Ivan Ives is a goddamned prolific rapper. And he’s done so doing it by himself. He started his own label (No Threshold Records) to put out records his way and at his pace. See how the native of the USSR deals with Racket’s bullshit:
Whatttttup!? I have been on a huge IPA kick, how do you prefer to get yer buzz on?
What’s good man! I’m always drinking coffee, a lot of cups a day. That’s pretty much enough to have me literally buzzing all day and every day. But if it’s time for alcohol why wouldn’t I take some Vodka; I mean – I’m Russian, right? How about some Putinka?
I don’t know what that is. Is it named after Putin?
Never really thought about it. I have a KGB tattoo though on the bottom of my foot.
Have you ever heard a hook and thought “Dammmmmit, I totally shoulda come up with that?”
Nah, not everything is a competition. When I hear a great hook in hip hop I’m like, “Finally. No one’s writing good hooks these days.” And of course I get ideas from everything I hear, even if it’s bad.
Your originally from the USSR, when did you make your way to the US?
“I moved from the USSR, to the USA, NYC to be exact, the BK. Grew up ILL then moved to LA, thus I’m mo’ ILLA” – that’s something I spit on an old song in 2006 called “Guttermouth” to explain my childhood situation. I was pretty young when I moved here, so I’m more or less a full-blooded American. But I’ll never forget my roots.
Are you a US citizen or do you have a weird immigration status?
Haha, I’m a citizen. For now.
Do you identify with Russia at all? Do you get upset if peeps don’t see a difference between the USSR and Russia?
Yeah, I do. I grew up in a Russian household here in America so I’m very accustomed to Russian culture (and especially cuisine). Russia was the USSR under communism. Some people are too ignorant to realize it wasn’t always a communist country. And anyway, so now it’s back, but not really; and there are still a bunch of communists there. It’s just kind of a weird and magical place with golden fountains and broken down projects a few exits on the subway away.
I assume you’re a legal immigrant, then. What are your thoughts about illegal immigrants?
Haha, yeah, I’m legal. I think that bureaucracy makes everything harder, including moving to a new country.
Do you hate that Beatles song? You KNOW which one.
“Back in the USSR”? Arhm, yeah, no comment.
Do you hate The Beatles? At least their name? That’s a pretty terrible spelling.
I’d say I hate the Beatles, but doesn’t everyone hate the Beatles? Or does everyone love them? I can never remember.
Do you think the USSR wouldn’t have dissolved if they had In N Out?
I think In N Out is the key to existence.
Dur. You have a mind-boggling amount of material you’ve put out; do you think you’d be able to do that much being on someone else’s label?
Shit no. I’d be shelved and limited. I’ve put out about a dozen or so releases now in the last few years, and I’m happy with all of them. I’ve actually had some pretty fucked up experiences with slimy sleazeballs offering to sign me to major labels and signing half of my life away to them before. I’m sure it’s up on YouTube somewhere, someone has put it up I’m sure.
I love being an independent artist.
What’s the biggest annoyance of having your own label?
People wanting to be on it. I have my hands full already with my solo career and my multiple projects, as well as my film endeavors. So when I have to start managing a few other artists it becomes extra strenuous. And when I even think about having more artists on the label than I already do, my ears start to leak blood.
Metal. As part of your prolific works, you’ve had more than your fair share of guest MCs. Anyone you’ve been trying to hunt down?
Yup. There’s always people I wanna get on my tracks. I’m trying to figure out a way to get Method Man on a track someday soon.
Tell me about this video-a-month thing you’ve set up.
First of the Month. Instead of dropping an album in 2010, I’m dropping a new single on the first of every month. And a video to go with it (for the most part). Fans can follow along and buy the singles as I release them, and at the end of the year you’ll have my full album sitting in your iTunes. Cool, right? Here’s the last one:
Are there any tips you have for someone doing their own thing?
Use the Internet. Fuck printing out fliers and handing them out to people on the street. That’s the old paradigm, man. Plus it’s bad for the environment. Just use the Internet. Be smart. Learn how to type. Learn how to spell properly also. Or just use spell check. Being an ignorant manufactured artist isn’t cool anymore.
You’d think that spell check would be the most used tool of the digital age, but instead, I think it’s the “MySpace angle” for photographing yourself to look thinner.
Fuckin A, man. You can’t even imagine how many trickers are out there. A tricker is a chick that has a bunch of manipulated photos to make herself look hot. Back when I used to be a little more of a sleazeball and meet up with chicks from MySpace (2003-2006 roughly), I used to meet up with so many fat girls and then go through great troubles to try to ditch them mid-date. Shit was NOT easy. I remember I met one girl that told me she looked great behind a drum set, and when I met up with her I realized why she said that. The drum set covered her 360lbs of poorly maintained bod. I got nothing against the chubbs, but when you get to that point there’s just something seriously wrong.
Besides poor spelling, what’s the worst thing a young artist can do?
Probably get AIDS? You don’t want to get AIDS right when you’re on the come up. Stay away from that Hi-5, kids. And don’t share blunts with people that have cold sores. I’m not a fan of public shared smoking at all. I also keep hand sanitizer in my car at all times. But really, just make what you want to make. Never cater.
–Interview by Jonathan “the Emperor” Yost