Interview: Shinobi Ninja

New York Rock Hood Group, Shinobi Ninja, live out their intent of shaping a vibrant state of consciousness that includes and welcomes all throughout their music and artistry. Having ‘Bless Up’ under their belts as an album that speaks for itself, Shinobi Ninja are finding the wealth that comes from embodying their truest selves. I caught up with Vocalist, Duke Sims (D.A), to discuss how growing up in Brooklyn shaped the man that he is today, progress over perfection, becoming more confident in his talents, being a kid in the studio and more.

Congrats on the success of your fourth studio album, ‘Bless Up’. Tell us about the creative and recording process and what you learned along the way.

‘Bless Up’ was a collection of the  songs we were working on right before our studio that we had been creating and working out of for the past 6 years closed. The goal was to complete these songs before the studio closed, so the album had a vibe of closure and also a positive outlook for what is to come for us in the future. The lesson for me on this album is that you may think that this song or that song is gonna be the one but in actuality it’s not that song you think, it’s the song you don’t think too much of that is going to be the song that people find and connect with the most. I had experienced that before with our previous album, but this album cemented that for me; to be open to whatever is gonna happen.

You guys carry the New York swagger so well, so naturally. Tell us about your life in the Big Apple and how living in New York has impacted your life.

I’m born and raised in Brooklyn and have been running around NYC my whole life. It’s all I’ve ever known. When you hear the phrase, “If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck then it’s a duck”, that’s me. Brooklyn formed me. It put me arm and arm with every nationality, age, race, sex, etc. that you could have. I grew up playing in the streets; street basketball, baseball, music, cutting school, getting in trouble, music, good times and bad times. The concrete jungle is the school I graduated from. I’ve seen all kinds of crazy things and I learned from all of it. It’s teachings are with me always.

Showcasing the human in you, what is a challenging thought that you recently had and were able to overcome over time?

Life is a challenge. It just keeps coming. I’m still learning. Fear is something I’ve overcome over time. That’s the biggest challenge. Fear of any kind and choosing not letting it stop you in whatever it is your doing and want to accomplish. Progress over perfection was a key lesson for me. Perfection is perception and it doesn’t exist. Progress is real. You can see it. So I go for progress over perfection. Trying to be perfect used to lock me in. Now I don’t care about that. I keep putting in the work and moving forward. That’s a good feeling. When things reach completion and then you move to the next thing. Keep growing.

How has your experience in the music industry impacted your life? How was the man that is Dave changed every since you began with Shinobi Ninja?

Before Shinobi Ninja, I was still thinking about who I wanted to be and how I could become that person. Shinobi Ninja allowed me an avenue to succeed and to fail. With success, I became stronger and more confident in my talents and what I can offer the world through my art and music and my love for the people and the universe. Failure taught me about changing things that I was not doing well or things that were holding me back. It taught me to let go and to not hold on to expectations. The music industry is made of people. I love people. Shinobi Ninja gave me an avenue to be a Superhero. Now I can fly.

What is your perception on the digital world that we live in and social media culture?

I think it is awesome. I think there’s quick fix meals out there that is the content we see everyday. There’s levels of substance. You can see something that entertains you for a couple minutes but doesn’t really change you and then you can see or hear things that make you really think. I love the digital age we live in because all the info is out there. Information is power. This is a great time for thinkers and artists. A lot of fuel for the fire.

No career path or amount of followers negates the fact that you are a human being that has feelings. Tell us about some parts of you beyond being a musician that you take pride in.

I take pride in service. When I can be of service to people that is a great thing. However, I can be a positive contribution to the people is what it’s all about for me. Whether it’s a song, or a video, or a piece of art or a text message or a positive word to someone. A life is here and then gone, so for me it’s about being a positive influence and force while I’m here in this journey at this time.

As you are exposed to tons of stimulus, how do you proactively take care of your mental and emotional health when you’re out on the road?

I don’t watch the news. I don’t watch politics. No murder killing type shows. If the Golden Girls is on then it stays on. I love to have anything that I’m going to hear or see be uplifting for my spirit and mind. Documentary’s are great information. Sitcoms have the laugh track. Laughing is good. Music is good. Hearing new music that will inspire my creativity to new realms. Being around good people. Smoking weed. Eating well.

Photo Credit: Pixel Journalism

Tell us about a day in the studio with you making beats. Are you experimental and willing to take major creative risks in your music?

My mom took me to a class when I was little that was a dude in a loft in NYC surrounded by things. He showed how you can make sounds with anything. He put water on a mirror and made noises. Then he took a hose from a vacuum cleaner and whirled it around his head and it made a cool sound; that impacted me huge. When I go into the studio, I’m still that little kid. I’m listening for that unknown. I’m down to try anything. If it sounds good then it’s a go for me. I’m there for the magic. I’m listening to what my body tells me is the hotness. I trust my instincts and I have fun. The most fun. Being in the studio for me is like a fish being in water. It’s who I am. I learned to breathe there. It’s like a bird flying. I could fly forever.

Last but certainly not least, any closing messages for your fans?!

Keep spreading the positive vibes. Move with compassion. Move with love. Take time to breath. Take time for yourself. Check yourself. Check your ego. Think about your goals for life. How will you accomplish them? What have you learned in trying different ways to achieve them? How can you adapt? How can you keep growing? Make the best of today. Keep moving forward. Every step adds up. Even if you only move an inch forward today. Inches add up to feet. Feet add up to Miles. Follow the yellow brick road. Keep dreaming. Keep striving. You’re not perfect. Nobody is. Have compassion for yourself. Your awesome and I want you to know your loved. I believe in you.

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Feature Image Photo Credit: Commons.Wikimedia.Org

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