It's a frequent complaint of mine that today's generation of emcees seems to be completely disconnected from the political and economic realities of the 21st century. At a time when the uneven distribution of wealth has reached levels not seen since the 1920's, there's been almost no counterbalance in hip hop to the celebration of one percenterism found in an album like Watch The Throne. It was a refreshing change of pace, then, to hear Sintex Era's recent single Trickle Down, a verbal dismantling of the current status quo.
The bio that came along in the email with the single mentioned that the Ohio-born Sintex was, "a reckless accountant by day who moonlights as an MC by party time." After exchanging a couple of emails with him, it became clear that he was a really sharp guy who had a pretty strong message to deliver. He agreed to answer a few questions, and the result is an interview that covers everything from the current state of hip hop to an explanation of Reaganism to advice for future revolutionaries. So first check out the song below, and then read on to see what Sintex had to say:
Your bio says that you are an accountant, and that you worked in Manhattan. Can you tell me what firm you work for? Or if not, can you give us some sense of how big the firm is?
I work at one of the biggest entertainment companies in the world...it's constantly on the tip of everybody's tongue. I won't name the company, as my views don't represent theirs, and I'm not being paid to represent the company in this manner. I'm just paid to account for their numbers...in Manhattan, I was the accountant responsible for one of their "smaller" subsidiaries. The company transferred me out here to the Bay Area to take on bigger responsibilities for one of their bigger divisions, and now I'm responsible for a large number of assets and high-level financial reporting. My 'Clark Kent' side isn't too difficult to find on the net. [Ed. Note: Confirmed. He works for a huge corporation that you are likely exposed to in some form or another every day.]
It seems like it would require a pretty big change in your world view to go from being an accountant to putting out songs that speak out against the corporate world that you're a part of with your day job. What was the turning point for you that inspired you to put out a song like "Trickle Down?"
I'll be honest with you, Fresh. Before I'd even finished college, I'd seen Corporate America try to destroy members of my family. So while I came into this corporate culture myself, I'd already had it in my mind that this system was an accepted evil. Throughout my career, I've seen the vile practices of Capitalism first hand...even had to carry them out myself. I'm no snitch, because (*Hyman Roth voice) THIS IS THE BUSINESS I CHOSE.
However, during and after the so-called Great Recession, I realized that even white-collar workers were being screwed over. We're doing TRIPLE the work with no raises, while the people on top are still getting big bonuses and higher salaries. In talking to people who are on the same level as me in Corporate America, I realized that this is the trend. So I decided to make a song for all of us. The good thing about leading the proverbial double-life is that my alter-ego can look at what I'm doing for a living and say, "Yo, this shit is WACK."
One of the problems I think some people have had with embracing the Occupy movement is that its scope seems to be so large that, unlike more traditional protests, it doesn't really have a narrow set of goals or demands that the average person can easily rally behind. What do you see as the goal of the Occupy movement and what changes do you think it can realistically achieve when all is said and done?
The Occupy movement realizes that there's something wrong, yet folks can't put their finger on exactly what's messed up. They know that profits are still at pre-Great Recession levels (even better in many cases), and that the entities responsible for this downward spiral haven't felt the anguish that the rest of us have felt. They've seen the so-called 99% struggle, while the folks on top are still precariously guiding the system and living their extravagant lives.
But, as you said, the movement hasn't consolidated their goals. Their talking points are obscured, to the point that all they can all agree on is that the 99% is getting screwed. This is very true, but they have to say exactly why and what they want to do to change this. They have to present the argument as something that Congress will have to vote on, as the Civil Rights movement did back in the 60's. Until this is done, they'll continue to get booed during their rallies by other self-righteous 99%-ers who ridicule them as a bunch of white unemployed college graduates.
Your latest song is called, "Trickle Down." Can you talk a little bit about the concept of Trickle Down Economics and why it hasn't worked? Defenders of trickle down typically accuse those who are against it as being socialists; in your mind is that the alternative to our current system? Or is there a way for capitalism to work in our society without there being the sort of inequalities that you talk about in your song?
'Trickle Down Economics' (or 'Reagonomics') is this bullshit economic theory that if the Federal, state, and local governments look out for businesses and the top individual economic earners (i.e. giving them tax breaks on income and capital gains), then it will benefit everybody. For instance, that billionaire who owns all of the business should get a tax cut, so that he can use that excess money to hire more workers and/or invest in the industries that help others earn more wages. This excess money will trickle through all of the different workers, and eventually end up at the "bottom"...that plumber who cleans the shit out of the toilets for that business that the billionaire started with his tax savings. That's the basic theory of 'Trickle Down Economics'.
The 'Trickle Down' system hasn't worked. Look at the last thirty years, in which we saw the maniacal decrease of the tax rate for the top earners of this country. Guess what? The top 1% has seen their income INCREASE at an exponential rate, while everybody else has seen their incomes stay the same (even decrease by some estimates). It doesn't work. Numbers don't lie. People may disagree on ideology, but all agree that 2+2=4. Trickle Down Economics don't work. I'm an accountant...don't trust me. Just ask me to prove it to you.
Capitalism can only exist with haves and have-nots, and it was definitely this way before Reagonomics. But the pre-Reagan era was a tad different...while there were always rich people screwing over everybody else, it wasn't that glaring insult of uniform income inequality that it's become in the last 30 years. The last time it was this bad was before the Great Depression and FDR. And that in turn led to the Great Depression and FDR.
In short (excuse my misanthropy), human beings aren't yet capable of either pure Capitalism or pure Socialism. Human beings are greedy, and in order for either system to work out, greed must be set aside for the greater good of society. We're not there yet. That's why pure Socialism hasn't worked since Western Europe took control of world economics, and that's why Capitalism always goes apeshit evil when it's allowed to run wild. 'Trickle Down Economics' is Capitalism being allowed to run wild.
From my viewpoint of hip hop, it seems that the genre has evolved into something that's completely apolitical now. There's always been an undercurrent of materialism in mainstream hip hop, but that was traditionally balanced out by more political or conscious groups like Public Enemy, BDP, Native Tongues, Ice Cube. Now with this current generation (at least within the mainstream), dominated by the likes of Young Money, Maybach Music, even Kanye and Jay-Z, the only message in the music seems to be instructions on accumulating and spending wealth. I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on the current state of hip hop, and what you think the music's emphasis on this sort of wealth fantasy is having on its audience.
Negative. Maybe I was just too young to remember, but hip hop acts with a deeper political, social and moral message didn't used to be called "conscious rappers". Even NWA was bringing a very important political message between their "I guess I'll be a nigga 4 life" hooks. Now cats who want to talk about what's really going on are compared to Common, Jay Electronica, or just considered old school and outdated. Being socially conscious is just a gimmick these days. Nobody wants to hear it anymore, unless it's a filler song. If rich MCs were actually giving cats instructions on how to get wealth, that'd be a great thing. But cats are just flashing money in their audiences' faces, like "Look what I got!" So now, people are just following that example. Sorry, I can't really answer this question without sounding like an old grumpy fuck.
Further on that point, who do you see as the party responsible for the direction that hip hop has taken: the emcees themselves, or the corporations that are signing and promoting these artists?
Responsibility is in this order:
(3) Corporations. Supply and emand.
(2) MCs. They write the shit. They're no better than corporate puppets who lay off entire communities just for a profit.
(1) The audience. One pure thing about Capitalism is supply and demand. The corporations and artists supply what the audience demands.
As far as hip hop's reaction to the Occupy movement, one of the most interesting responses that I've seen came from NYOIL aka Kool Kim from the UMC's. Essentially his stance was that the black community has historically played the role of the marginalized "99%" since the founding of this country, and the largely white middle class that seems to be the driving force behind the Occupy movement by and large enabled that marginalization of the black community. So his reasoning for not supporting OWS basically comes down to, "Why should I help those who never helped me?" I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on that sentiment, as it's something I've heard a few times within hip hop.
I agree with [Kool Kim] on this. Some even see the OWS movement as being a bunch of spoiled white suburbanites who are unable to get jobs...if they were employed and making a decent living, they wouldn't be out in the streets protesting. It's amazing how easily Americans of non-color forget that they're getting fucked over the same way that Americans of color are getting fucked over. They tend to forget that the middle class was simply created to be a buffer between the haves and have-nots. This movement shows that the powerful forces have pushed the envelope too far, and now the appeased class of the nation is angry. But their anger at the system isn't in defense of Black folks and other people of color...their anger is more like "Hey, don't fuck ME over, too."
But with that being said, I think that it's a very good thing when people are rising up against Capitalist tyranny...no matter what race they are. I wish that more Black folks would either join this movement or start one of our own in this regard. Because this income inequality shit is just getting out of hand. I'm all about some good ol' class warfare.
The country's gearing up for the next set of elections, and the subject of the 2008 elections were pretty contentious on this site. My argument at the time was that the hip hop community's embrace of Obama as "our" candidate was misguided, because no matter what a candidate's intentions are going into their campaign, by the time they get to a position where they are nationally recognized they will be indebted to so many corporate lobbyists that the average citizen becomes, at best, an afterthought once that candidate is in office. My suggestion at the time was to vote for an independent candidate, and that will likely hold true again this time. With that said, I'd be interested in hearing your own thoughts on how Obama has done up to this point and which candidate you think is the most likely to take steps toward resolving some of the inequalities in this country?
The way you put this question is very important, as you are basically stating that Obama didn't run as the African-American's President, or the Liberal's President. This is very true. Obama ran with Imperialist rhetoric, and has done a very good job as an Imperialist President of an Imperialist country. And I'd rather see him in charge of this country than the Republicans...things just always seem to fuck up whenever they're in office. And they hate Obama so bad on that side that they're going to come out in droves against him...an Independent candidate would merely siphon off his votes so that a Romney could get in office. Talk about a bad situation gone worse for Americans.
To be honest, this country is too soaked in its own bullshit to make any meaningful changes at the political level. The only way things will get back on track is a revolution...and this revolution is inevitable. It's just a matter of when. Politics is merely fun to watch these days...nothing's truly going to change without a real revolution. So, with that being said, I'm rooting for Obama. I like seeing the Black dude play the game so well.
What would your advice be to someone who is looking to take some action? Let's say I'm an average office worker just getting by, what can I do? For a lot of people, as unappealing as the current status quo is, the potential risks inherent in acting out against that status quo (losing your job, jail time, etc.) are equally if not more unappealing. So what do you think an individual has to gain by working against the system?
Be smart. Wait it out. Get into the system, perform well, be a star. Don't lose thyself. Don't coon. But don't be stupid and get fired. Don't gossip. Be strategic. We need more people in the system who don't necessarily agree with it. Most people in Corporate America have sold their souls for comfort. We need more revolutionaries in high places. Because the change is coming. But don't go shooting your one gun at an army full of loyalists...you'll lose a losing battle, and nothing will change. Wait and be strong. The time is coming.
(I mean "gun" in a metaphorical sense, future foes)
Suppose the Occupy movement fizzles out, and the Corporate influence over our society remains unchallenged. What do you see as the end result of this, say 10 - 15 years down the road?
OWS is definitely going to die out, but that doesn't mean that the sentiments will die with it. And that doesn't mean that corporate barons won't keep being corporate barons. The current state of affairs is simply not sustainable. I would give it a maximum of 15 years before the people of this country, no matter their race, join together and topple the system as we know it. And 15 years is really stretching it. Shit, it might happen this year. But it won't be in the form of OWS, even though it'll branch of from OWS.
I know you have a new album coming out in March, "Black Tea." Can you give us some details on the album? Are the songs going to be in the same vein as "Trickle Down," or should we expect something else?
Glad you asked this question. Are the songs like "Trickle Down"? No and yes. No, there aren't any more specifically political songs on the album. Yes, every song is like "Trickle Down". This album is about the indulgences of our society, with me actually diving in and joining the party. However, in joining this Roman orgy of a culture that ours has become, I have some comments about the things that I'm engaging in. In "Trickle Down", I'm in Corporate America, part of the culture, getting the money, playing the game, but saying, "Wait a minute. This is bullshit, too." That's also what the other songs are about, except they touch on other areas of life. Here are some song titles: "Binge", "Company Ink", "Run With It", "When It's Over".
I have alot of treats in store for this album, so stay tuned.
And there you have it! Big thanks to Sintex for taking the time out to answer all of those questions and for dropping some real knowledge on us. As mentioned in the interview he has a new album, Black Tea, coming out in March, which we'll have more details on once it's released. In the meantime, check out his video for Trickle Down: