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.

 

Still Dreaming (Poetry)

Dreams out weigh my harsh reality
From my visions,
I wish you could see me in my sleep
So why would I want to wake up
To the ugliness of this world, fuck.
I’d rather stay under my rock
and keep delivering you this art hop.
“Cold World, High Hopes”
My definition, my motto.
I don’t always think before I talk,
But I surely think before I write,
Pen, Pencil, or Chalk
Learning my goals, morals,
and ethical virtue as I draw words
that form into my walks.
Words never come empty though
Some come with pure emotions,
Causing my bipolar expressions,
Irony is this shit keeps me stable
When people try to tear me down
When people try to turn my existence
into a fable,
I reverse the power to my persona
and remain able to keep dreaming.

2015 Copyright @ H.M. Gautsch

"Butt Hurt (What Do You Know?)" (Poetry)


Another day, another dollar
Another moment that I’ve disappointed you…
But what did you expect me to do?
Sugar coat the shit? come on I was only being honest…
I thought you be happy to hear me be able to express my emotions,
Be confident with where I’m going…
With my life and knowing exactly what I wanted.
But the tables are turned, even as you keep playing your cards.
If I wanted a soap opera of a life 24/7,
I would audition for “The Young & Restless”
If I wanted all this drama and a partner sensitive 24/7,
I’d still be fucking dating crazy women.
It wasn’t the sex that drew me away from the lesbians,
It was all of the pitiful acting from the thespians.
So before you want to manipulate me with your speech,
Know that your persuasive defense doesn’t work, you’ve been breached.
So best of luck, my state of mind is off to vacation on a sunny beach.
While it’s time to just agree to disagree,
We aren’t getting anywhere with a plea.

I’m not butt hurt. I’m not guilty.
Even after all the times I’ve put down my guard.
What do you even know?
You are hardly around to see how…
I am living, full-confidence with my guard down.

Ain’t it funny how the only time my self-esteem is low,
Is when you are around to rub my past into my face?
You must enjoy punching the blow,
By trying to tell me what to wear for what place.
Why don’t you believe that I’ve progressed, you can see it in my poems,
Where my flow exposes my self-esteem and my soulful seed becomes a rose.
I’m sorry I can’t be the woman you wish I would be.
No matter how many storms, no matter how many wars…
It’s a curse, but also a blessing for how I’m outspoken. It’s 2014, not 1863.
Time is changing and we need to evolve with it, or be left behind, remain unrefined.
You tell me to focus on my good times, why don’t you do the same?
Stop being hypocritical in your advice, and let me live my own life,
My own mistakes, my own goals, my own sacrifice…
Stop being disappointed in what I don’t have (money).
Be proud of what I can accomplish (change).
Sometimes I wonder who it is you really blame.
Are you ashamed that you don’t have the courage to do the same?
I guess it’s best to just agree to disagree,
We aren’t getting anywhere with a plea.

What do you know?
I’m not butt hurt. I’m not guilty.
Even after all the times I’ve put down my guard.
What do you even know?
You are hardly around to see how…
I am living, full-confidence with my guard down.
What do you know?
You are the fuel for my creative tools..
What do you know?
What if I told you the truth?
Do you even read my stories, my poems?
Maybe you would know…
You are the fuel for my creative tools.. 
©H.M. Gautsch

Writing (Poetry)


Yesterday, had another session with my psychologist,
Agreeing my writing inflates my ego and confidence.
I’ll just continue as a populist with the mind of freedom of speech,
Regardless of the consequence,
I’m going to continue my stories as a poet and novelist.
With my writing, I take control, I transform from submissive to dominant.
The other day, I had a heart to heart with my cousins and aunt.
Revealing the support of me exposing the memories that still taunt me,
Continue to rant and flaunt, every now and then, an inspirational speech.
Until I can get all my anger locked up in a vault permanently.
It’s okay to throw me with all the faults.
In return, I’ll keep writing on topics critics don’t want.
Infamous or famous, it’s not the entitlement I am worried about.
My writing is a gift that drains all my heartfelt doubt.
Like a toilet, the shit will need to be cleaned with bleach.
Like a dog with rabies, my words will continue to lash out,
Until my resentment feelings can drain out.
Don’t think I can no longer turn back around from this route.
It’s the only way I know how and I refuse to back down.
I’m switching gears, increasing my speed towards the future,
A healthier self-medication than when I was a smoker and boozer.
Writing has been adopted as my new nurturer.
I could care less who, friend or foe, become my jurors.
I’ll just continue on this creative adventure, looking for my ultimate treasure.
2014©H.M. Gautsch

Teaser For "Psychological Demons" II

 I will not reveal the part of the story this teaser is from, but here is a sneak peak of one of the novel projects on my list. A suspense/drama about a female combat veteran fighting her psychological war, as she tries to keep her relationship with her father alive. Hope you enjoy it!
 

 Chapter ??

            A middle-aged man clusters half-packed boxes together in a bedroom. There are little children’s drawings on the sides of two boxes and another one that’s got a rip on a flap on the top of the box. The fourth box is ducted-taped shut. The man seems flustered with what to do with the dolls in the boxes. The man, known as Joe Sydney, stands about five foot nine inches. He picks up a faded and raggedy doll, with a missing button eye. The main gazes at it, with his pierce blue eyes, like it’s showing him a video of his daughter from when she was ten in its one eye. A flashback.
            A tan, Caucasian hand knocks on the opened door of the bedroom. The entrance of the doorway reveals Joe’s brother, Victor.
            “Are you okay, Joe?” Victor asks.
            Joe responds while being still being in a trance with the doll.
            “Yeah.”
            Victor continues, “Sure feels like yesterday.”
            As Victor steps closer to help with the boxes, Joe snaps out of his trance and back into reality.
            “Huh?” Joe replies short.
            “Little Evey,”
            “Oh, yeah. You are right, Victor.”
            “She has grown to be a great woman.”
            “Eve will always be my baby girl in my eyes, Victor.”
            Victor examines his brother, as Joe returns to his frantic situation of getting the room together for Eve’s return from her tour of duty in Afghanistan. However, Joe isn’t fooled. What he fears most is change.
            “Joe, war changes people. We learned this through dad. Just don’t let it get the best of you or your relationship with Eve. You are all you two got since Mary’s passing.”
            “You are acting like you aren’t family anymore, Victor.”
            “You know what I mean, big brother.”
            Joe smiles and chuckles a bit at Victor. Victor returns with a sigh and a smile. He tosses a stuffed animal that he picked up during his conversation with his older brother. Victor then walks out of the bedroom and into the kitchen to help himself into the refrigerator. As he grabs an apple and heads to the island in the middle of the kitchen, he notices a military newspaper with the headlines, “First Female in Front Line Unit Returns Home.” He picks it up to notice Eve on the front cover with her Army fatigues on, dirt on her face, a 9M on her hip holster, and a M4 at the low ready and loaded for any event to exploit. Victor takes the newspaper back to Eve’s bedroom where Joe is still packing the childish objects.
            “Joe, what the hell is this?!”
            Joe looks up once again at Victor to wonder what he is addressing, and widens his eyes as if he’s been guilty of something. Joe takes a deep sigh as Victor continues integrating his brother.
            “Is Eve asking for a death wish with this new task? Why didn’t you prevent her from signing up for this?!” The intensity grew in Victor’s voice as the protective uncle trait reveals itself in his questions.
            “Victor, calm down. I may not agree with her decisions, but they are hers to make. She’s 21 now. I can’t control her choices, as much as I would like to.”
            “I am not sure if I should be calm or concerned about your collective approach to this discovery.”
            “Trust me, I already went through my grieving and unacceptance process with her before she left for basic two years ago. She has become one of the best soldiers the Army has ever experienced with.”
            “Well, I am glad you feel that way.” Victor’s reply was short and sweet, but his voice still revealed a bit of anger for Joe’s secret. There was an awkward pause before Joe insisted a drink or two to ease the tension.
            “Let’s head to Frankie’s Bar for a couple rounds. I will explain more once you ease yourself a bit.” There was a pause as Joe moved the last box to the closet to organize a bit before he and Victor left the house. Joe continues, “I am surprised you aren’t taken this better than I. I thought I be more of the protective parent for Eve.”
            “I guess I am more disappointed in you keeping the secret from me. We use to tell each other everything when we were kids, Joe.”
            “I’m sorry, Vic. I’ll make it up to you. I’ll buy tonight. All rounds.”
            “I can’t refuse that offer.” Victor smiles. “Alright, you are forgiven.” Vic pauses. “This time!”
            The guys make their way to Joe’s red F150 Ford truck that is parked in the driveway. Joe climbs into the driver side, as Vic climbs on the passenger side. The truck is started up and starts driving out of the driveway and down the road.
The house seems to sit just on the outskirts of a small city, population of about 15,000. Enough people to make an honest living in Oregon. The town, Coos Bay, sits on the Pacific coast for an extraordinary view for the ocean front property.  It’s a perfect time of year for the scenery as the trees reveal through the color changes of mid-Autumn.
 Chapter ??
“SGT Sydney,” yells the commanding officer in front of the formation of soldiers in an outdoor environment. The environment is mixed with mountains, sand, brushes, burbs, barbed wire, and guard towers. It’s a forward operating base in the midst of Afghanistan. A couple of apaches fly over the formation towards the mountains in the distance, as Eve runs from her place in the formation, as squad leader for the fourth squad. Eve stands about 5’8” with brown, medium hair and blue eyes. She stands at attention in front of her commanding officer, Captain Forester. A tall, 6’0” male, brown hair, brown eyes. Eve salutes, as the commanding officer salutes back. 
“Attention to Order! The Department of the Army has awarded Sergeant (promotable) Eve J. Sydney the Army Commendation Medal for outstanding service during Operation Enduring Freedom while being the first female to serve in Alpha Company, 10thMountain Division, in combative missions. Her dedication to the unit’s mission, superior performance, and leadership greatly add success to the deployment. Sergeant Eve J. Sydney’s actions are in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Army, bringing great credit upon herself, Alpha Company, the 10th Mountain Division, and the United States Army,” scripted by a fellow soldier in front of the formation.
As the commander finishes pinning the award on Eve, the rest of the formation applauds in sync with one another, along with a few whoops and hollers from Eve’s team. Captain Forester hands over the certificate of the award with the left hands and shakes with the right, as he exchanges a few words with Eve.
“Proud of you SGT Sydney. You’ve been through hell and back, but you are one strong bone.”
“Thank you, sir. It’s all in the job.”
Once the hand shake ends, Eve salutes once more in a professional manner and returns to her spot in the formation.
“At ease!” recalls the commander. The formation rests as Forester continues to speak.
“Soldiers, I cannot thank you enough for the outstanding job you have done to complete the tasks requested by our government. I could not ask for any one better than the person you all see when you all look into the mirror every night before you lay your head to rest. Regardless of everyone’s religion, I have prayed day and night during our mission here for all of you guys. God must have heard them, because we are blessed without any casualties so far in this deployment, but do not let this factor put your guard down. We still have one week left before our asses are on a plane and get the hell out of here, so please stay alert until we are up in the air and heading home.”
The captain adjust his standing to attention, then the commander continues his demands.
“Company, attention!”
The rest of the formation stands at attention and replies, “Hooah!”
“I’m proud of each and every one of you. Keep it up.”
 Forester looks across his soldiers left to right before revealing his last command, “Fallout!”
The commander turns around and heads to his tent in the distance. The company falls out as six of the soldiers surround Eve and congratulates her for her award. Eve returns with smiles and high fives.