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Interview with Ismeal Cuthbertson (Ishues), May 18, 2016

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:13 - Early life

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Partial Transcript: Introduce yourself, Ishues, if you would.

Segment Synopsis: Cuthbertson recalls moving a lot during his childhood, describes the culture shock of moving to Athens, Georgia, and compares the violence between Athens versus the other big cities he has lived in.

Keywords: New Orleans, Louisiana; childhood; urban violence

00:06:51 - The developing Athens hip hop scene

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Partial Transcript: What was going on as far as artistry, music, urban music?

Segment Synopsis: Cuthbertson talks about appreciating early Athens artists like Big Earl, Amun Ra, and Budda. He talks about the influence of the artist Canibus, starting to write songs, and entering the battle rap scene. He recalls coming back to Athens in 2000, and the rapid growth of the Athens hip hop scene in the meantime.

Keywords: artists development; hip hop scene; influences; maturation

00:14:56 - Battle rhyme scene

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Partial Transcript: It wasn't until Fort Knox.

Segment Synopsis: Cuthbertson talks about the battle rap scene in Athens, and remembers losing a battle rhyme to rapper Fort Knox. He also talks about Athens producer Hano Leathers and recalls the limited number of venues receptive to hip hop in the early 2000s.

Keywords: 40 Watt; Athens Music Factory; Fort Knox; Hano Leathers; battle rhyme; downtown; misconception; music venue; prejudice

00:23:56 - Gaining recognition as a rapper

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Partial Transcript: After you came back in 2000, the next instrumental thing that happened towards you becoming an artist...

Segment Synopsis: Cuthbertson discusses his active pursuit of recognition in the hip hop scene through his participation in competitions, shows, and battle rap events in Atlanta and Athens. He talks about Fort Knox becoming his manager.

Keywords: aspiration; hard-working; manager; recognition

00:32:18 - Next step: recording music

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Partial Transcript: So now these are some of the first recordings you're about to start doing in Athens, right?

Segment Synopsis: Cuthbertson talks about starting to record with Hano Leather's Attica Sound label and mentions other artists on the label. He also talks about how fans and producers appreciated his ability to rap with clarity.

Keywords: Attica Sound; advantages; performance ability

00:38:56 - Challenging KRS-One in front of a crowd

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Partial Transcript: So what happened to take you from a local to a national scale?

Segment Synopsis: Cuthberson recalls attending a KRS-One show in Atlanta, in which a perceived slight from KRS-One led him to take the microphone and start rapping in his place on stage.

Keywords: KRS-One; challenge; initiative

00:44:40 - Touring nationally with KRS-One

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Partial Transcript: Just so happened, as I'm leaving that show, I pull up at the light.

Segment Synopsis: Cuthbertson talks about being selected as part of KRS-One's line-up for his east-to-west coast tour. He recalls gaining a bigger share of performance space on the tour, which he viewed as a learning opportunity, and recalls an incident that caused a rift between the himself and KRS-One. Cuthbertson also compares the value of an artist's performance capability over popularity.

Keywords: ambition; artist development; disagreement; learning; mentoring; national tour; performance philosophy

00:57:04 - Performing internationally

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Partial Transcript: Now, talking about the tour, it definitely seemed like that was an instrumental part of your career.

Segment Synopsis: Cuthbertson discusses performing internationally, including in Germany and on an African tour. He talks about gaining recognition across African music channels and stations, and performing at the Miss Zimbabwe pageant as the first-ever American hip hop artist.

Keywords: MTV; Zimbabwe; music channels; popularity; touring

01:05:40 - Refocusing on family

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Partial Transcript: But at the same, you know, me and my wife are going through problems.

Segment Synopsis: Cuthberson talks about disconnecting completely from music for a period in order to return home to his wife and family. He talks about managing young artists, and his advice to them that their career is not their life.

Keywords: advice; family time; mentoring; sacrifice

01:15:02 - Athens hip hop divisions

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Partial Transcript: So, let's talk about Athens, 2016.

Segment Synopsis: Cuthbertson talks about how the fragmentation of the black community in Athens is reflected in divisions within the hip hop scene. He advocates for hip hop music to reach a wider audience, and discusses how the internet has changed the nature of music exposure in the industry.

Keywords: artists exposure; monetary support; music appeal; technology