UPDATED: 12:28 AM EDT, September 27, 2007
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K-Salaam: The World Is Ours

In a time for hip-hop when few dare to be different, K-Salaam has taken matters into his own hands with his album, The World is Ours. Dedicated to oppressed people throughout the world, the album's introductory message urges listeners of all backgrounds to give back to their communities and play their part in combating injustice. This type of mentality came from his background.

Raised by a working class family of Iranian-Americans, who were activists in their community, K-Salaam learned to question the system at an early age. But, it was 9/11 that really changed his world on a personal level and raised the stakes on his sense of social duty.

Leaving his home in Minneapolis to get things popping in New York as a DJ and producer, his love for reggae music eventually led him to Kingston, where he forged relationships with reggae giants such as Capleton, Sizzla, and Anthony B. With no prior connections to speak of, K-Salaam also managed to successfully reach out to rappers in the U.S. like Talib Kweli, Mos Def, Dead Prez, Saigon and Papoose, getting each of them to write original material that fit with the album's socially conscious theme.

Although all of the artists he reached out to were like-minded, they were also all more established than K-Salaam. For a relatively unknown producer who managed to rally some of the best hip-hop and reggae artists in the world on his album, K-Salaam is remarkably humble. As he tells it, real recognize real, and the musicians he reached out to, respected his grind and sense of purpose. Along with his partner Beatnik, K-Salaam seamlessly executed his vision for The World Is Ours across cultural borders and musical genres, with soulful, quality hip-hop beats as the sonic foundation. K-Salaam can now enjoy the response from listeners around the world as his message is spread. But, make no mistake, while this project may be the culmination of years of hard work, K-Salaam is just getting started. You want to tell readers how you got involved in the music game?

K-Salaam: I grew up in Minneapolis, I started DJing about 12 years ago in '94 and I got serious in '97, just really started doing it hard and I had just been doing my thing in Minneapolis. I hit a ceiling for a minute, so I was like, "Yo, I have to come out to New York." Then, I started making trips out here, then I started making trips out to Jamaica. Was there anything particular about Jamaica that you felt was a good fit with your music?

K-Salaam: I'm a huge reggae fan; I love reggae just as much as I love hip-hop. I came up as a hip-hop dude and they were equal. I wanted to put out an album with my favorite artists and my brother was like, "Why don't you just go out to Jamaica?" Because really, I wanted to get Capleton on the project as the first person. I was trying to get him, Sizzla and Anthony B. Capleton, we reached out to his management and I had a relationship with him. We started talking; I was calling him everyday, but I was cool about it though. I would ask, "Am I calling you too much?" And he would say, "Yeah, call me next week." But after a while, I was cool with them and they were like, "Yo okay," because you've gotta pay them money. So, he was like he'll do it for you and after a while, you'll do it. But, you have to at least come down here. And I was like, "I can't do that." I don't know why I didn't think I could do it and my brother was like, "Yo, you've got to go down there, and while you're down there make some more moves." So you went in there without knowing anybody?

K-Salaam: Yeah and [Capleton's family] took me on and treated me like family -- his brothers, his godmother, it was crazy. They showed me so much love. Is it through him that you made the connection with a lot of the other reggae artists?

K-Salaam: Not necessarily, but he definitely made me feel at home. I dropped the CDs off everywhere and it turns out Sizzla got a hold of one and he loved it 'cause he was already doing hip-hop stuff and these were all hip-hop pretty much. I went back out the second time to look for Sizzla, turns out he wasn't there. But, I linked up with all his peoples and got along with all his people and they were like, "Yo, he loves your beats." Basically, I made it happen. After you got the reggae guys, you came back to New York and you made the connects with Mos, Talib, Saigon. Did you know any of them?

K-Salaam: No, I had to make it happen. I actually had some people who bid who didn't end up doing it, who actually were pretty big artists. But, Dead Prez were some of the people who I actually talked to and made sure they did it and it was a steady thing. Everybody, it was all formulated. I want to get Saigon on the project, I want to get Papoose and I made it happen. It wasn't easy. It wasn't something that fell into my lap, but I made it happen. I didn't have a big budget at all, so getting these big artists when they hadn't even heard of me, it wasn't easy. But at the same time, I'm a real dude and that can get you far in the music business because some of these artists are real. It's the industry people that are phony. But with the artists, once they see that you're real, you can really move far in the game and people that are fake will just ride your bandwagon and you'll treat them like sh-- the rest of your life, because they deserve it [laughs]. The idea itself, when did that first come about and why?

K-Salaam: That was even before I started doing anything that I got the idea. I didn't know the name of the album, but I knew what I wanted to do, who I wanted to get on it. So with the message of the project, is there anything that happened in your life or any particular event that sparked that?

K-Salaam: After September 11, my whole family got more involved. My family and especially my mom is a pretty big activist, a serious activist. She doesn't do it for the fame and that's just real talk. She taught me there are two different types of activists, there's the ones that do it because they care about people and there are the ones that do it for their own reasons. And she was one of the people who do it because they care.

I come from a working class family; they worked 70 plus hours a week and still made time to fight for people who were worse off than them. I feel very fortunate to have family that even as a young kid, my mom sat me down still and taught me the serious, real situations of what this country was started on. The Native Americans who had their genocide and the slavery of African American people, so I knew even as a young kid going to school -- 1st or 2nd grade -- the real deal about our forefathers. So that made we wiser, but then when September 11 happened, so much personal stuff happened to me family that we were like, "Okay, it's kind of do or die right now." We got very serious about activism and the way that we lived our lives, so that's how the message came about. Ever since then, that's how I live my life, the way I talk, the way I make my album. Because I'm a musician, I'm a DJ, I want to get my music out there, but I want to send a message with it. And with the music, I gotta give a shout out to my partner Beatnik, he's really holding it down on the tracks. Big shout out to him. You have emphasized there is a street element to your album also. Does it ever frustrate you that when people have a conscious message to give, there is always that assumption that it is corny?

K-Salaam: Yeah, it is very frustrating. But, one of the things that makes it frustrating is that some of these so-called conscious artists fall into that. They judge other people and they can't get along with people and if somebody's got a gold chain, they have heart problems. You've got to be open-minded and understand where people are coming from. Get to know them a little bit and wait for the right time to be like, "Yo, where this come from?" Rather than just see somebody with diamonds and be like, "You're evil!" Because that's not where they came from. But, they don't see that and you can't think you're better than somebody else. Like I said, there are two types of people. A lot of them are the other type. They want to think they're better than you and they give a bad name to it too. Buy yeah, anytime you give a message, I'm sick of people acting like you're the Special Olympics, saying things like, "You're really passionate about your message." And I'm like, "Yo, what are you talking about?" And let's talk about the fact that the music, the artists are dope first and foremost. Let's forget about the "I understand your passion!" So yeah, definitely it's a problem. I'm a normal dude, I just happen to stand up for poor people. That doesn't make me corny. How did you approach the project musically?

K-Salaam: Musically, I gotta shout out my partner Beatnik, he's a multi-talented musician and engineer. We basically started off together with the original work and most of the recent stuff he did because I had to handle business. But the whole reggae thing, I love reggae music. But, I still love hip-hop beats, so I decided we'll do our beatsand have those dudes over it. And it sounds good; there is nothing strange about it, it's normal. And it has been done before obviously with Bobby Konders, but this is actually our own beats. We're not doing remixes, so this is kind of the first time it's ever been done. But, it still doesn't sound like weird, it sounds natural. Who are you hoping to reach with this album and its message?

K-Salaam: I really want to reach the people who need to get reached. People who are really struggling. A lot of people get caught up in the day to day trying to pay the rent and a lot of people get caught up in the whole bling bling -- I'm not knocking anybody or that kind of music -- but it's kind of fantasy music and it kinda takes you away from reality. Sometimes it's good to get back into reality because that's how you solve problems. At the same time, being realistic -- and some don't want to say this -- but a lot of people who buy hip-hop are white kids and they are going to buy the album. So, I want to reach them too because they can do something to change the situation as well. To just pretend that people aren't going to buy your albums is phony, because those are the main people who are going to buy your albums. Anybody, it doesn't matter if its Dead Prez, Tupac, Master P; that's where the money comes from. So, I did put in the message, no matter where you're from, just because you grew up extremely wealthy or in a situation where you are on top and benefiting off of people who are oppressed, that doesn't mean that you have to stay in that role. You have a conscious decision to try to do something about it. And that's the message I was trying to give to those people. You don't have to be guilty because of the way you were born, you can actually do something about it and feel proud of yourself. Any other projects on the horizon?

K-Salaam: We have a whole bunch of other projects on the horizon. The production team is doing a lot of big things, some big artists are about to submit their work. I might start to get into the DJing thing. Actually I probably will start DJing a lot more -- in London, Kingston and New York. And I've got the production thing.

This project is just a stepping stone, that's all it really is, to us doing much bigger things. And on the horizon, we have movies, more albums, everything. The sky's the limit. I feel like anything's possible. To the people who are listening, honestly this is one of the hottest albums that has come out in a long time. It's new, something different, and there's a message to it. But, it's just as real as any of the street music that's out right now.

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