“Skill Recognize skill, with lyrics that define ill./ Keep your naked eyes peeled, and open. Get your spines chilled.”
It would be a grave injustice to weigh Invincible’s talent on a scale of gender, so set no double standards for her. She isn’t just a great female emceeâ€¦ she’s a lyricist whose skill set far exceeds most everyone in the game, including some of your favorites.
Her talent garnered attention from Talib Kweli, De La Soul and Jean Grae among others, years ago when she left her Michigan home for opportunity in New York. This was while she was part of the all-female ANOMOLIES, before she cut off her braids. Before she met with major labels and turned down deal after deal. Before she left BK and dedicated her time to the betterment of Detroit. Long before she recorded her first solo project, ShapeShifters, which finally hit shelves in May.
What pushes Invincible into the hierarchy of ability is she chooses beats to back her that are matched raw for raw with the bars she spits. From The Lab Techs turning flutes dirtier than you ever knew a wind instrument could get on “Sledgehammer,” to Black Milk pulling an orchestra of strings through a hard-snare mud puddle on “Recognize,” to Waajeed splattering the up-tempo title track with a filthy organ and acoustic guitar, Invincible is laced high and tight with the grimiest soul the D has to offer.
Beyond the beats, Invincible’s lyrical agility and construction are without definition. The emcee, who spent part of her childhood in Israel-Palestine, warrants play-back, play-back, play-back status and covers subject matter past the classic spectrum of Hip-Hop, delving handily into issues on intimate and international levels.
Far warmer than a 40 degree day, ShapeShifters burns 4.5 cigs â€“ easy â€“ on strength of pure, unadulterated Hip-Hop.
TSS Crew member LC Weber spoke with Invincible about the wait to put out the right project â€“ an album that might be one of the best, most well-rounded ones you’ll hear in 2008.
TSS: What made you move to New York? Did you move for the ANOMOLIES, or did you meet them out thereâ€¦?
Invincible: Basically I went out there to join the ANOMOLIES. I had met the ANOMOLIES on a visit and it just instantly clicked and they were like, really supportive of me. In Michigan I really only knew maybe three or four other female emcees that were really consistently on the scene. We were really few and far apart, you know? And so, to me, ANOMOLIES was just an ideal situation to be around a lot of dope female emcees â€“ and not just emcees, because it is all elements we went into the visual aspect of it with art â€“ but it was just a really nurturing environment for me to be in, and I just decided to move out there to work with them. And we did shows consistently. At that time, ANOMOLIES was doing shows every week in New York.
Basically I wanted to be around more female artists. Like I said, in Michigan we were few and far apart. By me moving to New York, I could be around a whole community of female artists â€“ the ANOMOLIES as well as others that we were working with. And because of that, we became more acceptable and it gave me time to focus on my craft. It allowed me to be who I am and just focus on the art form.
TSS: How did you fall in line with Kweli and them? Just from being in the scene together?
Invincible: Like I said, ANOMOLIES did shows weekly, so we started opening for people like Kweli. Black Star was coming out at that time, Dead Prez was coming out at that time, shit, Black.Eyed.Peas was coming out at that time â€“ everybody that was coming out at that time, ANOMOLIES would open for them. You know what I mean, everybody. We did shows with Kweli and them, and ANOMOLIES come up with Kweli and them. It was, you know, a tight-knit community.
And all the open mics in New York, like that’s the other reason I moved to New York â€“ because it was such an open mic and freestyle community. Like you’d have the open mic, and then you’d go outside and cipher for another three hours, you know what I mean? So it was just the environment I wanted to be in at that timeâ€¦ everybody was just coming up in the same scene, you know?
With Kweli, I had met his manager at one of the shows we were opening for Black Star, and me and his manager started working together. That was Corey. Corey Smyth, he was managing me for a few years, and at that time that was my mainâ€¦ Corey was the main source of helping me navigate all the different deals that was coming at me at the time.
TSS: What happened with that? Because I’ve heard that you were offered major label deals beforeâ€¦
Invincible: I’ve been offered many major label and several independent deals before. Each one of them has a unique story, you know what I mean? For the most part they all had one thing in common, which was that the standard contract doesn’t allow you to own your masters. I wasn’t really cool with that. They would laugh at me because I would be like “Well, I want my masters,” and they would be like “Nah, you’re crazy!” Especially with a new artist. So they all had that in common.
But there were so many other issues besides that â€“ like trying to market me in a certain way that was phony, or trying to control how my lyrics sounded or my beats sounded. You know, across the board just trying to manipulate who I was into something I wasn’t. So that’s one of the main reasons I chose to remain independent, because I had kind of seen so many options and they weren’t all good.
TSS: Did you feel like they were trying to box you in as an artist or as a female?
Invincible: Really is depends from deal to deal. I mean, being a female is an issue that all record labels are going to have, or are idiotic as fuck to deal with because they don’t know how to market females. And I’ve found a lot out, because labels are crazy in the first place â€“ they always want to fall back on a formula, a cookie-cutter marketing model. And all artists have to deal with that. But with females they are especially idiotic because they’re small-minded about it. They only have a few slots for you to fit in, and if you don’t fit into that slot you really got to kind of fend for yourself.
For me, ANOMOLIES created a space where we were hell-bent on not compromising those types of things, and validated each other like, “Hell yeah we shouldn’t have to compromise anything.” We just put ourselves out and marketed ourselves to show the labels that they don’t know what they’re doing and they can’t do this shit better than we can. That’s the ethic I’ve always had, but only in the past couple of years have I been able to put the logistical aspects of it together.
TSS: You were talking about an “idiotic formula.” Do you think people or labels don’t know how to process someone who’s coming at them with subject matter that’s beyond what people are talking about in Hip-Hop? You know, when you talk about Palestine and you talk about America the Beautiful, is it just something people can’t wrap their minds around?
Invincible: People can wrap their minds around it â€“ it’s that the labels who don’t know how to reach critical-thinking people. They ask me “What’s your target market?” and I’m like, my target market is people who are critical thinking and not part of a “target market.” They’re individuals who are going to be un-group-able. They can think for themselves. And I think each label doesn’t want to put the time and effort into that. I’m trying to reach people who are thinking outside the box, and you have to be outside the box to market it, you know what I mean?
TSS: Do you think because you took your time putting together your first project, it’s exactly how you want it? Like you’re proud to say it’s your first record and you wouldn’t do it any other way?
Invincible: Yeah, actually I believe it is, because I’m like my worst critic. For me, I always knew I could be successful and I never had a question in my mind about that. But I always thought it would be impossible for me to be happy with my music because I’m so hard on myself. One of the main reasons it took so long is because I’m such a perfectionist, and so all these years I’ve been honing my craft and making sure I had it right. Even though I’ve had a lot of guest appearances and I’ve had a lot of points in my life where I’ve been heard as a lyricist, this is really my first introduction to the world. I wanted to really plan that out in a way where I was going to be 100 percent with it.”
For more info, visit…http://uproxx.files.wordpress.com/2008/06/08_recognize_feat._finale.mp3%5D
Invincible Featuring Finale – Recognize
Video – Invincible “Sledgehammer” Promo
Previously Posted — Invincible Feat. Finale – “The Locusts” Video