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NALEDGE, March 1, 2006

Naledge opened for fellow Chicago native Common at the House of Blues on March 1 with a performance that suggests good things to come from this recent Rawkus signee. The 411 Online spoke with Naledge before the show.

So how's it going?

"It's going swell. Swell, make sure you print that. Nah I'm just f----- around. What's up?"

We're looking forward to the show tonight. How are you feeling?

"It's a wonderful feeling to be home and be doing a show for my hometown fans and also opening for one of my idols. It's a great look and I'm ready to go out there and rock it."

Have you performed with Common before?

"Yeah, I performed with him actually in Philadelphia last year."

So you came up in Chicago. Is it any different performing in front of the hometown fans.

"Yeah, yeah, south side of Chicago... It's a lot different because inherently you can kind of pull the crowd in simply by saying, 'What's up Chicago?' and they know that you're speaking their language and they know that you represent where they're from on a national level. So naturally they want you to win more than -- well, not in all cases -- but naturally they should want you to win more than fans from other places because they have a personal attachment to you. You know, my family is from here. People knew me as a little boy and they're gonna come to the show. They're gonna support regardless and that always makes a good energy. If the crowd is already with you before you open your mouth, it's a great thing."

So you're an Ivy Leaguer, huh?

"That's what they tell me."

So what's that all about? What's the scene at the University of Pennsylvania?

"Truthfully, I don't think the University of Pennsylvania is too different from other universities other than the fact that you probably have kids whose parents are a lot more wealthy and we have a lot of kids with private school backgrounds, boarding school backgrounds, and you have a lot of old money. You have people who have come from money, and I think that's the biggest difference. It's a lot of old northeastern money that flows through that school. But at the end of the day, you choose your own social path in any situation. For me, it was an experience. I stayed with my books and I stayed in the social scene, but I wasn't too far out there. But I had a lot of fun. I had more fun than you would expect, with the way that Ivy League schools are stereotyped. I made a lot of connections with good people in my four years at Penn."

And you turned down some baseball scholarships to go there?

"Yeah, I had offers to play baseball at local colleges and some universities that I chose not to take because I wanted to pursue an academic experience. I never perceived myself making it to the major leagues. But I did play at the University of Pennsylvania."

So you had a lot of options. You were the high school valedictorian as well.

"Yeah. Unfortunately. Nah, it gave me a lot of options and I feel blessed by the fact that I had the world at my feet and people behind me who supported me to the utmost and let me know I could be anything that I wanted to be, whether that was an MC, whether that was a professor, whether that was a baseball player. As long as you go 110 percent at it, it's cool, and that's what I did and that's what I've always done throughout my entire life. And I feel like I want to inspire others to do the same with my music. And that's what I feel I'm doing."

I saw in your bio that you wanted to find your niche in hip-hop and just revitalize the game, not necessarily redefine it. What do you envision that niche to be?

"Obviously I get pigeonholed a lot into the whole idea of me being a conscious MC, but I don't think that's necessarily my niche. My niche is a lot broader than that. I'm a throwback to a golden era of rap, probably the Native Tongues era. I think that's my niche. I don't think when people hear me they're going to hear anything that's necessarily completely new, because they're going to hear all of the influences that I had growing up. But at the same time, it's refreshing, because it's something that hasn't been at the forefront or in the mainstream for so long. That's what I mean by saying I'm not revolutionizing something, but I'm adding to it. I'm not inventing the wheel, I'm taking it further, putting more refinements on it. By the same token, I'm not rapping like Tribe, I'm not rapping like the Pharcyde, I'm not rapping like Large Professor, I'm just an evolution of the movement they spawned. That's really how I see myself. Common Sense, all the classic, dope MCs that you can think of from that era all had influences on me. I'm not a clone or anything of that nature, but I'm taking my experiences and bringing that feeling back to hip-hop."

So when is the album due?

"Probably August. That's what we're looking at."

So tell me about [longtime partner and producer] Double-O and his involvement on the album.

"Double-O's my man. We're joined at the hip almost. That's not even a question whether I'm working with him. If I'm there, Double-O's there. It's not an issue. If you get a Naledge show, you get a Kidz in the Hall show. The lines are blurred when all that comes into play. There really is no 'if.' Me and Double-O have worked together for years and he's part of my creative process at this point."

How did you get involved with Major League Entertainment?

"They've done a lot of work with independent hip-hop artists in the past and now they're getting into more of the management side of things. I just happened to be an intern for Matt Marcus and when I needed a manager I called on him. I was an intern and I used to push vinyl for him and make phone calls and everything. My how times change."

Well, we're looking forward to the performance tonight. Is there anything else you wanted to get out to the fans?

"I appreciate anybody who ever wants to talk to me. I always take all opportunites to get my voice out there, to get my agenda out there. It's not just about selling records. It's about me pushing my agenda and pushing some of the thoughts and ideas I have. So it's all good. I have love for anybody that has love for me. I just hope everybody supports the album when it comes out. Rawkus Records, The Broke Diaries, Kidz in the Hall, Naledge, that's what's going down this fall."

-- Mason Storm

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