If you were around the late ’90s, early ’00s, you KNOW that hip hop was front and center in the music business, gaining a massive cult-like following and creating subgenres in different corners of the world. Today, we are in 2020, and yet, it feels like culturally, we’re back in the ’00s, thankfully! We’re bringing back the passion for rap music BUT with a whole lot more awareness, sensibility, empathy, and a real purpose. An incredible hip hop duo that exemplifies the positive global change, is Taoreta, made of Loaneski and DJ Icon. Boom Bap-based, lyrically conscious, directly speaking to the listener, internationally relevant, and genuinely striving for change – THIS is Taoreta.
I must admit that I’ve fallen in love with the song before I even got to watch the music video. I NEVER thought that if you add a classic rap flow to Asian-infused chords AND topped with the everlasting old school hip hop drum pattern – you would get such an attention-grabber. When artists scratch their heads wondering what having the X factor means, this is what I would show them: when you’re creating something so undeniably unique, that people do not have any other options BUT to listen to you, respect you, and help you on your way up.
If you paid attention to the title, now you’re about to find the reason behind my choice of words. For a long time hip hop belonged predominantly to African-American artists. And when other ethnicities tried to dab in the genre, we were met with quite the resistance, some even having been accused of cultural appropriation. Well I’m here to tell you and show you something that the US apparently chose to remain ignorant about: music is universal and its influence does not end where the geographical confines of Central America do. If I like African-American hip hop, but I’m born and raised in Europe and memorize all lyrics at only 9 years old, do you mean to tell me it is cultural appropriation when at 15 I write my own songs and they sound a lot like my own favorite music? I didn’t even know skin color mattered until I moved to the US in 2012. Thus, it gives me great hope in the international acceptance of ANYONE that is truly great at appreciating and creating hip hop music, regardless of gender, age, nationality, when projects like Taoreta come along. In the name of all hip hop heads, THANK YOU for being shamelessly yourselves and for speaking your mind.
”Sitting in the garden of Eden manifesting a rose with thorns/ Circumcising my thoughts before they’re even born/ I ponder about my evolution/ Through Late nights/ Early mornings/ The hustle never stops” – you see? this is what I mean when I say that music transcends borders, religions, nationalities. We all can relate to muffling our own thoughts when in doubt about one’s progress, and we sure as hell have to hustle all the damn time just to get by mostly.
I had to ask, first and foremost, who came up with the lyrical concept for Political Punctuation, to which Loaneski says: ”I actually created the verses in the beginning of 2018 and by the end of the same year, came up with the chorus. However, I didn’t feel inspired to use them anywhere else until we started creating together this song. Political Punctuation is inspired by the many ‘political decisions’ which destroyed millions of lives e.g. bombings of Nagasaki in the mid 1940s and the invasion of the Middle East which began in late 2001. The appointment of Trump becoming president also had a significant contribution as this proves that a politician is no longer chosen based on their policies, but by how many zeros are attached to their name. Profiting over disasters, while holding speeches about peace, seems to be key in becoming the leader of a nation.” – We don’t need more presidents, we need more Loaneskis and the world would be a better place.
”Tell me about the beat. Those distinct Asian tonalities are absolutely mind-blowing. How did you combine THAT with a 90s hip hop type of instrumental?” goes my 2nd question. And here we get to know DJ Icon: ”The beat is our take on MF Doom & RZA’s “Books of War” which uses a sample taken from the track entitled “Kaun Komsott” by Ros Serey Sothea and some of her vocals for the chorus. I wanted to try and put our spin on what we both saw as a truly great sample on Doom and RZA’s joint, taking down the boom-bap route which definitely compliments and gives the whole track a certain “in your face” energy when you combine the sample with the bass and breakbeat drums” – I deeply respect producers who KNOW what they’re doing and give credit where credit is due, or in simple words: work ethic.
If you’ve been puzzled like I was by the Political Punctuation’s intro speech, the default question would be ”Why Trump with THAT message as the opening?” because truth be told, the age of political correctness taught me not to assume anything and to ask first. I didn’t know if the guys were seriously endorsing him or conveying a deeper meaning. Thankfully, it was the second! ”Bluntly put, we chose Trump for the intro to mock him. When he became the president, he spoke about creating THE wall to separate the US from Mexico. Yet in this snippet, prior to running for president, with his own mouth, he says to never give up and that ‘If there’s a concrete wall in front of you, you go through it, go over it, go around it but get to the other side of the wall’ He doesn’t even care enough to stick to his narrative. Sort of untouchable just because he’s filthy rich.” – shares Loaneski with no hesitation whatsoever. Honestly, I was shocked by this video that he and DJ Icon managed to find AND use. Trump and his team usually manage to control the tone of the conversations online about his ”highness”. I wonder if he got to see Taoreta’s video 😀 if it ever gets taken down by YT, it will have been by presidential order 😀
”A second ”why”, the name Taoreta? The meaning behind it? and how does one read it phonetically correct?” – hey, remember: ask first, assume 2nd? yeah, I live by that. DJ Icon: ”There’s a story behind our origins as we were set to be a three person group called “Hatz and Hoodz” but sadly our third member pulled out of the project and so Loaneski and I came up with the concept overnight and everything fell into place. The name comes from the meaning to collapse – pulling comparisons with mankind and falling down a dark path spiritually. It’s pronounced “Tao-reta” and with the name in mind, is how the concept of the EP name came about too, pulling from the origins of Taoreta.” – their upcoming EP is called Rise Of The Fallen.
”Your favorite line from Political Punctuation?” – I ask curiously. To which Loaneski says: ”My personal favorite ‘Where the punks turned prophets but didn’t pocket the profit’, because as artists, as individuals involved in the world of art, we have a lot of power to change people’s opinions, often being the voice of reason to the younger generations. A lot of musicians unfortunately, misuse this power and become greedy. Now I’m not saying that we’re saints, but there comes a time where your faith will be tested. We decided to preserve the culture and share our knowledge, rather than profiting off of it. If you remove our love for music, we will still be the same individuals, fighting for the same cause” – this last part right here, screams INTEGRITY to me.
”If you had to describe your EP ”Rise Of The Fallen” in one sentence, what would it be?” I ask DJ Icon to which he responds: ”An educated view on the world through the eyes of two men who are on a mission to make a positive change in people’s lives.” – how do I word this without offending modern artists? ahem… I haven’t met altruistic souls like this since the ’90s, because somewhere in the middle it all became about drugs, booze, and sex. It’s almost jarring to me that 2 young men want to simply touch the hearts of those around them in 2020. The shallow side of my personality, which has been indoctrinated by the current society and mostly by the Western culture, wants to say ”no fkin way, there’s gotta be a catch”, while my child self, the one that used to believe only the best about people, wants to hold on tight and tell me ”see? you were right from the beginning. The world IS better already because artists like THEM exist!” I will allow myself the luxury of going with my child self, and I hope that you, the reader, do the same.
What you’ll have noticed by now is that these 2 men work well together. I haven’t seen a single ounce of competition between the 2. They seem to be comfortable with exactly who they are and happy with it. So DJ Icon offers to share their beginnings with us: ”I’ve done radio work for quite a long time. 20 years to be precise. Around 3 years ago I started working at a radio station here in Leicester called EAVA FM. I was doing a show called “Drive Time” before the station manager asked me to get involved with some outside shows and events that the station was linked to, one of which was the Riverside Festival. We performed for the first time together at the event itself. Then I volunteered my time at the Youth Education Project (YEP) where Loaneski is the head of music. I’d say it’s from my time there that we generally noticed that we work well together and share a very similar take on life itself as well – so we decided to take the plunge and work on Taoreta” – oh that reminds me to tell you that you should probably know that DJ Icon produced all the tracks on the EP himself. Can we be friends? 😀 jokes aside, the talent is noticeable instantenously.
Special Thanks: (DJ Icon) I’d firstly like to shout out my family and especially my partner, Cindy, for fighting alongside me even when life’s dealt us some tough hands. I want to say thanks to everyone who has played and checked out our content online and of course the radio stations playing our tracks. Special shout out to BBC Introducing for playing “Political Punctuation” the most anti-establishment track being played on establishment radio, there’s a sense of pride there. I also want to thank our videographers, Fraser West (WeTheConspirators) and Zubair Satwilkar (Born Ready Films) for buying into our concepts and making them even better. Finally I want to thank everyone supporting us, there’s way too many to list so I just want to thank you all and say there’s so much more to come. Viva Taoreta!
(Loaneski) I would like to thank everybody that has supported me as Loaneski and part of Taoreta such as close family and friends, Youth Education Project, EAVA FM, Friday Flex, Donna in the A.M, Leicester Community Radio, Beats, Rhymes and Soul Show, Radio2Funky, Reppin 4U Hip-Hop Show, FATP, The Bobby Friction Show and producers from the show, basically anybody that has taken their time out to listen to what we’ve made and criticize it (This includes all reviewers). Finally a massive shout out has to go to the FANS! You’re the reason why we get called up for bookings, why we can sell physical copies of our project. You show us that you care about the product as much as we do! Also shout out to Mariana and the whole crew part of Blue Rhymez Entertainment too!
With that being said, I also want to point out that in order for altruistic groups like Taoreta to succeed, you and me, WE, need to support their music and artistry on all available platforms! Follow Taoreta on Instagram HERE, on Twitter HERE, on Facebook HERE, stream on iTunes HERE, and on Spotify below:
Interview conducted by Mariana Berdianu
Blue Rhymez Entertainment ©2020