‘Home at Last’: Interview in MSHALE MAGAZINE

5 February 2009 at 4:00 pm (Family, Film, Music, News, Press, Releases, Spoken Word, Theatre) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

eg-bailey-on-the-road-b-freshphoto by B Fresh Photography

Liberian-American Spoken-Word Artist is Home at Last
Justin Schell , Contributing Writer

“This is a year of completion for me,” e.g. bailey says in the office of Trú Rúts Endeavors, the multidisciplinary arts organization that he runs with his wife, Shá Cage.

His struggle to fit in America is not unlike that of many African immigrants. He attributes his success as an award-winning multidisciplinary artist and producer to this struggle of finding a home away from home.

bailey, who was born in Saclepea, Liberia, is the son of a white Peace Corps volunteer and a Liberian mother. His father, bailey says, “threw a dart, hit Liberia, and that’s where he got stationed.” His mother gave birth to him near the end of his father’s second term; and his parents lost touch after his father’s return to America.

Even as a child he loved music and theater: two memories stand out in particular from his life in Liberia.

“There was a record store and a movie theater,” he says. “I would spend hours in the record store listening to whatever they were playing.”

The owner of the mud-constructed movie theater, however, wasn’t particularly keen on offering free entertainment to they young movie revelers. “We would either sneak into the movie theater or we would drill holes in the side to watch the movie.” After the owner realized this, he would take blindingly-hot Liberian red peppers, soak them in water, and put the mixture in a spray bottle, and spray into the holes to temporarily prevent onlookers from watching the film without paying. “It would be this constant game of trying to outwit [him], as soon as you saw a shadow coming.”

One day, another Peace Corps volunteer came to his village and, after getting to know him, expressed interest in adopting him. Instead it was his father who ended up adopting the 10-year-old Bailey after she sought out his father through the Peace Corps database.

After landing in Chicago, he was driven to his new home in Crystal Lake, an hour-and-a-half from Chicago. There was a parade the day he arrived, with money thrown from the floats.

“I thought it was a parade for me!” he says with a laugh. “The next day, I wake up, I’m like ‘Ok, when are we going to the parade and when can we get more money?’ That was the start of my life in the US.”

Reality soon set in for bailey as he learned that life in America was not rosy for a new immigrant, “It was a struggle of trying to adapt and trying to fit in. Trying to figure out who I am and not fitting into any place, I always felt like I was running, that I couldn’t stop moving.”

Until he moved to Minneapolis, when he felt, “Ok, I can stop running now.”

bailey’s first connection to Minneapolis came not through the city itself, but through one of its most famous musicians. “I discovered Prince in [Crystal Lake’s] record store. I think it was “Little Red Corvette.” My ears just perked up, trying to find out who this person was, and I proceeded to get everything that he put out.”

After moving to Minneapolis, he started performing solo and with a number of music groups, and worked in the retail division of Prince’s famed Paisley Park complex, gaining crucial experience to navigate the shady mazes of the music industry when he formed Trú Rúts and its record label, Speakeasy Records.

He had a life-changing experience on a trip to the country of his birth after being gone for nearly 20 years. He returned to Liberia in 1999 as part of a four-month trip to Africa, the Middle East and East Asia. The trip, while crucial to his development as an artist as well as a person, was not what he expected.

“I realized that I could go back, but I could never live back home. I’d been away too long to be able to go back home and do what I’m supposed to do.”

An overwhelming and inane sense of homelessness hit him, he says, “going home displaces you. You’re no longer at home in either place. Home is what I had to create.”

Thus homelessness and travel inform all of bailey’s work, which symbolically channels his own experience through the larger histories of the African Diaspora. His album American African, scheduled for release in April, will appropriately feature a host of both American Africans and African Americans, including M.anifest, DJ Stage One, Mankwe Ndosi, IBé, and other international artists, including Germany’s Starskie and Dubai’s Abstrakt Collision.

“It’s a testament to where African Americans and American Africans are,” he says, encompassing the multitude of African, African American, and American African perspectives. “I want to avoid the idea of a monolithic Africa as much as possible.”

The first single off of American African, “America,” is a wide-ranging vision of the post-9/11 America that many immigrants find themselves in.

“America, I miss you,” bailey intones at its opening. He delivers his words atop a bed of rolling drums and cymbals, electric bass, disorienting electronic sounds, and wailing saxophone. From Katrina to Guantanamo, Hollywood to Baghdad, the poem subtly welds together the long histories of racism and murder that stain America’s past, yet without completely destroying the hope of something better. In the end, the music dies away as bailey softly, powerfully, declares “We’re waiting for your resurrection.”

bailey has an ambitious plan to release three more albums in 2009 that have been at various stages of completion throughout his work with Trú Rúts. Yet completion always breeds the start of something new, whether it be the release of new albums from other artists in the Trú Rúts family such as Quilombolas, TruthMaze, or El Guante. Or the birth of his first child with his wife Shá Cage.

Even though e.g. bailey has settled in one place after a long journey, his creative activity and poetic journeys show no signs of slowing down.

e.g bailey has produced “No Longer at Ease” (play), an adaption from the Chinua Achebe’s novel for the Pangea World Theatre in May 2001; “Village Blues” (film); and “Words Will Heal the Wound”, a spoken word radio series celebrating the diverse poetic traditions in Minnesota.

He received the Sarah Lawrence College International Film Festival (2001) Experimental Film award for Village Blues; the NFCB (National Federation of Community Broadcasters) award for Write On RaDio!; and the Worldstaff Houston International Festival (1999) Experimental Film award for Village Blues.

Visit his website for a full listing of productions, performances and awards: www.myspace.com/egbailey or www.egbailey.com.

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Tru Ruts/Speakeasy Records feature by Rift Magazine

26 October 2008 at 9:00 am (Music, News, Press, Releases, Spoken Word) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

tru-ruts-rift-logoWhen artists work collectively to achieve a creative goal, it makes it easier for that group to move forward and to apply that leverage to push their art. While spoken word in the Twin Cities has taken a backseat to the burgeoning hip-hop scene, Trú Rúts Endeavors and Speakeasy Records has been working the connection to help create a larger scene.

If you have seen spoken word performance, you know how powerful and soul bearing it can be. It takes poetry reading and storytelling to a higher level. Trú Rúts Endeavors and Speakeasy Records are trying to spread that message through Hip-Hop, World Music and different forms of media. It hasn’t been an easy road, but as they find their way they hope to find the local audience and local media attention they are looking for and make the Twin Cities a place where spoken word artists can thrive.

Rift: What is the Difference between Trú Rúts Endeavors and Speakeasy Records?

Trú Rúts/Speakeasy Records: Trú Rúts Endeavors is structured as an artistic enterprise within which are various entities that cover various disciplines, including music, film, theatre, visual art, etc. Speakeasy Records is the record label under Trú Rúts. We also do artist management, booking, producing, promotions, and a variety of other things. Speakeasy Records is an artist centered independent label that strives to bring innovative, unique and conscious work, and artists, to the forefront. Unlike many labels in the Cities, it is a multi-genre label that includes not only hip hop and spoken word, but also world music and jazz. It will continue to expand into other genres as it grows. However, it is grounded in spoken word and hip hop because that is where its roots were first planted, and it is the community from which it grew. It was one of the first independent, and now one of the strongest, spoken word labels.

Rift: Who started the labels and who is involved?

TR/SR: Trú Rúts was founded by innovative artist and visionary, e.g. bailey. A multi-disciplinary artist working in spoken word, film, theatre, radio and music, he developed Trú Rúts and Speakeasy Records, while working in the groundbreaking spoken word and music collective, Arkology. Upon returning from a four month pilgrimage to his home in Liberia, and other parts of the world, including Dubai, Amsterdam, Cote d’Ivoire, Tanzania, Ghana, and Hong Kong, he re-conceptualized and re-energized the enterprise and the label, releasing the first official release, Words Will Heal the Wound, the first spoken word compilation in Minnesota, in 2001. Currently Trú Rúts is managed by e.g. bailey and his partner and fellow labelmate, Shá Cage aka Lady Sha. The current roster of artists include Truthmaze, El Guante, Quilombolas, See More Perspective, along with e.g. bailey and Shá Cage. However, other projects, which consist of collaborations within the label, include god’s pager, Madiba and Afrika 7. The label has also released albums by Zell Miller III, and Nazirah P. Mickey. In addition to this it continues to release cutting edge compilations including the first compilation to highlight the reggaeton movement in Minnesota, Highstylekyle + Tru Ruts present Lightning + Thunder (Volume One). It also has several UK/US co-releases in the works, including a number of upcoming singles and albums by its roster of artists.

Rift: With the very hot Hip-Hop scene in town, has that help make Spoken Word more popular?

TR/SR: The hip hop scene here has certainly influenced the spoken word scene, and there have been a number of collaborations, along a number of artists that work in and move fluidly between each of the genres. However, the popularity of the spoken word art form in Minnesota is attributed to the very hard and consistent work of artists such as e.g. bailey, Shá Cage, J. Otis Powell!, Truthmaze, Bao Phi, Frank Sentwali and a number of others too numerous to list completely. The dedicated work by these artists, including the commitment of such organizations as the MN Spoken Word Association, S.A.S.E., Edupoetic Enterbrainment, Walker Art Center, The Loft and others, have taken spoken word from “people reading from their journals” to a legitimized art form. In addition, the spoken word community here has been dedicated to not only getting spoken word recognized as an art from but also as an educational tool to inspire literacy and creativity in youth, along with documenting and spreading knowledge about the legacy and tradition of the art form. The community here has also developed the first spoken word grant, the first spoken word conference, and one of the first spoken word radio show and formats. All this has contributed to making the Twin Cities one of the most innovative scenes in the field.

However, the scene has still had a difficult time garnering support from media, and even audiences. The kind of support that has thrust the hip hop scene in the national spotlight. Or the New York, Chicago, Seattle, Atlanta, San Francisco scenes into the national spotlight. In someways it is due to the popularity and focus on the hip hop scene. In the wake, a number of other disciplines and artists get overshadowed. Therefore there has not been the emergence of an artist such as Saul Williams or Jessica Care Moore, Mark Bamuthi or Talaam Acey, Beau Sia, Ishle Park, 2Tongues, Regie Gibson, Ursula Rucker, Sekou Sundiata, Carl Hancock Rux and numerous others. Without the support, the Minnesota scene will continue to be innovative and cutting edge but largely overlooked.

Due to these kinds of obstacles, a number of spoken word artists in the Cities have ’stepped away’, or have moved primarily, or exclusively, into hip hop, sometimes disavowing spoken word and their connection to it. This often gives the art form a sense of being a stepchild, when in fact it’s the most native of art forms, the most native of sons, without which hip hop would not exist, or exist as we know it today. Part of the work of Speakeasy Records, and it’s commitment to spoken word, is to surmount some of these hurdles, and continue to push spoken word in Minnesota into the national consciousness, while at the same time continuing to evolve into the complete and multi-genre it strives to be.

Rift: Since Minneapolis has a pretty diverse music scene, have you found it easy to fit in our have there been some barriers?

TR/SR: Fitting in has never been our goal, and often when you are part of the advance guard, working at the cutting edge, it can be a difficult and lonely road. So there has been barriers, often those that come with the stereotyping of what you do, whether it’s spoken word or hip hop, world music or jazz, being an independent label or even being from Minnesota. However, you persevere, and you find your niche and your audience, which we are starting to do. If there is anything that defines labels and artists like us, it’s making something out of nothing. Whether it is making a dollar out of fifteen cents, or as Atmosphere puts it, gold out of lemons. The struggle defines and divines you.

Rift: What are your upcoming releases or events?

TR/SR: We are currently working on a number of releases slated for late summer through the winter, including singles by Quilombolas, See More Perspective and Truthmaze. A mixtape by El Guante, called ‘Conscious is Not Enough’ that will debut during the RNC. After years of bring other endeavors to fruition, e.g. bailey will release the EP, ‘American African African American’. Also forthcoming is a remix of Shá Cage’s debut album, Amber People; a US/UK hip hop compilation, which will feature artists from around the globe, including several noted special guest artists; and a Speakeasy Records label compilation. www.truruts.com

Posted on www.riftmagazine.com
October 26th, 2008 by Riftyrich

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Words Will Heal the Wound (Volume One)

3 July 2001 at 9:00 am (Music, Releases, Spoken Word) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Words Will Heal the Wound, the first spoken word compilation in Minnesota, is released. The album features: Bao Phi, Truthmaze, Slug, Sha Cage, Arkology, Desdamona, J. Otis Powell!, Sister Mimi, Anika, Wookiefoot, Signe Harriday, Prof. John Wright and the University of Minnesota Faculty Jazz Quartet, Isabell Monk, The Dylan Wahl Experiment, Said Salah Ahmed, Rohan Preston, Meena Natarajan + Nirmala Rajasekar, Liliana Espondaburu + Renato Lombardi, Bach Hac and Amiee K. Bryant. Executive produced by e.g. bailey + Sha Cage. Produced by Andrew Baschyn, and jeremy c. Mastered by Tom Garneau. Released by Tru Ruts/Speakeasy Records.

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