Interview: Adam Tensta
by Winston "Stone" Ford
If you’re a daily reader of the site, you must have stumbled upon my posts on Adam Tensta. The Swedish MC is a part of a renewed interest in that country’s music scene over here in the States. Tensta’s album, It’s a Tensta Thing, a collection of songs mixing pop beats with serious lyrics about racism, segregation, and poverty in his hometown of Tensta is one of the finest CD’s to drop in the past two years. In his native country, he’s earned him chart-topping success and a Grammy award so far.
The motto for Tensta’s Respect My Hustle Entertainment is “MY Friend Is My Grind,” and the dude is making serious moves on the worldwide scene. Tensta just got back from a West Coast swing, and will be releasing an International version of It’s a Tensta Thing later this year.
What’s Good?? How’s Life Been So Far?
I’m good man, grindin’ it out. Checking in with you to see what’s good. After this it’s back to the studio again.
Adam Tensta – Bangin’ On The System
Word. That’s what’s up! Let’s get started. I think your song “Bangin’ On The System” is a powerful message about the racial and economic situation in your native Sweden and “Dopeboy,” addresses racial profiling. Could you briefly try to go over what the situation is in places like Tensta for those of us in the States that are unaware of how it is out there?
Geographically Tensta is situated about 20 minutes from the central parts of Stockholm. Similar to other projects, which are usually located at the outskirts of many of the Swedish cities, its inhabitants are of mixed ethnic back rounds. Back in the early 70´s the government founded “the million housing project” designed to house the increasing number of guest workers invited to Sweden because of a labor shortage. Later these projects also became areas were they placed refugees. Most of these first refugees and political asylum seekers came from Turkey and Iran; later from other war ridden countries such as Yugoslavia, Iraq and Somalia.
Tensta is not that different from projects you can find in the U.S. The people, who live out here have grown accustom to being on the outside, trying to fit in as best they can. Today the situation is getting worse if you see the whole in terms of segregation and the issues that touch our everyday life. Growing unemployment rates and an increase of criminal activity, is just some of the issues. I guess projects all around the world are becoming more and more similar.
How is the Hip-Hop scene in Sweden? Do artists get as much respect over there as in America? How is American hip-hop received?
Right now Hip-Hop in Sweden is bigger than ever before. Domestic Hip-Hop got its first real breakthrough in 1997-98 getting major spins on every TV and radio station in the country. For a long time it was the fastest growing music genre in Sweden. During these years tons of new acts surfaced and made Hip-Hop common in most households, even outselling popular pop/rock acts.
After that the whole scene dipped in terms of sales and radio air time, mainly due to a lack of a strong underground foundation. Most of the work was done on a corporate level, which led to the scene getting watered down. Since RMH (Respect My Hustle Entertainment) began working with the mixtape scene adapting many of the promotion methods people use in the U.S, the scene in Sweden has come to life again, both on a commercial and an underground level. With us, people have seen that it can be done from standing on the street corner hustling mixtapes to being one of the most successful Hip-Hop acts in Europe. Hip-Hop is back as the fastest growing genre in Sweden and we are getting more and more airtime since radio and TV stations are picking up on the fact that European artists are treated as top-of-the-line on an international level. So, yeah, artists get a lot of respect period, no matter what language you´re spitting in.
American artist have always been icons in my eyes since I grew up listening to them and I guess there is a lot of people feeling the same way.
Adam Tensta – 80s Baby
I hear a lot of elements of T.I. and Young Joc in your music? Do you try to model your music after those styles? If not, who are your influences?
Haven’t heard that one before! I do Bloc Pop and barley even listened to Young Joc or T.I. in that way. They are talented people but my real influences are acts like Bob Marley, Outkast and Dead Prez. I listen to a lot of different genres so I get my input from all over the place. I’m raised on that whole New York era of Hip-Hop with acts like Nas, Mobb Deep and Boot Camp Click. I basically didn’t have a choice and had to listen to what my big brother was playing when I was growing up.
Personally, I think the production on the album is solid. Who did you get behinds the boards?
Me and my right hand man, Ears, who executive produced the album, decided that we wanted to push the production in a way many people thought was very unconventional. We started to lay the outlines for what we chose to call Bloc Pop.
Teaming up with our in house production team Major Factors (Howard Who, Keione and Ears) and house duo called Addeboy Vs.Cliff we knocked out 80 percent of the album in the winter of 2006/07. After that I complimented the album with joints from Leslie and Nitti Gritti.
Adam Tensta – My Cool
You have a strong following in Sweden, but are you going to try and branch out to other parts of Europe and the US?
Yeah, most definitely! We have done shows abroad all across Europe and some in the U.S. The reactions have been over the top and we’ve been able to hook up with good people on both coasts and in the Midwest. We are getting ready to release an international version of the first single “My Cool” soon. I think you can expect to see us back in the U.S. really soon.
I heard that you did some shows in Southern California? How was your time in the US? Was it your first time in the States?
Yeah. I was booked for the Dub Magazine Car Show in San Diego along with Rick Ross, Young Berg, Danity Kane and Lloyd, just a couple of weeks ago. We also played at the Crem De La Crem release party with Urb Magazine in L.A during that same visit. It was my first time on the West Coast so I didn’t quite know what to expect. We ended up hooking up with some really good people that week artists, DJs and record company people. We are flying back there ASAP, trust me!
You started doing Video Blogs as well as outreach to Internet Blogs. Do you think that blogging is essential to music promotion nowadays?
I think the album format is something that’s becoming less and less of a focus. Ever since record sales have declined, I think labels and artist have become more creative in promoting music and been more focused on releasing singles. The majority of the listeners these days only come into contact with songs by singles, often quickly picked up on YouTube or other cyber venues, unlike how it was just ten years back, when you actually went to the store to buy the whole album just to get the full impression of an artist. I think the blogging game gives the artist yet another dimension to reach out to somebody that’s probably going to download your album when it’s released in a complete version. So yeah, I think the blog is an essential tool in marketing and promotion nowadays. Why not use a platform that reaches out to millions of people daily? Most of the artists today, have more blog views a day than actual record sales.
And finally…..this is a question we ask to every artist on The Couch Sessions. What are the top 10 songs you’re bumpin’ on your iPod right now?
I don’t bump ‘em in an iPod. I turn that shit up in my new HTC Touch Pro…
Bob Marley-She´s Gone
Kid Cudi- Day And Night
Rick Ross-Here I Am
Kanye West- Heartbreak
Lykke Li-A Little Bit
CRS feat.Pusha T-Everybody Nose
John Legend feat.André 3000-Green Light
Word. Much thanks for the Interview!
Adam Tensta Videos
Bangin’ On The System
They Wanna Know
Before U Know It