Tuesday, September 29

interview with tolu olorunda

In our latest artist spotlight, we interview Tolu Olorunda. One of the brighter minds in hip-hop and journalism. Olorunda has recently released an instrumental EP entitled, Open Casket which is available for free download (we thank the Brother for that). We at Beats and Books decided we want to know a little more about the brother so we conducted an interview.

BB: Introduce the world to Tolu Olorunda.

TO: I am a cultural critic whose work has appeared on several websites including,,,,, among others. I don't work primarily as a producer, but I did for about three years until early 2008, when I decided to focus more on a career in writing.

BB: What are your earliest influences in music, and in life in general?

TO: My earliest influences in music are varied. But two musicians I grew accustomed to hearing at a young age are Bob Marley and Nas. Life influences would probably be more the guys I hung out with when I skipped class and school. There was an innocence and realness I grew accustomed to in those environments that attracted me. Later on, when I began reading voraciously, I came to understand just why I had more in common outside of than within a controlled classroom setting.

BB: What is the inspiration behind the Open Casket project?

TO: The first 7 beats on the album are the result of a beat battle I engaged in just a couple of months ago. I battled a local producer and thought the beats came out pretty good--more so because, as I prepared for the battle, the creative energy didn't just limit me to battle-style beats. In the process, I created tribute songs to the legacies of icons like Michael Jackson and Mike Tyson. The last three, however, are a random selection from my vast, past catalog--just a small treat from the many beats I created in those three years.

BB: Who did you work with on it?

TO: Nobody. Just Me, Myself, and I. I work solo. That way, full control over the direction of such a project is in my hands. But I credit my whole career to the immortal spirit of J Dilla--in whose work I've found illimitable motivation, drive, diligence, and richness.

BB: What is in your Ipod?

TO: I don't have a Ipod, but my musical library (which includes Vinyls, CDs, and cassette tapes) is as diverse from Odetta to Mos Def, Fela Kuti to Nina Simone, Louis Armstrong to Coltrane, Nas to Carlos Santana, J Dilla to DOOM, Devin the Dude to Z-Ro, Talib Kweli to Pearl Bailey, Pete Rock to Big L, MC Lyte to KRS-One, Michael Jackson to Ray Charles, Ahmad Jamal to Tears for Fears, Joni Mitchell to Muddy Waters, James Brown to Lupe Fiasco, Amir Sulaiman to George Carlin, Femi Kuti to Mahalia Jackson, Aretha Franklin to Brian Eno and David Byrne, and many others without whom I couldn't survive.

BB:Where can fans go to learn more about you and see more of your work?

TO:You can check out,, and

BB:In your opinion, what is the state of African and African American music?

It's in crisis--a severe one. If we don't act now, we would be mortgaging the future of the next generation--abandoning them at the hands of capricious executives who have no respect for our culture or music or artform, who simply see it as an ATM machine. They've made ATM cards out of artists--swiping them at the speed of light. It's not just Hip-Hop. It's every musical creation classifiable as "Black" in the native sense of the word. They've commercialized the sound and re-packaged it as disposable, paper-plate, bubble-gum caricatures of serious art--music at its purest form. For more, see the great documentary, Before the Music Dies.

BB: How do we raise the consciousness of our people through music?

TO: By demanding the labels, media outlets, and artists all stop feeding the public bullsh**. I've written quite extensively about this issue in the last few months, and I plan to keep on doing so for as long as the need remains. Some fans are smart; some aren't. Some fans can see the forest from the trees; some lack the foresight. Some artists are prophetic in their inclination (see Jasiri X, Amir Sulaiman, Asa, M.anifest, K'Naan, Tumi & The Volume, Invincible, Ian Kamau, for young, noteworthy examples); many aren't. But the universal theme in all this is choice and diversity--something major labels seem to lack the intellectual capacity in grasping. So, it's incumbent upon conscientious fans to do the heavy lifting. We have to stop purchasing music that degrades women, promotes promiscuity, and champions materialism above the non-market values--such as Peace, Love, and Unity--that founded, and are at the core of, Hip-Hop culture.

BB:What is next from you?

TO:More wide-ranging, hard-hitting essays, and a book to be released sometime next year.

Thanks for the opportunity. I love the concept of the site: beats and books--two essential tools in my life!

We thank Tolu for a great interview and we encourage everyone to cop the Open Casket EP as well as check out some of the his articles. Its well worth it. Expand your mind!