Interview: Laineen Kasperi

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Travelling through Scandinavia IBMCs went on a special mission to Finland. IBMCs focuses on researching, documenting and archiving Hip Hop culture worldwide, so we decided to dive into the Finnish Hip Hop scene.
One of the important places for the local scene in Helsinki is The Funkiest record store, that offers a very broad range of both US and Finnish rap on vinyl and CD. After talking to Juha, the owner, it became obvious he’s been around from the start and knew all the people in the scene. We got a good selection of Finnish records and arranged interviews with some of the key artists in the local scene; Laineen Kasperi, Redrama and Jontti & Shaka.

Laineen Kasperi is a Finnish rapper, DJ and producer. He started out as the front man and producer of Lappeenranta based Hip Hop group Kaucas. They released two albums before Kasperi released his first solo album in 2007 called Seis. Before that he also released an instrumental project under the name Kontackto, his producer name. Up to now he released three studio albums and has worked with various other Finnish artists, like Steen1, Asa and Stepa.

Can you give us a short introduction about who you are and what Hip Hop means to you?

My name is Laineen Kasperi. I represent the east side style in Finland.
Hip Hop for me is the playground for communication, street level communication. It’s like the citizens news. I am only one citizen so it’s my way to tell the news that you don´t get to see on the television.

How and when did you get into contact with the Hip Hop culture?

That was Public Enemy. They did a collaboration with Anthrax, back in the 80’s. When I was little, I was into trash metal so that was the first time I heard rap.

And you were also into graffiti?

In Lappeenranta where I come from there was only one graff artist at that time when I was young. I saw his work and got interested. He was this mysterious person and I never found out who it was.
I started writing my name in ’95, but later I got caught and got into trouble so now I’m more focused on the music.

When did you start making music and what were your first experiences with recording?

When I was twelve I started playing drums. I started rapping in 1998. The first wave of rappers in Finland was really treating rap like a joke so it took a while until it got serious. We came more from the anarchist punk scene and we thought the cool thing in rap was that we were able to just say whatever we wanted. The first time I heard Finnish rap was in 1998: Fintelligens and Taakibörsta from Helsinki, and Hannibal & Soppa from Lapland. Our first gigs were with Hannibal & Soppa. Our styles were really different, they were listening to gangsta rap, like the Geto Boys and we listened more to the dark stuff, like Wu-Tang’s first album.
Right now I have released three albums. My album Saatana Saapuu Sörnäisiin is also released on vinyl.

Do you listen to international Hip Hop? Who are your biggest influences?

I listen to some international Hip Hop yes, but not so much. I was a bit late into the Internet thing and before that the international stuff was hard to find. I know some Russian rap, like MC Smetana and some Swedish stuff.
My first influences were Wu Tang, Company Flow and I have to say Cypress Hill, definitely.

Have you done any international collabo’s and which artists would you still like to work with?

I did some work with a Canadian artist and Markus from Istanbul, he also did some worldwide rap thing. That Russian artist, MC Smetana, I would like to work with sometime. Also Ken Ring from Sweden. He once said in public that the queen sucks and got in big trouble for that.
And this guy, Amoc, he raps in the Sami language, it would be cool to do something with him too.

Did you do any performances outside Finland?

I performed in Moscow, St Petersburg, Berlin, Hamburg, Zürich, and I’m gonna do a tour in Spain and Portugal, which is gonna be really interesting. It has to be more about the music then, since they don’t understand my lyrics.

Do you collect vinyl?

I only buy old records, like jazz. Old stuff to sample.

Is vinyl still important and relevant today?

Yea, it’s relevant, but I think the people need to understand that again. It’s  hard to sell vinyl nowadays, there’s maybe a couple of hundred people, but that’s not enough. Because of the downloading from the Internet the sales go down, but the Internet is also a good thing, to get in touch with the music and it can never replace the live shows.
I think the value of CD’s has gone down and the value of live shows has gone up. That creates a good balance.
And if you look at the heavy metal people, they still buy a lot of records, so it is different in the different scenes. The punks don’t really buy anything.

What do you think of the Hip Hop scene in Finland? The difference between the start and now, the underground and the mainstream.

It has changed. There is not that big hype anymore and it developed more in depth of the lyrics and music. Now you see smart, college type guys and not only the fucked up people thinking about rhyme schemes and stuff.
It has become more colorful, more experimental. 10 years ago everybody tried to copy the American style, but now there is this own Finnish style developing.
The big difference between the underground and the mainstream is what they talk about. The mainstream rappers don’t talk about anything. They always have to please somebody upstairs. In the underground they can say what they want, so it is much more honest.
I think it’s all about staying hungry. When you make your bread with music you lose the hunger to create better things. To create something good you got to stay hungry, stay in the underground. Shaka saw that really clearly at one point.
In some places it is the other way around, that the real creativity comes out when they start to make money, but in Finland it’s like this.
In Finland the underground MC’s even sell better because they make better music. The big record companies see that too, but they know they can’t get those artists.
It is nice to see how the Hip Hop here really tries to create its own style, we forget about the rules set in the American styles and for example use the traditional Finnish folk music in samples.

How does the Hip Hop culture influence the world, for example in politics and street life?

The influence I’m interested in is that on the youth. And not about the masses, but more about the individuals. I get kind of scared to see 500 people screaming in the same way, in the same direction. I like it more intimate, speaking to one person, like a book.
And Hip Hop is a worldview. It’s like anarchy. Not only in politics, it’s about everything. It’s a way of life and it’s constantly changing. It always has to be fresh, so it can’t really have traditions. It has to change and so it is eternal.

Do you have a message in your music?

Yes, I think so. But it’s also changing. I don’t plan it, I just say what I want to say. I have this one rhyme which says something like: ”Throughout the city, throughout the metropole, I am what I am and not what I was”. But yea, my message is about equality, positivity. Trying to show you have to calm down before you can make a revolution. When I was young I was always angry, but I see that’s not the way. If things are bad you shouldn’t make it more bad with anger or hate. Then it cannot cure. Basically I say keep on going. I know many people that have a hard life, and keep going down, I tell them to keep going on.

How is the history of Hip Hop important to you and to upcoming artists or the people who listen to the music?

Of course the history is important. You can only learn from the past. In every subject history is important.

What are other Finnish artists to look out for?

Amoc, he is good. And Ritarikunta, from Turku, really old school guys. They started in the 80’s already, in that period that the rap here was really a joke.

Do you want to give any shoutouts?

To every true Hip Hop head. And a special shout out to 28 Posse in the deep east and Kaucas crew. Kaucas is a place in Lappeenranta where it all started for me.

Where can we follow you in the future?

On my myspace, http://www.myspace.com/laineenkasperi and on the website of the record label, http://www.ahkyrecords.com.

By: Delta9 & Krecy | For international Hip Hop: http://www.ibmcs.org