The one-man army from Philadelphia calls it quits with his latest album, Conscious Porn.
“Have you seen Big Black Gangbang on Unexpected Virgin?” Hezekiah asks with a grin that’s somehow audible over the phone, hundreds of miles away. “It was a fucked up title, and it was a fucked up film. I was pretty much gone on that one.”
I’m talking pornography with the Philly-based emcee, producer, and songwriter, whose forthcoming long player bares the distinct title of Conscious Porn. “Monster Cocks is another crazy one. All the guys on that just growl, with this chopped and screwed voice,” he laughs. “That’s too much. I can’t do any German film, either. And bukkake, eh…it’s just too much.”
There’s an air of excitement in Hez’s voice, and while that could be because we’re talking about one of society’s more taboo topics, it’s just as likely that it’s because we’re talking about anything other than the music business. It’s a subject that Hezekiah seems burnt out on. It’s the reason that the talented one man army is not nearly as recognized in the hip hop game as he should be, and it’s also why he’s declared that Conscious Porn is his final album.
“Every time I put the ball in someone else’s hands, they tend to drop it,” he sighs, referring to the bullshit industry politics that saw his 2005 Soulspazm debut Hurry Up and Wait without a distributor a month after its release (deterred yet still persistent, Hez would return two years later with his excellent I Predict a Riot on Rawkus Records, only to see that label fold shortly thereafter). “I just expect the worst.”
It’s with that somewhat bleary outlook that Hezekiah pushes forward with his latest release. Continuing in the vein of the soulful, live instrumentation-laden post-Jay Dee sound of his previous records, Conscious Porn also introduces the element of “future organic synth,” as Hez has dubbed it. The album features an impressive guest roster that includes Talib Kweli, Bahamadia, Peedi Peedi, Raheem DeVaughn, Cody ChestnuTT, and D.R.E.S. Tha Beatnik, with production from close associates Steve Mckie, Conley “Tone” Whitfield, IMAKEMADBEATS, and Aaron Livingston.
Talk to Hez about the music on Conscious Porn, and he’ll rattle off a list of influences (“I was definitely inspired by the Dirty Projectors for this album… 30 Seconds to Mars, too. Sade’s last album was a huge inspiration for the synth/organic production style, too.”) But that excitement takes a considerable nosedive when he speaks about it as an album. “I’m unhappy with the industry, and it’s started to affect my music. I look at my studio and equipment and ask myself, ‘Why am I doing this? Why am I going to sit here for eight hours?’” he says. “I’m always going to be an artist, and I’m always going to record. But this record is probably the last thing that I’m going to record with intentions to actually put out.”
“Even if this album blows up, you still won’t hear another produced album from me. I won’t do it,” he continues. “I’ve got a whole other album’s worth of material that’s just sitting around, but I’m not so interested in making albums. I’m more focused about the album I’m producing for Bahamadia, the joints I’m doing for Jaguar Wright, music with Jazmine Sullivan… but as far as the Hezekiah brand, it would take a lot to make me want to continue with that route. Not even money. I’m just so done.”
It’d be a heartbreaking statement if the man wasn’t so matter-of-fact with his demeanor – and if it wasn’t being mentioned in the same conversation as one where we talk about women getting nailed on camera. “I think that porn has definitely affected me in the same way that it’s affected a lot of people,” Hez says. “I’ve become one of those people who separate love from sex. I was working with Jaguar Wright the other day, and she said I’m always writing from my head, or my crotch, but that I never write from my heart, like I’m heartless. I think porn has psychologically fucked me up.”
“Like Greg Nice said, too much of anything makes you an addict,” he says, reflecting on his tricky relationship with smut. “I definitely think porn is more harmful than it is helpful, but hey, rehab is for quitters, right?”
And it’s not like you’re actually buying it, correct?
“What are you, joking? Am I a fool?” he laughs. “Come on, it’s 2010. Who pays for porn? Who pays for entertainment?”
He pauses for a second to consider the irony in that statement, and then laughs some more. It may be a crazy statement for an artist to make while promoting their latest purchasable product, but it’s not any more wild than the notion that hip hop may in fact be losing one of its dopest unsung heroes. But like any porn star with a shred of common sense, Hezekiah may realize that there may be more longevity in it for him behind-the-scenes. One can only hope that it’s a successful venture – and that we don’t end up with the musical equivalent of Big Black Gangbang on Unexpected Virgin.
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Hezekiah‘s Conscious Porn is in stores October 5th – pre-order your copy today from iTunes!