Our next featured artist should really need no introduction, but since we’re all about waking the public up from their slumber, we’re going to do it anyways. Hailing from British Columbia, Canada, comes one of the most prolific and accomplished emcees we’ve ever had the privilege of covering here at WHATIZ, and man were we excited to have him! Producing music at the rate of almost an album a year since the early 90’s, and with accolades that range from “Best Music Video” for his work with Swollen Members, to winning the Western Canadian’s Music Award for most outstanding Rap/Hip Hop Recording. This is one emcee that believes in putting in work, and by the way it looks, he’s just getting started! Now his resume is actually to long for us to list in just one sitting so we’re going to keep this relative to his latest releases, but I urge you to Wiki this guy just to see what we’re talking about. Moka’s not only a rap genius but a machine! From co-founding the Swollen Members, to releasing over 50 LP’s to date! Today we catch up to MOKA ONLY for a little Q&A on Sex, Money and MOKA….
First of all let me start out by saying this is a huge honor for us to have you as our guest! We try really hard to keep things organic around here so when your manager said there was a chance you’d answer a few of our questions we just about lost it! We know how hard it is for an artist to keep their integrity in this industry these days and the fact that you’ve “kept it real” for all these years makes you a rare breed my friend! I’m sure there’s been countless times you could have sold out but the fact that you’ve always did it your way really impresses us!
So for those who’ve been stuck under a rock, who are you and where you from?
I am MOKA ONLY, also known now as KAREEM SERENE! I am from BC and I live in Vancouver when I’m not out being a nomad around the world.
I usually notice from my travels that no matter what city I’m in there’s always similarities found within the scenes, do you ever feel that way? and how was the scene like in Vancouver?
Yeah! I feel the music scene pretty much has the same structure anywhere but it’s intensity has a lot to do with how large the city is…
What was the music scene like growing up in Vancouver and how has it changed over the years?
Being in Vancouver was cool because I was fortunate to be around at the ‘beginning’ of its hip-hop scene. It was a small scene, only a handful of people active at the start around 1990 or so but I was there and got to witness its growth but to be honest I like how it used to be much more than now. The creativity seemed to be more pure back then… even up to the early 2000’s.. but of course you’ve probably heard this same sentiment from any artists over thirty in hip-hop regardless of what city they are from. I don’t involve myself too too much in the local scene anymore but instead focus on more on a world scale.
You’ve almost managed to release an album a year since 1995, where do you get your creative inspiration to keep creating the way you do?
Haha! Sometimes it’s even been up to as many as four albums a year! There are around 100 Moka Only albums out now, or so says wiki lol. To me it’s second nature.. If you truly love doing and living music then just do it and do as much as you can to satisfy your own creative spirit. Life inspires me… the good, the bad, the mediocre, it doesn’t matter, all that matters is that you keep doing what you love no matter what the rest of the world thinks of it.
As a seasoned emcee what kind of advice would you like to give to today’s emcees that are just now starting out?
The most pertinent advice I can give to newer emcees is to voice your own life. I mean, you’re free to be whatever author you decide to be but hip-hop has always been more about a journal of your own surroundings. I say to speak on your real true experiences, have fun, even throw in a bit of fantasy in if you wish but most of all just let the music be a real extension of yourself. Personally I don’t believe in competition.. That’s on you though. DO what YOU do.
Lately you’ve been really turning up the heat! That Martian Xmas seasonal LP you just released is seriously off the hook and that new single featuring illa J, well it just don’t get any better! You’ve worked with a lot of different artist and labels over the years, what’s been your most memorable experience?
There are too many great experiences to name.. it’s almost overwhelming! Being able to travel the globe and make people happy is all I’ve ever wished for and I’m truly grateful for all the experiences I’ve had along the way. Every show is its own universe just like everyday is. Having record labels and managers and fans take chances on me and my style is all I could ever have hoped for. My apologies that I’m not more clear on this answer but it would take pages and pages to list all the awesome stuff that I’ve been blessed with…
So regarding the shows, do you have any rituals that you find yourself doing prior to a show?
The only real ritual I have before a show is to have some alone time to go over lyrics and such and practice because every show I have a slightly different set. I do this to keep myself sharp and on my toes. I do a few vocal exercises and drink one Redbull… sometimes I may do Magick!
You travel to a lot of different cities and have played countless shows, what’s been your craziest “Greenroom” experience thus far?
Crazy greenroom stuff? Hmmm? Just constant orgies and general debauchery. or… not. lol. I don’t drink or do drugs so if anything crazy is going down it is going down with a clear mind…
For the people that are just now learning about you, what would you like to tell them about what’s going on with you at the moment? and what to look forward to?
At the moment things are on a steady upswing. I’ve always been happy with where I’m at, at whatever moment but now I want more. I want a world of difference now. I have a new manager(Nic Bambrough), new label (Urbnet), Booker, new opportunities and I just want to maximize it all.. The music industry stuff has been a mess for quite awhile but now I’m starting to see the dust settling, it’s an exciting time again. It seems like the care is coming back into the music world and how the fans perceive music. We have to care again…in a big way and take care of our artists.. Respect the effort of those who put in the real work. It’s all happening! This year I released three albums: Sex Money Moka, Spacesuits (with lmno and Mr Brady,produced by Jules chaz) and finally, Martian Xmas 2014(it’s my ongoing series of winter themed albums I do every winter season) and it’s really good btw! I’m also currently working on an album called MAGICKAL WEIRDNESS due out in late spring that I’m very excited about, so look out for that!
Right on we most definitely will! Speaking of releases the way people shop for music these days has certainly changed over the years, has the internet helped or hurt your LP sales?
Like I said before the music industry has been hurt by the internet revolution but I feel it’s restructuring now, things are turning around. I mean it is what it is… It is pretty awesome to be able to buy albums on your phone though! Today’s technology allows us to experience music in so many ways and to always have it available which is rad. I love my itunes. Vinyl is still king though!
So how can people stay in the loop with you and your music?
To stay in the loop with me is easy just like for anyone else… GOOGLE! Haha.. My website is another great way to keep up with me @ mokaonly.net, or my Twitter or Insta @ moka_only and of course my FB @ facebook/roncontour …but seriously, never forget Google cuz you never know what other Moka Only treats you are going to find in terms of photos, interviews and extras. Don’t bootleg me though! I love you… so love me back, please and thank you. Respect my pants. — KAREEM SERENE.