Before we get into anything specific I just want to thank you for taking your time out to rock this interview. It’s always a pleasure. Lets backtrack a bit here. Who were some of your biggest influences early on as far as music is concerned?
Awe man lets see. The first record I ever got was “Yo! Bum Rush the Show” by Public Enemy. My step pop put me onto that record initially. So, definitely Public Enemy. I would also say Big Daddy Kane, LL Cool J and D.O.C. I remember my step pop playing the D.O.C. record for me but he didn’t know that joint had curses on it (laughs). Him and my mom were responsible for putting me onto what was good pretty much.
I wanted to talk a little bit about the early days of you being a recording artist prior to the debut. One of the first records I heard you on was off of Blu’s “Give Me My Flowers While I Can Still Smell Them” album on the “Growing Pains” track around 2012. Can you touch on these early records?
Yeah, the “Growing Pains” joint was actually supposed to be on the Dag Savage EP, but it was released earlier than expected and ended up on Blu’s record. I still love that joint. I came up on the San Diego scene and around the age of 14 or so I was battling grown cats from around the way. Aside from battling I was rocking any open mics I could attend at the time. This went on for a while. But, I feel like when you’re a “battle rapper” people kind of put you in this box and you get a very specific type of label or something. I wanted to make records and do what the people I looked up to did and expand from that. Long story short – I had a four-track and everybody in my neighborhood that rhymed would come over and we would record music. It was challenging but very dope. That’s kind of what the early, early days were like.
You and Exile have some intense chemistry on records and always create top notch work. I’m sure the world would love to hear how you two met initially and began to work together. Can you get into that a little bit for us?
I’m pretty sure it was 2002 when we met initially. One of my big homies actually went to school with Exile. He is the one who told me about him and his group with Aloe Blacc called Emanon. He told me they were rocking this spot out in Orange County pretty often. Once I was able to start catching the Grey Hound bus out there I would go over. We would catch cyphers and all that. Exile and I basically just started building from there.
The name Dag Savage sparks some curiosity amongst us fans as well. Who came up what the name Dag Savage for you and Exile? Do you two have a cool story behind the name?
Once we started cutting records and getting serious we started playing around with titles. Exile pretty much came up with the name for us two. We were like – it sounds like a U.K. rock band or something like that! Some European rock band! (laughs). Nah, but, we looked more into the title on a serious note. The word dag means a socially awkward person, and savage, well, that’s self explanatory. It makes perfect sense and it represents the yin and the yang. Exile is a little more quirky and quiet than me, and I just approach things as a savage. Overall, our chemistry is great man. He is very honest and straight forward when it comes to cutting records, and he would never release anything wack – period.
I don’t think anybody can argue that one. The highly anticipated “E&J” album was released not long ago and the feedback from this end seems to be amazing since it hit the shelves. On a personal note I can’t put the album down. What kind of responses have you and Exile been receiving since the lp dropped? Are you happy with the outcome overall?
For the most part it is critically acclaimed. I am grateful for that because initially all I ever started rhyming for was for somebody to be like, “yo that’s dope”. You know what I mean? Whatever comes after that financially is cool. I didn’t expect for people for take onto it like they have been, so it is really exciting. The responses have been amazing.
This next question is more for fun, but it’s certainly relevant. If you could work with one artist dead or alive who would it be?
Michael Jackson for sure. I don’t care how underground you are, how many years in the joint you did, whatever. If Michael Jackson came out with me it would be a wrap. (laughs)
Word on the street is that your live performance is quite the show. Unfortunately I have not been able to catch you live yet, but I wanted to talk a little bit about rocking stages. I think it is a mildly bypassed topic. Do you think it is an important element in this game?
I agree – I think it is an important element and overlooked as well. From a fans perspective when I go see artists that I like live and the performance doesn’t connect to me like it does from the record, than I think it takes away from it. With me I go into the old open mic days again. You may only get the chance to impress certain people that one time. If you body the stage and leave an impression from your performance you are that much better off. Performing live is one of my favorite things – even over recording songs. I take a lot of pride in it.
What is one of the most memorable moments over your whole music career thus far, and why? I ask this question often, but the responses are too notable and dope not to ask.
The first memory that comes to mind is when we had a whole Dirty Science show. It was all of us; me, Aloe Blacc, Exile, Blu, Fashawn etc. Having everybody in that whole damn spot know every word to every song was priceless. It really took me back, like damn. I mean, of course I’ve had fans know my records line for line before, but this show was serious. That’s when I knew we were doing something right. Also, we rocked a spot out in London not too long ago and those cats knew everything! It was really dope. It makes you feel good.
Having supporters and avid fans overseas must be a crazy feeling. I could only imagine. Sometimes it seems like there are more supporters of real Hip-Hop overseas than there are here in the states. From what I see online and hear through word of mouth there seems to be a booming scene in lots of areas outside of the country.
Oh for sure. They know what the deal is overseas. And, some people got it twisted and think anybody can go out of the country and rap, and they will automatically think it’s dope. That’s a total lie. They know what’s good and what’s bad! I remember being at the merchandise table and having cd’s available for purchase, and them ranting that they only wanted vinyl. That’s raw! (laughs) – But yes, overseas there is a lot of love and support.
What are your thoughts on the current state of Hip-Hop?
I love it. Obviously there are pros and cons to it all. I love the diversity right now. I love the element of the internet, even though it leads to a lot of over-saturation and overnight stars. I’m not one of them dudes that thinks every artists should do it a certain way. Stay in your lane and I will stay in my lane, you know? The one thing I don’t like too much on a mainstream level is that the exposure is basically like the same sound always. There are lots of dope artists who just don’t get the exposure they may deserve because the media only seems to push one sound at a time. When I was a shorty I remember hearing a wide range of Hip-Hop on the radio. You don’t really get that no more.
Inspiration is one of those things that can come from all elements of life, not just music. What keeps Johaz inspired to keep writing rhymes? Or, what were some of the most inspiring things early on that kept you going as an emcee?
I get inspired by my peers and my Dirty Science team. Blu, Aloe Blacc and Exile all have inspired me a lot and still do equally. I love a little friendly competition you know? If I hear a new Kendrick Lamar joint on the radio, I might be like, okay, time to cook up. Or, if Blu hits me with a new verse, I’m like, okay time to wreck, he ain’t getting me! (laughs) – I get a lot of inspiration from other people.
Before we shut it down I just wanted to know what the future plans are for Johaz. What should the world be expecting from here on out? Any new projects, tours, collaborations, etc. that you have going on currently?
Right now I am working on finishing up this free album I want to put out which is about half way done. I’m hoping for it to be available by the end of the year. So, that is coming soon. We have some more tours lined up but I don’t think we are hitting the road again until around January 2015 or so. Basically I am just working on creating more music. A lot more content is coming so stay tuned. Also, go grab my family Choosey’s new release titled “Left Field”. It is a loaded project. Thank you for all that you do with this culture and for having me.
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