Issue #94 - Digital Cover

Published on March 18th, 2016 | by Jameelah "Just Jay" Wilkerson


The Hype Magazine’s Jerry Doby Interviews: Hip Hop Nation’s Torae

Sirius XM Radio’s Torae “The Tour Guide” is one of the signature voices I listen to six days a week on Hip Hop Nation. A lifelong proponent of Hip-Hop culture, Torae brings a wealth of knowledge and disseminates it via his popular radio show as well as an artist himself. A skilled interviewer and moderator, Torae has lent his talents to events for XXL and Hip Hop Today. Outside of music, Torae made his acting debut this January in the Mack Wilds and Wood Harris small screen feature The Breaks on VH1 in which he played MC Sig Sauer.

Also this past January, Torae stepped back to center stage as an artist with his first full length project in four years called Entitled. This project pulls hole cards and paints a masterful picture of reality, eschewing the fakery currently rampant in Hip-Hop. His abilities as a stand alone artist, kept the guest appearances on Entitled to a minimum lyrically. Features include a few friends like Saul Williams, Phonte and Pharoe Monche on a bonus track. Production on the album received blessings from the likes of the inimitable Pete Rock, Jahlil Beats, Khrysis, Nottz, Apollo Brown and the living legend DJ Premier.

According to Torae, when he started recording new songs, he didn’t have an album in mind, he says “I just wanted to get some things off my chest.  There were things happening in the world that I expected certain artists to talk about, when they didn’t I was disappointed.  Partying is cool, but there’s a lot more to life than partying or repping the hood.”

Well bruh, Entitled is one of those projects I’d say that throws an alarm clock in the graveyard and wakes the dead!

What a wonderful welcome and introduction. Thank you, Jerry. What’s popping?

I’ve been addicted to your show. I’m like, “Man this is hip hop,” and then I got an opportunity to check the album. Entitled dropped recently and I said to myself, Self, this is what hip hop has been begging for.”

This is the line that sold first sold the project to me, man: “Create lines to illuminate their mind.” I was like, “Okay, here we go.” Talk to me about Entitled, Torae.

Just something to lighten their minds, definitely trying to lighten the minds. Thank you, man. I appreciate the support on all of my endeavors from radio to the music side as well.

Torae the tour guide, it’s a metaphor. The Torae is a way to get into the deep web and Torae “The Tour Guide is taking us into some deep Hip-Hop.

I always try to sneak in a double entendre, a play on words or something in my rhymes. I think that’s what I’m most known for is little double entendres and when I named my show The Tour Guide, it had to be in that same vain of you’ve got Torae, so you take the tour, you’ve got the tour guide which takes you around, and the show is on Hip Hop Nation, so the tour guide Torae is taking you around the nation, giving you this run through, if you will, a perusal of what’s going on in here, on Hip Hop Nation and Hip-Hop in general.

Well, let’s talk about Entitled, man. It’s been four years since you dropped a full joint. I was reading it, this album, you were just pissed off and there was some messages that weren’t being sent out that should have been from the current leaders, or what are supposedly industry leaders in Hip-Hop, and you just started to address it, so you were getting things off your chest. The next thing you know, magic happened and you got a full joint. Talk to me about the creation of Entitlement.

Yeah, that was pretty much it. Less so than being pissed off, I was more disappointed. Like you said, “leaders”, the one’s who we look to in times of need and the one’s we look to to lead us, give us direction and information, during this whole process of everything that’s been going on in the last few years, just how blatantly disrespectful it’s gotten. I didn’t feel like we had enough representation in the music.

As a artist, as somebody who does have a voice and a platform, like okay, well you can’t always look around like who’s going to step up, you’ve got to step up, whether you got a million people listening or you got a thousand people, either way you have a voice, you’ve got a platform, and you know what you need to do and what you need to say, so get out there and do it, and don’t just be looking for people to voice the opinion that you feel like you have, so just let it go, and that’s what I did on the album.

For, I would say, maybe 40, 50 percent of the content and then like you said, after I got the *ish off my chest, it was like, “Wow, I’ve got a lot of records now, so now’s the time to just complete the cipher and wrap up the album and round it out,” and that’s what we got the other 50 to 40 percent of the content.

What I really appreciate is that it’s not feature heavy.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I kept it light. I just reached out to people who I felt could help me convey the message that I was trying to convey and get the point across. People that I look at as artists that I respect and look up to, and I just decided to reach out to people that I thought would be a dope fit and accessible through my circle, and you know, who were willing to work.

It’s not about me chasing a big name or trying to chase down a feature just because they’re hot at the moment, I’ve seen a bunch of hot guys come and go. For me, it was more so about getting out there and just working with people that were willing to work, and could complete, and come with some dopeness to add on to the project.

If you had to pick a joint from this new body of work that would be a great introduction to a first time listener as to who Torae is now, where your mind set is now, which one would you pick?

Oh man, that’s difficult. I love them all for different reasons. They’re all my babies. If I had to pick one just to introduce to the people who I am and where I am right now, I would probably say, it’s tough. It’s a tough one Jerry, you’ve got me stumped. I don’t feel like there’s any one particular record that does that justice, but just for answering sake, let’s go with track eight, R.E.A.L.

[Torae] For you?

For me, I was really into What’s Love, track 16, featuring Pharoahe Monche

What’s love, okay. That’s a good one. You know what, and probably me, I totally exclude What’s Love and Saturday Night from the track listening because they are bonus joints, but yeah, that’s good, because What’s Love, I did do a mix tape in between albums in 2013, I released a mix tape called Admission of Guilt, and What’s Love is a joint that was on that mix tape, but the record was just, it was a free download mix tape so it was never available on iTunes, or CD, or vinyl, anything.

I feel like the record was so dope and Pharoahe came in and just killed it so much that I felt like it being a part of that mixe tape project was dope, but I also wanted to include it on an official album that people could go buy, and people who maybe aren’t internet savvy or don’t peruse the blogs or what have you, might have missed it. That’s why I included it, but yeah, that’s a really good selection to answer the question that you asked, Jerry, for sure.

From the outside looking in bro, talk to me as you see yourself, who is Torae though?

Torae is just a lover of hip hop, a grown ass man, a grown a** black man here in America. I’ve got a family, I’ve got kids, I’ve got a wife. I grew up in New York City, loving hip-hop music. I’m just a representation of the extension of everything that’s been given to me. I try to be a student of hip-hop and also a contributor. I want to continue to be able to give back to the culture and give back to the art form.

I think I’m like like a modern day renaissance man, whether you hear me on radio as an artists or you hear me on radio as a on air talent, or you see me on stage performing, or you see me on stage hosting and bringing out a performer, or you see me on the red carpet getting interviews, or you see me on the red carpet getting interviewed, I’m just an active participant in the culture. That’s my thing. As much as I can give back in as many ways as I can give back, I’m going to always do that. I’m like Bo Jackson, just because I get busy in the booth doesn’t mean I can’t flip the switch and stand on, be on screen and do that, or I can’t flip the switch and be on the radio and do that. I’m ambidextrous with all this.

Torae delved into the digital revolution and its impact on the industry:

How do you feel like technology has affected or effected your professional life and your lifestyle? I mean, you said you had three or four devices earlier on in the conversation.

I think that has been a gift and a curse for the industry as a whole, and probably for me as well as an artist. The fact that I can get my music world wide, to so many people in places that I had never been prior to putting out music, that just have access to any album, any song, anything they want from Torae is definitely a blessing. Being able to tour in places like Germany, Poland, France, or Italy, or whatever. My music reached those places long before I did physically. That’s all due to the internet.

At the same time, I think it definitely deters people from making a purchase. The music industry as a whole isn’t thriving right now because people just aren’t buying as much music as they used to because they don’t have to, because again, they have the internet. It’s a double edged sword. You have to make it what it is for you and figure out how to make it work for you.

I don’t feel like I would have as big of a career without the internet in this day and age, but at the same time, maybe if I came out 10, 15 years prior, I would have been maybe a little more commercially successful because there was no internet for people to illegally download the music. It’s a 50/50 thing, man. I try to stay positive and optimistic and look at the good in it. That’s where I’m coming from with it.

We also got into the GRAMMYS, Kendrick Lamar and artists who rep the accepted four pillars of Hip-Hop, as well as his thoughts on a plethora of other subjects in this in-depth conversation. Check out the full audio “Live Session” with Torae and our Editor-in-Chief Jerry Doby.

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By Jerry Doby


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About the Author

Publisher and CEO of The Hype Magazine. Follow me on Twitter @HypeJustJay

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