[Each week, Complex columnist Percy Carey a.k.a. MF Grimm dives into the world of comic books with industry interviews, reviews and more.]
Everyone is aware that Novel's video "I Am" is tearing through MTV; and it's miles apart from the so-called competition. When Complex asked me to interview him, I thought this would be an ordinary interview, but I came to find out that not only is Novel a great emcee and an equally great singer/songwriter, but he's also an avid comic book reader (he knows his shit). Novel breaks the music stereotype that you have to be arrogant when you're successful at what you do. Novel is by far the most humble down to earth brother I've ever met in my entire life, and I look forward to him dominating the entertainment industry (comic books, music, film & TV).
I don't like many emcees, I don't listen to emcees; but I do listen to Novel. I admire him as an artist, and I have the utmost respect for him as a man. I will spread the word about him as much as I can, because he deserves it and I'm proud to say I'm a fan (I know Alicia Keys agrees with me on this). Novel is the future of music and the future is now! This started out as an interview, but it ended up being two friends having a conversation, so come sit down at the table and join us as we talk about music and comics...
Percy Carey: Where were you born?
Novel: I was born in Los Angeles, California but I was brought up everywhere because my mother had to moved our family around a lot, mostly on the East Coast'North Carolina, PA, CT. She was a single mother with six kids. At times, we were sometimes homeless and stayed in shelters with friends, pastors, and deacons, so I grew up in many different environments and [it's] difficult to call one particular place my home. But Los Angeles, CA is my birthplace.
Percy Carey: How did you get the name Novel?
Novel: While I was living in a small town on the outskirts of Philadelphia, I was a member in a rap group and I carried around a lyric book and it was the size of one of those family photo albums. I always carried it around and wrote inside of it. I would never let it leave my side and it was of stories and rhymes I had written. My friends would joke around and say I was carrying a novel or that I was writing one, so the name kind of stuck.
Percy Carey: Who are some of the artists you've had an opportunity to work with?
Novel: I've worked with, written for, or produced for artist such as Talib Kweli, Joss Stone, Lauryn Hill, Alicia Keys, Robin Thicke, BeyoncÃƒÂ©, Leona Lewis, India Arie, Jennifer Hudson, Ben Folds and many others.
Percy Carey: "I Am" is hot song. How did you come up with the concept? And how did you get Talib on the track?
Novel: "I Am" came about from a song I heard from Ben Fold's album Rocking The Suburbs named "The Luckiest." I'm a big fan of Ben'he's a talented musician. This was a record I wanted to flip, but I wanted to respect the art of the original, so I did a rough and added Spree Wilson and sent it to Kweli, who jumped aboard right away'we go back since I was signed to Rawkus Records about 8 years ago. After that, a very good friend of mine sent the record to Ben Folds to see if he would be a part of it as well. Ben Folds loved it, so I had him play piano and sing on the hook along with the sample so the song keeps it's integrity and the rest is history.
Percy Carey: Tell us about Spree Wilson? And will we hear more from him?
Novel: Spree Wilson is an incredible musician, I met through a friend of mine named Shoden!1. I heard his album and we connected right off the bat. There will be more material coming out on Spree as a solo artist and also, we have a group formed together called "KnivezOut," which I go under a different alias. It's a hip hop/electronic group, and you can find some material on us on Itunes and on my own EP Fly Away and a song called "Alright" from the Soundtrack for the motion picture 21. Knivezout is an outside project.
Percy Carey: As a musician, is there anyone you would like to collaborate with?
Novel: I would love to collaborate with Imogen Heap, who's one of my favorite artist right now. Rufus Wainwright, Jon Brion and Jay Electronica. Those are a few artist and producers I totally admire and respect.
Percy Carey: What is it like working with Alicia Keys?
Novel: Working with Alicia Keys is a pleasure and a blessing. She is talented and a very hard worker; she has lots of energy in the studio and knows exactly what she wants but she's not afraid to try new things. It was just fascinating to watch her creative process and how it's very similar to mine. Alicia is like a big sister and I appreciate everything she's done for me. She's a brilliant and beautiful human being.
Percy Carey: Could you see her writing a comic book, because of her movie choices and her music?
Novel: I can see Alicia writing a comic book or a graphic novel for sure.
Percy Carey: Who is your favorite comic book character?
Novel: My favorite comic book character would be Morpheous, also known as "The Sandman." He's from a book titled The Sandman, written by Neil Gaiman. It's a series of about 11 books; I'm on #7. It's about Morpheous, which God created and his purpose is to create and control dreams; his sisters are Desire, Despair and Delirium
The second to the oldest "Death" and the eldest brother "Destiny"; you get the point...[laughs]. You go through his journey in time with family and friends, his trips to heaven, hell, earth, and in the dream world. It's about how dreams effect people and I find it a pretty deep book. His sister "Death" is very interesting to me as well and to see how the writer perceives death to be'the fact that he made her a woman, how she looks physically'is incredible. You must check it out. Also one of my favorite characters is Dr. Manhattan in the graphic novel The Watchmen, written by Alan Moore. That's a classic and it's one of the most celebrated graphic novels of all times.
Percy Carey: How did you find yourself reading comics?
Novel: I kind of just stumbled into reading graphic novels a couple of years back. I was thinking about my childhood and went inside a comic book store. I purchased one comic and then one became two, and then I was hooked [laughs].
Percy Carey: I totally understand [laughs].
Novel: Plus, I watch a lot of movies and independent films and didn't know a lot of good movies were based off comics or graphic novels, and I'm not just talking about the ones where a guy is wearing tights and a mask. I mean really good stories like the mob Road to Perdition starring Tom Hanks, or History Of Violence, and The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button'they're all great graphic novels that were adapted into wonderful movies.
Percy Carey: Who is your favorite comic book writer?
Novel: My favorite author is Neil Gaiman.
Percy Carey: Oh yeah?
Novel: Yeah, his style is insane, the man is just brilliant. Then there's Alan Moore who wrote V for Vendetta and The Watchmen.
Percy Carey: I have to make sure I let Karen Berger know that.
Novel: Who's Karen?
Percy Carey: Karen Berger's The Senior VP of Vertigo/DC Comics and basically the editor of every book you mentioned, including mine. She signed me to Vertigo/DC Comics.
Novel: Oh yeah?
Percy Carey: Yeah
Novel: Well then I definitely have to meet her [Laughs].
Percy Carey: [Laughs] I'm going to make sure of that.
Novel: But listen, Brian K. Vaughan is brilliant too; he wrote Pride Of Baghdad. That's an excellent book.
Percy Carey: Please tell the readers what Pride Of Baghdad is about?
Novel: It's about the war in Baghdad where a zoo was bombed and 4 lions escaped; you get the perspective of war through the eyes of the animals. It's deep, you got to read that one. Did you read that one?
Percy Carey: Yes, Brian is actually a very good friend of mine; we talk all the time he schools me about writing, to be honest.
Novel: Yeah? Oh, that's cool.
Percy Carey: Yeah, Brian's a good person. Right now he's the writer and co-executive producer for the television show Lost, so when he has some time from the show, I'm going to get all of us to sit down and talk about comics together.
Novel: Yeah, I'm with that.
Percy Carey: What writers would you recommend to someone who has never read a comic book?
Novel: If you're new to the comic book world, I would suggest to check out The Pride Of Baghdad; get that one first, it's a good starter. Or Murder Mysteries by Neil Gaiman'that one will blow your mind. It's my favorite graphic novel. It's a must read.
Percy Carey: What are similarities between music and graphic novels?
Novel: Similarities of music and graphic novels is how creative you can be with a story, whether it's fact or fiction. If you're a songwriter, ultimately your point is to tell your story. You're the author of that song.
Percy Carey: How do they differ?
Novel: They don't differ that much except in some graphic novels, the story board can be endless where you can really go into details. When you're writing multiple pages of material for a song, it can be three minutes long and that's not enough time to go into much detail, so it's expressed by emotion and how you deliver the song. So people can feel it and hear it. In a graphic novel, it's about words and pictures. I believe that's why music has changed so much, because everything is so visual nowadays; people spend less time writing good material and more time being concerned with an image and how they look.
Percy Carey: That was well said. Would you ever consider creating a graphic novel?
Novel: Yes, actually I'm working on one as we speak, but I'm not sure who's going to publish it at this present time. I've talked with William Wilson of Arch Enemy Entertainment about a few ideas, and plus I read your book SENTENCES: THE LIFE OF MF GRIMM, so I expect you to help me get into that world as well [laughs]...I know it's still premature stage right now, but we'll work it out. So shout out to William Wilson, he's a good dude.
Percy Carey: Who would win in a fight: Nightwing or Black Lighting?
Novel: Who would win? [Laughs]...Man, Night Wing would whup Black Lightning's ass!
Percy Carey: Yeah you think so? What make you say that?
Novel: The man was trained under Batman! I read in a recent comic where Robin almost killed the Green Lantern just by out smarting him; that means all those super powers don't mean shit! You ever wondered why the Justice League feared Batman, yet respected him so much? And he had no super power? He calculates every move three to four steps in advance, just like chess. Anyone who trained under "The Bat," I'm rolling with. You should read HUSH Where he takes on Superman...Crazy shit! [Laughs]
Percy Carey: [Laughs] I think Bruce Wayne is crazy.
Novel: [Stops laughing] Yo! By the way...
Percy Carey: [Laughs] Yeah?
Novel: Did you know they killed Batman off?
Percy Carey: [Stops laughing] Whoa..I don't even know what to say about that right now.
Novel: What the fuck? First Captain America now Batman. What is the world coming to?
Percy Carey: Trust me Novel, I'll get to the bottom of it if DC Comics ever gets me an interview with Grant Morrison. I'll also send your interview directly to Grant and see if I can get it done that way. I give you my word.
Novel: Sounds good, because I want to know.
Percy Carey: I would like to thank you for taking the time to bless me with this interview.
Novel: Thank you, and god bless to all of the comic book readers out there.
Left To Right: Chris Rosa of Meltdown Comics, Percy Carey & Novel
Make sure to take the Novel poll and help push "I Am" to number one on MTV. Support that man.
Grant Morrison, if you're reading this, the people are demanding an interview, so holla at your boy new blood!
May your thought bubbles be filled with wonderful text....This is Percy Carey for Complex.com signing out.
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