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‘Tryin’ to Make a Livin’ Not a Killin’’: an interview with Frisco rapper and promoter Sellassie

June 23, 2009

by Minister of Information JR

Sellassie at China Basin, San Francisco
Sellassie at China Basin, San Francisco
Frisco’s Sellassie is one of the artists in the Bay that helps to keep the independent scene together, with his partner Gina Gallo of Inhouse Talent. They are the architects of the “We All We Got” concert series, which moves around from club to club in San Francisco and features some of the hottest underground talent in the Bay.

Besides being a promoter, Sellassie primarily is a rapper that attacks a lot of social problems in the ‘hood verbally through his music. His new album, “Tryin’ to Make a Livin’ Not a Killin’,” is a testament to the kind of change that he wants to see in the streets. Check out this intellectual artist in his own words.

M.O.I. JR: When did you start rapping? And who inspired you to rap?

Sellassie: I started rapping when I was about 14 years old after hearing an old school Watts Prophets tape from my Dad. I used to rap for my classmates and friends in the hallways and school yards.

I was inspired to rap, listening to the conscious sides of Too Short tapes, Watts Prophets and Ice Cube. I remember loving the bass and the real life lyrics as I seen it, coming up in the ghettos of San Francisco and Sacramento. I always asked god, if I could rap I would rap about what’s going on in my community and how and why things were so messed up. I felt it was my responsibility as a Black man to never sell my people or my culture out for money.

M.O.I. JR: What inspired you to do conscious music?

Sellassie: I was always a conscious brotha and wasn’t raised by house negroes. I was never a follower and was always a leader. So coming up I had a strong sense of knowledge of self and a historical timeline that went back 5,000 years to the golden age of Africa.

I understood the struggles and prejudices against us Black people, poor people as a young child. I used to get kicked out of class in grade school when the teacher began to talk about history because at home I was taught differently. I remember some of my classmates thought I was crazy and wanted me to shut up because they weren’t taught what I was being taught. I knew that my people weren’t just a bunch of slaves, or the Native Americans just a bunch of braves, feel me.

M.O.I. JR: For people who have never heard your music, how would you describe your sound?

Sellassie: I would say it’s original in a game of gimmicks and guise. It sounds like a brother that’s just being himself.

I’m not trying to make no money with my music. My business is right so I’ll have a plate of food, but not by designing my flow on a fabric of lies and materialism and in most cases fabrication. I know cats that say in their raps they’re millionaires?! Come on, man, you’re a millionaire bruh?! Stop perpin. That’s why these youngstas are so mixed up. Out of 1,000 rappers I’ll always be able to separate myself from the house negro emcee.

M.O.I. JR: Can you tell us about your new album, “I’m Tryin to Make a Livin’ Not a Killin’”? What does it sound like?

Sellassie: It sounds different, original, well thought-out, creative, old school. I’m actually a brotha that can rap. It’s Black rap music, not hip-hop. Tell you the truth, “the man” gave rap music the name “hip-hop” to make it more acceptable to white commercial audiences. It’s a Black man speaking on Black life issues. It sounds like me, my own sound. I’m not a biter.

M.O.I. JR: What are some of the topics that you cover on the album, and how do you come up with them?

Sellassie: Black on Black crime, genetically modified meat that poor people, Black people consume every day, haterism, the U.S. occupations and wars the United States participates in for money, the realities of the killings and the drug culture that has destroyed the infrastructure of every Black neighborhood for the last 50 years and counting, a host of other things that a listener wants to hear, not that bull*%#@.
The glorification of how we don’t have a pot to piss in, or a window to throw it out of is on every radio station across America; 99.1 percent of the rappers are Euro-centric and 0.9 percent are Afro-centric. I’m in the latter category.

M.O.I. JR: Where can people see you next? Where can they get the album? If people wanted to get at you, what’s your online contact info?

Sellassie: I have showcases for local talent every week I host in San Francisco. I play all over California at various places. But you’ll catch me at a school or a museum or a library if you really look. Check me out at Power to the Peaceful Festival this year in Speedway Meadow in Golden Gate Park. Seventy-five thousand people will be there Sept. 12, 2009.

One love and remember, “Bury the man, but continue the plan.” Sellassiefrisco.com, Myspace.com/sellassie

Email POCC Minister of Information JR, Bay View associate editor, at blockreportradio@gmail.com and visit www.blockreportradio.com.

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