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NON-STOP HIP-HOP: A Word To The Wize

Josh Rizeberg drops his sophomore album

ON THE RIZE: Josh Rizeberg's A Word To The Wize is full of "mad knowledge." Photo courtesy of MySpace

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On an overcast Sunday afternoon I had the opportunity to sit down and have a conversation with one of my favorite MCs from Puget Sound - Josh Rizeberg.  I was excited to meet with Rizeberg because he's one of a growing contingent of hip-hop artists in our region beginning to step his game up and develop a career rather than a hobby. With so many others failing, Rizeberg's strategy incorporates making the most of his character, spirituality and motivation to accomplish goals and make his mark. 

Following his outstanding 2008 debut, Spoken Worlds, Rizeberg thinks you will agree that his new album, A Word To The Wize is a bit darker, more serious, a little "magical" - and definitely worthy of your time.

Rizeberg's story has to begin with his roots and pride as a Tac-Town native; he's one of the chosen few cats who has what's called "hood immunity" - meaning not only has he spent time in various so-called Tacoma ‘hoods (Hilltop, Eastside, South Side), he's actually welcomed, respected and not sweated wherever he goes.  Some people hesitate to walk on certain blocks in certain neighborhoods; Rizeberg is comfortable in his skin.  To earn this rare form of respect in a city chock full of turfs, one must be personable, respectful and good at whatever it is they do.

Rizeberg calls Hilltop his home today. While he grew up spending time all over Tacoma, he avoided the deeper trappings of gang life and the gutter paths that swallowed so many.  The confidence he exudes and sense of purpose he's developed he partially credits to his education and upbringing, which fertilized his creative roots.  Rizeberg was raised and educated attending Jewish school, where study and attainment of knowledge is a duty (not an option or burden) to the people and religion; this work ethic paid magnificent dividends for Rizeberg and would influence his desire to excel in life.

"Learning about Jews and Israelites and our history naturally led me to learn about Africa - the birthplace of people, and - more specifically - Egypt," says Rizeberg with noticeable intrigue in his eyes. "I study Egyptology, language and culture and I have never stopped wanting to learn."

Rizeberg's open-minded approach to life combined with the tenacity and grind that Tacoma has given him makes him a powerful artist.  His creativity is received and respected wherever he is performing - whether it's outside of the Fish House Café on MLK or at The Tacoma Art Museum in the replenished and gentrified portion of downtown Tacoma. 

"I love the rush of performing and I don't really care where," says Rizeberg.  "I feel like performing is where I am supposed to be."

With Word To The Wize, Rizeberg - as a poet and MC - describes the difference between the two artist types from his own unique perspective.  It's a fitting subject, because Rizeberg has uniquely earned and embraced each title - and has an award-winning resume to boot. 

"A lot of people can be both, but there are different processes for each," he says.  "Anything written with artistic expression is poetry and a good rap can be a poem, but with hip-hop the style usually includes a beat and attitude. I feel the same when I do each.  I am both."

In creating Word To The Wize, Rizeberg enlisted a diverse cast of producers, local and national.  "I wanted this album to sound different both musically and lyrically," says Rizeberg, having gathered tracks from Xaviant Haze (Miami, Fla.), Todd Sykes, Shin (both from Tacoma), Eeetree (Oakland) and Unknown (Phoenix). 

"I think this album has some magic in it", says Rizeberg.  "There's mad knowledge here and not a lot of artists are going down this lane." 

Rizeberg is moving at high speeds, hopefully you can keep up with the flow.

[Jazzbones, Josh Rizeberg with Khingz, Q-Dot, Dough Kain, Suntonio Bandanaz, Rajnii Eddins, Jay Barz, Wednesday, April 28, 9 p.m., $5, 2803 Sixth Ave., Tacoma, 253.396.9169]

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