Q&A Feature: K. Sankofa

DSC_0367.MOV.00_00_35_09.Still003K. Sankofa isn’t your ordinary music artist. With a dab of hip, a splash of jazz, and a spruce of Caribbean flow, he surely knows how to keep his sound original, while eclectic in the ears of his listeners. That isn’t the norm produced in the music rooted from Wisconsin, or from the stereotype from Wisconsin, but here we are. K. Sankofa isn’t going anywhere else anytime soon. Music isn’t the only knowledge K. Sankofa possesses. He proves that with us in this recent interview with the young man, himself, as well as the song lyrics he creates for his content.

K. Sankofa is such a unique stage name, yet a beautiful name as well. Would you tell us the story of how you came up with that name for your musical presence?

K. Sankofa: For the most part, I learned of the term ‘sankofa’ while in college. It is a proverb from Ghana, Africa that means, “Go back and get it.”

Being involved in many social justice efforts I was able to see how the term was used in fighting for justice. Reclaiming culture and heritage in roots of indigenous, as well as, revitalizing the spirit of justice that swept over those who fought through momentous periods like the Civil Rights Movement.

For me, personally, it has become a motto for continued self-development, while never leaving behind the upbringing that made me who I am. I celebrate every part of my past and every lesson that I have learned. This includes being raised in south central L.A.,  and being raised to reverence God in everything.

I started writing and experimenting with music early on in life. However, when I got to college, I told myself that I’d have to leave music behind to focus on things that I believed to be more important. I soon realized that when times got hard it was music that could make me feel whole and revitalize me in the way that I needed to move forward and carry on. With that I took on the stage under the philosophy of sankofa, going back, and getting the music.

For someone who might not have listened to your music before, can you tell us a small description of what your music is about?

KS: My music is about liberation. For me, I feel a sense of freedom in the creation of my music. Even more, I hope to reflect the struggle of the people who may not have the voice to speak out against injustice. My music is spiritual. I try to keep God in everything I do.

My music reflects my own pain and my own adversity that I have experienced. I feel like it might have a blues feel to it with how saddening the content can be sometimes. My music is about rising up against the forces that are here to keep people in inequitable socioeconomic conditions. My music is about love, hope, truth, and justice.

DSC_0380How did you find your voice for the music industry and how did you find your gift for writing music and your ability to rap?

KS: I started rapping in the 7th grade. I first discovered my love for rap music during that time, because a friend of mine urged me to get into some writing sessions with him. I loved putting the pen to the paper and expressing my thoughts. I try to make sure I let my influences and life philosophy speak through me. I try to stay in tune with God. I think it is a confluence of these thing that helped to develop the voice that I have.

Are there any current musicians who have helped influence your style of music?

KS: Definitely. Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, and Jay-Z are a few people who influenced me the most, but even today I have been influenced by newer artist like Chance The Rapper.

Even though your music focuses on your life stories, music is actually not your priority goal is it? Care to tell us what is your main goal in life is?

KS: My main life goal is do what I believe is right. I want to do what God has set out for me to do in this world. I believe that encompasses organizing towards justice and being a voice for the oppressed and the unheard. I believe that it is our great mission as a race of humanity to serve our fellow man and put our focus into achieving a well-fare state. I know that the task is endless and bigger than any one individual but I believe that we all have a part to play. My main goal in life is figure out the part that I am best suited for and fulfilling the duties of that role to the best of my ability.

_DSC0008You’re not actually from Wisconsin, but you are originally from California. How did you find yourself in Madison?

KS: I got the Posse Foundation full-tuition scholarship to come to UW-Madison.

Not only are you gifted and talented, but you are a young, well-educated human being. Can you tell us what you are studying and/or majoring in for your Bachelors degree? What drew you to choose your field of study?

KS: Sociology was my major. I chose this, because I had a mentor who opened me up to the major. I fell in love with the pursuit of understanding the development of our world through a societal lens. I was drawn to how interdisciplinary sociology is. You will learn about the law, history, the economy, politics, and so much more. I graduated back in May.

Does Sociology have a part in your influence to make music?

KS: Most definitely. It gives me perspective. If there is one thing that I have learned it is that we are social creatures, and that people are generally a product of their social environment and upbringing. I try to equip a broader lens of understanding of this in my music.

_DSC0250In December, you dropped your first mix-tape album, The Audacity. I must say my top three songs on that album are “Young, Gifted & Black”, “Surrender”, and “Say Less.” What were your top three songs you enjoyed creating the most in the studio process on this album? Why?

KS: I enjoyed creating every song because they are all different and require different approaches in the creation process. But if I had to pick a top three it would be “Sing Sankofa,” “Surrender”, and “Go Down.”

“Sing Sankofa” was the first song I recorded for the tape, so it was exciting to jump into it with full intensity. I got to work with the brother, Lucien Parker, at Strange Oasis Entertainment. Lucien is cold with the audio setup and the vocal production.

“Surrender” was an interesting recording process, because we incorporated live instruments. I was literally rapping the track to the beat while the homie, Mandell, went to work with the saxophone. Then, later on, we brought in the home girl, Jada, to hit a violin outro. So overall, music collaborative process was just powerful in “Surrender.”I can’t forget to mention that I was able to record the first hook with DJ Pain 1 who actually made the beat for the song.

Last, but not least, I gotta go with “Go Down”, because of the intensity of the recording process. I felt like I put my all into the spitting that song in the booth.

With all the access to many independent artists on various music platforms like Spotify, ITunes, SoundCloud, and ReverBNation, I see a transition within the music industry in itself. Do you see or feel a change with the music industry changing or reconstructing?

KS: With social media and a wave of independence it seems like music is in the hands of the people. There is no telling what’s to come. Hopefully major labels don’t get to control what we listen to in the future. Hopefully that power is transferred to the hands of the people.

Do you feel the polarization of modern politics has an influence with the transitions of the music industry? Why or why not?

KS: Not really. I think the music industry changes are because of social media, technology, and massive access to information. However, I think these same factors have shifted modern politics too.

Where do you see the music industry in five years from now? Where do you see yourself?

KS: Nothing new is under the sun. I think the music industry will still reflect a variety of perspectives and thought. However, I do think as we evolve as a society drawing nearer knowledge, purpose our music will reflect that growth. Hopefully we elevate the musical leaders in such a society. I hope to be one of those leaders.

Majority of artists out there, whether it be actors, musicians, painters, singers, or whatever, always has that one role model or influence with their pathway in life and/or artistic missions. Who has been the most significant role model in your life?

KS: My older brother Eric. He was the first in my family to go to college. He was amazing. He lived a life of service and integrity. He was also a rap artist.

If you could write a letter to your younger self in one sentence, what would it say?

KS: Don’t let anyone try to define you and always stay tight with God.

This is simply a challenge, rather than a question. Give us a random playlist with the first ten songs that come to your mind.

  1.     Jay Rock: Win
  2.     Michael Jackson: Human Nature
  3.     Outkast: Ms. Jackson
  4.     Ice Cube: Today was a Good Day
  5.     Kendrick Lamar: Mortal Man
  6.     Tupac: Changes
  7.     Lauryn Hill: Ex-Factor
  8.     Cardi B: I like it
  9.     Beyonce: Halo
  10.     Bob Marley: Get Up Stand Up

Oh, there is plenty more coming from this young individual. Currently on a light tour, just to increase his presence in the scene. K. Sankofa also has a new album in the works! Stay tuned for how the founder of #RebelGang turns up!

For now, enjoy the new single, “State of Emergency.” Make sure to just hit play right down below and check it out.

It’s. That. Simple.

Just. Push. Play.


Focused (Poetry)

It’s that time again.

Another banger, another rhyme,

Another lesson in this poetic mind.

With that hip-hop vibe.

I’m focused a hundred percent,

Like I’m popping in that Ritalin.

No, really, I’m popping that Ritalin.

To tame my A.D.D. habits.

Because God forbid if I ever get side tracked

Once again.

This is my calling.

To empower my weaknesses with my strengths.

I’m focused.

This is my moment.

I’m focused.

This is your only notice.

Artists respect this.

Because I know how to keep it trill,

Respectful and true.

I speak what’s on my mind,

But first, I listen, comprehend,

And understand other walk of lives before I stand.

Before I speak my views and experiences.

This is my business.

If I haven’t walked in your shoes,

I keep it hush; I don’t act like I know.

Because I don’t need to act a fool,

To fit in with any kind of crew.

I’m focused.

This is my moment.

I’m focused.

This is your only notice.

I keep it positive, I shine my own light.

I stay focused in my own fight.

I’m ready for the final round,

I’ll return to use my mixed martial arts exercise.

To squash those who want to criticize.

Because I am too focused.

To allow anyone to try to tell me how to live my life.

I am too focused to live any kind of lie.

It’s time to turn up the levels,

It’s time to maximize.

You can call me a pesticide.

I’m focused.

This is my moment.

I’m focused.

This is your only notice.

2014©H.M. Gautsch

Be Around Those With Similar Goals Like You, Be A Team

So it seems the start of the career that YOU WANT is the hardest part of the whole time you put forth in it. Fortunately, as I am trying to peak through with my artistic skills, I have probably one of the best support team anyone can ask for. The backbone of what keeps me holding on. I also surround myself and have benefited being around artists and dreamers of all sorts that have been in their fields of dreams for quite sometime. Not everyone has that opportunity. I also have a team of  friends who are also helping me, one way or another, to get where I want to be in my life. To top that off, if I need advice, I always have people who are always there for me and give me the knowledge I need to move forward with my next task.

One of my 2014’s goal is to organize my artistic abilities under ONE NAME, amongst time management. A challenge I always struggled with, but with a financial boost to help me by going back to school earlier than plan, I can make it happen for myself. Forget about the struggles I may be having with the military, these new goals I have for 2014 is going to help me therapeutically since my art has helped me more than any medication, counseling, alcohol or smoking ever has. It’s my fuel to stay clean and rise above once and for all in my trouble times.

So if you feel you are sitting alone with your dreams and no one to back you, find the people with the same life beliefs and mission as you and you will get farther than you EVER thought you could ever be. Also, surround yourself with people who see your potential and will advice and help you when needed. Trust me, it’s a beautiful thing when others are out there helping you as you are helping yourself. Also if you are part of a positive team, they will push you to better yourself and your skills with good intentions and good motivation. The team will not try to hold you down, but instead allow you to spread your wings and fly with your strongest talents. Networking and connecting, is a huge success, if you want it bad enough.

I look back to when I started this blog, started to return to my poetry, and post my photography, post my recipes, and I never thought I be able be at where I am at today. The only way is up from here. 2014 is going to be epic. Just need to push a little harder this coming year and with my time management and organizational falling into place and sticking to it, it will be done.

Besides, I have a bucket list to complete in 363 days and counting. (Laughing)

So I end this blog with a little motivational push from Shania Twain. Love this song! (Smiling)

Until Next Time…

The Beginning of a New Dream; Quoting Drake’s Motto, Yolo!

As I age, I seem to be a magnet and surround myself with more and more of the most creative and original people in this world. The most focused individuals who are determined to make their own footprints in this world instead of following someone else’s. Originality is a must in my vision, as well as, open mindedness to the world around you. That’s true solitude and brings peace to your state of mind.

I met Chad Robert, the founder and owner of Supply & Command Clothing, through a mutual friend about a couple years ago. A small town kid with big dreams is our connection in our friendship. After Chad graduated college, he made his moves to leave this small city and start chasing his dreams in the suburbs in Chicago, Illinois, where he currently resides. Let me introduce you to the guy behind Supply & Command Clothing. 

  1. Of all possibilities in life, what influenced you to decide to start a clothing line? Well I’m much influenced with the hip-hop and skateboarding cultures. For years I’d see these groups in their clothes and knew I could do something similar if not definitely better. I got to be very passionate about it and one day just bought a sketch book and started drawing out what I thought could catch on and be popular. That one sketch book has turned into three and my notepad on my iPhone is always updated when I think of something on the go. I thought, ‘Why am I representing this company with some design I know I can do better when I can be promoting myself?’ and that’s what fueled the fire.
  2.  Five years ago from today, did you see yourself with the same dreams of starting your own clothing line or were there other opportunities you saw yourself going for? Five years ago I wouldn’t say I had all that in mind but the seed was definitely planted. When I first was more serious about it was when I started at school for marketing and was always thinking of ways to brand a product. The first I actually sat down with this idea I wanted to call it Dionysus, named after the god of partying and wine, etc. with the logo as grapes. The brand itself has already transformed so much since that time; it’s actually crazy to think about sometimes.
  3.  Who do you see yourself working with in the future with your clothing line? That’s a tough question, ha! I don’t want to say too many names right now because I’ve always felt that would be beneficial to those other companies but the best lifestyle clothing company to me is mine and the most known is Diamond Supply Company. If I could do one collaboration it’d be with them and call it Diamond Supply and Command. See, I’m always thinking. Diamond is just so well respected around the globe and they sort of set the foundation a little for most of what you see.
  4. The last we talked about Supply and Command, we were discussing different charities and organizations for you to send a percentage of the proceeds to. Have you finalized your decision on the organization/charity? Unfortunately, no. I had a broad outline of what I wanted in a charity that would be beneficial to what I wanted to do. 
  5.   What are your reasons for wanting to choose a charity? I support everything veteran related, those are the people I respect so much and something I could never do and am eternally grateful for, so I knew I wanted to do something like that. There are just so many things like supporting their family for a holiday while a veteran is away or like we talked about providing a pet. There are just so many different areas in it. Definitely going to be doing my homework but it’s definitely something to do with the veterans of America.
  6. Right now, you only have t-shirts available. Are you planning to expand your clothing line into other apparel like hoodies, hats, etc.? Oh definitely. Right now I have a five year plan that varies every once and a while. In a year, I’d like to have hats available and hoodies. I wanted to have hoodies so bad this year for the fall/winter collection, but the price just wasn’t right for me. In five years, I’d like to produce my own shoes. Pretty lofty goal, but goals are made to attain. This upcoming spring/summer collection I hope to be able to have some tank tops made and even branch off into making women’s clothing down the road. It’s truly an exciting time.
  7. In your own definition, what does success mean? To me success means so many things. Success is the ability to be able to do something you love and be passionate about. Success is having your closest friends and family believe in you. Success is waking up happy and being able to smile throughout your day. Success is being able to entertain ideas and not feel the need to act on them if you yourself don’t feel entirely okay with it. Success is seeing your dreams become reality right before your eyes. I feel successful already, there’s really nothing that can stop me.
  8. Where do you see Supply and Command being at in a year? In five years? I’m really ambitious and excited for the brand. It may take a year for people to see the vision but once they do I know it’ll all work out for the best. In a year I hope to be doing hats and shirts for various collections and just expanding the brand. I’m going to be doing a lot of my promotion still on Twitter, I always put stuff on there first of designs and drawings. My goal for next year by Halloween is to have 2,500 followers on Twitter. I think that’s very reachable and who knows maybe it’ll be 25,000 instead. In five years I hope to be able to either open my own store or be picked up by a store like Tilly’s or Pac Sun or JC Penney’s or someplace similar.  Like I said, by that time the brand will expand greatly into shoes and such and anything is possible, right? I’m just a kid from Blue River, Wisconsin but that’s neither here nor there.

As October comes to a close, Chad begins a new chapter with Supply & Command Clothing. Starting November 1st, 2013 the original logo design will be restocked, as well as, a crossword puzzle design, a hash tag design, keep calm and command the supply design, and a bleeding logo design will be introduced. It looks like Chad is fairly on his way with his clothing line.  You can stay updated on the S&CClothing or follow it’s twitter account: @sandcclothing
Chad, I just want to take the time to wish you the very best in your endeavors.
Chad: I want to thank you so much for this interview. It really means a lot. I’m so grateful.