Taliesin’s songs are a mature glimpses into life through a poetic mind. Hip-hop heads will love the gritty lyricism Tal displays on his debut solo album, “The Rebirth of Leonidas,” and music fans who appreciate the punch of live instruments will dig the rock-edge each song delivers in a whirlwind of sound. His music is as personal as it gets, echoing the cold realism of a Johnny Cash, or the authentic truth of Lennon’s solo work…every song a window into his own experiences, which will have the listener nodding in approval or relating in some way to a part of his story. Taliesin’s album “The Rebirth of Leonidas” is out now and available for purchase on iTunes and in most digital stores.
1. For starts how did you come up with your stage name?
I got the name from a 6th century bard/poet. I was reading some Celtic mythology stuff about how the old poets used to gather every year from across the land (in Ireland, England, and Wales) to show off their storytelling skills — kind of like the first rap battles. I read about Taliesin the bard, who apparently used to ‘dumbfound people with his words.’ I thought Taliesin would be a pretty dope name to take after I read that.
2. For those that don’t know, where are you from?
I grew up in a town called Bensalem, which is a stone’s throw from Northeast Philly.
3. It’s not often you hear about a Hip Hop artist that is in key with the likes of Johnny Cash or John Lennon. What is it that makes you parallel to them, rather than say an Eminem or Jay Z?
My man Preem (Supreem da Rezarekta) calls me the “Johnny Cash of Hip Hop”. I’m not sure that I’m worthy of that kind of comparison, or with Lennon etc, but I think the parallels come from just telling a story as truthfully as I can tell it. As MCs, I think being observant comes with the territory. I feel that the best songs are the ones that other people can relate to. I do acoustic sets when I perform and I sing on a lot of my hooks, so that may be where the comparisons come from as well.
4. Your video for “Ain’t No Next Time” was like a 2014 Johnny Cash resurrection. Can you tell us about the mind state you were in when penning that gem?
The song is about a friend of mine who passed away after going in the hospital for heart surgery. There were complications with the surgery, and a week or so later (after getting out of the hospital) he passed away. I got to see him at his apartment when he got out, gave him a pound, and told him I would see him later that week. But I never got to see him again, so that’s where the chorus for the song comes from: “And the next time…ain’t no next time.” My friend’s death was still fresh on my mind at the time, so the music really fit my mood.
5. After listening to you we can tell that substance is a main factor in what you do. With that said how do you feel about the current state of Hip Hop?
In a nutshell, (if we’re talking about what gets played on the radio), it lacks imagination. What’s “hot” is hot for two seconds, so how can any artist hope to appease everyone? ‘I’m going to write the songs that I want to write, and if someone can feel what I’m saying then cool.’ I really do feel like the music is coming back around again to where it is more personable, with certain artists anyway. I feel like the Hip Hop community wants more songs that touch on real life, that they can relate to; and that sooner rather than later the industry will have to adjust.
6. Let’s talk about Taliesin the person. Outside of music what’s a typical day like for you?
For the most part, I’m a regular dude. A typical day would be working on some new tunes, watching some sports or some classic flicks, working on some new tunes, and working on some new tunes lol. No seriously though, any free time I get I usually spend it writing or working on new music. I always try to get better as a songwriter/lyricist, because I feel like when you start getting comfortable with what you’ve already done, your music suffers for it and you lose focus as an artist. For me no matter how long you’ve been rapping, or how strong you think you are on the mic, you can always learn more.
7. You guys (you and Nefew) really went off on “Roll Out Tha Carpet”. That track and video really showed your agenda as an emcee. You spit, “Get off the potty or shit, aint nothing polished as this/ aint no apologies bitch/ I aint acknowledging ya rap accomplishments my beef is deeper than the Irish, Catholics and the protestants.” Got to ask, what happened to emcees really challenging themselves in the main stream anymore??
Thanks, I appreciate that. It was a fun song and video to do; shout out to Nefew. As far as MCs challenging themselves, IMO the huge money-maker that rap has become has set it up so MCs don’t have to push themselves anymore. There’s no self-evaluation of “Can I compete lyrically with what’s out there?” because the competition is now “what rapper can make the catchiest song and sell the most singles on iTunes.” Skills get lost in the paper-chase, and you really have to kind of look for the more lyrical cats on the internet, when what would be described as ‘underground’ now used to be mainstream. I can’t knock anyone’s hustle though, and I never hate on another artist’s style, because it makes no sense for me to down another man just because of his success.
8. Back to your start. Who were your personal influences to get into emceeing?
I really started thinking about rhyming when Wu-Tang came on the scene. The wordplay, the invented slang, the imagination that was tapped to create their own kind of world, it really kind of blew my mind at the time. I was like, “This is what I wanna do.” After that, I kind of soaked up all the best music I could find – Nas, Tupac, Biggie, Pun, Em – whoever was considered to be the best lyrically I listened to, because those guys were the bar you had to set for yourself if you wanted to be the best. The cool thing about music is that you really are competing against yourself or challenging yourself to outdo your last project, your last rhyme, your last chorus, whatever: to be the best you can be as an individual with the talents you were given to perform.
9. With 2015 on the horizon what is up next for you?
I have quite a few projects coming up in 2015 that I’m excited about. I have my own album Unapproved Rd. that I’m writing songs for now, and a couple of EPs that I’m working on with different artists – one EP (still untitled) with Kastilano, (we are dropping the first single Kill Em’ very soon, so stay tuned!) and another EP with Supreem Da Rezarekta, also untitled. This joint called “Out tha Way” will probably be the first song me and Preem drop. Also, I’m working on a mixtape with Dj PhenixVibez called, “HALL OF FAME SPEECH,” and I just dropped a couple verses for my man Judah Priest and the 144, 000 Chosen Few’s new project.
10. We know you dropped your album “The Rebirth of Leonidas”. Can you let our readers know what to expect from that album and where they can cop it?
Anyone who cops The Rebirth of Leonidas will hear a chunk of my life over the last couple of years — it’s very autobiographical. There are songs about death, love, relationships, friendships gone awry, the grind of this music thing – it touches on a lot of topics and emotions, and is as true to life as I could write it. Also, the album was recorded with live instruments, so it has that live vibe kinda feel to it. If you are looking for something different from the norm, then this album is definitely for you. Most importantly, you’re gonna get some flavor from a dude who really appreciates Hip Hop music. Readers can check me out on Facebook and Twitter, and purchase my album on iTunes (and on most digital sites). Here are the links:
Facebook: Taliesin Big-Tal