Jonah The Whale

Melissa Moniz
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Friday - March 21, 2008

The 411

Friend or Foe

Born Makepa Vertido at Castle Medical Center on Prince Kuhio Day,the little tyke moved to Seattle, where he lived until he was 10 years old. In 1987, he moved to homestead Waimanalo, where he lived with his grandparents and later graduated from Castle High School.

That was the beginning of Jonah The Whale. As for his music? Without hesitation, he answers: “I’ve been in music all my life. Head to toe hip-hop, I’m dipped in it. My music is everyday life. A lot of people say that, but I mean that. It’s all poetry to me. Everything is a story.”

Exploding with his words and melodies, Jonah’s first solo release, Friend or Foe, is an intimate excursion into his mind. It’s all that happened to him in the past four years and the struggle of not just making it in the world, but the struggle of finding yourself while remembering who you are.

“Basically this album is about my love for music because I’ve lost a lot and gained a lot, and this album just reflects all of that,“says the 30-year-old. “It’s stories for days. You pick it, I talk about it - the heartbreaks, the failed relationships. And the words are very clear and I make no mistake.When you hear it, what I’m saying is what I’m saying, and who I’m saying it to. I’m a real clear-cut guy.”

The album is a reflection of his life and the knowledge that he hopes to pass on to his children and anyone else who wants to listen. Jonah makes it clear that fame,money and success are not his intentions in making music.

“My stuff has been sent out to some radio stations, but I’m just letting the business side take care of that. I’m not all about that. I don’t want the fame, but I do want to be known because I do want people to hear what I have to say. A man can accomplish everything,but if you can’t leave behind knowledge, then it ain’t worth anything. It’s really about leaving something behind.”



Jonah The Whale
Jonah The Whale

How did you get your name,Jonah the Whale?

I’ve had many names, but Jonah came about like this: When I was born, I was born on Jonah Kuhio Day. I don’t have an English name; my name is Makepa Hawea Vertido. My family used to sometimes call me Prince Jonah because I was born on Kuhio Day. Jonah wasn’t exactly what they called me all my life, but it lingered with me. The Whale is my other self. The story of Jonah and the Whale is about getting consumed and getting out. Making it out of the belly of the beast, that’s what it is. Jonah was trying to go and do what he wanted to do and the gods weren’t having it, so when he got out of that beast, he changed his life. That’s what I did - I changed my life. I took all the bad, all the negative and all the anger from what happened when I was a kid. I got bullied a lot. I’m not saying we couldn’t handle ourselves, but we were 11-year-old kids getting beat up by high school kids - that’s not cool.

Is music your life or a passion?

Music is me. It’s what I’ve always been about. It’s everybody, though, I can’t just say just me. I think everyone is musically inclined. You can’t wake up and not listen to music on your way to work. Just multiply that by 100 and you got what I get. I get up in the morning and I can feel it already.Accomplish something, you know? Today is another day, accomplish something. To me, I’m just a journalist who chooses to do his stuff over music. But, yeah, music is who I am; it’s what I do.Everyone has their own talents and mine is writing.

Besides this being your first solo release, what about the album are you most proud of?

That it got done. I mean, it was four years in the making. I’ve had people give up on me, I’ve had producers just stop because money is tight. They’re like, “Where’s the money coming from?“Money this, money that. And I’m like, if you’ve got heart, you’ll get it out. A lot of people weren’t down because they wanted it out now, and I’m like, life doesn’t happen now, it happens as it happens. So just to get it out, I’m proud of that because it technically should have crashed and burned years ago.

Do you see yourself as a positive influence, and do you welcome that responsibility?

It’s not up to us. You’re in the public, this is Hawaii, kids are going to watch you - feel responsible. I’m not going to go so far as to say I’m a good influence, though. I am what I am. I used to do graffiti - not good,though.I talk about crazy stuff in music, and some of my stuff you can’t even play on the radio, but they try. But it’s not because of swearing,it’s because of what I talk about. With swearing, at least they can bleep that out; you can’t bleep out a sentence about someone committing adultery. It’s vivid. Everything I do is vivid. So do I feel responsible? Yeah. Do I take the role on? I already have - I’m a father. Once you become a father, that’s it. Am I positive influence? That’s up to opinion.

What’s your relationship with all the other artists of SIQ Records?

I feel closer to them now than ever before. I think, as a group, our craziest times had to have been back in the day, but you can’t have fun all the time when you’re trying to get to a goal and achieve a dream. I’m close enough to them where we almost hate each other and love each other at the same time.It’s a love-hate relationship, but that’s the best kind of relationship.

What do you say to people who say that hip-hop is negative, or hip-hop isn’t good for kids?

I say stop hiding your kids and sitting them in front of the Playstation. Music is music. I don’t blame people because there is some negative in hip-hop,but personally, I don’t see it as a negative because, like I said, I’m ying and yang - you can’t have good without bad. So, if there’s bad there,there’s got to be good in there somewhere, too. So I just say stop hiding your kids, because you may just turn around one day and be the father or mother of another clone, another drone, another worker who has no aspirations other than to be what he or she sees on TV.

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