Interview: Direct Link
The art of freestyling has been lost in translation throughout the years. It's gone from a purely organic "off the top of the dome" skill to simply memorizing some lines jotted down in the notes section of an iPhone. While freestyle battles are still wildly popular underground they do not see much shine in popular hip hop culture. When I think of actual freestyle artists I recall emcees like Jin, Supernatural and Cannibus (until he read from a notebook during a battle). When I think of Milwaukee hip hop artists who can actually freetyle a few come to mind but one stands out. Taiyamo Denku is that guy.
Not only has Denku mastered the art of freestyling but he has also converted that into emceeing. Many artists who primarily freestyle seem to have a hard time when it comes to having to write and lay down tracks. Denku has successfully bridged that gap and has shown and proved through countless emcee battles and albums released. I recently got a chance to sit down with Denku and pick his brain. Check it out below.
For those that don’t know state your name and tell us what you do.
Well my stage name, rap name, emcee name and/or artist name or whatever people prefer to label someone who does what I do is Taiyamo Denku. My real name is Jason Miller. Lately people just call me Denku and leave out the first part, I don’t know why. I don’t tell them to. What I do is follow and act as a member/ artist to hip hop culture; meaning in its rite I emcee, graff, DJ, B-Boy and use the lost element of Beat Boxing. I am pretty well rounded but my forte would be emceeing.
How did you get started emceeing?
Well as awkward as it was, the first show I ever did was in high school in like 96. I was 14-15 and I used to always make beats on desks and freestyle random rhymes after school with friends; well I was usually the only one really rhyming and they would listen. Later some of my friends were responsible for putting together the Black History Program and Cinco De Mayo Programs and I was kind of a key part to representing hip hop in both programs. It kind of was a natural thing to me. I mean growing up Milwaukee really had one Hip Hop station 102.1 or Hot 102 which has now is transitioned to a rock station but back when I was listening to Hot 102 I would break it down as a station that had radio shows on it that kind of relates to you and Bizzon's Hip Hop Guys Show. So hip hop was always something I took a liking too especially growing up in the city.
Many people know you for your freestyle skills. Do you think it’s a dead art form? If not how do you think we can bring that part of hip hop back?
It’s only dead because of the constant controversy that people have of what a "Freestyle" means. Growing up, I always thought if you’re going to freestyle it was on the spot and off the top of the head, but now a day’s people call random verses over beats freestyles. I think we could very much bring it back though. Now a days it would be hard because if you use battling to bring it back the new age of written battle leagues have sort of taken over. I think a way to bring true freestyle battling back would be in the topic and subject matter of the battle. You could have emcees face off in a battle but have a grab bag that topics are pulled from and the emcees has to use. I mean first you would have to have enough emcees down to even want to freestyle and that are good which is hard to come by these days. The lack of ciphers kind of hurts the art of Freestyling as well. I used to see them a lot more back in the day now it is rare to be in a cipher with other emcees at shows. I don’t know fam, it could be brought back but for me it never left anyway, ha.
There seems to be a struggle with comradery between emcees in the city. Do you feel that yourself?
Yeah, Milwaukee is too small and clicky. No one wants to help one another outside of their own circle and this didn’t just start. It’s been like this for a while now. I never have been a big fan of the hip hop scene here really. I’m pretty opinionated but I'm a genuine dude at the same time. Just because I disagree with you or don’t think your music is so good doesn’t mean I won’t work with you. I am always open to work with people who can get down on the creative process and want to craft lyrics together to make a fresh hip hop joint. I've probably worked with half the city but it’s sad because people get hurt if you don’t like everything they do, or don’t go to their show. Egos and “yes” crowds, which are not real fans of the artist, are what runs the city and since everyone wants and thinks they can be a rapper they would rather be one (a rapper) than a fan. Let’s face it, a large amount of rappers around here should fall back and be fans and support instead of trying to be a rapper themselves. So yes, I definitely feel it which is why I stepped away last year and most of this year from the Milwaukee scene and have been doing more of my own thing.
Do you find it easier working with artists out of state?
At times I do; I mean I have had some good experiences working with locals, sitting down in the same room and conjuring ideas. Sometimes if you’re working with out of state emcees it is not easy to have that chemistry but I have been linking and working with out of state emcees and artists for as long as I can remember. So it kind of comes natural to me to work with them plus I love to blend styles with different peeps that aren't in the same place as me. Ideas are always different.
You are also known to some as the “collabo king” of Milwaukee. Who are some of the people you collaborated with in the past and upcoming?
Is this the part when I get to "Name drop" (HA HA HA)? I've been calling myself the #CollabKing for a while now. I am working with or have worked with: past artists range from Keith Murray, Prince Po of Organized Konfuzion , Pacewon of Outsidaz, Chino XL, Baby Sham of Flipmode Squad, Sadat X of Brand Nubian, Craig G of the Legendary Juice Crew and so many more. the upcoming the list is even bigger and crazier with Lil KIM , Joell Ortiz , KRS-One , Kool G Rap , Sean P , Black Rob , Vinnie Paz , CappaDonna of Wu Tang , Hell Razah , Rockness of Helter Skelter , Edo G , Apathy .... List keeps going, SO many..... Not just artists but producers as well... I got some tracks in the works with BeatNuts production, Ayatollah, C Lance of Jedi Mind Tricks..... I'll stop but do have confidence that ya'll will like the music to come no doubt , it’s me doing what I can to bring this real Hip Hop back to life.
Finally tell us about your new upcoming project and where we can find it when it drops.
I got a few projects in the works, and no set dates. I am hoping both drop this year sometime, one is a collaborative, well I suppose both are, but one is a collaborative album with another emcee from here as well, Maximus the Mantis. We have gone on to call ourselves MILWAUKEE MONSTAZ and that album, "Diseased Concepts", should be dropping this year. It has some dope features on it and crazy range of dope producers. Then the other major project I been working on and also mixing and mastering myself.... Oh yeah, I engineer everything myself too. The project with my Aussie producer DCYPHA we have is called "DCYPHA presents SUPERNATURAL featuring TAIYAMO DENKU" and is basically a giant collab compilation where a lot of dope guest features are on that I listed above. I am excited about both projects and we will have CD copies of both, and it will also be available all over the net from iTunes, Amazon.... anywhere the digital world reaches.
Get more info and music from Denku: