Words: Miljan Milekić
Some people simply can’t be stopped if they don’t want to stop. One of them is the Staten Island rapper, videographer, and all-around creative mind iNTeLL. And don’t make any mistakes – he has no intention of slowing down, let alone stopping. Son of U-God, member of legendary hip hop group Wu-Tang Clan, iNTeLL has hip hop engraved in his DNA. A little more over a year after we interviewed him about the 2nd Generation Wu collective, we reached out once again to talk about his new solo album ‘Computers For the Hood’ and much more. Check it below.
First of all, how are you? How does it feel to be on the stage again and be able to perform live?
iNTeLL: It feels great to be back outside and be back on stage. The crowds, the energy, the music – it feels great, and I’m happy that the world is slowly but surely getting back to normal.
Since the pandemic kicked in, you released two albums, one solo and one with 2nd Generation Wu. How does it feel to finally unleash new songs onto the crowd?
iNTeLL: It felt great. I got a warm reception, and some people already knew the word, which lets me know that the album has been spinning and doing well, and people have been receiving it well. Also, because of the production, people were vibing with songs that were completely new to them. I feel the production is the type to make people move, which is what I sought more of, working on this album. So shout out to DLP, the producer. I’m glad that people like it because I’ve put a lot into it. Not just from a creative aspect, but from a technical one, as I mixed and mastered most of it. So, it makes me extremely happy.
So, tell me more about the ‘Computers For The Hood.’ I feel like I see a certain narrative and concept, or at least a common message behind the project, but I would like to hear it firsthand. So, can you tell me more about the greater idea behind it?
iNTeLL: The greater idea is that – when there’s a person that has great potential for creativity, or a community that has great potential for creativity, but they don’t have the resources, and you are someone that does or can bring the resources to them, maybe you should, because the potential outcome could be very great for yourself, for the community, and the world. So, I think that the underlying message I was trying to hit home is – “Let’s nurture and give resources to massive amounts of creativity, and let’s see what we can gain from that.” It’s not just art that comes from creativity. Scientists get creative, and then we have new medicines, new treatments. Engineers get creative, and now we’re in space. It isn’t just art, it could be in all facets and forms, but I want to nurture it at the beginning stages – the youth, where the creativity and the imagination are at their brightest point.
What I love about this record is its diversity and the way it combines different styles and schools of hip hop into one cohesive whole. And what’s even more impressive is that all that comes from you and a single producer. How did the writing and recording process look like, and how challenging was it to an album like this?
iNTeLL: That’s how it used to be done back in the day. It’s paying homage to the golden era and to before what’s considered the golden era. In the beginning, rappers would lock on one producer, and they would just rock out like that. Like EPMD. Then NAS came along and changed it up, had different producers do different tracks. And the evolution came after that. So, after linking up with DLP, we realized we had a great rapport. We were working on music already. What had begun as just a single between us, after more conversation, more getting to know each other, grew into a five-track EP. Then, working on that, the relationship grew, and that’s how ‘Computers For The Hood’ was born. You know, not really just out of me and him exchanging music, but me and him just being real individuals, human beings, getting to know each other better, which sparked that creativity. So, the resource that he gave me at that point was an ear to listen to someone, to bounce ideas off, and that nurtured my creativity.
So, “the computer,” in that scenario, that he gave me, was his compassion, his empathy to listen to what I had going on, and vice versa. Then, all kinds of new ideas are allowed to siphon in when you have released the negativity. And from there, I just decided to really dive into this album, to really make it a full album, and not a little EP that I’ll toss out. Then, the features started coming in, which beefed it up more and made it more legitimate because not only are the features dope, but it’s like a co-sign from those individuals who are great in their respective rights. So, I love this album. I feel like it’s my Sistine Chapel. I mixed and mastered all the tracks, except for track four – ‘Now I Know’ featuring Lomel and Method Man – that was mixed and mastered by Multiple Blast-Off at Dragon’s Layer, and track six ‘Beastside Staton’ – that was mixed and mastered at a Blurred Noise Studio in Staten Island, by Agent Blur. So, I still got teammates.
So now you got me feeling bad for ‘Now I Know’ being my favorite song on the album. (laughs)
iNTeLL: But I’m still on it! (laughs) I’ve put the arrangement, I chose the beat, and I probably did a little mixing. (laughs) I did a little mixing on everything, but I like to give credit where credit is due.
You mentioned features, and on this record, you have quite a few, including some of the genre’s heavyweights. How did you choose who you wanted on the record, and how much of the task was it to gather all those people during the pandemic, with all the lockdowns, travel restrictions, and everything between?
iNTeLL: Well, originally, I was actually going to just keep it all me. In the last project I put out, I’ve been doing a lot of features, so I was thinking that maybe I haven’t given the people a whole entire iNTeLL project in a while, so I wanted to do that. But then DLP, the producer, was like – “Yo, I’m cool with Del the Funky Homosapien. Maybe, I could talk to him about you guys doing a song together. How do you feel about that?” How do I feel about that? What kind of question is that? Absolutely! Immediately! Yes, do it! (laughs) I love Del. I grew up on Del. So, he was chopping it up with Del, told him about me, and the crazy part was that not only was he down with it, he knew who I was. “iNTeLL, oh yeah, I’ve been listening to him for a minute.” What?! Del the Funky Homosapien has been listening to me?! Here I am sitting, 29 years old, 15 plus year career thinking nobody’s listening, and one of my idols has been listening to me the whole time. That was amazing for me to hear.
So once we locked in the Del feature, I was like – “You know, maybe I should reach out to some other OGs and legends and see if they are willing to collaborate as well.” So, I saw that Inspectah Deck had just done a song with R.A. the Rugged Man. And I’m also a huge R.A. the Rugged Man fan. So, I reached out to Deck, say, “Yo, you think R.A. would do a song with me?” And he was like – “Just reach out. I don’t know. I’m not a psychic.” (laughs) So, Deck gave me his email, I reached out to him, and the first thing, his main concern, was – am I a decent human being. He’s – “Talent is cool, but I don’t really want to work with or anyone that’s not a decent human being.”
So, I said I am, and we exchanged numbers and started to build. I’ve sent him some music. A lot of the music I sent him at first, he was not rocking with it. He was like – “Nah kid, this ain’t it. Send me something real.” And it was like – “Oh, shit! Okay!” (laughs) So the last batch I sent him, there was a beat in there with a gospel sample, and he loved it. It ended up being the record, the song ‘Know the Gospel,’ and we have a video out for it. After I got the vocals, I played them sitting in my car, and I started crying. It was so crazy, especially the way he structured his verses. And, after that, he hit me up saying he’ll be in New York in January and asking if I want to shoot a video for it. I mean, seriously?! So, he came through, we shot the video, and it’s fire.
Once again, on this record, you teamed up with Prema777, and once again, I love the bond you two share on every track you did together. How much of a push is it to be in a marriage with someone who not only gets you on a personal level but also shares similar roots and lives the same music as you?
iNTeLL: It’s a blessing to have a partner in your life that does what you do and understands what you do to the level that you do, and you guys can push each other forward, creatively, and as business partners. The music that you make, inspired by the life you’re living together, is like a time capsule as you continue upon your journey together. So, I implore people – when you’re looking for that twin flame, that lifelong soulmate, see if you can find one in the field you work in, because that might make things a little easier. Or harder, I’m no expert. (laughs)
So, is there a chance that we’ll see a bigger collaborative body of work between you two? Perhaps an EP or even a full-length?
iNTeLL: It’s a possibility, who knows what the future holds. She’s really pivoting focus more toward her juicing business, which you can follow at @imuna.t. She does fresh juicing. It’s a business she started during the pandemic to keep busy, to continue to earn, and to keep people in the community healthy. But, when she gets back into the music like she was before, there’s definitely a possibility we’ll collaborate.
You recently kicked off a new clothing brand called ØFF•SPRįNG. Can you tell me more about it?
iNTeLL: Absolutely. I feel great about it. Growing up, I wasn’t really ever into fashion. Or rather, I’d never got a chance to be into fashion because my rebellious attitude always went against whatever my mother wanted me to wear and how she wanted me to look. She was, kind of, treating me like a doll, so I would just wear whatever to make her mad. And then, that just compounded over years of not giving a fuck about fashion. Then, when I was in high school, and I started to care about it again, it was expensive. You know, $180 for new Jordans every week – I’d rather go buy LEGO or some shit. Or another rhyme book, or some music-related thing, like an iPod. Everybody was paying all this money for clothes, and I couldn’t do it.
Anyway, fast forward to now when I got this music career, and hip hop and fashion go hand in hand. You can’t really wear sweatpants every day. Well, unless you’re Kanye West. Or you design them, right? And that’s the thing – UNLESS YOU DESIGN THEM. I’m always trying to get to where it’s comfortable, man. My end game is to go towards comfortable. So, this company, Urbancoolab, shout out to them – they reached out to me and were like – “Hey, we are this fashion streetwear brand, we’re interested in what you got going on.” And I was like – “Yo, that’s amazing!” I was in the market to release new merch at the time anyway, and I didn’t want to do it myself. I wanted to collaborate with a company so that people can order it properly, get the tracking number, and all that.
And what really, really got me interested; one of the main reasons I decided to work with this company, specifically, is that they work with artificial intelligence. They work with algorithms that have been artificial intelligently designed to design. On a fashion level. Like, what?! That makes the most perfect sense that the first time iNTeLL would do something fashion-related, it would be with the computer. And at the same time, I just released an album called ‘Computers For The Hood.’ The timing was amazing, and I didn’t even do that on purpose. I’m just looking left and right at how things are unfolding. So, I created the logo and the whole idea of ØFF•SPRįNG is you can wear this apparel on and off spring, you can wear it whenever you want because it’s not made for s season.It’s also a play on the fact that I’m the offspring of the greatest hip hop group that ever existed. And I thought that was pretty clever. So, I came up with the logo, we fed some designs to the artificial intelligence, and they kicked out some magnificent designs. I tweak them a little bit, Urbancoolab tweaked them a little bit, and it’s out. You can find it on my and the Urbancoolab websites.
*Click on photo to open the store*
I love the fact that they are experimenting with AI. And with accepting AI as an integral part of our lives in the future, how do we strike a balance between human and artificial? Where is the line of how much do we let AI interfere within arts and creative industries? Is there a chance that at one point, all of us – designers, artists, writers, producers, musicians – get replaced by an AI?
iNTeLL: Well, I thought about that, and if that’s the way it’s going to go in fashion, it’s going to go in all industries. It’s gonna go this way in hip hop, because they can have AI that makes beats, they can have AI that raps, AI that writes songs. They can have AI that can draw a picture or AI that can paint a painting. But still, in the 21st century, even that AI needs a creator. Once AI’s starts creating themselves at a rate we can’t control, then we’re in trouble. Then, you got a whole army of AI created by AI and controlled by AI, which is not what we want. All the AI is still controlled by humans. It’s like we’ve created an army of smart, robotic children. They still need us for certain things. And we keep it that way because we’re smart right now. But I’ve seen ‘Terminator 2: Judgment Day’ way too many times, not to know how this is going to turn out for all of us. (laughs) But, right now, there’s still plenty of human control, so I support it.
So, the last time we did an interview, it was just before the news of George Floyd’s murder broke out around the world, and it all snowballed into one of the biggest civil rights movements in the history of the US, but also the rest of the ex-colonial world. The people have spoken, they demand change, but do you see any? Are things any different today than they were a year ago, in terms of systemic racism, and the everyday lives of People of Color?
iNTeLL: I would say I see the change more than I feel it because you gotta be around people to experience it. And we’re just now being allowed to really gather and be around each other. But I see the change in the legal system in that the perpetrator was convicted. To me, that was a major blow. There are many nuances and details to it, but at the end of the day, that’s an example of where we needed the system to do what it was built to do, and it actually did what it was built to do. So that’s the change that I see, but I haven’t really felt a change. I still feel like a black man in America. When I drive, if the cops are behind me, I still get nervous. Even though weed is legal recreationally, if I’m smoking on the street and see police, I still get a little nervous. So, I don’t feel the change yet – maybe as get older. I grew up in a whole different time than the people before me, and that my children are going to grow up in a whole different time. So, it’s going to take time.