Saga, Chapter One: Self-Knowledge

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There’s a definite correlation between expanding your mind and the food that you eat.

I spend more time than I’d like to admit listening to people who complain about ailments but would rather not receive advice if it isn’t from an allopathic doctor or if the relief doesn’t come in the form of a pill. People that complain about what’s on the radio but still listen to the radio. Folks that have a problem with the individuals in positions of power but only speak up in the safety of the glow of their laptops and behind closed doors to their fellow armchair revolutionaries. So when I find individuals who are open and willing to move from talk to praxis, I know I’m in good company. It doesn’t matter what you label yourself, as long as you welcome dialogue and can engage in thought-provoking conversation. Those types are easy to pick out. They reveal themselves in what they listen to, what they read, watch and eat.

How refreshing is it to meet people who, after conversing, leave you with something to think about or a new perspective? I recently interviewed an emerging artist from Brooklyn who’s not only one of the freshest voices to come out over the past few years, but also one of the most conscious human beings I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with. Saga, today’s featured artist, has a lot to share and not just for the sake of saying something. His music, like his discourse, is deliberate and purposeful. Back in April, with the help of super producer Marco Polo, he put out easily one of the best EP’s of the year. You can stream most of the tracks from that project throughout this feature and then find links to download it at the end. Let me just tell you, this cat is no one trick pony. Yes he can rap – and damn good – but it’s more about his intentions on and off the mic that set him apart from his contemporaries. We talked a bit about food, a bit about music and a whole lot about self-knowledge and concepts of purpose. Follow along. This is Saga.

What do you see as the relationship between food and creating music?

I think that clarity of mind is really important and food will give you clarity of mind – depending on what you eat. In Ayurvedic medicine it says that chocolate and peanut butter block your channels from your lower chakra, up to your heart, up to your throat, which is your communication. So, food has that affect. But I think that the same could qualify if you were eating a lot of sugars or generally unhealthy foods. It would reflect in your music. It’ll get you stuck on thoughts and won’t let you expand your mind. There’s a definite correlation between expanding your mind and the food that you eat. Certain food can be used as a medicine as well as for personal enjoyment.

What kind of dietary regimen do you follow and how long have you been on it?

I’ve been a vegan pretty consistently for the past 14 or 15 years – but I go on and off between vegetarian and vegan. It’s hard to be any one thing for a long period of time. It’s a process. We kinda functioned on a western diet my whole life so I’m conditioned. My body’s conditioned to process both kinds of foods. And you know, the emotional conditioning that comes with certain foods. It’s still there. You may not need it but for some reason mentally and psychologically you need it to make it easier for yourself.

What kinds of things are you really focused on trying to avoid?

Anything that’s been adulterated by humans – I try to keep it as natural, in it’s whole state as I can. GMO’s. I try to stay away from those because they can still be in their whole form but still be adulterated. Stay away from pesticides, stay away from egg and white flour, white sugar – which is hard for me. My background is mostly Italian and we ate a lot of pasta and bread growing up. So, it’s hard. It’s deep rooted in my conditioning.

In terms of creating music, what are you trying to stay away from?

The things I put into my body – like, I don’t put alcohol into my body. I don’t put things that are destructive to me on a cellular level. I don’t want to kill brain cells, I don’t want to kill liver cells. That’ll happen on its own. I don’t want to help speed up the process. The same goes for the information that I consume. Visually. Audibly. I don’t like to listen to things that are negative. I don’t like to listen to people that are negative. I like to listen to things that are informative. At the same time, I like to listen to people that I may not agree with but I can still pull the gems out. And then I use that to extend my thought process. I check my perspective all the time. Seeing things from other people’s angles. If you listen to my music, to the lyrics, I’m not preachy. I do say things that are important about culture, about people, about psychology, about my own psychology. But I don’t come off like you need to do this, you need to do that. I’m not trying to dictate, tell anybody how to do it. I’m just trying to drop little gems here and there and maybe that will spark a thought and then they’ll have their own thought.

Talk about your progression as an artist.

Well, I used to mess around in cyphers a little bit with these kids I ran around with in Brooklyn. We used to just do our thing. We’d get together every once in awhile just to do our cyphers. And that would make us better, we’d challenge each other. Not necessarily battling but what we were presenting – not saying things that were too corny, being real. And then just meeting people. Marco [Polo, producer] moved to Brooklyn and I met him through another friend of ours. From that point – we were cool and I had gotten a beat and I rapped on it and it sounded good and we started to expand on it. We never had an intention to make something – I don’t want to make a product just to make a product. I want it to be organic. I want it to be natural, the progression to be natural. I don’t want to put one thing before another. I think that’s kinda what happens sometimes. If I’m intending to make something and I take a beat and then I rap to it and then I want to make a whole project, it doesn’t work out as well as if I just let it naturally happen. I’m not trying to make a song and then make a song better than that song and make a song better than that song. I think in music, especially in the context of music, you talk about a waveform. A waveform goes up and down it doesn’t just go continuously up to then end until it cuts off. It has a progression until it reaches a climatic point then comes back down. I think that’s how an album should feel. It should feel like it starts off and then it continues up, has a climax and then comes down, goes up, down – it should feel like it’s flowing. It shouldn’t feel like it’s competing with itself.

For a long time it just felt like the music industry was just – like I was on the shore and I was just watching the ships set sail. It was such a departure from the music that I love, from the version of Hip Hop that I love.

Why even continue to put out Hip Hop in 2015?

It’s just a facet of myself. Something I’ve always been. My whole being, my whole experience of growing up here and growing up with the people that I have. To me it’s something that I really didn’t give a lot of priority to. There’s other things that I do. Not necessarily artistic. I’m not one-dimensional. I do a lot of things. I do study. I do read. But at the same time this was just something that I felt like it was time to do. For a long time it just felt like the music industry was just – like I was on the shore and I was just watching the ships set sail. It was such a departure from the music that I love, from the version of Hip Hop that I love. Where all the New York cats were making music that sounds like somebody else’s. All the New York sounding Hip Hop had pretty much died and people were trying to sound like Southern rappers. It felt like it’s had a bit of a revival lately. So it kind of inspired me to push a little bit. Also the circle of people you’re around. They inspire you and motivate you, like my manager Max. You need a good team of people to motivate you and inspire you to do it. It was just a combination of things. I’d say it was like a perfect storm.

I like that you talk about a lot of concepts and ideas that aren’t really comfortably out there in the mainstream like chakras and such.

Yeah, it’s there but it’s not beating you in the head. I can take a concept that may be a Hindu concept or a Buddhist concept and put it into a song but in a more Western context. So it doesn’t come off as religious or ideological. It just comes off as a guy speaking from a New York perspective. I find a way to blend the two. There will be times where I guess I do go a little bit harder but I try not to talk about – like I did study yoga and there’s a lot of things I do but I don’t necessarily talk about them. I think in my life, personally, when I present these things to people who aren’t really into it that much, it comes off to them as me being preachy. But I’m just deciding to share information that I have.

Yeah, sometimes people feel intimidated by ideas that are new and they react in a way that’s almost defensive to ideas that you may just be trying to share.

It can definitely get crazy. It’s like I said, food is medicine before anything. You know, let food be your medicine, let herbs be your medicine. Greens fall into the category of herbs – all greens, any kind of green plant. Food should really be used as medicine more than pleasure. We get caught up in doing things just for the sake of pleasure. When we could be happy without doing anything, just being.

Yes. That’s what we’re all about. Higher vibrations through food and music.

You know how when you’ve been inside for a long period of time and haven’t had a lot of sun, like in New York we have a long winter and don’t get much sun. Now when the sun starts coming out we go and get the sun[light]. What do you think that is? We’re synthesizing vitamin D from the sun. Not only that, we’re synthesizing information. Think about photons entering your body. Assimilating information from life itself. You open your eyes and look in the direction of the sun – you don’t have to look directly at the sun. But if you practice sun gazing you can look at the sun for long stretches without actually damaging your eyes. And that actually fuels you. You’ll notice a difference in your physiology. Your energy level will increase. Your sun intake through your eyes and your skin. The same thing happens through food. So you think about photosynthesis in plants. That’s a secondary source of light code information. You’re getting that from greens that’s getting that from the sun. You’re getting that from fruit that’s getting it from the sun. An animal product would be a third tier source of light energy. So, vibration is not just some hippie term. I guess the scientific term is entropy, right? Higher entropy and lower entropy. Our whole body is made of matter all held together with certain vibration, certain frequency. If that frequency changes, the body changes as well but on a very subtle level. Sometimes when you have a higher vibration, a higher entropy, you feel lighter. Sometimes when you eat more dense, take in dense music, dense information, you feel heavier. A lot of bread, a lot of cheese, a lot of meat, you feel heavier. Dense food.
I don’t know if you’ve ever fasted but if you don’t eat, you realize the relationship you have emotionally and psychologically with food. Your brain goes into a mode that you don’t need the food. You’re not starving, you’re not dying. Some kind of emotional survival kicks in and you wind up craving things that you never would have eaten before. Sometimes when I fast I’ll crave things like fried chicken – things that I never grew up eating anyway. All of a sudden our body goes into a heightened state of awareness. My senses become heightened. My eyesight becomes sharper. My sense of smell is sharper. My body didn’t expend all that energy to process that food so it’s giving me that energy to do other things. It’s giving me more energy. I had so much energy I didn’t know what to do with myself. If the food is your medicine and it’s repairing things – especially raw food, it has enzymes, it has phytonutrients. All these things makes it easier for your body to process.

It’s unfortunate that many people choose to close themselves off from various types of information.

People get caught up in their culture. Whatever the dynamic of their culture is. For instance, if you’re Italian or Latino and your family raised you a certain way, that idea of how I’m supposed to live, what I’m supposed to be – you never really expand your thinking and your experience, then how do you know what’s out there? It’s mostly about experimentation. I’ve done sweat lodges. I’ve been to ayahuasca ceremonies without doing it and if there’s one thing I’ve learned from all of these experiences it’s never become part of a movement. Always be your own movement. Never do what the herd does no matter what the herd does, no matter what herd it is. It could be a Buddhist herd, it could be a Hindu herd, it could be shamanistic, Native American, South American, it could be the new age movement, Catholicism – never get caught up in anybody else’s ideas. It could only indulge you a little bit, for the experience of it. Never get swept up and become that because I’ve seen people of more Westernized traditions turn around and all of a sudden they’re super Hindu, more than Hindu people are. Or super Buddhist. Never shift out of your lane. That’s the point of self-knowledge. The Western concept of self-knowledge – Socrates and Plato and Aristotle – is to go inward to find your answers. And I think that’s something we don’t do as much. We’re always looking outward. It’s cool to look outward because you have to be able to observe yourself in any of those outward situations. I’ve been to Ayahuasca ceremonies where people were enthralled, almost lost in it and I’m not here to get lost. When my time is up on this planet I’ll be lost, whatever I become after that. So right now I’m really trying to focus my intention on going inward. I know because of certain experience that certain things are real. I know there’s ESP. I know there’s empathy but not only from an emotional level. It takes off the energy of other people. When you walk in a room and people have a certain energy to them, you feel it. If you go to an MMA fight and you’re in the audience there’s an energy there, it’s real, it’s palpable and you can get swept up in it. You can become a little more aggressive. All of a sudden you’re taking on other people’s emotions. Everybody’s connected. Nobody’s disconnected. We’re all giving and we’re all taking so it’s important to be aware of what you’re giving to the world and the people around you.

There’s lots of really negative music out there. But there’s also a lot of very positive music. Do you think there’s a good balance?

Personally, I don’t. I don’t want to be too negative on it but I feel like for awhile Hip Hop has been sort of a destructive force for young people. I feel like it started off very organic but then it got co-opted one way or another and then was used for exploitation. You can always find people to do what you want them to do for the right price. People will behave and perform exactly how you want it if the money is right or if you give them the approval. I think it bleeds out to the greater society. You see other kids who don’t come from gangster, drug dealing backgrounds and they try to emulate that. It sort of perpetuates this. I don’t think it has to be that way but I think in a way it’s been designed that way. We like sensational things. This can even go back to diet. For example, if you put the store brand commercial chemically processed peanut butter and some organic just-peanuts-in-there [peanut butter] side by side, to a person who’s never eaten real peanut butter, the organic tastes nasty to them. They’re so conditioned because if you eat a lot of sugars or salts it’s like your taste buds are dumbed down. You don’t pick up as much subtleties and nuance in foods as when you’re reconditioned. When you stay away from a particular thing and then you start eating the natural version of it then you pick up the subtleties and nuances in it. And the more we get into listening to music that keeps building on itself and getting worse and worse, it doesn’t support a deeper sense of well being. It’s almost like people are becoming more numb so you have to give them more of it. It’s almost like an addiction. Like a guy can smoke some herb, one ore two joints. And then he needs a blunt. Then all of a sudden he needs to smoke 3 or 4 or 5 times a day in order to get that same feeling he had when he first started smoking. We just keep numbing and dumbing ourselves down because we’re losing the sensitivity to things. So everything has to be exaggerated. The industry is creating people that need more over-the-top things to any kind of experience.

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Yo, my man talks in metaphors, speaks from experience and has a clear understanding of who he is as well as his place in humanity. Those are rare character traits for up-and-coming MC’s. Seriously, this is one amazing individual. The Q&A above is just a small piece of a larger conversation that we had and I found him to be extremely knowledgable and well versed in a number of things. The best way for you to get to know him better is to head over HERE or hit up his soundcloud page and download the two free projects he’s put there for you. As always, I did ask him to share a recipe and for those interested, he directed me to THIS SITE for one of his favorite vegan recipes.
Keep us bookmarked, follow him on Twitter or find us on your favorite mode of social media as we’ll be keeping you updated with any newness from one of our favorite new artists. I’m looking forward to what this dude has in store for us. The Saga continues…

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