interview – safari al

awhile back i did a brief spot on mantras, a project that blends the hip-hop stylings of safari al with the indie rock tendencies of ghost of james.  safari al was kind enough to answer some questions about the group’s aesthetic, their new ep easy, hogarth, and hypothetical future plans.  check out the transcript below.


although mantras is an extremely organic-sounding project, i understand that paul and jp essentially functioned as your producers, sending you finished instrumentals to work with.  how did you approach writing lyrics for songs that feature different timbres and tempos than perhaps you are used to?

ghost of james’ music is a type of music that i listen to frequently and am comfortable with, so i wouldn’t say there was much musically that i wasn’t already familiar with outside the context of rap.  though, part of the project’s purpose is to path-cut along one of rap’s fringe ley lines.  ultimately, this is one of the better results of folk, rock, and rap all sitting at the same table.

i approached writing for this project more poetically, but that’s also the trend my writing has been following along recently.  one thing this project has that my others do not is manpower.  with that in mind, i did want to include some cuts where paul and i could belt our buns off.

mantras combines members of the dilla gents and ghost of james.  how much of each group’s aesthetic did you shed for this new project, and what elements did you retain?

i do not believe there is a strong dilla gents presence on this project, and that is fine and dandy because i did not intend for that to be an identifiable influence on easy, hogarth.  jp and myself are the dilla gents transplants, but over the last few years, gents’ activity has been waning and influence less perceptible.

this project is the marriage of safari al and ghost of james, each taking one another in sickness and in health.  heh heh.  that is to say, i got all of ghost of james and they got all of me.  i don’t think there was much sacrifice on behalf of either party in order to compromise towards a medium.

the song “villains” features milo, another hip-hop artist based out of eastern wisconsin who seems to have a similar aesthetic – both in terms of flow and use of occasional non-sequiturs – to the one you’ve developed.  can you speak to your prior collaborations and general thoughts on the dude?

“villian” is actually an intentional misspelling (see: almost, maine).

rory and i are currently roommates in milwaukee, wi.  the other day i put our bathroom rugs in a washing machine because our friend braden refused to enter due to the piss odor that sort of permeates the room.  i’m not trying to say that rory pees on bathroom rugs – the odor predates our stint as roommates – but, we are both comfortable being dirty, hairy boys.  rory is one of my best friends and the similarity in aesthetic that you have observed exists beyond our written content and delivery.


easy, hogarth is relatively short; just six tracks that clock in around twenty minutes.  is this a one-off project between friends, or will mantras continue to be developed down the line?

honestly, this hasn’t really been addressed yet.  the initial impetus to create this project felt a little one-shot in nature: you’re on winter break, i’m on winter break, you make incredible music that i’d very much like to yell over, etc.  but, for better (i think), the process of finalizing our work got drawn out substantially, which meant i got to continue to interact closely with paul and jp.  in short, i am more than willing to further develop mantras, but ideally in a more synergistic setting.   i’d like to play guitar on some songs.


the marriage of indie rock and hip-hop goes over very, very well on mantras’ easy, hogarth; safari al wasn’t simply tooting his own musical horn.  personally, i’d love to see the trio expand the project to its fullest potential, but i’m perfectly content with the content they have to offer at the moment.  safari al will be joining forces with milo and riley lake for a tour of the eastern half of the u.s. next month.  if you like any tiny bit of what you hear, go check out a show.