Born and raised in Thompson, rapper Lyrical Militant has been carving out his niche in the hip-hop game as far back as the age of 11. Known to some as Omar Zulfi, the emcee now resides in Winnipeg, where he's wrapped up his first studio album Prelude to Revolution, set to drop Jan. 20.
Lyrical Militant took a few minutes for a question and answer session with Citizen reporter, Matt Durnan, to talk about his upcoming debut album,
MD: Thanks for taking the time, I guess my first question would have to be, where does the name Lyrical Militant stem from?
LM: I've really been into politics and learning about how the world works for the last number of years, it's a passion of mine. Lyrical Militant came from the fact that I am Muslim and that's the stereotypical image that a lot of people have of Muslims, that they're militant or terrorists. I'm more about spreading knowledge, and I will fight for what I believe in, but I believe words and thoughts and ideas are better weapons than violence.
MD: When did you develop this passion for hip hop?
LM: Hip hop has always been a big part of my life; I've just always enjoyed the heavy beats and the rawness of it. I think I wrote my first rhyme when I was like 11 years old or something, and it just kind of stuck and I've been working on it ever since then.
MD: Coming from a smaller town such as Thompson, which isn't really known for having a booming hip-hop scene, what were some challenges that you faced when you were trying to establish yourself as an artist?
LM: It was definitely a challenge, because even when I was in high school, the Internet wasn't nearly as big as it is today. It was hard to stay up on the latest information on what was happening in the hip-hop scene. All we really got was the half hour of Rap City on Much Music. That was probably the biggest challenge in Thompson and even in Winnipeg, it was really isolated so the access to information was a challenge and you really had to dig deep to find what you were looking for.
MD: Definitely, so what was the hip-hop scene actually like while you were here in Thompson?
LM: It wasn't really that big, a lot of people in Thompson were more in to rock or folk or country music. I mean there were a lot of people that loved hip hop but it wasn't really that big. Getting people to actually listen to your music or give you the time of day and take you seriously was a real challenge.
MD: So you said you wrote your first rhyme at 11, what was the first song that you actually put down and recorded?
LM: It's actually a song that I wrote a long time ago and is on the Prelude to Revolution album, it's called "Magic Carpet Ride." That's the first song I really put together and felt that I could approach a record label with. It's been constantly reworked and put on a number of different beats until I finally got it to a place where I'm really happy with it.
MD: Alright I wanted to avoid the cliché question of who are your influences, so let's try it with a bit of a twist, and kind of talk about who from the Canadian hip-hop landscape inspires you, that you can relate to because they've come through the same market that you're trying to corner.
LM: The first ones that come to mind are people like Kardinal Offishall, Classified, Choclair. Even on a bit more underground tip though there's a lot of local people that I really like and am fans of. Swigfu is a local rap crew here in Winnipeg, and one of the guys from that crew is actually on my debut album. In terms of mainstream success though I really admire guys like Kardinal and Classified because they've been working at it for so long and it's good to see them blowing up and getting more recognition.
MD: So the album drops in about a month from now, talk a bit about the title Prelude to Revolution and what to expect.
LM: Basically Prelude To Revolution means the situation in the world before we reach the breaking point. It's like the timeline before things get so bad that a revolution has to happen to change them. It's kind of a metaphor where a lot of things in our world are going and in some cases, where they're at. The album starts off with some hopeful songs (Never Give Up, Better Place) and then the hope and prosperity degrades into self-indulgence with songs about money and drugs and partying. (Big Dreams, Four Twenty, Nach Le) And then it leads into songs about the current condition of a lot of different things from terrorism, sex in our culture/society, religion (Humanity's Tragedy, Ho Story, Magic Carpet Ride, Fadda Abraham) - all this stuff that causes so many problems.
MD: What are the plans for after the album drops?
LM: I'm hoping I can get a tour together; I'd love to come back to Thompson and perform in front of my hometown. As far as the future musically, I have a concept in mind and Prelude to Revolution is the first part in a trilogy of albums where the next one will be called Revolution and the final instalment will be Evolution. I haven't started writing for them yet, but that's what's on the horizon.
You can check out more information, music and twitter updates from Lyrical Militant at: lyricalmilitant.com