“Back in the days when I was young I’m not a kid anymore;
But some days I sit and wish I was a kid again…”
Although these words still ring in the minds of many die-hard Hip-Hop aficionados, the obvious questions remain: Where in the world is Ahmad? And, what exactly happened to the Left Coast emcee?
Well, Rap Industry Dot Com will, instead, let the, now, 34 year old, South Central, Los Angeles, lyricist, Ahmad Ali Lewis, answer those inquiries himself…
“ I have always had a unique connection with music. I remember, as a 5-year-old boy, crying while listening to a ballad. I always wondered if others felt that shit the way that I did.”
Let’s just jump right into your brand spankin’ new, long overdue, sophomore solo LP, The Death of Me — Why did you opt to call the record this?
The Death of Me is the album of my life, literally. What else will follow life but death? Death is proof that something once lived. We should celebrate the life that was when a death occurs. My band died, my marriage died, my income died. Time passed. I found new love, created new works of art, and I will be a multi-millionaire, soon. I discuss the aforementioned, and a bunch more, on the album.
Who all did you actually enlist in regards to the album’s production?
I collaborated with two of the illest cats in the game, period! KP and ET from The Machine Productions in Los Angeles. I have known them for years. We are family.
Are there any special cameo appearances to look out for on The Death of Me?
Yeah, a few. We’re planning to announce all that, in time. Make a splash, you dig? I love a surprise.
Any particular personal favorite track(s)? And, what reason do you give for your pick(s)?
A song called “Nigcan’ttellmenuttin” is great because it is a story that takes me back to the exact moments that I discuss. Like a time machine, that song allows me to experience my past. Honestly, there are no fillers on my album. I am pleased with every song. This is the best music I have ever imagined.
The Death of Me also signifies your “official” comeback after years of moonlighting in the Christian Hip-Hop collective, 4th Avenue Jones — Why did you decide to return to form, so to speak?
Time heals all wounds. I love myself, again. God is good. The boat gets one across, and then it’s time to explore the island. I figured out that I don’t have to find my “self,” I create it.
You’ve also recently gone back to school to further your education — What prompted this decision? And, what exactly are you studying?
I saw a sign, literally. Driving home after a 2005 tour, I saw a sign advertising the fact that Long Beach City College was enrolling “NOW!” I pulled over, thinking that I should enroll “NOW!” I finished as valedictorian, and transferred to Stanford University. I graduate this summer with a degree in Sociology.
Congratulations, that is so dope! So, for those who don’t know who you are, let’s take it back to your whole inception…When did you first become interested in music? And, how did it all begin for Ahmad Ali Lewis?
I have always had a unique connection with music. I remember, as a 5-year-old boy, crying while listening to a ballad. I always wondered if others felt that shit the way that I did. I figured out, recently, that they don’t. I’m an emcee because I love music. More, emceeing is the only thing that I am willing to do all day, everyday, and love every minute. It is my goal, before it’s over, to be considered among the best emcees, ever.
Growing up in South Central, who all influenced both your sound and style?
My style is, mostly, influenced by the black church. My cadence, flow, tone, inflections, and wordplay, are all patterned after those of a Pentecostal preacher. As relates to emcees, Rakim, Public Enemy, Brand Nubian, Slick Rick, The DOC, N.W.A., Kool G. Rap, Freestyle Fellowship, and 2Pac, each influenced me.
With that being said, describe for me the musical vibe that you are on?
Emceeing at its best. I’m the truth! My shit is forward thinking and throwback at the same time. I have spent years cultivating my craft. It is a craft. I have a BA from Stanford, but a Ph.D. in emceeing. HOURS spent at it. It’s all I will ever do. Give thanks.
What particular string of events led to your, then, signing with, the now defunct, Giant Records?
I had a manager, Lloyd Winston, introduced to me by Portrait member Eric Kirkland. Lloyd set up a meeting with Cassandra Mills at Giant. I freestyled in her office, and she signed me on the spot. I had a backpack on, fresh out of class, 16 years old.
Wow! So, looking back, and from early on, did you ever think that your, now classic, single “Back in the Day” would have the impact that it’s had on Hip-Hop music?
No. Not at the time. We were just being creative and having a ball. I appreciate the love. Give thanks.
I understand that a second solo project was recorded, but later shelved by the label — How come? And, what became of the material from those studio sessions?
I have the album. Ironically, it was titled In Real Life. I hate it! It’s bullshit. It’s like “save the world, and the dolphins, and the babies” type stuff. I was 18, fresh off of a CRAZY world tour, and I was unhappy. I searched for God and, of course, I found God where they told me God was…In church. The album reflected my mental disposition. The label did me a favor.
Why did you later decide to form the band 4th Avenue Jones?
Fear. Remember, I was an insecure teenager when I blew up. After Giant, my label, collapsed, I was stuck. I couldn’t release music. I’m 19, and adults are calling me a one-hit-wonder. I didn’t have the tools to fight the allegations. Perception is, often, reality. A few years later, I hid in my band. The band failed to become successful because it was built on top of fear. Love must be at the start of a thing.
You launched this act on your very own imprint, Lookalive Records, which saw Interscope distributing the group’s solid, but commercially ignored, 2000 debut, No Plan B — Why do you feel that this project didn’t fare well sales-wise? Did Interscope drop the ball?
Interscope did us a favor. I love 4th Avenue Jones, don’t get me wrong. But, that shit was watery, too. I wrote the words to most of the songs with both hands tied behind my back. I mean, I didn’t feel comfortable using certain words and themes because of my understanding at the time. I’m free.
You are now releasing The Death of Me on, another label of yours, WeCLAP — What are your future goals & plans for this venture? And, who all makes up the company roster?
WeCLAP is an acronym for We Change Lives, Attitudes & Perceptions. We plan to help change the world by helping folks to see things differently. We plan to donate $1 for every $10 in net profits to various charities. The Death of Me is the first WeCLAP release, and the response has been great! XXL, Yahoo!, and AllHipHop.com have all done an AHMAD feature. My staff and I are willing to be out-spent, but never out-hustled. We will only work with shit we feel, but we will work that shit to death! We are currently excited about the new AHMAD/DJ FAR VIDEO mixtape. It’s sick! My homie, Justin Purser, directed it — He’s SICK! WeCLAP worked twitter to death, and we generated more than 1,000 views in two days. Pharoahe Monch just hit me on twitter with props for the VIDEOmixtape — DOPE!
Is Lookalive still in operation? And, is there another 4th Avenue Jones LP on deck?
No and nope.
Aside from music, is there anything else that you’d like to get involved in or with?
Chase two rabbits, catch neither. Only WeCLAP/AHMAD for now.
How do you view the current climate of today’s Hip-Hop artists — Are you content with it?
A few dope cats. I love anything imaginative! Be dope, truthful, creative, and unique. That’s it.
Everyone either knows your music already, or will become familiar with it soon, but who exactly is Ahmad?
Ahmad is an emcee from South Central, Los Angeles. I am the son of a survivor named Paulette. I have two siblings. I am a winner. I love God. I am HERE.
And, what do you like to do in your spare time, completely away from this music?
I’m never away from this music. I am this music.
Ultimately, what is your 5 to 10 year plan in entertainment?
I plan to be considered one of the greatest after The Death of Me is released. I plan to build up from there. I can’t golf like Tiger, I can’t cook like Martha, I can’t chat like Oprah, but, with this rap shit, I can’t be faded. This is what I do.
Your anticipated second solo album, The Death of Me, is due out when? What is/will be the lead single and/or video? And, are there any current plans to tour behind it?
A summer release will culminate with my graduation from Stanford. Soon after, the AHMAD Get Schooled Summer Tour will happen. Myself, and a few dope emcees, will promote education, literacy, and Hip-Hop this summer — WeCLAP!
What’s that “live” show element (gonna be) like?
Are there any mix-tape(s) and/or cameos on others’ works to look out for from you in the meantime?
Check my new Videomixtape from DJ Far’s Western Conference All-Stars: Special Edition mixtape: youtube.com/user/AhmadAliLewis
Weren’t you originally in the early inception of the Golden State Warriors; with Ras Kass & Saafir? Why did you leave? Or, were you just replaced with Xzibit?
I heard those dudes talking. But, I was never asked. I never really fit in with cats anyway. I’ve always been an outsider. I wonder why? They are all dope emcees.
Sadly, Thursday June 25th 2009, the world lost the greatest entertainer who ever lived — What was your first reaction upon hearing the tragic news? How does Michael Jackson’s untimely passing affect, not only you, but, music in general? And, in the wake of his demise, what does this mean for the future of recorded music?
Michael was a captivating entertainer. I am greatly indebted to him, personally, as an artist. He will be missed!
Do you have any parting words?
Peace. Justice. Equality. You are what you believe