January 14, 2016

Mr. Lif "Live Long & Prosper" (CMJ, 1/01)

"Ducking out a staggeringly long concert at New York's S.O.B.'s ... I bump into Mr. Lif, lugging his travel bag through the crowd. Despite the early hour and having been up until four in the morning politicking, the MC is still pushing himself to shake hands and meet fans. He reminisces about falling asleep on buses back in his hometown of Boston and walking home in the rain carrying his own promotional material. At 25, Mr. Lif finds himself on the bus a lot these days, traveling from show to show, trying to stay awake and coming to terms with the practical side of his great love - hip-hop... It was back in '94, when Lif was a student and a year-round athlete at Colgate University, that he had his first great awakening. "I felt like I had no time to actually think about what I wanted to do." Sleepwalking through the doldrums and "doctrine" of school, the idealistic undergrad needed to refocus. "So I just took a step back and let some energy flow through me and that's what happened," he remembers. "I was overwhelmed by the passion to MC. "On Enters The Colossus, his debut EP, that passion manifests itself in his edgy, intimidating tone and relentless delivery."

"But the aural image of Mr. Lif as a ferocious gladiator is betrayed in person by a poet's pensiveness - not to mention wire frames endlessly slipping to the tip of his nose... Lif says his name, short for "uplift," suggests a "struggle for openness." He prizes "the willingness to, once you feel completely founded in a certain way of thought, not to be afraid to the point of paralysis to completely shatter that and start over." Since embracing music in college, Lif has had to shatter his own perception of the career artist and learn the business of making records. To that end, he created his production company, Thought Wizard (under the Def Jux label, headed by Company Flow's El-P). "Thought Wizard's not a label. It's kind of ambiguous even in my mind," he says. "I knew that I wanted to set something up to shelter myself and have a business structure to bring forth my acts." Besides being a soloist, Lif is a member of two Boston rap groups: the Knights Of The Roundtable with T-Ruckus and Insight, and the Perceptionists with Akrobatik. Thought Wizard is the name under which these groups can fund and assemble material as they see fit. "It's grassroots right now," Lif laughs.... Mr. Lif may be up late handing the business side of his art, but that independence is what really allows him to sleep at night." - CMJ , January 2001.