Mike Rimmer spoke to producer and artist LIQUID about his debut album.
The city of Philadelphia is known for many things musical but it wasn't until fairly recently that you would have added rap and hip-hop to the piles of soul and funk that has emanated from the city since the '70s. Today I'm meeting Liquid, a Christian rapper who is beginning to make a name for himself with the debut album 'Tales From The Badlands' after already establishing himself as a producer of remixes for artists like Grits and Out Of Eden.
Liquid himself describes his taste in music to be more in the realm of R&B and Latin-jazz. If pushed, and I do push him, he will admit that his music is "a fusion of funk and R&B and rap music, all just put into a big melting pot." He admits, "I never know how to describe it so I usually just say it's a big melting pot of urban music."
He gave himself the name Liquid in the mid '90s. A couple of artists he was working with said that he had to have a name! Liquid remembers, "So I sat down one night and wrote down about 200 names! The coolest thing that I liked was Liquid and I thought, well maybe I'll try it. So one day I was like, alright, I'm Liquid. And it stuck. Everybody loved it."
Thinking about it though, it must be quite hard for the rapper to find things that will rhyme with liquid. He laughs, "Yeah. Very, very, very impossible! I don't talk about myself very much in songs anyway!" Wait, wait, wait, a rapper who doesn't talk about himself? There's something wrong with this picture! "I think I'm more of a singer/rapper. I don't know if I'm really a rapper per se. It depends. It depends on how you want to look at it."
Liquid recorded 'Tales From The Badlands' in his spare bedroom of his two bedroom apartment. He's been married less than a year so you have to admire his wife who slept through some of the sessions while Liquid was doing his thing in his home studio.
He met Mrs Liquid when his original record deal fell through when he was living in LA. He was doing a dumb job that he admits he didn't want. He confesses, "I was answering phones for a company that did 24 hour weight loss. And she was sat next to me. She said she tried it once and would I tell the customers that the girl next to me tried it and that it worked! She'd laugh at me all the time. I asked her out one day. I told her I was going to get a tattoo. I actually had no intention of getting a tattoo, I just didn't know how to ask her out! She said yes so we went and hung out on Venice Beach all day. Been together ever since. She came with me and she offered to hold my hand at the tattoo parlour! But the guy was busy so that was the perfect reason for me to say, 'Oh I'll be back later. I'll come back later.' I ended up not coming back! And that night I told her, I said, 'I just didn't know how to ask you out.' And she was cool with it."
His wife was the inspiration for one of the songs on the album, "Crazy". Liquid explains its origins, "It's actually a true story. My wife and I, when I was dating her, I never called her. I'd be like, 'Yeah I'm gonna call you back.' And I never called her back! She lived in Boston and I lived in Nashville. I used to get into these big fights with her about how my work was more important and things like that. I never quite made time for her. After a phone call one day when we almost broke up I was kind of frustrated about it. I got this horn line in my head which is on the song. The next morning, I'm singing in the shower and this chorus just came to me. It's funny because I usually ask God to allow me to write whatever is okay with him. So when I sat down and started writing the song I'm like, 'Lord, I'm tryin' to get something out and I don't even know if I should be writing this. But I'd like to get this out of my head.' And "Crazy" was born. A lot of people laugh when they hear the second verse because it just talks about how every time I go to leave she's sittin' on my car keys. She doesn't really want me to go. A lot of guys go through that every day, especially musicians. I think it could be construed as a little negative but in the bridge I pretty much sum it up by telling her that I love her over and over again. Even in the chorus, Nirva Dorsaint, from Diversity, she says, 'Even though you drive me crazy I still love you'. So I don't think it's a negative song at all."
Liquid is serious about getting his message across. So what does he stand for? He says simply, "Number one, that no matter where you're from, especially if you're from a ghetto and you've been through a lot of things in your life, that you can make it out. And you can make it out alright. You can actually do something with your life. The other thing is that for me, it doesn't matter whether you're from the suburbs or from a ghetto or from wherever, we all have problems. We all go through things in life. They're the same problems, they just look different. Money covers things up. So my message a lot of times to people, especially suburban kids, is I know what you're going through. I've been through the same problems, it just looks different. Just know that you too can come out of whatever it is that you're going through."
He continues, "The other thing for me is basically, you gotta live
life man. One thing I was telling a kid the other day in Nebraska was,
just live your life out man. Just seek God and everything else will
fall into place. I know that's been the truth for me. I was actually
getting high and partying when Gotee called me believe it or not! I
told them no. A friend of mine, who is now doing street ministries in
Philadelphia, said to me that I was a fool if I didn't leave. So a
year after the call from Gotee I said to them, 'If you guys are
serious just do the paperwork.' It took a year for me to get cleaned
up but here I am!"
He tells some more of his personal history. "I lost my mother when I was 12 and didn't find my father till I was 12. I was raised by my grandmother who didn't speak any English. So I definitely know what it's like to feel hopeless and feel like you can't really do anything. So I'm passionate for people to understand that it doesn't matter where you're from, you can beat your circumstances."
So was the offer of a record deal a spur for him to get his life sorted out? "Yes," he says honestly. "When I was a kid singing at church people always told me that God was going to use me in music some day. Quite frankly, when I was 17 or 18, you forget. You're just like, whatever! So like I said, I had a production deal with some people in LA. I was partying and doing that whole lifestyle. Until that time God had been telling me that he was going to call me. I actually have a cousin, who is probably more talented than I am, that had the same chance and he said no. So I know both sides of that. I know what it's like. When God calls you, you'd better drop everything you're doing and run."
I guess the obvious question is to ask what a reputable Christian label like Gotee were doing inviting someone who was clearly not walking with God to sign a deal with them? "They didn't know," Liquid explains. "What happened was I had sent a song out to a buddy of mine who used to work for Gotee. He showed it to Joey Elwood, the president of Gotee Records, and he automatically wanted to sign me. But when they called me I told them no. I told my friend why and he said, 'Alright. Clean yourself up and then we'll talk again.' So a year after that phone call I called them up and I was like, 'Alright. I'm clean. I'm ready.' So when I came to Nashville to produce two songs on the Grits record there was no deal. There was just talk. There was no deal. I stayed and three months after I stayed the deal was actually on the table. It was something where I think God just said, 'This is what I have for you but I'm not gonna give it to you until you're ready.' I basically just prepared myself and God eventually said, 'Alright, you're ready. You've listened and now, here you go!'"
And with 'Tales From The Badlands', there's no stopping him now that Liquid is on the right path.The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.