Creatively weaving hip-hop, rap, poetry, and spoken word arts, Cujo is intent upon speaking “truth to power.” Vulnerability exposed as challenging questions are raised, he shines a light on uncomfortable realities as he strives to raise collective consciousness.
Cujo’s passion for music is the foundational wave his words ride with an ebb and flow of stories to which many of us can relate. Expressing raw emotion in imaginative ways, his lyricism cuts through societal expectations and oppressive structures with connective, engaging energy.
Says Cujo, “After having performed for many unsuspecting audiences at music festivals and venues around the country I'm finding that not only are the people ready for the message of education, peace, love and organized action, but people who never knew they loved hip-hop are grooving to the sounds.”
Our Interview with Cujo
What does “being creative” mean to you?
Well that’s a loaded question! I think creativity is about being open and receptive – or channeling even. To me it seems to be something outside of myself that is actually at work when I’m writing my best. Of course, that doesn’t mean you don’t need to practice or hone your craft, but just that sometimes it is important to let go of so much control when you are trying to create. If you are envisioning imagery in your head, you won’t be able to portray even a fraction of it without practicing brush strokes for years and years.
It can be terrifying to show others your art at times. We often hold tight to it as a reflection of ourselves and therefore fear judgement of ourselves from the audience, but really it is a reflection of our world, our experience, and our perception that is being shown. If you can separate yourself from the art, in a way that frees you up to not only allow others to judge your art without feeling like they’re jabbing daggers into your heart every time they “don’t get it” or don’t see it how you do, but also to create more authentic work and grow in your artistry.
Can you describe the time when you first realized that creating was something you absolutely wanted to do?
Birth. Next question. But seriously, humans are creative by nature. It is just a matter of finding what you are good at creating, or maybe better yet, nailing down WHY you want to create something and then practicing all sorts of skills that relate to a medium over and over and over (and over and over) again.
What kind of creative patterns, routines or rituals do you have?
At least 20 minutes practicing delivery of songs or poems – ideally 1 to 2 hours a day. Whether that be songs I wrote 4 years ago or stuff I’m working on writing this week. Muscles have memory and the muscles involved in vocalizing are no different so I try not to take many days off from at least this small task.
Outside of that I think this is something I have actually struggled with over the years, as I am always discovering new and different things I want to work on from promotion, producing music for my lyrics to lay over, organizing events, working collaboratively with other artists, etc. Recently I have launched a weekly video series where I am essentially sharing a brand new piece of work every week. People have signed up to pay for this content as it is released, and this adds a layer of urgency to the practice. So far that has entailed a new song, poem or even fictional short story every week. I am on 20 weeks of this process so far, and it has greatly impacted my artistry and creative process in a positive way that I highly recommend! Give yourself deadlines, and more importantly, give yourself deadlines that other people are aware of and expect you to meet!
What’s your favorite thing you’ve ever created and why?
That probably changes nearly every time I create a new piece if I’m being honest. I am constantly looking back at old pieces with a little bit of distaste as I progress and get better at what I am doing, but I think the physical and mental release that comes from completing a project gives each new piece a fresh leg up on the others and I love it most…until I’m done creating the next thing.
What are you trying to communicate or express with your art?
That we are much more similar than we are different.
That things are not always as simple as they seem.
That we are all capable of making an impact on others.
And maybe most of all that we are responsible for each other whether we like it or not.
Which creative medium would you love to pursue but haven’t yet?
Live music production – BUT I have set out to give this a shot for the first time on September 14th at Pepper in Green Bay 7 – 9 pm. For the first time ever, I will be producing music live for most of my work during this show and I would love to have the support of the NEWAA community as I embark on a new kind of artistic journey.
What’s the best advice you have ever received in relation to your art?
“It may be fun, but it is still work.” It doesn’t always just easily flow out of you. There are times when your dedication will be tested, or when you just won’t be any good at creating because you have something else in your life that needs that energy for the time being.
What advice would you give a young or new artist who is just starting out?
Consume all different types of art! Find out what excites you and take advantage of different perspectives from established artists. Talk to them when you can about their work, their process, their inspiration, etc.
And to elaborate on the previous question: If you hit a roadblock – and if you are creating any type of art, you absolutely will – the best thing I’ve found is to try something totally different. Writer’s block? Paint a self-portrait – even if you suck. Feel like you keep creating the same thing over and over? Try to take on cooking a new dish…I mean an elaborate one with demi-glace and ingredients you’ve never heard of and shit! Try something NEW – that is the operative word. This has been the best tool to jog my creativity when I’m feeling stuck.
What’s the best thing about being an artist in Northeast Wisconsin?
In some cases it can be a gift and a curse – there is space. This can mean there is a lack of awareness on one hand for the general public and it can sometimes take a bit of effort to make sure people even know about what you are doing as an artist. However, this also means that it is a bit of a frontier. Northeast Wisconsin or Wisconsin in general does not really have a well established artistic identity like New York or Chicago or L.A. for example. This means that we can play a huge role in shaping that identity. This is something I take into consideration all the time when planning events, composing work, choosing events to attend, or even how I conduct myself in my daily life: how does what I am doing – what we are doing – impact the art scene, and largely in my case the hip-hop scene, on the whole?
Checkout the Cujo: Raw and Uncut event.