Poet, journalist, activist and mouth musician Hakim Bellamy is a Philadelphia native who has lived in the Land of Enchantment for five years. Bellamy, who is also the social and community programs coordinator at the New Mexico State Office of African American Affairs, took time out of his busy Black History Month schedule to identify, via electronic mail, Albuquerque’s very own hip-hop supergroup.
Who is The Radio Alchemist?
A rogue BAND of musical "note-
What is the intent?
The intent is to resurrect "the album." The music world has went away from the entirety of the album listening experience and has bought into this "one or two singles and some DVD extras" philosophy of packaging music. They are not telling stories anymore. Albums used to be stories, with dynamics and narratives rather than a list of songs that sound like the song before and after them. I think The Radio Alchemist is a weird, far-out, funk-laced trip that has a beginning, a middle and an end. And for an added level of difficulty, we crafted this story with a band of writers rather than one pen to make the dynamics MORE dynamic, and the differences MORE different. Basically it is more of an experience than a compilation. A concept album of sorts—but I'll let the listeners tell ME what the concept is.
What does it sound like?
It sounds like the soundtrack to an independent film. It's got dialogue and dance, something that warrants repeated listens. It certainly sounds like a professionally produced product; hats off to Mic and Matt. As a wordsmith and vocalist I can say this, with all due respect to my artistic comrades on this album, but it is the music AS MUCH IF NOT MORE than the lyrics that warrant repeated listens of this album. Straight up. HOWEVER the lyrics and vocals are phenomena of their own. Needless to say, I have a partial bias towards this album.
What is TuMan Productions?
They help transform and develop talent in my opinion. Every artist I've heard them work with had one sort of sound coming into the collaboration. Then the product, a TuMan Oh-riginale, had a totally different sound for that artist. Not necessarily better or worse, just different. Which shows growth in my humble opinion. It shows a willingness to take an artistic risk and get outside what has been "successful" for that artist and boldly go where they haven't gone before. That, and they are cool as ... ummm a four-letter word, ahhh ... heck.
What's the connection between hip-hop and poetry?
It's a process of enrichment, and though poetry is an element of hip-hop (the MC), it is not the whole of Hip-Hop. (Big and little "H" intended). They influence one another, even inspire one another, but do not necessarily "beget" one another. Sometimes, the two communities aren't even necessarily fond of one another, like two identical twins who can't seem to get along despite their similarities. However, I do believe that is more of a generational difference of opinion. I always find it interesting that we often compare hip-hop lyricists to poets rather than to songwriters (not the composers but actual writers). Would they be as offended as some poets get when hip-hop is mentioned in the same breath? I don't know.
Why do you think the two are so prominent in Albuquerque?
I think Albuquerque is an artistic vortex. So art can grow under the very fertile conditions created here. Those props go to the communities that support both, for real. ... The communities here are encouraging to artists and also open to cross-genre collaborations, so that makes it a unique place to feel safe trying something new and still being well-received. I don't think there are words to express the comfort and gratitude that come with that .... On top of that, we are not New York or L.A. So there is not really an expectation of how a N.Y. rapper should sound or an L.A. poet should write, so we have the ability to kind of create ourselves without the pressure of a regional trend or de facto style.