Rapper Truth Universal talks about DJ skills, old school hip-hop, and social commitment.

Truth Universal photo

Thursday, rapper Truth Universal and DJ E.F. Cuttin play the Congo Square Stage at 11:15 a.m. Last year, Truth and I got together to talk about his own DJ skills, his then-new album Invent the Future, old school hip-hop, and activism. Here's an encore presentation of that story.

The title of Truth Universal's new album, Invent the Future, is optimistic on many levels. It implies that shaping your future is still possible, that it's not our of your hands. The phrase is a call to action. It's not "Play XBox Until the Future Arrives" or "Mess Around on Facebook and See What Happens." It says get your hands dirty and do something.  

On the album, the future's starts domestically and spiritually, and radiates out from there. That doesn't necessarily sound like fun, and conscious rappers often suffer from substituting rhetorical values for musical ones. On Invent the Future, Truth remembers to be witty and musically, throughout employing beats that bring to mind the lushness of '60s and '70s R&B. They sound great next to Truth's deliberate delivery, and evoke a time when soul was personal and political at the same time.

Recently, Truth Universal and I sat down over coffee and ended up talking about old school hip-hop far more than I intended. We also discussed SXSW and his turntable chops, but the impact of old school artists on his music clearly evident. This conversation sent me back to Spotify to check out a bunch of songs and artists I hadn't listened to in years, and I'm glad we had the chance to talk.

Truth's hosting a CD-release party Sunday starting at 5 p.m. at Ashé Cultural Arts Center, where he'll be joined by DJ E.F. Cuttin, Skipp Coon, Sybil Shannell, Lyrikill, Nato Caliph, Woneye, Marcel P. Black, and Slangston Hughes.