Hilltop Hoods: Walking Under Stars

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Photo courtesy of MAC Media Promo

Photo courtesy of MAC Media Promo

This past Labor Day weekend Chicago’s North Coast Music Festival played host to some of the brightest stars in electronic dance music, but it was Hip-Hop and its rebellious spirit that will remain in the brains of Windy City concertgoers.

Raucous performances by the likes of Action Bronson, Talib Kweli, and Riff Raff entertained festivalgoers, and show stealing sets by headliners Kid Cudi, and Snoop Dogg capped off the weekend’s events.

Performing to a late arriving yet enthusiastic crowd Southern Australian trio Hilltop Hoods made new fans during their hour-long set in Chicago’s sweltering heat. New to America, but not new to the music business the Hoods are comprised of Suffa, MC Pressure, and DJ Debris.

The group recently released its seventh studio album, Walking Under Stars. The album features appearances by Maverick Sabre, Drapht, Aaradhna, Dan Sultan, and Brother Ali. In support of the album Hilltop Hoods are touring North America to expose this part of the globe to their brand of Hip-Hop.

The Real Hip-Hop spoke to Hilltop Hoods about their performance at the North Coast Music Festival, exposing American fans to their music, and their new album, Walking Under Stars.

TRHH: What’s it mean to you guys to perform at the North Coast Music Festival?

MC Pressure: North Coast Festival is an amazing opportunity for us. It’s our first time in Chicago so it means that we’re like fresh meat in front of an audience that don’t know who the fuck we are. It’s like starting all over again for us. We get to go out there, prove ourselves, have a lot of fun, meet new people, meet with our fan base, and connect with people we’ve never played in front of before, so it’s huge for us to be able to play this festival.

TRHH: How do you feel your set went?

Suffa: It was okay. We were early and we weren’t expecting anything. That’s the key when it comes to stuff like that. It was hot, but by the end we had a crowd and they were rocking with us. We enjoyed it.

MC Pressure: It’s kind of interesting to watch people’s faces. They kind of walk up with not much expectation and by the end of it those same people are kind of getting into it. That’s the reward for us.

TRHH: How is it different performing in the States versus performing in Australia?

Suffa: We’ve been doing it for a long time back home and we’re established. If we play a festival set like that back in Australia we’re usually on a headline spot so we’re playing to 10-20,000 people. You adjust your mindset and you’re playing to a few hundred, but we try to give the same set wherever we go regardless. If it’s 200 people or 20,000 we try to give the exact same energy. Your sun doesn’t help though [laughs].

MC Pressure: I thought the “C” in Chicago was meant to be fucking cold! You’re a bunch of liars. TV has lied to me [laughs].

TRHH: [Laughs] Hey, it’s the summer time, it’s going to be hot. Explain the title of the new album ‘Walking Under Stars’.

Suffa: This is part two of a set of albums we’ve done. We did ‘Drinking from the Sun’ in 2012 and this is the second record in the set of two. Drinking from the Sun was about Hip Hop in our country coming to the surface and becoming popular. Walking Under Stars is sort of like a celebration of that a little bit.

TRHH: What inspired the single ‘Won’t Let You Down’?

Suffa: Wifey [klaughs]. That’s a song about our partners. We were working with Maverick Sabre who has such a soulful voice and it lends itself to that sort of song. Wifey is a big fan of Maverick as well so it’s almost a gift to her as well getting one of her favorite singers on a track dedicated to her.

TRHH: The video was crazy! Who came up with that?

Suffa: [Laughs] I wrote most of our video treatments. There were a lot of people confused on Twitter, Facebook, and the Youtube comments and everything. I said it on Twitter and I mean it, I’d rather confuse you than bore you.

MC Pressure: Some people were just outright angry with the confusion that it caused saying, “I fucking hate this video ‘cause I don’t get it! It’s dope, but I don’t get it! Fuck you!”

Suffa: It polarized people. Some people were like, “I fuckin’ love it, this is really different.”

TRHH: I liked it.

Suffa: Oh cool, thank you.

TRHH: How’d you wind up working with Brother Ali on ‘Live & Let Go’?

MC Pressure: I’ve been a big fan of Ali and so have the other boys. In the last ten years everything he’s dropped has been dope. I’m a big fan of pretty much most of the shit that the Rhymesayers camp puts out. Our manager touched bases with Ashanti, his manager and we ended up meeting up with him in New York. We were recording at the Red Bull Studios there so we ended up hanging out with him for a couple days, getting to know him, and recording the track. It was a really fucking good opportunity for us to make a track organically. It’s so easy with the internet these days to throw someone a 16 bar verse or a beat or whatever. It was really good to have the opportunity to sit in the studio. All of us wrote our raps in the studio the day that we recorded them together. We were all on the same page so I think it really helped with the whole vibe and authenticity of the song as well.

Suffa: We’re working through our favorite emcees — emcee by emcee. We’ve worked with Pharoahe, Black Thought, Chali 2na, and now Ali.

DJ Debris: It’s a bucket list.

TRHH: Who’s next?

Suffa: I don’t want to say in case they don’t want to work with us [laughs].

TRHH: You guys have been around for a while and are big in Australia, but how important is it for the group to make it big in the U.S.?

Suffa: It’s not. That sounds weird but we’re ambitious with music and we work hard and everything, but we don’t lay there at night going, “We’ve gotta make it, we’ve gotta make it.” We’re established back home, we’ve toured for years, we’ve bought our houses, we’ve got our families set up, so if we can get it popping over here it’s definitely a bonus and something we’d love, but as far as priorities go, our priorities are family and shit like that. Ambition goes down the page a bit.

MC Pressure: I think the bottom line is as long as we can make a living off of our music and be comfortable, that’s enough. We don’t have to be rich or the biggest. As long as we’re comfortable and we can make the music that we want to make, tour, and bring it to people – especially overseas. It’s a gift for us to be able to come over here and perform to several hundred people at a side show. Ten years ago I never would have dreamed that I could come to the States, the birthplace of Hip Hop, and be able to perform in front of 3-4-500 people at our own show. That’s a gift for us. It’s almost like a luxury.

Suffa: But if it does pop off then we’ll take that [laughs].

MC Pressure: Of course. I think that’s the best attitude to have. You can’t try to blow up. You just have to make the music that you’re feeling, be authentic, and make sure your music is you. If it happens, cool. That’s the only way to blow up. You can’t just aim to blow up. You come up fast and you disappear just as fast.

TRHH: What do you guys think of Iggy Azalea and how are people feeling her back home in Australia?

Suffa: She’s just as popular back home as she probably is here. She’s pretty big with the kids. To be honest I can’t comment on her because I’m outside that world. I’m listening to the new Roots album, Pharoahe’s P.T.S.D., and that type of music. I haven’t even heard her so I can’t comment on her. Most people consider her an American artist because she’s lived here for such a long time and she uses the American accent. It’s very much rap music rather than Hip-Hop.

MC Pressure: She’s a product of the American music industry and not the Australian industry. Obviously she was born in Australia, but her music comes from here. People don’t look at her like homegrown music.

Suffa: She’s successful; more power to her, fuck it.

TRHH: You guys are touring North America for all of September, what do you have in-store for fans that come and see your show?

DJ Debris: Hopefully less hot weather [laughs]. No, we’ve got a bunch of songs off the new album that we’re slowly introducing on this tour. We’ve got songs from our last album, what more can we say?

Suffa: We’ve got a live drummer Plutonic Lab. We’re just trying to bring energy. It’s exciting for us to be in a new territory so every time we come out we’re trying to bring as much energy as we can.

MC Pressure: It’s not even like a manufactured energy. We played in Minneapolis last night and I was like, “I hope someone walks up to this gig.” We had a few hundred people in there and that’s fucking amazing! That’s exciting to us.

DJ Debris: We played Madison and that was hype as shit.

MC Pressure: Pardon my ignorance but I didn’t even know where Madison was before we rocked up there in a bus. We rocked out at a show to a gang of motherfucker’s that knew our music. That’s a privilege.

TRHH: What’s next up for Hilltop Hoods?

Suffa: We go back to Australia. We’re doing our tour over there finally. We haven’t toured Australia for like two years so people at home are starting to get mad [laughs].

MC Pressure: They’re mad at us because we came to North America before we did home!

Suffa: It’s hot over here so we’re waiting for the Australian summer to tour probably. We’ll tour hard for the next year, hopefully be back here next year again and in Europe around July. We’re just going to hug the road really.

Purchase: Hilltop Hoods – Walking Under Stars

See Hilltop Hoods on tour:

9.05.14Bluebird Theater – DENVER

9.06.14The Aggie – FORT COLLINS

9.07.14Park City Live – PARK CITY

9.09.14The Roxy – LOS ANGELES

9.11.14Crocodile – SEATTLE

9.12.14Commodore – VANCOUVER

9.13.14Rifflandia Festival – VICTORIA

9.15.14Garfinkel’s – WHISTLER

9.16.14Wild Bill’s – BANFF

9.18.14 Dinwoodie – EDMONTON


9.20.14O’Brien’s Event Centre – SASKATOON

9.24.14Underworld – MONTREAL

9.25.14The Hoxton – TORONTO

9.27.14Brooklyn Bowl – NEW YORK

9.28.14Middle East – CAMBRIDGE

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Cormega: Mega Philosophy

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Photo courtesy of Vshootz

Photo courtesy of Vshootz

Veteran emcee Cormega is back with his first studio album in five years titled “Mega Philosophy”. The critically acclaimed release is classic Cormega with his “less is more” approach to emceeing that gives the listener food for thought in every verse.

The album’s first single ‘Industry’ finds Mega pulling back the curtain on the music business. The Queens emcee raps on Industry, “When Styles made ‘I Get High’ it was playing all day/When Styles made ‘I’m Black’ it didn’t get enough play/ I guess they got a problem with anything positive/It doesn’t make sense if it doesn’t bring dollars in.”

Mega Philosophy is produced entirely by one of rap music’s greatest producers, Large Professor and features an A+ cast of guest stars including Raekwon, Redman, Styles P, AZ, Maya Azucena, Chantelle Nandi, Nature, and Black Rob.

Cormega spoke to The Real Hip-Hop about working with Large Professor, his quest for positivity in his life and in his music, the recent protests in Ferguson, Missouri, and his new album, Mega Philosophy.

TRHH: Explain the title of your new album, ‘Mega Philosophy’.

Cormega: It’s not much to it. The title is basically a reflection of what the album is, which is a reflection of my thoughts on particular topics. It’s my ideologies and what I believe. It’s just an album full of my thoughts.

TRHH: Why’d you decide to have Large Professor produce the entire project?

Cormega: I mean, he’s Large Professor. That was an opportunity that was just worth it. I had to seize that opportunity.

TRHH: You say some real heavy stuff on the single ‘Industry’. Talk about what inspired that song.

Cormega: I guess the industry did. That song is nothing but me putting a mirror to the industry. It’s me talking about what I’ve seen and speaking on reality. I’m just saying some point blank, accurate, factual stuff that if you give it a little bit of thought, not even a lot of thought, you’ll tend to agree with me. I had to do it tastefully and in a way that doesn’t come across as some dude that’s mad at the industry ‘cause that’s the not case. I’m actually able to make a living from the industry but I’m not going to conform to the bull crap that I see.

TRHH: Well you never really have in your career. When I think of Cormega I don’t think of somebody who has conformed to industry norms ever.

Cormega: Thank you, I try not to.

TRHH: In the late 80s and early 90s lots of emcees put excerpts from speeches by Minister Farrakhan in their songs. You don’t hear it as much today. Whose idea was it to have Minister Farrakhan snippets on ‘Industry’?

Cormega: Mine. When I did ‘Industry’ I just wanted to have something on there that was monumental and something that drove home what I was trying to say. I heard what Farrakhan was saying and it just complimented the song perfectly and I was blown away by it. It was perfect. So I put it together and the rest was history.

TRHH: When did you discover Islam and how has it changed your life?

Cormega: I don’t know when I discovered Islam. Islam has always been there. It’s not about discovering Islam, it’s about embracing Islam. There’s many branches of it. You have Nation of Islam, you have the Nation of Gods and Earths, and you have traditional Muslims. I’ve always been fascinated with Islam. Some of the figures from rap that were into Islam whether it was Rakim, Kane, or Kool G Rap are some of the greatest emcees of all-time. If you name ten of the greatest emcees of all-time probably 8 of them were either affiliated or influenced by Islam. That’s just something that’s going to make any emcee take note that’s going to be great. I think it’s impacted my life in a lot of ways. It makes me strive to be a more positive person. It pushes me to be disciplined and it makes me humble myself. In this day and age when Islam is criticized by the media and given a bad light due to the actions of a few, I feel like it’s more of an incentive for positive Muslims to show how positive they are and to contribute to the world in a positive manner.

TRHH: Speaking of positivity, you have a song on the album with Nature called ‘Divine Unity’. You and Nature have a history of beef. What led to you two squashing the beef and doing a song together?

Cormega: I think that’s a misconception. Me and Nature don’t have a history of beef. We just had a disagreement. A history of a beef is America and Russia [laughs]. We didn’t have a long stretched out period of differences and animosity. It was very short lived. We just had misunderstandings. Me and him have been cool for a very long time. We didn’t even squash nothing ‘cause it was nothing to squash. Me and him been cool for many, many years. The idea of doing a record was to show people that we’re bigger than grudges and it’s about unity. We understand our legacy and where we come from – not just the era but the community that we come from. We’re trying to set the bar and lead by example. I’m going to remix that song and try to get as many people as possible on it.

TRHH: You also squashed your issues with Nas some years ago. Take me back to what you thought the first time you heard ‘One Love’.

Cormega: I really don’t feel like answering that. That’s one of those questions that I answered so many times that it feels out of place to answer in 2014. Whenever somebody gives you love you always appreciate that. I’ll say that, but I’m just tired of talking about all that stuff.

TRHH: Okay, what’s your opinion on the situation in St. Louis? A guy in New York was choked out by the cops and obviously Mike Brown in St. Louis was shot and killed — it seems like the late 80s all over again. What’s your opinion on the current situations going on where seemingly innocent unarmed black men are being murdered by the police over nothing?

Cormega: I don’t think that there was ever a point where there’s been police hostility and brutality toward minorities and there was a cease or a point where it lessened. I think what has happened in recent years is the technological boom has caused the world to take notice in different situations. Nowadays when things happen people have their phones and their phones have cameras in them and the cameras are very good quality. What was once compressed and swept under the rug is hard to do now when nearly everybody has a camera in their phone.

I think America really needs to be ashamed of itself. If the country was a person it needs to put its head down in shame. This country was built by slave masters and its laws were made by slave masters. Its laws were governed by people that adhere to the rules and abide by the rules with a slave master mentality. So when the police come to urban neighborhoods they have the look on their face like hunters. I see it myself. Their eyes are wide as they stare through the window of their car, driving by slowly looking at you. You could just be minding your business eating an ice cream cone. You could be the most innocent guy. You might be an entrepreneur, a doctor, a lawyer, they don’t know what you are but they just look at you like that.

The racial lines are drawn and there is a contempt for people of color that has never disappeared. America gives off the illusion of one community, but it’s only an illusion. The reality is racism is as alive and prominent as it’s ever been. It’s just there are different ways to manifest now. There’s different ways to oppress, exploit, and enslave. The police have always had hostility toward people in the community and now it’s just being manifested. The thing that’s different now is people are getting tired of it. Police scare people. Their aura, energy level and way they conduct themselves is like they’re a secret army to themselves. People are tired of that and now people are trying to rebel. St. Louis is a reflection of people being tired. The fact that it’s unarmed innocent brothers that this is happening to is making people rebel. That’s what we’re seeing right now.

TRHH: Why is it important for you to speak on social issues in your music?

Cormega: I really don’t know. To be honest I don’t know why it’s important. I have no answer for that. When I do stuff I do it from the heart. I don’t know if my music will make a difference in the world. I don’t know if my words will change what’s happening in the world, but I know my words will reveal what’s happening. My words depict what I’m seeing and what I’m feeling. When I write, I write from a perspective of somebody that’s seeing it – a narrator or a journalist. I’m giving people an in depth look at my world, my thoughts, and my ideologies. That’s what it is. I don’t know what impact the music will have, that’s for the people to decide. I just do what I feel is right.

TRHH: Why is Mega Philosophy an important album in 2014?

Cormega: I think Mega Philosophy is the voice of a lot of people. I think it’s the voice of the voiceless. I think it’s for the people that are frustrated with rap, but not totally against rap. I think there is a growing number of people that want to embrace rap. They want to listen to content and substance that they can relate to but they wasn’t getting it. I think it was a breath of fresh air and the reason I’m using that term is because I’ve seen it used many times by fans. If you go on my Twitter timeline you can see the response from the people. The people have spoken. A lot of people said it’s the album of the year. A lot of people are just saying “Thank you for this album.” I’ve never had people tell me “thank you” for an album. The response from the fans has been inspiring. I’m humbled, appreciative, and in awe by the response – that’s how I feel.

I felt like I was going to lose a lot of people with this album because I was talking some other stuff and sometimes people ain’t ready for that. There are some people that I lost, obviously. No matter what you do you’re always going to lose people. But I’ve gained so many. This is my best-selling album in years. It’s the biggest buzz I had in years and I didn’t even have to diss anybody, say any names, be disrespectful, or cause controversy. All I did was speak facts and my theories on things. The song ‘Industry’ was released on May 20. Here we are in August and you still see ‘Industry’ everywhere in social media and people are still talking about it around the world. For that song to do that in 2014 where hot records die out in a week is amazing. I’m definitely taken aback by the response. I’d be lying if I said I knew it would be embraced like this. I had no idea. I’m really thankful.

Purchase: Cormega – Mega Philosophy

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7evenThirty: The Problem

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Photo courtesy of MAC Media Promo

Photo courtesy of MAC Media Promo

Born in Jackson, Mississippi and now residing in Dallas, Texas producer/emcee 7evenThirty came on the scene in 2012 with his concept album, Heaven’s Computer. The futuristic album introduced 7even to the rap world and took him musically to outer space. With his recently sophomore album “The Problem” 7evenThirty has come back to earth to speak on our planet and its ills.

The Problem is produced entirely by Mello Music Group producer Gensu Dean, who also happens to be a Jackson, Mississippi native that relocated to Dallas. The project features a single guest appearance by Duck Down recording artist Sean Price on the song ‘Hook Heavy’.

The Real Hip-Hop spoke to 7evenThirty about joining forces with Gensu Dean, working with the incomparable Sean Price, and his new album, The Problem.

TRHH: Why’d you title your new album ‘The Problem’?

7evenThirty: The original idea for it was a 4 track EP – kind of like a holdover EP until the next full album. I originally titled it “The Problem” because I wanted it to be a showcase of me as a producer and a rapper. Like the slang definition of “the problem”, 7evenThirty is a problem for other emcees. Then it kind of grew into a bigger concept when I decided to bring Gensu in as the producer and do it as a whole project. The concept of The Problem grew from being just a slang term. It’s still representative of the slang term but it’s also talking about “the problem” as in issues in the community, particularly the black community.

TRHH: How’d you and Gensu Dean get together to decide to work on this project?

7evenThirty: Gensu and I are from the same hometown. Now we currently live in Texas. We kind of reunited in Dallas. Me, Gensu, my wife, and his wife all hang out. I was letting him hear some of the ideas that I had in mind for an upcoming project. My wife said, “Have y’all thought about working together? What if you got Gensu to do the beats?” We decided that it was a cool idea because we always wanted to work together anyway. We had a couple of tracks together that was on some of his projects. We found our chemistry by then anyway so we decided to do the whole joint together.

TRHH: How’d the song ‘Hook Heavy’ with Sean Price come about?

7evenThirty: It was after the album was just about completed. All of the verses were done and we were in the mixing process of the album. We still stuck with the concept of it being me on all of the lyrics with no features, but we thought it would be cool to do at least one really strong feature. I thought about Sean Price because he’s one of my favorite rappers right now. I was going through tracks to see what track would be good enough to suit a strong feature. I thought about that ‘Hook Heavy’ track and thought Sean would just sound beastly on this track. We reached out to him through the label. He was already familiar with Mello Music Group and he thought it was a good idea to do something. He said, “Let me hear the track first and I’ll let you know if I can rock with it.” We sent him the track and he thought it was dope. He did his verse and sent it back that night. When he sent the track back to Gensu he said, “Tell 7evenThirty that this shit was dope and if y’all wanna do a video I’m down to do that too. Just hit me up.”

TRHH: Wow, that’s dope, man.

7evenThirty: Yeah, and it meant a lot coming from him because he’s a hard cat to impress. He ain’t that easily impressed with too many people so that went a long way.

TRHH: How is this album different from Heaven’s Computer?

7evenThirty: Heaven’s Computer was very purposely done as a concept record. It was a specific concept storyline — a fictitious sci-fi, soundtrack, storyline to that whole album. Me and the producers that I worked with on that album took it as far out as we could take it and followed the storyline concept. It’s basically a sci-fi, graphic novel, comic book type approach to it. We took it very seriously so it’s like you’re listening to a movie. The Problem is more stripped down. There are no skits like on Heaven’s Computer, there are no special effects, there is no sci-fi artwork or soundscape to it. It’s less synthesizers and things involved, less voice acting — it’s straight beats and raps. As Dean would say he has many different chambers in his production so he could get crazy wild with the beats to fit my personality. He refers to me as a quirky and eccentric kind of artist so he has beats to match those different chambers. He was throwing me some of the craziest unorthodox beats with the craziest beats per minute that he could throw at me that he knew that I could rock. He may not give those to Planet Asia, Roc Marciano, David Banner, or Large Professor. He has beats that he crafts for those guys too, but for The Problem every beat was hand crafted with my personality in mind. Even though it’s just beats and raps it feels just as crazy and weird as Heaven’s Computer is.

TRHH: What was the recording process like with you and Dean?

7evenThirty: Dean has so many beats and all of them are dope. It’s weird the way he works. He doesn’t make any beats normally with anybody else around and I don’t really record vocals with anybody else around. We would get together and pick out samples and beats, which he never does with any other artist that he ever works with. I had the honor and the privilege to sit around with him and say, “That sample is dope, let’s do something with that.” Or he’ll already have something in the vault that nobody has heard before and I’ll say, “That’s dope, let’s do something with that.” When I got ready to write to each song he would send me one track at a time through Dropbox and I would write to it at home in solitude and send it back to him. I told him not to send me any other beats until I sent him the finished version. I had to execute it one at a time for me to stay on task. If he sent me a folder full of beats I wouldn’t get anything done because I would literally sit around and listen to the instrumentals because they were dope. I wouldn’t focus on either one. My attention span isn’t the greatest so I have to do these kind of tricks to keep focused on one at a time.

TRHH: How would you compare the Hip-Hop scene in Jackson to the scene in Dallas?

7evenThirty: That’s a good question. Jackson is more of a smaller city so everybody knows each other and it’s really close knit. Everybody is very creative. We have a lot of creative artists coming out of Jackson but Jackson as a city doesn’t have the monetary resources that a city like Dallas has. On the flip side of that, Dallas has access to the major monetary resources that a major city would have, but the scene as far as the artists go is not as close knit as the artist scene in Jackson. Dallas is a bigger city so everything is more spread out. You may see a whole slew of different artists and it isn’t like Jackson where you have the main artist running the scene on a regular basis. In Dallas it’s less close knit than Jackson is.

TRHH: How’d you develop your style of emceeing?

7evenThirty: I have a lot of different influences that I pull from over the years. I’ve been writing since ’96. When you’re forming any kind of craft you kind of emulate who you’re inspired by. You can tell very loud and clear in my earlier works who I was inspired by. You’re going to hear Andre 3000, Busta Rhymes, Eminem, Ol’ Dirty and shit like that. It’s very obvious who my influences are in my earlier recordings. Over the years you kind of learn to listen to your own voice. The way that I did that was I stopped listening to all my favorite artists. I stopped listening to Outkast, I stopped listening to Dirty, Busta, and all the Hip-Hop artists that I knew had a major influence on me. I kind of forced myself to listen to myself and that happened during the Heaven’s Computer album. I found that as a result I may have my subconscious influences thrown into this pot, a kind of creative gumbo, but the story was told through my voice. I can express it as myself and at the same time I figured out a way to give homage to people that influenced me like Dilla, I loved the way Dilla wrote rhymes and I would give homage to Dilla without necessarily sounding like him. I would give homage to Outkast and Wu-Tang without necessarily sounding like Outkast and Wu-Tang. It’s to the point now where I can listen to my inner self and what you hear is what came out of it.

TRHH: What do you hope to accomplish with The Problem?

7evenThirty: Even though it’s not a concept record there is an underlying theme. I feel like The Problem is way more of an accessible album than Heaven’s Computer is. Heaven’s Computer is more like a niche market – your comic book readers, sci-fi, anime, nerd group. With The Problem it’s a way more accessible album with tracks like ‘$ Stacks & Body Bags’, ‘Filthy Rich’ and the single ‘Hook Heavy’. I wanna draw people in with that but there is this underlying message that you get when you listen to the album. It’s a time of great turmoil with the situation in St. Louis with Mike Brown, the brother Eric Garner that got choked out in New York, and John Crawford that got shot in a Wal-Mart in Ohio for holding an air gun. This type shit has always been happening but I guess it’s more evident now with technology. People with cell phones and cameras make it a little more in your face now. My objective with The Problem is to play my part in keeping my message out there and keeping people’s eyes and ears open to what’s really going on and start to find some solutions to these problems.

Purchase: 7evenThirty – The Problem

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A Conversation with Blacastan & Stu Bangas

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Photo courtesy of Stu Bangas

Photo courtesy of Stu Bangas

The formula of having one emcee and one producer on an album works best in Hip-Hop. Parading in cavalcades of producers on rap albums has soured the game. Rarely does the recipe work when there are too many chefs in the kitchen. Demigodz emcee Blacastan and producer Stu Bangas have resurrected the tried and true formula for their latest project, Watson & Holmes.

With the title of the album taken from the fictional characters Sherlock Holmes and his partner Dr. Watson, Blac and Stu created one of the grimiest releases of 2014. The album is produced entirely by MPC master Stu Bangas with guest appearances by Apathy, Block McCloud, Celph-Titled, Vinnie Paz, Planetary, and Esoteric.

The Real Hip-Hop spoke to Stu Bangas and Blacastan about the genesis of their collaboration, working side jobs while still being involved in Hip-Hop, and their new album, Watson & Holmes.

TRHH: Why’d you guys decide to get together and do an album?

Stu Bangas: We first met four or five years ago at a show in Boston. Some dudes that Blac was with and myself almost got in a scrap. No brawl broke out or anything like that. Afterwards we discussed it and talked about working together. Fast forward a year after that it was a record that a label wanted to do with myself, Reef, and Blacastan. We started bouncing beats back and forth but that album never materialized. Me and Blac decided to take the stuff that we had done and went ahead and put out a whole record. We liked the stuff that we had done, and the chemistry that we had, and the end result of the initial songs.

TRHH: How much of the record is new stuff?

Blacastan: Most of it is new stuff. We started with the core of it being a lot of the records that we salvaged from the previous project. That would have been 3 or 4 maybe. We had such a good flow going that coming up with records wasn’t even a problem, even to this day. Right now we’re working on an EP and the stuff that Stu produces I usually never have a problem with writing lyrics to it. I’d say four joints were from the original project. A lot of the stuff we re-worked. Some of it was halfway done and we finished or added to it. It’s not like we just had records that were sitting around that we just threw in.

Stu Bangas: The main one was the single ‘Nubian Metal’ that we dropped. It was the first one we ever did and it was dope. That was in 2012 and one other one. The rest is shit we did in the past 6-7 months.

TRHH: Who came up with the concept for the ‘Nubian Metal’ video?

Stu Bangas: I did that, man. We were trying to get a video done with Celph and Paz but we didn’t want to stress them. It’s hard to get everyone together. Blac was like, “Just throw it up on Youtube.” I tried to do something a little different with it so I was looking up old Blaxploitation films. I found this one video with all the trailers from the illest Blaxploitation films. It was like an hour long but I downloaded it and took the parts out that I liked and thought it fit with the song.

TRHH: That was dope.

Stu Bangas: Thank you.

TRHH: How did the song ‘The Machine’ with Apathy come about?

Stu Bangas: That was a record I found off this person I buy from in China. It was an Asian record and it was just dope with the vocal sample and keys. It reminded me of that record that Alchemist did for C-N-N with Foxy Brown on it, ‘Bang Bang’, just because of the piano and the way the drums hit with it. I sent it to Blac and he said it was dope. He killed the first verse and we planned on getting Apathy on the record anyway so I said, “Why don’t we use this one?” Blac stayed on him because he was busy working on his record. I was bouncing at the time and Blac called me and said, “Yo this is crazy! Ap did his verse, we did it back and forth.” I wanted to hear the song but I couldn’t because I was busy bouncing at this club I work at. I got home and heard the song and it was crazy. These dudes went in.

TRHH: I didn’t know you were a bouncer, man.

Stu Bangas: Yeah, for extra cash.

Blacastan: Dude, he’s an Olympic class power lifter!

TRHH: [Laughs] Well I could tell by looking at him, but I didn’t know he made money off of that.

Stu Bangas: Yeah, it’s steady income because the music money comes and goes in waves.

TRHH: Stu, how was doing this album different from doing Machete Mode?

Stu Bangas: It’s really not that different, man. To work with Esoteric and Blacastan is really effortless. They like my beats. I’ve worked with other emcees who like my beats but they’re like, “Do this to it and change this,” or they take forever to write and get back to you. These dues hear the beat and go in. Both of them have good ideas to add on. It’s not just raps and beats. They know where they want drops to go, they know how to sequence the album, stuff like that. They see stuff that I don’t always necessarily see myself. They bring a lot to the record and it’s easy to work with them.

TRHH: Blac, the song ‘The Road’ gave pretty good insight into life on the road. Do you ever feel like giving up rap for a more normal consistent life?

Blacastan: Yeah, I mean I’ve dabbled. I’ve gone back and forth. I’ve worked at grocery stores in produce. I’ve worked in car lots as a lot attendant, I’ve worked in sales — I’ve done everything, man. Like Stu said, every now and then I have to revisit a day job because the money in rap just isn’t that consistent. I’ve been blessed to go out on tour and make thousands of dollars, and then you’re left high and dry. For 6-7 months you’re dead broke sleeping on your aunts couch or whatever – it’s crazy! ‘The Road’ is an accurate description. The first verse of the road I wrote while I was in St. Catharines, Canada on a tour with Block McCloud. We just had a terrible show. We dealt with a terrible promoter. All of those frustrations were so real. What we were talking about was actually happening in real time. The second verse I wrote six months later toward the completion of the album.

TRHH: I like the honesty in the record because I believe in rap there’s a lot of phoniness and flossing. What you described is the average rappers life.

Blacastan: Well I’d say the average independent rapper. This game has got so much smoke and mirrors it’s not even funny.

TRHH: Why do you think people don’t speak on that kind of stuff more often?

Stu Bangas: They’re embarrassed. I don’t know why anybody is embarrassed to admit that someone is working. You gotta respect someone that works. What I don’t respect is these lazy bums.

TRHH: That’s a ridiculous thing to be ashamed of.

Stu Bangas: Yeah, it goes against every core thing that should be instilled in people. People think it’s cool to not work – I don’t know.

Blacastan: It’s almost more acceptable to say, “I’m a gangster, I kill people for a living, and I rap.” That’s more acceptable than saying, “I punch the clock and I’m a blue collar dude.” You’re viewed as unsuccessful if you have to rap and subsidize your income with it. It means that you suck as a rapper. If you were dope you’d be making thousands off of this. You suck so you’re not making anything off of it. It’s not true. If you look at Hip-Hop right now, the wackest people are the people making the most dough off of it.

Stu Bangas: Even the independent dudes that are touring and selling a lot of music, they have people backing them. It’s not technically independent. They have a big push behind them, but people call it “independent”.

TRHH: What’s the meaning behind the Sherlock Holmes and Watson title?

Blacastan: Stu made a beat and he sent it through to me. The beat was so fresh that I just blacked out. It was probably one of the quickest songs that I wrote for the whole project. I wrote it almost instantaneously. In that song I have a line that’s like, “As we embark on a journey like Watson and Holmes/ Enter the hood, neighbors wanna lock up their homes,” and the light bulb came on. I don’t know where the hell that reference came from but it was crazy! I referred to us as Watson and Holmes. I thought maybe we should name the song Watson and Holmes and after that I was like, we should name the whole project Watson and Holmes. Sherlock Holmes and Watson were a duo together. They complimented each other real well and knew what each other was going to say. It’s the same thing with me and Stu. We’re doing business together, we’re making music together and at some points me and Stu are thinking the same things at the same time and it’s real crazy. That’s how ill the chemistry is. Nothing is better than Watson and Holmes – it just works. It sounds dope. Also there was a comic book that was out and we happened to come across it while we were in Philly.

TRHH: Who is Watson & Holmes for?

Stu Bangas: Blac was just on the AOTP album and that was a really good look for him in terms of broadening his fan base. We kind of tried to tailor some of the music toward that fan base. We both know what that sound is and what the fans of those artists like, but we also tried to take it to another fan base. You got certain indie rap fans that like the AOTP sound and some that don’t. We tried to step out a little but to get it to as many people that might enjoy it as possible. With the theme of the album we thought maybe we could interest people that are more into the stylized conceptual things – like with the art, and the sequence of the record is like a Sherlock Holmes movie.

Purchase: Blacastan & Stu Bangas – Watson & Holmes

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Introducing: Sean Anonymous

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Photo courtesy of Sean Anonymous

Photo courtesy of Sean Anonymous

The final installment of this week’s look at Hip-Hop on the Warped tour features Sean Anonymous. Anonymous serves as one of the headliners on the Yo! Bring it Back stage at the 2014 festival. The Minnesota emcee’s introspective lyrics carry on the tradition of Minneapolis rappers that spit with substance.

The Real Hip-Hop talked to Sean Anonymous about his musical influences, upcoming projects, and performing on the Yo! Bring it Back stage at the 2014 Vans Warped tour.

TRHH: What’s it mean to you to perform on the Warped tour?

Sean Anonymous: It’s just a good opportunity. Performing is one of my favorite things, if not my favorite thing to do in life. It’s a chance to get my music and my message out to different people in different cities every day and it’s a beautiful experience. I love it.

TRHH: Have the audiences been receptive to your music?

Sean Anonymous: Very receptive. Especially with the amount of younger kids that come out to Warped tour. They’re very open to new music. They are down for the call and response and down to get moving. It seems like they’re having a good time.

TRHH: Why is it important in your opinion to have the Yo! Bring it Back stage at an event like this?

Sean Anonymous: It’s so many reasons – countless reasons. Especially growing up with Hip-Hop like I did – I started listening like 15 years ago. It was a different vibe back then, people were freestyling, there were still people dancing. I think there are a lot of aspects of Hip-Hop that people are losing out on with mainstream Hip-Hop culture nowadays. I think this stage is a great representation of what it’s like, but it doesn’t feel antiquated by means. It still feels new, but it goes back and includes all the elements. We’re bringing that to these kids that may have never seen a break dancer before. The may have never seen a freestyle before. They may have never seen DJ’s scratching and cats painting out there. I feel like that’s one of the most important reasons. Also, it’s just really fun to do. It’s one of the most fun experiences I’ve ever had in my life.

TRHH: Are there any acts that you’ve seen on this tour that you’ve never heard of but are kind of diggin’ now?

Sean Anonymous: Yeah, definitely. Especially being next to the Beatport stage. There are a couple of cats on there like my bus mate DJ Nicola Bear and she’s been smashing it. She’s one of the better DJ’s I’ve seen in a long time. Also Bad Rabbits. I’ve heard of them before but I’d never seen them before. I saw them play at the barbecue a couple weeks ago. It’s kind of throwback soul but they kind of have some punk elements too. They are one of my favorite acts out here. I could go on and on. There is a huge list of great cats.

TRHH: Who inspired you to want to be an emcee?

Sean Anonymous: Growing up the first time I remember listening to Hip-Hop was being 4-years old in the back of my mom’s car and she would flip it to the Hip-Hop station by accident and I heard it and I would get down. She probably wasn’t completely about it. I heard M.C. Hammer, but I’m all about syllables. The people that made me want to rhyme were Busta Rhymes, Talib Kweli, Eminem, and even before that Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Ludacris, all those great people. I still listen to their music to this day and I still dig what they’re doing. I feel like Busta Rhymes is overlooked. I love Jay-Z and everybody but when people talk about the greatest emcees of all-time Busta has been doing it since the 80s and he’s still very relevant and killing it. He’s one my favs.

TRHH: I think it’s because his personality is so big that people forget that he’s actually spittin’.

Sean Anonymous: Oh yeah. A perfect example of that is the ‘Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See’ video. He’s walking around with the aboriginal face paint and there is like black light paint, he’s walking around with a cane and a top hot and there’s an elephant behind him walking to the beat. Man, I will never forget that video as long as I live. That was some of the shit that made me want to rap, write, and be an artists in general. Shout out to Busta Rhymes.

TRHH: How’d the collaboration ‘Weight’ with DJ Snuggles come about?

Sean Anonymous: Oh, you know about Snuggles?

TRHH: I know a little bit.

Sean Anonymous: Snuggles is my homie. We’ve actually worked on a couple different things back in the day. I asked him to come up because he makes the sets that much better. I’ve been knowing him for a while. He was Brother Ali’s tour DJ, he won Scribble Jam for the beat boxing stuff. I started building with him and he would beat box on stage. At Soundset three years ago they were doing a compilation through Fifth Element, the Rhymesayers Hip-Hop shop in Minneapolis, and they wanted it to be a big collaboration type thing. They put me in touch with some of the cats from Audio Perm which is a producer collective in Minneapolis. I did this thing with Julian Fairbanks and there was a little open space on it and I was wondering what can happen with it. He didn’t even beat box on the track. It was a track called ‘Seats Taken’ and I had him doing vocal scratches. We just kept on building and he was working on his EP, That Beat, and he got a dope, dope beat from Big Cats back in Minneapolis and it was the type of beat where you just wanna write to it as soon as you hear it, which are my favorite types of beats. It’s easily one of my favorite tracks that I’ve been a part of – I love it. I’m glad that you know about that, man, that’s nice.

TRHH: What’s next up for you?

Sean Anonymous: I actually have an album coming out with my dude Dimitry Killstorm. It’s my first full-length. We haven’t announced the name of it yet but we’re hoping to put it out either in the fall or next spring. It is my best album I’ve ever made. It’s also the realest album I’ve ever made. It took me about a year and a half or two years to make. I went through a lot of stuff while making this album, a lot of hardships, a lot of rough times. I lost my mom in that time and there is a lot of songs dealing with that. It’s definitely the most personal album that I’ve ever made. I know when it comes out that there will be people out there that can relate to what I went through and I just hope listening to this album can help them get through it, because it helped me get through it just writing my feelings while going through that stuff. It’s going to be good. I got Wordsworth from Lyricist Lounge, Aceyalone, P.O.S. from Doomtree, my old roommate Lizzo who is blowing up. She just got signed to Virgin over in Europe. She’s Rolling Stone’s top 10 artist to watch – she’s killing it. It’ going to be a good time. You should check it out.

See Sean Anonymous on the Yo! Bring it Back stage at the 2014 Vans Warped tour:

July 24 Atlanta, GA Aaron’s Amphitheatre at Lakewood
July 25 St. Petersburg, FL Vinoy Park
July 26 West Palm Beach, FL Cruzan Amphitheatre
July 27 Orlando, FL Central Florida Fairgrounds
July 28 Charlotte, NC PNC Music Pavilion Charlotte
July 29 Nashville, TN Tennessee State Fairgrounds
July 30 Milwaukee, WI Marcus Amphitheatre
July 31 Bonner Springs, KS Cricket Wireless Amphitheater
August 02 Salt Lake City, UT Utah State Fairpark
August 03 Denver, CO Sports Authority Field at Mile High

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Wax: Continue

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Photo courtesy of Wax

Photo courtesy of Wax

In keeping with this week’s Warped tour theme The Real Hip-Hop chatted with L.A. based emcee, Wax who is performing on the Beatport stage as part of the festival. Formerly a Def Jam recording artist, Wax was dropped from the label in 2011 due to creative differences. His release from the legendary label turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The comedic emcee flourished musically and personally upon venturing out on his own and released the critically acclaimed album ‘Continue’.

Wax spoke to The Real Hip-Hop about the perks of being an indie artist, performing at the 2014 Warped tour, and the follow-up to his album, Continue.

TRHH: What’s it mean to you to perform on the Warped tour?

Wax: It means a lot, man. It means I must be doing something right, I guess. It’s interesting because it’s a very young crowd. I think that’s good. When you’re young and you hear music for the first time it affects you even more. I’m definitely making a lot of new young fans and it’s a good thing.

TRHH: Have the audiences been receptive to your music?

Wax: Yeah, they have. I’m not as big as some people are here. A lot of the younger folks aren’t into it as much but the parents love my stuff. I see all the old folks gathering around. It’s been good.

TRHH: Are there any acts that you’ve discovered on this tour that you’re a fan of now?

Wax: Yes, absolutely. K. Flay being one of them. This band called Plague Vendor. A lot of people on my stage especially. This band called One Ok Rock from Japan is amazing. Those are the main ones I can think of off the top.

TRHH: What’s the difference between being an indie artist and being an artist on a major label?

Wax: You can make a lot of your own decisions being independent. You can do the music you want to do. You might not make the most money, or you might make even more because you don’t have to pay them anything. I think the most important thing is creative freedom – doing what you want and not having somebody looking over your shoulder.

TRHH: What inspired the song ‘Feels Good‘?

Wax: I went through some depression in my life and that was a song I wrote when I was starting to get over it. That song and my whole album was about continuing on and not letting things affect you. That was written in a time when I was getting over some bad rough times.

TRHH: Was the music therapeutic for you at that time?

Wax: Absolutely. It always is. Music is always therapeutic. Music saved my life a million times.

TRHH: How’d you get into the podcast world?

Wax: To be honest with you I’m a big fan of Bill Burr’s podcast. I pretty much was like, “I’d like to do that,” because it’s almost therapeutic. I just talk. I pretty much stole his formula for the most part. I’ll tell him that openly. It was fun.

TRHH: When will we hear the follow-up to Continue?

Wax: Hopefully at the end of this year. This tour kind of put off my recording process but as soon as I’m done I’m not doing any touring, I’m just working on the album. So hopefully December or January but I don’t know, man. Sometimes it takes a long time, sometimes it goes real fast. We’ll see.

See Wax live at the 2014 Vans Warped tour:

July 23 Virginia Beach, VA Farm Bureau Live At Virginia Beach
July 24 Atlanta, GA Aaron’s Amphitheatre at Lakewood
July 25 St. Petersburg, FL Vinoy Park
July 26 West Palm Beach, FL Cruzan Amphitheatre
July 27 Orlando, FL Central Florida Fairgrounds
July 28 Charlotte, NC PNC Music Pavilion Charlotte
July 29 Nashville, TN Tennessee State Fairgrounds
July 30 Milwaukee, WI Marcus Amphitheatre
July 31 Bonner Springs, KS Cricket Wireless Amphitheater
August 02 Salt Lake City, UT Utah State Fairpark
August 03 Denver, CO Sports Authority Field at Mile High

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Introducing: Pat Maine

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Photo courtesy of Paul Montano

Photo courtesy of Paul Montano

All this week on The Real Hip-Hop we’re highlighting acts that are currently performing on the 2014 Vans Warped tour. The Warped tour isn’t typically known as a platform for rap artists but this year’s tour features the Yo! Bring it Back stage, a stage that showcases the four elements of Hip-Hop – the emcee, the DJ, the b-boy, and the graffiti artist.

One of the artists performing on the Yo! Bring it Back stage is Salt Lake City emcee, Pat Maine. Maine spoke to The Real Hip-Hop about the Salt Lake City Hip-Hop scene, the follow-up to his last album, Doomsday Charades, and performing on the 2014 Warped tour.

TRHH: What’s it mean to you to perform on the Warped tour?

Pat Maine: I think it’s one of those things that every artist has to do. It’s like that stepping stone. Warped tour is legitimately one of the hardest fucking tours there is out there because of the places it goes in the country and the time of year it goes through them. It’s always the hottest time of the year and the hottest places. It’s a grind – it’s like 13 hour days no matter how you look at it. Realistically to me it means that I’m doing the right thing. I look at a lot of artists that I looked up to and early in their careers they did Warped tour. When I look at their interviews they always say the same thing too – it’s one of the hardest tours. I would just say it makes me feel like this is the beginning of something bigger at this point. We’ll see.

TRHH: Have the audiences been receptive to you so far?

Pat Maine: Yeah, it’s cool. With the Yo! Bring it Back stage we’re a ground level stage so we get to interact with the people a lot. I spend a lot of the day walking around with CD’s. I have 10,000 CD’s I brought out on this tour and I walk around and tell people about my set time to get them to come and hang out. I make ‘em laugh, give ‘em my Instagram, follow them, and they follow me back. I stay super interactive throughout the day and sometimes I get some of those kids that make it back to the stage and we all have a good time. I feel like for every handful of people that actually makes it to the stage it goes pretty well. I’ve been giving away like 300 CD’s each day. A lot of them people are donating money for – at least 50 of them. Freaking Cleveland did really well for me. I checked my Twitter today and had like 17 notifications from kids from Cleveland. I thought I did horrible in Cleveland to be honest with you. I thought it was an off day and I check out my feed and it’s lot of love from Cleveland. It’s been really cool. My social media has completely changed. I’ve had to figure out how to be interactive. It seems like these kids don’t really care about Facebook that much. They’re all on Instagram and Twitter and that’s where I’ve been at all on tour. My whole approach has changed since being out here.

TRHH: Talk about the importance of the Yo! Bring it Back stage being on a tour like this.

Pat Maine: I think it’s super important because Hip-Hop culture is important. There is not a whole lot of representation of Hip-Hop culture in mainstream society. Warped tour is a very mainstream thing at this point in time, however Kevin Lyman and their team do a good job of bringing bands on that they believe in. At the same time Hip-Hop is not represented at its fullest extent. We get to do that. We get to give kids that perspective and point of view. We get to unify with them in the moment with freestyles, cyphers, and get to have a good time. We have emcees, DJ’s, graffiti artists, break dancers, we get to expose them to all of that and they have a legitimately good time. It’s a whole new perspective for them. When you say you’re a Hip-Hop artist to these kids and the first thing that pops in their mind is chains and hoes – what’s glorified. We actually get to expose these kids to what Hip-Hop culture is. A lot of them don’t realize it’s actually a culture rather than rap music. They are only exposed to one piece. That’s why I think it’s important to have it out here.

TRHH: Are there any acts that you’ve seen on this tour that you weren’t familiar with and now you’re a fan of?

Pat Maine: Yeah. I’ve really grown to like Scout. He’s the only turntablist that’s out here. He’s also the engineer and writer for the band Issues. He’s out there cutting every day and he really shows us a lot of love because he comes from an underground Hip-Hop background as well. K. Flay, I wasn’t very familiar with her and what she was about until this tour. It was cool to watch her. I’m still trying to keep my eyes open.

TRHH: When I think “Salt Lake” I don’t think “Hip-Hop”. What’s the Hip-Hop scene like in Salt Lake?

Pat Maine: It’s awesome. There is a strong Hip-Hop scene in Salt Lake City right now. I didn’t grow up there. I actually grew up in an even smaller place that no one has ever heard of in Utah called Heber City. I moved there from San Diego when I was 9-years old, so I knew what Hip-Hop was going there. I listened to a lot of 2Pac when I was 8. I can imagine how funny that looked me being an 8-year old white kid listening to 2Pac in Heber City. That was what opened the door for understanding it. I moved to Salt Lake City because there was a Hip-Hop scene. It’s really cool and grassroots. If you take Minneapolis’ Hip-Hop scene and go back 10 years, that’s what Salt Lake is almost like. It’s very young. There is still a lot to do but there is so much love for it all. There are so many raw graffiti writers, a lot of dope emcees that are doing more battles on bigger battle channels. As far as touring artists actually making a name for themselves there’s not really a lot of that. A friend of mine named Task Rok has gotten a lot of Youtube love but nobody from there has really ever made it. It’s all very new, very fresh, and very raw. That’s what I appreciate about it for sure.

TRHH: Who inspired you to want to be an emcee?

Pat Maine: It just depends on what period of my life you’re looking at. When I was super young I always wrote. I found poetry and realized what I was writing was poetry. Then I got older and realized that I liked Hip-Hop a lot. They eye opener was obviously Eminem when I was a kid. I listened to a lot of Busta Rhymes and obviously Wu-Tang. I also listened to a lot of Metal that had Rap in it when I was super young. What made me want to be more on my independent stuff was when I found Tech N9ne, Living Legends, Hieroglyphics, and all those super underground artists that were pushing that movement. That was when I found myself as an emcee. Before I felt like I was emulating and imitating and then I found what I connected with. That’s kind of the chain of events that led me here.

TRHH: What exactly does “Doomsday Charades” mean?

Pat Maine: It’s like a dark piece of art, that’s what that whole album is. Doomsday Charades is all about personal doomsdays that we all kind of go through and this is about picking your own doomsday. It’s a game of charades basically. Every song is related to some sort of struggle that I had to go through. It’s struggle music. Doomsday Charades is very fitting because each song has an in depth background to it. It took 5 years to make. It only took that long because I wasn’t forcing that album. I had made two or three albums in between the time of starting that album. Those are all the darker songs that ended up coming together and Doomsday Charades is what it came to be.

TRHH: What new music do you have coming up?

Pat Maine: I’ve started so many projects over the last couple of years since Doomsday Charades released. I’m trying to find the right producer. I think I’ve pinpointed a few of them. I started a live band project and a project with a couple producers. I made a couple of songs with them and it didn’t work out. I always end up more focused than everybody else is. They kind of have their own agendas as well. For whatever reason I’m sitting on a bunch of songs that I think I’m going to release as an EP, but they’re all so over the place from the different projects. The next album that I’m planning on making is with a guy by the name of Tsuruda out of Salt Lake City. His beats are sampled based but he also has that grimy bass sound that you hear in EDM. He really bridges the gap between that modern sound and that classic Hip-Hop sound. It’s like Madlib meets Skrillex. The beats get your head nodding but they have that aggressive tone that electronic music can create. I’m kind of going that way. I think we’re going to make a dope album together. I don’t know when that will be released – probably in the next year or so I imagine.

See Pat Maine on the Yo! Bring it Back Stage at the 2014 Vans Warped tour:

July 22 Columbia, MD Merriweather Post Pavilion
July 23 Virginia Beach, VA Farm Bureau Live At Virginia Beach
July 24 Atlanta, GA Aaron’s Amphitheatre at Lakewood
July 25 St. Petersburg, FL Vinoy Park
July 26 West Palm Beach, FL Cruzan Amphitheatre
July 27 Orlando, FL Central Florida Fairgrounds
July 28 Charlotte, NC PNC Music Pavilion Charlotte
July 29 Nashville, TN Tennessee State Fairgrounds
July 30 Milwaukee, WI Marcus Amphitheatre
July 31 Bonner Springs, KS Cricket Wireless Amphitheater
August 02 Salt Lake City, UT Utah State Fairpark
August 03 Denver, CO Sports Authority Field at Mile High

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Kid Vishis: Timing Is Everything

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Photo courtesy of MAC Media Promo

Photo courtesy of MAC Media Promo

Hip-Hop is a funny game. There are unwritten rules that if broken will leave a mark for life. One of those rules is you can’t put your man on just because he’s your man – he has to know how to rhyme – period. Detroit emcee Kid Vishis avoided all of those potential obstacles. Despite being the younger brother of rhyme animal Royce da 5’9″, Vishis did things his own way.

The Sick Em mixtape series and a few guest shots on releases from Royce prepared Kid Vishis for the release of his first full-length album. Dropping on July 22, Kid Vishis’ debut album Timing Is Everything features production by Mr. Porter, Chase Moore, Nemesis, and Nick Zervos. The sole guest appearance on the album is from Vishis’ brother, Royce da 5’9″.

Kid Vishis chatted with The Real Hip-Hop about his goals in the rap game, following in the footsteps of his brother Royce da 5’9″, and his new album, Timing Is Everything.

TRHH: How does it feel to finally be dropping your debut album?

Kid Vishis: It’s my proudest moment to date. The album is very important. I’ve been focused on verses for so long – going verse for verse with other emcees and trying to kill them that I wasn’t focused on records. So now that I’m completely focused on making songs it’s a great representation because this is just the beginning of my song making era.

TRHH: How did you make the leap from being a rapper to a song writer?

Kid Vishis: Just time put in, man — at the studio constantly writing. It was really right before we did the album I kind of got into song mode. It was things I wanted to get off my chest. I’ve always been a vent style of writer where I unleash anger. Now it’s like I’m starting to learn how to bring across other aspects of me, not just the angry side, but the personal side and try to master the overall craft – storytelling, concepts, spaz out records, all of that.

TRHH: Explain the title of the album, ‘Timing Is Everything’.

Kid Vishis: It’s my time now. I feel like that because I know what mode I’m in now. I got the verse for verse type of thing and I feel like I got a good grasp on it and I feel like I’m getting better at it. I’m just trying to bring the songs to that level. In order to be a complete emcee you gotta know how to do everything. I feel like right now at the moment my story needs to be heard and this is a great start for me. Even the tone of Hip-Hop right now is missing that aggressive “rewind it back, what did he just say” stuff. It’s a lot of goofy shit going on in Hip-Hop right now.

TRHH: Definitely. Why do you think lyricism has taken a backseat in recent times?

Kid Vishis: I think it’s become more of a kid thing. Everybody feels like they should make music for little kids. When you do that you come up with the silliest type of records. Lyrics is not something they’re paying attention to. They aren’t listening to a bar and saying, “Wow, what did he just say?” It’s none of that going on right now. It’s really about having fun, going to the club, and bragging about what you’re wearing. I feel bad. My, my brother, and the OG Trick Trick from Detroit was just talking about this. This isn’t my era but being that I got older brothers they put me up on Breakin’, Beat Street, 8 Mile, and stuff like that. It’s movies that represent Hip-Hop that people really respect. People nowadays don’t have that. It’s not too much to respect. It’s all the same stuff.

TRHH: I think the history is lost. Hip-Hop is the only culture that laughs at its forefathers. If you mention Kool Moe Dee today people will laugh at you, but he’s a legend! For some reason if you’ve been rapping longer than five years you’re old.

Kid Vishis: Right! Yeah, that’s definitely going on. A perfect example is Joe Budden’s battle with Hollow Da Don. A lot of people were wondering why Joey was doing this because Hollow Da Don just beat Lux – I don’t feel like he beat Lux, but it’s a lot of people that felt like Joey was out of his league. Joey has a pretty good battle resume, and he’s a much better lyricist than Hollow. Just like you said, people are basically lost in the social media era. Whoever is popping in the social media era are the only ones that matter. People who paved the way before them are looked at like, “Whatever, he’s a old nigga.”

TRHH: You mentioned your brother; did you ever have any apprehension about getting into rap because of people potentially comparing you to your brother?

Kid Vishis: I was more worried about if he would accept me. When I first started writing rhymes I was feeling like, “Will he say I’m dope or do I have to keep writing to try to prove myself to him?” So I would just rap for all his friends. All his friends would be like, “Yo Royce, your brother is vicious!” These are the words that they used to describe me – more than one person, henceforth the name. I never really felt like a shadow with Royce because he’s so supportive.

TRHH: What’s the best advice Royce has given you about the music business?

Kid Vishis: Hard work, stay working, stay dedicated, and just rap. Don’t worry about what they’re playing on the radio and trying to fit into that. Don’t worry about the underground rapper that’s poppin’ and rapping like him. Do you and work hard at it, and try to push your brand out there. Royce is the hardest working rapper that I’ve ever seen. It’s not even close and I’ve been around some pretty dominant emcees. If Royce can have the success that he has and keep working how he does it’s almost like, who am I to feel like I should take a break? Hard work is the main thing. It’s hard work over talent and everything else. You just gotta keep at it.

TRHH: Tell me about the single ‘Talk Behind My Back’.

Kid Vishis: That’s Chase Moore produced. It’s a lyrical spaz out record. It’s playing out the concept that people talk behind your back but when you see ‘em it’s handshakes and smiles. It’s not really that I’m upset with people talking behind my back, I’m just putting it out there that I know you’re talking. I see you, I’m aware that you’re smiling at me, but I’m not going to say nothing to you. I’m on to it, but I don’t respect it. That’s one thing that happens to me a lot. A lot of people talk about me and say I’m in my brother’s shadow or I’m not as good as my brother but they see me and say, “Yo Vishis, you’re so nice!” whatever. That’s where my being self-motivated comes into play. If you let other people say things and it gets back to you, tears you down, and takes away your confidence, then you’re not in the right profession. That’s another thing my brother told me, don’t worry about what other people say. The easiest thing to do is for one person to put another person down – just worry about yourself.

TRHH: Early on Kanye West was motivated by people saying he couldn’t rap or whatever. He’s a perfect example of not listening to people and using that hate for fuel.

Kid Vishis: That’s me. That’s me all day. I don’t complain at all if I hear somebody say something about me. I can see them the next day, I don’t say nothing, it’s just motivation. I like looking in people’s eyes when I know that they’re lying about something just to see how they look. When I’m writing I remember that face and it fuels me to keep pushing harder. I’m doing what I’m supposed to do, I’m doing my job. It’s great motivation for me to be around that element and keep it to myself.

TRHH: Your album isn’t overrun with guest appearances and only has a couple of producers. Was that done strategically or did it just turn out that way?

Kid Vishis: It was the zone that I caught. I reached out to the guys that I already worked with before. Chase Moore, Nemesis, and Mr. Porter had already been on previous projects. The only new person was Nick Zervos and he just came with a beat that fit the intro. For the most part it was me trying to reach out to the people I already had a little bit of a chemistry with, record records, and pick from those to see which were the best ones. Once I got the ball rolling I started recording a lot of those Chase Moore beats. Nemesis sent some and I recorded over those and Mr. Porter heard what I was doing. That’s how he ended up giving me two beats that were super bangers. I got right in the studio and recorded that. I let people hear it and they went crazy over it but I was like, “We ain’t got Royce on here.” I’m on all his projects so it just made sense. Once me and him recorded our track I didn’t even know who else to put on the album. It was a lot of people that wanted to be a part of it, but everybody couldn’t be. I’m not trying to go through feelings and stuff like that. I did the album, finalized it, and started working on another project that I’m going to put features on. That’s coming out real soon, too.

TRHH: What do you hope to accomplish with Timing Is Everything?

Kid Vishis: Honestly man, I just wanna get on the mind of the Hip-Hop community. I want people to be like, “I like this guy. I think he can rap.” It’s okay to hear it and want to hear more from me. Like, “He was dope and he can spit, but I wanna hear more concepts and stories.” That’s just growth. That’s where I’m at right now. That’s why I’m so excited to put this project out because I know what I can do. This is just the very beginning. This album isn’t everything I can do in one album. It’s a diverse album and I really went in and had fun. I want people to respect me after listening to this album and want more.

Purchase: Kid Vishis – Timing Is Everything

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Mac Lethal: Alphabet Insanity

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Photo courtesy of Pierpont Artists Co.

Photo courtesy of Pierpont Artists Co.

Kansas City’s own Mac Lethal hasn’t released an album since 2011’s Irish Goodbye, but he’s remained one of the busiest men in rap. Mac wears many hats as an author, DJ, producer, and owner of Black Clover Records, but is first and foremost an emcee. His latest single ‘Alphabet Insanity’ finds the rapper breaking down the alphabet in rapid fire fashion. The song was such a hit on Youtube that it caught the attention of talk show host Ellen Degeneres who invited Mac to be a guest on her show.

Lethal’s bread and butter however is the live show. His critically acclaimed performances have entertained fans all across America. The Midwest road warrior will take part in the 2014 Chalice California festival July 12-13 at the NOS Events Center in San Bernardino, California. Also performing at Chalice California are Hieroglyphics, E-40, STS9, Les Claypool’s Duo De Twang, and Supernatural among others.

The Real Hip-Hop spoke to Mac Lethal about appearing on the Ellen Degeneres Show, his upcoming solo album, and performing at this weekend’s Chalice California festival.

TRHH: What does it mean to you to perform at the 2014 Chalice California festival?

Mac Lethal: I’m excited to see new festivals birthed from positive movements. It’s 2014; everyone is doing their own thing and throwing their own, huge, awesome parties and festivals. This is another example of making our voices louder.

TRHH: Is there anyone on the bill you’re excited to see as a fan?

Mac Lethal: E-40, man, obviously [laughs].

TRHH: What’s your opinion on Prop 215 and medical marijuana?

Mac Lethal: I don’t live in California, so I don’t know if I understand it in great detail. However, while medical marijuana is a good thing, it would be a lot smarter, less draconian, and more beneficial if we just legalized marijuana everywhere, for recreational and medicinal usage. This isn’t 1700. Let’s get serious here.

TRHH: You snapped on your latest single ‘Alphabet Insanity’. What initially inspired that song?

Mac Lethal: I have no idea. I get weird ideas out of nowhere because I’m always trying to think of something I feel hasn’t been done before — or at least in the way I want to do it. It just kind of surfaced one day and I decided to work on it. Luckily it stuck.

TRHH: What did it feel like to go on the Ellen show?

Mac Lethal: Most surreal, stressful, and rewarding experience of 2014 so far — aside from having my son with me every day, of course.

TRHH: Are you surprised at how popular “Texts from Bennett” became?

Mac Lethal: To be honest, no. The streets need Bennett. Hopefully it isn’t done getting popular –fingers crossed.

TRHH: When can we expect the next full-length Mac Lethal album?

Mac Lethal: I am working on a bunch of stuff right now, and when I feel the time is right, I will cut an album together and release it. I have never really released an album that I felt got the care and attention it deserved. I don’t mean from a record label or anything, I mean from me. I have always felt pressured by myself to hurry up and release whatever music I was working on. But I am in a good space where I want to make things as good and new as possible, and release it in a creative way. So I’m taking my time and making something really special, at least to me.

TRHH: What do you have in-store for fans at Chalice California?

Mac Lethal: I will buy anyone a beer who comes up to me during E-40′s set and tells me who won the 2014 IBJJF Worlds absolute division in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu last year. For the record, I know the answer.

Purchase tickets for Chalice California

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A Conversation with Brother J of X Clan (Part 2)

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Photo courtesy of Suburban Noize

Photo courtesy of Suburban Noize

In part 2 of A Conversation with Brother J, the X Clan front-man discusses joining Suburban Noize Records, touring with acts like Public Enemy and Insane Clown Posse, and X Clan’s upcoming album, Magnegro.

TRHH: Did ‘Funkin’ Lesson’ and ‘Heed the Word of the Brother’ catch on in New York? Those songs had the funk like the West Coast was doing at that time.

Brother J: Surprisingly enough it did because George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic was such a worldwide sound we didn’t have issues like “that sounds West Coast” or anything like that. That was a party jam, homie. We used Birdsong’s drums from ‘Rapper Dapper Snapper’ so it had dance flavor. For cats who was break dancing and groove dancing they gravitated toward it. It was a bigger hit in the East Coast than we thought. ‘More Bounce to the Ounce’, you can play that anywhere and everybody will dance, I don’t care who you are. 45 King did that track for us at the time. He put it on a Hip-Hop level as well as the funk of More Bounce and Parliament. It was a unique signature and the way we approached it lyrically was different. We wasn’t rhyming like “cat in the hat and the rat” we wasn’t doing that. We was putting something different down. Those records were tremendous hits out here but in the West we trumped because we were rhyming on it and not sounding like whoever was popular and rhyming on funk at the time, whether it was Spice 1 or N.W.A., we wasn’t rhyming like them. It was more complex on funk. That was unheard of at the time. Cat’s wasn’t rhyming like that. Even De La when they rocked it, it was “My, Myself and I” it was different. It wasn’t spitting. It was a different pocket. I know I had a hell of a content to squeeze into 16 bars and 24 bars. I had to do it without being too wordy and still being on beat to deliver this message. It’s a different type of chemistry – truly funkin’ lesson.

TRHH: You touched on your writing style and your production style. Talk a little bit more in detail about that. What’s your writing process like and what equipment do you use when producing?

Brother J: I started from the turntables, man. That’s what I was pointing out from the beginning. I was so addicted to searching for breaks that cats didn’t have. It’s like the Indiana Jones of your Hip-Hop journey. Finding a break that nobody got and rockin’ it. It’s still that way to this day. Cats search for the best beat to have everybody talking. It’s different now. Now they’re doing it digitally but back then we were digging in the crates. There are things that you hear when you’re creative. Everybody can’t hear the bells. Everybody can’t hear those voices talking and those lyrics coming so it’s hard to describe a technique. It’s not like I put twenty words on a page and connect them and make them make sense – it’s not that. There’s a track playing and there’s forces around it that are saying things – a breakdown, a bridge, or whatever, you hear it and you activate.

Being a writer is a talented thing on any level. I admire any writer because you’re capturing these voices. It’s like capturing a license plate number, “What’s the tag on that thing?” and you’re writing it down but it’s a talent for you to capture, memorize that, and hold that moment — the same thing with lyrics. When that happens you know if you don’t write that down something will come and distract your focus and kill the ride, the delivery, and what you heard from the beginning which was a great idea. Your idea will be shot down if you don’t capture it right away. Freestylers have it but they say it at the spur of the moment and when they finish the jam they don’t remember any of that rhyme, homie – ever again. To be a writer is a serious talent that must be respected, because you’re able to capture and chisel to where it fits best. That’s why it’s no excuses. If you got time to chisel before it hits the radio and all of that, every time should be immaculate – every time.

I started on an 8 second sampler on my mixer with my turntables and stacking up cassette decks and having the loop on tape deck 1 and hitting the sample and cutting and mixing drums until I learned how to 8 track. You move up the lane from there. You learn how to use these machines and this technology – the timing of things, certain drum patterns don’t fit with others. As you grow older you master the notes and what drum sounds match with samples. Sometimes you got drums that don’t mix note wise with a track. You may think it sounds good, but really it’s disturbing in the area of composition so when you mix you’re gonna have problems. So you get older to learn that and these are things that I learned and implement in the Clan’s newer music. I work with the new George Clinton’s and new Sly Stone’s – young cats who have mastered funk all their life who come and work with me. Some cats are platinum, some cats are low key ghostwriters who have worked with some of the biggest artists in the game but they’re tired of contributing to foolishness. They wanna see somebody take their composition and be as legendary as East Blackwards is now thanks to the people. I can’t make it legendary. If the people don’t check for it, it just becomes an album on the wall. I’m glad to continue my library. I’m glad to still be working.

TRHH: You released two albums on the Suburban Noize label, Return from Mecca, and Mainstream Outlawz. How’d you wind up on that label because their roster had rap artists but they were extremely different from what you were doing?

Brother J: [Laughs] Well this was the thing; I was interested in signing to Rhymesayers Records at the time. I was impressed by their roster out of Minnesota and also Stones Throw Records. It was a lot of things going on. People were looking for distribution at the time so a lot of cats didn’t want to take it on because they didn’t want to stain X Clan’s history. It’s like if I can’t get big enough to do what I need to do marketing wise for you I don’t want to touch the project. So the people at Suburban Noize had like 21 different groups there. They had punk rock, suburban rap and stuff like that so I saw it as P.E. signing on to Def Jam at the time. Those groups were totally different than them. You had an egotistical LL Cool J and you had Brooklyn white boys in the Beastie Boys. It was so many different things going on at that label and RUSH Management that I felt like sometimes you gotta be the fly in the buttermilk to make a little shakeup.

Punk Rock music was originally a rebel’s music. I didn’t see it like I was joining a band of misfits hollering about marijuana laws. I saw it as the founder of your group and your label was the Corporate Avenger. If people do their homework on Kottonmouth Kings they’ll see a lot of rebellious people that made serious change. These cats were doing early internet before cats even knew what going online was. You gotta remember the children of what they consider servants of the beast and all that foolishness — they’re children of the system. Is somebody in your circle going to be human enough to say “that’s not right, I gotta warn people?” And even though it’s through punk rock they were doing what X Clan was doing for their people. Come to the table with who you are. If you say you’re punk rock’s X Clan and I’m saying I’m black people’s Corporate Avenger we can come to the table and build on how to get this freedom music out to the people. That’s what my deal was based on. Kottonmouth Kings had absorbed all of that freedom music of their people. They’re crazy, wild, and do their thing but that doesn’t have to affect my court. When y’all see me drinking 40’s and smacking girls on the ass then it’s a problem [laughs]. As long as I’m still Brother J it shouldn’t be no issues. You should be glad that somebody is signing me and giving me an opportunity.

I toured for five years with them, brother. I toured for five years with Damian Marley, ICP, that platform opened up so many doors for me that I dare somebody to say something. I was touring more than major cats and nobody was even hearing my product because urban marketing required so much money for my music to be put into the stream I finally saw the problem. These were the first two albums I put out outside of a major. I see how much money my deal really had to kick out to keep us in competition — rotation, video play, placement, all that cost money, bro. I was telling conscious cats, “Yo, ain’t nobody holding you down. If y’all got bread you can win.” If you got 5 groups everybody Voltron and push one through and go in. Stop coming out with everybody on a record and they all split up and do solo deals. No, everybody put that money on the best one here, the best spokesman, and push through. Spearhead your business.

These are things I was trying to teach from this platform. Tech N9ne taught me so much about merchandise. Kottonmouth Kings taught me so much about merchandise and these were in suburban markets I never knew existed. Tech N9ne would go and do 60 cities. Homie, I didn’t even know 60 cities existed for you to be touring through. What kind of 2-and-3 month’s ridiculousness is that? Crazy! Suburban Noize was a learning ground. I didn’t care what people were saying. They come on the site looking for me and expect it to be a bunch of black rappers and cats with kente cloth and Dead Prez’s and I said no, I took a different route but I still get the same respect. Those audiences respect us because we came with Hip-Hop culture. We didn’t come trying to rap. I know a lot of people that get booed in their circuit – top notch artists that can’t do a 30-city tour with ICP. We were the only conscious group ever to do 30 cities with ICP, homie. You know what kind of performances you have to keep to do 30 cities of Juggalos, man?

TRHH: I would think that that would be a scary crowd. What were the Juggalo crowds like?

Brother J: Man they was rockin’! You gotta think they ain’t never been around my way or in my hood to hear what we spittin’. You only hear that from the distance on a mixtape or something or if you’re in that side of the city that really dishes that out. You ain’t never heard nothing like this if you live in the back woods of Montana or wherever. You can’t angle up to say “boo” to that, especially if the people that you came here to see are giving us a straight pass like, “Yo, X Clan is the business. They influenced us!” These cats got online and hit their people virally. Some people use that internet properly, bro. These cats use it properly. Before they even go out they say “Our guests are on deck, X Clan. We sampled their song ‘Voodoo’ back in the days and that was one of our first gold projects.” These cats were going gold independently. They were sampling ‘Voodoo’ and I didn’t even know this. These cats were sampling my stuff from way back like this and they come and pick me up for this tour? All we had to do was rock from there to make the pass official. If we went on there and struck out then we’d be stupid.

So I can’t come in there trying to teach them something that is over their head. I just have to go in there, rock, and bang you because my music is the lesson plan. I don’t have to do more than what it is. Look how that works. I don’t have to switch up. You’re rocking to my music and the flow of my lyrics, but my message is already there. I don’t have to stop and say, “Do you know what the red, black, and green flag is?” I just keep rocking because all my lyrics and my content is straight out. Teaching is not threatening. Building is not racist. So we taught them a lot about Clan so now we have official fans in that arena. They thought we would have struck out and been one of those lists of cats that got booed. Shit I know white groups that got booed on those circuits. It’s not a black or white thing. They booed Bubba Sparxxx. They damn near tore his head off whoopin’ on him when he went to perform ‘Booty, Booty’ or whatever that was. One word off and those cats will come at you. It’s like fight club performing for Juggalos, homie. It’s a serious clique and they either respect you or they do not. They think as one.

I’m used to it because the movement was like that. Why you think X Clan wasn’t really touring with a lot of people? Our crowd was rough, beyond Apollo and all of that. From the elders to the young heads they don’t wanna hear none of that rapping and booty clapping and all of that. A lot of cats got booed off and kicked out of the building with our audience, bro. We were like a black sheep in this game but we love our people so you couldn’t X us out so to speak. We were saying what your parents were doing and y’all skipped past it and went to party and we kept that movement alive. We have cats that are artists saying, “My mom loves you! She told me to get your autograph.” That’s different. And the women love intelligence so they were coming to our shows so the brothers followed. That’s a science from Adam Clayton Powell Jr., he was attractive and the sisters came to the church and he was like, “This is the movement.” The brothers came and he got to build and look at the extraordinary things that went down – powerful. We had a little bit of all of our leaders, bro.

TRHH: I saw you perform on the Hip Hop Gods tour a couple of years ago. What was that experience like touring with Public Enemy and all of the other acts?

Brother J: We had already did like three tours with P.E. before Hip Hop Gods. A lot of people that were on that run hadn’t been out for a while. Usually I run my own little caravan because I run almost like a military regimen on the road. So for me to be able to take my daughter and my DJ with me and mingle with Monie Love, Awesome Dre, Dinco, and Wise and we’re all on the bus playing dominoes and building, it was a deep break. Usually I don’t do that. My brother Chuck has been my guidance in the independent game for a long time so I said, let me take a break. I’m always overdoing it and paying for my own thing and meeting everybody in the next town. I’m always like the Batman of the whole crew. I come in on my own terms. I love everybody but show it differently. Hip Hop Gods was a chance for my daughter to come on the road with me for her first time. Her mother, Queen Mother Rage of our movement, my daughter always wanted to be a combination of both of us. I said, “You gotta come behind the curtain of the game how I learned before you make a decision that you want to be in this thing or not.” For me to just stick her in the lab and force her to be a star child is wack when she can be on stage with me and just learn ad-libs. She didn’t have to do 20-30 minutes of lyrics. Support me for 13 cities. Flavor Flav was giving her advice on how to do movements on stage and be more supportive. She got it from the best in the game. That was a good experience for me to take my daughter because she was moving to California with me so I said, “Let’s go across the country.”

I went out and supported Chuck on this Hip Hop Gods movement because cats were trying to be prima donnas and overcharge him to perform. When Chuck was reaching out for invitations everyone was trying to charge him more than what he had to provide. I don’t care about rates and things of that nature. If I see something that’s strong, that’s going to lean over into history, and just to support my brother, I’m doing it. He was being nominated for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame; even if he didn’t get inducted I was honored to ride. I came out to salute him, homie. Just on a man to man level because that’s Hip-Hop music. He’s in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame so when I listen to Mick Jagger and Aerosmith and all of that his name comes up! That’s big, homie. Ain’t too many people going to receive that kind of an honor. It was honorable for me on that level, it was a learning ground for my daughter to learn aspects of the game, and it was a historic time for my DJ, Ultra to be amongst all of those legends because he was a DJ spinning these cats from day one. He’s older than me so Awesome Dre and Schoolly D and stuff like that, he remembers a time when they were hot. They were the Eazy-E’s of the East Coast and Midwest. Those cats had a lot of weight.

To ride with those OG’s and cats who had some of the best shows in the game like Leaders of the New School – just to have Dinco there, I don’t care about Buss and the rest of them not being there, just to have one of those elements that used to throw some of the most bomb shows in New York or wherever! They were the first people to start jumping up at shows before Kriss Kross and all of that foolishness. Those cats were rockin’, homie! I remember going to the Townhouse in Manhattan and the whole entire place was jumping out of control. That’s when they had the stripper dude in the crew and Milo and all those cats – Leaders was hard, man. We had a good time and it opened up the door for Hip Hop Gods to be something that sponsors jump to right away because they doubted us through the weather, the time of the year that we chose to come through and the quality of acts. Schoolly D versus having Immortal Technique or Dead Prez for a Chuck D run is deep unless you really appreciate Hip-Hop. You gotta realize are you respected from the roots or are you respected from the hype? People proved all of those promoters wrong we had a good solid crowd throughout that whole run.

TRHH: Tell me about the Underground Scrolls mixtapes.

Brother J: [Laughs] Underground Scrolls was a beginning for me to have conscious artists come join me because I hear so much ratchet mixtapes. I listen to everything, I don’t have no prejudice. I see Rick Ross’ style, I see Jadakiss, I see Drake, I see all these cats. My thing was there was no conscious mixtapes out here. I took some exclusives from my vault to kind of break open the brand and it really did better than I thought it would. A lot of cats were buying that stuff online. We had the MySpace up when we dropped the first one and we had so many downloads on that tape. We were selling them during the tour when we first went out with P.E. and Jurassic. I really didn’t have to put out Return from Mecca because Underground Scrolls was doing so well. It kept the brand alive. I put out one for the Hip Hop Gods. It was some leaks and stuff that I had from the studio. It was decently mixed enough to be a listening pleasure, but not to the standard of what we do. It was more like a leak tape because I wasn’t going to be able to put out the Magnegro album until the middle of this year. I thought we were going to launch something but we wanted to weigh our distribution options a little bit more because we’re launching a label brand and not just throwing out another album.

The Underground Scrolls has been like my calling card to let people get in sync with the new stuff. You don’t have to always go back to the 90s to refer to the Clan. It keeps the buzz up and spreads the word. I look forward to putting some of these artists that I have in mind to sign to this brand to put them on the future Underground Scrolls to keep it up. If I’m graced to do a show from that platform like a BET Basement kind of thing just for conscious artists I would be elated to do that. People have expressed interest in that. We’re just going to keep putting them out and keep scouting for conscious talent.

TRHH: Why do you think there is a lack of new conscious rap being promoted these days?

Brother J: Because the conscious artists don’t respect the game. They don’t respect the process. They think that cats like Ludacris put out records and it’s easy. It’s a very hard A&R process when you’re at that platform and level. You can’t do no wrong because as soon as you do somebody is trying to take your spot. I don’t think they realize the business behind that and the money that it takes. I told you that when that money is not there to give you ten spins on MTV, to hit all the nationwide video outlets, they want money, homie. It ain’t about liking your record and wanting to play your stuff. Very few people have that option. If you’re online of course it’s easy but when you’ve got a syndicated program, nah. Unless you got the buzz of the week or the record of the month or something they’re not really going to throw out no free biscuit for you. I don’t think they respect the game. The thing about the conscious movements is you gotta respect the money at some point in time. You don’t respect the money until you get threatened to get kicked out of your place. You can’t rebel against America so much that you forget about the paper. You can’t do that. You can’t be a bohemian cat and not really care about it. You gotta eat. You gotta have food, clothing, and shelter. You don’t worship the money but you make it part of your resource gathering when you’re moving around. You can’t subtract that.

That’s the reason that I think these artists are losing in that field. You can’t be overly creative. There is a rhythm that you must obey. If you’re trying to be played and popular in pop music you can’t give me a spoken word rendition over a trap beat. It’s not gonna work like that. You have to have personality and entertainment quality with your message or it’s not going to work. When you see an artist like Mos Def, it’s a perfect template. You took the entire renaissance man type thing from a young boy’s perspective but come on, man. You was Bill Cosby’s Robin, homie [laughs]. Your understanding of the game is different. You know exactly what they can have and what they don’t. Your rocked jazz breaks until the point that the entire genres daughters are following you! And you bustin’ to where the brothers have to respect so it’s a perfect balance. They should have rode that template all the way out. That’s what Common was for Chicago coming up. How many years did he suffer spitting so much and giving out so much until he said, I just need to give enough? He said let me stop so hard to bash certain things in the industry and let me go in. When he caught that he’s winning now. It opened up several other doors for him. It’s a template that you have to respect. You have to respect the bread. You can’t be mad at it but you’re still hustling for it. We’re so elitist in our minds that we have to think above the dollar, no, the dollar is part of the resource. It’s not part of what I need to survive but it’s part of the equation that makes things easier for me to do what I do — if it be protecting your family or yourself. If you live in a city where you gotta have berries to do transactions then get you a bag full of berries. If you live in America it takes paper, honor that and don’t play yourself in earning it. That’s it and you’re good.

TRHH: I interviewed Sean Price some years ago and he said you were in his top 5 emcees of all-time…

Brother J: [Laughs] I talked to brother Sean this year, I talked to Price.

TRHH: He’s my favorite interview, ever. He’s a unique guy [laughs].

Brother J: Yes he is. He’s a crazy dude, man [laughs].

TRHH: How does that feel when your peers give you that type of love?

Brother J: I like that because I’ve always liked Boot Camp from the gate. The Duck Down label is like the Stones Throw of the East to me. They don’t have the super platform that Stones Throw has now because they’re more of a vinyl type of collective worldwide, but as far as the heart of the Brooklyn style and the rawness, I love that, son. When Heltah Skeltah came the beats, the flow, everything was magnificent. We reciprocate the same respect. I didn’t even know Pharoahe Monch was close up on my styles as I’m on his because I’m a chemist. Those brothers got it and I like the way they rock their situation. I’m glad to see that the God’s can still admire each other, look back, and remember. The brother knew the new material so that was good that they still keep the ear. I don’t train people on a 1990 situation with me. I like them listening to Mainstream, Mecca, and Underground Scrolls side of things and checking for us on the internet when we go to the station. That’s how I check for artists. I wanna see you on your good day. I wanna see what this legend thing was about. Why was it legendary? Was it hype or was it real? I’m glad cats are doing their homework. I look forward to working with cats like that, it’s going to be fun, man.

TRHH: What’s the status of the next X Clan album?

Brother J: I’m in New York finishing it now. I got about 5 cuts left. The album is called Magnegro. I thought it was a proper time to make this elevation not only of my production house but of my style, period. I have to put on a different helmet for what’s going on right now so I thought Magnegro was a perfect title for this project. Everybody wanted me to do a solo album but I don’t need that. I put out the brand that people will say, “What? The X Clan?” and listen. I built that brand for so many years. I’ve been the only cat rhyming so a solo thing is redundant. What does a solo thing mean that I’m polishing my ego now that I’m coming out like this? I just named the album Magnegro and let them know that I’m digging in them from another place right now. I think they’ll be pleased at the funk and the content that we’re choosing to put on this platform. I get it, homie. I’ve done a lot of tours and community issues and I see how all of that has to come to a point and be delivered. The single ‘Keep It Humpin’‘ is out now. I look forward to dropping this project. It looks like we’re going to be looking at a late summer, maybe fall release, and that’s what it is.

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