There was The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper, The Beastie Boys’ Ill Communication, and now there’s is Pilgrimage by MC Yogi. Reaching #1 on the iTunes World Music charts upon release, MC Yogi’s sophomore album dives deeper into self-inquiry, spirituality, and Slick Rick stylings guaranteed to get your non-bhakta brethren break-dancing to the beat.
I had the privilege of speaking with MC Yogi about his recent pilgrimage to Mt. Arunchala which honors Sri Ramana Maharishi, Lord Shiva, and the cycles of Samsara we all must face.
Amy V Dewhurst: The name of your album is Pilgrimage; tell me about your recent pilgrimage.
MC YOGI: When I went to India on this last trip, I didn’t want to just go to India and take from her, gather her silence. I wanted to hear her, talk to her, and engage with her. Not like a tourist, but like a pilgrim. When you go somewhere and you take a pilgrimage, you are not going to a place on vacation. You are going to see yourself, and from this perspective, you encounter yourself in different forms.
AVD: If you could summarize the experience in words, what would you say is the benefit of traveling in this way?
MC YOGI: The quest is inward, the quest is for you to discover yourself, to leave your daily life, to see who you are in a completely different context; it totally frees you up. You see all the things you were identifying yourself as, in relation to your surroundings; and you start to see all your limitations and identifications.
AVD: Which is what your song “I AM THAT” is all about! (Sings from the song)”Netti Netti, Netti Netti.”
MC YOGI: Right. Whenever you add something to the end of “I AM” like, “I am ugly”, or “I am sad” it shackles the mind and it becomes an identity. It quickly becomes heavy. It starts to choke off the prana and you feel stifled. When you break out of that and see I am actually everything. “I AM THAT” is like an affirmation, it cuts through the mind. “I AM THAT” is just a reminder that the body is a costume. I have always existed and I will never die. You know the body is born, so it must die, but the self is eternal.
AVD: Whew. Well, I have to thank you for the song “Shedding Skin (Beloved Friend Edit).” I recently lost someone very close to me and that song was the first thing to make any sense. It pulled me, and so many grieving friends, out of the black hole. How did that piece evolve?
MC YOGI: My friend DJ Fabian Alsultany was playing some tracks and the musical composition started to call out to me. One of my first teachers, Larry Schultz, passed away abruptly. He unzipped the costume and just left in the matter of a week. I was shaken because I didn’t get to see him before he left.
Larry used to travel with The Grateful Dead and taught them yoga. He was a legend. He was like a rude boy; he pissed a lot of people off. A lot of people loved him. He was a badass. He didn’t really conform to anyone’s rules. He was definitely a rock n’ roll yogi. A sadhu.
That song was circulating and something clicked — these words just sort of came together. This song is a reminder that we’re all going to have to peel away this skin and just fly. So many of us know people who already have, and it’s painful and it’s sad.
AVD: The song captures it all beautifully.
MC YOGI: I’m grateful to Karsh Kale because he kicked it off. He originally wrote that piece and I felt what he had gone through.
AVD: We could feel what you had gone through, so it worked!
MC YOGI: Thanks for sharing that, dude, because you never know. You put a song or a record out and maybe some people like it, maybe some people don’t; you never really know how it affects people.
All I know is all the music I grew up with and how it affected me. That’s what drives me and compels me to make music. When I was going through really dark difficult times, especially in my youth when I felt like I just wanted to check out, I remember it was music that helped me to plug in and just keep going. So hopefully I can offer that and pay that forward.
AVD: For sure—just like those before us have. Can you imagine what your life would be like without The Beastie Boys’ “Bodhisattva Vow?”
MC YOGI: Just the way that whole rhyme started: “I praise the Buddhas as they shine” — that was it for me, I was like “Whoa” and the way his voice comes through the telephone and the way the Tibetan monks are chanting, that song was on heavy rotation.
What was powerful about that song was not just the production, but what he was actually saying. He was making a statement to everybody, “I am endeavoring to live like a Bodhisattva,” and this is M-C-A-!
If you remember The Beastie Boys in the 80s, they were rowdy and they were talking about guns and doing dust, so to see that transformation, to go from that to being a Buddha essentially, I mean again, it’s that story of pilgrimage…
AVD: (repeating the last lines from “Bodhisattva Vow”) “And in times of doubt I can think on the dharma,”
MC YOGI & AVD: And the enlightened ones who’ve graduated samsara.”
MC Yogis’s latest album Pilgrimage has been released on White Swan Records. To For more MC Yogi Happenings, go to: www.mcyogi.com
MC Yogi will be headlining at Bhakti Fest, September in Joshua Tree.: bhaktifest.com.