The group is a meeting of the minds between MCs Ah-Deli and Foundation Mecca, plus producer and beatmaker Konscience Beatz who live in Donelson, Pegram and Columbia, Tenn., respectively.
If you’re seeking trap beats or navel-gazing Soundcloud histrionics, you’ll want to look elsewhere. If the soulful vintage grooves and streetwise yet optimistic vibes of greats like Yasiin Bey, Talib Kweli and the late MF DOOM are in your wheelhouse, you’re sure to pick up what Heru Heru is putting down on their new LP The Legacy an expression of the social and artistic movement they call “heal hop,” which is also the name of their 2019 album. Just ahead of The Legacy’s release, I caught up with Ah-Deli.
Tell me about your musical upbringing.
Grew up in Nashville. Went to MTSU for philosophy. Was going to go to law school, but I’m not the argumentative type. Should’ve studied music. [Laughs] After graduation, I moved to New York City. Lived there for a few years and totally immersed myself in the experience.
The Legacy out now
Was it a love of hip-hop that guided you there?
Definitely. I grew up on Tupac, Nas, Biggie, Mobb Deep. … And being able to go to New York, work there and walk the same streets while listening to their music got me even deeper into it. I lived there for two years, but continue to go there all the time, and made close friends.
What was your musical journey up to that point?
Born in ’85. Heard Snoop Dogg’s “Gin and Juice” when I was 8. I’d heard Vanilla Ice and MC Hammer, and didn’t like it. But I loved listening to Snoop, Warren G and DJ Quik and picturing Long Beach, California. Then, when I was about 12 or 13 I got into Nas’ Illmatic. The West Coast guys were my gateway, but the East Coast rappers were what stuck. Just so lyrically expressive. Wise beyond their years.
When did you start making music?
In 2000, when I found this program at Staples called Acid 2.0. I brought it home, made a beat, rapped on the computer mic, made a song, and thought it wasn’t too bad. Then I brought it to school and my friend was like, “This is trash.” I was like, “Damn!” At the same time, that’s the real world. I was like, “I have to go harder.” I didn’t quit. Twenty-something years later, I’m still doing that … just better at it now. [Laughs]
“Hip-hop is on its deathbed,” Foundation declares on the track “Mind Right” from The Legacy. Is that addressing the one-dimensionality of some contemporary rap styles?
Yes. Our intention is to bring back hip-hop, as it was. We feel like the world needs it. Look at the charts. It’s all nonsense. Money’s the motivation, rather than uplifting people. I grew up on the wisdom of artists like Nas, so to have experienced that, and now what we have today, there’s a disconnect. We have to bridge the gap … heal people through hip-hop.
I read in your bio that you had a face-to-face encounter with the late DMX.
I happened to know the producer he was working with when he was recording The Exodus, his final album, in Franklin. I was star-struck but I kept my cool, didn’t bother him. But I certainly didn’t expect to rap with him. Then, on a Friday, I’d just laid down after getting home from work … and I got a call at about 11 from my friend saying “X is here, swing by.”
I went there and he was drinking shots of moonshine. He offered me one, and I don’t drink, but it was X, so I couldn’t not … and three of those later, he challenged me to rap. Ten of the Ruff Ryders are there, they have their cameras out, it’s 1 in the morning, we’re drunk … and nothing was coming for me. I dropped the one thing I could think of, and X did not go easy. [Laughs]
He gave me four words of wisdom: “Have a full clip.” I’ll never forget that.
What’s your take on Nashville hip-hop?
There’s so many talented artists in their own lane, it varies so much. But I think that’s a beautiful thing. It lives in the shadows of all the other music here, but we’re looking to change that. Now is the time.