| Adam Rottin
|Rapper / Founder: Sadie Hawkins Records
|"I could have put my CD, and girth size in there—but that would have just been selfish."
Au Courant: Let me get this one out of the way: Why Hip Hop? What makes it more appealing to you than say, Punk Rock or Hardcore, or fuck… Polka?
Rottin: Well, I always had an ear for it. I remember being in the fifth grade, and my friends and I thought we were the shit cause we had N.W.A. and Eazy-E tapes. They cussed and talked about crazy things for a ten year old mind [to absorb]. I was also into L.L. Cool J, Biz Markie, Slick Rick, De La Soul—but at the same time I still listened to Rock and other genres of music. When I got into sixth grade, I had two bass guitars and was in a band called 'Paisley Station Wagon'. We rocked shit… hard. [*laughs*] Then of course I got into the whole Nirvana-Seattle-Grunge swing. I got into Punk by late seventh grade: 7 Seconds, The Casualties, Meat Men, and Crimp Shrine. I would go through phases but I would always keep Rap/Hip Hop in the mix. By eighth grade, I learned the difference between Rap and Hip Hop: Black Moon, Pharcyde, Artifacts, yadda-yadda. I was writing verses by ninth grade. Hip Hop just stuck. Naturally. [It] always made my heart thump.
Au Courant: Tell me about your first experience with Hip Hop. How old were you? Was it love from the start, or was it something that you came to appreciate later?
Rottin: I can give you a prime example of when the wheels and tables turned. I used to go down to the Outer Banks every year since—shit—birth? One of my best friends at the time moved to live with his father in Manteo at the end of my eighth grade year. That summer, I came on my family’s normal yearly Outer Banks run. I would get up with said friend and chill because he was down there for the summer staying with his father, with whom he now lived. He had ended his school year at a small school in Manteo and had made friends with kids who had already been exposed to the culture of Hip Hop. So when we linked that summer, I can remember being at one of his friends’ houses and being played 'Who Got the Props' by Black Moon. I was introduced to the culture: DJing, graff, breakin—and it stuck from there. For life.
Rottin: Love from the start? I have a picture of myself and a teddy bear wearing matching “break dancing uniforms” that my mom made me when I was, like, eight. I didn’t remember ‘til I saw the picture with it labeled 'Adam and break dancing bear' in my mom’s photo album. I noticed because I wanted to show a friend a picture of me, when I was like fifteen or sixteen, in full Hip Hop mode. It was ironic to find this in the mix. This all happened a few weeks ago. Destined from the get-go? L.L. and N.W.A tapes in elementary [school]? Yes. Love from the start.
Au Courant: I might be showing my age—and correct me if I'm wrong—but it seems as though all the talent has gone underground since the mid-90s. What are your thoughts on mainstream Hip Hop today?
Rottin: What mainstream Hip Hop? [*laughs*] Yes, I fully agree with you. It seems that the culture had its prime and touched people. Those that it touched to the heart still keep it alive.
Au Courant: Who are you influenced by (local or otherwise)? Also, who are you listening to right now?
Rottin: Well, I was really big on the Def Jux, Rhymesayers, and Anticon movements. I still listen and look for anything affiliated with these, but mainly nowadays (and past five - six years) I’m rockin’ local artists—any local artists that are still keeping Hip Hop - Hip Hop—from all over the state: Minds One, Poe Mack, Steady Flow, my fellow label mates: Eulogy, God Cypher Divine… I could literally go on for pages of illtastic sounds that should be pumped into ears.
Au Courant: You've collaborated with other artists before. Is it a challenging process? Is it rewarding?
Rottin: Challenging? Sometimes. What’s challenging is actually getting some of these slack artists off their ass and getting them either in the studio, on their computer so they can email me shit, or over to sit and write. It’s tough but I’m reeeeeal annoying when it comes to getting what I want from an artist when I want it—in a respectable manner of course. It’s always rewarding when you sit and hear the work you’ve done, or even better—getting s chance to perform that work live.
Au Courant: I only briefly had time to check over the liner notes on your album [‘Rusty Razorblades’]. You list the members of Social Memory Complex on your "Thanks To" (I'm a fan). Did you ever work with them or know them personally?
Rottin: I lived with Staj Prezence for, like, nine years. I met him while I worked at a record store in Cary. Within two weeks, we were moving to Chapel Hill to pursue music full-time. We met Trizzak at a battle (I was performing) in Raleigh where he was the DJ. We liked his style of DJing and repped Hip Hop hard. So we asked him to be our DJ. Thus, Ill Rottin Intelligence was born. We came out with the classic album '7 a.m. Progress', did many-many shows with a lot of artists that still are still doing shit: Little Brother, J Gunn, Dox… again, I could go on and on with artists we built with. A lot of those shows are on youtube. Just search 'Ill Rottin Intelligence'.
Au Courant: How long have you been performing?
Rottin: My first show, I was thirteen.
Au Courant: Where's your favorite venue to perform?
Rottin: Locally? Cat’s Cradle [in Carrboro]; It has so much history and many-many great acts, a lot of them influential. I like Southland Ballroom [in Raleigh] because it’s new and it’s clean, and the sound knocks! I love Berkeley Café [in Raleigh] most. It’s your perfect venue. Dark—but not shabby. Used, worn equipment, but they all have a feel of musical erosion that sits ever-so-well in my soul.
Au Courant: Tell me about your worst show. Feel free to call out anyone you want to call out, and be as explicit as possible.
Rottin: Worst show? One time I specifically remember, Staj Prezence (back then known as Illson, as part of the group Ill Rottin Intelligence) and I were rolling [on ecstasy]—as was tradition for each show—so hard that we both couldn’t open our eyes on stage... literally... and our verses were nothing but slurred hubbub. There was one time we were performing an earlier song called 'Loose Poose and Prune Juice', dedicated to female oral stimulation, [*laughs*] and this dude’s girlfriend got all mad and felt disrespected. I mean, we had everyone raise up both hands and make a vagina symbol. Classic. So he, in turn, is making all kinds of 'the fuck are y’all doing' gestures from the back row. Staj and his don’t-give-a-fuck-I’m-rocking attitude calls dude out from the audience and slays his ass. The guy got embarrassed and got all loud. We had to stop the show. Both weren’t really baaaaad shows—just interesting.
Au Courant: Have you ever suffered discrimination as a white rapper, or are those days over?
Rottin: Hmm... not really. I’m fucking damn sick of people likening Eminem to me when they find out I rhyme. Fucking. Tired. Of it. I think I just threw up in my mouth a little just now too. There were plenty of white emcees making better music than him—at the same time as he was getting exposed—who didn’t see the shine of day because of his tremendous influence at the time. A lot of ignorance was and was not tolerated from fans of Hip Hop when white rappers came into serious respect.
Au Courant: I can see how that would be terribly frustrating! [*laughs*] Sorry to throw that at you. At least they're not still comparing white rappers to Vanilla Ice or Snow anymore.
Rottin: True. [*laughs*] Bottom line is: color doesn’t matter. Let’s say I trapped 100 emcees in a pitch-black room and had each rhyme a verse. You couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. If you’re dope, you’re dope. Get me?
Au Courant: Have you always been ensconced in the Raleigh (area) scene? If not, does it differ much from the hip hop scene elsewhere and how?
Rottin: Raleigh has had its ups and downs. I moved to Chapel Hill with Staj in 2001 because, at the time, Ashville and Chapel Hill were full of Hip Hop and those people who supported it. We would do a show in Raleigh and there would be like thirty people. A show in Chap blasted 200, all of whom had never heard of us, but because it was pubbed as a Hip Hop show, they came out anyway. I’m back in Raleigh now because of family, and I found a mound of artists hiding; I helped them surface to form what the scene is now. At the same time Raleigh is super-saturated with too many artists. That shouldn’t be a problem right? Well, it is if 2/3 of them suck donkey nuts and ruin Hip Hop’s rep with venues. Plus it’s all unorganized. Pick a random Friday… at least three shows are going on at the same time within blocks from each other. Sounds awesome? Not if there is only 200 people supporting and they are all separated. Spread it out: You this night and I get that night. It’s really not hard to do, but with so much garbage, the venues don’t know who’s who and what draws and what doesn’t. [I’m getting] a little off the question, but it all ties in. First and foremost, we (Sadie Hawkins) rep the planet. Fuck cities! Fuck where you live based on some politicians (200 years ago) who decided the boundaries for where you call home. We live on Earth—all on the saaaaame ground.
Au Courant: One of the things I find refreshing about your work is that you actually display a great degree of mic skill—you can rhyme and flow while actually constructing complete sentences. Your beats are also solid, but I have to ask, are they original?
Rottin: Beats or lines? Everything is damn straight written by me, and if not me, then the artists saying them. Beats? I’m assuming your basing this question on the “Rusty Razor Blades” album—I had numerous producers who worked on that project. All original. Now, yes, some producers used very recognizable samples. Original to me though? Yes. It’s how the sample was used, in what context, and how the drum pattern comes across.
Au Courant: Take us through your writing process? Do you spend a lot of time crafting your words, or does verse just come to you intuitively?
Rottin: I can go for weeks if not months of writers block. I mean, I can MAKE myself write, but I usually find what comes out is pure shit and [sounds] forced. You can hear it too. Sometimes, the sound of a beat that I’m working on, or possibly who I’m collabing with, or even my personal mood will influence my writing. I sometimes write without a beat, but this leaves many a verse unused because they never fit the instrumental they were made for, [as they were] based on the invisible riffs I heard [in my head] while writing. Emotion and feeling, as cliché as it sounds, is what drives my writing.
Au Courant: What prompted you to start your own label [Sadie Hawkins]? What was (is) particularly challenging and/or rewarding about it?
Rottin: I wanted to bring back the illtastic record label for Hip Hop. Ten years ago, you had a number of strong labels. If they came to do a show or if there was a new release, you pretty much assumed it was gonna be good stuff, based on their current releases. I wanted to bring that all back—everything involved in what I liked about certain labels; the only-get-this-CD-at-a-show, or only-this-shirt-on-this-tour type of thing. I want people to know that if they see Sadie Hawkins, no matter what it is, it’s going to be good music, good performances, and that quality shit that you don’t see in these new labels these days. Plus, on the business side of it, I wanted to start a label for artists BY artists. None of that extra dough spent on silly shit that some labels do. Here at Sadie Hawkins, the artists have control of their music. I just help with some finances, promoting, and getting them on shows.
Au Courant: Any upcoming shows planned? When and where are they?
Rottin: We just had the first Sadie Hawkins music freestyle contest last week (big up to Smurk and J Blacc on the draw… very commendable.). I got a show at Southland on Aug. 31st. It’s a Sadie Hawkins music and Alpha Male Society collab show; two dope labels coming together for Labor Day weekend. Then, on Nov. 2nd, we have the third annual Ignite Mindz and Adam Rottin birthday party show. Both are gonna be super sick.
Au Courant: What about a new album? Are there any recording projects in the works?
Rottin: I have four projects going on right now: A group called Madam (myself, Headcase, and Merlin), a group called Skeletron (myself, Merlin, and Manifest Beats), and then my second solo jammie. I also have “Recycled Demons Vol. One,” which is nothing but beats of mine from five to ten years ago that emcees have (in the past year) pilfered through, dug up, and dropped some great material on. We all thought the old beats should not go to waste. We got Wordsworth and other dope collabs on the Madam shit, and Celph Titled and other dope collabs on the Skeletron shit. My next solo jammie also has ill collabs with dope emcees, musicians, and producers. All four are going to be superb. Madam is going to be the first.
Au Courant: I have to ask, as an artist, how do you feel about fans using bit torrent to download music for free?
Rottin: Well, since I don’t make shit for money off doing this, then who cares? Music should be spread. I mean, I’d take you buying my album over downloading it for free, but as long as it gets to your ears, soul, and heart, who cares? You really shouldn’t if you’re a true musician.
Au Courant: Completely hypothetical scenario: Humankind has destroyed itself and a million years later, alien archaeologists are combing over the Earth for Human artifacts. Being a brilliant, plan-ahead kinda guy, you've placed a number of objects in a pressure-sealed, everything-proof, climate-controlled time capsule. What would these aliens find inside the capsule and why did you put them there?
Rottin: Tough question that should be ever-so-easy… but it’s not: A discography of all genres of music and numerous examples of each, no matter how unknown. An archive of art and cinema. As many DNA samples of different individuals from across the globe as possible. Pictures of love and war. Lots of porn. Drug samples. Why? I find each of these objects present a true account of the human species in general. I could have put my CD, and girth size in there—but that would have just been selfish.
Au Courant: Have anything else you wanna say? People to call out? Shoutouts?
Rottin: To you. That’s right. You. The person reading this right now. It’s you, whose support for local and independent art, have kept true talent from fading away into the oblivion. I thank you. My friends thank you. The art and music population thanks you. I will always be here for you in times of musical need and despair, and so will the musicians and artists that I perform with as well as listen to. I will rescue you if you give me the chance, and all it involves is opening your ears. Sadie Hawkins music. Come out to a show—take your mask off at the door—and have a good time.
More Information about Adam
Download Adam Rottin’s Album, ‘Rusty Razor Blades’
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