Author: Adam Bernard
Not everyone is familiar with the name TRUTHLiVE, or the label
Interdependent Media, yet, but if they checked the liner notes of some of
their favorite albums from the past few years they might be surprised how
many times the two of them appear. As a label, Interdependent Media, which
is owned by TRUTHLiVE, is home to acts such as Tanya Morgan, Eyezon, Shaya,
Finale, and Canibus. As an emcee, TRUTHLiVE is readying the 4/20 release of
his debut album, Patience, which was produced entirely by Jake One, and he
just put out a free downloadable EP, The Unlearning, to get people ready for it.
TRUTHLiVE's story isn't all about beats and rhymes, though. A survivor of
not one, but THREE heart surgeries, TRUTHLiVE's experienced some of the
harshest things life can throw at a person and he's not only still standing,
but he's in the process of building something great. This week RapReviews
caught up with the Bay Area emcee/mogul to find out more about his
incredible life story, how a close relationship with his backpack helped him
realize he needed to start a label, and the artist signing he made happen
that had all the major labels talking. It's time to get all the way live
Adam Bernard: Your story is a really fascinating one involving THREE heart
surgeries. Tell me a little bit about what went on with those. How old were
you when you had them done and what your feelings were each time you were
told you'd need another surgery?
TRUTHLiVE: I first starting getting the episodes, which is what they would
call them, when my heart would shut down, when I was ten. I collapsed on a
soccer field and an ambulance had to come get me. That's how we became aware
of it, but they weren't able to diagnose my specific condition until I was
16. I got told by a few specialists for a few years that I was a
hypochondriac, that I was making it up, because they weren't able to catch
these episodes on any of the recorders, so all they could go off of was what
I was saying. I basically just got used to living with it until they became
a lot more frequent. At basketball in high school it went from happening
every few months, to every month, to every week, to every day, so I went
back to a doctor. Technology had improved and they were able to figure out
what was going on. It's a pretty common condition, Supraventricular
Tachycardia (SVT), but there are multiple variations of it and I actually
had two. The procedures are fairly non-invasive considering what you're
doing, and the recovery time is really quick. They're using cameras and
lasers instead of cutting open all my ribs and using a scalpel on my heart,
and those procedures have a 99% success rate the first time, so it was very
uncommon that I had to go in for three. What happened in-between the second
and third surgery, I got a whole new kind of condition where I was at
150-160 bpm all day, just doing nothing. It was very tiring, to say the
least. That was much worse, but they had to let the swelling go down from
the pervious surgery before they could do it again. I was kind of in limbo,
but I was never worried about it, I didn't ever think it was going to be a
problem; it's like "I have a broken bone, it's going to heal, whatever."
Before the last surgery, and where the TRUTHLiVE thing came from, the
specialist who was performing surgery sat me down and told me "you basically
have a week or so before your heart gives out because you can't sustain
this." Fortunately I was getting in in like four days for the surgery, but
that is definitely a sobering comment to hear that from somebody. I didn't
expect to survive the last surgery.
AB: Is that when you came up with your name, before that surgery?
TL: Yeah, it was the night before. Early in the morning I went and took a
shower and I was in the bathroom with my own thoughts, trying to be calm.
They didn't want to give me anxiety because that's directly related to your
heart-rate. I was just sitting there and it dawned on me, "Live Truth, Truth
Live," and I was like oh, that's my new music moniker. It was like an
AB: And from that point was it music all the way?
TL: I was already obsessed with music. I was DJing and producing and
rapping, but that's probably a marking point as to when I made the
commitment that I wasn't going to do something else. Then when it really
turned was post surgeries and I'm OK, I'm healthy. I was in college the next
year, down in San Diego. I was supposed to be playing baseball and going to
school, but instead I was selling CD-Rs out of my backpack on campus. I sold
almost a thousand in a semester and I was like I need to start a record
company, this needs to be done for real.
AB: And then in 2006 you did - Interdependent Media.
TL: Yeah. Starting really about 2002 was the beginning stages of it, it
just wasn't real. In 2006 it really materialized into what Interdependent
Media is now. In 2008 it really became more of a legit business as far as
selling records and being on the radar.
AB: Every indie company needs to do something different to get heard, so
what are some of the more interesting ways in which you've built up
TL: We pride ourselves on using non-traditional marketing drivers for each
project and really have the benefit of being able to follow in the footsteps
of a Rhymesayers or a Stones Throw, these boutique labels that may have a
smaller piece of the market share, but their fans are loyal, they're not
just like casual listeners, and those kind of people, they're not really
into disposable art, so quality control is really important. The first
artist I signed was K'naan. Major labels tried to sign him and couldn't, so
immediately we caught notice because they were like "who the fuck is this
kid out in Nor-Cal who was able to sign K'naan, who we've been trying to
sign for a year?" That really had to do with the point of starting a label
that would be an artist friendly label, because I'm an artist.
AB: In what ways are you artist friendly?
TL: The way the deals are structured are a lot more fair. I guess what was
able to separate us (when starting out) was face time with people. A lot of
people would be skeptical, we didn't have a lot of history, but when you sit
down and do the face time and they can get down with the vision and see what
was going on, it's a lot easier to recruit artists. Dealing with another
artist, instead of somebody who only sees them as a dollar sign, makes it a
lot easier to get cooperative deals done, and the language on the piece of
paper reflects our conversation face to face. I think the fact that we have
really fair deals and we've identified a market that a lot of artist want to
also be identified with makes it pretty easy to sign artists.
AB: Your next release is going to be your own, Patience, right?
TL: Actually the next release from iM is Donwill's. His solo project, Don
Cusak in High Fidelity, which is kind of like an homage to the movie High
Fidelity with John Cusak, is coming out on March 23rd, and then Patience
comes out on 4/20, which is a coincidence.
AB: And for Patience you have Jake One doing all the production.
TL: Jake One made all the beats and it kinda happened by accident.
Basically, The Unlearning and Patience were supposed to be the same album,
called The Unlearning, and it was going to be about half produced by Jake
One. Then I just kept making all these songs and I was fortunate to work
with a lot of producers like Tha Bizness, The Are, Vitamin D, and Jake One.
They were well established at the time, but they're much bigger now
than when I started recording. The A&R of the project, iD, Ian Davis, came
to me one day and said "what do you think about using all the Jake songs as
the album" and I was like "sounds good to me." We just had to make sure that
was cool with Jake, because it's not like the packaging says "TRUTHLiVE and
Jake One" like "Freeway and Jake One." It's not like we were sitting there
in the lab making stuff together, it's just that over the course of a couple
years I kept getting beats form him, so it kinda happened by accident, but
it was a very fortunate accident for me. Jake's been the homey for a long time.
AB: As you mentioned, he also just dropped an album with Freeway. Do you
think Jake One ever sleeps?
TL: I've never witnessed Jake One be asleep in my life. I always see Jake
on his way from one meeting to the next and in the lab. A lot of artists are
gonna hear the tracks on Patience and be familiar with the production
because Jake is extremely prolific. Not so much now, because he's more of a
commodity, but in the past Jake's beat CDs were pretty well circulated
amongst industry people. This dude was pumping out beats all the time. Jake
probably has another few hundred beats I've never heard right now.
AB: You have some prolific heavy hitters of your own on the label right
now, including one of the most highly respected lyricists around; Canibus.
You can tell me, does he hide a thesaurus up his sleeve when he's in the
TL: He does not. Canibus is a human thesaurus, encyclopedia, dictionary.
Canibus is always up on something. He's like an information magnet. To his
detriment commercially he is aware of things, and is rapping about things,
years before somebody else is. You might think it's nonsense and then you go
back and listen to it like "oh shit." You're talking about an artist who
spent a lot of his money when his debut album was coming out on bandwidth
for his website because he knew that was the future. He had a high speed
website in 1998.
AB: That's some crazy foresight. Now let's move from foresight to insight.
Close out this interview by giving me one artist who you wish you could have
on your roster right now and tell me how you'd want to work their career.
TL: That's a tough question. It's got multiple answers. I wish I had
Andre3000 on my label and I'd leave him alone and let him do whatever he
wants. I would love to A&R a Reflection Eternal project. I'd also love to
work with Lil' Wayne because I feel like he has the biggest voice and impact
on the youth in America right now and I don't feel like he's necessarily
using it to it's fullest potential as far as the betterment of mankind and
society. I'd love to have an influence on him that way. It's a really
arrogant statement. What am I gonna tell Lil' Wayne, or any of these people,
for that matter? For the sake of your question, as far as it being a little
more concise; Jay Electronica, and I don't meddle. We sign artists because
we trust what they're going to do creatively. We let them do their thing.
That's why we're working with those people in the first place.
You can find TRUTHLiVE on the web at imculture.com and find out
how to download "The Unlearning EP" HERE.
Originally posted: March 16, 2010