Creeping up on Moka Only as "the most prolific" thanks in part to a sudden flurry of collaborative projects just recently released, Guelph, Ontario emcee Noah 23 has been honing his rap skills going on 20 years. He's toured extensively and has released music on a variety of labels. His Plague Language crew is one of the most creative hip hop collectives currently making music. And while reluctant to discuss the (likely redundant) topic, he happens to have extensive knowledge of the number 23. Check his MySpace blog for his discussion on the topic of 23, from his discovery of the idea through William Burroughs and the journal he kept to the same day death of two different Captain Clarks and the constant interconnectedness of that magic number. Instead, Noah opens up to Urbnet about his opinions on the Jim Carrey movie Number 23, his humble hip hop beginnings, the evolution of the Plague Language crew, his many collaborations, and how he feels about his label, Legendary Entertainment.
URBNET: How did you discover hip hop? What was it that made you decide to get involved as an active participant? |
NOAH 23: I was introduced to hip hop through Run DMC in '86 like a lot of people. In grade school I was already rapping and writing songs quite a bit, actually. So since about '88 I've been reppin' hard in my lilly ass hood.
You've also been known to rock some drum & bass and jungle. How do you see that interconnecting with hip hop? Do you still rock those types of beats?
Yeah, I used to do a lot more of that shit live than I do these days, but it's great fun. I like the fact that an MC at that type of event is NOT the center of attention but more like an intermediary. I would like to kick more jungle shit. We have a bunch of old live sets on CD that we're going to leak. I've quoted Orko before but let me add "jungle is hip hop fool!" Also, not many people know, I named the famous drum & bass/ jungle producer DJ Krinjah. Shouts.
What was it like coming up in Guelph, Ontario, a place not normally known for its hip hop scene?
Guelph isn't known for hip hop, but it's known for indie music and strange artist types. King Cobb Steelie is a dope band from Guelph that's been around. One of the players in Arcade Fire is this dude I know, Tim, he's from here. I came up amongst very talented peers, musically; I just so happen to rap. I like to rep Guelph though as a hip hop center of sorts. There are lots of talented heads around.
You're originally from Mississipi. How did you end up in Guelph?
I moved here when I was three but visited the States a lot growing up. My mom's folks were living here. My mom was born in Canton, Ohio and my dad in Pittsburgh. After I came to Canada, he ended up in Corpus Christi, Texas. I also lived in Colorado as a child. Guelph is my shit though.
Have you always used the name Noah 23 or did you have any earlier rap monikers?
I've had lots of names. My earliest pseudonyms were Thudbug, Nanobot and Yukon Dawn. People call me Yukes. I should also add that the number in my name is very tongue in cheek and not at all an homage to Buck 65 or Kunga  or whoever. I kind of chose the name very sarcastically. I have lots of new monikers. If you visit my MySpace page you can check em out. One of the newest is "Name & Number" for the reasons I just described.
What is the significance of the number 23?
If you don't know by now....
In that case, did you see the movie Number 23 with Jim Carrey? Was there some truth to it?
The Jim Carey movie was predictably pretty wack, although the central character (the murdered woman) has my birthday carved on her tombstone in the film. Explain that one. The number 23 is often associated with the sign of Aqaurius. As in the case of William Burroughs and Michael Jordan.
You've previously done a lot of work with Orphan as your producer. How did you guys hook up?
I met Orphan in Guelph in, maybe, '98, I don't remember exactly. I bummed a menthol cigarette off him. He's from the States originally but lived up here for a while. We don't really talk no more. He's in the emo group Blue Sky Black Death now. [laughs] He makes great music but other than that I have nothing nice to say. I heard the record he did with Hell Razah of Sunz of Man. Shit's dope. I don't think you will hear a reunion, mostly because of my extremely hardcore disposition and gully-ness in general.
What's the deal with Plague Language? How did it come about?
I started the name and idea for Plague Language in the mid 90s but the first official CD was 2001's Neophyte Phenotype. It's basically my brainchild and not so much a label or rap click. It's closer to a religion or cult [laughs].
Why the name Plague Language?
PLAGUE LANGUAGE. there are three Gs, which is 777. Thats one of the mysteries of my school. This is the summation: The parallel between viral word upon host of human mind and viral humanity upon host of world. Got it?
At one point Plague Language became very bloated as a crew. Where did all of these additional members come from? How did you bring it back under control?
Well, the Farewell Archetypes compilation project is probably what you're referencing, which didn't really feature Plague Language artists per se, they were just featured on that particular record. Penny, Troubadour and Orko were the first artists who weren't from Guelph down with Plague Language. When Orphan was still with us PL was more of a label. Since it's been reborn in recent years, it's back to being a central crew of artists.
Who are the current members of Plague Language?
Myself, original artist Baracuda, Guelphites Livestock and producer MadAdaM, as well as my close homies The Main & Lord Kufu. Plus, Wormhole is our Hawaii representative.
The vast majority of your music has come out on Brampton-based label Legendary Entertainment, owned by producer Crunk Chris. How did you come to be down with his roster?
I've known Crunk Chris for ages and he has far and beyond helped me get my music to people in ways I couldn't do myself. I am very loyal and since nobody else seems to recognize my greatness I have to give endless daps to Chris for pushing my albums. I like to work with friends whenever possible.
You've also joined with Chris to create Crunk23. Was this just an inevitable collaboration?
Yeah. We just put out the second installment of Crunk23. I really like both projects and the feedback has been pretty good. The newer Crunk23 album is called Dirty Bling and features Moka Only and Kingpin Skin
ny Pimp, ex-member of Three 6 Mafia. It's not really crunk music, but both CDs knock.You're also part of a large number of other collaborative groups, like Trainrawbers, Bourgeois Cyborgs, Weird Apples. Am I missing any?
I did an EP with my homie DS called Famous Playaz. It's in my top friends on MySpace, take a listen. That's pretty much it though. For now.
Yeah, I heard that EP. So, would you mind dropping a little bit of info about who your collaborators are and how you connected to form these groups?
It's pretty simple. It's all the same cats mostly. Me, Livestock and MadAdaM are Weird Apples, and me and Baracuda are Bourgeois Cyborgs. Both groups are vocal duos. The Cyborgs has been a longer running group and we play live a lot more. The Weird Apples was like a project, although we could do another CD someday. Trainrawbers was Livestock's brainchild, featuring me and Homesick (Owl Script) who's out west right now.
Are these one-off projects or do you plan to continue to work within each of these groups?
Bourgeois Cyborgs is definitely a site to behold live and we're planning on touring to promote our collabo and individual records. So yeah, we'll see...
Do you have a favourite side project when it comes to recording or the finalized product?
I like the Weird Apples a lot because we recorded it in like two days. But the BC rule live.
Speaking of which, I really dig the name Bourgeois Cyborgs. Is there any meaning behind the name?
It's funny to me. I have a sense of humour that a lot of people don't get. It's basically the Rich Robots. You know, like those chicks on the Hills and shit like that. Bourgeois Cyborgs. Making fun of the flashy shit. I like to be slick and what not, but I'm against capitalism, you know. Our vibe isn't particularly sci-fi either, which the name might imply.
Along with these side projects, you've also released a number of solo albums. Which do you prefer: solo creations or collaborative projects?
I love doing both collabos and solo shit. When you do a record with someone else, you have to push yourself and also be flexible, which is always a good practice. I like working alone a lot though, it's just easy.
Your next sort of solo album is Rock Paper Scissors, an album of duets. Could you explain why you decided to go that route and how you went about putting the album together?
Yeah, I know a grip of talented MCs and producers so I wanted to incorporate a bunch of them to cause some excitement in the project. I also have some live instruments and rock/pop tunes on Rock Paper Scissors. The idea was to get friends from the past and artists I respect and do this huge ambitious project but keep it streamlined with some clarity. I think I succeeded. It's both baroque and minimal.
Mysticism, drugs and technology always figure pretty heavily in your raps. How intertwined are these subjects in your mind?
Depends how high I get while reading ancient wisdom through a computer chip. I'm still very interested in all of these subjects.
How important are drugs in the evolution of Noah 23 the rapper?
Well, I was strange as a child before the psychedelics so I think its only part of it. I smoke nuff ganja, its second nature. I still like to explore the boundaries of the senses and mind. Certain drugs have been a downfall for me, I'm sure, though. Lately I'm very focused and only puff greens. I'm very much not a square.
You've got a wicked talent for freestyling at rapid speeds. How do you do it?
We got into drum & bass earlier; I'd say an interest in that, and a lot of L.A. artists really inspired me with the fast chopping style. I was more obsessed with spitting fast for a certain period. Now I just try and make good songs. Fast or slow. Live, its always good to spit a tongue twister.
With your massive back catalog, incredible stage show and a following around the world, why haven't you blown up yet? Have you thought about moving to the States to make it?
Sometimes I think I should be further along than I am, but it's mostly due to my own choices and growth speed. If I didn't have my daughter settled here, I would move probably. My brother is in Texas, I'm American already, so it'd be easy, but lately things are great and I'm pretty determined to share my art with the world one way or the other. I'm about to prove myself in a big way. Mark my words.
Anything else you'd like to add?
Ladies & germs, thank you, and kindly support Plague Language.