Witness
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Witness

Band Hip Hop Jazz

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Music

The best kept secret in music

Press


-In the track "Sylvia Plath," you combine hip-hop and an early Jazz
style -- you seem to be fond of combinations like that. What brought
that about?

I think jazz is one of the more interesting genres of the last century. I'm certainly no pioneer of combining it with hip hop, but it's a combination that I still think has more room for exploration. In more recent works, I've been focusing on Brazillian jazz and jazz from other countries as primary influences. I'd like to eventually make an entirely jazz influenced album.

-You obviously have a wide range of influences. What would you say are the
most prominent?

Honestly, my biggest influences for my writing aren't musical. I find the writings of various authors and poets to be most influential. Kerouac, Murakami, Bukowski, etc. Although, I'm not as versed in them as I'd like to be. My musical influences often change as I progress, but the ones that have made the biggest impact on me have been Rakim, De La Soul,The Pharcyde and of course artists like Atmosphere and Sage Francis for opening up the doors for the independent hiphop movement. Other genres would include The Cure, Billy Joel, Jorge Ben, Joao Gilberto, Bob Dylan and Nina Simone. A lot of indie rock as of lately.

-What inspired the creation of Recollective?

Recollective was originally intended to be a music label. However, with the current situation of everyone starting a label and just as many people failing at it, it seemed pointless to spend effort and money on trying to make ours stand out. So instead, it became a sort of network of artists from different parts of the nation to sort of group together and promote each other. Trading fanbases with other artists has been a long lasting tradition in expansion and since we all make music that we personally feel can span genres, in some way or another, we help one another out. It also allows for the full growth of the artists in the collective, without any of the exclusivity of a label.

-Why do you write music?

I started writing for my own personal enjoyment. I went through an afrocentric phase at a period of my life where I wanted to fit in with black kids I knew that rapped and so, I sort of forced myself into performing in front of others. It was a masculinity thing as well. In retrospect, it's a pretty ridiculous, unimpressive story.

However, now I write because I think music can make an impact on others. A very deep impact, in a positive and negative sense, depending on the artist and the listener. Certain artists have positively affected me and that's something that I'd like to give back. I'd like to make people aware of their feelings, their surroundings, their government, whatever..I want to simply provoke different thought patterns. Life isn't viewed through one looking glass and sometimes the perspective of another can greatly enhance one's own. I don't personally think that my perspective is that much more important than another's, but I think someone else might find it worth listening to. At the very least.

-How do your personal views play into your music?

I try to make sure my views play the same way they would in a conversation with me as they do in a song.
I think presenting your actual personality within your music is important for the listener.
Although, I think it's important to try to compact what would be a longwinded conversation in reality about politics or love, into a fairly brief, concise song in my opinion. Again, if music is meant to impact others, I think it's important to have a message in your music. Preferably, one with substance. Things about respect for women, appreciation of all cultures and how the proper milkshake could bring most, if not all, of the boys to the yard.

-Is there some underlying philosophy to your musical paradigm?

I'm not sure. I try to keep my philosophies on the table. I think hip hop lyrics, unlike other genres, can provide a medium for expressing one's musical philosophy in a very blunt manner. I try to avoid that when I can, but just as other artists will sometimes submit to a more cliche aspect of their genre, I like to as well. When I make a more "battle" oriented song, I try to poke as much fun at myself as I do at others. Balance is important.

I like to meet each cocky statement with a confession. I wouldn't mind making more punchline oriented, crowd pleasing songs for fun, but they most likely wouldn't be representative of how I actually feel about myself. So I struggle with how I go about doing them. If there are any underlying philosophies at work, they're most likely subconscious and I haven't realized them yet. - Musicgeek.org


http://phillyedge.com/node/4492

Technically speaking, Witness is our hip-hop inclusion on this list, but this Morrisville emcee isn't exactly a staple of the local hip-hop scene. Although Witness has said he "started making hip-hop music at age 15 with intentions of waking up the next day and becoming Kool Moe Dee," he has abandoned (for the most part) the traditional rap game for an indie take on the hip-hop genre. His latest EP, Evermore, uses cellos, acoustic guitar and jazz undertones for a beat production that lands somewhere between Buck 65 and DJ Shadow.
Witness was recently scooped up by Japan's Rockwell Product Shop record label, but he remains unsigned in the U.S. You would think someone would sign this cat quick, because with two solid EPs now complete (he released Ever Since in 2005), Witness
probably has a stellar full-length ready for the future. - PhillyEdge


Discography

2005:Witness-Ever Since
2005:Extortion Labs-Astrolove (Featured on "Starset")
2007:The Evermore EP
2008: .45 Sweetheart

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

Witness is the moniker of 22 year old John Parr, an up and coming Pennsylvania native who began making Hip Hop music in his home at the age of fifteen. Inspired by the freestyle scene and records he had heard during a brief stint with the local graffiti and breakdancing circles, he started pressing homemade mixtapes in his Junior year of high school and quickly developed notoriety amongst peers. Around this time, he began participating in local open mics and winning poetry slams. Immediately after graduation, he formed a collective of musicians called Recollective and booked a tour with Fuse One of HipHopInfinity.com infamy and poetry-slam champion Unsung, at the age of 19.

Soon after, he played various local venues and began honing his craft with local DJs. His music began to circulate when he jumped aboard Myspace as it was picking up steam in 2004, under the suggestion of famed indie hiphop artist Sage Francis, whom he had met on on the aforementioned tour. In 2005, he released "Ever Since" and went on the self-booked, 22 city "Peace Poor Child Tour" with Unsung, Atarax and the critically acclaimed producer Emancipator. "Ever Since", originally intended to be a tour-only EP, received favorable reviews and contained the song "Sylvia Plath" which was featured on various early music blogs that propelled word-of-mouth.

In a relatively quiet 2006, he continued to build the roster of the Recollective collective and absorbed various indie-rock influences, the death of his mother and a failed relationship, which would later shape his second release "The Evermore EP", which saw release in the late-summer, 2007. This album was long awaited by fans and sold more than 200 copies within the first day it was released online, with only minimal internet promotions. The EP features a much more mature Witness than he appeared on Ever Since, with the lyrics painting a brutally honest picture of the world around him over instrumentals featuring unconventional instruments for his genre.

Famed Japanese producer Nujabes, who scored the hit-anime "Samurai Champloo" with his blend of jazz and hiphop, took notice to both Witness and Emancipator of the Recollective collective and signed them to Rockwell Product Shop and HydeOut Productions, respectively. Witness is currently in the process of doing shows to promote the release of The Evermore EP and preparing his release for the Japanese audiences, which is being distributed via Tower Records distribution. Rockwell Product Shop is also planning a Japanese tour for 2008 for Witness.