Discovering the Relevance of Words
Guilty Simpson is one of those rappers that if you’re a true hip hop head, you’ve been following for a long time. He was J Dilla’s favorite emcee, and much like GZA, can string together stories with ease. He’s a captivating figure, and one of the most well spoken MCs in today’s world. We had a chance to catch up with Guilty, and you can read our interview below.
TPQ: Set the scene for us: Where do you do the majority of your writing? What does it look like?
Guilty: in my car. I like to write about what I see a lot. Sometimes I go to crowded places and write about the things I notice that stand out. Sometimes without a beat.
TPQ: You’ve had the opportunity to work with some of the best in the business – Black Milk, Madlib, Dilla. What was the best advice they gave you? What did you learn from them?
Guilty: they are all studio rats they live in the lab. They taught me great things happen in the lab working on your craft. Sometimes when artists get fame it’s tough to get them to go back to the studio. I’ve learned to love my job when no one is looking telling me I’m the greatest. I love my job, not just the spoils. I’d rather do the studio than the club.
TPQ: You are very much a storyteller in your lyrics. You’ve always reminded me of GZA, in the way that you use your songs to truly paint a picture, rather than just spout words. “I’m the City” is one of the best examples of that. What moves you to write in the manner that you do?
Guilty: Reflection is the key. Now that I’m older I can observe how much I didn’t know, even as a grown man. So most stories I tell are from personal memory. It’s rough telling someone else’s story, so I just tell mines. Through reflection.
TPQ: What do you feel is the major connection between poetry and rap? How can I, as an educator, prove that rap is, as The Grouch told me, “Relevant American Poetry”?
Guilty: it’s poetry to music. Even those that don’t acknowledge it, still imo are still displaying poetry. Poetry is the power of words and the music is the vehicle the poetry uses. I feel it’s impossible for poetry to hinder any thought you want to convey as a rapper. It’s gives the writer range to tell the same story many different ways.
TPQ: If you could sit down for a drink with one artist, musician, writer, or historical figure, who would it be, and what would you discuss?
Guilty: I’d have to say ex Football player Jim Brown. We would discuss how he impacts people he comes into contact with. He goes to prisons and talks to lifers and felons with violent crimes about ways they can impact their communities. Growing up in a rough Detroit neighborhood, I notice how some men and women are idolized for destructive activities they committed while free.
I’d love for those people to have a voice through incarceration to tell the younger people what their lives have become. I think it’s irresponsible to influence kids to sell drugs or kill, and not tell them the whole story. Whole story meaning the results of their actions. Kids like to listen to those that really did it. That takes the preaching element out of the equation to me.