Black One on Sampling Artists, Kanye West, And What Tucson Could Learn From Phoenix

NOTE: This article has been modified since its original publication to correct mistakes regarding samples and clarify the title of the post.

I had never met a rapper who claims to like Adele, the Black Keys, and dubstep. That is, until I spoke to local hip-hop artist Jaron Ikner, commonly known as Black One.

Black One draws from different sections of the record store than your average backpacker. As a rapper who samples Fleetwood Mac, Neil Young and Jefferson Airplane, it's practically guaranteed that he's got something for everybody.

Don't miss Black One at the Stray Cat in Tempe this Friday. His material is impressive, and he'll undoubtedly prove why Phoenix's hip-hop artists are so much better than those in Tucson.

Up On The Sun: You're into sampling other artist's songs, which is cool because is gives listeners a point of reference if they're not familiar with your music. What types of songs typically work for you? You've sampled Franz Ferdinand on "Waiting For You" and Neil Young on "One Day the Sun Will Stop Shining." Jaron Ikner: I also sample Fleetwood Mac and Jefferson Airplane. I like working with rock samples a lot more than soul samples or 70s Motown samples. I feel like rock songs, especially classic rock songs, have a lot more emotion behind them, which is why [I sampled] Neil Young and that song by Franz Ferdinand. It's a more modern song, but the feeling that it evokes made me want to sample it. I always tend to stray towards rock samples or soul samples.

In two sentences or less, what does hip-hop mean to you?

Well, hip-hop to me, more than anything else, is expression. The basis of hip-hop and the originality of it came out of oppression, pain and anguish, and I think it's amazing how hip-hop seems to turn that into something positive.

What's your opinion on the evolving topics of hip-hop throughout the years? These days some of the most popular rappers talk an awful lot about guns, hoes and partying instead of their personal struggles.

I think its got a balance. The underground hip-hop cats like Murs and Atmosphere, and even Kanye West and Mos Def, they tend to discuss more conscious topics. On Kanye's latest album with Jay-Z, Watch the Throne, they talk about cars and things that don't really appeal to most people right now, especially in these economic times. But as far as hip-hop goes, I'd say it's a balance. You can't have one without the other.

What do you think about the hip-hop scene in the Valley? Is it thriving, underdeveloped or undiscovered? You split your time between Phoenix and Tucson. What's the difference between Phoenix and Tucson?

The Tucson scene is much, much smaller. I'd say there are only about a dozen hip-hop heads that are prominent and make really big names for themselves. Phoenix is such a huge city. It's vast array of hip-hop, and it ranges from the glamor hip-hop, like what we were just talking about, to the conscious hip-hop, and it's way more spread out. But I think it's a positive thing because it allows for a lot more integration with the music. In Tucson, it's kind of like there's one sound and they just roll with it. In Phoenix hip-hop, I'm seeing "underground people" work with mainstream artists and vice versa. It's definitely a lot more diverse up here.

So what should Tucson rappers take away from what they hear and see in Phoenix?

Never be afraid to diversify. A lot of the rappers in Tucson feel that their sound is just their sound and that it needs to be heard. They're not really willing to open up to new sounds or maybe work with a new artist or a new producer to extend their horizons.

What will people get that come to your show at the Stray Cat that they won't get at other shows?

Diversity. I can rap about guns and gangsters; I've done that in my past. I don't like to glorify it. But I also like to talk about political aspects of love, conscious topics...just something for everybody, pretty much. There's always at least one song in my set that [can please] someone. These rock samples offer an eclectic view of my life.

Is there anyone that you model your musical style after, famous or otherwise?

Not particularly. A lot of people compare me to Kid Cudi or Kanye West, but I don't necessarily look to them for influence. I listen to pretty much everything from Adele to the Black Keys to dubstep. My ear palette is pretty wide! I use whatever sounds good to me as inspiration.

What's your opinion on Kanye West? I feel like a lot of people who don't like him don't realize that they should have separate views of Kanye West as an artist and Kanye West as a person.

That's exactly how I feel. Kanye West makes some of the most brilliant music I've heard in my life. All of his albums are fantastic. He's an excellent producer and a decent rapper. But people tend to not know how to separate that from his image, which is different. A lot of times when I see him do reckless things at the VMAs and whatnot, I don't really associate that with his music because he comes right back and delivers amazing music right after. I try not to let the personality of an artist affect my taste in their music.

Besides the show at the Stray Cat, what else do you have coming up soon?

I have an album coming out through the label Expat Records that's called Black Sun Rising. That will be my first official debut album. It's a little more contemporary hip-hop, but it also has the wide range of the rock samples as well as a more mainstream sound.

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Lenni Rosenblum