What is your aim with hip-hop? I grew up listening to a lot of conscious rap, rap that would bring about the revolution. I think that as time went on, after I had already been educated so much by hip-hop, I just learnt how to apply the revolution to become more personal. My aim is still to write conscious hip-hop but rather than write about social politics, to write about personal consciousness and being aware of yourself. If you don’t know yourself you’re not going to be able to start a revolution.

Do gangsta rap and indie-rap deserve their place in hip-hop? That’s what I think, yeah. I may not believe that your average 11 year-old should be listening to gangsta rap, but that’s a problem between the 11 year old and their parents. The parent should be on top of the game enough to either not let the child listen to it, or at least explain to their child that it’s just fantasy rap. But I think gangsta rap is important to a lot of people, like the 25 year-old guy who works at a restaurant and hates his job and at the end of the night when he goes out to his car he can pop in a UJK record and vent his aggression. That way he doesn’t have to go back into his job and stab his boss to death. To me gangsta rap is important in that it releases adrenalin and it releases aggression, the same way I see hardcore and punk being important to those kind of kids. I just think that gangsta rap gets such a bad wrap because A) there’s a lot of young kids listening to it and believing these stories and B) in America there is still a very white-bred, mainstream white view of black people. So when you’ve got a lot of black dudes on MTV acting really tough and being degrading to women, it reinforces that view to the white man – that the black man is a savage. I would like to see a balance being shown in the media so that suburbia’s only view into the urban lifestyle is not just this gun-toting black dude, but also show the guy that is the teacher and the guy that is trying to say something political. There are issues involved that I’m not so happy about, but I don’t blame gangsta rap for that. I blame America for that.

Does it surprise you to find white suburban kids getting into your sound? Man, people like rap, but there are so many people who are turned off by a lot of the negative stuff they hear in hip-hop. But then you get to hear me rap, or someone like Sage Francis or a Mr Lif or Aesop Rock, and there’s not a lot of negativity there. So there is a scene of college kids who wanted to get into rap but they couldn’t relate to Tupac. But these kids hear my songs and go, shit he raps about the same thing that Modest Mouse sings about, I can get into that, and it’s rap. There is enough rap to go around for everybody. Whether it was the guns that got them in, and then they found graffiti, or it was some rapper getting all “scientifical” and they found graffiti – as long as the bottom line is they came in and found they love graffiti. Whether it’s physical or mental.

You’re of mixed race, has that played a big part in your hip-hop upbringing? I was attracted to it because of the frustration and angst I had growing up in a black neighbourhood. My father was half black and half Indian, so I wasn’t really accepted on either side. At first a lot of the white kids didn’t want to hang out with me because I acted black, a lot of the black kids didn’t want to hang out with me because I looked kinda white. So I had to bounce back and forth to find my own identity. Once I found my own identity it really hasn’t been too big of a deal to me. I spent about 10 years inside of an area where it didn’t really matter any more. Just give me the mic and if I’m tight, I’m tight, and if I’m not, I’m not, it doesn’t really matter what I look like. The bigger Atmosphere got the more and more journalists and the press were questioning my ethnicity and making a big deal out of it. They started asking me questions about these things. A lot of people were really confused that I spoke about black nationalism and the black plight. “How are you talking about this kinda stuff? You’re a white guy,” they said. When they found out my background was mixed it still confused them. Most black MCs don’t talk about it but then you get me talking about it – a guy that makes songs for girls. I don’t even make songs about the black experience. But in the press here I go, talking my shit about it. I didn’t have an intelligent agenda about it. I just answered people honestly. Everyone was looking at me like they were looking at Eminem, you know, “Ah, good another white rapper we can make our favourite white rapper,” and I was kinda like, “No, don’t make me your favourite white rapper.” If you want to make me your favourite rapper just know it ain’t because I’m white, it’s because I’m the freshest on the mic and you relate to what I’m talking about. And that’s it.

You Can’t Imagine How Much Fun We’re Having is out now on Rhymesayers through Shogun.