- The Formula412 Interview
- 8:00pm — 11:00pm
- Saturday, Apr 16th
- Mr. Smalls Theatre
400 Lincoln Ave., Millvale, PA, 15209, United States
Formula412 needs no introduction. They are a powerful force in Pittsburgh’s urban music scene. They’ve been around the block a few times, individually and as a group, and are gaining momentum as their new album release draws nearer. I had the chance to ask the singer of Formula412, Masai, a few questions about working with his band mates, their upcoming album and corresponding CD release party. I also noticed fellow blog Yinzpiration recently interviewed their guitarist, Byron Nash. Glad they got to him before we did – I probably couldn’t ask him anything without being inappropriate – dude is fine. He’s got the rock star look down fo’ sho’.
Get with it! Formula412 includes the following members:
Masai Turner – Vocals
Byron “Nasty Nash” – Guitar
Akil Esoon – Keyboard
“Bigg Cliff” Foster – Bass
Dennis Garner Jr. – Drums
Their new album is available on iTunes, Amazon, and other fine digital outlets.
Before we move on to the interview, I must share something I find to be incredibly bad ass – they teamed up with the Port Authority on this one. Great video!
Now that you’re into the groove, let’s learn more about this fine group of fellas.
KS: Since all of your members have been involved in other notable projects, some would consider you an All-Star band – how did everyone come together to form Formula412?
MT: “The band came together as the result of a void. What were attempting to create something that had never existed before. We all had other projects that we had done very well with in the past and we all were the most notable member from those groups. Masai (Strict Flow), Akil (Beam), Byron (Sporadic), Cliff (Sho’Nuff), Dennis (various gospel projects). If you’ve ever seen the movie Armageddon with Bruce Willis, the mission was to save the planet and he had to assemble to perfect cast. Formula412 was put together in the same way pretty much. I had to assemble the perfect cast. This band started with a conversation between Akil and I. That conversation eventually turned into what you see now. Each one of our band members has a specific set of talents and elements that they bring to the Formula. Each band member leads and follows at the perfect times. We all have our own lanes, and we own those lanes. Once each band member was selected and they realized why they were selected, the decisions to join was easy. We want to change the world with our music. That’s why we’re still here 5 years later.”
KS: How is this band experience different from the legendary Strict Flow?
MT: “This is the first question that I’ve ever answered about Strict Flow but… We can’t call our album “Reality Show” and then be holding back right? Bands are about relationships. The stronger the relationships, the stronger the band. Strict Flow was a long time ago and I don’t remember it that much to be honest. The experiences that I’ve had since then have changed my life. I haven’t spoken to some of the group members since 2003, when the group disbanded. What that says to me is that the relationships were only as strong as the next song, next show, next deal. Formula412 are my BROTHERS. They can relate to me. They understand where I come from. They respect me. We have things in common outside of the music. The conversations that we have and the way we support each other outside of the music is much more significant than any song that we’ll ever make, any show we’ll ever play, and deal we’ll ever get. Formula412 is a family. Also, I feel like I’m the least talented person in the band. You could fire me from the group, put a whack emcee in the band, and Formula412 would still be dope. Remove me from Strict Flow…not so much? This band pushes me to be great – because I am surrounded by greatness. It’s an honor to be a part of this band. That would be the difference if you were forced to compare apples and oranges.”
KS: You’re coming off of a big win at this year’s Hip Hop Awards. Tell us a bit about your experience performing at the event and winning best duo or group.
MT: “Fact: Any Hip-Hop artist from Pittsburgh that has made it outside of Pittsburgh in the last 5 years has won a Pittsburgh Hip-Hop Award. We have won a total of 5 PHHAs. Sounds like the odds are in our favor, right?! Seriously though, respect & recognition are a huge part of our culture. Some would say that it is the only part of our culture. Formula412 is different. We don’t look like everyone else. We don’t show you our underwear. We play instruments. There’s a lot of hair flying around on stage. Everyone that you see on stage actually does something. We’re different. We’re an analog band/group in a solo artist’s digital world. We are not accepted at face value so we have to earn our respect every time. We typically do that on stage. Performing at the Pittsburgh Hip-Hop Awards to us is about spreading the message of creativity, positive energy, and the lost art of performance. Particularly “emceeing” in that arena. Overall, we are just happy that people can accept what we do and appreciate it. After that we don’t care if it’s a Grammy or a Pittsburgh Hip-Hop Award. Nothing beats respect earned.”
KS: Your upcoming CD release is going to be held at Mr. Smalls. You also record your albums there. What’s the relationship?
MT: “Larry Luther (owner, engineer) is the 6th member of Formula412, period. We look at him like a brother. He wants us to win, believes in what we do, and cares so much more about the music than the money. He’s always there for us. Mike Speranzo and Liz Berlin have always been extremely supportive and inclusive as well. Being able to trust and rely on an extended family like Mr. Small’s is a huge weight off of an independent artist’s shoulders. They understand successful independent musicians/business owners because they are successful independent musicians/business owners. Mr. Small’s is one of the big reasons that we don’t go out of town to record our album. There is no other studio in Pittsburgh that could facilitate a project like ours. We wouldn’t be where we are without them.”
KS: What made you choose local acts Dream Job and Sonji‘s new project Jacklucy to share the bill on your release?
MT: “We love their music and they are dope. That’s pretty much how we make every decision.”
KS: Your music obviously has a message. Your new album is entitled “Reality Show” – what’s the story behind that?
MT: “When you think about a “reality show” the camera is always on. It’s going to capture some great moments, but it’s also going to capture some not so great moments. We started shooting a documentary the day we stopped promoting and touring our last album. The camera was always on and it started to capture both sides of our coin – the good moments and the not so good. The only way to write this album was to tell both sides. This is OUR “reality show”. As an artist it pushed me to just write about what I was thinking about in that moment instead of coming up with a topic and then thinking about how I could write the song. That was a very new process for me. As a band we just started to play music instead of choosing a tempo, a key, or a particular style. This album is more stripped down and raw (musically and lyrically) because that’s who we really are. It’s not really a concept album, it’s an approach, an angle. A very sharp one in fact… And that’s reality.”
Wow! Fave interview to-date. I won’t ruin these words with my ramblings – they speak for themselves.