Classified Wordsmith Ghostwrites Himself to Local Stardom
By Aaris A. Schroeder
Sean, also known as Reflective Intelligence in the local hip-hop scene was born in Sacramento, CA and raised in Dallas, TX, attending church regularly with his mother of whom he says was really good about getting him and his brothers, Brandon, Jay and Eric ready for Sunday school. When he was 13-years-old he moved back to Sacramento with his father and attended Encino High School thereafter where he played baseball.
Sean was involved with his church choir growing up; this is where he learned how to read music terminology and was interested in writing music. When Sean was 14-years-old he was already writing poetry but expanded into writing rap-style lyrics. He got more involved with writing raps and r&b music when he was 19.
Sean’s uncle, who was also a pastor, became an investor for up-and-coming musicians. After receiving an opportunity for a joint venture with Sony, he was looking for songwriters. Attending American River College for Music Engineering with fellow classmates and young emcees, Aman “Wyzdom” Smith [Verbal Venom], Floe Montana & Tone Malone – making hip-hop beats and lyrics at China Man’s home studio, Sean emerged as Reflective Intelligence [A.K.A. R.I.] and his uncle heard he was good at writing music. R.I. sent him music within 30 minutes and very quickly, contracts were signed, funds were deposited into his bank account and R.I. was officially a ghost writer for Sony Records.
“[Ghost writing] is obviously more for r&b artists, not emcees. I didn’t realize it happens so often in the music industry. How high of a demand that it is,” says R.I.
Between ’07 and ’08 he began writing hooks for local performers and continued ghost writing. At this point in his life, he was determined to make it, raising three children and being a single father, he feels that he has to do this for himself and for them.
“When I didn’t have kids, I could do what I wanted, sleep in. I was very selfish. Now that I have kids, I can’t imagine not having them. I didn’t care about what people thought about me. I had a chip on my shoulder, didn’t have respect for women. I was arrogant,” confesses R.I. over the phone. You can hear him greeting his kids and helping one of them with their English and Math homework. You can tell he is a wonderful father as he attends to everything they need and plays with them as well.
His new publishing company, Brain Bright Publishing emerged as a way to help himself to support his own music independently, “As far as the industry is concerned, it is designed for the artist to be in debt. Labels want the rights to publishing your music to recoup their investment. You don’t want to compromise your art or music. Major artists have their music, name and identity taken from them.”
On a different day, R.I. took me to his recording studio. He poured me a drink and had me step inside of the place where magic happens. The studio was quite professional and when we walked into the roomy sound booth, you could literally hear nothing. He has his flat screen set up to swivel around backwards so that if he wants to record from the sound booth himself, he could swivel the screen and grab his cordless keyboard and mouse and play producer and emcee at the same time.
R.I. goes on to explain the difference between indie and major labels is corporate backing and power but indie labels are grass root movements that allow the artist to choose their audience, sell their music and understand how to get grants and resources. He says independent artists need to support themselves; get the backing from their community.
“You can have a great product but if you don’t have the correct marketing you aren’t going to make it. We need to really assimilate and support the djs and artists and not piggy back off people,” says R.I.
The thing about Sacramento; he believes, is that there are pockets of unity here, giving examples of organizations or emcees collaborating together even though writers, musicians and djs usually associate themselves with their peer group, there is some cross-promotion to some extent.
R.I. has global goals with his music. He doesn’t want his sound to be restricted to any specific region. Listening to his songs, one can relate to this message – hearing dirty south, indie hip-hop; a little east a little west coast all intertwined together with clean hip-hop, gospel, soul and blues sounds. Some of his favorite artists are OutKast and Mos Def. He has current goals of bringing in a live band to back his emceeing at shows.
The G.I. Joe Project is a collaborative effort where he features new artists such as Omatic, Ditty the Dogmatican, Odd Knots and more as well as arrived artists like Floe Montana, Theek [Righteous Movement] and Tone Malone in six-hour music recording sessions. The whole effort was completed from start to finish in just 45 days. R.I. says that he recorded two-to-three songs a night, literally. Being involved with organizations and being an asset in the community is the first part of making it happen, R.I. believes.
“Being a part of Hip-Hop Congress, we [can] help people understand what hip-hop really is and how artists can be educated on the business side of it. It can’t be one person; it has to be a contingent. I obviously represent myself and my talent and share it with the community,” explains R.I. who feels he should reflect intelligence, hence his name, “I let my life shine with the kind of music I put out that provokes thought and entertains. The artists I most connect with are people that do things in their community. Hip-hop is not rap, it is a culture. Rap is a type of music.
“I purposely use personification or phraseology [word-choice] – it may be a concept or a philosophy I will talk about religion, relationships [gender roles], mathematic concepts, about socio-economic status, political terminology – all because I like to learn, I like to read and I am regurgitating that in an artistic form when I make my music,” continues R.I. whose newest album, R.IVAL to be released in the first quarter of year ‘10 will cover these subjects. The R.IVAL will feature female crooner, Aris emcees Wyzdom and Theek among others.
“Some artists are just plain ignorant but those of us that understand the importance of spoken word and the influence it can have on people – everyone does it, McDonalds does it – these are the things that captivate people. It is all about understanding the business. The average listener will pay attention to certain phrases, word-choice, sounds – then you can drop in the jewels. It happens with beats, song sampling, word-choice – this helps you to grab a certain demographic to allow them to hear your message as well.”
For more information about R.I. and how you can get your hands on some Reflective Intelligence, Twitter him at www.twitter.com/refectiveintelligence or visit www.myspace.com/macksinc for event updates and album release dates.