I can’t say I have been following Has-Lo for years, but when I first heard his music several months ago, I immediately appreciated it and knew I would keep an eye on the young MC/producer. I became familiar with him mainly with his album In Case I Don’t Make It, which is according to me one of the best albums of 2011 and it is with great pleasure that I am now presenting this interview to you. I am always very happy when I get a chance to ask my favourite artists about their music and to share their answers with the world, as it is a very interesting way to discover more about them and appreciate their art even more. Without further delay, let me introduce you to Has-Lo, in his own words…
First of all, who is Has-Lo? How and when did you start making music? What’s the inspiration behind your name?
Has-Lo is me and I am a lyricist/producer. I started making music when the stars were young and the universe was a newborn… just kidding. Some of y’all reading were stuck off the realness though, don’t lie. Anyway, the less interesting answer is I don’t quite remember but I was young. Some point in elementary school. The inspiration behind my name is young stars back when the universe was young… haaaaa see? I’m taking you there. No, the name is a combo of my middle name and an acronym from a really old song that you’ll probably never hear.
You are both a producer and an MC and collaborate with other multi-talented artists. Do you feel there are more opportunities nowadays to expend you creative horizons and diversify your activities? Is it important for you to showcases those different talents?
There are more opportunities to expand those horizons outside of your city/state/continent and that’s very exciting. The convenience of collaborating is at an all time high now due to technology. I think it’s important to showcase your talents and try things. It’s more important to maximize the things you’re most passionate about. Don’t be a jack of all trades and a master of none. If you’re not really into synth-pop and you hate it, why try to make it? You see what I’m saying? Don’t disingenuously diversify yourself.
One of your trademarks is the quality of your lyrics and the way you play with words with seemingly effortlessness. If you were not an MC, would you imagine yourself as a poet or writer?
Yes, absolutely. I think I’d still be interested in being an author. I hope to write for a publication or be a published author at some point. I hope that point comes sooner than later.
Your latest album, In Case I Don’t Make It was critically acclaimed and is in my opinion one of the best albums of 2011. Several elements are quite remarkable and really make it unique. Could you tell us more about the album, the inspiration behind it and your creative process?
Thank you for saying that. I appreciate every time that someone tell me something like that. I hope the positive reactions never lose their impact. With the album I wanted to create a palpable sense of isolation. I wanted to test whether or not you could change what people were used to feeling when they listened to a hip hop album. Sometimes things don’t end with a nice neat bow. Not in life, not in the movies, not in other musical genres. I wanted to experiment and I was free to because I was alone for most of its creation. It was a unique process for me. It was the first time I did everything on my own- recording, mixing… It was just me in my basement. I wasn’t always sure it would come together, but it worked out I think.
One of the aspects of your music that is most interesting and really appeals to me is the darkness and psychological dimension created by the instrumentals and lyrics. Music seems to be an outlet for you, a way to share all your grim thoughts and maybe get rid of them. How do you feel about that?
I feel like that kind of darkness is something a LOT of people can relate to. However, like a lot of people, I’m not in that place at all times. In Case I Don’t Make It isn’t the entirety of my musical expression. It’s one thing. I am interested in the psychology of depression but every album isn’t going to be “the mind of a man on the tipping point”. All of my thoughts aren’t grim, I’m just not afraid to share the ones that are. When I make something different, it’ll be just as dimensional. Hip Hoppers and music lovers aren’t stupid people. The person that would love the Has-Lo album isn’t a stupid person and I wouldn’t insult them by “dumbing it down”. I don’t think I answered your question [laughs].
You are quite young but sound very mature, you make me think of an “old soul” stuck in a young body, someone who has experienced a lot and has learned many life lessons. Do you think your journey so far helped you grow up more quickly maybe and give you some musical maturity as well?
I am a bit of an old soul. I am reeeeally analytical. I don’t think my journey helped me grow up quicker. I’ve just always been a late bloomer. When other kids were rushing to grow up, I enjoyed being a kid. When other teens were rushing into adult things, I was okay with the teen things. Not always consciously, but that’s just how it went down. That allows you to see life in an age appropriate way. Love and sex for a teenager are different from love and sex for a 40 year old. A 40 y/o brain is more equipped to handle what it’s dealing with. It’s like that with most of life. That’s why they say travel at your own pace. Everyone reaches the goal line when it’s their time.
Something else than I find quite interesting with you and your music is the contradiction that seems to exist between how intimate some of your songs are, where you are very open and honest about your thoughts and feelings, and the way you infuse some mystery and leave the listener to wonder where the border between real and imaginary is. Is it important for you to be candid and share some parts of you but at the same time not say too much?
It is very important for me to be candid and share parts of me. Still, music is in part pageantry. Not EVERYTHING you hear in a record is true. I’ve observed a lot of things, I’ve lived through others. These songs are INSPIRED by real life. Sometimes they’re biographical… sometimes they’re fiction. Ideas or psychologies that I’d like to touch on. Other times they are sort of like a memoir would be. There is a fine line there. As I get more into the business of music and get more exposure I see how familiar some people can be. The things you say can make people you’ve never met feel like they know you or that they’re your friends. They overstep their bounds sometimes. You’ve got to be careful.
You are collaborating, as I said earlier, with several other artists, whether within groups or on specific projects. How different or similar is it for you to work with other people as opposed to on your own? Do you need both as an artist?
It’s pretty different working with other people. I wouldn’t say you need both, but it’s nice to have both. I want the freedom of working on my own. I used to do the whole group thing. It didn’t really work out. Some of the people I work with have had similar experiences so there isn’t this pervasive idea that we HAVE to be a group. We like what each other does and want to do some music together. All of us have our own musical lives beyond each other though. That makes it way easier to put your energy into making music with others. When no one needs you and you don’t need them you’re free from any implied or inferred obligation to them. You want to work with them.
Do you have any projects, collaborations, releases you would like to share with us?
I’ve got my Conversation B album coming out in the fall on Mello Music Group. It’s sort of a companion to ICIDMI. Vinyl is also coming in the fall so that’s exciting. We’re finishing up Wu-Tang Pulp right now. It’s an Homage to the Clan of course. Zilla Rocca and Curly Castro are on there, I’m on there, Elucid is on there, Castle is on there, Small Professor is on there, Random is on there, BLKHRTS are on there, a lot of other people are on there. I’ve got an instrumental album in the pike. A couple other surprises…
Anything else you would like to add?
Peace to everyone who purchased In Case I Don’t Make It. Y’all are making my dreams come true. If you haven’t checked the album out, go cop it. I promise you it’s an experience unto it self.