Fifteen years into the game, Babah Fly is keeping the raw hip-hop vibe alive
For the past fifteen years, Matthew Kelly has been entrenched in the local hip-hop scene. Although his stage name has changed over the years, Kelly, now known as Babah Fly, has been one of the most consistent artists in that scene. Whether he's putting in work as a solo artist or as part of groups like Bugaboo, Babah Wird or Denver Avengerz, you're pretty certain what you're going to get with Babah Fly: boom-bap hip-hop paying homage to the foundation of the culture. The MC is preparing to drop his new album, Electro-Sufi, this month; we talked with him about the new project, its inspiration, and how he feels about Colorado hip-hop in 2009.
Westword: You've been in the local scene for close to fifteen years and have had several stage names — Subtle MC, Fly Jedi, Tha Fly — and now you're known as Babah Fly. What does your name mean?
Matthew Kelly: Subtle was a graffiti name back in the day. I started to use the name Fly Jedi because I'm a fly Star Wars nerd and my MC powers are very similar to a Jedi's powers. Fly Jedi is sort of still the name; it's Babah Fly Jedi. My friends and family started calling me Babah because I've got lovely children. I'm still a Jedi, but it's kind of a secret.
What inspired the theme of your new album, Electro-Sufi, and what does the title mean?
I'm inspired by Sufi practices and other ancient mystical studies, so that's the Sufi part. The "Electro" comes from my inspiration from Afrika Bambaataa and "Planet Rock" hip-hop. Electro-Sufi is my take on the parallels between those inspirations — the ancient mystical practices of the Sufis and the elements of hip-hop culture.
How would you describe the "electro" hip-hop sound that you're creating?
I wanted to see people poppin' and lockin' to the electro-type beats! When I get inspired to create some music, it comes from being somewhere and the energy of the people, the conversations, the style, the music and how people are reacting to it. I try to pay close attention to what moves people, so what I write in the lyrics is about movement in an enlightened conversation. The beats are the "pulse" in the conversation, and the electro beats came from the pulse I was feeling at the time. I also wanted to create a sound that people could vibe to, no matter what musical genre they favored.
You've been in the scene for a very long time. What are your thoughts on how it was ten to fifteen years ago to where it is today?
I think that back in the day it was a lot harder for people to get in on the hip-hop scene. You definitely had to have skills and the right flavor, whether you were an MC, B-boy/B-girl, DJ or graffiti writer. People use to heckle and try to battle the MCs if they were wack. I got heckled a few times! Nowadays hip-hop is more accessible to everyone, and it's safer. There are still a bunch of us keeping that raw hip-hop vibe alive today, though. That will never go away.
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