The Tarik Crew may be keeping it on the down low but its MC is stepping out. Juggling roles as and projects as deftly as he does rhymes, self proclaimed King Of Malaysian Emcees, Altimet is back with his album First Among Equals, and if you gotta problem with that you had better step up your game and be prepared to elevate your artform. Them there is fighting words…. JUICE grabbed the gloves and got in the ring.
Text Lim Kok Kean
Yo! Altimet! What’s happening in your world?
I just released my debut album First Among Equals, I’m working on a couple remixes, mine and other peoples, a couple guest appearances. About a quarter of my next album is done, I’m doing a couple club nights, emceeing and occasionally mixing/playing. On top of that I’m working on Purplenotez Publishing full time (as Creative Director) – our client roster and catalogue is growing quite fast. I got a couple other businesses going but I’m not gonna talk about that ’cause I just started those so they haven’t shown any returns yet, so no need to talk. Shut up and work.
How long did you take with First Among Equals and who did you worked with?
I began planning it right after What’s Next?. I started writing then, started recording in 2006. I didn’t work on it full time because of all the other things that were but that was actually a blessing in disguise because I had time to sit and think and review all the songs and cut out the weak ones or work on them more. Vocally, I worked with people like Mizz Nina, Mawar Berduri, Joe Flizzow, Ruffedge, Dina, Najwa…. Beatwise I got it in with Illegal, BedSty, DJ Fuzz, Fiquetional, Funktionz, D’Navigator, TwoRookies and Magic Potions. It’s an exclusive club, by invitation only. You gotta come with it, to get on this project. (Laughs)
What sounds have you been digging?
I’ve been listening to The Cool Kids, Shaggy Dog, Kidz In The Hall, Saigon, Kano, Lupe Fiasco, Clipse, Jim Jones and Kid Sister. Then my ‘textbooks’: Ready To Die, Reasonable Doubt, Midnight Marauders and Illmatic get regular rotation all year round. My textbooks, they influence me.
What’s up with TTC. Have Teh Tarik Crew called it quits?
I don’t think we have, maybe some members do think that, but not me. I’ll never say that and I’m always ready to make more music with them, they’re my brothers and my sister, along with Ahli Fiqir. So anytime they’re ready, I am. I’ve got enough rhymes to go around.
You have your hand in many things, from running your own publishing company and playing MC to being producer and songwriter as well as A & R at Powder Records? What are you’re most comfortable with doing?
I’m most comfortable being me, helping people out. Everything I do helps someone in some sort of way, including myself. I think if you boil it all down, I’m most comfortable being a fan of good music.
What’s the biggest challenge for hip hop artists in Asia when it comes to trying to relate to the audience. Obviously you can’t rap about Cristal and guns…
Who says you can’t? You can. But do Asian MCs relate to that, and live that lifestyle? Maybe they do. I don’t. I rhyme about what relates to me, and people who know about what I’m rhyming will relate to it. American hip hop talks about certain issues because that’s what they see, and what their audience sees and relates to. We should do the same.
Can you tell us about the One Asia project that you’re working on?
One Asia is a little pet project me and my partner are working on, it’s a compilation of fresh Asian hip hop songs. We hope that it’ll grow into something more than just one compilation. And we hope that the acts participating in it can gain from being a part of it.
Nas said “hip hop is dead”. Debate.
Hip hop, like anything else is viewed and understood differently by different people. From a certain standpoint, it looks like it’s a dying thing. From another it looks like its thriving. So when Nas looked at it a certain way it looked dead to him. And he named his album that. He also did it to spark a debate and create some sort of awareness, which he succeeded at doing. And I applaud him for that. He’s a smart guy. I took a page out of his book and named my album First Among Equals and called myself the King Of Malaysian Emcees for the same reasons. I hope it sparks a debate. And I hope that it provokes local emcees/rappers enough for them to step out of their comfort zone and elevate their artform. Because that’s what I did. I was in a comfort zone, then I stepped out of it, and made this album.
First Among Equals is out now on Powder Records, with single ‘Sayang Sayang’ already on heavy rotation. More at www.altimet.com.my and www.myspace.com/djaltimet. This interview was published in the February 2008 issue of JUICE.