Interview: Karl “Oye” Iglesias
Karl Iglesias, known as Â¡Oye!, is an actor, an emcee, a poet, a mentor, and a director. He’s also Puerto Rican and from Milwaukee. Heâ€™s a two-time Wisconsin teen slam champion, and was the first artist to accomplish this goal at the age of 19 (which occurred in 2008). In 2009, his team at the UW took second place at the Collegiate Union Poetry Slam Invitational. Among many other things heâ€™s accomplished, he also debuted his solo theater show, “If A Tree Falls“, across the country and was a featured artist in the 2009 Hip Hop Theater Festival in NYC as part of the “Young, Gifted, and Hyped” series.
He’s currently going to school at UW-Madison, and he’s a member of The First Wave Arts Ensemble. You might remember that he dropped his first solo album, “In My Mind“, in December. And two of the tracks from that album were also featured in our blog’s mixtape! Now that he’s been featured here on CrayonBeats quite a lot, it was time for an interview…
Tiffology: What’s up? How are things on your end?
Oye: Blessed. Just got off a great spring break in the Brew City spending time with my family. Just getting back into the rhythm of things on campus and getting my set ready for my performance at the Steppin Laser Tour that features Lupe Fiasco and B.O.B.
Tiffology: Why do you go by the name Oye?
Oye: It means “listen” or “pay attention” in Spanish in a casual way. My background is very important to me. I feel like it represents who I am on several levels.
Tiffology: Growing up, who were you listening to (musically)?
Oye: I grew up listening to a lot of punk rock and rock. I bridged to rap by Linkin Park and never looked back. Big Pun, Jay-Z, Outkast, Nas, The Fugees, Kanye West, Missy Elliot, Busta Rhymes, Hector Lavoe, Ruben Blades, Michael Jackson, Prince, The Roots, Lil Wayne were all artist that I grew up listening too and I feel that all have an influence in my music as well.
Tiffology: What’s the hip hop scene in Milwaukee like?
Oye: It’s very midwest and hungry. The city is ready to solidify itself on the national level. It’s a mix of very interesting group of individuals who are coming out with impressive work. Milwaukee is very diverse on many levels and I feel like you can catch people who rap from every part of town. I love it.
Tiffology: RANDOM – Top 3 food spots to eat at in Wisconsin?
Oye: No particular order- Oakland Gyros, El Farrol, and the Elotero-man (sells corn on the cob in carts- but pure crack)
Tiffology: What made you gravitate towards spoken word?
Oye: Well, I’ve always had a keen interest in the art of poetry but not too long after my parents split, I found myself getting into the art of spoken word. It was a positive way to heal. It was also the birth of my artistic career.
Tiffology: Do you have a favorite piece?
Oye: I would say my one man show, If a Tree Falls is my favorite because it incorporates the most artforms. (dance, acting, poetry)
Tiffology: You’ve shared the stage with many people, do you have a memorable experience from that that you’d like to share?
Oye: Yea, my biggest crowd. Myself and some other artists from UWHIPHOP.COM gripped mics at a sold out Badgers vs Michigan State game. It’s still my largest crowd at 16,000. But we had a great time and Bucky The Badger helped us out! We won the contest by the way.
Tiffology: Do you do anything to prepare yourself before you get on stage?
Oye: I like to stretch although it seems like time doesn’t allow for that sometimes. Focus and stay loose and make sure I give thanks to the higher power.
Tiffology: RANDOM – I’m curious… how tall are you?
Oye: 5’9″ of starving artist
Tiffology: I read that you’re working on publishing a book…?
Oye: Yes. I believe everything has it’s time. I’m working on a book of poems but not trying to force anything. I will definitely keep you posted.
Tiffology: You released your first album, “In My Mind” EP, in February. How has the feedback been for that so far?
Oye: It’s been a lot of great feedback and circulation. I’m truly blessed for the success it’s gotten as a debut project. InkRed is designing the hard copies that will include two unreleased tracks and will be up for sale this summer.
Tiffology: Has it been hard to push your music out there? Or are you doing well with networking online, particularly with sites like twitter, myspace, and facebook?
Oye: Yea but thats the gift and the curse of the artist. Curse because it’s a lot of stress, work, and can consume you if you’re not careful. But if you do get to whatever your dream-goal is, it’ll mean that much more. I’m ready to build and continue making the music that’ll represent my city in a respectable way. It’s tough when you’re a new artist but the EP has been getting a lot of good circulation but it definitely wasn’t easy. Networking online was a huge way that we got the music out. We live in a time where a couple posts on a couple blogs can sky rocket a persons career therefore an internet presence is key for an emerging artist. All things run out of OYE414.COM but I do use Facebook and Twitter as well because they’re such a cost effective way of advertisement and mass communication.
Tiffology: What are you trying to show the listeners with that album? What IS in the mind of Oye?
Oye: To say that the extent of my mind only stretches the length of five songs would be unfair but it does hit a lot of major points of where I am in career. Relationship struggles, family and success. There is a lot of hunger that comes from humility. I know that I “ain’t shit” in a lot of ways but this fuels the dreams of lights and sold out crowds etc. With success comes ego but this is the way of the MC.
My favorite kind of art reflects the delicate balance between beautiful and ugly. We, as humans, balance, flaunt, and hide these things but the true beauty of humanity is when we can except them and fearlessly present them to each other. For example, I know personal friends who have coped with suicidal thoughts because people like Biggie were able to share those feelings publicly. We’re all human and have more in common with each other then we think. So instead of saying, “I have a swagged out track because I’m better than everybody else”, I can say “I have a swagged out track because I’m developing an ego.” Good or bad, take it as you wish, but we gotta start being more honest. I think the track Circles does a good job of wrapping up that concept.
Tiffology: Where did you record the EP at?
Oye: Honestly? In a closet in my Mom’s one bedroom in Milwaukee. I had originally been recording at WSUM Radio station on the UW campus but I went home to spend some valuable time with family. But it all worked out and we were able to mix down the project by February.
Tiffology: RANDOM – Do you have a favorite poet or spoken word artist?
Oye: Willie Perdomo
Tiffology: Describe your creative process.
Oye: It starts with inspiration. The worst way to create art is to force it. That doesn’t mean you should sit on your couch and smoke weed all day and hope that ideas come to you. It means you should be taking in twice as much art as you’re putting out. Other’s work is the best way to see what to do and what not to do in your own work. I listen to music ALL DAY it feels like. I take note of the the things that makes me click to the next track, as well as, the things are so simple but can’t get out of my head. It’s the application of what is learned that will actually make the difference in the final product.
Tiffology: You have Rafael Casal on the title track of your EP, and I know that you two are close even outside of the music realm. How did you two come together?
Oye: First off, SHOUT OUT TO RAFAEL CASAL for earning his undergrad at the UW as part of the class of 2010! He was hired on staff a couple years back for the First Wave program that I’m a part of and quickly became a brother of mine. He’s done a lot of extensive work helping me with my one man show and my music. I learned more from him in these two years then I have from any one professor so far. That’s not down playing the staff at the UW (which is one of the best public universities in the U.S) but the man is beyond his years. I wish him nothing but success and Grammies.
Tiffology: Can you tell us what your theater show, “If A Tree Falls”, is about?
Oye: It’s a theater piece that also uses poetics, movement, and music to discuss the issues of machismo and misogyny with latino (mainly Puerto Rican culture). I hope to start a conversation with people about similar issues that travel between cultures and tell my story. I’m growing into the man that has been influenced and challenged by the culture that I’m a part of. The production has really allowed me to explore my coming of age through art as well as raise questions of what is a man and who’s teaching me how to be one? It gives you voices of various generations and is still in excerpt form. I’ve done it in California, Chicago, and New York to name a few places. It’s still very raw and capable of improvement but I hope to begin finalizing the script before the end of my collegiate career.
Tiffology: RANDOM – What do you like to do in your down time?
Oye: Music is my down time. You got to remember that I’m taking 15 credits a semester, plus am part of a theater ensemble. Music is my most independent form of art and usually only get done on long periods of breaks. I’ve just began my summer and have began to plan out my musical goals. Other than that, I love being with my loved ones when I get the chance and am usually down to go out and have a good time. Although, I admit I’ve been toning it down in that aspect. I’ve been feeling a lot more laid back and music oriented.
Tiffology: You’re part of the First Wave Hip Hop Theater Ensemble at UW-Madison. You got a full tuition scholarship too, right?
Oye: Yes and Yes. If it wasn’t for the program I would be no where near the artist I am now. The staff and my peers have taught me so much and have given me the platform to push myself to success.
Tiffology: How are you holding up in school, being that you’ve got so much going on (music, performances, theater shows, and everything else)? Has it been rough?
Oye: Very, but I’m sitting above a 3.0 as of right now. I’m a theatre major, which coincides well with my goals. I’ve always been a nerd when it comes to school but now I get to learn what I want and will graduate in a couple years. I recently got an award in Dept of Theatre and Drama as a sophomore so I’m not in the business of complaining about blessings.
Tiffology: If you could perform anywhere, where would it be and why?
Oye: Puerto Rico, with a salsa band playing all my instrumentation. It would basically be the manifestition of so many dreams. The connection of the two cultures that I was raised in (Puerto Rican and Hip Hop) would be insane.
Tiffology: What’s next for you this year? Will you be making another album?
Oye: Well, right now I’m working on Klassik’s , the incredible musician that composed the IN MY MIND EP, on his debut EP that will also be released under InkRed Enterprise. This summer I’m looking to release a mixtape under InkRed Clothing which will be hosted by DJ Willie Shakes.
Tiffology: RANDOM – Finish off these:
I am… growing.
I will never… stop trying.
I love… arroz con patitas (rice with pig feet).
I can’t wait… for tomorrow.
Where in the world is… Brew City, USA!
Tiffology: Lastly, thank you for taking the time to build with me and answer some questions. Any last words, shout outs, or advice?
Oye: Shouts to the wonderful people at InkRed Clothing and Crayon Beats! Please be on the look out for Klassik’s debut EP and the my first mixtape both dropping this summer.
Advice: Try not to miss a beat.
FREE DOWNLOAD / STREAM: Oye bandcamp