Nahshid Sulaiman (born Ralond Scruggs), better known by his stage name One Be Lo, is an alternative hip hop artist from Pontiac, Michigan. He is well respected for being one half of the rap duo Binary Star, and has released a number of well-received solo albums. He is also a member of the World Champion B-boy crew, Massive Monkees.
Lo was adopted in Pontiac, Mich., where his mother worked as a beautician and his stepfather worked at a plant. As a result, he developed appreciation for women, fashion, working with a variety of different people, discipline, and forgiveness. He busied himself with over a dozen different activities and attended church several times a week with his family. Life changed once his parents divorced when he was 14-years-old. With lower supervision and more exposure to new things, he ran the streets with older kids until he went to prison days after his 18th birthday. While in prison, OneBeLo read extensively and converted to Islam after seeing it wasn't what he was told it was as a Christian child. He also formed the rap group Binary Star with his partner-in-crime Senim Silla. Despite domestic violence, murder and other drama out of his control happening back home, Lo handled his sentence without losing himself.
Upon Lo's release, in 1998 he formed the hip-hop group Binary Star with Senim Silla, and they hit the ground running. On their self-released debut Water World, they teamed up with future staples like Elzhi, J.U.I.C.E. and Athletic Mic League to exercise creative concepts and deliver substantial messages. Lo formed a production team with Decompoze, who he had recorded with in high school. Binary Star quickly sold out of their initial 1,000 copies as the album was praised as an "instant classic." Though Lo had intended to rhyme anonymously as a solo act to revert attention to the music, he was often addressed as OneManArmy because of a line he used in a song. Lo added extra Senim Silla verses and new songs to a Waterworld re-release entitled Masters of the Universe in 2000, and continued to focus on turing with Subterraneous and recording several albums' worth of new music.
He and Senim Silla would later go their separate ways, Lo cited "creative differences" as the main reason for their split.
Despite earlier claims, Binary Star's official Myspace page states that, "Recently reuniting after a 10-year hiatus, Binary Star is back in the studio working on its long awaited follow-up to the classic debut album Masters of the Universe (M.O.T.U.). Tentatively titled Light Years Apart, the duo's EP serves as a mere prequel to a full-length LP."
In January 2000, Lo compiled his Subterraneous Records crew--which consisted of Malaki The Most High, Decompoze, Kodac, Magestik Legend, DJ Phrikshun and iLLite--in January 2000. This enabled him to release his own albums more easily, while also promoting a number of Michigan's most promising producers and emcees. A year later, Subterraneous Records released WaterWorld Too, a compilation featuring a number of artists from the label's roster. In the meantime, he continued to work on his solo material with producer Decompoze. In late 2002, One Be Lo decided to press limited copies of Project F.E.T.U.S. (For Everybody That Under Stands), a collection of songs that were not initially intended for release. This release was a planned prequel to One Be Lo's debut album.
2005: S.O.N.O.G.R.A.M. and S.T.I.L.L.B.O.R.N.:
After the success of Project F.E.T.U.S, the disc sold thousands of copies, he would later complete his next project titled S.O.N.O.G.R.A.M. (Sounds Of Nahshid Originate Good Rhymes And Music). He approached Fat Beats Records to press a single to help promote the album, and they gave him a different offer.
"They asked me to send them the song I was thinking about using for the single, and I was like, 'If they're doing the 12-inch, I'll let them pick the song.' So I just sent them the whole album," Lo remembers. "They hit me back like, 'We don't want to do a 12-inch. We want to do the whole album."
Lo signed with Fat Beats for distribution in 2003, and the label asked him to change his name from OneManArmy to avoid legal troubles with a similarly named punk band. He changed his name to OneBeLo since he had used that with F.E.T.U.S. He would later go to Mecca, Saudi Arabia on Hajj, an Islamic tradition to find one's self. Meanwhile, Fat Beats pushed back S.O.N.O.G.R.A.M. until 2005. S.O.N.O.G.R.A.M. featured a number of fellow Michigan rappers such as Abdus Salaam and singer Ka Di. The album was critically acclaimed and sold about 12,000 copies within Lo's first few weeks on tour. Many praised One Be Lo for his conscious and intelligent lyrics.
After closely examining the F.E.T.U.S. with his album S.O.N.O.G.R.A.M., OneBeLo decided to breathe new life into his released and unreleased cameos for a different project. S.T.I.L.L.B.O.R.N. (Subterraneous/Trackezoids Invest Lost Lyrics Bringing Old Rhymes New) is a 27-track compilation of Lo's older released and unreleased guest appearances, paired with original new Decompoze beats and mixed all together by DJ Scene. OneBeLo listeners had choices in 2005. They could enjoy the cohesive focus of S.O.N.O.G.R.A.M., or the scattered brilliance of S.T.I.L.L.B.O.R.N.
With two projects in tow, Lo landed tours and major festivals, rocking 160 shows per year between 2005 and 2007. In American Pie 6, this album is on the wall of the principal actor, Erik Stifler.
2007: The R.E.B.I.R.T.H.:
Continuing his journey to chase the greater good, Lo moved his family to Egypt to expose them to a non-American perspective. Once he saw personnel changes at Fat Beats when he arrived back years later, he worked his way out of his deal and self-released The R.E.B.I.R.T.H. (Real Emcees Bring Intelligent Rhymes To Hip-Hop). The R.E.B.I.R.T.H. symbolizes several turning points in OneBeLo's life. He recorded the album after moving back to the United States after living in Egypt with his family for several years, the disc was also recorded after the early passing of his daughter.
Eager to collaborate with producers and use a different sound, Lo collaborated with beatmakers like Lab Techs, Jake One, Memo (of the Molemen), and others. The album performed well, but Lo again wanted to change his approach. Rather than use his previous method of recording as many songs as possible and compiling what he thought were the best songs, he decided to sit down and focus on one piece of work. That piece was entitled B.A.B.Y. (Being A Black Youth).
B.A.B.Y. (Being a Black Youth) is the latest brainchild of One Be Lo.
"Most of it is personal, stories of different situations I dealt with growing up. But these are experiences that many of us share to some degree. So I based most of it from my own life, but the album is not only about me, it's about the experience of youth, and of people in general. Since I can't speak for all youth, I reached out to a few artist from different parts of the country that I knew could bring different perspectives, and they filled in the blanks. Topics range from Family, to love, from economics to music, basically just everyday life for a youth. We all know how complex things can be growing up, not only in America, but all over the world. Baby is an acronym that ultimately stands for Being A Black Youth. I grew up as a black youth, but it's not about just being "black". There are many experiences that we all share as youth and when you here the album you might find yourself saying, "I'm not black, but I can relate to that too." So you can make your own Acronym (Being a Blonde Youth-lol). There are many youth out there not just black you, who who feel "Blue". They have felt "betrayed", "belittled"... they have been "beaten" and "battered". Many us go through our own struggles sometimes starting the day we are born. Now don't get me wrong, this album is not all about struggle. This is also about Being a "Brave" youth, or being "brilliant". We have/had our share of bad times, and good ones too. So regardless of the situation, the overall message is- "If it don't kill you, it makes you stronger. Black, blue, blonde, brown or whatever, we all are "Blessed". Whether you are 9 months old, or 90 years old...at one point your were a youth, and this album is for you. So stay tuned for the birthdate..."
Much of the album, which features the likes of Freeway, Phonte (of Little Brother), Devin The Dude, Guilty Simpson, Royce da 5'9", Zion I, Akir, and others, was lost when thieves broke in and stole studio equipment. Additionally, the label he had signed with, MYX, dissolved before the record could drop.
Lo stashed his latest sessions and began to work on his album, L.A.B.O.R. (Language Arts Based On Reality) from scratch. The new project takes metaphorical inspiration from animals and occupations, jumpstarts a new Waterworld movement with the LABORhood, and lays the foundation to a crop of other conceptual records. The Bulk of production comes from D Will of Kansas City, but reputable producers like 14KT, Nick Speed and Vitamin D are just a few of the contributors. L.A.B.O.R. also showcases the musicianship of One Be Lo's fellow Pontiac natives David "DMT" Vied (guitar), Derek "The Tyrant" Caraway (keyboard) and Detroit's Emily Rogers (bass).
"With this project, I'm staying busy and developing my ideas. I'm going through the pains of L.A.B.O.R. before delivering this B.A.B.Y.," Lo says. "Don't let anyone stop you from creating your art."
2012-present: K.I.C.K. P.U.S.H.:
K.I.C.K. P.U.S.H. (Keep It Cool Kid, People Usually Show Hate) was birthed in the wee hours of the night, while most people were resting and preparing for the next workday. After spending long days recording and mixing the L.A.B.O.R. album, it felt like going to Widetrax studio afterwards was more like taking a break from the actual job. The L.A.B.O.R. project is very conceptual. There are many layers in that project, and I expect people to take a while to get all of it. This K.I.C.K. P.U.S.H. is a fun record. Recording it was fun because there was no pressure to do it, but we still maintain the same work ethic. At one point, Pontiac was known for manufacturing cars, that moved people all over the world. Now that the auto industry is a ghost in our town, we carry on the tradition of manufacturing music that will move people all over the globe, whether you have a car or not.
"K.I.C.K. (Keep It Cool Kid) P.U.S.H. (People Usually Show Hate) represents the raw energy that inspired me to make music over 20 years ago. We were always self motivated because most people around us didn't understand what we were doing, or had the crab in the bucket mentality. In some instances we had to KICK down doors and PUSH our way in. For everybody that understands, S.O.N.O.G.R.A.M. (Sounds of Nahshid Originate Good Rhymes And Music). Something to interest Lo listeners beyond original recorded networkings. Real emcee's bring intelligent rhymes to Hip-Hop. Language arts based on Reality. Keep it cool kid. People usually show hate. That's the motto."
All of Lo's solo albums have been leading up to his magnum opus, entitled L.I.F.E. (Lo Is For Everybody).
One Be Lo has crafted himself into what he describes as "the MC's MC". He is often praised for his clear delivery, precise rapping style and conscious lyrics, especially from fans of alternative hip hop. This was noted by Allmusic in their review of S.O.N.O.G.R.A.M., saying:
"One Be Lo is a deep thinker; the details and complex wordplay within his rhymes often take several plays to fully comprehend and appreciate. Similar in effect to X-Clan's Brother J, his words can be righteous, but they're always delivered with casual assurance, like he's talking to an acquaintance at a bus stop. He observes with the wisdom of a father who's been through prison, raises a lot of issues, has almost as many solutions, and never sounds overbearing or preachy.