Words from Orlando’s Rapper/Artist/Poet Asaan “Swamburger” Brooks

Swamburger and Painting

Recently, Asaan “Swambruger” Brooks won Orlando Weekly’s Best Poet/Spoken-Word Artist, a reader’s choice award.  Since 2002, he has rapped in the group Solillaquists of Sound.

Recently, he offered some words for this humble blog.

1. What is your history with Orlando?

I moved to Orlando from Chicago Illinois around 1998, just after my graduation from Columbia College. Prior to my 98′ move, I’d been visiting Orlando since 93′. Upon reaching the South, I mingled with various folks who seemed to have their names already carved in the scene. I met people like DJPaleface, DJ Subtle and DJ Fathead. These were the cats that held me down when I first started to make a name for myself in Orlando, Florida. Later, I met my extended fam, DJ BMF, Gerard Mitchell, Q-Burns, and the rest of the folks at 8th Dimension Records/Publishing. While signed to 8th Dimension, DJ BMF was my producer. We recorded what I can refer to as my first official Florida release.

Chi, Gerry Williams, and Chuck Dinkins were three key components for my career’s growth. Chi got me into some battles while Chuck allowed me to make a name for myself (and whoever I was with), on the House Of Blues big stage, opening for major acts like Run DMC, Busta Rhymes, The Roots, etc. Meanwhile, Gerry Williams created opportunities for me to record in a BIG studio, becoming very well versed in studio artistry. I built my relationships with all the local celebs. I shared the stage with Anthony Cole, Matt Lapham, Roland, and Eugene Snowden, damn near every week at a place called Dante’s, (which is now known as Pulse), for their weekly night, “Jazz Garage.” I even used to skate with Dave Duren, Bear Hughes, and John Montessi at times, attending Badlands Skatepark everyday to brush up on my skill sets, selling mixtapes, and doing “Half-Flip Casper Big-Spins” over the pyramid.

As I continued my career in the music industry, I collaborated with Beef Wellington to put out an album in 2000-2001, called “Feel Fantabulous,” featuring various artists. Today, those songs are played everywhere, (says my BMI statements: MTV, HBO, EA Sports, Etc.) Lately I’ve been making my moves with Solillaquists Of Sound.  Just recently we’ve won the Orlando Weekly’s “Best Of Orlando” for the 10th time and have been asked to open for Lauryn Hill this month at the House Of Blues, Aug 15th.

2. Most people know you for hip-hop. What are your views on hip-hop in general?

Hip Hop used to be known for it’s artistry at one point, stressing the tenants: Peace, Love, Unity, and having Fun.  Today, it’s mainstream mentality seems to ignore art and make a mockery of the culture every chance it gets. Not all the elements in Hip Hop are so quick to become the public’s entertaining stereotype though. However, when rap is involved, everybody has an opinion on what black culture is to them and how they all should be involved in someway to make a life-long dream of theirs come true. Why do so many folk feel the need to express themselves through rhyme and rhythm… even when they lack rhymes and/or rhythm???  We did it for the sake of survival, creating code, exchanging the news, and common interests. I don’t really get why others do it. I usually hear deep answers with hypothetical situations that mask the reality of their true theory, because, once I get a hold of an album they’ve advertised as the next coming of Christ, it fails to meet the criteria they’ve explained as “next level.”

3. What are your views on Orlando’s hip-hop scene?

Ok, after a long process of observation into the arena of a lot of rap acts in Orlando, I feel it’s pretty safe to say that most of these acts really need to step their “stage show game” up. Although, I’ve seen great shows from cats every now and again, there really hasn’t been a lot of consistency from show to show that can pack a room or TRUELY grab the fan’s attention. With the exception of a few pros in the game, there’s really not a whole lot that the Orlando Hip Hop scene can capitalize on. The reason I’m bringing this up is because there’s BEEN a huge shortage of: repeat customers, excitement about hip hop shows from the masses we promote to, an overall vibe given to potential fans, and, to put it bluntly, there’s simply not enough mind-blowing shows given for the price paid at the door. Personally, I believe the lack of an exciting show creates a financial shortage for our scene’s future. I made an attempt of asking a few hundred folks about their honest thoughts on local hip hop shows. The results rated the local hip hop show as a boring showcase with poor mic mechanics. Now, as far as those rappers that disagree with the opinions stated, I encourage you to challenge your current show and whoop it’s ass. Practice!!!

I feel that WE are a collective who determines the worth of our art and culture, so, if WE continue to give weak shows, the scene will eventually die. The entertainer within us needs HELLA work. The hunger and/or grind to become the “best” needs to resurface in our craft again. That “Fat Gold Chain” shit gave us a standard. Not everyone was a damn “Yes Man” either. Too many cats just rapping to rap. No goal or direction towards a desired path. I see the apathy of the crowd growing on the scene to the point where shows are now thought of as half-ass. This is OUR fault. Let’s fix it!

4. You’re also known as a talented painter. What are your views on Orlando’s art
scene?

In most cases, the Orlando art scene is continuously striving to become a Mecca for groundbreaking art. In attempts of Orlando becoming a Super power in the art world, I’m finding that most curators have become obsessed with cluster-fucking the “Now” with as much art from every level of artist possible. Nothing wrong with being encouraged, but, I do question if a more strategic plan of execution is in play. I hope that the quality of art dictates the course of our artistic future. I wouldn’t want the progression of Orlando’s art/artist movement to be watered down by an over-saturated and overzealous need to be seen.

5. Congrats for winning Orlando Weekly’s Best Orlando Poetry/Spoken-Word Artist. What are your views on Orlando’s poetry scene?

Hmmmmm, I don’t think much of the poetry scene here… I seriously believe there’s too many slam poets, poems for competition, and imitation Saul Williams acts, to have a scene I can truly invest in… It pisses me off to be honest. I tried to be nice but, that’s really how I feel. Aside from a few folks in the scene, I don’t care for it.

6. You’ve traveled the world. Describe your travels?

How bout I have my alter ego, “Black Gallery,” tell you.. He describes the world in a very brute manner, expressing that there are only two types of people in this world… “Niggas,” and “Ninjas.”

Black Gallery presents:
Niggas and Ninjas
An Adult Sci-Fi Children’s Book.

Niggas in the street,
Ninjas indiscreet

Niggas smoke bomb weed,
Ninjas just smoke bomb.

Niggas are into trees,
Ninjas are IN the trees.

Niggas beware,
Ninjas be where?

Niggas swore they killed somebody,
Ninja’s sword killed somebody.

Niggas say shit like, “You don’t want none Chuck Norris,”
Ninjas just nunchuck Norris.

Niggas love Jesus,
Jesus was a Ninja.

Niggas don’t snitch,
Ninjas tip toe around the issue.

Niggas are big on self,
Ninjas are big on stealth.

Niggas dress in all black and walk with a tight rope around the city,
Ninjas dress in all black and tightrope around the city.

Niggas are always in some ass,
Ninjas are always assassins.

Niggas discuss trouble with sighs,
Ninjas discuss trouble with Sai’s.

Niggas chop it up,
Ninjas chop YOU up.

Niggas believe Wu-Tang Clan ain’t nuthin to fuck with,
Ninjas achieve Wu Tang Quan and ain’t nuthin to fuck with.

Some Niggas disbelieve everything you tell em…
Ninjas are real.

7. On Facebook, you posted anger at rapper Common. Can you explain that?

Here’s the original post:

Divinci called me over to listen to the newest Common album.. originally was supposed to listen to one track that features an old friend of mine from the Chi.. ended up listening to more than that.. slowly became silent in my heart… damn, another one bites the dust.. Common been falling off for a while now though, however, this was just an all time low.. no spirit, no real dynamic, no sense of rawness.. just seems like some neo nigga shit.. typical. damn… don’t know why hip hop feels the need to remain stuck on TRYING TO BE MOST STEREOTYPICAL BLACK GOD OF THE HOOD or whatever the hell is going on in today’s rap world.. Be great! Stop trying to be everybody’s favorite Black nigga, nigger, coon, homie, etc.

Alright, here it is… My take on Common’s music is pretty basic. I used to love his music. I started with “Can I Borrow A Dollar.” Once he hit a certain stage in his career where he fumbled the magic he once possessed, I stuck through it to hear what he would create next. As time passed, I lost interest. I noticed what I didn’t like about his musical choices though. I noticed that he started to put on this facade after he tried putting out “Electric Circus.” The hood was feeling him, most believed that he was becoming “soft” by way of Erykah Badu. He said that he would return to that street shit. He then completed that adventure by collaborating with Kanye West. When I heard the album, I could hear the “try” in his voice. He was fronting. He no longer sounded like he meant what he was saying. On the last album to date, I went in thinking that he would truly present something different…. He didn’t. It was fabricated. It was dumbed down. It was as if he did it to be down with black folks who like Lil Wayne but know nothing about Aesop Rock, Freestyle Fellowship, Qwel & Maker, etc. I was definitely displeased, hahahaha!

8. There’s an experience you and I share. We joke about it all the time.

Hahahahahah, maaaaaaaaannn… You talking about how people think I’m you and you’re me. Hahaha, that’s gotta be innocent racism or some shit. There’s gotta be a word or phrase for that type of consistent foul up between a whole city fucking our names and/or faces up with one another. Hahah, we look nothing alike!

Man, I had this cat come up to me and swear up and down that I was you.

The man acted like we were friends, telling me, “Hey, you really like some big ass huh?”

I responded with, “Yeah, a lot of folks do.”

He said, “Hahahah, man you sure are funny Patrick.”

I just walked away with my head down. He was sure that I was you. And what makes it so bad, his wife bought a CD from me moments before we spoke. Hahahahahaha.. What the?

9. Any future plans or dates?

Yep.. Solillaquists has mad shows coming up. Some in town, some outta town. As I mentioned earlier, we have a show this month, Aug 15th at the House of Blues, opening for Lauryn Hill. We also have a night that we do called “Final Fridays,” every last Friday of the month at Peacock Room. The future plan is paint, make music, be a good husband, and own a mansion, living as the mayor of this city until it’s my time. Peace, Love, Unity, and have Fun!

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