Words Hurt is the audio equivalent of a cigarette after a fist fight. You don’t need it, but it’s calling you. You can live without it, but what’s life without risks? So you huff and puff that sick little stick and you realize you can take on the world. That, or maybe you’ve had a few too many sips of Tully.
When former Def Jux rapper Alaska and producer Lang Vo collided to form Words Hurt, they discovered the recipe for churning out filthy ditties smooth enough to remind you why you still bother with rap. They create sounds that resonate with their internal frequencies without making our stomachs sick from horseshit quarter-water nostalgia.
Recently, Alaska and Lang were gracious enough to talk a little shit about their new EP, ALKAST: REMIXES, the fate of the Adult Rapper, and the unfortunate burden of keeping it really real.
Shiny Glass Houses: How did Alaska and Lang Vo join in unholy matrimony?
Lang: Tim was coming down 51st one day and I screamed out “Hey, baby baby you got fries with that shake!!” and he started blushing then gave me his google hangouts info.
Alaska (Tim): Lang is lying. It was all twitter DMs and dick pics. Really though, we did meet through twitter. Lang was super annoying. I blocked him. He reached out to me, I told him I was a grumpy twitter person, I unblocked him, and we became besties. I always liked his production and I did a verse for his album Lang Vo Is Just An Asshole, in return I asked him to mix my project which was a mixtape of me rapping over Outkast beats called Alkast. A few weeks later he sent me what you are hearing on this album. I realized that he was my soul mate and we rented a yacht and sunbathed together for the rest of our lives.
SGH: So, the original tracks are you (Tim) rapping over Outkast beats?
Alaska: They are. The original project was ALKAST, the super clever combination of Alaska and Outkast. Lang mixed the original version for me. So he had all of the vocal files. A few weeks later he sent me a rough version of this EP project which was so much better than the original. I was pissed that I even dropped the original, because I was actually considering asking him to do something like this, but I was super thirsty to put something out so I held off. Lang is a genius.
SGH: Tim- words hurt bro. You put verses together on these ALKAST tracks with dead serious precision, and writing is said to be a lost art. What’s your process?
Alaska: My process is pretty much build/destroy/rebuild/rinse/repeat. I no longer live the life of a professional rapper ever since I had kids I had to become a real person and not just an asshole. Now I write when I can. Most times I will come up with a few lines while on the can and throw them into my iPhone. When I have enough to combine them into some sort of cohesive line of thought I will put them together in a verse and try to work from there. Even then, once I have a few songs, I tend to throw out way more than I keep. A lot of the stuff you hear is an amalgamation of three other songs where I pick the best parts, then Frankenstein monster that shit back together into something I’m proud of. I have folders full of discarded lines that will never see the light off day. Also, I no longer subscribe to the idea that something has to be done by a certain deadline. Fuck that. I just keep writing and writing until I have what I want.
SGH: Lang- Your beats sound like you’re blowing off steam. They’re tough like Matt Dillon in The Outsiders. How did you choose the tracks for the EP?
Lang: My beats are probably just like me. I’m pretty abrasive (laughs). This particular project, I made each beat fit what Tim originally rapped on those Outkast beats. It was a bit backwards from the standard way some cats make rap music. We omitted one of the songs because we both didn’t like the outcome on either side. So we gave them an original with “Florescent Lights”.
SGH: You both have been around long enough to watch loads of shitty rap come and go. What’s the secret to establishing some longevity?
Lang: Just making music that you want to make. When you’re young, you bend to other peoples will sometimes. When you get older, you don’t have as much time, so you say fuck it and find confidence in your strengths…also weed out shitty people from your life as fast as you can.
Alaska: I think the secret to longevity is being realistic. I quit rapping back in 2009 because it almost killed me. I was super fat, super drunk, super broke and super depressed. I blamed it on the rapper lifestyle, but in reality it was more that I was unwilling to adjust my life to fit this thing that I loved doing. I was chasing the career instead of chasing the love. Once I got myself back in order I found the love again. That is what keeps me doing it.
We make weirdo rap shit that probably has a limited audience. This used to piss me off, like why the fuck does the rapper my five year old daughter likes get props, but I realized that I would never want to rap like Kid Ink or whoever because they fucking suck. So I rap how I want to rap, make music that makes me happy and provides me joy. Otherwise what’s the point? I love rap and rapping, I don’t love the industry and the bullshit around rap, so I dedicate myself to the parts that I love. I will make rap until I no longer love it, not because it provides me with some sort of lifestyle or paltry allowance. It isn’t my career it’s my passion.
SGH: Adult rappers get a bad…rap. What’s the misconception surrounding grown ups who have no choice but to make this noisy art they love so much?
Lang: I don’t think that’s true really. Mike and El (Run The Jewels) are 40. Chuck D and Flav were almost 30 when they got their momentum. Also, half the dudes in Wu were in their 30’s, or close to it when they struck gold. Ghost is in his 40’s and banging out albums and learning to adapt and try something new, win or lose. Public Enemy are all my mom’s age (laughs) and they stay relevant to their true fans.
I think as a person, when you hit your 40’s and 50’s, that’s really when you become a worthwhile human being. At that age you know when you don’t know things and really know the things you know. You might not have the energy or time but you have the skills and knowledge to get shit right and not waste time from everyone around you.
Alaska: I think the bad rap is earned in a lot of ways. Music, at least the business of music, is designed to reach people with limited life experience and disposable income. I think a lot of Adult Rappers pander to that, they chase it, and they deserve the bad rap. There is nothing less interesting than a 40 year old man trying to impress a 16 year old. What could you possibly have in common? Stop being a creep. There are a lot of really good adult rappers making very interesting music right now, they just aren’t pandering and they’re isolated and not reported in this atmosphere.
There is a way to do this obsession right when you are an old man or woman. I think we are starting to see the first wave of people who grew up with the art figuring that out. I really like what AG, OC, Kool Keith, EL and Mike, etc are doing. There is so much good rap in general, anyone bitching about rap on any level is a fucking asshole. If you can’t find something you like it’s probably because you were a trend fucker who rode the rap trend and now don’t know what new trend to fuck.
SGH: ALKAST:REMIXES feels like late night Cinemax. It’s a sleazy tease, and we want more. What’s next for Words Hurt?
Lang: We have a bunch planned and all originals. The stuff we have in rough form knocks so hard and Tim has never sounded better.
Alaska: Like Lang said, we have a gang of shit, I think I count 15 songs recorded and being mixed, plus I have another four or five I am working on right now. I am not sure when they will be out or in what form, but yes there will be more. We will probably have less guest appearances too. Though I do want to do a song with Devin B.
SGH: Lastly, and customary around here, what’s your drink of choice?
Lang: Coffee,mexican cokes and ice water.
Alaska: Coffee, seltzer water with lemon, and cheap beer. Fuck craft beer and anyone who rides for that shit.
-Well said gents. Big thanks to Tim and Lang for being awesome.