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.

 

Did I Serve My Country For This?!

*Warning: Another long ass post with very low resolution photos from the memory bank*

I grew up sheltered beyond measure, not seeing much beyond Wisconsin and half of Minnesota. I never encountered anyone darker than the Native American skin complexion until my first cousin once removed, Maxwell, was born. I was eight years old. So, growing up with very little diversity did two things. One, helped me accept all Americans regardless of color and background, and two, it still blinded me from the reality of our very own country, because of experiencing my very own discrimination in small town USA.

September 11th, 2001, I was fifteen years old. I did not know what the World Trade Center was until this very day. The day that would change America and the rest of the World forever. It was my loudest calling. As any small town White American, we grow up ignorant, but proud of our safe haven we call the United States of America, the land of the free. This is a moment I realized I needed to sincerely reach out to the rest of the world and educate myself.

It didn’t take long to talk myself into taking the military route, due to my spiritual beliefs beyond the illusion of freedom. September, 2001 brought to light in my life of a black and white factor, good verses evil. Yeah, I also wanted to see the world and get the hell out of dodge, but also fight the evil that displayed itself at the very beginning of our new millennium. I didn’t want to just prove to others of my ability of being somebody, I wanted to prove to myself that I could do anything I put my mind too regardless of everyone else’s doubts of my vision.

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Me in NYC with our tour guide and former actor, Frank Luz, ’05

Before I headed to basic training after I graduated high school, I talked my mom and stepfather into helping me pay for a school trip to New York City my Senior year. I paid half and they paid half. I needed experience beyond the small radius I grew up in.

Luckily for me, they agreed. This was only three years shortly after the infamous date. I had to embrace ground zero, or what was left of it anyways. It was the reminder I needed on the reason I was serving. It pushed me to believe in the choice I already had made.

Now fast forward to my experience in the military. We served whichever was our commander-in-chief and we were NOT allowed to bring up our political beliefs, but instead focus on the mission right in front of us. Tunnel vision, so to speak. There are a plus side to it.

There was a plus side to the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy as well, regardless of how it was

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Me in Iraq hanging with my battle from the Air Force (he’s behind the camera). ❤ RIP Jon. ❤

flipped against those in the LGBT community in those days. We weren’t consumed of things out of our measures beyond what was right in front of us. I guess being a chameleon, so to speak, also has it’s advantages.

Unfortunately, I am well aware that not everyone has the same case as myself, but in reality with all the units I was assigned too and the individuals I met through the military, I never felt that no one gave a fuck about who I was sleeping with, men or women. The men I had relationships didn’t give a fuck about my previous ex-girlfriends.

Completely different from the environment I grew up with. I did felt ‘free’ regardless of the circumstances with the military. While, others were unlucky to have found themselves kicked out, at my time in the service, the most I got was a counseling statement for bringing up hardships with an ex while in Iraq (for those who don’t know what a counseling statement is, it’s basically just a slap in the hand for fucking up).

The military showed me a close knit crew outside a few episodes of soap operas and drama theater going on, but again, that’s everywhere in this world. There was maybe one instance where a douche-bag NCO was being racist towards our Puerto Rican brothers. He tried to write up a counseling statement for me sticking up for them.

Yes, I was very opinionated in the military and didn’t hold back if I witness something wrong and I didn’t give a shit about what rank that individual was. Ask any of my leaders of this factor of my persona (laughing). This dude was certainty on a power trip though. Still no regrets though. He wasn’t a leader in my eyes and that’s still my opinion today.

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SGT White & I, OIF ’06-’07, DFAC Guard

Other than that, I did not witness anything racism, especially towards my African American brothers and sisters I served with. Niave? Maybe. I was one of the few white soldiers always kicking it with my African-American battles though, when I wasn’t hanging with my Air Force guys.

Even at home, in my military environment, I didn’t witness any racism with my own eyes. Not saying there wasn’t, but I mean, I was going through my own issues to the point where it consumed my life, my small mind at the time. To the point where the civilian world, it was a complete stranger to me. I didn’t get what was going on due to my experiences in the military and my own discrimination growing up in small town, USA.

Even when the social issues were seriously rising, even under Obama’s presidency. I did not understand the issue. I wanted to, but I couldn’t help but question things like, “but we have Obama.” etc…etc… How is this going on? Why is this going on? I thought we got past this? Questions for days and days.

Like, I got completely uncomfortable and had lots of white guilt, because of how frustrated my friends were at me, and how mistreated they were with the system the country has in place. I will admitted, regardless of my life experiences, I was biased and uneducated as fuck to what truly mattered.

I wanted to understand, but my mind wouldn’t allow it due to my experiences in life. It didn’t take until a couple of my African-American friends actually literally dummy down the explanation for me, even with statistics. Somehow that helped shit click, which is weird, because I fucking hate math and suck at it with a passion (laughing).

Well now, it’s just beyond frustrated as fuck. I try to do my part to unify humanity and bring compassion in the world. Same as my original mission and purpose when I first signed up for the military, but it’s hard when over half of our humanity don’t give a rats ass about others than their own beliefs and themselves, especially Americans. Yes, I am calling my own country out. Look at the dynamic we are living in. We are not looked at as the best country in the world, we are a clown show for the world. Accept it.

This post also goes towards the ‘neo-liberals’ who want to categorize veterans as conservatives/Republicans/Trump-supporters, because of the trolls you see on social media that try to speak for us. This is why majority of Americans, not just veterans, hate political parties and association with the government, regardless of the choices we made in our lives. I don’t regret a moment of serving, regardless of my status of a soldier and the choices I made to retire the boots.

I am still proud to be from this country, this continent, regardless of our imperfections. I will not allow our history to define my patriotism as an American Viking. I will allow our history to endorse more compassion within to expose towards society to try to fix the now. We need to open up and realize, not all nations world-wide are not on our level of progression when it comes to laws and rights, but again we are far from perfect. It takes lots of years and change to see where we’ve been compared to where we have come. The only movement is forward.

One last bit, before I close this post. Believe it or not, plenty of us, veterans, are not brainwashed and can think and speak for ourselves. I still believe there are plenty aspects of this country that is far more beneficial than many nations on the world, regardless of the current shit show, but that’s another post for another time. Political rants exhaust me.

That goes for the current climate on both ends of the political parties. It’s time for a change, government. It’s time to give a shit about the people. It’s time for a change, people. It’s time to have less reliance on corrupt politicians who give no shits about anyone, but themselves. It’ll take a lot of work. It’ll be hard. Nothing is black and white, but nothing worthwhile ever comes easy.

For those who are too far ignorant to see reality and truth beyond the propaganda bullshit, and are stuck in your own alternative truth, I’ll pray for you.