This one’s going out to you / But I do it for me too is the first line in Ike Turnah’s hook to Out2U and it sums up the Ike experience in a nutshell. This month’s featured artist is about getting the crowd fired up and feeding off their energy. Call it Hip-Hop Aikido. Even in the studio, Ike Turnah is thinking about the fan and how the song is going to sound live. Perhaps, that constant thought to how his music affects the crowd is what separates him from his contemporaries in an ever crowded playing field.
Ike is a rising star in the Down South circuit. It would be, however, a mistake to label Ike a Southern Crunk rapper. Such labels don’t apply to a musician who draws inspiration from R&B, Jazz, Gospel, and Rock to name a few. Instead, he weaves sounds from his musical interests as well as east, west, and southern Hip-Hop influences into a sonic tapestry that is diverse and never a boring listen. What is most impressive is his consistency; he ventures into different sonic palettes while remaining firmly planted in hip-hop tradition. I got to chat with Ike Turnah about his process, his thoughts on Hip-Hop, and more:
HFI: Ike! Good to talk to you man. How’s the south treating you these days?
Ike Turnah: It’s beautiful man, I can’t complain. The south is growing. Charlotte is growing. It’s a good place to raise your kids! The music scene out here, it’s a little stagnant, but I got some song ideas floating around so I got some good stuff coming out of it.
HFI: Well it won’t be stagnant for too long with the tracks you got coming out.
Ike Turnah: Yea, well the Hip-Hop scene out here has kind’ve died out a little bit, but as far as the creative side of it, I’m trying to elevate, come up with some new sounds, go out there… just working on it.
HFI: You were an early adopter of HiFiveMusic, got to the top of the charts on that, you’re one of the top emerging hip-hop artists in North Carolina, a rising star, what do you attribute your success?
Ike Turnah: Just really being focused on the quality of the music – that was one of the main things I always focus on, making sure the recording was up to par, the music selection was diverse, and playing overseas and playing a lot of shows in the US – that has been the main thing.
HFI: You’ve mentioned having diversity in your tracks – they have that down south vibe to it, but sense, a little bit of east coast… and maybe even a sprinkle of west coast in there too.
Ike Turnah: Yea, I grew up listening to Hip-Hop music from all difference regions. Down south you get a lot of east coast and west coast music being played because for a lot of that time there wasn’t a lot of down south being played on the radio. It’s a little bit of everything like gumbo.
HFI: One of my favorite tracks has to be Blank Pages and Out2u. I love those beats. Tell me about your process. Do you get beats from your producers first and then rhyme on that, do you sketch out ideas first and make beats to the sketches, or a little bit of both?
Ike Turnah: To that particular song [Blank Pages] I received a beat from Matt Cable and I wrote directly to that track. Sometimes I’ll write without a beat. I’ll find beats that work with the rhymes I wrote. It depends on the situation, there’s really no exact formula to how I approach it.
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HFI: So how about a song like Blank Pages then. The beat crescendos and evolves, and then you bring her back in for a gentle landing. Is this the kind of song you work with more closely with your producer?
Ike Turnah: Yea, so Matt Cable produced that track and I’m a fan of his work. He gave me a couple of tracks, and I contacted the featured artist Superstition to see if he wanted to get down with it. As far as the cuts go on it, I used Marlon Caroll… he’s a great artist man. He actually produced a lot of our albums. He has cuts on every album I put out. Every album I put out, he has something to do with it. I got the beat, wrote to it, after we got the vocals down then I contacted – I wanted space, I wanted something different in the building up – so I contact Marlon about doing the cuts on it and he put the icing on the cake.
HFI: That’s interesting because in a lot of cases when I talk to other Hip-Hop artists they usually have just one producer on the track. It’s almost like you have an ensemble and different people specialize in one kind of sound and you mold them together to for a unique sound.
Ike Turnah: Yea, you know, you utilize the things around you. Especially in Hip-Hop, you have limited resources. I know a lot of talented people man, so I’ll I ask somebody for help to make a track better. It’s working to together as far as making music, that’s how I think about it. If he needs me to help with project, I got him, and vice versa. That’s the main thing, we just try and work together and make the best with the people we have available.
HFI: A lot of people have their opinions about the state of Hip-Hop, where is it at, where is it going, and what role do you hope to play?
Ike Turnah: Hip-hop right now, there’s so many Hip-Hop artists. It’s slightly overcrowded. It’s a lot easier than it used to be to put out music – you can put it online, YouTube… there’s a lot of stuff out there. You have to kind’ve butcher through a lot of garbage sometimes to find the good stuff (laughs). There’s still a lot of good Hip-Hop music being made, but I feel it doesn’t get the respect and the shine it should as far as radio and television and stuff like that. For me, I just want to continue to make quality music and I want to try and continue to expand and try new things and step outside of the box. I like to listen to all kinds of music. Sometimes I won’t listen to Hip-Hop for a week straight. I like other stuff so I want to try other things. It’s still based on Hip-Hop since it’s still my foundation, but that’s what we’re trying to put forth.
HFI: Who are your influences?
Ike Turnah: (laughs) I love every genre, Hip-Hop, gospel, jazz, rock, R&B, instrumentalists, as far as the artists go, there’s too many to name. I love sound, but when I make music I also try to picture the visual aspect of it. My family, that’s a huge influence, especially nowadays with what I write and what I want to say. I travel, [I’m also influenced by] art… food (laughs)
HFI You’ve shared the stage with some big names… Tanya Morgan, KRS-1 and 9th Wonder to name a few… what was that like?
Ike Turnah: All of those experiences, that’s the type of stuff I see as successful. Yea man, every time I go up and rap with a different artist you always get a feeling that you get to please different crowds… it’s cool.
HFI: One thing fans should know about you that they don’t already know now.
Ike Turnah: I’m pretty much an open book, man (laughs)
HFI: I’m trying to be Bryant Gumble here… get some something out of you!
Ike Turnah: Yea! One thing fans don’t know about me… I’m a father!
HFI: That’s good! One day there’ll be little Ike’s running around in a few years!
Ike Turnah: Yea (laughing). I do freestyle a lot of stuff you don’t see in the albums
“For me, I just want to continue to make quality music and I want to try and continue to expand and try new things and step outside of the box.“
HFI: So you’re almost like a jazz musician in a sense. You’ll have some things you prepare, and then there’s some stuff you’ll freestyle in your performance.
Ike Turnah: When I first started out rapping, I started freestyling. I did that for a long time. It took a couple of years to learn how to put my thoughts down on paper. When I do shows, I will sometimes change the words of the songs while on stage. I’ll do the first verse in the song and then freestyle the second verse, and most people don’t even know.
HFI: That’s cool, because I think one of the misconceptions about Hip-Hop is rappers are musicians too. A lot of people short change the art form. The art of freestyle and being able to improvise on the fly like that that is what I would say, just as difficult as being a good jazz musician.
Ike Turnah: It’s not something everybody can do, it’s out of reach for a lot of people. It’s a good thing and a bad thing sometimes, because I rely on it when I probably shouldn’t, but I enjoy that – being able to feed off the energy of the crowd.
HFI: Any new projects on the horizon?
Ike Turnah: Yea, it’s almost done, it’s a project called The Last Harvest. It’s gonna be cool, it’s coming out sometime this year, by the end of the summer it should be ready. I also got a group project coming out soon too.
HFI: I know our HIFiveMusic fans will definitely be looking forward to that when it drops. I have one for you… Lance D/Ike Turnah HFM exclusive… I think I feel an EP coming on.
Ike Turnah: Oh yea, I know man! What’s up with the production Lance?
HFI: I’ll cook something up for you man, I think I feel an EP coming on!
Ike Turnah: Yea man! (laughing) I need some more weird stuff… stuff that you think I won’t like, that’s the stuff I like. Challenge me man!
HFI: Challenge accepted! So I got you on the record for the exclusive EP!
Ike Turnah: I’ll fly out to New York and we’ll do it out there!
Check out more Ike Turnah tracks on his HiFiveMusic page