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One.Be.Lo (aka OneManArmy of Binary Star) - “The Birth Of One.Be.Lo”
Contributed by: Todd E Jones aka New Jeru Poet
Source: The Elements
Posted on: March 10, 2005 11:00 MST
Filed under: Rap


Lyrics can make or break an emcee. For One.Be.Lo, lyrics and concepts are priority in hip-hop. Also known as OneManArmy from the group Binary Star, One.Be.Lo is becoming one of the most respected lyrical emcees in the underground. Raised in Michigan, One.Be.Lo’s involvement in Binary Star earned him critical acclaim. The “Waterworld” LP by Binary Star was an album where all the verses were dropped in one take. After being picked up by a distributor, the name of the LP was changed to “Masters Of The Universe”. Eventually, Binary Star disbanded due to creative differences. OneManArmy changed his name to One.Be.Lo and focused on his solo career. Unfortunately, One.Be.Lo became involved in illegal activity, which resulted in him having to do a bid in prison. While incarcerated, he did the time and did not let the time do him. After converting to the Muslim religion, One.Be.Lo grew to be more focused and determined than ever before. Once released, he helped Subterraneous Records grow. Along with Trackezoids, One.Be.Lo released his unofficial solo project “F.E.T.U.S.”, which was to prepare fans for his release “L.I.F.E.”. Before we could experience “L.I.F.E.”, One.Be.Lo released his official solo album “S.O.N.O.G.R.A.M.” (an acronym for “Sounds Of Nashid Originate Good Rhymes And Music”). Released by Subterraneous Records and Fat Beats, “S.O.N.O.G.R.A.M.” is rich in themes, concepts, and lyrics. One.Be.Lo rides the beats from Trackezoids and rocks mics with Abdus Salaam, KaDi, Decompoze and Magestik Legend. From the opening track “Underground”, there is an instant emotional and rhythmical takeover of the listener’s body and mind. “Propaganda” discusses hype and the machine behind the hype as One.Be.Lo mentions the Internet, magazines, and many more. A truly heartfelt performance is evident on “Oggie”, a song about a lost person. On a cold, winter evening in 2005, I had an insightful conversation with the emcee. As “S.O.N.O.G.R.A.M.” represents a stage during pregnancy, One.Be.Lo has finally been born. The birth of One.Be.Lo is a soulful and intelligent gift to hip-hop. The next generation of lyrical emcees has been born.

T.JONES: “What goes on?”
ONE.BE.LO: “Man, I’m just trying to get the word out there. I want to let cats know what’s going on and what we are bringing to the table.”

T.JONES: “Your debut solo album is called ‘S.O.N.O.G.R.A.M.’ Tell us about it.”
ONE.BE.LO: “Yeah, ‘S.O.N.O.G.R.A.M.’ is basically a formal introduction of One.Be.Lo to the listener. I was apart of other projects in the past, but I didn’t feel that I truly introduced myself as an artist with those projects. On those projects, I don’t think the listener walked away knowing who I truly was. ‘S.O.N.O.G.R.A.M.’ shows the listener who I am, what I bring to the table, and what I am like as an artist. Now, they can hear my style and delivery. The album is a good representation of me.”

T.JONES: “What was the transition like from being OneManArmy in Binary Star to going solo and becoming One.Be.Lo?”
ONE.BE.LO: “I think the transition was freedom. It’s funny because many people do not know that the same people who put that other album together are still here. Other than the other emcee spitting the verses, I’m still making music the way I make music. The only difference is the label on the CD. It just has a different name on it.”

T.JONES: “Will there be another Binary Star album?”
ONE.BE.LO: “We tried to link up and do it, but I seriously doubt it. I think we just got to that fork in the road 4 years ago and I felt that it would not work. A couple of years past, I was like ‘Let’s see if we can make this work because people love this sh*t’.’ At that point, we were just way past that fork in the road. He was on that side and I was on this side. We were just on different sh*t. Whatever that means. You can listen to his music and enjoy it. You can listen to my music and enjoy it. That doesn’t mean we can work together. Artists are real, real picky and real, real closed minded. They can be real, real strongly opinionated. If there ain’t no real chemistry, it ain’t going to work.”

T.JONES: “Do you have a favorite song on ‘S.O.N.O.G.R.A.M.’?”
ONE.BE.LO: “I don’t really make songs. I make albums. You know? When I start recording, I record a whole project. It varies from time to time and what mood I’m in. I only listen to a certain number of albums. I’m not the kind of person who goes straight to track 13. I put the sh*t in, start at track one, and I listen to it. If I can’t make a record like that, I won’t do it. Obviously, the tracks have to stand on their own. I don’t really have a favorite. It kind of depends on what mood I’m in and where I am at. If I had to choose, the track that best represents me is ‘Rocketship.’ That is just some emcee sh*t. The beat is tight. I’m just doing some One.Be.Lo sh*t on there. That’s one of the best representation of some emcee sh*t.”

T.JONES: “Can you explain the title ‘S.O.N.O.G.R.A.M.’?”
ONE.BE.LO: “‘S.O.N.O.G.R.A.M.’ is an acronym. It is kind of secondary to what it means. The acronym stands for ‘Sounds Of Nashid Originate Good Rhymes And Music’. It is basically saying what you will get from me. Dope rhymes and dope beats. Good music. It is not good in the sense that you think ‘He’s talented’. It is more like ‘That was refreshing’. They walk away with something that can stir some thoughts and bob their head to. I want cats to see who I truly am as I person and as an artist. It’s like an actual sonogram.”

T.JONES: “Can you explain the ‘F.E.T.U.S.’ project?”
ONE.BE.LO: “I’m all about concepts. It all kind of happened accidentally. I wanted to make that music that was for everybody. There was a time when you listened to ‘Children’s Story’ by Slick Rick and anybody who listened to hip-hop, loved that sh*t. There wasn’t a West Coast thing or a down South thing. It was hip-hop. Lo is for everybody. That is the kind of music I make. I was working on this project called ‘L.I.F.E.’ and I had these tracks laying around. ‘L.I.F.E.’ was so dope to me. I wanted to show people my development. I pressed up 1,000 copies just for the cats in my website. I called it ‘F.E.T.U.S.’ because it showed my developmental stages leading up to ‘L.I.F.E.’ It was all an accident. I pressed it up, didn’t promote it, and didn’t tell anybody it was coming. I sold the first 1,000 in a week. It wasn’t supposed to be an album. I just put it out for the people asking me to put something out. It was just for those cats. The acronym stands for ‘For Everybody To UnderStand’. So, if you ain’t feeling it, it ain’t for you. Basically, I’m saying that it is only getting bigger. All of this is preparing everybody for ‘L.I.F.E.’. I would like believe that some time down the road, someone would want to get the whole collection. That’s the kind of hip-hop I grew up with.”

T.JONES: “What is this mix-tape you are coming out with?
ONE.BE.LO: “I have a mix-tape coming out called ‘S.T.I.L.L.B.O.R.N.’. That sh*t is crazy.”

T.JONES: “What CDs or LPs have you been listening to recently?”
ONE.BE.LO: “I’m on tour right now. The only thing that I would play in its entirety is something like Ice Cube’s ‘Amerikkka’s Most Wanted’. Ice Cube’s ‘Death Certificate’. Tribe Called Quest’s ‘Midnight Marauders’. Wu-Tang Clan’s ’36 Chambers’. ‘Mecca And The Soul Brother’ by Pete Rock & CL Smooth. There are also some things that I consider classics that some may not. Organized Konfusion’s ‘Stress’ is like my favorite album of all time. Common’s ‘Resurrection’. I like the kind of sh*t that provokes me to be creative and do something different. Those cats make me come up with new concepts. Those cats would make me think. Nowadays, everything is on the table. What you hear is what you get. I’m trying to make a record that after 75 listens, you still get something new.”

T.JONES: “How did you hook up with Fat Beats?”
ONE.BE.LO: “If I wasn’t a Muslim, I would say it was all luck. For years, they were talking about doing a 12-inch with me. When ‘S.O.N.O.G.R.A.M.’ was being made, I got a call from them about them wanting to put out a 12-inch. I sent them another package. Instead of just a 12-inch, I sent them the whole album, which I just mixed. They called me back and told me that they wanted to do the whole album. The president of the company and whole staff was excited about it. It wasn’t my intention. We started building and here we are.”

T.JONES: “You did a couple of years in prison. What was that all about? What were you charged with?”
ONE.BE.LO: “That’s my personal life, man. I can’t get into that. The only reason that I would share it would be to kick it with someone who has to excel after prison. I have to let cats know that I got in trouble and used that time to better myself. I got into things that I should not have gotten into. I became a Muslin. I learned a lot about myself and the people around me. I came home focused. Ever since then, I have been elevating.”

T.JONES: “What was the transition like from being in prison to finally being free?”
ONE.BE.LO: “I spent my whole time looking at dates on a calendar. I was reading, planning, and plotting. It is scary because I was approaching this date, which was the moment of truth. It was the date I was waiting for. By then, there is this mindframe where it is easy to sit behind bars and make excuses. Now, it is time to put plans into action. I put a lot of pressure on myself. It was all me. The one thing that helped me out was becoming a Muslim and believing in God. If I have God on my side and supporting me, that’s all I need. I didn’t come home with the mentality that I needed a record label and I needed a manager. I had to do this because I have a talent that God gave me and I don’t want to miss out. Nobody can stop me. If God can’t stop me, nobody can.”

T.JONES: “Has being a Muslim changed your approach to music?”
ONE.BE.LO: “Definitely, man. I went through different stages. I recently took a trip to Mecca. It was 5 weeks. I used to just be a creative, lyrical emcee. I just wanted to say the illest thing I could think of. I was all about metaphors and punch lines. Now, I love the Binary Star album. Even though there was some substance, people focused on the punch lines. To me, ‘S.O.N.O.G.R.A.M.’ has dope punch lines but there are intense themes and true soulfulness to it. There is more substance to it. I’m trying to inspire people. Hip-hop was the big brother I never had or the father that didn’t teach me. I learned about Malcolm X through being positive in hip-hop. I learned about being an entrepreneur and being independent through hip-hop. I didn’t take classes.”

T.JONES: “What producers would you like to work with in the future?”
ONE.BE.LO: “The only people I could think of are Pete Rock and DJ Premier. Large Professor here and Diamond D there. I would go crazy if I could do tracks with Ali Shaheed Mohammed of Tribe Called Quest.”

T.JONES: “Which is the better album by A Tribe Called Quest? ‘The Low End Theory’ or ‘Midnight Marauders’?”
ONE.BE.LO: “That’s hard, man. I have to say ‘The Low End Theory’. On every song, Q-Tip had a different rhyme style. As much of a classic that ‘Low End Theory’ was, we didn’t think that they could do better and they achieved that with ‘Midnight Marauders’. That’s why ‘Midnight Marauders’ is a classic too. They did what the average group could not do. They made another classic album after they made a classic album.”

T.JONES: “What artists would you like to work with in the future?”
ONE.BE.LO: “I would love to do something with Krs-One. I don’t really want to work with anybody. If I work with someone, I want to work with the best. I would like to do work with Nas. I would like to do a joint with Pharoahe Monch or CL Smooth.”

T.JONES: “What do you think of Nas’s new album ‘Street Disciple’?”
ONE.BE.LO: “I think it’s alright. I’m an emcee. I appreciate those lyrics over wack ass beats. I’m not saying his beats are wack. I’m just more into lyrics than into production. That’s why I can’t f*ck with somebody like Group Home. They have classic production by Premier but the lyrics aren’t there. Personally, I had issues with Nas, as a fan with ‘Nastradamus’ but I like the direction he’s going in now. I still like what’s good. Michael Jordan is still Michael Jordan. He’s not slamming anymore but he’s still one of the greatest basketball players that ever lived. That’s how I look at Cube, Q-Tip, Nas, and others.”

T.JONES: “What was the last incident of racism you experienced?”
ONE.BE.LO: “I was in a restaurant. I was talking on my cell phone and they ignored me the whole time. Their excuse was that I was on the phone but they didn’t bring me water or even a napkin. When I approached them, they said I was being rude because I was on my cell phone. There is another time too. I was on a road trip this one time and we stopped at a gas station. When I was standing in line to pay for the gas, I see somebody getting out of their car, get inside our car, and start driving our car and pulling it out. I go outside and there was this old white dude in our car. He couldn’t wait so he got in our car and pulled it off to the side. This was flat out reverse racism. If I opened up somebody’s car door and got inside, they would call the police and the police would either arrest us or beat us. The only thing saving this dude was that he was like 70 years old. To me, it was more of an incident of indirect racism. I was so pissed off that I told my friend to handle it because I knew that I would say the wrong thing. If I did that sh*t, nobody would have laughed.”

T.JONES: “Word association time. I’m going to say a name of a group/emcee and you say the first word that pops in your head. So, if I say ‘Chuck D’, you may say ‘Revolution’. Okay?”
ONE.BE.LO: “Okay.”

T.JONES: “Nas.”
ONE.BE.LO: “Chipped tooth.”

T.JONES: “Xzibit.”
ONE.BE.LO: “Corn rows.”

T.JONES: “The Roots.”
ONE.BE.LO: “Malik B.”

T.JONES: “Pete Rock.”
ONE.BE.LO: “Top spot.”

T.JONES: “Slum Village.”
ONE.BE.LO: “Jay Dee.”

T.JONES: “George Bush.”
ONE.BE.LO: “The devil’s advocate.”

T.JONES: “Why did you choose the producers you used on ‘S.O.N.O.G.R.A.M.’?”
ONE.BE.LO: “It’s just me and my crew. They are just the cats that I used with all of my sh*t. I worked with Decompoze because we have a history and chemistry together. We’re not the best producers in the world or the best emcees in the world, but when that sh*t comes together, it comes together the way I like it. I want people to know that Trackazoid have beats. I was feeling the beats. Some people don’t know this but some of the beats on the album are older than the beats on the Binary Star album. I’m putting out 1999 sh*t that is being put out with 2005 sh*t.”

T.JONES: “Do you go into the studio with pre-written lyrics and themes, or do you hear the beat first and write the lyrics, then and there?”
ONE.BE.LO: “There ain’t no one way to do it. Sometimes, I write a rhyme to the beat and sometimes, I write the rhyme first. I prefer to write the rhyme to the beat and match it to the beat. Most importantly, I have to ride the beat like ain’t nobody else riding the beat. You can change the fluctuation of pre-written lyrics, but I have to do it when the inspiration comes. I may listen to the radio and write to a Lil Jon track because that is what I’m feeling at the moment. I know that I won’t rhyme to that beat though.”

T.JONES: “What is in the future for One.Be.Lo?”
ONE.BE.LO: “Good music. I may be solo or with a crew. I’m just trying to make good music and get my spot in this world called hip-hop. I’m trying to make an impact. However big or small, I’ll make an impact.”

T.JONES: “Any final words for the people who are reading this?”
ONE.BE.LO: “Check out subterraneousrecords.com and get with the movement! I’m trying to do something that is bigger than me. I could be king but I want to bring a dynasty to the table. If you have a chance to see us live, that’s a whole other story. Try to see us live and you can find out what we rock about. Peace.”


Interview by Todd E. Jones aka The New Jeru Poet

Official website for Subterraneous Records:

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