Monday, January 27, 2014

Just Reflecting: Thelonius

"I say, play your own way. Don't play what the public wants. You play what you want and let the public pick up on what you're doing -- even if it does take them fifteen, twenty years."
-- Thelonious Monk "Forget Everything Above Reality" Chris "Thelonius" Ravenel. I got the chance to sit down with Thelonius to see what he has been working on and his viewpoints as a man, artist, emcee and producer. Don't mind us, we're Just Reflecting.

The MaYoR: This interview is extremely meaningful to me because of the history that you and I have going all the way back to elementary school. When the homie Jon "JAO" told me about you being on the music scene I cant front it took me some time to really give your music a chance but when he told me you went by Thelonius and I heard "Love/Enemy" for the first time everything made sense. Who exactly is Thelonius?

Thelonius: Thelonius as an artist is no different from Christopher the person. I'm a child at heart and I was told that my good nature comes out in my music. I like to see the good will in things and I like to believe that whenever someone listens to what I'm saying, they can indentify with it and say either yeah...that's Chris or...I know where he's coming from. I love putting out music that is genuine. The experience I want to give to the listener is that I'm no different from them.

The MaYoR: Now when I first heard you went by the name Thelonius, the first and probably only person I thought of was the great Thelonious Monk. What made it clear to you that calling yourself "Thelonius" after Thelonious Monk fit your personality so well?

Thelonius: Thelonius is me paying homage to the musicians before me. I grew up on all types of music including jazz. However I didn't full sponge up the genre until I grew older when I had a better understanding. My rap name before was B.C. and honestly Thelonius was just my signature ad-lib because I took a jazzy approach to Hip Hop. But the people started calling me Thelonius, and from there on the name change was inevitable.

The MaYoR: Very interesting, I can relate to your story 100% especially not fully embracing the jazz genre until I grew up and really understood the art of music even though my father was a drummer in jazz bands. Now you've been pretty consistent throughout the years releasing projects. The first project that was introduced to me was Love Enemy which is one of my favorite albums by you. After that you worked on Roses and Gangland which to me filled you out as an emcee. You have also collabed with a slew of artists that if you weren't as talented as you are someone would think you would have been completely gassed after 2012 lol. Where do you get all of this music energy to keep hitting the scene as hard as you do? When did you know being an emcee/artist was your lane?

Thelonius: I think it started long before I even realized it. I was an artsy kid growing up...never an athlete lol. I was the guy that was picked last after the girls in gym class, but I was the king in the art room. Everyone wanted to sit next to me and see what I would do. While most parents were going to games, mine attended art shows, essay contests and piano recitals. So I think it was always in me...I just unconsciously tapped into it when I hit college back in 2006. Making music started as a hobby in my dorm room, which led to a whole city putting immense pressure on me 7 years later.

The MaYoR: And the WHOLE CITY really has embraced you. In fact many have declared you the Big Homie. Now being as though we have known each other since kids it doesn't surprise me that with your artistic and lyrical talents and humility, being embraced by so many only seems right, however I know how humbling you are and I'm sure your not looking for any titles just respect. Does it ever become overwhelming when your fellow peers claim you as one of the best in the area and why do you think they hold you so high?

Thelonius: It honestly is very overwhelming, especially when there are so many talented individuals around me. I never intended to be held at such a high regard...honestly I just wanted to make good music. People tell me all the time I'm too humble and that I need to give myself more credit, but they don't understand that I respect the art form and the process more than the accolades and pecking order. But I think maybe the reason they hold me so high is because they know I am everything I say that I am, and that's a normal guy just doing what he loves. There is no persona or wizardry to what I do. And also because I genuinely RESPECT what everyone else does. I know I can't change how the people feel about me and that's cool but I won't see myself as one of the best...not until my music makes a change within the world we live in.

The MaYoR: You are a very wise man making wise decisions and moving like the King you are in both music and life and I appreciate having you as a friend outside of this entertainment career we obtain. Since giving back is something you take tremendous pride into, what advice would you pass on to the generations after us who listen to your music and relate to you as a person interested in pursing anything in "The Arts?"

Thelonius: Be yourself and enjoy what you do. Put your all into the dream that your chasing. And remember, no matter what you do, you must learn to RESPECT the art. It's not always about being titled the best or the hottest because what's hot for 6 minutes can go hold. Plant your footprints into the cement. Be the standout that the people can be proud of, admire and respect.

The MaYoR: Well said,  I hope they're paying attention. It's all about respect, hardwork and dedication. Now you are dropping your latest solo project next month. December 25 to be exact. You just dropped Roses And Gangland alittle over a year ago. What Inspired you to start working on your upcoming project F.E.A.R. so soon?

Thelonius: Just wanting to get back into the studio and have fun making music. I feel invincible when I work on music. Nobody can take that space away from me and it's where I'm most comfortable. I needed to get back into it after going through a pretty rough year, and F.E.A.R. is actually an acronym for "Forget Everything About Reality." No matter what's going on in my personal life or the world, music drowns out everything.

The MaYoR: What type of musical influences helped you create F.E.A.R. and do you have a favorite track on this project?

Thelonius: I tried to take a versatile approach with F.E.A.R., and hopefully it worked. Different styles and sounds on there. It was inspired by hip-hop of course. You might hear a little folk, neo-soul and  reggae. On one particular song entitled A Woman Called Moses you'll catch banjo samples that can help the listener identify with the story behind the song and the appropriate era of history. It's based off of Harriet Tubman and her amazing technique of helping slaves escape The South without ever being caught. However my favorite song on there is Shadows. Shadows briefly covers a situation I had to endure earlier within the year, and how it affected me mentally.

The MaYoR: I've seen and heard you along with one of your counterparts Lady Shakespeare repping Childhood Alumni throughout the years. What Does the word Childhood mean to you?

Thelonius: Childhood Alumni means you have surpassed your coming of age. We all started as children and we all must grow up. But I believe that it's what you do with the memories that is important. We all move through different stages in our lives, but we all handle them differently. My outlook on my future is exciting because my childhood was a solid foundation to the man I'm destined to become, and the rest of my Childhood Alumni colleagues all share the same vision.

The MaYoR: Whats your stands on the music and even the entertainment scene locally? Do you see Harrisburg as a culture ever being identified and even accepted by Harrisburg and or the world?

Thelonius: I'm so excited! Harrisburg is an oasis full of talent. I love everything that's going on right now, the potential truly has NO limit. And it doesn't stop at the emcees. You have singers, producers, writers, DJs, photographers, videographers, graphic designers, authors, actors, comedians, dancers, promoters, entrepreneurs etc. The list goes on. Harrisburg is largely an untapped culture to the rest of the world, but it's up to Harrisburg whether our culture will ever be identified by everyone else. We need to get on one accord with one another and genuinely support our city...not just our affiliates or teammates. I see a lot of people throw that word "SUPPORT" around but only if it means you promote them. If Harrisburg is to make major can't expect the rest of the world to respect our alliance if we don't even unify ourselves.

The MaYoR: I'm glad to see someone have energy and be as excited about what is going on with the city of Harrisburg outside of just them. Even though your importance and efforts will help the culture of Harrisburg blossom. Now I really need to pick your brain on this one. I know how  important culture and influences of others outside of the norms mean to you. If you could understudy one person no matter what field, ethnic background, etc., who would it be and why?

Thelonius: Will Smith. He has exceeded every expectation that has ever been placed on him. He started rapping at a house party with a DJ in West Philly back in the 80s. Now Will Smith is a brand! He's dominated film and music (not to mention he won the first Rap Grammy). But beyond music, he's consistently redefining himself. Not only is he a successful man, but a successful Black man. He has a passion for life and good energy and, he believes greatness is something all of us are born with. It's just something we must learn to grasp depending on how hungry we are.

The MaYoR: Wo,w I wasn't expecting you to say Will but honesty, its a good choice. Now I like to ask anyone who stands for something this question. If you could give one characteristic from yourself and forever implant it into "The Arts" what would it be and why?

Thelonius: Vulnerability. Emotion. I've never been afraid to display that I have flaws and weaknesses. I'm not saying you can't be a beast, there needs to be a balance. Realistically, human beings fluctuate an array of emotions everyday. That's the reason why the listener feels lost in the music, because they can't interoperate everything the artist says. Maybe they then can use that energy to overcome an obstacle within their own life.

The MaYoR: It was a blessing being able to sit down with you and discuss these topics. I can't wait to hear F.E.A.R in its entirety and see the growth you make throughout the years. Peace and Love Big Homie.

Song: Invictus

Produced By: Thelonius


Video: Amtrak Music

Song: Rewind

Artists: Lady Shakespeare Featuring Kid Dynomite And Thelonius

Produced By: Thelonius