you gotta beat your chest, beat your chest but there’s different ways to do it. Look at the way Queen did it with “We Are the Champions”- WE are the champions! We! Not just me, we. It’s about finding ways to be triumphant and be inclusive in that.
A2: That’s an awesome thing, great example. It’s unfortunate that society has grown into such a, “me, me, me,” mode. That’s where we are right now.
GLM: Obviously you’ve been some places- tell me: What is your favorite mode of transportation, outside of the bullet train which we don’t have?
A2: Are we talking about in a good way? Or a bad way?
GLM: The good, the bad, the ugly, however you want to slice it!
A2: Best way- the best plane that I’ve been on is Virgin Airlines. Amazing. They have nice lights…
GLM: Free alcohol.
A2: Right? A party! It’s a damn party! The worst airline I have ever been on is Spirit! It is the CTA of planes. It’s like shit! I have never in my entire life- seats don’t recline 1st off! If you bring ANY bag, it’s like $75 dollars!
GLM: Not true. It’s free if you only have a backpack for carry on.
A2: Ok. That makes sense. I was gonna start tripping. Must be nice. But still- Spirit is the worst. I can’t stand it. If I need to get there and back, it’s clutch.
GLM: They’re tagline should be “Fuck leg room.” I took a picture of my knees.
A2: I’m 5’4! And I’m uncomfortable! How is that possible?
GLM: AND they charge you $4 for the Cup of Noodle!
A2: Is it good? You try it?
GLM: I didn’t pay $4, you kidding me? Not that kinda guy. Transitioning- what are your immediate plans for the future? How dominant is 2015 going to be for you?
A2: 2015- I’m definitely excited about it because most of 2014, I was relatively quiet. We had the album Between Heaven and Hell come out before that, and coasted off of it. But it was still just an EP- 10, 11 songs. I’ve been chilling. I’ve been itching. This is the longest gap I’ve gone without releasing any new music. So 2015, I’m like a dog out of the yard. My hope is to a lot of videos. I want the singles to do as much as they can. I still want to establish more relationships with more DJ’s. A lot of people have forgotten about the DJ’s. There are some really great DJ’s. One the greatest I’ve ever seen was DJ Jazzy Jeff. He hands down is the best. Some of his blends were just…. Anyways, I just want to make sure to have an impact while being fun. I was looking at the state of the rap game and was just like, it’s stale. I don’t like over glorified, “real hip hop.” No rules to this shit, I want to bring that balance.
GLM: How has working with 9th Wonder been?
A2: You’re of course always going to be in awe of what he does because of who he is. I think about how I grew up on him and his music, and then I turn around and I’m watching him make beats. He’s so knowledgable at what he does, like watching a genius at work. He’ll take two sounds, and flip it and you’ll be like, “That just changed everything.” We’re still in the process of building up our chemistry. Picking the right type of music to work on with each other and finding that middle ground that works. Because me and Khrysis, we can do that nonstop. Me and 9th are still building that, I think we’re starting to get to that place. He’s hella busy too, so when you get that window of opportunity you have to take advantage of it.
GLM: How has working with him affected your approach? Obviously if it’s go time, it’s go time but how does that bleed over into your execution?
A2: Not really as much. I’m really self sufficient. The studio is open, it’s a free for all pretty much. I write and record as much as I humanly can. He’ll let me go through beats and say, “Pick something, pick something. What do you like?” It’s 1st come 1st serve. If you like it and can write to it make something dope, go. He gives me that type of freedom. It’s helped me as far as being more stern with what I want to do. Sometimes you get caught up in the hype of things and you want to write stuff just because 9th did it, but if it don’t work it don’t work. Music doesn’t have an expiration date- good music at least. Sometimes it takes awhile. You don’t want to force it.
GLM: What has your relationship to Ground Lift Media been and what’s a favorite moment you’ve had with us?
A2: Oh man, it’s always been good. GLM has supported me through a lot of different events, especially in the early stages in my career in regards to getting bigger opportunities. One of my favorite moments easily was when I opened up for Black Thought at the Mid. The whole time, I’m thinking, “I gotta kill, I gotta kill it!” And it’s just us and them. The other performers were DJ’s. I performed so hard, I was in the bathroom because I had got vertigo right after that. I was lying on the floor and the security said he didn’t know what was wrong with me but I couldn’t lay on the floor! (Laughs) That was one of my favorite times. The sound was amazing, the sound was amazing, the crowd showed us a lot of love.
GLM: Last one man, it’s been real. In one word- describe what you want to leave the world?
A2: I would say just because I am looking at them right now, flowers. I will leave the world flowers.