Urban music has all but dominated the American musical landscape, inundating culture like a surging tidal wave of ethnic deliverance. With a brand of expression stemming from raw sparks of creativity, urban poets are channeling the struggles of a generation whose trials and tribulations belong to the street.
While on a tour stop in Albany, NY, as part of his college leg of the Adult Swim Tour supporting Ghostface Killah, The Witchdoctor, born Erin Johnson, took the time to write out a spiritual prescription of divine healing as he dove into the influential power of hip-hop, why southern rappers need to work extra hard, and how God influenced the backbone of music.
Can you tell me what it is about music that drives you?
Survival and love drive me. I do music for no money, even though I do it to make money too, at the same time. You got to have both of them in there. [laughter] We were making music before we were making money so I do music for the love. I make music for healing. Music is a corridor to heaven and it is a connection to God. Sometimes with music and God there are some songs that need to come down from heaven. God uses certain human beings to put them on earth.
Can I ask you to describe the music scene that was going on in Atlanta when you were up-and- coming in the later part of the ’90s?
We were just breaking ground in Atlanta, and we were reaching a point where we were not just rappers that laid down booty music or shake dance music. We were becoming very intelligent and felt we could match up with some of the best MCs from New York and California. That is my outlook, and I felt like my whole thing as far as music was that I couldn’t sell records under The Witchdoctor name unless New York and California thought I was a credible artist. I can rap better than 50 percent of the cats walking around the East and the West Coast right now. Being from the East or West Coast I felt like it was easier for an MC to get out there than if they were from the South because that is where all the record companies were. Do you see what I am saying?
You are releasing a record this month correct?
Yes, I am releasing am album called Diary Of An American Witchdoctor on Oct. 23.
Can you describe for me what was going on creatively and personally leading up to the recording session for that record?
Actually I was on my MySpace page and I got three or four new albums up there as well as a book called Diary Of An American Witchdoctor. So I was on the Internet sending out some friend requests letting people know I got some new music out, but that I was unsigned. I felt like my music can compete with the best of them. I knew it was just a matter of time before somebody scooped me up and that is how I got found for this new project, was through the Internet. What they did was went through all of the albums I got floating around on the Internet and picked out some of the best songs and here we are, set to release a record on Oct. 23.
You actually wrote a book under the same name, correct?
That is right. Seven chapters. One chapter is called ‘Spirituality,’ another one is called ‘Crucifixion,’ I got another chapter called ‘Holy Spirit,’ and I got a chapter called ‘Struggle.’ Not struggle (s-t-r-u-g-g-l-e), but S-k-r-u-g-l-e, it is mispronounced that is how bad the struggle is. [laughter] All the writings and the poetry are all based on politics. You might see the words George Bush in there, or Al Sharpton and it is a really exciting book, it is really intelligent.
When you are up on stage and music is flowing through you, what does that feel like to have a connection with people right in front of your face?
There is no feeling like that; it is the greatest high in the world. For all the people that ever did drugs, or whatever it is that you do to get that high, there is no high like getting onstage and performing for the people. When I am onstage I am looking at spirits. Imagine not just one spirit looking back at you but a thousand; there is no feeling like that. The high is exhilarating. I can keep naming words to describe it, but it is almost like a release ,as far as all of the work that we put in between writing and the studio. Once you get done with all of the work and you bring the work to the people and you get a response, there is no feeling like that. It is like a baseball player hitting a home run. [laughter]
The Witchdoctor released Diary Of An American Witchdoctor on Oct. 23. For more information on Erin Johnson, you can visit his homepage at myspace.com/ejthewitchdoctor