This is the second part of the transcript of the interview I did with hip-hop artist Ngajuana, aka NGA. If you missed Part 1, you can go back and read it. You can also download this interview for free or stream it with the player at the bottom of the post.
It’s Okay to Call Him NGA
Without further ado, here is the conclusion of this interview transcript.
Chase: “What’s the London scene like here? Do you get a chance to perform often? Do you get crowds coming out?
Ngajuana: “Except for the last year, I’ve performed probably 25-30 times a year. The fans here are great. London is a little bit different to play in because the schools. With the universities and the colleges, there’s a constant influx of people that don’t’ live here. So they come here and they don’t know who anyone is. It’s like going to a new city every year. There’s always different faces in the crowd. Every year, you’ll find two or three people who become die-hard London hip-hop heads. It’s great to see.
Maybe on a worldwide scale, Canada isn’t viewed as a Hip-Hop Mecca but London is probably the closest thing you’re gonna find in Canada that every artist I have seen here has commented on about the crowds, how live they are, and how responsive and into it they get. I’ve had people signing along with my songs, and learning my songs. It’s become a lot bigger than I ever thought it would be here.
When I started six years ago, it was a couple people going to a couple bars, and everybody knew each other and it was a different variation of the same show every time. Now there’s 60-somewhat artists, 70 maybe. There’s so many that even the artists don’t know all the artists. The shows are getting more dynamic. People are starting to bring in live bands. I had a live band for my second album release and I’ll be performing with them more often. We’re starting to pull in people from other genres to collaborate with us.
We’re starting to get respect here. It’s not being viewed so much as a negative like it was before. It used to be a high risk to bring us to a bar and have a show and now we have a weekly show and there’s never a problem. So, it’s pretty big. I like it around here especially because it’s not all about the gun-toting rap. That’s not really my thing. If you seem like the type of person that is actually gonna pull a gun on me and whatnot, God forbid, go ahead, rap about it. But I just have a hard time believing that in my middle-class suburbanite city that there are a bunch of thugs that nobody is seeing, there are guns busting that nobody is hearing, and crack deals going on when nobody can afford crack.”
Chase: “Yeah, it’s a crazy persona for some emcees to take on. Hip-hop is so open to different takes on it that you don’t have to be a gangster.”
Ngajuana: “Don’t you think they were lead that way though? They were kind of led by the hand. Like, if you want to be successful; guns, women, money, alcohol, clubs – these are the five things you’re gonna rap about. Murder, throw that in your repertoire, you’re gonna be huge. That’s just the wrong idea. So many people are doing it now, the people who are being themselves, their individuality is shining. Look at Shad K.”
Chase: “Yeah, he’s awesome. I saw him perform here and he packed the house and he’s coming back next month.”
Ngajuana: “I went to elementary school with him. All of his success is deserved and all of his success is because he is him. He is himself. Anyone trying to do what he’s doing, then they’re copying Shad. There were some comments that he was trying to be Common in the beginning of his career. But I think that on a raw talent level, he’s way past those guys.
I’ve had the honour of having private discussions with him and I’ve never been made to feel so slow as having a conversation with Shad. I always kind of feel that he has a step up. The thing about him that’s unique is, he knows how smart he is but he’s not intending to do that to you. He’s very humble, very personable.”
Chase: “Yeah, I had a great discussion with him when I interviewed him recently. I interviewed Brother Ali recently. And it’s really cool to be able to talk to some of these intelligent hip-hop dudes and smash some of those stereotypes. When I put it up on the blog and the website and the podcast and when we air it, people can see that rappers aren’t stupid. It’s harder than what people might think and there’s a lot of intelligence in our songs.”
Ngajuana: “Exactly. I think we’re kind of underrated members of society. I think people judge us on the lyrics of our forefathers especially artists now because hip-hop has a standing reputation now. Before, it was still be explored but now people like us, trying to find our way, a lot of people will try to stand in our way because they have a preconceived notion of what you are because the part of the genre they’ve heard, that’s pushed by mainstream mediums; TV and radio. And then they meet someone Brandon Moore or myself or Shad or 99% of the London artists and they go, ‘You know man, you don’t really seem like a rapper.’ And I’m like, ‘Oh yeah, how’s a rapper seem?’”
Chase: “I get that all the time. I’m a teacher and I rap and my students will say, ‘You don’t dress like a rapper’ because I wear a tie to school. I always put it back to them, ‘Well, how’s a rapper dress?’ I used to work at this place and there was a new girl there and they asked if she’d met the rapper yet and she said, ‘No,’ even though she’d worked with me for two weeks because she just assumed a rapper had to be black.”
Ngajuana: “That’s part of what our job is. We need to knock down those stereotypes that they inadvertently created. You can’t say that the whole of the industry when it was created was trying to create a negative perception of their race or their culture with this cultural movement that they were creating. But it happened and now those of us who are conscious of it have a responsibility to the people coming after us to do as much as we can to change that.
Chase: “That’s awesome. It’s really been cool talking to you and we can see your intelligence here. One question I want to ask you though, I know we talked about your name at the start but do you find that a barrier to radio play because they are about 3 stations here I see that play hip-hop and do they play your stuff?”
Ngajuana: “One of my songs is in the Top 7 at 7 right now. They call me NGA because they can’t say Ngajuana on the radio and I totally understand. It was my choice to make the name and it’s their choice not to accept it. That’s my cross to bear, right? That’s on me for picking the name and not changing it. I stood by it and whatever comes of that, I can’t blame anyone at the end of the day or thank anyone at the end of the day but myself.
A couple of years ago, I didn’t know how to properly represent myself separately from the name. So a lot of people found me unapproachable and that lead to me not getting as much radio play as I could have. I have a couple songs that would probably still be getting play had I been able to crack the barrier of communication. I wasn’t representing myself properly but now I have people to do that for me and it’s not been a problem since.”
Chase: “It’s good to see you online too. I was looking around online for contacts for tonight’s nominees and I saw that you were on Twitter. Twitter is the best way to contact people nowadays.”
Ngajuana: “It’s real good, but you know what? The day that I saw your message was the day I figured out how to use Twitter. I’d been going on it once a month since 2006, trying to figure out how to see messages people send me. I didn’t know that you had to click on the @ your name thing on the side. So I click on it and I see your message and I was like, ‘Hey, that’s from yesterday,’ so I typed back and then answered 2 years of Twitter messages in one day.
But it’s definitely an amazing resource because I hate people that write me giant letters to ask me a question. They enshroud what they want in fakeness and Twitter keeps that to a minimum. Like, ‘This is what I want, can you do it?’ and that’s what I want from people. That’s what I want from anyone in any relationship. If you want something, say you want it.”
Chase: “I’d rather give out my Twitter than my email to people because of that. It’s so much easier, it’s easier to find-”
Ngajuana: “and no threat of a virus because you don’t have to download anything or open anything. You just go there, the message is there, you read it, answer it, whatever you wanna do, and you’re on your way. They have it built into phone now. It’s only gonna be a matter of time before people are carrying entertainment centres in their backpack.”
Chase: “I think it’s gonna be like on your glasses like that Doctor Who thing, you know?”
Ngajuana: “It’s gonna be like Minority Report too. They’re already working on that. The new X-box plug in makes it so you don’t even need a controller anymore. It’ll read the joints in your body and it’s coming out this fall.”
Chase: “It’s crazy where technology is going. Case it point, when I tried releasing my demo, I had to go into the studio, I had to buy some gear, I spent $20,000 trying to get my rap career popping, and nowadays all you need is a laptop. It’s unreal how far we’ve come in like 15 years.”
Ngajuana: “I’m thankful that I came around in the middle of this instead of having to do everything on 8-tracks, 12 times, leave it there for 7 weeks, and you don’t get to hear your track until next year. Your album doesn’t come out for a year.”
Chase: “I still got stuff on DAT but I don’t have a DAT machine and so I have no way to play it. So I’d have to rent a DAT machine to play an old tape that I don’t even know what’s on it. It’s crazy.
Anyway, best of luck tonight with the awards. We’ll spin some of your tracks right now.”
Ngajuana: “Sounds good.”
Chase: “Alright, thanks. Peace!”
Well that ends Part 2 of this interview transcript. Please check this guy out and download the podcast to hear some of his music and the entire discussion that we had. If you missed Part 1 of the transcript you can go back and read it as well. You can also check out the other great interviews I have done with some very talented musicians by clicking on the “Artist Interviews” tab at the top of the page. Thanks a lot for the support everyone and thanks for tuning in.