Breakaway Daily Interview with Indie Label FHTMG
FHTMG (Forest Hills Tenleytown Music Group) is an independent record label based in Washington D.C. that features both local and international artists who have traveled globally throughout Europe, the
Caribbean Islands, and the Middle East. They are socially-orientated and aim to give back to their communities and the humanities.
BREAKAWAY DAILY: What is the inspiration behind FHTMG?
FHTMG: Different friends and I have made music for
a long time and we wanted to build our own brand/label/platform where we could
be ourselves 100%. We love trap
music, but we also love international music (Dancehall/Reggae, West African
Music, Cuban music, Arabic music, etc). We care about politics/social
justice and we are very in tune with current events and popular culture
globally, so we wanted to be able to express all these things. FHTMG is a platform/vehicle to do that
without compromising our artistic integrity.
BREAKAWAY DAILY: Your label has been involved in projects that “could” be labeled as
politically provocative; is the label also an advocacy group?
I don’t think we are an “advocacy
group” per se, but we definitely are passionate about lots of issues which
reflects in different ways in our music/videos.
We have a diverse roster of artists; Black Americans, Africans,
Latinos, Asians, Jewish, Arabian, and everyone in between. We care about things
like Black Lives Matter, Free Palestine, Immigration Reform, Women’s Rights,
and much more. We don’t make socially
conscious music a la Talib Kweli or Immortal Technique but these things are
still very important to us. We’re like
Trap Music meets South Park meets Social Justice Advocacy.
You did a national campaign and fundraiser that took you to North Korea, what
was that experience like?
It was great, it was a wild whirlwind
ride. We traveled to Beijing, Hong Kong,
Macau, Mongolia, and North Korea with PacMan and Peso, who were 19 and 20 at
the time and had never left the DC area (they grew up in some of the worst
neighborhoods in the DC area). We made
the cover of the Washington Post Style section twice and got a ton of other
press coverage (BBC, CNN, The Guardian, The Huffington Post, and lots of
others). We bought our camera the day
before our trip and were able to release five different music videos from the
trip, the first time we have ever made any videos. PacMan and Peso did shows in Beijing and Mongolia, we saw De La Soul at a club in Hong Kong, and
we saw the embalmed bodies of Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung in North Korea. Overall an amazing trip and experience.
BREAKAWAY DAILY: Did you get much backlash?
Many people of-course lectured us about how North Korea is an evil, evil
place with concentration camps, millions of people starving to death, mass
brainwashing, babies being eaten alive, etc, etc. But people just reflexively regurgitate these
things they don’t actually know anything about Korea or care about the conflict
in Korea or the Korean people so I wouldn’t call that
“backlash.” Also, it’s hard to
lecture PacMan and Peso about the evils of going to North Korea because 99% of
the time the person trying to give this holier-than-thou lecture is a
privileged person who never gave a sh*t about PacMan and Peso’s communities
(Anacostia, Congress Heights, Kentland/Landover) so its obviously very
disingenuous and hypocritical.
[Artwork from trip to Cuba]
Recently you returned from Cuba where you partnered on an initiative with Cuba
Skate. It was an effort to nurture and grow skateboarding culture as well as the growing hip-hop community in and around Cuba. During the expedition, you gave away skate equipment to underprivileged children around the island. What were your experiences with the Cuban people?
That was our second trip with Cuba Skate in
2015 and they were both awesome experiences.
The Cuban people are amazing and they truly inspire you. They are incredibly resourceful since they
have been suffocated and cut off from the world for the past 50+ years due to
US Embargo. We recorded on both trips at
Malcolm Beybe studio in a poor suburb of Havana. They have a 90’s PC with the side ripped off
and they are able to crank out high quality music and videos much quicker than
in the US. Everyone is eager to help out
and work on projects with no consideration of money. The first day we went to record at Malcolm
Beybe, we shot a bunch of footage and when we came back two days later they had
already finished a five minute music video, which blew our American minds. Going to Cuba puts a lot of things into
perspective and reminds you that usually the only thing holding you back is
your attitude, not your lack of opportunity or resources.
Are there any new international travel plans, and/or outreach?
Yes we have tons of international stuff
coming up over the next year! We will be
travelling to the UK and Germany in the next few months and releasing
work. We may go to France and Holland as
well. We will also be travelling to
Palestine and Lebanon later in the year and we are working on trips to the
Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, and the Congo.
You recently released a video titled “Trader Joes.” What was the inspiration?
It was the one year anniversary of our hit
song “Trap Out The Starbucks” so it was kind of like the second part for that. “Trader Joes” is a staple in the
“new” DC and my friend Anusha told me to make a song about it and I
thought it would be funny. We had a
blizzard in DC in January and Trader Joe’s was like a stampede/party so that’s
when we made the song and released the video.
What will the labels next releases be?
We’ve got a song called “Major
Key” coming soon. We just got back
from Philly where we recorded a bunch of stuff with an up-and-coming
rap/production duo called Yellowcloud.
We will definitely be releasing music and videos from that soon, as well.
Any upcoming and interesting collaborations?
We have a bunch of things in the works here
and there, but the main collaborations I would look out for are when we go to
London and Germany. We will be working
with Jaded of Black Butter Records as well as a bunch of underground
artists. We are still working details
out so I don’t want to get specific but they will be super dope and interesting