Gimme Noise spoke to members I Self Devine and DJ Kool Akiem about looking back on the project a decade later and what exactly made the Travellahs return.
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Return of the Travellahs was your first official release on Rhymesayers Entertainment. What made you decide, following your time both self-releasing material and on Sub Verse, to go with Rhymesayers?
I Self: Part of it is that, in a scene like Minneapolis that's real small, we all knew each other from day one. And I remember, at the time, when we began talking about doing things, Rhymesayers had said they wanted to sign us for some time. It made sense.
Kool Ak: We already had a relationship with Siddiq and Slug going back before Rhymesayers. It was just a natural fit.
I Self: We had been involved with Rhymesayers even though we hadn't put out anything. We had been around while they had been developing, so all the relationships there just made logical sense.
At that point, was your next album The Emperor and the Assassin, completed?
Kool Ak: Nope, it was just getting started.
What made you decide to put our a re-release of your Farward EP and Return of the Travellahs instead of leading with a new release on Rhymesayers?
Kool Ak: I thought it was a really good album that people needed to hear. It had only been on cassette that I had personally recorded at my house. It made sense for it to come out.
Was there anything you had to change about any of the tracks between their original release and their Rhymesayers re-release?
I Self: Well, there's one thing I want to say about Return of the Travellahs. Lyrically, all of those songs were recorded in one take. I only had three hours to be in the studio and I had lost my rhyme book. With Return of the Travellahs I learned to keep all of the rhymes I had written for a particular album in one book. Back then, I kept them spread out and by the time I got to the studio, I recognized half of the songs were not there. I freestyled a lot of the stuff, there's some words mispronounced, and on top of that my daughter, who's 19 now but was two at the time, was running around. I recorded the album in three hours, doing everything in one take.
Kool Ak: The same thing happened on my end. We're working with our own money out of the pocket in Atlanta, so I booked four-five hours at the studio to mix the whole album. You're talking seven hours to put that whole album together.
Wow. You really can't hear that on the record.
I Self: I can. (both laugh) I can hear the mispronunciations and, on one of the songs, I'm even off rhythm. As far as how it's intended to be, I'm like two measures behind, but so what?
DJ Kool Ak: I feel that way about some of my scratches and stuff.
Given that you were crunched for time, were there any songs you wanted to put on the album that you weren't able to?
I Self: No, I think we put everything we wanted to put on there. But one thing I'll tell you is "All Live," one of our singles, actually was an interlude. The first time I heard it was when Ak was does and I was all "Why didn't you use that beat in there?" We took that interlude and made it "All Live."
Looking back at the re-release ten years later, outside the issues with being pressed for time making it, are you happy with how the Rhymesayers re-release came out?
Kool Ak: Definitely.
I Self: Coming from it being a cassette into actually being a CD is something we hadn't exactly planned. It was kind of a new life for it. And, it was received well. It's better than it just sitting on the shelf. We have a lot of material that nobody's ever heard, so it's good to have a way people can hear it.
Kool Ak: I like it the way it is. My favorite song on there is "Emotions." I wouldn't change or add anything. It is what it is from front-to-back.
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