In this Q&A, I had the opportunity to connect with 5-Star, Nivek & O'nill collectively known as Dezert Eez. The rap veterans proceeded to share their knowledge & insight regarding the industry and openly discuss their experiences and advice that aspiring artists can use to their benefit. Take a moment to listen/download the audio and/or peep/share the transcript.
Achickwitbeatz: Who is Dezert Eez?
Dezert Eez: Dezert Eez is one big collective of conscious brothers trying to make it...trying to take hip hop to a different level...we're all different instruments to this game...so we're gonna bring that instrument to life...you'll feel us.
Achickwitbeatz: How'd you come up with the name?
Dezert Eez: We was just...vibin'...at the time when we came out, one of the most popular things was the Desert E's weapon, and as far as us being weapons on the mic...spittin' just goin' at cats, you know...takin' 'em out...that was part of it, but it's all science behind it. If you look at the eagle itself, Egypt doesn't have a real "coat of arms" but it is representative of the shield, the bird, the eagle...in America the eagle represents independence, freedom...in the Native American culture the eagle is always involved...it's so many things that we spun off of it when we were putting it together to run with it...it wasn't just like "oh it's a weapon" and that's it, it was like there's got to be more to it...you know, it had to be a little math and science behind it. So when we studied, we looked at a lot of the cultures over in Africa and the mesopotamian area...a lot of their symbols...is the eagle.
Achickwitbeatz: How long have you been doing this?
Dezert Eez: We've gamed for a minute...like 15...yeah, about 15...since the great era, you know...we been around and we still around...we ain't goin' no where. Nivek: As far as hip hop, all together...all my life...ya' know I used to break dance, ya' know? Used to use the aerosol can a lil' bit...I was around a lot of cats that DJ'd and stuff, that was ya' know comin' up in the early part when hip hop was real good. 5-Star: And I was just around breakers and I couldn't really break so the other element for me was...they was like, "Dude, you got vocab". We from the era where cats used to beatbox battle and break-battle and...beat battle on the wall and the tables. So then the rhymes started comin' and they was like "aww yeah...you hold that down"
Achickwitbeatz: So, Flint? Who else is represented?
Dezert Eez: Nivek:Los Angeles, 5-Star:Chicago
Achickwitbeatz: So how'd you end up in Kalamazoo?
Dezert Eez: College...but see the good thing about The Zoo is you do have different backgrounds sliding through, blending...
Achickwitbeatz: What is your take on the current industry?
Dezert Eez: O'nill: It's changed so much since we got the internet, ya know? We come from the era where we had tapes and [were] sellin' tapes off the street and selling CD's off the streets. Now everything is so digital. Nivek: I would offend a lot of people if I said right now the music coming out is garbage. It's like we don't even have our back anymore like we did back in the day. All the elements...that's lost. But it's a few people out there still carrying the torch and we bring that all together and then that's love. You can tell the difference from a real hip hop show to like just some cats that's just rhymin'. 5-Star: The game is just saturated and whatever the media feeds the masses, they just roll with it. Back in the day it was you had to have talent to be discovered, or you had a grind [and] you did it on your own...now if you just make a catchy loop, a soup of the day, the flavor of the month...you out there, then you could be gone...no substance...I mean it is what it is. Evolution, technology, whatever...but cats don't have the passion or the ability to continue with the quality they have. Nivek: Cube, De La, Public Enemy, LL...the longevity they have from what they did, I just don't see some of the artists now having that type of longevity.
Achickwitbeatz: What would advice would you offer an independent artist seeking extra promotion?
Dezert Eez: O'Nill: Put all your money into marketing yourself. Make yourself look bigger than life. Come with a total presentation, 'cause nobody's taking somebody who's half-*ssing...they want a finished product. 5-Star: People have to do research. You have to research your area, the strategy of how to come out....I mean, you could come out on $1,000 if you allocate your dollars right. If you're in other areas you may have to take $10,000. You may have to link up with someone who's already established and have them give you wisdom & connects...it's just about knowing how to first do your research and seeing what channels...like Soundcloud, DatPiff...should you do fliers versus free music, should you do promotional tees, should you link with a crew, should you travel...you just have to find what works best in your area. You can find all that in books, some of the greats have written books on how to do it. It's always strategy first, get your finances tight and stick to your plan. Nivek: Get your home team behind you, that's a huge thing. Get your hometown behind you...everything else starts to trickle in. Make calculated decisions and make sure you go through with it.
Achickwitbeatz: What would you say is the most valuable thing you've learned since you went whole-heartedly into music?
Dezert Eez: That door. Nivek: That door is real. If you get an opportunity, you better take it. Say...whoever your favorite rapper is...might be Nas, you on a tour with Nas, right? You happen to do a tour, you give him and his PR a tape, they listen to the tape and they say 'we want you to in the studio'....meanwhile you're on the way driving back....you better turn around. No matter what's on the table. 5-Star: I say, just make sure what you put down is quality. Don't sacrifice your art. A lot of times, people don't even look at it as art no more. Don't loose your passion for it.
Achickwitbeatz: What advice do you have for aspiring/ independent artists that make connections, but might be scared to act on it?
Dezert Eez: O'Nill: Humble yourself quickly...be as professional as possible, it's not a game. 5-Star: Be on your business and don't be afraid. If you're really confident and you get that moment it doesn't hurt to say 'can you listen to this?' and then just be done with it. That's your art. Nivek: If you're that hot anyway, somebody in that camp is gonna hear that so then you've just gotta be ready. they're looking at you like 'are they gonna say something?' 5-Star: Come into the game and be prepared, stay sharp. Like in hoops you never know when the coach might say get in there. So that's the thing, you've gotta be ready. Seize the moment and stay on it.
Achickwitbeatz: What are 5 attributes/skills that would place an artist on your top 10 list?
Dezert Eez: Lyrics/lyrical content, total project, beat selection, delivery and longevity.
Achickwitbeatz: Conversely, what are 5 attributes that would place an artist at the very bottom of your list?
Dezert Eez: Not being themselves, no substance, can't rhyme, has a gimmick and not writing your own stuff.
Achickwitbeatz: What's next on the horizon for Dezert Eez?
Dezert Eez: Nivek: Magnificent Swords & Fly Jewels. 5-Star: Yeah, we got another album & I'm pretty excited about it, it's gonna be so dope...so dope. O'Nill: Yeah, we bringing back the Eez
5-Star: Everything we do, we feel is love..we're coming out in an era where the game just needs it. It's going to be medicine for the soul, but it's also going to be a big piece in the hip hop brick. Inspectah Deck is putting out some stuff and we'll be on that. Hopefully some more shows.
Achickwitbeatz: Since you guys were responsible for bringing so many dope acts to Kalamazoo, what goes on in your mind to put some of those together?
Dezert Eez: O'Nill: It felt good. Nivek: To me it was like people slept on it, but we feel it. 5-Star: You have to look at it as a business standpoint, like can we generate money on it? But then it becomes, we don't really want to make money, we just don't want to lose money. When you're traveling and you build with these cats or we vibing...we're thinking we should bring [them] to the Zoo and we do it, it feels good.
Achickwitbeatz: How can people connect with you and stay current with what you have in the works?
Dezert Eez: DezertEez.com definitely, that's the homepage. I think we're going to transfer things over to Soul Krush and use it as a brand because we're working with Meagan McNeal, One Level....but the main place right now is DezertEez.com even on Facebook, follow Dezert Eez Twitter, Instagram, iTunes, you can just google Dezert Eez.
Peep Dezert Eez- "Riot Gear" f. Dead Prez produced by Achickwitbeatz