Morehouse alum Small Eyez has been creating blogosphere buzz ever since his 2006 debut album Vipassanā. Opening for hip-hop heavyweights like Dead Prez, Talib Kweli, Juelz Santana, and Young Jeezy, Small Eyez definitely has the cred to be a part of the roster to close the 2010 A3C Festival. We talk about how he overcame birth complications, which left him being able to use only one arm, Vipassana style meditation, and of course, orgies.
When you were young, you were told that you could never play an instrument due to birth complications. What effect did this have on you and the start of your whole music career?
I don’t know how your school was, but in Catholic school you get to choose an instrument that you might want to play. They would bring out the trumpets, saxophones, flutes and all the shit like that. I went to the trumpet. I just was drawn to the instrument because I had just started listening to jazz and was really getting into Miles and these other trumpet players. My teacher said, “I don’t know if you’ll be able to do that, so we’re going to put you in choir.” At the time, I didn’t think anything of it. Little did I know of the ramifications that came because of it. I never tried an instrument. I just presumed that I couldn’t. Who knows, I could’ve been a fucking virtuoso. [laughs]
So I started singing in middle school all the way up through high school. Before my voice broke, I had a pretty good singing voice. So when my voice matured, I couldn’t really hit the notes anymore and that was the end of that.
And that’s when you started getting into rap.
No, it didn’t start there. The first album I bought was by Kris Kross, but I didn’t really start thinking rap was fun or cool until I really started listening to Wu-Tang. They’re just so massive. It was the whole culture, this whole mythology that I really became engrossed in. I just became a fanatic, basically. I started rapping like them trying to imitate them. I’d make these long ass tapes with my karaoke machine. I only had two or three beats, so I would rap over the same beats over and over again. From there I started doing it seriously, starting a group with my friends called the Highlanders.
So when did the name Small Eyez come in to play?
Small Eyez came about from my pops. It’s actually an African proverb. There are no real I’s in most African languages, its more “we”-centric. I is possessive. Whenever you’re thinking about yourself you say I. “Small I” means you’re looking at the big thing, the entire situation. It was around high school that I took on that name and it kind of just stuck from there.
Through your music what is the big picture that you’re trying to voice to your audience?
It’s not real specific, man. The big picture is whatever anybody interprets it to be. My big picture or my personal message is just to speak from my own voice and to communicate how I feel. And hopefully what I’m saying impacts others in whatever way they want to interpret it, but hopefully in a positive way. What we do impacts the world, like a ripple effect. So I want my music to have a ripple effect that when people hear it they feel good.
Why did you choose Vipassanā as the name of your debut EP?
It has to do with awakening our own internal consciousness. Vipassanā is a form of meditation that they teach the kids at like age three. It’s a process on how to awaken themselves spiritually.
Your latest EP that dropped December 2009 is entitled From the Sol and has a lot of themes that involve the sun. What was your thought process on the album?
I’ve studied a lot of traditional African religions, but even in most religions the sun is a major theme. It is the most powerful energy source in the world; without it we die. To me it’s a symbol of the greater being. It’s a symbol of hope. So I called it From the Sol because I believe everything that we do is from the sun.
What excites you the most about A3C?
Honestly it’s the people, because it reminds me so much of SXSW. Which is like one of my favorite music festivals. It’s just like a musical orgy. There’s no politics. There’s no bullshit. It’s people who love music. Who love being around music and love the energy of it. It’s a good thing for Atlanta and it’s a good thing for hip-hop.
You’ll be on the SMKA stage Saturday closing the festival with some Atlanta hip-hop elites. How does it feel to be a part of that group?
I wouldn’t consider myself a part of the elites. You said that, not me. I don’t really believe in that kind of ideology. Atlanta is really segmented. It’s really political. People say that I’m a hermit crab. For better of for worse, I stay in my “cave” because the music in itself speaks. There are a lot of great artists in Atlanta and I’m just honored to have my voice out there.
For people who’ve never heard of you, what would you like for them to say after either watching one of your performances or listening to one of your songs?
I don’t want them to really say anything. I just want them to feel it. I want them to undeniably know that it’s something that they want hear and feel. If that’s the case I‘ll keep giving it to them.
Catch Small Eyez perform on the SMKA Presents Stargazing stage. 11 p.m. Sat., Oct. 9. Masquerade. www.masq.com. Tickets available at http://www.a3cfestival.com/. Also look out for a Small Eyez EP dropping early 2011.
ooooohhhh, I'm so excited!! I can't wait to see them together!
come on man you know you got a bromance. you probably still rock that OutKast…
Yes, 14 is the correct answer. I'll pass your info along to the group's manager,…
That was January of 2007, and they are 21 now, so I'm guessing 14?