Sitting Down with Prodezra (exclusive interview)
Shemspeed are big Prodezra fans, as his was the first beat we chose for the first of the DeScribe & Y-Love collabrative singles. When we finished the song, “Change” it hit us that the track was made by 3 Orthodox Jews which broke down like this: 3 Jews, 3 Massive hip hop heads, 2 converts, 2 of color, 2 Chabadniks and 3 all wanting to spread positive messages of unity and G-dliness. We sat down with Prodezra right after his album “Until When” hit stores!
How did you get into hip hop and what are your top 5 hip hop albums?
Well, I grew up listening to all kinds of music. My parents were big on Jazz, Funk, R&B, & Soul, so I heard tons of that. I went through all kinds of musical stages. At one point I was in a hardcore rap phase. Then I was on rock music. I was all over the place. Playing percussion instruments in concert bands in school made me appreciate classical music and its precision as well. There was even a time when I wouldn’t listen to anything unless it was Reggae or Chopped & Screwed Music (where they slow down the track and chop it up). But hip hop, it’s unique energy, and it’s ability to incorporate music from other genres just never ceased to amaze me. Nothing brings together different musical worlds like HipHop can. Top 5!? That’s really hard. As a lover of beats, my favorite albums didn’t always have positive lyrics, so as a more observant man now, it’s better I don’t share those here!…Lol. Know what I mean? But my Top 5 all-around albums with super tracks and something more concious to say are 1) Goodie Mob – Soul Food 2) Witchdoctor – A S.W.A.T. Healin’ Ritual 3) Gang Starr – Moment of Truth 4) Outkast – ATLiens 5) Nas – Illmatic
How did you come to being a religious Jew?
Very long story. Lol. In short, my father got linked with Judaism in college in Minnesota. We moved back down south where my sister and I were put into Hebrew Day School at a young age, even before conversion. After many years of study by my father and mother, and some very interesting stories, we converted when I was 12. I had a bar-mitzvah, learned in Sunday classes, etc. From there, I think it’s the same story as many baalei teshuvas. I switched schools and got more and more disconnected from things. I left to go off to college and just got involved in some things I shouldn’t have gotten into. But I guess that was the only way to wake me up, because I kept getting saved somehow from bad situations. I was just like, “How did I get out of this again!” Thank G-d I got the message…the kind only G-d can send, and started looking for answers. After looking here and there, I reconnected with what I had learned as a child. I studied on my own and eventually decided to go to yeshiva in NJ, and then in Israel. Everything came together, B”H.
How did you start making beats?
I always loved making a beat with anything. Still do…a table, wall, toys, glasses…whatever. One day in early high school, my cousin bought this Casio keyboard. He saw I was infatuated with it so he let me borrow it for a long time. First, I started trying to remake songs on it and then tried to do my own stuff. People around the way actually dug what I was doing and were free-styling over it. All of my early beats were with that Casio…me playing every note and sound by hand on a 5 minute song, lol. You can imagine how off beat some of it was, but I just got addicted to the process of it all.
What do you use to make beats? what gear..?
I use a Roland Fantom X-Series, Kontakt, Screwlab, and occasionally some nice sounds I find from various internet sound banks.
How do you feel Judaism plays a role in your music and message?
Back in the day, it didn’t play a role at all. Now, it’s the main focus and inspiration for all my music. Learning has taught me that if a person is blessed with a talent, he shouldn’t just sit on it. G-d gave it to somehow be used for His ultimate purpose. The Alter Rebbe (first Chabad Rebbe) said that music is the quill of the soul. Therefore even an instrumental can convey a deep message. Sometimes it can touch a place that your words might not. So my beliefs are a big drive behind that effort. It’s the reason I’ve got to keep doing it.
Do you feel that there is a market for Jewish hip hop?
Absolutely. And the other artists in the genre I’m sure will tell you the same. Look at the positive response. It disappoints me when people say that HipHop can’t play a role in Jewish music, or that its treif, or no good can come from it…or that the quality can’t compete with other HipHop. If these people walked in our shoes or gave the music a listen, they’d be less likely to say that. Anyway, the facts have proved otherwise. Plenty of people of all backgrounds who buy mainstream music continue to appreciate and gain strength from songs like “Change” w/Describe & Y-Love, “Freedom” from Nosson Zand, and all the other positive music that’s spreading like wildfire. And at the same time, our songs are just as Jewish, and just as soul-shaking as any of the great traditional music. It just depends on who you ask. I know, because I even hear from people in their 50’s who love it too! Like it or not, when you talk about Jewish music, now you’re going to have to start mentioning hip hop.
What do you see in your future with music…?
Well, I’ll continue pushing this album. And I’ve already got a couple things in the works with some other musical artists and lyricists. So I’m looking forward to that, because they’re super-talented and want to spread this strengthening, positive, and holy message like I do. I’ll keep making tracks, maybe even do a little more rapping…maybe…lol. I just want to play my part in delivering powerful music to people that will lift their spirits, inspire faith, and help connect them even closer to the Creator and their fellow man.
What’s the most important thing in your life?
G-d, Torah, and becoming what He wants me to become. Not easy, but if I can stay focused on that, everything else will fall into place. Hasn’t failed me yet. My family and friends of course.
Anything else you want to share?
Yeah. Give my album “Until When” a chance. Don’t sleep on it. There’s something on there for everybody. And show some love to Jewish HipHop and Jewish music in general by supporting all the artists and spreading the word. Only cling to positivity, everything is for a good reason, and know no matter how far down you may fall, G-d’s got a long reach! Tune into Shemspeed!