With a new Perceptionists album on the way, the Massachusetts-based duo discusses what’s most important to them now.

Between Akrobatik’s emergency aortic dissection surgery and Mr. Lif’s near-fatal tour bus crash, the legendary Massachusetts-based duo The Perceptionists have experienced major events that have affected their perception of life.

“I can’t just approach life like it’s this infinite resource,” Mr. Lif explains. “There’s a finite amount of time that I’ll be here.”

With that in mind, Mr. Lif and Akrobatik hit the studio to write and record a new Perceptionists album, their first together since 2005’s Black Dialogue.

Their new album, titled Resolution, is complete and ready for a summer release.

“I couldn’t possibly have put more love into it,” Lif says of the project, adding, “One of the things I’m most excited about is that AK and I are still alive and that we’re sensible enough to understand that our friendship is something that should be not only nurtured and taken care of, but we should honor our friendship by making records together.”

UGHH caught up with Mr. Lif and Akrobatik to find out more about what’s most important to them, as they revealed six things their near death experiences taught them about life.

1. Embrace Self-Care

Akrobatik has become a huge proponent of living a healthier lifestyle.

“I don’t think that my mom has any intentions of burying any of her children,” he explains. “The first line of this new album with Lif is, ‘No mother should have to bury her child.’ That’s kinda what this whole thing is about; me and Lif getting back together after going through these situations, we look at our moms like, man, I can’t imagine putting my mom through that. It’s bad enough that what happened, happened, but I can’t imagine that.”

Akrobatik continued, “We gotta endure, and our moms are strong, so this could be another 30 to 40 years before this is even on the table. We gotta stick around for them, and let them watch us grow to our full potential.”

2. Dive Deeper Into Your Passions

Mr. Lif notes he’s become deeply passionate about being a recording artist and recording engineer. This means that while in the past he’d wrack his brain about buying a new mic or preamp, today he buys that mic or preamp, and immediately puts it to use.

“I don’t know how long I’m going to be healthy enough to embody this passion on this level,” he explains, “and I want to write this many songs, and record this often, (so) I should just have the mics I want. It’s not like I don’t use them. It’s not like it’s not gonna yield this product that I can put out into the world that’s gonna outlive me, so my whole point of view is if I get a microphone—and it inspires me to write more songs just because I want to rhyme into the damned thing—then I should go get it.”

3. Share Your Art With The World, Share Yourself With Your Loved Ones

“My art. I share that,” Akrobatik explains, “but my life is mine, and I definitely keep most of that stuff to myself.”

He continued, adding, “I like going outside and breathing the air, and looking at trees, and having conversations with people without having my face down in my phone. It’s way more important that I create something, or that I get to talk to some of the people that I love today. That’s what that shit’s all about. I’m never gonna lose hold of the things about life that have always made it great to me.”

4. Love Is Not A Finite Resource

Mr. Lif says the concepts of love and relationships—especially within the context of the norms of society—have always been a source of frustration for him.

“People look at love like it’s this diminishing resource, that if you have love for someone it must, in some way, deteriorate and erode the love you have for someone else,” he laments. “I feel like I’ve spent a lot of time in my life beating myself up because I’m not quote-unquote normal in terms of monogamy. I feel like I’m more aligned with being polyamorous. I have the ability to love more than one person at the same time.”

Lif notes that this type of love is actually something we all experience on a daily basis. “When I look around at the way people conduct their actual friendships—or you’re a child, you’re born, you have a mother and a father, you’re not expected if you love your mom that you can’t love your dad, or vice versa.”

5. Be Thankful

It’s almost always a beautiful day in Mr. Lif’s eyes, as he explains, “My day-to-day appreciation for life and literally stopping to just be like, ‘Whoa, my life is amazing right now’…just having that appreciation for “wow, I have a house, my mom’s still alive, I can drive places if I want to, I can hop on a flight”…there’s so many things to be thankful for. And I feel like maybe it’s also a byproduct of growing older, and hopefully wiser. Because of that—combined with the bus wreck—I feel like my appreciation for life is so deep right now.”

6. Social Media Can Be Bad For The Soul

Akrobatik and Mr. Lif share a sentiment about social media: outside of using it for work related purposes, they aren’t fans of the medium.

The way Mr. Lif sees it, if you spend too much time on social media, “You will leave feeling spiritually and emotionally fucked up.”

Akrobatik feels social media has created a narcissism epidemic that’s only continuing to grow. “Everything is about ‘look at me, I’m on camera, I’m the one in the spotlight,’ and it’s just hard for me to fathom that it’s so hard for people to look at the world from a different perspective other than ‘this is who I am, everybody look at me.’”

Mr. Lif seconds this, adding, “I feel there’s an unhealthy structure between everyone just posting a highlight reel of their life, and then not seeing many real images. I think if you live through social media too much, you get a very distorted feeling about reality, and ultimately you’re setting yourself up for failure because you can never be happy all the time.”

He also notes that on a personal level, he’s seen social media negatively affect his own mental state.

“I’d be on tour for like a month. I’d finally get home and have a chance to relax for a few days. I’d go on Instagram when I’m laying in bed, about to fall asleep, and then I’d see a picture of Macklemore rockin’ for 30,000 people, and I’d have this feeling in my chest like oh shit I should be getting up and working more.”

Mr. Lif continued, adding, “That was one of the big signals for me. [Social media was] bringing up feelings of inadequacy for me. It’s OK for me to relax. In fact, if I don’t relax, I can’t do any of the things I was put on this earth to do because I’m going to drive myself into the ground.”

Akrobatik adds that social media platforms change frequently, noting that everything people posted so passionately about on Myspace, MiGente, BlackPlanet, Friendster, etc., has become nothing more than “cyber waste.”

“You’re gonna have this generation of people who are grandmothers and grandfathers; what did you do with your life? I did all these little minor things and put them up on these web applications that don’t even exist anymore. What will you have to show for it?”

Akrobatik and Mr. Lif have plenty to show for their artistic efforts, and with a new Perceptionists album due out this summer, they’re continuing to add to their legacy…which is the one thing they’ll post about on social media.

Six indie hip-hop artists discuss mixing fatherhood with their music

For hip-hop artists who are fathers, their music and their children will always be intertwined.

Connecticut-based emcee Illus explains, “My son has been a hip-hop kid since birth. It’s always surrounded him and been a part of his life. It’s probably as natural to him as hearing birds sing.”

CookBook, of LA Symphony fame, also sees a direct connection between hip-hop and parenthood, saying that he and his five-year-old son “make up rhymes together on a daily basis.”

Ciphurphace—whose son and daughter have both appeared on tracks with him—adds that as children get older, they get more and more involved with the music.

“Sometime last year, I remember calling my son to say good night to him; it was a school night. His phone kept ringing, and there was no answer. Approximately 15 minutes later, I received a text message from him saying, ‘Sorry dad. I’m writing my bars.’ Needless to say, it was one of the best text messages I have ever received!”

UGHH caught up with these, and other, hip-hop dads to find out how they’re sharing their love of hip-hop with their kids. What all of these stories show us is that hip-hop dads share beats, share rhymes, and share life, and connecting with your kids through the culture you love is a beautiful thing.

Substantial

Back in January, I released my fourth album The Past Is Always Present In The Future which features my daughter, Serenity, on the cover—in the style of my first release, To This Union A Son Was Born, as a symbol of my life coming full circle.

A week after its release, Chuck D plays my single “Made in Maryland” on his show. After sharing the good news with my wife (who was out of town) she tells me that he’s speaking near where we live, and that I should go see him. So I buy tickets for my daughter and I, and begin to school her on who Chuck D and Public Enemy are. After watching ‘Fight The Power’ she was excited.

The next day, while at the event, a lady in the crowd asked Chuck who he listens to. To our surprise—while mentioning his radio show—he mentions me and asked if I was there. He shouts me out, and I feel a little elbow nudging me. I look down and see my daughter smiling up at me.

Before we walked into that event, I wanted my daughter to know we were going to see someone worthy of respect. Someone who has contributed greatly to the music we love, the culture we share, and to our people. Receiving the respect and kind words—in return with my daughter there to witness it—was surreal.

When we were younger, we wanted our dads to be men we were proud of. That day, I saw in my daughter’s eyes, not a look of surprise, but of pride; like Chuck was confirming what she already knew.

CookBook

When my wife and I were still dating, I took her and my now stepdaughter to an LA Symphony show. It was one of those bigger shows where we killed it and had the crowd going nuts. When the show was over, this little six-year-old girl looked at her mom and exclaimed, “We’re gonna be RICH!!!”

Since my son was born, I’ve always played him hip-hop.

I started him on my music, because I knew what it said, and didn’t have to worry too much that my one-year-old was hearing anything too crazy.

I’d always play him my videos on our TV. One of my proudest moments…he was around two, and he wanted to see a video of me playing live that he really liked. As soon as the video came on, he ran to his bedroom. I was confused, because I thought he wanted to see this video. After all, he’s the one who asked me to put it on; and by the way, I’m the shit! You don’t run away from my bomb ass video! Ha!

Well, to my pleasant surprise, he came running out of his bedroom with his tiny little toy drum set, saying, “I wanna play music with papa!” He started drumming along with my video, and I never felt so proud!

Illus

I started writing my album Family First when my wife was pregnant, shortly after we discovered we would be having a son. My life changed forever (and for the better) when he was born, and ever since then I’ve been making music dedicated to him, his mother, and now his brother.

My son is part Hawaiian; his name means “Gift.” And he has been a true gift and inspiration for me. Every song I record I make knowing that he will listen to the song. He is a part of the entire process. Even when he was just a baby, he was at Chuck D’s house hanging out while I recorded Family First in Chuck’s studio with DJ Johnny Juice.

I was still writing the album Family First when he was born, and I was actually able to record video/audio of him immediately after he was born—right when the doctor placed him on my wife. So for the song “The Gift,” I had DJ Johnny Juice sample those moments and incorporate them into the actual song. I even incorporated some of those visuals into the video. I was really lucky to get friends like Blueprint, Ill Bill, and Johnny Juice to participate in that intro.

My son has been in six of my music videos, his voice has been scratched and sampled by the legendary DJ Johnny Juice from Public Enemy, and he was also the model for my illustration of the Public Enemy album cover for The Evil Empire of Everything. That’s an exact illustration of him being held up by the evils of the world on that cover. He’s also contributed his art to my own album covers and interiors.

Now that my son is older, he even helps me pick out the beats I rock to.

Dirt E. Dutch

For starters, I started my record label in 2008, and it is actually named after my son, Little Ax. He was two years old at the time, a little guy, and his name is Aiden Xavier. His birth was a motivating factor for my career in music. He also set the stage for the first release on the label.

In the intro on the Troublemakers album with Breez Evahflowin, he is the voice that introduces us. He says “Dirt E. Dutch…Breez Evahflowin…That’s trouble!”

I’ve also worked with my daughter, teaching her how to use digital audio workstations—starting with Propellerhead’s iPad app—and using MIDI controllers. She has crazy rhythm.

BIG STAT

Before my daughter Adriana was born, I started writing down all the emotions and thoughts that were racing through my head. After she was born, I continued to jot down every milestone in real time.

All these notes turned into “Adriana’s Song.”

The best part about creating this song is that I held Adriana in the booth while I recorded it!

Ciphurphace

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In September of 2016, I took my son to the Cypher Circuit #MurderTheBeat “One Year Anniversary Cypher” at the Marsten House in Philly.

I hit up one of the co-owners of Cypher Circuit, Moe, and was like, “Yo Moe! Is it cool if I bring my 12-year-old son to the Cypher?” Moe said, “Sure!” When I shared this wonderful news with my son Naiim aka Sunsere F., he was super excited. We went on a road trip to Philly all for the love of hip-hop.

When we first arrived in the neighborhood where the Marsten House is located, we spotted some dope graffiti walls. We took some pics in front of the fresh graff murals before heading to the studio. After arriving at the actual Marsten House, we met Moe/412Kev/Coast (Cypher Circuit), Steve Sxaks (Marsten House), numerous Cypher Circuit members, and countless other members/contributors of the hip-hop community. The big surprise bonus was when hip-hop legend CL Smooth came through! The entire day was one of the most memorable experiences of our lives.

Fast-forward to several weeks ago; the “Murder The Beat” instrumental on Cypher Circuit was ODB’s “Brooklyn Zoo.” For some reason, I just felt this was the one for both of us to rock on. I said “Son, let’s rock this Murder The Beat together!” He said, “Cool!” This was the first time we ever truly collabed on a track. The outcome: Father & Son Murdered The Beat!

It didn’t hit me until afterwards that doing the father/son thing over this particular instrumental was so fitting and perfect, considering ODB’s famous quote, “Wu-Tang is for the children.”

When it comes to working with my daughter, the second single off my In Phaced God We Trust EP was “I’ll Always Love H.E.R.,” and in the video, my daughter Sela Eunae stars as “H.E.R.” (Hip-Hop in its Essence and Realness). When this video was shot, she was seven years old. She, as a little girl, is representing the embodiment of hip-hop in its purest form: representing intelligence, exemplifying creativity, having fun, and being free-spirited, and inspirational.

As PackFM reaches the milestone of turning 40, the Brooklyn-based emcee says of his generation: “We are the Teddy Pendergrass-es of hip-hop.

PackFM isn’t thinking about rapping right now.

He isn’t thinking about gripping a microphone, flowing over a beat, or even putting together a new album. “I’m just trying to live life, and see what life is like outside of hip-hop, the Brooklyn-based emcee explains.

“I listen to hip-hop, but I’ve never been able to live where I don’t have the pressure of completing a project. For 20 years straight that was my life. Now, let’s chill for a minute, and just enjoy life: take walks, get that real balance in there.”

PackFM—who celebrates his 40th birthday this month—explains that when it comes to his music, the ellipsis has become a period.

His career resume is thick. With two solo studio albums released on the legendary QN5 label—2006 UGHH People’s Choice Album of the Year, whutduzFMstand4, and 2010’s I F*cking Hate Rappersplus the 2002 Extended F@mm EP, Happy F*ck You Songs (with Tonedeff, Substantial, and Session) and a plethora of collaborative efforts, PackFM explains, “I’ve said everything that I’ve had to say.”

“I was doing music for 20 years,” he continued, “everything I went through, I put out, somehow, someway. So now it’s like alright, let’s experience some new things, so that in five years or so I’ll have some new stories to tell that people might want to relate to.”

On the subject of creating relatable music, he notes that being older in hip-hop means new topics can, and should, be tackled. He says of his generation, and the generation before his:

“There should be an adult-contemporary section of hip-hop. We are the Teddy Pendergrass-es of hip-hop.”

The Teddy Pendergrass-es of hip-hop, however—and the fan base that should be copping those albums—currently have their focus shifted elsewhere. “All they do is complain,” PackFM notes. As if the people who are closer to what they do want to listen to (and are in their age range) aren’t making music anymore, when that’s totally not the case.” He continues, “A lot of them are still making music today, and it gets ignored because all people want to pay attention to is the music from young people that they don’t like … Did you know Ghostface put out an album like a year ago? Your favorite artist is still making music for you.”

Fans of PackFM, who’s been a key player in NYC’s indie hip-hop scene since the days of the infamous Tunnel nightclub, may one day get new music from him, but right now he’s excited to dive into endeavors outside of emceeing. “I have a lot of other talents I want to explore,” he explains. “Let me just really find my life in a whole bunch of other areas. Whether that translates into songs later on in life, who knows?”

Even if he isn’t recording, PackFM will still hit the stage, and he says the age of the songs he performs isn’t a concern of his. “Most of the songs I do I approach with the idea that I want to be able to listen to this in a decade,” he explains. “I’m always gonna want to do ‘Click Clack and Spray,’ because graffiti is a great art form that I have a great appreciation for. I love being involved in it, and the super amped up songs that I do, those are gonna be fun no matter what.”



Fun is something older hip-hop fans have always enjoyed, but as PackFM recently gleaned from an Uber driver during a ride, the new generation of listeners is almost solely about fun.

“It’s not, ‘He’s so dope, and he’s spitting fire,’ it’s ‘Oh, this song is fun, we all know it, let’s have fun to it,’” he says. “They’re just looking for that song they know to come on so they can keep having fun. It’s an entirely different approach to music, and entertainment, than we had. Ours was all about quality, and how good it is. There’s is just how fun it is to bug out to this song.”

This may sound like an older emcee griping about younger rappers, but PackFM actually has nothing against the younger generation of hip-hop artists, as he’s quick to say that just because he may not like their music, it doesn’t make them any less valid.

Using a sneaker metaphor (because he can’t not be hip-hop), he explains, “I love Nike sneakers, but I only like three or four pairs. I don’t like every shoe Nike puts out, but I don’t get mad because they put out sneakers I don’t like. I just don’t buy those sneakers.” For him, hip-hop is the same way.

When it comes to hip-hop music, I don’t have to like everything that has the label of hip-hop,” he says. “And I don’t have to get offended because something that’s labeled hip-hop (isn’t my taste).”

One thing he’d like to see from artists of all ages is a little more authenticity; but he remarks that it has to start with artists, and fans, accepting, and embracing, who they really are.

“People know about the whole partying, and drinking, and smoking, and all this shit, and then you look at (an artist’s) Facebook pictures and they’re wearing fucking grandpa sweaters, and they’re at baby showers,” he jokes. “Why do you have to put on a costume to be accepted with your art? This is who I am four days a week, but when I rap I gotta put my hat on backwards, and wear a flight jacket from 1996? You should be able to be you, and put your art out there and have it be accepted … I think that’s something that needs to be tackled.”



Although PackFM admits that when it comes to dealing with this, he doesn’t have the answers, he has one suggestion: eliminate the age. “I just feel, in general, the hip-hop community needs to let go of this stigma they have of age, whether it’s younger, or older.”

Perhaps this will be something PackFM tackles when he decides to record again, but up next on his agenda are new life experiences. A recent eye opening one involved taking a real vacation, since so much of his traveling was previously for world tours which covered North America, Europe, and Australia. “I remember the first thing that really hit me was going on a real vacation, actually traveling and not having to rap,” he recalls. “It made me realize there’s a lot of life to be lived out there that’s a lot different than we do as emcees, when we do that as an occupation.”

PackFM will likely pick up a mic again, it’s in his DNA. However, he’s currently much more excited to pick his next flight to a destination with no stage. Hey, he’s earned it.