SWNY: What/Who inspired you to become an artist? Who are your influences?
NA: Narubi Selah is my biggest inspiration, not necessarily first but the biggest by definition. I mean, I have her on film stating how much of a fan of my work she is as it pertains to my spoken word. I don’t think she knows how much of a fan of her work I am. I mean honestly, she made me want to jump into the hip hop scene as an MC. The influence was always there. I rhymed early in my career but never ever considered it until I heard Narubi on “I Am Living Math”, which is the tightest album I ever heard next to Taalam Acey. Once I heard that I had to figure out how to invent myself as an MC. So I figured, what’s more real than keeping it real?
I was ALWAYS influenced by the culture though and I met and/or performed for KRS1, Common, Red Alert, LiL Rodney C from the Legendary Funky 4 plus 1, Grandmaster Mele Mel, Grandmaster Caz, Afrika Bambatta, and so many countless of other Pioneer and Trailblazer greats who I knew and knew me as Nene Ali, the spoken word artist. I demanded their respect even back then, when I dropped a spoken word piece titled “What Hip-Hop Means To Me”. To my surprise not only was the spoken word community listening, but so was the Hip-Hop community.
SWNY: Describe what Hip-Hop is to you.
NA: One word: CULTURE. When I put out my spoken word piece “What Hip-Hop Means To Me”, I raised the question as to what is Hip-Hop. The answer is culture. We should have freedom of culture or cultural freedom. My experience with culture is that anything that is created needs to be dissected, explained, so that it can be explained away or fit into “Popular Culture”, which is ultimately the aim for the Culture Vultures of hip-hop culture.