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 with TRUTHLiVE.

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 epiphany.

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 Interdependent Media?
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 booth?
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.