February 04, 2018 | WES ABNEY
A conversation with independent Anchorage music collective Live From The North. Photo by @nessephoto
This passionate group of music creators are working to redefine Alaska’s hip hop scene and put the state on the music map nationally. Each musician plays a different role creating and
producing music, allowing the collective to grow and inspire with many voices and styles represented as one. Cannabis plays a big part for many of the members, acting as inspiration and
a relaxation tool to help the music flow and bringing words to life. We profiled each member to ask how Cannabis helps their music and what making hip hop in Alaska means to them!
DJ MYERS: Hip-hop and Cannabis gohand in hand like a PB&J. Hip-hop has a way of expressing oneself no other genre can offer, it’s music and it should reach the soul. There’s nothing better than a knocking kick and a grooving bass line. I am so passionate about it now because I’m part of a group that keeps each other going, always positive and collaborating. Without them I probably wouldn’t be making beats or stepping in a studio. My favorite way to smoke is taking hits from my 5-foot bong but I enjoy many ways to smoke. I would have to say my favorite strain would be between Green Crack and Blue Dream or both grinded into a wrap.
CHESHIRE: Cannabis and music have both been forms of healing and cathartic release for me. I’ve been using marijuana to aid with subsiding PTSD that I’ve had since childhood, and I am very glad to be able to use marijuana instead of harder pharmaceutical chemicals. I’m so proud that Alaska is leading the way regarding freedom of marijuana use, because people like me no longer have to feel labelled as a criminal for using this incredible plant. I use marijuana to aid in my healing and I use rap to release the feelings. That rhymes. There are certain things you cannot say and do in everyday life, so I zip that shit up and save it for the beat. What first got me into hip-hop were a few dope emcees who weren’t just rapping about the same whack shit that everyone is spouting, they were bringing some real, conscious truths and empowering people through their music while bringing some mad flows, and that really moved me; I wanted to do that too. The Live From The North (LFTN) fam inspired me to test what I thought were my limits. This means of expression has been extremely fulfilling exactly when I needed it, which for me gives deeper meaning to the group’s motto about living in the moment: “We live.” Music has brought me another medium to make art as well as healing, and fire and love. I hope that’s how people feel when they hear my music, too.
Cannabis and hip-hop have helped me with self-expression and finding myself. The two went hand in hand. I began to dabble in hip-hop shortly after my first Cannabis experience. Creating music gives me a voice. Back in high school I was one of the shy quiet kids but after I discovered the Illmatic album by Nas, it inspired me to start writing myself. I started out just typing out random eight-line raps in class on my iPod touch and later on I began to actually rap for my friends. Creating music helped me grow out of my own insecurities and gave me confidence. I have to thank hip-hop for making me who I am today. I’m a sativa guy so Golden Goat is my personal favorite, however if I were to mix it up and choose an sndica, God’s Gift has become another go-to recently.
REFLECTOR: Making music is cathartic for me. There’s something about hip hop and rap in particular that brings sub consciousness to the surface. Writing lyrics is a great way to learn about yourself and pick apart what you believe. Music and life are inseparable. The natural world wouldn’t exist without rhythm; a pulse. Cannabis is the resource of the future (and the past). I think hemp will be at the forefront of renewable resources. I appreciate its recreational use, but I think Cannabis goes far deeper than just getting high. I just really love the feeling of connecting with people. The look on someone’s face when they’re bobbing their head to your verse and are just really feeling it. I never feel more connected with people or more like myself than when I’m spitting a raw verse on stage and have people telling me they could feel what I was saying. I occasionally have a hard time getting people to understand something I’m trying to get out, but you throw a beat on and put a flow over it and people really start to listen. It’s like real life magic.
KEVIN THE BRAIN: You bring yourself to a dark place to get all your art out and you can really drive yourself insane. Cannabis has helped me relieve stress occasionally throughout the years when I’ve brought myself to that dark place. Writing about it and coming down with the occasional joint has been very therapeutic. It means maintaining sanity for me. Indicas knock me right out, like I turn into a brain-dead zombie frozen on my friend’s couch until I pass out 15 minutes later. My preference is sativa, but even then I’ve had episodes of paranoia where I think a moose is following me in a forest in Portland. It was a tree. It never moved. Blue Dream has that perfect combo of just the right amount of sativa and indica so I can kick back, relax and still enjoy myself. I tried it after Childish Gambino name dropped it in one of his songs and it’s been my strain of choice ever since.
YOUNG CAASI: Cannabis and hip-hop mean inspiration to me, both together and separately. I’m passionate about creating music because music has been in my life since a toddler via church choir and my love for poetry in grade school. Music seems to be a part of my family legacy. My favorite way to smoke is bongs because they get the job done and bongs can be artsy so that’s also inspiring on some level.
What does Live From The North stand for and what brought you guys together?
Ir1: Live From The North brings a few different meanings to us. I mean obviously the “North” has to do with our geographic location, but we’re also Live and that’s stems from our enthusiastic performances, the energy we bring when we all kick it together and just feeling alive pursuing what we love. The phrase “We live” is actually one of our catch phrases we’ve been using and it’s a team motto that fits the group. This group came together very organically actually. I remember first running into Reflector (Daniel) at a poetry slam at UAA years ago. I saw him perform a rap, and quickly after his set I asked if I could rap over the instrumental he produced. I really dug the style of his music, so we began to collaborate and the whole collective kind of just snowballed.
How does being a collective change your music making process?
Reflector: Being in a collective means that everybody brings a particular vibe or energy to the party. I like it because it brings different perspectives together. It’s not about comparisons, but the unique shine of each member. If I’m feeling low, meeting up with the group alleviates stress and helps me focus on positive vibes. We’re there for each other like family. That’s the best part about being in a musical collective, in my opinion. Making music with people reminds me that my own imperfections are natural in the whole process. It’s really easy to get lost in the stress of getting everything to sound perfect. Overthinking is the worst.
How does Cannabis influence your music making process?
DJ Myers: Cannabis has an influence on my music creativity. It really helps when I smoke before I do some work on the keyboard for some sweet melodies. Makes me feel one with the music I am creating. I like to get lost in the song and just let myself be one with the groove. It’s an automatic unlock to creating anything you want and really good for creating what you feel.
What is it like building your music brand in Alaska?
Kevin The Brain: I lived in LA for a short period of time to pursue a career in entertainment. One thing I couldn’t get over about LA’s art scene was how saturated it is. You didn’t even feel like an artist anymore, you felt like a kid in a toddler beauty pageant waiting to get judged. Building a brand in Alaska comes with many opportunities. We’re nowhere near as crowded, but the art scene in Alaska is just starting to get momentum and is on its way to thriving. Being an artist trying to start a brand here is like getting in on the ground level of a Fortune 500 company. Less ground covered just means more trails to blaze, and as far as I’m concerned there’s just as many if not more opportunities here than anywhere else. Plus, hip-hop in Alaska is a Cinderella story. No one really thinks of hip-hop when they think of Alaska, so we’re automatically counted out a lot of the time. I mean Kanye refused to do a concert here because he said no one would come. But in my experience the underdogs are the hungriest, most passionate artists you’ll meet. And that’s something you’ll see in the Live From The North brand.
Do you think that rap and Cannabis have a natural pairing?
Young Caasi: Cannabis is a direct line to creativity for artists so I do think for most, Cannabis and music in general have a natural pairing.
What does the future hold for the collective?
Cheshire: LFTN is organizing a show on March 31 at Van’s Dive Bar. Free admission. We’re all really stoked about it because, aside from the members of LFTN, there’s going to be some amazing talent from other local artists. We wanted to focus specifically on Alaskan artists for this show, so the lineup is nothing but. We also plan to have a few more shows later in the year. All the members are putting in a lot of work to get out a mixtape by mid-2018. LFTN’s motto is “We Live” and magic just seems to happen when we create together in the moment. We hope we can make it to touring within the next year or so and keep on making music with the homies for a long time, of course.