Oyoshe & Dope One: Napoli is Hip Hop

Dope One and Oyoshe have been repping the neapolitan hip hop scene to the fullest for many years now. In this double-interview for Throwup Magazine they tell us all about their love for graffiti, for music, for their city and for dutch coffee shops.

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Hey guys! Thanks so much for accepting this interview… Tell us about Dope One and Oyoshe, both as artists and in everyday life. How did you first approach Hip Hop Culture?

Dope One: Hip Hop Culture is for everyone. I started out as a writer in 93’, my first tag was OZONO. In 94’ i started writing my first rhymes and putting lyrics together. In 95’ i changed my tag to DOPE ONE and in 1997 I went on stage for the first time, it was the Skillz Detector event at Officina 99. From that moment on i worked on writing and graffiti a lot (I am part of the legendary NSIS CREW). My manner of thinking and way of living is a direct reflection of my art. I always try to be true and sincere in life as well as in music. In a nutshell I have never played a role, I don’t need to.

Oyoshe: Oyoshe is a pulsating heart. The blood pumping through my veins is passion. It enables the continuity of life. Passion is essential to maintain artistic essence. Oyoshe’s art is without form, in this way he is able to stay free from social, political and artistic conditioning. I’m not saying there is no strong identity, but it is based on emptiness and fully represents the concept expressed in the Hagakure: “Form is emptiness and emptiness is form”.

I started getting interested in Hip Hop when I was 11 years old after exploring my passion for comics, drawings and Japanese culture. I would practice graffiti and freestyles while gazing at the ceiling, I would then transpose these visions on to paper and write verses. My musical interest was sparked when I discovered my mother’s soul tapes from the 70’s. This discovery gave me an innate propensity for black music and led me on a frantic search for all types of music both on the radio and at the news stand. Today I would define myself as a lover and researcher of sounds, instruments and records. I recorded my first demos with a walkman and started out making beats with a playstation game, then I moved on to samplers and computer recordings.

About a year has passed since your latest release “Iceolator”: How did this album come together? How did you manage to involve legends in the Italian scene such as Esa, E Green, Inoki, Kiave, Speaker Cenzou, O’Zulù and many others in the process? We also know that you, Oyoshe, and Blaq Poet from Screwball have collaborated in the past, can you tell us how this collaboration came about?

Dope One: This album is a tribute to the beauty of Hip Hop Culture. People were asking to be represented by our sound and that’s exactly what we achieved. We worked on this project for 4 years while maintaining total connection with our fans and supporters. The album was then further consolidated during a series of live shows in Milan, Turin, Pistoia, Bari, Rome, Potenza, Terracina, Caserta. The collaborations arose because of the mutual esteem and respect that ties Italian Hip Hop artists. We can only be proud of sharing our beats with legends.

Oyoshe: me and Dope One come from very different musical backgrounds. We value our individuality and independence. We come from different generations, I was born in 91’ and, therefore, the Neapolitan rap scene saw me come up after Ivan – Dope One. It was by chance that we came to share the same path. People wanted to see us together when they saw us on the same lineup for live shows, so we decided to join forces and work on an album together because we believed that we shared the same attitude and spontaneity. We solidified our place in the game by securing our presence at loads of events all over Italy. That’s how we earned our respect. In “Iceolator” there are lots of great artists we have respect for, both artistically and as people, and its reciprocal.

In 2010 I decided to contact my favourite rappers via Myspace, I told them my story, showed them what I was capable of and what I had already accomplished. Many of these artists listened to me and we established a connection. Thanks to the credibility I had developed in my city I was able to organize events with artists such as Verbal Kent and Rugged Man in Naples. We even sponsored collaborations like the one between Rugged Man and Clementino. I am proud and happy that the event we organized helped Clementino to make one of his dreams come true.

Blaq Poet has always believed in me. We made history when my album came out under Marco Polo’s label “Soulspazm”. I kept my word and organized a live showcase for my album with the queens legend as a special guest. It was one of the best moments of my life: riding around Naples with Blaq Poet, eating chicken, while shooting a video for our underground hit “Deal With It” and showing him the sights in the city. I was among the first cats in Italy to release an international project of this level, along with Fabio Musta and Dj Jad. It was a historical moment for the Italian music business also because the album was co-produced by Mastafive’s BM Records.

What was the creative process behind “Iceolator”? You had already worked together in the past but how did you manage to establish the right chemistry for a whole project? Do you have similar writing techniques? Who needs the most time to pen a verse? Who is the most instinctive? Oyoshe you were also responsible for producing most of the beats on this album… is it different rapping over your own beats compared to other producer’s stuff?

Dope One: We spent 4 years working on our music every single day… Beats, pads, pens, verses, recording sessions, editing, mix, mastering and then repeat…we spent our nights making plans for the future and implementing our projects. Before working on Iceolator we had worked on a few tracks together and represented Italy at the Hip Hop Kemp. At the moment we are both part of a movement called TERRONI UNITI. We are also part of the DEAD POETS collective. As well as working on our own material we like to collab with our most stylish colleagues and we always try to bring the ICEOLATOR style to the table. It’s hard to say which one of us is the most instinctive. We both like to take our time and think things over properly before acting, however we don’t sleep… we don’t waste time…. we always stay productive. Writing together was always easy for us, ever since we first met. I can safely say that Iceolator is filled with the magic of two rappers writing together with dreams in their minds and lots of love in their heart.

Oyoshe: After years of experience as a producer I would define myself as being very schematic. I have various personal settings that I use depending on what I’m working on. Since this has become my profession throughout the years I developed the need to do things in a certain way so that I’m always satisfied with the final product. We wanted “Iceolator” to be an album of bangers. We had fun with every track and were already projected towards playing them live as we worked on them. We were very meticulous in choosing the beats. We wanted hard, stage worthy tracks that could be blasted out at full volume. During the past 4 years I was going crazy, continuously developing and evolving the instrumentals of the songs we had already recorded by adding instruments, changing the drum settings and sometimes even remixing the whole track.

When I write I am more spontaneous and instinctive. I am always looking for the right emotion that can generate a poetic feeling. I believe I am an empathic person so I always try and reflect the listener’s point of view. Rapping over another producer’s beat enables me to be more concentrated on the writing aspect. When I’m beatmaking I try to focus all my energy on the structure of the music and the sequences, therefore, if I bypass this step I can dedicate all of that energy to writing. I guess that sometimes I am better when rapping over other producer’s stuff. When I have the right feeling I can reach the same level on my beats too, but it takes longer for me to find the right sound because I am very self-critical at times.

I think everybody here knows what iceolator is (ahaha), why did you use this as an album title? And since we’re on the topic… what is your favourite kind of weed or hash? Which is your favourite coffee shop in Amsterdam? Is it the “Abraxas” which you talk about in the album?

Dope One: Our album is called ICEOLATOR like Ice-O-Lator which is a very simple extraction method using water and ice. Using a double or triple mesh bags will guarantee a very pure final product whereas dust and waste will remain in the water. This is a delicate and meticulous process, just like the creation of our album. Favourite Hash ICEOLATOR. Favourite Weed TANGERINE. Favourite Coffeeshop THE GREEN HOUSE.

Oyoshe: Just before the release of “Iceolator” I had the opportunity to go, for the second time in my career, on a mini tour in Holland (The first time was to showcase my international album “Bring Da Noise 2”). During this trip I tasted AK47 for the first time, I was in Rotterdam representing Italy at the BEAT M UP BEATS BATTLE, needless to say I was really high! I was a guest at the HUNTERS CAFE’ and at the CAFE’ DE DUIVAL, which are two really important spots for the Hip Hop culture over there, for a live show and dj set. I also tasted some really good ICEOLATOR there

Then I played live in Eindhoven with the legendary DEVIN THE DUDE. That’s when I met MAMA RASCHA WIJEN, a really lovely lady and “mammasantissima” who was raised on weed and Hip Hop. Even the WU TANG CLAN swings by her pad to say hello when they are on tour in Holland. She too gave me a lot of “medical” presents. If you want to know more about this trip I suggest you watch LYS – A NETHERLAND TOUR DOCUMENTARY which anticipated my collaboration with the legendary producer Ice One with whom I subsequently dropped the single LEAVE YOUR SIGN with a video entirely shot in Holland.

In the single “Napoli Spara” Dope One says “Rap is culture, a common asset for all the social fabric”… would you care to explain this concept to our readers? What is the status of the Hip Hop culture in Naples today?

Dope One: Certain things never change… poverty, depression, solitude, the lack of self esteem and many other negative visions lead people to alienation. Hip Hop offers us another way, a different life option. In this big family you will never be judged for your sex, race, religion or social status. In this family we cherish sharing, togetherness, communication and, above all, respect. This is Hip Hop culture: a simple concept that has saved many lives both in my city and world wide. Naples lives and breathes Hip Hop and it will stay this way forever. Rap is a common asset that provides satisfaction for anyone that has a need. We cannot take away this source of energy from those who need it. It’s right there but sometimes its still hard to see. However, thanks to Hip Hop heads such as myself the right vibration can possibly reach schools and jails.

In many tracks, not only on this album but also on “back To The Style”, you reference the world of graffiti. What is your connection with this discipline? Have you ever “painted”?

Dope One: I started out tagging, first with montana markers and then with spray cans. However the best feeling was painting on trains. I did this for two or three years with Acet1 and Sgo. I hit up many carriages and I owe those cats lots of good memories. Writing your name, leaving a mark, a sign… concepts that move on tracks… adrenaline… courage… passion.

Oyoshe: Graffiti was among the first expressions of Hip Hop that I approached, together with beatmaking, rap and freestyle. Graffiti is an exercise to find one’s identity. At first it’s difficult to find a tag. Then, once you find your own style, the game begins. I’d rather not talk about past actions i did, people living in my city know what’s what, where I left my mark. I also expressed my passion and devotion for graffiti in my song “Adrenalina

We often talk about adrenalin because, in contrast with many high level writers, we loved the physical and athletic side of this discipline. Going out, organizing the hit, deciding where to strike in silence and taking photos the next day. I have lots of memories of this “extreme” thing that I still am active in when the time is right!

Aside from being a beautiful city, Naples is also to some extent the music capital of Italy. It has always been under the influence of afro american sounds, from Jazz to Blues to Funk (I’m thinking of Napoli Centrale and Enzo Avitabile). Why do you think this has occurred? Can we say the same for the Hip Hop genre?

Dope One: Hip Hop is Jazz, Funk, Blues… Enzo Avitabile is Hip Hop. Napoli Centrale are Hip Hop… they are Africe… every street corner in Naples seems like the Bronx, many artists who have played in our city confirmed this. They would say: “This feels like home”. Rap music is black music and in Naples, although we are white, we are super black inside.

Oyoshe: Naples is exploding with art. The view you have from Posillipo is a poetic beauty, the historic areas of the city centre, the industrial and urban vision of peripheral areas are linked to the imagery of the American metropolis. I was also often told by american artists: “It’s like being in New York but with more scooters (haha). It is a rebel city with an independent spirit, you can see this in our history. We have very traditional roots that give us a particular expressive power. This distinguishes us from the rest of Italy. Hip Hop is also partly a continuous stylistic evolution while respecting the roots.

Many legendary Italian Hip Hop groups have come out of Naples, for example: La Famiglia, 13 Bastardi, Co’Sang. Among the new comers who can best continue the legacy in your opinion?

Dope One: As Hip Hop artists we celebrate the past with the art of beatmaking and sampling. This intelligent process enables one to grow and understand who were the fathers of Rap and Hip Hop. I don’t wanna mention anyone in particular. I think they are all strong, different, brilliant and full of energy. There are really loads of different artists, each one bringing a different flow. NAPOLI IS ON FIRE. I’m not sure if any of the new cats can continue in the legends footsteps. The OG’s have really left a mark and made an era. But I have faith in the new generation, wether its boom bap or trap. They have millions of rhymes, loads of technique, flow and musical taste. There is a lot of choice.

Oyoshe: Hosawa, Angelo Dt1 (who also has a promising career in movies and was part of the cast for the film “Ultras” on Netflix. Then we have Matthew and Atol (Who raps is English with great extrabeat skills, making you wonder if he’s really from Naples). There are many more that I have met as a social worker in my region’s schools, I have seen lots of future talents who will contribute highly to the game if they continue on their path.

What music are you listening to in this period? What has inspired you the most artistically?

Dope One: I’m listening to Styles P, Dave East, Madlib and Freddie Gibbs and lots of Roots Reggae. Lately I’ve been exploring 70’s progressive rock. Everything is inspiring to me, I really mean everything. Beauty can be anywhere, it’s up to me as an artist to find a message and see beauty in a muddy puddle if necessary. Then again, music is beautiful when it respects your own personal standards (everyone must be free to like their own type of music). A hit record can come out of a sample from an Indian song. Its necessary to broaden one’s horizons and listen to a lot of music in order to increase your culture level.

Oyoshe: During quarantine I have taken the opportunity to go digging in my vinyl collection. A trip to the past with Gil Scott Heron’s “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, and tons of Marvin Gaye likeWhat’s Happenin Brother?. As concerns rap music I am always fascinated by Kendrick and the whole TDE TEAM, J Cole and the impeccable Dreamville squad, I have high expectations of Conway and Westside Gunn who are bringing back hard and anti establishment type shit, Dave East who is absoultely in my top 5 and a little bit of Nipsey Hussle everyday as a medicine.

We’re done… Do you want to tell us about any future projects? Or would you like to talk about anything else in particular?

Dope One: I’m about to drop my first mixtape after 9 albums. It will be titled The Dope Mixtape Vol.1 and it comprizes 17 tracks with U.S and U.K based artists. I am very proud of this project, it took two years of dedication and it helped me establish connections with Atlanta, Los Angeles, Brooklyn, Connecticut, Birmingham and loads of other places. I can’t wait to release it, have a few instore presentations and play it live. However everything depends on this damn pandemic, but we’re used to fighting, just like when we were in the yard! I also have 2 finished albums with Italian Hip Hop legends but… No spoilers! I want to thank the whole staff at ThrowUp Magazine for giving me this interview. One Love! See you on the trains and stages of Italy. “Hip Hop is over here like Krs One”

Oyoshe: WAZA BEST RAP 2 is out since 22 April! This is the second chapter of my greatest hits mixtape that holds all the best material I released in Italy in the past few years. It has a very hardcore sound. You can find it on all digital stores  and on my website www.oyoshe.com where all physical copies of my albums are available.

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