Music Monday: 12 Questions With Words Hurt
Words Hurt is the latest collaborative project featuring producer Lang Vo of Austin and Brooklyn-based rapper Alaska. Self-described from the creators themselves, Words Hurt is the direct result of the ability to absorb all that’s thrown at you, but it’s the smarmy aftertaste you spit on the pavement that makes existing so much fun. Together the pair is the embodiment of using spite & self deprecation to block out the rest of the assholes clamoring for your attention.
With such intention fueling their inspiration, it is no surprise their first project together touches a lot of ground lyrically, with production fostering a darker, gritty vibe. Get a feel for yourself below, and get acquainted with Alaska and Lang Vo as they venture into the next chapter.
1. Introduce yourself – your name, where you’re from & what you do.
Alaska: My name is Tim, I am one half of the group Words Hurt, I am the one who raps and therefore the most easily replaceable. I have a family, 2 dogs, a home, a car, a day job, life insurance, and I live in New York. I am a respectable member of society, so rapping is my secret shame.
Lang: Hi, my name is Lang Vo. I’m 36. My wife and I have 6 kids between the 2 of us. I make guitars and high end hot rods at Collings Guitars and Collings Custom Craft. I grew up in Dayton, Ohio and now I live in Austin, Texas for the last 10 years. I also make the musics. I also talk too much.
2. How did you get started both individually and as a team?
Alaska: I started back before MP3s in the early 90s. Mostly rapping with friends while drinking. Eventually I started hitting up shows in the Lower East Side. Met the guys in Atoms Family, joined Atoms Family, we became part of the NYC indie hip hop scene. Can Ox formed, I was on the record. My group Hangar 18 got signed to Def Jux, put out two albums, one I am very proud of, one that I am embarrassed by (though there are a few solid jams). Toured for 5 years, we broke up, I put out some solo albums. Stopped drinking (well drastically slowed down my drinking), had a kid, stopped rapping. After a year or two started rapping again, wrote a whole bunch of shit, met Lang via twitter, took all the shit I wrote, trimmed the fat, and then you have Words Hurt.
Lang: My parents had a band when I was growing up so I was just always kind of around it. Then, I kind of worked the Columbus Hip-Hop scene in the late 90s early 2000s opening for some Jukies and Mhz affiliates. Which helped me get beats out there at the time. I had my first kid in 2005 and kind of backed off for awhile. Then I had 2 more, then got divorced, which is still fucking my life up to this day. I met my amazing wife now and she had 3 kids the same age. Brady Bunch life. I kind of free fell, music wise, for a few years just trying to do my own thing. Then, I met Tim through the Twitters 2-3 years ago maybe. We had like a 6 degrees of separation thing through that particular portal haha. He even blocked me at one point. So, I emailed apologizing for whatever I did, a lot. He is super nice said he was just grumpy. Then we emailed a bunch and found out we have a lot in common. He gave me some exposure on Syffal, which helped me get my feet back on the ground. He asked me one day to mix his mix tape since we both kind of have the same taste in things. He also listened to my music and beats. Not just in passing, like really listened to them. After I mixed his thing, I high jacked those vocals and used it as like a resume and remixed the whole thing to see if he would let me do more stuff with him.
3. How do your collaborations/partnerships work? Does one person handle one element fully or do you both work together on everything?
Alaska: I think we work somewhat individually, with a policy of open honesty. I will tell Lang if I do not like something, and I know he feels free to tell me if my shit sucks. He will apologize about it for hours, but he will tell me. Because we are in different parts of the country, we tend to work individually. A lot of times I will have a song ready to go, record it on some other instrumental, usually some mid-2000s Lil Jon shit, and send it to Lang. He will then take that and build something amazing around it, making me sound like a professional and not some mixtape asshole.
Lang: We kind of knock the songs back and forth like a racket ball. Since he’s the rapper, I feel like its his job to set the tone with what he wants to say. We do this thing I’ve never done before ( mostly because people lack the imagination ) where he raps over another beat he feels hits the spot for his vocals. Then, I strip it away and add my beat on top. He may add more vocals or tell me where he wants things to drop, beat wise and adjust it, then we pass it back and forth til we agree to move on. He’ll send me maybe 5 songs at a time. I’ll start on them and send him a basic track for timing. When he approves it, I just start piling on the sounds and we move to the next one.
4. Tell us a bit about yourself and your creative processes. When do you feel most inspired?
Alaska: My process has changed quite a bit. I used to feel this pressure to write everything in one session. Now I write when I can, or when a line or two comes to me. I usually take all the junk I wrote over a week or two, make it a song, then repeat the process. This usually lasts for 2 or 3 songs (a month or two) that are similar in theme. I will then take those three songs, pick the best parts and turn them into one song. Save the scraps, see if they work somewhere else. They usually do not, so they sit in a big file of discarded lines that will either become a spark for building something new or will sit there until I feel comfortable enough to throw them away. I repeat this process until I have a bunch of stuff I am happy with then I send it to Lang.
Lang: I only write when I’m depressed or angry, as far as my solo stuff goes .Haha. Beats though, I do when I’m in a good mood. When I have a good vibe in my soul. I used to work mostly at night but as a parent and a husband and working full time you have to get a session in where you can. I literally work on these songs in 15 minute intervals haha.
5. When does a new track feel finished to you?
Alaska: I don’t think a track is ever finished. I will always find something that irks me in a verse. I think you just have to set a deadline and let it go. Otherwise you turn into Axl Rose.
Lang: I think you can ask anybody who does any type of art and they will tell you it never sounds done. You always hear where you suck at what you do. So I’ve learned to do what I can and shoot it down the pipe.
6. What was the inspiration behind the moniker “Words Hurt”?
Alaska: It was something we said as a joke, that just kind of stuck. One of those, “That would make a great name, OK lets use it” type deals.
Lang: Inside joke we had. Like, I would make fun of how old he is or how fat he used to be and he would respond “Words hurt bro” and/or call me a racist. So…
7. What advice has really stuck with you and what was the source?
Alaska: I remember Slug told me he could show me how to live as an independent artist, first step was move out of New York because it was too expensive. He was right, but I love it here, I love being around people, but I hate interacting with them. New York is perfect for that. I am a social recluse. He was totally right, I could live a lot longer on the pittance I made as a professional musician, but I would miss being where I am. The other advice, which wasnt really to me, it was something I heard on the Adam Carolla podcast. 95% of success is just showing up. I think the percentage might be skewed a little but I do agree, once you show up, you are no longer sitting around doing nothing. You are moving, you have momentum. I fucking hate people who want shit but are afraid to take even the first step. What is the point of existing if you dont exist. So what if you fail, at least you did something. Oh and one last piece of advice was, once you are an adult, only throw yourself into projects for money or for passion. Time is too precious to waste on anything else.
Lang: Never turn down a promotion or an opportunity to do something new. This was given to me by an old man by the name of Paul Cisco. He said just take the risk and learn as you go. One time, Camu told me to be the funny ass nigga I am and make my grimey beats and fuck all people forever.
8. What are some things you’ve worked on that you are really proud of?
Alaska: The old Atoms stuff, the first Hangar album, The Crack Epidemic albums, the project I have coming up on Pig Food Records that is produced by PJ Katz and all of this stuff with Lang. I am so excited about this. I haven’t felt this kind of excitement since I first started working on the first Hangar 18 album. It is pretty electric. It is exactly what I want to hear and feel. I learned a long time ago to make music for an audience of one, me. Since then I have been trying to make the perfect rap album for my tastes, the album that I have waited my whole life to hear, this feels like it is the closest I have come, and it is all thanks to Lang.
Lang: For sure this Words Hurt project, with Tim. It’s the first time I feel like someone gets what I want and we have the same type of ear and level of imagination and creativity. I have another duo with my friend Kwam called Reinforced Steel and it brings out the militant side of me. Both these guys are always letting me ride their coattails. Also another project with my friend Clint that is not a hip-hop project. I’m excited about all this shit. haha.
9. Fill us in about your latest project.
Alaska: This is the project that started it all. When I first got my studio I started rapping over Outkast beats, mostly it was a way for me to fuck around and learn the system. I liked what I had, asked a few friends to jump on it and then I asked Lang if he would be interested in mixing it. I put it out as a mixtape titled ALKAST. Since Lang mixed it, he had the vocal stems and about a week or two after I released it he sent me the early versions of this. I immediately regretted putting out the mixtape version because this was so fucking awesome. It’s like I accidentally leaked demos. Fuck my life right? We were going to hold this to release with our next project as bonus material, but decided to say fuck it and just put it out. We both have kids and shit, good jobs, and no plans on hitting the road or being professional musicians. If anything the hope is to be like Harvey Pekar and keep that real job, stay grounded and make some extra bread off art. We decided to buck conventional wisdom and just put it out. Hopefully people hear it and enjoy it.
10. What’s up next?
Alaska: Our next project is either going to be a series of EPs or a full length. We have about 15 songs in the can right now, we are working on getting it all wrapped up. Either way it is going to be called Fuck That Pretty Boy Shit. If you like what we did here it will be more of that, less guest appearances, and hopefully sexy as all fuck.
Lang: Tim and I have more Words Hurt music coming in various forms yet to be determined. One is called Fuck That Pretty Boy Shit. It is going to bang bang. Also Reinforced Steel is dropping this fall. The Clint Watson album when it’s all finished is going to be amazing.
11. What are you listening to right now?
Alaska: I just scrubbed my iTunes dry and started all over. The only think I have on there is jazz and hip hop.
Lang: I don’t know. Bass music lately. Haha anything with rib shaking bass. A hardcore band called Get the Shot. I also love Marilyn Carino’s new album.
12. If you can pick any artist or photographer to collaborate with next album art or merch wise, who would it be?
Alaska: Romere Bearden, sure he died about 30 years ago, but still I adore his work.
Lang: Me right now haha. That’s another thing this new wave of projects has given me, a reason to make artwork again.