Burlington artist Headphone Jack has just released an interesting and ambitious album, Green Drink, a project with a purpose: "11 tracks that focus on politics, environmental justice, social justice, and other struggles facing our generation." Clearly, this is a gentleman with a thing or two to say, so I had to interview him. We rapped about influences, goals, and the curiously huge moat that separates UVM campus from the rest of the Queen City.
VTHH: You've made the unusual stylistic decision to rap "about things" rather than rap about rapping. What kind of path led you to make such an urgent album?
Headphone Jack: In high school, I started to become extremely concerned about climate change, and the lack of action surrounding it, and the lack of fear/urgency from all of the people around me. I couldn't believe that so many people who knew about the science were still not concerned. I started doing all the personal things -- changing light bulbs, riding my bike instead of driving, composting, weatherizing my house. I also started to get involved with some of the local environmental groups.
At UVM I discovered the fossil fuel divestment movement, and have been heavily involved in that struggle and related ones ever since. It was also at UVM that I was introduced to radical politics - growing up, I thought it was just Republicans in office that were the problem. Now I understand that there are systemic issues in our political system and our economic system that go much, much deeper than that. Furthermore, I've learned a lot more about my own privileges, which are immense. Understanding (though still not fully) privilege and oppression and inequality drives/motivates me just as urgently as the extremely urgent global issue of climate change does.
VTHH: Is this your first project, or have you released albums under other names?
Headphone Jack: This is my first hip-hop project. I'm a serious jazz musician as well though, and have performed with tons of different jazz groups, small and large.
VTHH: What brings you to Vermont?
Headphone Jack: As I said, I was already super concerned about climate change and other issues such as poverty while in high school. I knew I wanted to devote my life to creating positive change. I felt and still feel a responsibility to do so as someone who was unfairly and luckily born into a place of privilege. UVM seemed like a great place to get started. Strong liberal politics and activism, and one of the better environmental programs of any school in the country. I also really like the area, the music scene, and I have extended family that lives here.
VTHH: What is your sense of the hip hop scene here so far?
Headphone Jack: I don't know much about the hip hop scene here. I know at least 10-20 people off the top of my head from my high school that have pursued rapping in a serious way, and many others that freestyle for fun. I grew up in a vibrant hip hop culture. That's not the case here, but I've been learning recently about some cats who are doing it, and doing it well. The ones I'm aware of are Gunthree Galileo (although he's home in California right now), Galactic Brown, J Rubi (who just moved here from Spain), and Ler Stevens. And we all remember King Bread, of course. In terms of producers, Wreckognition made several of the beats on my album, and I just met another dope producer named Andrew Goss.