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Mr. Lif

The Lessons in the Dreads

With a head full of dreads, a mouthful of rhymes and unique style that sets him apart from the hip-hop MC masses, Mr. Lif is on the verge of releasing his second LP after dedicating most of the last four years to group projects.

The lyricist, and many of his Def Jux labelmates, has become synonymous with East Coast underground hip-hip, but Lif actually resided in Berkeley from 2001 to 2004. SF Station caught up with him recently during a phone interview. His new CD Moí Mega hits stores June 13th.

SF Station (SFS): What lured you to California in 2001?

Mr. Lif: I was dating this girl -- thatís how it works so often -- and we were in Boston for six months and she got into UC Berkeley. I had always wanted to go out to Cali anyway and it was just a perfect opportunity, so I just ran with it. It was definitely great times out there.

SFS: How long have you been growing your dreadlocks?

Mr. Lif: Itís going to be 11 years, I think, this June. Itís been a minute.

SFS: Have you ever considered chopping them off, like Busta Rhymes?

Mr. Lif: Iíve had times where I was actually having some pretty bad headaches because I had one huge Congo lock that was sitting on top of my head for about a decade. I had to actually cut that down the middle because it grew over my eyes and the headaches became unbearable. That was a huge, huge thing for me.

They are such a big part of who I am and I just feel very comfortable with them. I feel like I learn a lot from the experience. Itís a test in patience. With my locks, they are always evolving into to something else. Thereís always a new beginning and itís good to have a reminder of that as a part of me.

Right now, Iím looking at some of my locks and wondering if one is getting weak and about to break, but when I feel down to the base of it, thereís a whole new start and it is probably going to end of being the biggest one on my head in a couple of years. Itís a good reminder to have with me all the time -- new beginnings.

SFS: Youíve said the theme in making your last LP I Phantom was ďShit or get off the pot.Ē Was there a similar them when you were making Moí Mega?

Mr. Lif: I wouldnít choose the same words, but there was definitely a similar type of theme going on because four years between records was not what I set out to do when I started making music. I never wanted a hiatus that long, but it just kind of happened. There was definitely a sense of urgency.

This record was challenging in so many ways. Iíve never written so many songs in the course of making an album. I probably have another half of a record that didnít make it onto this record. When EL-P came on the production team, it became very much about making something that sounded very cohesive that had a sound that was more consistent and balanced. Some songs that I loved just didnít fit on to this record, which is cool for me because I have this album, but I also have another one that Iím at least halfway through with that I feel very strongly about. Thatís going to make it so I donít half to deal with another hiatus thatís anything like the one I just went through.

Itís good; for the first time in my career I feel like I have some shit stockpiled.