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The word is out: there’s fire brewing in the UK, in the form of Blakstone. Quite honestly, I have never been so utterly blown away by ANY hip-hop group, regardless of actual lyrical content. Salam Magazine UK is quoted to have said “This will do for Islamic Hip Hop what Public Enemy’s ‘It Takes a Nation of Millions' did for rap…smacked it”. I couldn’t agree more. Blakstone’s album is selling incredibly by independent standards, thanks to their internet store and distribution in local UK music shops. This is truly Islamic hip-hop done right. Alhamdulillah, Blakstone took some time out to answer some questions I’m sure you all wanted answered:
MUSLIMHIPHOP.COM: Why are you called Blakstone?
BLAKSTONE: The black stone is an obvious reference to our Islamic identity and we knew Muslims would identify with it. But it has yet another meaning for us. The stone represents resistance for the Muslim especially in today’s testing times when our armies are only good for parades. We’ve been stripped of our weaponry and have resorted to masonry. We all aspire to be soldiers, but what does it mean when our kids chuck boulders for this Deen? Regardless of how the odds stack up, if we use what we have, united, we can see this period through to a better time. Stories will be told of those who stood against tanks with nothing but stones to defend them and these stories will inspire generations, Insha Allah.
MUSLIMHIPHOP.COM: Who comprises Blakstone?
BLAKSTONE: We are not just the ones you hear on the tracks. All our artwork, our coming merchandise, our label, our street team, our producers and our managers are all Blakstone. If you feel the message and you have something to give you are Blakstone. We value the skills in the Ummah. So many Muslims in the UK (and globally) are so talented but do not have an outlet. We came together to supply one and Dark Dayz was just the beginning
MUSLIMHIPHOP.COM: Where exactly are you from? Where did you grow up?
BLAKSTONE: We grew up in both the Middle East and in the UK. Our parents came to Britain from as far as Sri Lanka, Sudan, Ghana, Morocco, and Pakistan. Despite the diversity of our cultures we have found a common ground in Islam. The alienation that we feel is second only to the love that we have for our Deen and our brothers and sisters who share our way of life.
MUSLIMHIPHOP.COM: What are your musical influences?
BLAKSTONE: It's all good as long as it does not promote munkar and it agrees with Islam, “If it’s Halal then we’re howling, if it ain’t then we ‘lowing it”
MUSLIMHIPHOP.COM: What inspired you to do Muslim/Islamic Hip Hop?
BLAKSTONE: The state of Muslim youth here in the UK and in the West at large was our greatest inspiration. Hip-Hop is the dominant culture amongst ethnic minorities here in Britain and the Muslims are no exception to this. But often the lyrical content is so contradictory to Islam that it causes friction amongst the youth who wish to express themselves and find an identity, and the wider Muslim community. The artists become the role models, the lyrics become the teaching ground for behaviour and personality. The result is a whole generation of youth that struggle to balance the values of the streets with the values that their belief aspires to. The change in behaviour is reflected in their view of the opposite sex, the treatment of their parents, essentially the criteria they use to define good and bad is not the Halal and Haram but is instead dictated by their desires and the peer pressure they feel. This was the primary motivation for us, reclaiming back our youth and inspiring the future generation of this ummah through a style that they appreciate, love and understand.
MUSLIMHIPHOP.COM: What are some of the key issues you are tackling in your songs?
BLAKSTONE: With this first album we tried to give everybody something they could take away with them. Something they may find strikes a nerve. The issues are diverse, from treatment of women to drug use, to political participation and all the way to Muslim leaders, a topic we feel is not discussed enough. We wanted to draw attention to the state of the ummah today, we wanted our listeners to share in the plight of our brothers and sisters to be agitated and motivated to adopt their concerns as their own and act upon them. We need to politicize the youth.
MUSLIMHIPHOP.COM: Do you feel that you are making a difference with your music?
BLAKSTONE: Insha Allah. So far we have found that it is not just the youth, but their parents who are appreciating what we are trying to do. We try to carry a message of hope and belief. We hope that we can inspire Muslims to look to ourselves and to Allah for answers. Self-reliance is paramount in this struggle to recapture our dignity in the face of so much humiliation and negativity.
MUSLIMHIPHOP.COM: What can we expect from Blakstone in the future?
BLAKSTONE: We are planning some single releases and that means a video or two. Newer mcees are coming through at a good pace and our production team is growing so we will be adding some new flavours to the next release. We also plan to tour the UK with our street team to deliver an audio and visual feast of food for thought.
MUSLIMHIPHOP.COM: Without giving away any secrets, how do you produce your songs? They sound incredibly professional.
BLAKSTONE: We start with an idea and work with it. We know what sounds good to us and we hope others will appreciate it too. As a collective we hold standards high and try to give the people something worthwhile. The diversity in our tastes and ethnic backgrounds means that no two tracks are the same. Additionally we work with some of the best talents in the industry when it comes to mixing, engineering and mastering as well as producers on the tracks that we don’t produce ourselves.
MUSLIMHIPHOP.COM: Your website puts most to shame (including mine), who designed it?
BLAKSTONE: Two guys Digital Z and Kasar. Blakstone is about using you're art for the struggle, both these guys are a part of Blakstone and both masha'Allah are masters in their fields. Originally we downloaded a standard template for the site and then these two came along and ripped it apart, flipped it and gave it the official Blakstone treatment. Its a completely new site now.
MUSLIMHIPHOP.COM: Why did you call your album “Dark Dayz”?
BLAKSTONE: That’s how we could best define this period for Islam and its people in one phrase. But more than this we feel that it is not only Muslims that see the ugliness of the status quo. All over the world, in spite of the technological advancements and medical strides we have made, the suffering continues. The dominant ideology (Capitalism) is one that usurps by its very nature. Whilst some burn the excesses which they are unable to consume, others die wanting and whilst some are struggling to revive their peoples they are hindered, silenced and often killed by those who claim to lead them. These are not bright days, they are definitely Dark. We feel that these times are synonymous with 'the year of sadness' in the Meccan period experienced by our beloved Prophet Muhammad PBUH and his companion and the believers when they where tortured, oppressed and boycotted for their belief but within three years the darkness turned to light when Islam found a home in Medinah. And insha' Allah like that period we too by Allah's leave will soon be able to rejoice with 'Dark Dayz forgot'. Then we'll write an album called 'Bright Dayz'.
MUSLIMHIPHOP.COM: Who are you referring to mainly in your song “Traitors”?
BLAKSTONE: Though we do mention some leaders by name, we are referring to all the Muslim leaders. Nations look to their leaders for security we have none, they look to their leaders to govern them by the values that they hold dear, we get the opposite. They criticize their leadership, when their actions contradict the fundamental creed that binds them as a people we get locked up for this. To blame the invaders for invading is like blaming the dog for barking. It is through the use of our resources, intelligence, air space, armies and from within our own backyards that death descends upon us. Who controls all this? The very same people who claim to be working in our interests, who claim to be taking care of our affairs. It’s a farce. We’ve had enough. The coach wears the colors of the opposing team. We wouldn’t stand for it in a game, why do we stand for it when our blood is being spilled?
MUSLIMHIPHOP.COM: You did a remake of a Phil Collins song “Another Day in Paradise” masterfully in your track “Paradise”. Why did you choose this song?
BLAKSTONE: The original track is a classic. But when we heard it, it just said something else to us. Paradise means something else to a believer and a day in Paradise is like a dream we can only pray for. We thought it gave us an opportunity to say something to our youth so we adopted it. We were happy that EMI were in favor of the track. We have some other great ideas for covers. Watch this space. The next album, Insha Allah will be heavy.
MUSLIMHIPHOP.COM: You guys are a breath of fresh air for the Muslim hip hop community. Some say you could be the next big thing. How would you say you are different from the other 100 or so Muslim hip hop artists?
BLAKSTONE: We differ in some ways but in some ways we are just the same. We love Islam just like our brothers do. We express this love in our work just like our brothers do, if we differ at all its in subject matter. Our motto ‘Islam-Politiks-HipHop’ sums up the difference well. We say what we see going on around us, even though we know some might find it a little bit daring. ‘Traitors’ is a good example of this and ‘It’s on us’ too. We feel that it’s the least we can do, speak the truth, speak the Haq at all times regardless of the consequences, this is not a matter of choice it is an obligation placed on the neck of every Mu’min. Muslims have been drawn to us because it’s what they want to say and hear. We hope that this is a difference that will disappear as more carry the call in their tracks too. There are others on this site that are very outspoken about Islam, the struggle and the politics behind it and we rate them.
MUSLIMHIPHOP.COM: The Muslim community has been ailing for quite some time now…what do you think can combat this?
BLAKSTONE: Unity, self-reliance, perseverance, taqwa, patience and hope and trust in Allah’s Victory that it will come to pass. There is no doubt that Islam today is absent from our lives affairs and hence this is one of the darkest chapters in our history. We need to ask ourselves can true justice really exist in the absence of Allah’s systems and laws? And if the answer is NO, then shouldn’t this be our paramount concern and our unified goal? It is not enough that Islam exists in our hearts, it must be practically realized in life through its systems and institutions.
MUSLIMHIPHOP.COM: How has Islam influenced your life?
BLAKSTONE: (laughs) You want us to write a book? Islam answers all questions for us. It gives us the solutions to our problems and it guides us when we are on top of things and when we are feeling the pinch. Islam is our hope it is who we are it is what defines us. We refer to Islam for everything so it doesn’t influence our lives it is essentially why we live. This is a good question. Allahu-Akbar.
MUSLIMHIPHOP.COM: What would you like to say to your fans?
BLAKSTONE: Alhamdulillah. If we are able to inspire you to draw closer to Him (swt) then it is from Him (swt). We appreciate the positive response it has inspired us to work harder and to get better. We just want to thank everyone that is supporting us. Our only request to you guys is to ponder and reflect on our message. Please analyze it, criticize it, digest it, throw it back at us with questions and comments so we can refine and crystallize it. Spread the word! All good is from Allah (swt) and all the bad is from us and Shaytaan.