The Futurist: Isaiah Toothtaker Knuckles Up
We've already visited Queens to speak with Fool's Gold's latest signees, World's Fair and this week we visit Tucson, Arizona to chop it up with Isaiah Toothtaker, a guy that knows a thing or two about putting work in. Check out Isaiah's story as a rapper, tattoo-artist, father and bare-knuckle brawler.
Hip-hop is not what it was 15-years ago, especially when it comes to handling your business in the streets. Some artists choose to use social-media to sub-tweet their opposition, rather than deal with it face-to-face. Then there is 32-year-old, Isaiah Toothtaker, a rapper hailing from Tucson, Arizona, who tends to match his punch count to go along with each of his 140 characters. The dental-terrorist is also a leading member of the mid-west rap coalition, Machina Muerte.
But away from the mic, Isaiah is a tattoo artist, a business man, a father and most of all a product of his environment. The only thing spitting more ruthless than the Tucson, MC, is those on the end of one of his connected bloody-punches. Though his message is considered brandish or vulgar at times, Isaiah is one of the most honest and passionate artist in todays climate.
What was your first introduction to Hip-Hop? Was there a specific moment or body of work?
Isaiah Toothtaker: [I] Can't call out a specific moment really but Ice T's 'O.G. Original Gangster' was the first tape I ever bought, it was also a bootleg from the swap meet I got for three bucks.
I guess what really captivated me was the glamour of being a fancy-ass criminal like Wesley Snipes and those guys in 'New Jack City.' Like killing people, being violent, wearing a f--- ton of gold and loud ass clothes. That's where I first heard Ice T, the 'New Jack Hustler' video from that movie. The other shit I remember was the scene in the club with Slick Rick and Doug E. Fresh's ad-libs from the chorus of 'The Show' playing in the background and Ice T had like a fine ass b---- in both arms. Everyone was dressed in silks being all drunk. I caught vapors.
Some consider 'Illuminati Thug Mafia' (2011) as a proper introduction for you. Since then you've released numerous bodies of work and collaborated with the likes of Max B, Harry Fraud and Gunplay. Let's talk about those collaborations and the evolution of Isaiah Toothtaker.
IT: [Those] are all people/music I really respect and regularly listen to. I still get pumped on the verses Max B spit for 'Toothy Wavy' when they randomly play on iTunes or whatever. A lot of corn balls got all p---- hurt bout Biggaveli's vocals sounding crazy cause he recorded them from prison over the phone but fuck everybody. The fact his verses were all recorded prison is what made the project so f---ing tight!
Harry Fraud is insanely talented man, one of New York's best producer and I'll fight anyone with my [own] hands that has a problem with my words. [I] feel Harry Fraud's album produced the best video of 2012, 'Burn It Down' [with 10kilos.us]. I really want to work on more with him. The Gunplay collaboration also produced another amazing video made by 10kilos.us, 'FROWNIN' best video of 2013. Gunplay had epic lines, my guy press rewind.
Your latest body of work Illmatic II raised some eyebrows for the title... What was the thinking behind the title and did you see any crazy backlash for it?
IT: It was a stupid ass title that someone in my facebook comments came up with. I don't give a f--- about it and the title sucks... who cares. It wouldn't have mattered what I named the project cause it didn't have an overall theme, the songs didn't coincide in any specific way. But it's also lame when an artist makes a sequel album or title their project the same shit adding a "2" because it's just a marketing tactic to sell albums. Like people just do it to have both albums one after the other on the shelf in hopes to sell an extra copy. If anything it's just on some 'Jackin' For Beats' type shit. No backlash on it, but I dare a motherf---er to tell me some shit to my face, I swear.
What has influenced you more in your music career: your Chicano/Native American heritage or your bare knuckle street fights? Or is it more in the same?
IT: Native American and Mexican culture probably ties in by so many different channels that I can't say if it's a direct influence, like it's just there I guess. But more so probably being blessed with them hands boy, the precious gift of throwing them mitts is undefeated. I've been fist fighting ever since I was a little kid. My cousin Michael used to be the best scrapper in the neighborhood and we were best friends. A bunch of kids would challenge me instead of him, but that's where I progressed. I just used to be in the mix, I was in and out of family member's homes, plus I've been on my own since 11. Shit was always bad. Having a f---ed up life, being under f---ed up circumstances, in fucked up living conditions will make anyone angry. I used that anger to fuel my ambitions though. I don't necessarily draw on specific experiences to write but I have. Those experiences have shaped me into who I am and who I don't want to be. So of course it affects my music. I'm mostly literal with my writing.
What is the current state of Machina Muerte? Can you explain the collective/label for anyone unaware of the presence?
IT: We all together still, we cut some extra people though. I regularly speak with Mestizo, 30names (FKA Rapewolf), Serp, Caddy & N8 Noface... I kick it with Zackey Force Funk like a couple times a week at the bar.
Zackey's going to help me out and testify on my behalf in this recent case I caught for socking this one shit talking p---y in the face. We good. Everybody is here still, working and making music.
Basically Machina Muerte started with Mestizo, he came to me and we built a posse from there. It's definitely more a crew than a record label though, we have the shit down as a label just to ensure as a crew, we'll always have an outlet for releases. We're going to keep making the music others can't or won't and it's going to keep being overlooked or under appreciated by the majority. I hope I don't get killed before I get to see my homies championed for all their brilliance & talent.
You are never one to shy away from giving your opinion or stating your past on social media... Two Felonies in the bio? Please elaborate.
IT: I leave that bit of info in my bio to remind me of almost losing my life and freedom. In 2009 I caught an insane amount of cases, real shit. In short: I had a misdemeanor assault get re-filed as a Felony, I caught another separate misdemeanor case. I caught two Felonies on another case for breaking a guy's face in half and popping his eyeball out his skull. He and six of his friends tried to jump me behind a bar and I had a blackjack on me that I knocked out four of them with while the rest ran away. Homeboy was one of the ones on the floor, and the biggest one. Another one was this drug dealer who I had beef with threatened to kill my kids, so I stabbed him in the face a bunch of times and cut his ear half-off after beating him for a really, really long time. He shit and pissed himself, I made him clean all his blood up afterward. I beat the one misdemeanor, I beat the other felony but it got re-filed a 3rd time as a misdemeanor again & I took a probation plea, then the two other cases got joined together in a plea that combined the five felonies into two... I took a plea thinking I was getting locked up for 3-5 years but my lawyer Dan Cooper stood up in court like the biggest boss I've ever seen and his speech was so incredible. The judge gave me probation instead. It was a miracle, Dan Cooper is the most incredible magician that has ever lived, he is an angel from heaven. He was worth the tens of thousands of dollars I paid him. Hope he lives forever he deserves eternal happiness.
Explain this project you have coming up blending your lyrics over NIN samples.... I believe if I recall it right it was with homeboy from Wavves? What's the status on that?
IT: Jacob Safari just recently left Wavves, but yeah he was their drummer forever, I can't even remember for how long. Jacob produced the entire project using all Nine Inch Nails samples. There's no features it's just me doing vocals. He and I made everything in one week at the beginning of January. I'm really proud of the project, I go back to it often and every time feel souped up. It's going to be released before the year ends but hopefully real soon. There'll be a few videos from the project too. I don't know how people are going to react to it but I feel we did this sort of homage, the best it could be done. Initially I was nervous to work on this idea because I respect NIN so much and a lot of their songs have resonated with me so I was very reluctant about re-appropriating them. Jacob did it tho, he made shit that invoked a lot of dialogue from me I couldn't have expected. We worked hella-swiftly together and shit came into fruition with a quickness.
You are the owner of the iconic tattoo parlor, Staring Without Caring. Firstly hows business? Secondly describe how your own personal tattoos tell a story. Your cranium ink is untouchable.
IT: Business is real good, we've cultivated a strong reputation for quality work. Also, we provide a very sterile and professional environment and our clients' experience is top priority for us so we receive a wealth of traffic.
This whole summer has been insanely busy for me. I currently have three apprentices which is fucking ridiculous, but I've managed to carry the work load. I've been tattooing for 11 years and this year has been the most work across the board: The shop, employees and personal output. I never really got tattooed to express profound this or that, so a bunch of my tattoos don't mean shit. Some shit does and I don't really get into what or why. If it looks cool that's good enough.
Has fatherhood changed your outlook on life? You have double the trouble with twins right?
IT: It has, but fatherhood has only changed my life for the better. Honestly, the patience I've developed with raising children is knowledge that transcends. Parenting man that shit goes into introverted personal shit, to strategizing business, or dealing with this music industry man. Not to mention I've become more intuitive and have naturally picked up mind reading skills. I'm lucky though, my babies aren't trouble for me they're really good kids. They're well behaved, well mannered well acclimated to most shit. My twins provide me a happiness I never even knew existed before like on some real shit. The love those kids emit when I squeeze them and kiss their foreheads is everything to me. I just want them to have a good life man nothing like mine, nowhere near my experiences so I try my hardest to provide the best for them.