Published in The Pulse of The Twin Cities
by Kandis Knight
On a cold rainy evening I ventured to the cozy home of Musab, Rhymesayer's "Smoothest Brotha' Number One." Over the course of three hours we relaxed, watched a basketball game and had a little local rap talk. As I entered Musab’s pristine, decked out South Minneapolis condo, I couldn't help but notice the walls, a smooth maroon color befitting Musab's smooth laid back character.
I took a seat on a plush couch, with a big fluffy pillow and enjoyed my beverage and the game in the background. Musab eased up next to me and became an open book. At 14, Musab converted to Islam. “I don't like to involve my religion in my music,” claims Musab, 28. “They’re two different things. That’s my personal life. My music is entertainment. I don't take myself too serious as an artist. I'm only human, I'm not trying to change your life, I'm trying to entertain you. If you want to change your life read that Koran down there, that’s how I look at it."
Nowadays, Musab seems to live a peaceful and positive life. “I coach my son's basketball team, I’m training my kids in sports, I’m making Salaat (Muslim prayer) everyday. I'm fasting right now, it's Ramadan. I live better than some, worse than others,” he readily admits.
Musab’s life wasn’t always as serene as it is today, it was only after witnessing lots of crime and violence that Musab decided to pursue music. "I went through a lot of dramatic situations with my life," he claims. Glancing to the floor, Musab pauses and then continues, "I lost a cousin, he was killed. We were roommates he got killed in our apartment in St. Paul. I was 19 when I decided I wanted to go into music seriously. I always rapped since I was in fourth grade, I got into music to keep me out of trouble."
After graduating from The City Inc., a Minneapolis Alternative School, Musab attended Music Tech as something to do. "I went to Music Tech for about six months. I liked it enough, it was just that I felt like I didn't need it." Although he didn’t excel academically we all know from his lyrical track record that Musab is no doubt an intellectual. "I'm a genius. I took the test so I can say that. I didn't like school, I used to skip school and go read books at the Library. Some of my favorite books were ‘Pimp’ by Iceberg Slim and ‘The Autobiography of Malcolm X.’
These books gave me hope."Maybe it’s Musab’s superior intellect that helps him craft his insane rhymes, but he also has a formula for that. "My song writing routine is very organized, I'll show you.” He dashes off and comes back with stacks of notebooks. "There is a science to making songs up. I write in bars. See, this is the song I did called ‘I Got Problems’—you know, the song I did with D. Tekh. You were there when we recorded it."
I nod and smile, remembering the "female bashing" hook but deciding not to comment. Like a kid in a candy store, he flips through pages and pages of lyrics. "I wrote it, I titled it, it was written in bars, so therefore I know how long I want the verse to be and my hooks are in back (of the note book). Usually I write the hook first when I'm just sitting around. I like my hooks to be like how I talk kinda like I'm saying something and it’s catchy. I’m very organized.I got stacks of notebooks. That’s how you got to be when you’re making music. Writing a song is an art to me.
"When it comes to production, Musab only likes working with the best producers. "Of course my man Ant, D. Tekh of course, locally not that many cause most of the producers I mess with are like national cats. I mess with Ant, D. Tekh, I like Big Jess from the Unknown Prophets. My man Brother Ali whenever he cranks something out for me overall though I think the state lacks in production."
It’s no surprise Musab even has a routine he runs through before going on stage to perform. "’I'm the greatest,’ that’s what I say, that’s what I repeat before going on stage." Musab’s prolific musical output is nearly as immense as his stacks of notebooks. "I have hundreds of songs that are recorded but unreleased. Some of them I don't like, some are for my own personal listening. I won't release everything because I want to be known as a certain type of artist. That's just the business, you got to uphold your little image to sell records. People have to relate to you and grasp on to what you're saying. Therefore you won't hear Snoop Dogg do something that Dead Prez does. But he won't do that because it's not his job. He's selling hot dogs, they’re selling hamburgers. You know what I'm saying?"
He continues, as I recline in the lazy boy. "That’s how I feel about my thing. So I record a lot of songs about a lot of things, but that doesn't mean I want everybody to hear it all." So what’s on the horizon for this wildly creative Minneapolis emcee? We can all expect something from Musab coming summer 2004. "I'm recording an album right now called What's The Skinney? it’s going to be like ‘Playboy Mansion-ish.’ If that’s not enough to spark your curiosity I don't know what else can. There aren’t that many ‘Playboy Mansion-ish’ albums coming out of Minneapolis and I can't wait to see how it comes together.”
Musab's image has always been adored locally. When describing his public persona, Musab stares off into space and leans far back into the couch, the image of a silk robe clearly forming in his mind’s eye. "I'm the black Hugh Hef," he says smiling. "Yeah, I'm a different type of Hip-Hop then Slug but as far as how we do our music, we got the same format. We’re two different people. You know what I'm saying? So of course we’re going to have a different sound."
As far as national comparisons go, Musab is quick to respond, "I'm more edgy than 50 Cent I believe. I'm more like an underground Snoop and I don't do my music to sell eight million records. I do it because I love the art. I'll do other things to get rich that triangle into my music. If I can be critically acclaimed musically, I'm happy."
Musab is clearheaded when it comes to laying out his aspirations. "I'm going after Snoop's fan base. Snoop has put himself into a good position because he is doing what he was doing when he first came out but now everybody buys him. He is a household name. Even white kid's grandparents know who Snoop Dogg is, when I get there I will be cool."
Despite having many friends around town, Musab still feels he’s misunderstood by the majority of the local Hip-Hop scene. "People think I'm a chauvinist, insensitive and heartless because of my lyrics,” claims Musab. “I'm not the first person to talk like I do. I talk about pimping and people seem surprised sometimes. But when these same people see 50 Cent doing it and they see it on television they’re singing along."
I have to agree with him on that note because despite my own feminist belief system, 50 Cent can be appealing in his own pimped out way. Musab is indeed no different, he wields a unique charm and is extremely polite and respectful. "I'm a male feminist,” says Musab. “I love women. I respect people. I think society is very contradictory, though. Some women want you to treat them like they’re a nun, but they act like a whore. I'm going to call you what you are. Some women call themselves bitches. Lil' Kim ain't offended."
I don't know if he heard my thoughts, but he interrupted them nonetheless. "I like bitches,” continues Musab. “They’re just feisty women to me and I don't say bitch out of hate I say it out of love. That’s the kind of woman I like. I like Lil' Kim, I like Pamela Anderson, I like Carmen Electra. I don't want nothing to do with a square women. There’s nothing she can do for me."
Musab is entitled to his views, so I decide to let the sexual politics battle rest and change the subject. I give him a look he won't forget and we switch gears. "My favorite television show is Howard Stern,” admits Musab. “I look up to Howard. I’m very Howard Stern-ish." I tilt my head and try to imagine the similarities. "I love porn. I’m a porno connoisseur. I write all of my music to porn. It’s a known fact that sex sparks creativity. It’s primal. Everything a man does is for a woman. Every job, every attempt to look good, every haircut, everything is to get a woman and take care of her and have good sex.
It’s simple like that."By this point in our conversation Musab’s way with words almost has me convinced he’s in the right, but I still can't believe all the strange twists our talk has taken. Musab is clearly a strong-willed individual, and I’m still a fan regardless of any different personal convictions, his music makes my hips swirl.
As Musab said in the beginning, he’s an entertainer, so I decide to allow his comments to entertain rather than annoy. "My advice to new talent—first of all—never fuck with me. Second, make the best music you can and be honest with yourself. Be your best critic. Artists tend to get caught up in their own little world thinking they’re better than they are a lot of times and it’s easy to do.
Don't be scared to hate your own song. That’s the problem with Hip-Hop now a days, people take it too seriously. It's music man, it’s entertainment. I want to be Sammy Davis Junior, I want to be Frank Sinatra."
Musab performs at the Cabooze on Wed., Nov. 19, with Kool Keith, DAPO, Doom Tree, EPL and Snakebird. 8:30 p.m. $15. 18+. 917 Cedar Ave. S., Mpls. 612-338-6425.