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Underground Hip-Hop: Methuzulah

Rapper talks about the highs and lows of life in Atlanta

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Atlanta rapper Methuzulah Gem, aka Elijah Lee, is one of a kind. With a style that harkens back to the classic boom bap era of '90s hip-hop, Methuzulah's a crusader with a cause on the mean streets of Atlanta, holding himself and his fellow musicians to a higher standard of musical achievement and skill. He's one of Atlanta's best MCs, and has a handful of releases in the works to prove it, 2013 is the year Methuzulah will shine his brightest yet.

This is shaping up to be a big year for you.

In July there's The Ventriloquist, produced by Spitzwell from the Beat Gods, featuring Boog Brown, Rasheeda Ali, Yamin Semali, Ras Kofi, Nikki Slick of Slick & Rose, and Minister Server. In September we release Indian Style which is a free promotional project where I jack 12 of Apollo Brown's best tracks. Then in January 2014 we release the ClanThuzulah EP, titled Phantom of the Chakras. All of those tracks were produced by Clan Destined. I am also working on separate projects with Illastrate and Locsmif.

I wanted to ask about the ClanThuzulah record. I first posted about it in December 2011. Is it still happening?

Definitely. Dex made the beat for the joint that we just finalized. Stahhr is on it, Superstition is on it, I'm on it, Ras Kofi is on the chorus. I'm working on a joint right now for the same project where Dex and DT made the beat. Then I'll be working with Boog Brown, J-Live, and Chop.

What is the tie that binds all of these artists together?

It's a code of ethics, a code of the streets, a code of culture. It's unreadable through text, writing or doctrine, and you can't see it. But it's there. We all come from different families and lifestyles, but when you're around someone who loves the culture, you know it. They don't necessarily have to be an artist: You feel an aura or bond. But then when you're with another artist, and you both love the culture, and you're dope at it, there's another bond altogether. That's from a b-boy to a beat box standpoint. The names we've mentioned are Atlanta's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. It's like Xavier's school and these people have come from all over: Dillon's not from here, Boog's not from here, I'm not from here. Lion's Den and those people aren't from here. Clan Destined is sorta kinda. ... These people are from everywhere. They met here, and there's a bar that you have to pass, but it's an invisible code, but artists will fucking recognize it, and know each other. That's that code that makes us click. I think that's all us though, it's like a 1990s All-Star league.

... I don't know if I would call everybody mutants, but they're like-minded, and they know each other when they see each other. If you watch the X-Men or even The Matrix, for example, it took Neo a minute. Remember the first time he kinda moved back and got hit? He couldn't quite do it yet, but he knew he could do it. He just had to figure it out. We help each other realize the talents we have. This scene makes everybody so much better — no offense to anybody, but when I go to California or to New York there's not a lot of cats rockin' as hard as the cats from where I came from, and we don't get the notice. Atlanta gets notice for the "other Atlanta" hip-hop, but our scene isn't recognized for being top-notch lyricists, MCs, b-boys, graffiti artists, DJs, and keepers ...

"Other Atlanta" means different things to different people.

The more commercial end of it.

ForteBowie, Trinidad James?

The whole lights camera action, props on the set thing? These things aren't even lifelike. It's just regular people, but on camera they make up this whole life: extra bottles, extra this, extra that, extra women. That's the name that Atlanta gets. You don't hear Boog Brown or Methuzulah or Señor Kaos or 4ize as much, even in our city. I can see why on a national level, but even in our city. And if you go to hip-hop shows the crowds, you'll notice a foundational crowd. If it's a 500-person show there's 200 people that were at the last 500-person show.

Is drawing a more diverse crowd an obstacle that you face in Atlanta?

Getting some of the other crowd to come out to shows? It's a big one. Every show is kinda like the same dedicated people, or at least 150 of them. ... Out of how many millions of people living here? I know there's more people here that like hip-hop, but probably don't realize this underground scene is alive. I met somebody recently at Guitar Center — moved here from Florida. I was putting up fliers for Kool G Rap and he's like, "Wowwwww!! I've been here two years looking for the classic hip-hop, like you know that boom bap shit!" I'm like, "Dog, you just ran into it. It's everywhere baby, what do you wanna do?" So two years and he still hadn't found that there's a scene within the scene. But every night there's something going on. It could be minor, it might be major but every night there's something.

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