6 feet high and rising
Hip-hop artist Madgesdiq puts another spin on his game
When he walks into a neighborhood coffee shop, the kid behind the counter tells him: 'Yo, your album is sik!' As he walks down the sidewalk, another calls out, 'Hey, that's É'
He's got one of the coolest names out there right now. It is, quite simply, Madgesdiq.
That's majestic, for anyone having trouble.
He used to have another name, one that might ring some bells Ñ Antoine Stoudamire. His cousin Damon is the Blazer point guard.
Stoudamire-cum-Madgesdiq is a hometown boy. He grew up in Northeast Portland and graduated from Jesuit High School. After high school, he attended Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., for a year and a half on a basketball scholarship. He transferred to the University of Oregon Ñ 'My major was sociology and business, but I studied the social life,' he says with a shy smile Ñ and after graduating played professional basketball in Europe and Asia.
When he walked away from the court and buried his hoop dreams, Madgesdiq was born.
'Basketball opened a lot of doors for me, but this is what I love to do now,' he says, talking about his debut disc, 'The Rebirth,' and his love for hip-hop.
'Rebirth' was released to college radio stations three weeks ago and is expected to break through on College Music Journal's hip-hop charts. The album was produced by B. Braun, aka Speechless, with help on the dancey song 'Dreamz Meet Reality' from Jumbo Da Garbageman and on 'BragArt Meets Sony Fortune' from Rev. Sheinz, both of the local act Lifesavas.
Madgesdiq's friends met for an in-store sample of cuts from 'The Rebirth' at Music Millennium recently, where the 6-foot-3 emcee works selling Nelly and Ludacris to the less enlightened hip-hop consumer. His mom and two sisters also were there, snapping pictures and showing their support.
Duray Thirdgill backed Madgesdiq up on the microphone that day.
'This isn't not your typical hip-hop album where people are bragging and really dissin' folks, cursing and using a whole lot of expletives,' Thirdgill explains. 'It's more an insight into Antoine. I think the album's awesome, and it's something that people can really look into it and figure out what hip-hop is supposed to be about.'
Madgesdiq, it's safe to say, is a bit of a moralist and chooses to emphasize hip-hop's spiritual dimension. This is an aspect of hip-hop that's been lost in the deluge of acts that record companies release at warp speed.
The 31-year-old Madgesdiq has loved hip-hop since 1979, when he was sitting in a car at an 88-cent store on then-Union Avenue and heard 'Rapper's Delight' on the radio. But he's only dedicated himself to its full-time pursuit for the last three years, and he doesn't consider it the be-all and end-all:
'I'm just an infant in terms of my development. It's always hit or miss when you start. But I'm patient and I'm realistic.'
Madgesdiq's lyrics and poems are delivered in a slow monotone. At times he's difficult to understand. Call him Afro-granola, because he raps about Boca Burgers, Bikram yoga and the environment. Oh, yeah, and pot. He lets listeners know it's always 4:20. The liner notes, too, illustrate Madgesdiq holding a blunt, the ashes falling onto the decrepit logos of MTV and BET.
'The record labels are pushing the same old garbage. What's being portrayed through the media is only a portion of hip-hop,' Madgesdiq explains smoothly. He's wearing Timberlands Ñ one tan, one blue Ñ an inside-out Adidas T-shirt and baggy patchwork pants. The tattoos on his long arms remind him to stay on message: the Lion of Judah and the words 'One Love' and 'Carpe Diem.'
Madgesdiq seems to want people to avoid quick fixes and dig a little deeper.
'There's a lack of inspiring music out there. It's all about the physical, but we're each made up of mind, body and soul. What's this other stuff Ñ sex, drugs and cars Ñ doing to enhance your life?'
That image of hip-hop creates a misconception about black men, he says: 'And it's happening at the expense of our culture, our youth, and at the expense of improving relations with other races.'
In other words, he asks, 'What does it matter when one succeeds if nine of us fail?'
Basketball took Madgesdiq places, and he considers himself lucky.
'I was never on the streets. I never had to sell drugs,' he says. 'I had a chance to focus on myself and figure stuff out. I've never had to just survive Ñ I've been able to live.'
Reprazentin' the PNW
Life, he's learned, is about acquiring knowledge and education, and being in touch with one's spiritual self. He's currently reading 'Conversations With God' by Neale Donald Walsch and W.E.B. Du Bois' 'The Souls of Black Folk.'
'I'm not saying we shouldn't have fun, but people need to get serious about solving problems and be responsible for the music you put out,' Madgesdiq says. 'Hip-hop is school for some people.'
Entertainers need to be more responsible, he says, because they were once those kids trying to learn.
He seems to have another standard when it comes to his cousin Damon, though.
'Entertainers and public figures have no privacy,' Madgesdiq says. 'They get large rewards for what they do, yes, but they're human. There are unreasonable expectations.'
Portland isn't exactly a Mecca for emcees. An obvious question is: What's it like to be a hip-hop artist in a town better known for Sleater-Kinney than Old Dominion, an up-and-coming crew.
'I think hip-hop is growing in Portland,' he replies. 'Old Dominion is playing a lot of shows Ñ they're representing the whole Pacific Northwest, and of course you have the Lifesavas.'
Hip-hop, he says, is a natural for Portland, because it's an expressive place.
'Being an African-American, of course I want to impart some lessons. A different angle,' he says. 'I want to bring something new and inspirational. But I'm bringing this for everybody. I'm not hung up on color.'
All the same, he's not too caught up in the scene. He's not out every night popping Cristal and rolling tight whips. I'm more of a private person.'
What's his take on the suddenly mainstream Eminem, for instance?
'I appreciate Eminem's skills. He can write. He has a great voice Ñ but he's just perpetuating more chaos,' he says. 'Some people can relate to 'I want to go crazy and kill my mom.' Others can vibe to the white trash thing.'
But there is one segment of his fan base that he truly doesn't get: 'They live in the suburbs, have a nice house, went to college, and Eminem's message isn't really going to affect their life.'
Madgesdiq isn't bitter about white rappers, though. 'Why should I be mad seeing Eminem getting paid?' he says. 'We're about different things. I have to focus on what I'm doing. I hope to touch as many souls as possible.'
His favorite tracks on his disc are 'The Rebirth' and 'Avatar.' The song 'Forbidden' shows a different side. 'I'm ambivalent about 'Dreamz,' but it's definitely a fun song. That's my 'TRL' (MTV's 'Total Request Live') right there.' The irresistible track was produced by Jumbo Da Garbage Man of the Lifesavas with vocals sung by Shae Fiol.
Madgesdiq's earlier braggadocio style has been replaced by a more mature voice.
'When I first started I was into É lots of wordplay and bragging about my skills,' he explains. 'As I started to read more I got into the mental stuff and realized, 'Yo, this is my purpose.' This is just my passion, and I love it.'