Interview by Kid Peligro – All Photos by Trevor Traynor
Rakaa Iriscience Interview – Hip Hop Master Rakaa Iriscience talks music and BJJ
Rakaa Iriscience (Dialated Peoples) has been practicing BJJ for quite a few years and he finds time between his music creation and concert etc to train BJJ. Recently Rakaa launched his solo album “Crown of Thorns”, so we got a hold of the Hip Hop Master to find out “What’s up?”
KP – What got you into BJJ?
RI- I studied a few different arts off and on since I was kid but nothing really stuck. Like almost everyone else outside of Brazil and Japan, I first encountered Gracie Jiu Jitsu (now often referred to as Brazilian Jiu Jitsu) by watching Royce shock the world at the first UFC. A friend of mine began training and showing me a few things. I took advantage of an offer for a free introductory class and never stopped going. The Gracie’s are good friends of mine… I consider them family.
KP –When did you start and where? How long have you been training?
RI- I started in early 2000, but I tour year round, so I have not been nearly as consistent as I should. It also gets easier to miss classes with each one missed. I’m definitely not a pro fighter, and I have no ambitions of turning pro, but that doesn’t excuse my laziness about training. I’m just getting back into the swing of things… Most of it is like riding a bike at this point, but the details are most important in GJJ/BJJ. I need to practice to make sure I am dealing with those devils in the details.
KP –What belt are you?
RI- I’m a Purple belt at this time… Chipping away slowly at my Brown belt.
KP –Who do you admire in BJJ and why?
RI- Of course I admire the Gracie family for creating the art as we know it and sharing it with the world. I admire our cousins the Machados too. Beyond that, I admire anyone that respects the lineage of the art and their position in the order, respects the architects, and doesn’t feel that it is necessary to badmouth pioneers of the discipline that helps feed their family in order to succeed. I respect a combination of patience and determination, and of confidence and humility.
KP –Who were the most important people you have met in BJJ? Why?
RI- Without a doubt, Helio Gracie is number one. I was blessed to meet him many times, attend multiple seminars, be photographed with him on the mat for the family book (Thanks, Kid!), and have him observe and comment on my private training sessions. His energy is eternal, but he is missed in the physical form every day. The whole Gracie family is the First Family of GJJ/BJJ and really even MMA, and being welcomed into that family (as large as it is) has been extremely important to me in my life. There have been many very cool people that I’ve met along the way… Some I trained with, and some I just vibed with, but this is a pretty tight community (for better or worse).
KP –Your music is very powerful what are the roots and what do you attribute that power to?
RI- Thank you. I just attribute that power to honesty. I just call it how I see it… I make the music that speaks for me and to me, and I move according to what feels right. I am a Preacher’s son and was raised to think freely… I think that balance gives me power as well.
KP –How did your music progress?
RI- I went from being a fan with a dream, like everyone else, to being a contributor, to being the architect of my own sound (as a member of Dilated Peoples).
KP –Who are your biggest influences in your music?
RI- Too many to mention all of them, but the diverse list include: GangStarr, Rage Against The Machine, KRS One/BDP, Public Enemy, Run DMC, Beastie Boys, Eric B & Rakim, EPMD, Fishbone, Bad Brains, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, John Coltrane, Sun Ra, Afrika Bambaataa, Portishead, Astrud Gilberto, De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, NWA, Cypress Hill/Soul Assassins, Dr Dre/Death Row, Gogol Bordello, Capleton, Nas, Freestyle Fellowship, Jurassic 5, Q-Bert, and the Beat Junkies.
KP –And in life?
RI- As people, we are basically genetics and environment. We are born with our genetics, but my environment is my biggest influence because everything is all around us. Other than that, I’d say that boredom is a huge factor in keeping me moving forward in the right direction.
KP –You have a new album, can you talk about it?
RI- The album is called Crown Of Thorns, and it’s just me doing the worldliest Hip Hop album to ever come out of L.A. My album is me… It is uncompromising and unapologetic. It’s not just me writing dope rhymes, it is me welcoming people into my home. That said, the Dilated roots are still strongly represented, just from a slightly different perspective. Evidence, Babu, The Alchemist, dj honda, El-P, Oh No, Bobo and Rhettmatic, Sid Roams, !llmind, Exile, and King Jahzzy all lent their time and energy to the album’s production. Aloe Blacc, Krondon, Fashawn, Defari, Chali 2na, Evidence, KRS-One and Mad Lion all blessed the mic. On an international level; Tiger JK and Tasha (Yoon Mi Rae) from Korea, King Kapisi from New Zealand, and a bunch of my favorite Asian-Pacific Islander artists all collaborated on “Ambassador Slang”!
KP –Do you see parallels between BJJ and your music? How do they help each other?
RI- They both provide me with a very focused charge and adrenaline rush but… Funny you should ask that. I’m on the board of an organization headed up by Adisa Banjoko called the Hip Hop Chess Federation (HHCF) that brings together Hip Hop artists, Martial Artists and Chess players to show kids the benefits of chess as a blueprint for life strategies. Besides me; Josh Waitzkin, The RZA, The GZA, Ralek Gracie, and many others come to support and compete. We wanted to show that the spirit of competition and need for focus and dedication is something shared by all 3. RZA also made a great point by saying that all 3 share the burden of negative stereotypes; Hip Hop is said to just be about materialism, sexism and violence, Martial Arts are said to just be about dumb brutes or pseudo-spiritual charlatans fighting and hurting people senselessly, and chess is said to be an elitist game for rich nerds. We continue to build bridges and fight to dispel these myths and stereotypes. As a matter of fact, Ralek Gracie is a DOPE rapper… He was supposed to be on my album, but training and other scheduling didn’t allow for it this time. Keep an eye out though – that cat can rock a show and do his own security detail! Hahahaa!
KP –Any concerts planned?
RI- I just got back from a bunch of solo dates in CA, NV, and UT. Before that, I was in Hawaii then S. Korea. I have San Fran this weekend, Thailand and Malaysia should be happening next week, then 2 weeks off to relax and study before I hit the road on a West Coast based solo tour with Chali 2na and Lyrics Born. After that is Europe in November and S. America in December (both with the full Dilated Peoples group). I collect passport stamps and frequent flyer miles year round!
KP –Do you have a website, facebook, how can people get a hold of you and your work?
KP –Anything you want to add?
RI- I want to thank you for continuing to serve as an Ambassador and a bridge-builder for Gracie/Brazilian Jiu Jitsu worldwide. You have a unique space reserved for you in the Hall of Fame, Kid. Peace, many blessings to you and yours. I would also like to thank everyone for their continued support for Dilated Peoples and for my solo campaign. It is definitely appreciated… My partner Evidence (who I got to train in GJJ for a while) is almost finished with his upcoming Cats and Dogs album, and my solo album Crown of Thorns is in stores now! Dilated Peoples is still in full effect!!!
Now go train Jiu-Jitsu,