The Authentic, World-Aware Message of Intellect
For as long as Intellect can remember, music has been a part of his world.Coming from a family where all of the men were singers, the hip hop artist and actor (real name Mike Dowd) followed in their footsteps, growing up on classic Motown, soul, and funk while finding his own way to hip hop from the likes of the Beastie Boys, Run DMC, and Sugar Hill Gang.
“There were all these people who had these really cool stories. You could close your eyes and see what they were talking about. That stuck with me growing up,” Intellect noted. “By the time I got to high school I thought, ‘I think I can do this.’”
That diverse influence informs his soundscapes – which feature flavors of everything from hip hop and R&B, to jazz, to rock. Informing the lyrical content, meanwhile, is hard-earned life experience and perspective, gained in large part from Intellect’s time in the military.
“I’ve been on almost every continent, except for Africa and the North and South Poles. My appreciation for people in general is so much different than the average person, because I’ve been everywhere from a third world country to a movie set, and everything in between,” Intellect said. “It’s not just the places; you meet these people, and they become a part of their life and you share their culture, food, experiences and meet their families. That becomes a part of me.”
The military has also let Intellect into the ugly side of war. With tours in the Middle East and South America under his belt, this versatile artist feels that it is important to tell that part of the story, both for those who have served and those who haven’t.
“In music, folks make songs for veterans, but you don’t really have many veterans who speak for veterans,” Intellect said. “I’m pretty sure in America, everybody knows somebody who has been in the military, law enforcement, or the war. I believe that people need to hear from us, and it doesn’t always have to be in the form of us sitting around in a circle in a room or in front of a psychotherapist.”
Through it all, Intellect uses this perspective to create a common understanding through his work that is often missing from today’s society.
“We spend a lot of time pointing out our differences as a nation and a world when, if we would look to see where our commonalities are, we would find out that we have a whole lot more commonalities than we do differences,” Intellect notes. “If we focused on that, then we might find out that this place isn’t so bad.”
An authentic approach
Another tenet at the core of Intellect’s mission is authenticity. He strives to release music that he believes in personally, both in its message and composition.
“I’ve been told that my music is dated, or I need to try to connect more with the listener, or the sound is not poppy enough. It’s hip hop. It has nothing to do with pop,” Intellect stated. “Sometimes, the struggle is real. Then, you have to go back and think, ‘Why am I doing this in the first place?’ Did I start doing this because I wanted to make a million dollars tomorrow? Absolutely not. Part of this is my personal therapy. The rest of it is because I felt like I have something to share in the world.”
Intellect’s next single, “Scarface Fitted,” was born out of that notion. Releasing to the world on September 27, Intellect uses the single to liken his relationship with hip hop to that between Scarface characters Frank Lopez and Elvira Hancock, portrayed respectively by Robert Loggia and Michelle Pfeiffer. This story is told over a sonic bed of jazz-infused hip hop, with flavors of Jimi Hendrix-style guitar work.
“Every artist and emcee is trying to win the game over. What do you have to do to win that affection,” Intellect asks. “If you love something or someone unconditionally, do you just give up? You don’t. Even through the pain and the rejection, you learn things. You learn more about her as a personality. Hip hop does have a personality in the form of listeners. You learn about that personality, and you try to meet her somewhere in the middle without losing yourself.”
He continued, “Change can come through growth, but you shouldn’t change to make someone love you, even hip hop. If you are a straightforward person, people may not like you, but they will always respect you. To me, that’s more important. I’d rather have one song that lasts 30 years, than five songs that last 30 days.”
That type of staying power is generated by quality and a genuine approach to the creative process, something that Intellect – who also co-runs a government contracting business in the Washington, D.C. area – believes will keep the fans gravitating toward his art for years to come.
“If it takes me longer to get a customer, then I’m more likely to keep that customer, because they understand the quality of work that they are getting,” Intellect said. “The same thing applies with listeners. They’ll hear that new bubblegum music, but they’re not married to an artist, they’re married to a bass line. That’s what that industry says is catchy at the time.”
“You can tell whether an artist means what they say or not. You can tell if it’s real, or you can tell if it’s fabricated. The most important thing is you can tell whether they believe it themselves or not.”
Pre-save “Scarface Fitted” in advance of its release using the music service of your choice. Click here. Listen to Intellect’s already-released material below.