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Issue 1101

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Feature

Tah- Mac: On the road to success

Tah-Mac @bluesandsoul.com
Tah-Mac @bluesandsoul.com Tah-Mac @bluesandsoul.com Tah-Mac @bluesandsoul.com Tah-Mac @bluesandsoul.com Tah-Mac @bluesandsoul.com Tah-Mac and Mr Lewis @bluesandsoul.com Tah-Mac @bluesandsoul.com Tah-Mac @bluesandsoul.com Tah-Mac @bluesandsoul.com

Brooklyn-born-and-raised MC/producer Tah Mac celebrates the release of his debut album, granting Pete Lewis a warm ‘Welcome To Tahland’ over afternoon drinks at Chelsea Harbour.

No newcomer to the hip hop game, Tah first made his mark in the mid-Nineties when - while still in his mid-teens - he became an original member of rap icon Erick Sermon’s now-legendary Def Squad production team. Which, in addition to crafting major hits for the likes of Keith Murray and Onyx, also saw him regularly touring with chart-topping rappers-of-the-day like Redman and DMX.

Meanwhile, with New Yorker Tah now based in both LA and London, the self-proclaimed “global sound” of his aforementioned new album ‘Welcome To Tahland’ boasts such diverse guests as contemporary soul man Cee-Lo (Gnarls Barkley): DJ Lethal (Limp Bizkit/House Of Pain); and guitarist Ritchie Kotsen (glam rockers Poison) - who all feature on the party-themed single ‘Lavish Lifestyle’. Meanwhile, British former Sugagbabe Mutya Buena injects a soulful chorus into the socially-conscious rap/R&B of ‘Give Back’; while other names on board include such up-and-coming talents as Shay & Trix (the bouncy, P-Funk-influenced ‘Feeling Good’) and Tia Myrie (the breezy, reggae-tinged ‘Back In Time’).

“The idea for the album title came to me about four-and-a-half years ago, when I first started putting this project together”, begins a laid-back, quietly-spoken Tah: “’Welcome To Tahland’ basically means ‘welcome to my amalgamation of sound’. You know, as I worked on this record in so many different parts of the world - the UK, France, Germany, New York, LA - it basically represents me just putting everything into one big melting-pot. Theoretically I wanted to reach out to the masses, so there’d be something on there for everybody from eight years old to 80 years old! So, while the smallest kid can appreciate tracks like ‘Lavish Lifestyle’ or ‘Back In Time’, at the same time even grandmothers and GREAT grandmothers can appreciate a song like ‘Give Back’! You know, while hip hop - from a demographic perspective - can so pigeonholed, I at least wanted to climb the various fences and embrace anything from a rap sound to an alternative style and beyond!”

While the braggadocio rhymes of wealth and party themes of jiggy-flavoured tracks like the irrepressible ‘Do It Big’ and ‘Time Of My Life’ may seem at odds with the doom-and-gloom of today’s economic climate, Tah nevertheless insists they do play a relevant role in today’s music scene: “I‘m really just showing the world that, regardless of what we’re going through at any trying time, music can always be FUN! You know, because we’ve all seen so many news stories all over the media about the world’s economic turmoil recently, I just wanted to put out a record to try and cheer people up a little and offer a few minutes of escapism. I mean, on a song like ‘Lavish Lifestyle’ I’m actually saying ‘Whether you have five dollars or 50 pounds in your pocket, you can still have a good time and party till the sun comes up!’. You know, I’m a positive person, and I always REMAIN positive! So I just wanted to put a smile on people’s face by staying true to myself.”

Unusually for a successful US hip hop producer, six years ago Tah made the unexpected decision to partly base himself in the UK in order to broaden his musical horizons: “Yeah, looking back it was a huge risk to take. But, at the time I didn’t LOOK at it like that”, he explains: “Because I was embracing the fear of leaving behind everything that I had at home and travelling overseas to make my own way and my own imprint. I realised that everything was repetitive in my own backyard, that in America everybody was doing the same thing. So I just decided to go somewhere where I could create my own comfort-zone and then, eventually, take the foundation I’d laid here back home and beyond. “

“And some of the talent I’ve ended up working with here in London has been amazing”, he adds proudly: “For instance, I worked with Leona Lewis before her whole ‘X-Factor’ experience. And, even back then, I saw something golden about that young lady. I did a record called ‘Sugar Sweet’ with her, and I remember telling a lotta media outlets here in the UK that she was gonna be one of the biggest pop artists to come out of this country in a long time. And, even though I don’t think people took me seriously at the time, I’ve definitely been proved right since! And, when she and I bumped into each other in LA at the Grammies this year, it was a great moment! We embraced each other, and she was like ‘Tah, you we right there with me when people still didn’t understand what I was gonna DO!’... And it’s the same with Estelle, who I also worked with here in London a few years back. You know, to see HER on a world platform today and have her embrace me is great too!”

With 18 years in the game already behind him, Tah has strong feelings on the current commercial demise of hip hop: “I think back in The States, in certain areas, people just kinda got lazy”, he observes with honesty: “You know, it became all about making a two-bit hit record, making whatever you can make from it to replenish your lifestyle and keep things going for the moment - and just forgetting the reality of what hip hop was always ABOUT! They were basically just doing it for the MONEY, and not for love of the ART. And what a lot of these people forgot was that, once the consumer starts losing interest, then you actually have nothing LEFT! Especially in this digital download era.”

“So yeah, it’s very sad”, he adds genuinely: “Because there’s so many artists that were getting million-dollar, or two-million-dollar, deals who are now working in McDonalds! Some of them I’ve even seen working in gas stations - and it’s shameful to SEE that! And a lot of it is also because many of them were allowing the wrong individuals to control their life, and weren’t in control of what they were doing on a day-to-day basis.”

“So the state of hip hop has now gotten to the point where either you take control of what you do as an art-form, or you just stay stuck in a rut!”, concludes Tah passionately: “And for me it’s all about remaining POSITIVE! You know, just be true to yourself, do what you gotta do on a daily basis - and you’ll GET there! Because the business, as we all know, is shady top-to-bottom! But, at the same time, if you DO get the right people around you - like I, for one, have my mother - to take care of your business on a day-to- day and you stay true to your art, then you really have nothing to worry about.”

The album ‘Welcome To Tahland’is released April 27. The single ‘Lavish Lifestyle featuring C.A.S.H.’ is out now, both through TAHMC Entertainment

All photos care of Romain Kedochim. For more visit ROMAIN PHOTOGRAPHY
Words PETE LEWIS

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