Johan Ishak, better known as Joe Flizzow, is no stranger in the Asian urban entertainment scene.
Over the past few years, his presence has grown from strength to strength after the release of his award-winning English album entitled ‘The President’ in 2009 with stage appearances in various countries like the United States, Netherlands, Britain, Japan, Maldives, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand and Brunei, cementing his status as Asia’s hip-hop superstar.
Joe was in Sri Lanka recently to film the video for a new track with Sri Lanka’s own hip hop maestro Iraj Weeraratne. Most of the video shoot was done in Galle.
Speaking to the Colombo Gazette Joe said that he started dabbling with hip-hop when he was in high school. At first it was just a hobby you know performing at school events and functions and it wasn’t until 1998 when his career really took off.
Extracts of the interview conducted by Dinesha Senaratne for the Colombo Gazette :
1. What are your thoughts on recording with Iraj? What sort of a record can we expect?
I think it’s a very positive move I think it’s great that Malaysia and Sri Lanka can work together and collaborate. I believe this is just the beginning of many more things many bigger and greater things and projects from our two countries and I’m just happy to be right at the beginning of it, at the start of this. I have a lot of respect for Iraj and what he has done. I think he has contributed a lot for the scene in Sri Lanka.
2. So you are known and established as a hip hop star, but have you ever thought of exploring or venturing into another genre, trying something new?
I think hip-hop itself is a genre or art form that is constantly evolving and never stays the same. I will always be an MC first and foremost. I believe the process off working towards improving yourself at your own craft is a lifelong process. However with the record label I have the opportunity and chance to develop new artists and acts from different genres. From pop to rock to DJs/actors and all that.
3. Who were your music idols growing up? Have you had the chance to work with them?
In Malaysia being a hip-hop fan in the 90s you pretty much cherish every single CD or cassette you could get your hands on. I remember making frequent trips to Singapore just to get the latest music from my favorite rappers. I’m glad I didnt miss out on the classic/ legendary MCs such as A tribe Called Quest, de la Soul, I was also a big fan of Tupac and Biggie. Also the whole death row and G funk movement. I was just a hip hop fan in the beginning and life was so much simpler then lol. Kids nowadays get it easy everything you want or need this on the Internet. I’m not hating tho, I’m just saying back the the appreciation was a lot higher. Hip hop was a like a secret society haha now it’s the country club.
Yes I have been blessed to work with one of my idols, Warren G. We collaborated on a single that became pretty big in this part of the world I guess.
I’ve also been blessed to have collaborated with KRS ONE on a track called ‘Get It done’ on my solo album.
4. You won the award for ‘most promising writer, producer’ at the MACP awards in 2005. Can you tell us as a producer what goes into making a hit? Give us your top 5 essentials.
I think the producer must know what he or she wants to achieve with this song. Secondly, it’s a producers job to create a conducive working environment while the artists are in sessions. Sometimes, especially with hip hop productions there are so many distractions that can disrupt a recording session. I’m not saying that it’s gotta be all boring but the producer is always boss and he gotta keep things under control. Then there are thing that you want from the artists such as delivery, cadence, annunciations and what not, basically a good producer gets the best from the artist he works with.
5. Your record company ‘Kartel Records’: tell us a little bit about how you help new blood break into the industry.
We put a lot of trust into new artists or producers regardless of their Age. I think it’s important that that isn’t a generation gap in the hip-hop society. Previously this was the problem for Malaysian hip-hop but I guess nowadays with social media and how modern the world is that shouldn’t be the excuse anymore.
I believe in old school A&R/artist developments and I think that is something that is nearly extinct in the Malaysian music industry. Signing new acts also makes us relevant to our target market and demographics. I believe there is so much talent that Malaysia can offer and we are a platform for them to grow and shine.
6. How has being involved in ‘Showdown’ been? I understand it’s in its third season this year.
Again showdown is testament to how we try to keep creating platforms for the youths and hip-hop activist out there. And it’s so great that a TV station/media company believes in an idea that helps elevate street dancing so much.
I think through the show we have managed to give dance crews a chance to be recognized and some and used it to move on to bigger things such as choreographing for events/pop stars, working in theatre and the industry itself and some are even stars in their own right. The Showdown is a great experience and I’m just happy to contribute in what ways I can do the break/street dance movement.
7. Your new album Patriot is your first full length Malay album, tell us a little bit about the inspiration behind UNTUKMU.
UNTUKMU is a song dedicated to fans friends and family that have stuck with me and believed in me through good times and also bad times. It’s also a big middle finger to all my haters… hahahahaha.
8. UNTUKMU features Ila Damiaa, whom you discovered in ‘Mentor’. How has she progressed under your guidance?
I think she’s done great. We’ve released a few singles and she has worked on a few songs that have had some success in Malaysia especially the track titled Malaysian boy. I think it was one of the best moves in my career signing my prodigy from the show MENTOR and I made a promise a long time ago to her fans from the show that I would do my best to mould her into a respectable artist. I believe in the talent. And the process of developing and Artist cannot be achieved through one reality show or a short period. There has to be continuity and I think that is where we come in. As an artiste she is also very committed to her future and we believe that she has the focus to succeed.