Devine Carama: A Vintage Love Supreme

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Photo courtesy of BC Photography

Photo courtesy of BC Photography

Hip-Hop always seems to get press when something negative happens. Beefs between rap artists, arrests, and acts of violence are front page stories on rap and mainstream outlets. No one ever promotes when an artist does something positive — and it happens all the time.

One such artist that consistently gives back to the community is Devine Carama. From Lexington, Kentucky, Carama’s lyrics are full of substance. The conscious emcee has an extensive discography of music that makes you think. His latest effort challenges the listener to give back.

A Vintage Love Supreme is a 17-track concept mixtape produced by DJ Well Blended with guest appearances by Allen Poe and JK-47. Carama is offering fans the opportunity to receive a free digital or physical copy of the mixtape by doing some form of community service, taking a photo of said service, and tagging Devine Carama via social media.

Devine Carama spoke to The Real Hip-Hop about his philanthropic ways, the importance of making music with a message, and his new mixtape, A Vintage Love Supreme.

TRHH: Explain the title of the new mixtape, A Vintage Love Supreme.

Devine Carama: The concept is a relationship between an aging but an aspiring emcee in Hip-Hop. It kind of reads like a love story, but it’s actually between an emcee and Hip-Hop. It was originally going to be called “A Vintage Love” but we added the “Supreme” in to pay homage to John Coltrane. That’s one of my favorite albums, period – A Love Supreme. It’s only 36 minutes long so it’s like a love story but it actually moves like an action flick. We got a lot of minute and a half to two-minute songs on there. It moves quick and it’s a concept. It’s not really one of those you can listen to like, “What’s the best song on the tape,” it has a flow to it. Artistically that’s pretty much it.

I’m big on messages and substance. This is probably my least substance-driven album just because I tried to stay true to the concept. We still have a song on there called “Black Love Matters”. Even on the songs that don’t really fit into the concept they’re acting out the concept, if that makes sense. We got a joint called “X Factor” and on the two verses I’m talking about my ex-girl which is gangsta rap and my other ex-girl which is rappity rap. That’s saying in the past I was using the gun bars, and trying to be the dopest rapper alive, but neither one of those relationships worked. So my new girl and my soul mate is making music with a message. That goes into the Black Love Matters joint. Even though Black Love Matters doesn’t play into the concept, it exemplifies part of the concept.

TRHH: Do you personally have a love/hate relationship with Hip-Hop?

Devine Carama: I do. It’s kind of different now. I wouldn’t even say love/hate with Hip-Hop per se. It’s just as I get older I’m transitioning. A lot of people think I’m younger but I’ll be 35 next month. When I was coming up it was cool to be an emcee, but now it’s so over-saturated. Everybody and their momma rap. Now when you say you rap or do music people roll their eyes. I talk about that early in the project. I don’t rep Hip-Hop like I used to because I know it’s not as accepted and people automatically assume it’s going to be some garbage. I more have a love/hate relationship with the balance. It’s a lot of good music out there you’re just not going to hear it on a mainstream scale. If I have a love/hate relationship my hate part is in the mainstream representation of it. When I was coming up you had balance on the radio. You had your twerk songs, gangsta records, conscious records, street records, everything. Now you turn on the radio or go to the club and it’s like one long song almost. I’m kind of fighting for that balance to come back in Hip-Hop on a mainstream level.

TRHH: Why do you think there is an imbalance in the type of music that radio plays?

Devine Carama: I battle with this because I don’t want to be a conspiracy theorist. I speak to kids a lot here in my hometown. Here is a question I ask them, “How many times have you heard a song on the radio and when you first heard it you hated it, but by the end of the summer that’s your joint?” The kids are like, “Yeah, that happens all the time!” I wonder does the radio play what we wanna hear or do they play so much of it that we begin to like it? I don’t know if it’s a systematic strategy put in place to hold us back or keep the music small. You kind of have to blame the artist too because a lot of artists aren’t really taking chances. At this stage of the game Drake could drop a true Hip-Hop album. Will he do it? No, but he could afford to and he’s probably going to go platinum anyway.

You just don’t have a lot of the bigger artists taking chances. They still feel the pressure to stay with the times. Then you have the younger artists trying to be like the bigger artists so the sound becomes repetitive. Let’s say a cat like Add-2 or Lecrae really blows up in the mainstream part of Hip-Hop, some people feel like that will threaten the status quo. Maybe if Rapsody blows up then maybe people will side eye or second guess what Nicki Minaj is doing. I feel like there are people who are benefiting from the current wave of the culture and if anything else blows it up it might threaten that. I feel like it’s a lot of things that come into play.

TRHH: You have a couple of projects where you pay homage to Nas and Raekwon, it made me wonder who your influences are?

Devine Carama: I got into Hip-Hop kind of late, when I was in middle school going into high school. I was more of an R&B and a jazz dude growing up. The Purple Tape was the first tape I bought with my own money. I saved up lunch money for The Purple Tape. Being into poetry and jazz I was geared more toward the lyrical Hip-Hop style, which was the East Coast sound. I was into Wu, Nas, B.I.G., I really wasn’t into Jay until later. I was a big Canibus fan. I tell these young dudes that at one time Canibus was that dude. The way they look at Kendrick was the way we looked at Canibus for a small time. I was a big Common fan, Mos Def, Black Thought, anybody that I felt really focused on the pen and pad and had some type of substance. Being in Kentucky we liked the Midwest and the South. We loved the Dungeon Family. I was just more of a lyrical and substance drive type person.

TRHH: What’s the Lexington Hip-Hop scene like?

Devine Carama: We’ve got a lot of talent. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with Nemo Achida, he was signed to 88 Key’s indie label. CunninLynguist’s is one of the biggest indie groups. They’ve done songs with Big K.R.I.T. and some other people. We got a lot of talent, I think the problem with our area is that we don’t get a lot of support. Being a mid-major small city if you’re not on the BET Awards people kind of laugh at you if you’re a local artist. It’s still kind of the Bible belt. It’s a real conservative state so there aren’t a lot of venues that open the door to Hip-Hop so we struggle to get a foundation. I’ve actually been doing an event for the last eight years called Brown Sugar. That’s kind of the one monthly Hip-Hop showcase that we do have.

It’s tough, man.  A lot of our people kind of left. Nemo went to New York, CunninLynguist’s went to Atlanta, and I’ve been the only one to stay here. We had cat named Rob Jackson from the early 2000s who had a record label. He had a song called “Boom, Boom, Boom” with Lady May, he had a situation with Jermaine Dupri. We have a whole lot of talent we just don’t really have a scene if that makes sense. A scene that can really nurture the talent. Cat’s don’t really know how to e-mail mp3’s. They don’t know how to upload songs to Bandcamp. It’s just not Hip-Hop culture here, but we got a lot of talent.

TRHH: You have a unique way that fans can get a hold of A Vintage Love Supreme. Explain how people can get a hold of the project and why you decided to take that route?

Devine Carama: You can stream the project for free on Bandcamp or Audiomack. In order to get a digital or physical copy of the album you have to do some form of community service. I did it like that for two reason. One, to do something new and fresh to release the album. At this stage of the game with every release I’m trying to find a way to give back. Every time I get on Facebook there are fight videos and twerk videos – some of the twerk videos are cool sometimes. It’s just so much negativity that I kind of wanted to balance that out and see people doing something good for each other. There’s been a lot of stuff going on in Kentucky – a lot of shootings and this Kim Davis chick that doesn’t wanna give out the marriage licenses. All of the local news is so negative I want to give something positive circulating through the news cycle, but also just positivity in the community, period. I’m heavy into the community here. I got a non-profit, I do a lot of work. People in Lexington are not really surprised by this, but I know a lot of people were wondering what the angle was.

I’m always trying to find ways for people to give back. I thought it would be dope to lead by example because it’s a sacrifice. Being in Hip-Hop culture it’s not cheap paying for studio time and pressing up the albums. I just wanted to show people, usually an artist gets their return by selling an album, but I’m sacrificing that to try to promote something good. I’m just trying to lead and get some positive vibes going through the city and in Hip-Hop, too. I want to show the artists that you can do your 1, 2, thing but you can give back at the same time. That’s kind of the extent of it. The response has been good. We’ve had hundreds of people engaging and I’ve been re-posting them on Instagram. That’s worldwide, man. We’ll ship the albums out. I got fans in different places and they hit me up asking can they do it there, too. Yeah, man, it’s a worldwide initiative.

TRHH: Why is it important to you to send out positive messages in your music?

Devine Carama: I think that number one, everybody has a gift and it’s important that everybody use their gift to give back, somehow. That’s the only way we keep this thing going. You can’t take everything with us because when we leave the Earth it’ll be over. We gotta give it back. Secondly, for me I feel like it’s too much negativity in Hip-Hop culture right now. It was a point in time where underground and indie artists preserved the other side of the culture. But now even in the indie scene it’s poppin’ pills. This white kid, Slim Jesus, did an interview with VladTV. He has a song called “Drill Time” that was big for the last few weeks. He’s holding guns in the video. He does an interview with VladTV and said he don’t even live that life. I feel like you got a lot of that going on.

We gotta have balance. I don’t want Hip-Hop to be all conscious Hip-Hop. That’s what I do, but that’s not what I want. I want to enjoy myself and I want to be entertained, too, but I feel like balance is important. I see a lot of kids from my neighborhood without a pops and mom is working two jobs. Hip-Hop is kind of all they got to show them the way. It’s important that they’re getting balance. That’s what motivates me and I feel like it should motivate all artists. Big Sean’s got a record called “One Man Can Change the World” and he’s got all the turn up records in the world. His biggest song right now is that one. I think that’s important and big ups to him for dropping that as a single.

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Cannibal Ox: Blade of the Ronin

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Photo courtesy of MAC Media

Photo courtesy of MAC Media

Vast Aire and Vordul Mega are Cannibal Ox. In 2001 the duo released their critically acclaimed debut album “The Cold Vein” on the Definitive Jux record label. Since then Vast and Mega parted ways with the label and its founder and Cold Vein’s producer, El-P. Both members of Cannibal Ox released solo material and appeared on each other’s projects over the years, but an official Cannibal Ox album wouldn’t materialize until 2015.

Cannibal Ox’s eagerly awaited sophomore album, “Blade of the Ronin” was finally released in March of 2015. Blade of the Ronin is produced by Bill Cosmiq and Black Milk. The album features appearances from Elzhi, U-God of the Wu-Tang Clan, Artifacts, Kenyattah Black, Double A.B., Irealz, Space, Elohem Star, Swave Sevah, The Quantum, and MF Doom.

One half of Cannibal Ox, Vast Aire, spoke to The Real Hip-Hop about the group’s current North American tour, their relationship with Def Jux co-founder, El-P, and their new album, Blade of the Ronin.

TRHH: Why’d it take so long for you guys to drop your sophomore album?

Vast Aire: We both wanted it to be on our terms. We did a project that pretty much took off. It’s not supposed to overshadow our other ideas, plans, and things of that nature. It’s pretty much like us waiting on The Purple Tape. We all want Ghost and Rae to do a whole album again. We all been waiting on that, but they’ve given us music together because they belong to a crew together. That’s the same thing that happened with me and Mega. We’ve given consistent music, it just hasn’t been a full-length. Around 2012 the idea came up to do the full-length. This was literally after we did the joint with Raekwon. Everyone was amped, we were in a good energy and it was like, yo, let’s start building a new record. Building a new record on our terms was around a couple of years ago. The fans wanted it two weeks after Cold Vein [laughs]. I think it was just about the timing. It was more about the timing and being in a good creative space, and being able to sit back and say this is what we wanted as a follow-up to that.

TRHH: Explain the title of the new album, “Blade of the Ronin”.

Vast Aire: It’s close to our dominant metaphor which is a blade. Our dominant metaphor has always been something sharp, or a blade, an ox. In the hood a blade is an ox. We might as well be saying “Ox of the Ronin”. We always had an affinity with sharpness, being on point with the lyrics. It’s a lyrical sharpness. The tongue is a sword. We try to come with that metaphoric energy. The Ronin is the ill samurai that doesn’t have any allegiance to any clan lords anymore. But they still have all those skills so they would become mercenaries, ninjas, drunks, or savages. We’re part of that community where we have civilization and we have the skills to maneuver the weapons. We just happened to be the good guys. We’re the good Ronin, we’re the good outcasts. Blade of the Ronin is the blade of the outcast, or the tongue of the outcast.

TRHH: How is this album different from The Cold Vein?

Vast Aire: I think maturity and I think experience. We’re more experienced on how to make albums. They’re both going to be great in their own way. I feel like Cold Vein is more of a prodigy, a hunger. We were running on such hunger. Blade of the Ronin is a comfortable, mature, so much experience – it’s less blind. We know exactly what we wanna do and where we wanna go.

TRHH: On the single “Harlem Knights” you spit the rhyme about Jibril in the cave — that was dope, man.

Vast Aire: Good lookin’.

TRHH: Tell me about the song Harlem Knights.

Vast Aire: Harlem Knights is pretty much again, us playing with a double meaning. It’s night time, but it’s also the night of the warrior. We’re the warriors of Harlem that hang out at night. It’s like a double meaning. It’s just us on the block playing dice, playing dominoes, smoking joints – doin’ us. It’s just a real good vibe. Harlem is a special neighborhood. Out of all the neighborhoods that I grew up in, in New York, Harlem is a unique special area. It’s where I became a man. When we were doing the song we just had the vibe of going back to our old neighborhood and feeling it out and having fun with it. That’s why there’s fun lines in there, there’s serious lines in there, and we’re going back to our childhood in certain lines. We’re just reppin’ our hood, Harlem Knights, and we just do it in our creative way.

TRHH: What led to you guys leaving Def Jux?

Vast Aire: Just bad business pretty much. And a lack of respect for us as a team who helped build. I didn’t wanna be a part of something that had lack of respect. At that point I saw the ship sailing and sinking. I didn’t want to be a part of this. A few years after it fell apart, so it was best.

TRHH: Do you still have a relationship with El-P?

Vast Aire: Yes. Minor, very minor.

TRHH: You guys are currently out on the Blade of Ronin tour. What can fans expect to see when they come to the show?

Vast Aire: Just live raw Hip-Hop. Honest performances. Everybody that knows us they know that we come hard. We come from the heart, we come from the soul. There is a genuine vibe. I think the live show is what really brings our music across. That’s what makes people fall in love with us, when they see us live. The tour has been a blast so far. We’ve been working real hard and just knockin’ ‘em out. It’s beautiful to see the kids come out, the new fans, and the old fans. It’s just dope.

TRHH: Who is Blade of the Ronin for?

Vast Aire: The Blade of the Ronin album is for the real Hip-Hop head. It’s for the real head that basically grew up listening to the realest stuff from the KRS-One’s to the Wu-Tang’s to the Nas’, to the Jay-Z’s, to the Brand Nubian’s – all of that. That’s who Blade of the Ronin is for. It’s for the real Hip-Hop head. That’s all I can really say. There is no beating around the bush, this is a real head-nod record. It’s very introspective but it sounds like an animal. You can just zone out to the beats and then end up paying attention to what we’re saying and be like, “Yo, what is goin’ on?” It’s an experience. It’s a ride. It’s for the car. If you love the car this album is crazy in the car. You get to zone out and really enjoy the mix. We busted our ass with the mixing and mastering. It’s just layered for the headphones and the car systems. It’s powerful.

Purchase: Cannibal Ox – Blade of the Ronin

See Cannibal Ox live on the Blade of the Ronin tour:

Sep 28 – Cervantes’ Other Side | Denver, CO

Sep 29 – The Urban Lounge | Salt Lake City, UT

Oct 1 – Dante’s | Portland, OR

Oct 2 – Fortune | Vancouver, BC

Oct 3 – Barboza | Seattle, WA

Oct 5 – The New Parish | Oakland, CA

Oct 6 – The Catalyst Atrium | Santa Cruz, CA

Oct 8 – Los Globos | Los Angeles, CA

Oct 9 – Soda Bar | San Diego, CA

Oct 10 – The Rebel Lounge | Phoenix, AZ

Oct 12 – Sidewinder | Austin, TX

Oct 13 – Club Dada | Dallas, TX

Oct 15 – Gasa Gasa | New Orleans, LA

Oct 16 – The Masquerade – Hell | Atlanta, GA

Oct 17 – Local 662 | St. Petersburg, FL

Oct 18 – The Backbooth | Orlando, FL

Oct 19 – Snug Harbor | Charlotte, NC

Oct 20 – Cats Cradle Back Room | Carrboro, NC

Oct 21 – Metro Gallery | Baltimore, MD

Oct 22 – The Studio @ Webster Hall | New York, NY

Oct 23 – Johnny Brenda’s | Philadelphia, PA

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A Conversation with Big Ghost

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Photo courtesy of Big Ghost LTD

Photo courtesy of Big Ghost Ltd.

If you take part in social media chances are you’ve heard of Big Ghost. The mystery man made his name by writing hysterical, yet accurate album reviews about the latest releases in rap. His track-by-track breakdowns showed that Big Ghost is not some keyboard warrior; he’s a student of the game and undoubtedly a lover of Hip-Hop culture.

What the world did not know about Big Ghost is that he’s also a talented music producer. His skillset is on full display on the recently released free EP, Griselda Ghost. Griselda Ghost is 9 tracks of grimy Hip-Hop courtesy of Westside Gunn & Conway of Griselda Records, with the backdrop provided by Big Ghost.

Ghost’s production is stellar from beginning to end. The music on Griselda Ghost is modern, with golden era sensibilities – its dirty, yet clean. In the words of Big Ghost, “This is pure grimy NY hip hop in its purest form.”

TRHH: How did you link up with Westside Gunn & Conway to do Griselda Ghost?

Big Ghost: I had been showin’ love for the whole Griselda movement for a minute before I ever reached out to try to collab. To me they never got the attention they deserved at all. When I become a fan I tend to overcompensate if I feel like a talented artist is being ignored by the public. So I showed wild support. Not too long after they noticed and told me they appreciated it. At the same time I think they kinda respected how I move. Eventually I asked if they wanted to do a project together. They saw the potential and the rest is history. The whole process was organic. No paper work, no egos. Shit happened in two months. They wrote and recorded the verses in a day. We did it for the people.

TRHH: I had no idea you made beats. How long have you been producing?

Big Ghost: For years, bro. But I don’t like to see this as “making beats”. That’s why I never put anything out there, or tried to shop anything, or had a Soundcloud page before this project happened. I wanna create timeless projects. I wanted to curate and build a project from the ground up and really do something special. That’s why even if you don’t enjoy this particular style of Hip-Hop you can hear that cohesion. The shit flows together like a short little audio movie. I don’t have any interest in landing one beat on somebody’s album. If it happens that way, cool. But the idea is to create monumental pieces and really put a stamp on whatever gets put out there.

TRHH: Does the idea of making seamless projects come from your love of golden era Hip-Hop?

Big Ghost: People think I sit in my moms basement rockin’ head to toe Karl Kani gear and Avirex boots, rollin’ oowops while sippin’ on Heineken’s, and watchin’ Beat Street all day scrollin’ thru Hip-Hop blogs on my HP desktop lookin’ for new shit to hate on. In actuality I love a lot of new shit and a lot of newer artists been dope. But you could say I prefer the one or 2 producers with minimal features on a project aesthetic over the 3 features per track a la carte production shit that’s been dominating the game for a minute now. If that’s some old school golden age shit, that’s cool.

TRHH: What beat-making equipment did you use for Griselda Ghost?

Big Ghost: That was all Reason and Pro Tools.

TRHH: Do you have a favorite song on the EP?

Big Ghost: My absolute favorite beat even before they recorded any vocals to ‘em was Fendi Seats. They also happened to both snap on that shit. That one came together like magic, B. My other favorite is Empire — feel like they bodied that one, too. Empire was a last minute addition though. Originally Conway had a solo joint over a completely different beat called Avirex Era in that spot. I was tryna get Action Bronson to jump on that track actually. He was down to do it but it never came together due to time restraints. But it got left off anyways. That shit was bananas though.

TRHH: I first became familiar with you from your album reviews. You’re very opinionated, obviously. Do you think Hip-Hop is currently in a bad place or do you think its current state is a part of its natural evolution?

Big Ghost: I don’t think the music itself is in a bad place at all, fam. Think a lot of really dope music and dope artists get ignored in favor of putting zero talent havin’ muthafuckas and wave-stealing/flow-jackin’ fuckboys on a pedestal. But as far as the artistry itself, we got plenty ill cats bringin’ some fire to the table, B. But at the same time the audience is addicted to fast food. So the healthy home cooked shit gets left off of the plate since the audience prefers french fries and Jello. Like, it’s cool to wanna have some junk food every now and then, but as your whole diet? Where’s the balance? So to answer your question, I think it’s the audience that makes it difficult for cats to truly evolve. Since rappers wanna eat and they know damn well that the masses ain’t tryna allow ‘em to let the creativity flow too far outside the box.

TRHH: Do you think artists like Kendrick Lamar with his success are helping to change the idea of what young artists are “supposed” to sound like?

Big Ghost: Absolutely. Kendrick is cut from the same fabrics that Andre 3000, Nas, Pharoahe Monch, Rakim, and any other rapper that wasn’t afraid to push the boundaries of emceein’ was cut from. Son is on his own cloud right now. Nobody can fuck wit him at all.

TRHH: A few people; even established rappers, thought you were Ghostface Killah at some point. Have you ever actually spoken to Ghostface?

Big Ghost: Nah, only on Twitter and through his peoples. They say he has no issues.

TRHH: Will you ever reveal yourself to the public?

Big Ghost: Nah, I got no interest in doing that, fam. I get the same type of offers and opportunities coming my way regardless.

TRHH: When will we get to hear more music from Big Ghost?

Big Ghost: Workin’ on a couple things as we speak, homie. So let’s just say real soon. I got no interest in over-saturating the game. I don’t want a hit or miss catalog. Everything gotta be 100 fire emojis or better.

Download: Westside Gunn & Conway – Griselda Ghost

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Dominique Larue: Heresy

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Photo courtesy of Dominique Larue

Photo courtesy of Dominique Larue

Not since the formation of Slaughterhouse has a collection of emcees with similar skill-levels put their pride to the side for the betterment of the culture. Heresy is an all-female rap group that is doing just that. Comprised of Monie Love, MyVerse, Carolina Dirty, and Dominique Larue, Heresy is a quartet consisting of four different voices, from four different places, with four distinctly different styles.

Emceeing is at the forefront of the cause for Heresy and it’s on full display on their debut EP of the same name. Heresy, the 5-track EP is produced by Mista Lawnge, formerly of Black Sheep and J. Rawls. The project was released in August on Rawls’ Polar Entertainment Label.

One-fourth of Heresy, Dominique Larue, spoke to The Real Hip-Hop about her start in rap, joining forces with her Heresy bandmates, and a slew of new music she has on deck for 2016.

TRHH: How’d you guys decide to get together and form a group?

Dominique Larue: This was Monie Love’s doing. Maja 7th tweeted her when Grand came out. He was like, “Check out the album. It’s a woman that’s rapping. All Bars. She got her clothes on,” shit like that. Monie clicked the link and followed me on Twitter. I followed her back. She DM’d me and asked for my information. She said she wanted to put together a group. This was like March of 2014. The ball didn’t really get rolling until the fall of 2014. At first it was just going to be me, her, and MyVerse. My manager at the time pulled in Carolina Dirty as well as J. Rawls. That’s how it all came out about, really. This was all Maja 7th – it all started with him.

TRHH: What was the recording process like with everybody being in different places?

Dominique Larue: I recorded with Rawls here in Columbus and everybody else recorded at their own studios. Everybody came up here in January and we recorded some stuff with Rawls, but by that time most of the stuff was done separately.

TRHH: There are some real strong lyrics on the single “Da Call Out”. What was the inspiration behind that song?

Dominique Larue: It was just more so about voicing your gripes. Me personally I just talked about how being a woman you’re automatically doubted when it comes to rapping. No one has ever heard you before or heard anything about you but they already have their preconceived notions that you’re trash.

TRHH: Why do you think that is?

Dominique Larue: I don’t know. I really don’t care to be honest. Maybe it’s their experiences? Maybe they experienced women who were trash? All of them. I don’t know. It doesn’t make me no never mind. This dude told me to my face, “Yeah, I don’t even wanna hear you rap ‘cause I know you wack.” He heard me rap and he apologized to me for the rest of the night. He bought be drinks, bought me food, and he was so sorry. But I don’t really care. That doesn’t make me feel anything. Maybe when I was younger, but with some of the things that I’ve been able to do that stuff doesn’t even matter to me anymore – I don’t care.

TRHH: How was doing Heresy different from doing your last album Grand with Maja 7th?

Dominique Larue: Aw, mad different. When you’re working on your own project you’re writing everything how you’re feeling it. You’re not writing with anyone else in mind.  When you’re putting together a project with other people you have to write with other people in mind. That shit’s kinda what it is. It was incredibly different and plus me and Maja were in contact almost every day with each other as far as putting the songs together and different ideas that we had. It’s a different creative process for sure.

TRHH: You’ve been in the rap game for a while now. Talk a little about your start in the business.

Dominique Larue: I’ve been rappin’ since I was 7. High school was probably when I started performing around Columbus. There is a DJ out here named DJ BHB. I started doing a lot of shows with him, especially after I graduated, after I had my son too in 2005. After I had him B used to come to the crib and record me. We would do shows and most of the time I wasn’t even on the bill. B would just throw me on stage to perform. After doing that for so long I just started coming into my own and going in my own direction. I got to the point where I was like, “It’s time for me to start doing more stuff outside of Columbus.”

TRHH: What’s the Columbus Hip-Hop scene like?

Dominique Larue: It’s cool. It’s getting a little bit better. We actually had a pretty big Hip-Hop festival in July that was successful. We have this festival out here called ComFest and it’s been going on since the 70s. Hip-Hop is grossly under-represented and in the past year I was the only act at ComFest that had an emcee and two turntables. Some aspects are really under-represented. Every now and again we might have a monthly Hip-Hop show, but Hip-Hop shows are really few and far between. It’s dope that I’ve been able to perform as much as I have, but a lot of times when I do perform I’m the only Hip-Hop act. We do have a weekly here every Wednesday at #AtTheBreak. That might be the only consistent joint out right now. We got Blueprint, Illogic, Copywrite, J. Rawls, RJD2, we got people here. The scene is cool. It could be better. A lot of things don’t last long. I know BHB has the Hip Hop Expo and that’s been going on since the 90s.

TRHH: I’m a fan of Sam Jackson so I found it pretty dope when I heard about the Sam Jackson Project. What inspired the Sam Jackson Project?

Dominique Larue: Sam [laughs]. You’ve seen his movies, the man is a fuckin’ gem. He’s amazing. I was going to do a series where I started off with Sam Jackson, and then do Bernie Mac, and a couple of other people. I can’t remember which movie it was, but I was watching a movie of his in like 2010 and had the epiphany that I had to do an ode to Sam Jackson. He’s hilarious. The dude is in so many movies. He’s probably one of the few actor’s that has been in as many movies as he has. Every movie that he’s in, he has some kind of iconic line. He’s definitely one of my favorite actors – that’s my guy.

TRHH: You know you gotta do the Bernie Mac one [laughs].

Dominique Larue: Yeah, yeah. It’s definitely not on the radar right now. I got other stuff that I got going so, maybe one day.

TRHH: Talk a little about the stuff you got coming up.

Dominique Larue: I got an album with J. Rawls called “Almost There”. Kevin Nottingham’s label is going to put that out. I’m not sure when that will be out though – hopefully by the end of the year/beginning of next year. I’m doing a free project with my homie Dub MD called Blitzkrieg. I want that to drop after the Rawls project. My own album probably won’t be out until maybe a year from now. It’s called, “Smiling Because I Hate Everything.”

TRHH: [Laughs] Why do you hate everything?

Dominique Larue: It’s just a play on the stuff that I’ve been going through. I’m a really sarcastic, cynical person. I think it’s a funny title, too. Me and Maja are talking about linking back up again as well as me and D/Will. We did Carpe in 2010 and Diem in 2012. Me and D/Will’s project is called “Happiness is Imminent”. It don’t stop. I got all my licensing efforts, placing music. Lately it’s been a lot of TV shows I placed my music on, most recent Bad Girls Club. I placed on 6 or 7 different networks and a couple movies. So it don’t stop, at all. I’m doing my best to have my eggs in every basket. I have quite a few shows coming up, so I’m definitely working and staying busy.

Purchase: Heresy

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Add-2: Prey For The Poor

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Photo courtesy of The Real Hip-Hop

Photo courtesy of The Real Hip-Hop

In a year that’s already seen strong releases from some of Hip-Hop’s new generation (Kendrick Lamar, Joey Bada$$, Action Bronson, etc.) another dope chapter has been written in the book of 2015. Chicago emcee Add-2 released his long awaited Jamla Records solo release “Prey For The Poor” on September 4.

Prey For The Poor magically meshes songs about love and relationships with songs about the struggles of young black people in America. While it touches on heavy topics Prey For The Poor isn’t all serious. There’s some feel-good party Hip-Hop along with flat out raw emceeing – the album has everything.

Prey For The Poor is produced by Jamla’s in-house production team, The Soul Council (Khrysis, 9th Wonder, Amp, Kash, and Nottz) and F.C. The Truth. The album features appearances by Rapsody, Jamila Woods, Sam Trump, Heather Victoria, Johndavid Provitt, and Raheem DeVaughn.

The Real Hip-Hop caught up with Add-2 at his album release party to discuss his new album, Prey For The Poor.

TRHH: How’s it feel to finally have the album out?

Add-2: Man, this is a beautiful feeling. I’ve been waiting for a long, long time to finally have this day where everything comes through and for me to turn around and actually be able to execute it. It sounds just as dope as I thought it would – it’s the best thing in the world, man. It’s a long time coming.

TRHH: How has the reception been?

Add-2: The reception’s been crazy. It’s almost been a little overwhelming. I’ve been thinking to myself, “Is this for real?” Everybody has been hitting me up talking about they like certain songs, the vibe of it, and how cohesive it is. That’s been the main thing, everybody has been saying, “This is a great body of work.”

TRHH: Explain the title of the album, “Prey For The Poor”.

Add-2: Prey for the Poor is something I felt was like a mantra. You either help the people or you end up being a victim to the people that you neglect. You can pray for the poor or you will be prey for the poor. That’s the mentality behind the album. It’s explaining the psyche of everything – all these different elements of the people.

TRHH: There are lots of 90s elements in the album from the Spike Lee themed artwork, to the House Party clip, to some of the music. Was it a conscious effort to have a little bit of the 90s in there for this record?

Add-2: I loved that era, for one. That’s where I was raised so of course it’s where I draw inspiration from. That sense of nostalgia helps put people into that mind state. If you just look at what’s going on now, yeah it’s a different type of music but I want to take you back to a place. I wanted to put you in that mind state. I wanted to put you in that place where you’re listening to lyricism. Sometimes it takes those little bits of imagery to put you in that mind state.

TRHH: You snapped on “Set it Off”. What was the inspiration behind that one, specifically the “your favorite rapper’s a coon,” line?

Add-2: Aw man, everybody be quoting that line. We were doing a lot of quality records – strong songwriting joints. I be telling them, “Sometimes I need to spaz.” I need to do that as an emcee. For me that’s where my heart was. When you give me a beat like that I’m just going to go at it and usually I’m going to say something. The part where I kicked it off I was thinking, “How do you start off the second verse?” Something came up in my mind like, “I hate to pop your balloon.” I was wondering what’s the next greatest thing you could say and I was like, “Your favorite rapper’s a coon.” It just went.

TRHH: [Laughs] That shit is dope, man.

Add-2: Yeah, shout out to all the weak rappers.

TRHH: I was surprised at the relationship-themed songs on the album. Was it difficult for you to put your personal feelings out there like that?

Add-2: In a way, yeah. When we did this joint “Say Goodbye” that honestly is one of the realest songs that I’ve made. The day that I made it Khrysis was sampling a bunch of 90s stuff that week and I told him it sounded like a deep relationship song. I was afraid if I had to do it, it was going to be very harsh. He said, “Go for it, man!” I was like, “Nah, man. I still gotta go home!” He said, “You can only write it one way. You can’t write it and sugar coat it. You have to write it 100%.” He was absolutely right and I just said, “Whatever.” If it’s real, people are going to register with it and I think that’s what it was. People are drawn to it because I’m being so honest. I’m not making blanketed statements; I’m talking about real stuff that people are going through. When you’re talking about your own life how can they not relate to it? Because they’re living it too.

TRHH: You mentioned Khrysis — he did the bulk of the production, mixed, and mastered the album. You mentioned how he had some input lyrically, what was it like working him for the second go around and what was his input like while you were creating the songs?

Add-2: We have a good chemistry. That’s the best way to describe it. Me and Khrysis can get in and knock out about five songs a day. We can average that if we wanted to. Sometimes we have to stop and joke around for the rest of the day ‘cause we’ve been too productive. It’s a weird thing to say when you’re like, “Yo, you’re too productive.” The song “Say Goodbye” we did that when we did Between Heaven and Hell. 9th was like, “Yo, you can’t put this out on this. We’re saving that one.” We always had a good vibe and good track record together. Usually he gives me the freedom to do what I wanna do. He’ll make the beat, I’ll sit back and listen to it until I’m like, “Yo, I got an idea. This is where im’ma go with it,” and he’s like, “Go head.” He’ll leave the room, I’ll write everything, he’ll come back in, and I’m like, “Alright, I’m ready.” Then we start recording and during the process we’re bouncing ideas off one another. We’ve got a good working relationship – we push each other.

TRHH: How many songs were left off the album?

Add-2: Off the album?

TRHH: How many do you have in the vault?

Add-2: There was a folder of like 50-60 songs. They were counting everything and they were like, “Yo man, you got like 60-70 songs over here.” Keep in mind Between Heaven and Hell was like eight songs. I got stuff just chillin’. I got stuff that’s probably gonna be on other people’s albums. That’s how much stuff I got.

TRHH: I think my favorite song on the album is “Kool-Aid”. What inspired that joint?

Add-2: I was watching a Ustream and 9th had played the beat. I was like, “Yo, I want that right there!” He said, “Actually Rapsody has that beat already.” I was like, “Alright,” then I asked her about it and she said, “Take it, do whatever you wanna do with it.” I had to circle back around and say, “If somebody needs to be on it, it needs to be you.” She jumped on it, they remixed it so it almost sounds like one of my favorite Dilla joints, the remix to D’Angelo’s “Dreaming Eyes of Mine” — that’s what it’s got a feel of to me. I always love songs like that. This girl posted something that said, “I miss when rap songs made women feel good about themselves. If y’all ever wanna write songs that make us feel loved again I would appreciate it.” I really took that into consideration because everything is “F these hoes,” and all that so why not take into consideration something that describes how you feel and change the pulse of it?

TRHH: That’s an interesting point, man. Everybody’s got a mother. Some of us have wives, girlfriends, sisters, and daughters. I don’t know if you saw the Straight Outta Compton movie but during some of the most important moments of his life Ice Cube had his wife with him. She’s right by his side, but he rhymed about some iffy stuff toward women at the start…

Add-2: That’s like an untold secret in Hip-Hop. A lot of people have girls that have been with them since high school. High school sweetheart type joints with 10-20 years in the game and you see their public image you never would think that. It’s not a cool thing in society because they want you to be the man. I always remember this scene from The Simpsons when Homer was in The Be Sharps and the manager said, “We can’t show you being in a relationship because we want the fans to feel like they can still get you.” The female fans that want to sleep with you want to feel like they can. I watched The Jackson’s: An American Dream and they was mad when Jermaine wanted to get married. Michael was like, “Why would you do that to our fans?” That’s a thing because women want to feel like when they do see that guy on stage…. It plays into it; it’s a weird thing.

TRHH: Why should fans buy Prey For The Poor?

Add-2: It’s a choice, man. I feel like fans should get this album because it’s a very cohesive project. It’s a solid body of work. Honestly, if you listen to it and enjoy it, then buy it. If not, by all means…. I don’t want to force anybody to do anything. I want people to test it out, see if they like it, and if they enjoy it, buy it. I would rather have 100 genuine fans than 10,000 fake fans. Give me the real people who are going to enjoy the music. So if you enjoy good music, good. If not, eh, keep it movin’.

Purchase: Add-2 – Prey For The Poor

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ProbCause: Drifters

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Photo courtesy of Audible Treats

Photo courtesy of Audible Treats

Being a Chicagoan there are certain things you can count on happening every year – a miserable winter coupled with a beautiful summer, a disappointing season from one or all of the city’s sports teams, and a project from rapper ProbCause.

Each year Prob releases music that doesn’t fit into any of the boxes that Windy City rap artists are normally tossed in. His music blends various styles, sounds, and genres together into one complete package – ProbCause’s new project is no different. The latest offering from ProbCause is a 12-track album titled “Drifters” released on electronic artist/producer Gramatik’s Lowetemp Music label.

Drifters features appearances by Twista, Saba, CYN, Gibbz, Angel Davanport, and The O’My’s. The album is produced by Gramatik, Drew Mantia, The Geek x Vrv, D.R.O., Wes P, Exmag, COFRESI, GRiZ, Break Science & Mike Irish, and ProbCause himself.

The Real Hip-Hop spoke to ProbCause about his upcoming performance at Chicago’s North Coast Music Festival, joining forces with Gramatik’s Lowtemp record label, the division within the Chicago Hip-Hop scene, and his new album, Drifters.

TRHH: Explain the title of the new album, “Drifters”.

ProbCause: Shit man, it was a combination of things. Partially because I’ve been on the road traveling a lot, playing a lot of shows out of town, and living out of a backpack. I just kind of felt like I was drifting. The other part of it was the music is kind of dreamy, airy, and in this weird kind of space. A lot of it I was drifting off and in a daze. It’s taken from that kind of weird headspace. It’s just kind of a fitting word to describe the sound of the album, but also a lot of the concepts behind the music.

TRHH: Tell me about the first single, “I Feel U”.

ProbCause: Basically I started seeing a lot of people around me acting a little bit weird. People who I used to fuck with were asking for favors and acting weird. I was in a weird headspace when I wrote it – kind of pissed off, kind of depressed, and annoyed with people. It’s kind of an angry aggressive song. In certain moments I’m talking about specific people and specific situations, but I’m generally talking about people who turn their back on you and show true colors when things hit the fan. When you start getting a little bit of buzz you start seeing how people really are and how they act. It was just my reaction to people around me starting to act a little goofball.

TRHH: [Laughs] Between people acting funny with you and you living out of a suitcase, it sounds like your life is hectic. Are you in a good place?

ProbCause: [Laughs] Yeah, yeah, yeah! You know it sounds crazy. While I was writing this album I was in a really transitional place – transitional state of mind, transitional musically, and literally on the move. I wrote a lot of this album while I was on tour, in the car, or just in motion. I think with all of that combined I was in a weird place, but now I’m kinda good. I was definitely going through some phases with it like dealing with the stresses of trying to make it as an artist and a musician. I think a lot of the music on this album is me reassuring myself like, “Shit’s gonna be okay,” and “This is a worthwhile endeavor.” I say it as if I’m giving the advice to somebody else but I’m really talking to myself and the audience at the same time. I’m definitely in a good headspace now, but while making it I was going through a lot of different phases. I went from a good space, to a bad space, to breaking up with a girl, to getting back together with her, and all that type of shit that goes along with being a traveling artist and a traveling musician.

TRHH: How is Drifters different from your last solo project Waves?

ProbCause: I think I’m a lot more involved with this album than Waves or any other project. I produced a few tracks on it, I’m singing on it, and I did all the artwork for it – which I guess I did on Waves, too. It’s a lot more musical so I was bringing in musicians, but I was dictating what I wanted them to play. I was writing the music for them to play. I was just really involved. I didn’t have a specific idea for the entire album, but song by song I kind of knew what I was going for with each piece. I think it’s a lot more musical and the production is a lot bigger. Not to take away from it, but I feel like Waves was tracks. It was one track, two tracks, three tracks, this is an album – these are songs. These are compositions more than they are tracks. It’s not just me rapping over beats. I really took the time to try to write songs with it, but it’s a little more musical and well thought out.

TRHH: Earlier this year you released your project with Psalm One, “ZRO Fox”. What was that experience like working with her?

ProbCause: It was cool, man. It was pretty natural, pretty organic. We’ve known each other for a long time. It was just us being in the lab together which was something that wasn’t abnormal. It was fun. I think we could make a full album that’s even better than the project that we put out. We kept a few of the tracks that we had made just because we wanted to give people a taste of it. We wanted to sit back, work, and take our time with something bigger. It was kind of a little teaser of what we’re capable of. It’s fun to work with her. We worked on songs together before so we knew we could hit a lot of things we wanted to hit on. It was a fun experience. Being in the lab with her was a cool thing.

TRHH: You guys kind of bridged the gap of Chicago rap when you brought in Sasha Go Hard on “Might Not“….

ProbCause: [Laughs] Yeah, right?

TRHH: Do you feel like the unity, for lack of a better word, in the Chicago rap scene is growing?

ProbCause: It’s growing and it’s distancing itself. I think it changes and it breathes. I think there are groups of cats that fuck with each other and there are groups of cats that don’t fuck with each other. I think the city is more open to collaborations than it was 5-6 years ago. The nature of Hip-Hop is so competitive that it’ll never be like, “We’re all friends, family, and cool.” Greg, who is Chance’s drummer Stix has this thing called “Jam Night” that he does every month. It’s basically like all my favorite rappers in the city, musicians, and people that are involved in the music scene all in one place. I think there are certain communities that come together in certain instances, but then there are other instances where people don’t know one another exists or they don’t fuck with each other. That’s just the nature of being in a city as segregated as Chicago.

TRHH: Gramatik produced “Back to the Future” on the new EP. How did you end up working with Gramatik and becoming part of the Lowtemp label?

ProbCause: It’s actually kind of a crazy story. We played a festival in Costa Rica together last summer. He was working with this group called Exmag who I work with too now. They saw my set and said, “That was really cool, man. We should do some shit.” I didn’t know who any of them were. They invited us back to this spot that they were staying at. Gramatik was the headliner of the tour and they were all staying in this crazy, beautiful, house on the beach. We ended up crashing at their spot and all becoming homies over the course of the weekend in Costa Rica. We just listened to music and vibed out and shit.

After that we just all stayed in touch and started sending shit back and forth. We made a couple tracks and then Gramatik reached out to me to do this song “Monster Stomp” which we put out like six months ago and that shit went over really well. I ended up doing some tour dates with him and one thing basically led to another. We have three or four unreleased tracks, too. That was just the first one that we put out. It just made sense to put it out on his label. He had been tossing me beats, giving me feedback on new songs, and fuckin’ with my vibe. So it just made sense to have him distribute the album, help me put it out, and give me a different platform to get it out to the world.

TRHH: You’re performing at North Coast Music Festival again this weekend and they’re billing you as an “Artist at Large”. What exactly does that mean…..

ProbCause: [Laughs] Yes. I don’t even fuckin’ know, bro.

TRHH: [Laughs].

ProbCause: I think it just basically means that I will be sitting in with a bunch of different artists. I will be sitting in with Exmag, Manic Focus, and The O’My’s probably. It means that I’m going to be popping up on stage every day, once or twice a day during different people’s sets and whatnot.

TRHH: What can fans expect to hear on Drifters?

ProbCause: Man, a whole new barrage of styles from me. From content, to flows, to everything. I think on “I Feel U” people saw a different side of me that was a little more aggravated and aggressive and attacking the song from a different angle. You can expect a lot of that on the album. It’s a lot more experimenting with different flows, using my voice in a lot of different ways, and singing a little bit. The beat styles and production choices are definitely much different than Waves was. It’s kind of in a different area of the game so it’s kind of electronic, jazzy, trappy, and touches on all these different genres and finds a way to weave them in to each other. It’s an album that I’m really proud of. I think it’s the best music that I’ve ever made.

Purchase: ProbCause – Drifters

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Enter to win tickets to the 2015 North Coast Music Festival

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Win one pair of passes to the North Coast Music Festival

Win one pair of passes to the North Coast Music Festival

The Real is giving you the chance to win one pair of 3-day passes to the 2015 North Coast Music Festival.

The event takes place September 4-6 in Chicago, Illinois and will feature performances by D’Angelo & The Vanguard, Widespread Panic, The Chemical Brothers, Chromeo, Portugal. The Man, Steve Aoki, Knife Party, and The Glitch Mob.

Hip-Hop acts slated to perform at North Coast are The Roots, Wale, Atmosphere, Lyrics Born, Skizzy Mars, Leikeli47, Stefan Ponce, Leather Corduroys, ProbCause, and Wax Tailor.


For more information, visit

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Purchase tickets to the 2015 North Coast Music Festival


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Michael Cardigan: Cloud Club Over Everything

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Photo courtesy of Tone

Photo courtesy of Tone

Michael Cardigan, Tommie Chase, and Elete Wright are St. Joe Louis. The trio united in 2010 to create the critically acclaimed De La Soul-inspired album, “30,000 ft. High & Rising”. The group continued to work as soloists and as a crew over the years while preparing for the release of their follow-up album. Their sophomore album “Cloud Club Over Everything” was released for free on July 26 and finds the trio taking their art to a “higher” level.

Cloud Club Over Everything features appearances from OGM of The Ho99o9, Elle Pierre, Moruf, Nameliss, Steeve Sam, Ezrakh, Jahnia Holterhoff, Fresh Daily, Bad Pegasus, Peter Hadar and Nemo Achida. The album is produced by Dolla, Ezrakh, and Elete Wright.

One-third of St. Joe Louis, Michael Cardigan, spoke to The Real Hip-Hop about the evolution of St. Joe Louis, the passing of the group’s mentor Pumpkinhead, and their new album, Cloud Club Over Everything.

TRHH: Explain the title of the new album, “Cloud Club Over Everything”.

Michael Cardigan: We started out with the thought of doing open sessions. We wanted to capture that live feeling that you get when you’re in the studio creating. We invited any and everybody that we knew to come by the studio and those turned into the craziest kind of parties. We didn’t even capture everything – of course no video. We started calling it “The Cloud Club” because of course there was a lot of smoke and everything you can imagine that’s on the record. That became the cloud club. It first started out as that idea and then it slowly morphed into a bigger idea about chasing your dreams, putting yourself out there, kind of like how clouds are there but not really there. It became deeper as it went on.

TRHH: Tell me about the single, ‘I Rise’.

Michael Cardigan: The “I Rise” record came about when Nemo [Achida] was in town and we ended up doing a show together and hanging out a bit. It was organic. We actually cut two records with him, but that was the one that fit the sound of this project. We’ve got another great one that we’re going to come out with a little bit later on, on another project to follow this one up. It was a while ago actually that we were hanging out, decided to go in the studio, the clouds got into action and we just decided that we wanted to capture that feeling. We thought it was timely too, considering everything that’s going on with police brutality and violence. It put everyone in that really great mindset to be able to rise above things.

TRHH: How is this album different from 30,000 ft. High & Rising?

Michael Cardigan: I would say sonically it’s way more evolved. I feel like certain sounds on 30,000 ft. High & Rising were very boom bap-ish. This one has elements of boom bap but it’s not dominated by it. It’s not dominated by any one thing other than us. The first one was really deeply entrenched in that back-to-basics raw kind of sounds ‘cause we were big De La Soul fans, of course. It was an homage to that, but this one feels more like us realized.

TRHH: Why was there five years in between albums?

Michael Cardigan: We put out EP’s in between there. We did tons of shows, lots of connects, lots of building relationships, and behind the scenes sorts of stuff. Elete is now based out of L.A. so a lot changed in between that time frame. He’s working with a label, Family Artist. he’s working on a project with The Ho99o9 and great artists like Azul. There’s just a lot of different things floating out there. A lot of transitional stuff occurred in between there. Then there was a lot of little things that we dropped. A couple of EP’s the St. Joe Lotus, the St. Joe Lotus: Reloaded, and there was another EP that came out with JR and PH7. That was a larger EP called My Favorite Demons that came in addition to, working with Pro Keds. We’re super-excited about that. Now we’re going to be swinging this back around and you’ll be hearing this early, but we got a full-length LP with JR & PH7 called Coral Cadavers. We’re just trying to get the business straight.

TRHH: Where’d the name St. Joe Louis come from?

Michael Cardigan: There is a Basquiat painting called, “St. Joe Louis Surrounded by Snake”. That crab in the bucket mentality, for lack of a better term, “the haters”, isn’t really what it’s about. When you look at that picture it’s about having tons of voices in your ear and not focusing in on you. St. Joe Louis is really about focusing in on what makes you as much you as possible and putting that out into the universe. Don’t deprive the world of what you have to offer because you’re here for a reason.

TRHH: How’d the “Gold Slippers” joint come about?

Michael Cardigan: Me and Chase decided to work on a project, reaching out for production, and it was just random. We’re super excited about how it came out and there is a bunch more coming. Me and Chase are gonna follow it up with an entire project. We’ve been reaching out to some folks and pulling together production. So we’re hoping to follow that up with a whole entire project or at least an EP. We’re about three songs in, but we just love that record so much we couldn’t hold it. Our core is always going to be straight boom bap-ish because that’s what we love, that’s what we started with – beats and lyrics. We wanted to introduce people to the new sound slowly so we didn’t start with the I Rise record. We started with a record from a completely different project to say, “That’s still in there,” just in case you didn’t think that we were still capable of that.

TRHH: When will that EP come out?

Michael Cardigan: That should be hopefully ready in the next month and a half. We’re specking out titles and all that sort of stuff. Like I said we’re three real records in. We’ll probably end up cutting 7 altogether. We just pulled down some production from this New Jersey based beat collective called FreQ. This guy by the name of Arcade Noise sent us a bunch of stuff that we’re gonna start working on. We’re excited.

TRHH: You guys were close with Pumpkinhead. Talk about your relationship and how his loss affected you.

Michael Cardigan: PH was like our brother. He was the big homie who wasn’t afraid to be vulnerable to help teach you something, whether it was about music, manhood, or fatherhood. He was always willing to be there and be supportive. We worked on a really big project with him called Fabulous Freebird. There is an intro record and the drive crashed so we wanted to put that out so folks could hear where his head was at. He was just such a supreme talent. Everything from the direction that he gave on the battle circuit, to jumping back out there and battling again, to pulling away from the CEO aspect to show them how it was really supposed to be done. That’s the kind of guy he was, really entrenched in the culture, a super-huge spirit, and of course he loved his Jameson [laughs]. He was just an amazing guy. My heart goes out to his family, his children, and anyone who was ever touched by the work that he’s done. We’re proud to have known him. This is the first full-length project that we’ve put out without him. Every project, if he wasn’t on it, he had something to do with it. Whether if we sent it to him ahead of time or he decided to jump on a remix for us. This is the first thing we’re doing with no net.

TRHH: Who is Cloud Club Over Everything for?

Michael Cardigan: I think it’s really to initiate people into a world. When you hear what’s dominating the culture now we wanted to kind of say that we did that, right? A part of what happened with Cloud Club was we started partying and started making records, but the party didn’t stop. The “Party After Party” song isn’t a joke. It was party after party until the wheels fell off. They would last into the wee hours of the morning. There was every bit of everything you could imagine occurring behind those closed doors. The Cloud Club idea is to be able to come out of that. To be able to not let that predominate your life, because that’s not real. That’s the cloud part of it that’s not real. We want to introduce people to that concept that even us, we got into it and got lost but we made our way through it. This is the project to show you how you can transition. That’s why you get records like “Black Cotton” toward the end of the project or “Attention Deficit Drum Disorder” with Fresh Daily where it’s taking elements of where we started and taking it a bit further. And you’ve got stuff that’s real nuanced to now like the Dolla stuff from Brick Bandits that really kind of trap chord sound – moving into that Jersey, beat-club vibe. It’s really about taking all of those elements that make the culture where we come from and expressing it in a brand new way.

Download: St. Joe Louis – Cloud Club Over Everything

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A Conversation with Masta Ace of eMC

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Photo courtesy of Zoe Fotographie

Photo courtesy of Zoe Fotographie

Masta Ace is one of the most respected emcees in Hip-Hop. The respect from his peers and from fans stems from not only Ace simply being dope, but because of his sustained originality and creativity. With each project he pushes the boundaries of what Hip-Hop is “supposed” to sound like and continues to build on to his already rich legacy.

Ace’s latest project is the third release and second full-length album of super-group eMC called “The Tonite Show”. Masta Ace alongside Wordsworth and Stricklin created a concept album that finds the trio preparing for an appearance on The Tonite Show with Jimmy Falcon, played by comedian Russell Peters.

The Tonite Show features appearances by Xzibit, B-Real, Sadat X, Tonedeff, Pearl Gates, Dion, Powermalu, Marlon Saunders, Strickie Love, Tu Kora, and Signif. The album is produced by Diamond D, Koolade, Pav Bundy, KIC Beats, Mananz, Deborah’s Son, DJ Scienz, Flip the Soul Fisher, The ARE, and Skeematics.

Masta Ace recently  spoke to The Real Hip-Hop about his longevity in Hip-Hop, his battle with Multiple Sclerosis, his future in the world of rap, and his new album with eMC, The Tonite Show.

TRHH: Who came up with the concept for The Tonite Show?

Masta Ace: I came up with the concept but we as a group came up with the title. We said we wanted to have “show” in the title. We had about 6-or-7 different titles for the album with the word “show” in it and “Tonite Show” was one of them. Once we looked at all the titles “The Tonite Show” lent itself to a really cool storyline, better than the other ones. I had a rough idea of where I wanted to go with the storyline and once I told them they were all in and ready to go.

TRHH: Talk a little about the single ‘Signtology’.

Masta Ace: That was produced by KIC Beats, a really talented producer from the west coast. He also produced our other single “Fly Thoughts“. He’s also in the studio with me producing my whole entire next record. He gave that beat to Wordsworth and Words brought the beat to our attention without a concept initially. I looked into it and when I started writing the rhyme the whole zodiac sign thing came to me. I did my verse first and played it for them then everybody decided to split up the verses and mention every single zodiac sign. It’s a nice cool love story flirting with the ladies or whatever.

TRHH: You have a long history of having creative concepts from ‘Me and the Biz’ ‘till now. Do you ever hit a creative wall and struggle to find new concepts?

Masta Ace: I’ve never hit a creative wall but you’ve gotta remember something, there is long periods of time in between projects. If I was trying to crank out 2 or 3 records, mixtapes, or albums a year where I had to come up with concepts for each record then I might hit that wall, but my projects are spread out pretty good. Disposable Arts was 2001, Long Hot Summer came out three years later, MA Doom came out several years later, A&E was mixed in there, and eMC’s first album was mixed in there. The projects are spread out enough so that by the time it comes around to new music getting ready to come out I’ve already started to think about new ideas, new concepts, and a new way to entertain people, so I haven’t hit that wall because of that reason.

TRHH: You’ve been around for over 25 years. To what do you attribute your longevity in Hip-Hop?

Masta Ace: I attribute it to being a fan of this music. When we’re on the road as a crew Stricklin’s always playing new music, Words is always playing new music, and we listen to all the new stuff that’s out there. I get the chance as a creative emcee and a writer to feed off how cats are spittin’ now. I don’t try to copy what they’re doing but it keeps my mind current in terms of flow, delivery, in terms of stuff that I don’t wanna do, and in terms of stuff that I do wanna do. What I’ve prided myself in is not shutting out the new music that comes out. A lot of cats from my era are so annoyed with the overall sound of Hip-Hop right now that they don’t even take time to sort through the madness and try to find the good music that’s in there. If you’re in that type of a mode and not listening to new music there is a possibility that your stuff is gonna sound dated because you’re not aware of how things are flowing and how beats feel now. For that reason I feel like I’ve been able to be current.

TRHH: The song ‘Moopies’ is incredibly funny. What’s the funniest situation you’ve encountered with a male groupie?

Masta Ace: Ah man, there’s several. One that jumps out at me is I was in Poland one time at an after party and there was a fan there who was super-drunk. He wanted to take a picture with me so I took a picture with him and after I took the photo he wanted to spend the next twenty minutes talking about my music and his music. He was very touchy-feely. He was a big strong dude that didn’t know his own strength so he was grabbing my shoulder going, “Yo, I love you! I love you!” I had to move his arm like, “Yo, relax — chill.” It got to the point I was running around the after party hiding from this guy. I was hiding behind poles, people, ducking, and going to the other side of the room because he was walking around this party trying to find me. His English was not very good and he was super-drunk. I didn’t get to enjoy the after party because I had to spend the whole night being on guard and avoiding this guy.

TRHH: ‘The Monologue’ is produced by Diamond D, how’d that song come together?

Masta Ace: I featured on Diamond D’s album The Diam Piece. It was a song called “Ace of Diamond” and in exchange for that feature he blessed me with this Monologue track. I could have used it any way I wanted to. I decided I wanted to put it on the eMC album because I thought it would be a great energy record for it. We recorded the song, Diamond mixed the song, and while we were out in Brazil for a tour we decided to shoot a video. We met some guys and they had a couple nice cameras. I had a rough concept of what the video could be – one entire shot. We talked about it, mashed it out, and shot it. I don’t know if Wordsworth in particular was a big fan of that song when it was done, but after the video came out and after performing the song live now it’s one of his favorite joints.

TRHH: A couple of years ago you revealed that you’ve been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. How has your health impacted your career?

Masta Ace: What it’s done is really refocused me as an artist. I realize I’m going to have a shelf life in this game. There’s going to be a point where I’m not going to be able to perform the way I want to or travel the way I want to because of the illness. What I really did was refocus myself and I said the next ten years of music that I put out is going to be exactly what I want it to be and it’s going to make the statement I want to make in terms of who I am as an artist. I was diagnosed in 2000 and after 2000 I feel like I put my best music out. I put out Disposable Arts, Long Hot Summer, the eMC album, the A&E album with Edo.G, then I put out MA Doom: Son of Yvonne. Now I have a brand new album coming out this year with KIC Beats. I’m just trying to get this music out there, get my energy out there, and get my words out there so the people can kind of know where I stand in this game. If I reach a point physically where I can’t do it anymore, at least I feel like in the last ten years I made my statement in terms of what type of artist I am and what kind of music I make.

TRHH: How has working with Wordsworth and Stricklin improved you as an emcee?

Masta Ace: I mean Words and Strick are lyrical dudes, talented dudes. If I didn’t think they were talented I would have never asked them to be on my Disposable Arts album or my Long Hot Summer album. Those guys definitely push me to be a better emcee hearing the verses that they lay down. It gives me energy and motivation to make sure that my verses are tight, up to par, and up to snuff with what they’re doing. To me they’re like the young energy and young blood that I need around me to keep me focused and keep me on point.

TRHH: Will there be an eMC tour?

Masta Ace: We’re going to Europe in November for an extensive tour. When we get back from Europe a couple days later we’re going to Australia for another extensive tour. Those will be the two tours to finish out the year for eMC. At the top of the year we’re looking at Canada maybe in March or April when the snow starts to melt. By then the solo records will be out and crackin’. It’s going to be nice and we’ll have some nice momentum by then — stay tuned. The group Twitter is @eMCCrew. The group Instagram is @TheeMCCrew. We have a website called Date with Jimmy because we have a campaign now in the works where we’re actually trying to get fans to help us get on the actual real Tonight Show as musical guests. People can go to and read the mission statement, leave a message, send some words of encouragement, and let us know that they’re down with us and they’re rooting for us.

Purchase: eMC – The Tonite Show

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Win tickets to the 2015 Summer Set Music & Camping Festival

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Win one pair of passes to the Summer Set Music & Camping Festival

Win one pair of passes to the Summer Set Music & Camping Festival

The Real along with SFX Entertainment is giving you the opportunity to win one pair of 3-day passes to the 2015 Summer Set Music & Camping Festival.

The event takes place August 14-16 in Somerset, Wisconsin and will feature performances by Bassnectar, Big Gigantic, Deadmau5, Zeds Dead, Purity Ring, Odesza, and The Weeknd among others.

Hip-Hop acts slated to perform are Ghostface Killah & BADBADNOTGOOD, Action Bronson, Earl Sweatshirt, G-Eazy, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Rae Sremmurd, Lizzo, F.Stokes, Keys N Krates, Lil Dicky, Mike Floss, WebsterX, ishDARR, and Saba.


For more information, visit

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Purchase tickets for Summer Set Music & Camping Festival 2015

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