While many of us may be enamoured with the catchy hooks and speaker blasting bass found in much of today’s Hip-Hop, few would argue that the genre is the illuminating and innovative light it once was.
With mainstream artists “dumbing down” their material to reach the masses and increase their profits, while unsigned acts follow trends in hope of securing a record deal, rappers like J the Exodus have become increasingly rare. Young, talented and socially conscious, this MC uses his lyrical gifts to inspire listeners;
“My mission is to remind people of the real essence of Hip-Hop it’s all about self-expression” he says.
“When I look at society it seems that people are stuck in a cycle where we do the same rituals and routines over and over again. I try to pull people out through my music by getting them to think more about why we do the things we do, why we’re in the condition we’re in. It’s about raising awareness”.
In addition to his skills on the mic, he’s also a bit of a psychic having predicted the riots just a few weeks before Britain’s Youth took to the streets in rebellion.
“I was stopped, searched and handcuffed in Brixton by the Police earlier this year. They violated me and I told them then and there that Young people would only tolerate that kind of treatment for so long without something happening and a couple of weeks later the riots started ”
However this member of the underground UK Rap trio “Midas Touch” was not among the rioters. Exodus, born Jason Hughes remained focused on bringing back what he calls “authentic Hip-Hop” to counteract the “diluted music” that makes the charts nowadays.
“It used to be about bringing people together. When Hip-Hop started in the 70’s in the Bronx of New York, it brought those communities together. When you look at the 5 aspects of Hip-Hop, it’s really a continuation of our ancestry.”
“The Graffiti is our like hieroglyphs, the Djing is like drumming, the MCing being like our griots(ancient storytelling and poetry), the Bboying was like our African dancing and knowledge is a constant”.
Today, though things have changed and Exodus agrees that Hip-Hop is dead to some extent at least, but who killed it? The general consensus is that the artists themselves should be held accountable for the degraded state of Hip-Hop but the South London born MC doesn’t believe it’s that straight forward;
“The people who run the industry are aware (of its influence) decide what will sell and what won’t. So I personally don’t blame artists for the content of their music because it’s the people we don’t see who are responsible. If you’ve come from poverty and someone will make you rich and famous for talking about sex, drugs etc. then you’re obviously going to take up that offer. It’s the record label executives and those who have final say on the material who have to be held accountable.”
What about the likes of Jay-Z and Lil Wayne; multimillionaire superstars who frequently boast of their “boss status”. Both own successful record labels and oversee the development of numerous artists; surely they could be doing more?
Exodus believes, “They have the power to bring about change but they’d be going up against huge corporations and we all know what happened when Tupac tried to stand up against the industry. It would take a lot of courage and I think that they may want to do more but they aren’t willing to risk losing what they have”.
Nonetheless he agrees that while there are lessons to be learned from those artists and their peers, they aren’t role models. Exodus is well aware of the influence Hip-Hop culture wields over young people. His sister, a fashion designer, knew Claudia Aderotimi, the twenty year old aspiring rapper and Hip-Hop model who died following surgery to increase the size of her buttocks, believing that it would make her a superstar.
“It’s just ridiculous. It’s an example of how this artificial and materialistic culture can play on people’s insecurities”.
Although he acknowledges the role of Music culture, he also stresses that “Miseducation” is part of the problem. While Asian and European Students are taught of their greatness of their ancestors, Black history generally starts with slavery and Exodus believes that this brings about a lack of self-respect and relatively low ambitions.
This is a message he often relays through his songs and despite the lack of mainstream support for conscious artists nowadays, he believes that he will be successful whilst maintaining his identity and ideology. Citing advice given to him by Jay-Z’s long time sound engineer “Young Guru”, Exodus believes that its essential for every artist to have a record label of their own in order to maintain control of their work;
“The industry is changing. Artists are getting signed and making little or no money. There’s a new deal called a 360 which gives labels complete ownership of everything you do, advertising, merchandising and album sales. The artists have little if any say at all in terms of their projects.”
“Artists have to formulate their own labels and that’s what we did(Less is more music). That’s where the money and success is at now. That way you can work in conjunction with the major labels in terms of distribution but you are not a slave to their demands, you maintain creative and financial control”.
Looking forward to 2012, Exodus is nearing the completion of a sequel to his critically acclaimed debut mixtape “360 degrees” which he intends to release in January. With a Midas Touch project also in the works it’s only a matter of time before this MC receives the recognition he deserves and the sooner he does, the better it is for Hip-Hop.