Stolen From Africa is a movement placed into material items. The company was started by Toronto rap group, Mutescreamz Mentaltainment, a group composed of local artists Unknown Mizery and Logikal Ethix. The two men have been putting in work for years, grinding and establishing a presence in Toronto by rapping on various music projects heard on the streets while maintaining a positive message to the cityâ€™s youth. Shifting their focus towards clothing, Stolen From Africa has gained more notoriety, enabling them to spread their movement of discussion and education further into the public eye.
“The new definition of a colonizer is a state of mind, not a skin tone. Our movement is about freedom, equality and justice for all.”
Format: Please explain the concept and development process for Stolen From Africa?
Unknown Mizery: Well basically, it started what two years ago?
Logikal Ethix: Yeah, we started in about 2004 and it really evolved in itself. It really just started out as one T-shirt we made just to compliment our rhymes, performance-wise and whatnot. From there, people kept coming up to ask asking us about the shirts and where they could get them. And that was going on for like a whole year straight. So after a while we just said, â€˜You know what, lets just go with whatâ€™s happening and market these shirts,â€™ and it just blew from there.
Format: Although there have been some negative responses, based primarily on misunderstandings of your movement, there are obviously a lot of positive things coming from Stolen From Africa. Letâ€™s hear about those.
Unknown Mizery: In my heart, what really makes me see it as a movement is that it really brought the community together. I see a lot of faces nowadays that I didnâ€™t really see before, but they were doing the same thing as us, we just never met up and mobilized together, before. So it has done that â€“ acted as a tool to mobilize our community. People know itâ€™s their movement, not just Unknown Mizery and Logikalâ€™s.
“In my heart, what really makes me see it as a movement is that it really brought the community together.”
Format: Mutescreamz has been doing a high school tour in various areas of GTA. Can you explain how you were involved in that and what it is about?
Logikal Ethix: Basically, we got hooked up with an opportunity to perform at Metro Hall in December of `05 for a youth leadership graduation ceremony. It was to honor kids who graduated out of various problematic areas of the city like Malvern, Regent Park, etcetera. We got shown a lot of love from people there, from various politicians and officials, including mayor David Miller. From there we got the contacts of various guidance councilors from different schools and it set off like a chain reaction from when we did our first school, Mark Garneau in Scarborough. Principles were coming up to us to support our whole movement and invited us to their schools, and from there it just sparked off into a whole tour.
Unknown Mizery: I think a reason it popped so well is because we take a real world attitude towards talking to the youth, rather than the classic stay in school, donâ€™t do drugs. We work on a real level; no preaching to these youths, because weâ€™re all human and we can all learn from each other. We bring up topics of colonialism, Africaville and areas of oppression that need to be dealt with.
Logikal Ethix: As far as oppression, we like to talk about things people donâ€™t know about, especially things in Canada such as Africaville. This was a vibrant community in Nova Scotia that was completely destroyed by the government and now itâ€™s turned into a place where middle class people go to walk their dogs. Thatâ€™s interesting, you know. So we just try to bring up these factors that are missing, `cause a lot of the time theyâ€™re not part of our history books, despite being so important. History is always told by the conqueror and not the conquered, and right now it just seems like the masses want to see the other half of the story.
Unknown Mizery: The youths are very receptive to it, too â€“ and I mean all of the youths. We talk to every background, every religion and they are all interested in these issues.
Format: Both of you have been on MTV and TVOâ€™s Voxtalk. Why do you think the media reaches out to you and how has the response been with it?
Logikal Ethix: Well, people are definitely hungry for something like this right now and the way I see it is that, basically if you are doing anything that is outside of the norm, people are going to be curious about it and enticed by it. Especially with our topic, thereâ€™s a lot to be talked about within it and the way that we go about it â€“ without trying to dictate our particular opinion on it to people, but rather try to get the world to talk about it â€“ the media has definitely gravitated towards us for that and been very supportive of us. Weâ€™ve been on MTV numerous times. They always let us know that weâ€™re welcome. Voxtalk always shows us a lot of love, too. Respect to them both.
Format: You said you started off with the SFA shirts as a single shirt made to compliment your rhymes while you were on stage. From that shirt the movement gained a lot of momentum. Why do you think the movement grew so much with these T-shirts, and how does raising awareness on a shirt compare with doing it through rapping and music?
Unknown Mizery: Well itâ€™s all in semiotics kind of, right. Thereâ€™s certain affects to things that you hear and others for what you see. Really, the clothing is just like the music, itâ€™s just the visual medium for our message.
Logikal Ethix: Clothing and what you wear is a big statement. No matter what you wear, from a tuxedo to a bandana, youâ€™re expressing some kind of message regardless. So in wearing something like the SFA shirt you are putting out a message. And itâ€™s just not one that people see every day, so itâ€™s very effective like that. Random people will approach you if you walk down Yonge Street with it on, asking if itâ€™s positive or negative or what. From there the conversation starts and thatâ€™s what we want. A lot of times I engage in conversations with people I wouldnâ€™t normally talk to, simply because of my shirt. And thatâ€™s just me. Basically the shirts open up doors for discussion between ideas that donâ€™t usually come into contact with one another.
Unknown Mizery: Everywhere I go I read things, whether itâ€™s consciously or not. So if someone walks down the street with something to read on them and itâ€™s a message that is thought provoking, you donâ€™t even need to talk to that person for the movement to take action, because an internal discussion is already taking place.
Format: What about the profits from these shirts, where are they going?
Logikal Ethix: Well right now we are still in the mindset of a small company trying to build, because essentially thatâ€™s what we are. Expanding the movement is definitely the main concern, so I think for now weâ€™re just trying to flip our money and bring it back. We definitely want to branch out into more programs trying to sponsor community events and even scholarships for the youth. Those are all things that we think about on a regular basis, but they are still long-term goals.
Unknown Mizery: That stuff will all come, believe that. But basically, right now, we have to feed the baby. Just feed the baby, man. Once it grows and gets strong thatâ€™s when we can put it to other works. For now itâ€™s just all about feeding this movement and helping it grow. Itâ€™s basically all out of our pockets right now anyways.
“I think a reason it popped so well is because we take a real world attitude towards talking to the youth, rather than the classic stay in school, donâ€™t do drugs.”
Format: OK, so whatâ€™s going on with the upcoming album, Plantation Music?
Unknown Mizery: Thatâ€™s basically the next joint weâ€™re gonna be putting out. With this album, weâ€™ve really learned how to channel our thoughts properly. Itâ€™s an album for the masses, its true music. Iâ€™m not trying to sound too cocky but we put a lot of effort into every single track so Iâ€™m just really proud of it.
Logikal Ethix: All of the production is by Soul For Hire and some of the features include Mathematik, Lal, Kamau of Pangea Project, KDB, Mayhem Morearty and more. A lot of representation as far as features and this is going to be a full album. We recorded around 40 tracks and narrowed it down, and even that was really tough `cause we put so much effort into each individual one.
Unknown Mizery: On previous albums we really just had sessions where we pumped out the tracks, It will Fall was done in two weeks. We were on reading week and just vibed out on cheese sauce and 50 cent buns for a week straight. With Plantation Music we took our time though. Itâ€™s a real album. Itâ€™s not going to be sold on the street. Weâ€™re talking about distribution with some people trying get it in stores. Itâ€™s due out in September and there will be some street mix CDs put out from us before then, just keep your eyes open for those.
Logikal Ethix: Look out for the tours, too. We will be opening for Pharoahe Monch for Canadian Music Week on March 10 at the Opera House and thatâ€™s going to be the start of trying to get some buzz with this album. Weâ€™ve been in the eye of the media for a minute, but so far it hasnâ€™t really been about the music and thatâ€™s the reason we even got into any of this. So weâ€™re trying to bring it back to that now.
Format: What else is in the works for Stolen From Africa as a company, what can we expect to see in the future from you guys?
Unknown Mizery: From what we have in the works, what we can say is that soon youâ€™ll be seeing shoes, hats, bandanas and other methods of wearing the statement that weâ€™re trying to get out.
Logikal Ethix: It basically started with one design, but there is a lot in the works. Weâ€™re going to be working with designers like Curtis James and the people at Big It Up, people who are our elders and are established that have really reached out to us young bucks trying to start something fresh.
“…truly, Iâ€™m happy as long as it points discussion and provokes thoughts of oppression, and how it affects us today.”
Format: What do you guys want the world to think when they see the phrase â€œStolen From Africa?â€
Unknown Mizery: One by one, I say, you say what you say and Iâ€™ll say what I say, and letâ€™s take it from there.
Logikal Ethix: Whenever people ask us, we try to flip it and ask what anyone else thinks it might mean and really thatâ€™s the idea behind the movement. But truly, Iâ€™m happy as long as it points discussion and provokes thoughts of oppression, and how it affects us today. Also, I just want to make it clear that itâ€™s not a bash on any particular people or race.
Unknown Mizery: That is definitely a very important point to make. We are not pointing a finger at any race or people when we talk about colonizers. The new definition of a colonizer is a state of mind, not a skin tone. Our movement is about freedom, equality and justice for all.
More Info: http://www.stolenfromafrica.com