K-Hill: Truck Jewels & Filters

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Photo courtesy of Jon "J Water" Mullins

Photo courtesy of Jon “J Water” Mullins

North Carolina emcee K-Hill teamed up with Australian producer Debonair P for a new EP titled, “Truck Jewels & Filters”. The release is reminiscent of 90s era Hip-Hop, with substantive spitting and boom bap beats. The EP is produced entirely by Debonair P complete with remixes of the original tracks and guest appearances from emcees Omniscence and Prince Po.

K-Hill spoke to The Real Hip-Hop about the North Carolina Hip-Hop scene, joining forces with Debonair P, and his latest release, Truck Jewels & Filters.

TRHH: Explain the title of the new EP, Truck Jewels & Filters.

K-Hill: Debonair P from Australia sent over a couple of instrumentals for me to check out. I noticed he had that golden era sound where they used to filter a lot of the samples to fill the bass lines out. The type of emcee I am I like to drop a lot knowledge in my verses. I like having punch lines, metaphors, and dope lines, but I also like to say something that can inspire people, something that might describe an experience that I’ve been through – we call those jewels. That’s how I came up with the title, Truck Jewels & Filters, because I knew I was going to be dropping jewels on the project and I knew that he was going to be bringing boom bap, filtered bass lines, and hard knocking beats to the project. I represent the truck jewels part and Debonair P represents the filters part.

TRHH: How’d you wind up hooking up with Debonair P?

K-Hill: Wow, man. I’m glad you asked me that because I always wanted to tell this story. A couple of years ago when I was at A&T I used to check out their radio station and a couple of the radio stations in Greensboro. They used to play this artist named Omniscence. He had a song called ‘Amazin’’ and this song was so crazy. They used to play this song all the time and I loved the jam because he was just spitting bar after bar after bar. I’m like, “Man, that guy is so dope.” Come to find out later on that he’s from North Carolina. I didn’t know he was an artist from North Carolina, I just thought he was a new artist on the come-up that was on the radio. After I did a little research I found out he got signed to Elektra Records and got Rhyme of the Month in The Source. Here’s a cat from North Carolina that is on the radio and he got Rhyme of the Month in The Source, if he can do it, I can do it.

Fast forward a couple years later I’m on Facebook and somebody tagged him and I’m like, “Dag, this can’t be the same cat?” So hit him up and found out it was Omniscence. You know how rappers like to do, we don’t like to talk a lot so I just said, “Hey man, respect. I been a fan forever.” I didn’t expect anything back and he hit me back like, “I’m a fan of your music!” He said he’d been following me for a couple of years and after that we just clicked up. He was telling me he had a project with this cat Debonair P from Australia and he wanted me to be on it. We started talking later on and I said, “That’s a sweet deal that you’ve got. You got your 12-inch and your music out there, that’s a sweet lil’ deal.” He told Debonair P about me and passed on the contacts. That’s how me and Debonair P linked up. We linked up because an artist who I am a fan of and admire hooked me up on the humbug. That was love man. I’m forever indebted to that cat.

TRHH: Given that you’re a producer was it difficult for you to let Debonair P handle the beats on this project?

K-Hill: [Laughs] It’s always difficult because as a producer you’ll always hear some stuff that you want to change with the beat, drop this, take this out, or add this element. This man is basically overseeing the whole project so Im’ma do this thing. I’m a guest in his house so I just sat back and let him do his thing. I’m happy with what we got accomplished.

TRHH: What beat-making equipment do you use?

K-Hill: I’m using Maschine right now. I’m back and forth between Maschine and FL Studio. I will never let FL Studio go. A lot of people give it a lot of flak, but it’s what comes out of it that matters. People so caught up on what type of software you’re using that you actually get away from the beat. That’s the only thing that matters, the beat. I don’t care if I have pots and pans, the beat is the only thing that matters.

TRHH: Tell me about the single ‘Whenever I Write’.

K-Hill: Wow, man. There are two versions. When I heard the remixed version I thought it’s only a golden era sound but it’s also that classic North Carolina Hip-Hop sound. It got that Mark Sparks and Ski Beatz sound that was out back in the day. We call it ‘Cackalack Raw’. I don’t know how Debonair P tapped into that sound but I always wanted to rock something to that sound, I just never had the opportunity. I selected that joint and didn’t really have a concept for the song. I just wanted to have some nice punch lines and a good feel to it so I just called it ‘Whenever I Write’ [laughs]. That’s all it was, it was just a spitter.

TRHH: Why was every song remixed on this project?

K-Hill: That’s Debonair P flexing his muscles as a producer. Back in the day whenever artists dropped a single they’d drop a 12-inch and there would be several versions on it. There would be the original version and then there would be either the Pete Rock remix, the Marley Marl remix, the Buckwild remix, or somebody else’s remix. He just wanted to bring that feel back, man. He comes off like an old soul to me. He’s going back to the essence, even with the way he releases music. He does that with every project that he does. I definitely ain’t got nothing against that.

TRHH: You’ve been around a long time. What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned in the music business?

K-Hill: Man listen, remain humble. Always help people who are going to help somebody else. That’s the only way you’re going to keep your legacy alive. You can’t shut the door on anybody. If they’re talented and you see they got that gift, help ‘em out. You don’t owe anybody anything, nobody owes you anything, but stay humble. Never forget the people that looked out for you when you were on the come-up because you’re going to see those same people again, whether they be up there with you or whether you’re on your way back down. Just help people, man. You don’t have to be foolish about it, but if you see somebody that got something to offer to this game help ‘em out. That’s the most valuable lesson I’ve learned.

TRHH: What changes have you seen in the North Carolina Hip-Hop scene with the emergence of acts like Little Brother, the Jamla crew, J. Cole, and others?

K-Hill: I will say this, for me it all started with Ski Beatz. He was one of the first cats to come out of North Carolina and do his thing and then it was Omniscence. That died down for a couple of years because those cats moved out of here. By the time 9th Wonder and Little Brother came on the scene they turned that eye back to North Carolina Hip-Hop. At that time I was on the come-up so I was able to capitalize on the fact that there was an eye on the North Carolina Hip-Hop scene again. Because of the seeds that those guys planted there have been more opportunities for North Carolina artists than ever. It used to be hard for a North Carolina artist to get on. We used to get out of here but once we got on it wasn’t cool to say, “Hey, we’re from North Carolina.” I forget to mention Petey Pablo too because he did a lot for North Carolina Hip-Hop. Those are the changes I’ve seen. It’s more opportunity for North Carolina cats to get on. You got the younger cats like King Miz doing his thing and that’s’ definitely been a big change.

TRHH: What’s next up for K-Hill?

K-Hill: Right now I’m working a deal on the table with Elementality. They’re doing a re-release of my project Stamps of Approval that came out almost a decade ago. I’m working on a brand new album with them, it’s going to be the full-length Achilles Hill project. I’ll probably put out another remix of Truck Jewels & Filters with some up and coming artists that are really dope. I’ll also drop a couple of loosies here and there until my full release comes out. New opportunities are coming through every day, man.

Purchase: K-Hill & Debonair P- Truck Jewels & Filters

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Sadat X: Never Left

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Photo courtesy of Tito G

Photo courtesy of Tito G

Sadat X has never left. After coming on the scene in 1990 the man born Derek Murphy has consistently blessed fans with music as a member of Brand Nubian and as a solo artist. His distinct voice, original flow, and substantive lyrics are what make X so dope. He’s created the perfect concoction that has left an indelible mark on the culture, which has contributed to his longevity. Twenty-five years after his debut Sadat X recently released his ninth full-length album and tenth solo project overall, Never Left.

Never Left features appearances by Skyzoo, Craig G, Black Rob, King T, Tony Mays, Maverick, Stryfe, Dres of Black Sheep, Nachy Bless, Fokis, Chi-Ali, Cormega, and Lanelle Tyler. The album is produced by Fantom Of The Beat, Vanderslice, Real McKoy, Man Meets Machine, Relavant Beats, ill Majestic, JFR, Matt Velez, Moods and Vibrations, and James Moore.

Sadat X spoke to The Real Hip-Hop about his new album, Never Left, how he became a “True Wine Connoisseur”, and the prospects of a new Brand Nubian album.

TRHH: Explain the title of the new album, Never Left?

Sadat X: What it means is throughout everything that has gone on with this Hip-Hop thing I’m still here – I never left. More specifically I’m speaking in terms of New York. New York has undergone a lot of sound transformations in the last couple of years. We’ve adapted to other peoples styles and not really cultivating our own. I felt I never left, that New York sound is still the same.

TRHH: What is your opinion on the influx of New York rappers doing the Southern style?

Sadat X: I can’t knock anybody else’s hustle, but I remember New York being the home of originators and innovators. We always set the trends. It seems like now we’re conforming to different trends and we were never like that.

TRHH: Tell me about the single ‘On Fire’.

Sadat X: It’s an easy listening joint with a message. I felt that my man Cormega with his style would definitely accommodate that beat. The young boy Lanelle did the hook. It’s just something smooth but not soft.

TRHH: It seems kind of different for you.

Sadat X: Yeah, I experimented with a couple of things but I liked that beat. It also shows versatility. An MC means “Master of Ceremonies” so I’m just showing another style and form of emceeing that I can master.

TRHH: How long did it take you to complete this album because a couple of the singles on the record like ‘We in New York‘ and ‘I Know This Game‘ came out almost two years ago?

Sadat X: Well it took me a minute, man. I was working off and on so it actually took me about two years.

TRHH: During that time you’ve been involved in the wine industry. Talk a little about True Wine Connoisseurs.

Sadat X: True Wine Connoisseurs is the brainchild of myself and my partner, Will Tell. It started as a joke. In the studio one day Will had a bottle of wine and he decided to film us drinking it for some reason. We put it on the net and it went viral. We started doing episodes where we would go and get wine from the stores and review it with our crazy reviews. It got to the point where people from different wine companies started sending us wine to review. We did that for about a year or two and somebody at some point said, “If you guys are ever serious about making your own wine let me know.” We met with the people and we’ve had an actual hands-on approach with the wine as opposed to somebody just making it and slapping our label on it. We were involved in the process of selecting the grapes and the tasting processes. During that period we’ve learned a little bit about wine. Will has a job in the wind industry now. That’s basically where that came from.

TRHH: I heard you on The Combat Jack Show and he said In God We Trust was his favorite Brand Nubian album and you agreed that it was yours. It’s also my favorite Brand Nubian album. Why is that album your favorite?

Sadat X: It’s my favorite joint because that album was basically a show and prove album. We was on the firing line and we had to produce. This was the post-Puba album and we went back to the basement, back to the lab, and we did all the beats on there. This was how we were feeling at the time. That album was made out of struggle and that’s why I like that the best.

TRHH: Early on you guys got a lot of criticism for the ‘Wake Up’ video and some lyrics in ‘Punks Jump Up to Get Beat Down’. How did you guys deal with that at the time because it was pretty controversial?

Sadat X: First of all at the time we were younger so we really didn’t care about the controversy that we would face. We didn’t foresee some of the backlash that would come. Basically we were talking about every day and how we lived life. When you aren’t exposed to certain things you don’t really know about it. I wouldn’t say ignorant to it, but you don’t really know about it. For instance, when I came up I didn’t have too many dealings with people that were gay. Where I came from they were looked at as weak people and as people that were not men and were soft. I didn’t know any gay people so that was my perception of it. As you go around the world and times change and you meet people, you learn to kind of deal with people on their own merit. Sometimes your perception of things start to change.

TRHH: Definitely. What led to Grand Puba coming back in the fold for the Foundation album?

Sadat X: Everybody had did their own thing for a little while. It wasn’t like we wasn’t friends and wasn’t seeing each other. We seen each other through the whole process of everything. It was at that time that everybody was stable enough and free of projects that we said let’s get together and put this thing out.

TRHH: What’s the album after In God We Trust?

Sadat X: Everything is Everything.

TRHH: Yeah! That’s the one with ‘Alladat’ on it, right? With Busta?

Sadat X: Yes.

TRHH: I always wanted to ask you about that song because it was like a solo Sadat record on a Brand Nubian album. How did that joint come together?

Sadat X: Buckwild did the beat for that. Basically Busta got down on that album by chance. We were in the studio and I was doing the vocals. By chance Busta was there. I could see him in the studio while I was rhyming and he was going all crazy. He said, “Yo, I got the chorus, I got the chorus!” For somebody like him to say he got the chorus, well come on in here and put it down.

TRHH: [Laughs] I still bump that to this day.

Sadat X: Cool.

TRHH: Lord Jamar has been all over VladTV for a while now making some controversial statements. What do you make of Jamar voicing his opinions on VladTV and what do you say to those that think Vlad is exploiting Jamar?

Sadat X: If you know anything about Jamar you know that he’s not going to allow anybody to exploit him. He’s much too swift mentally for that. He’s just using this as a platform to speak his views and how he feels. One thing about Jamar as opposed to certain people that go on rants and tirades, if he does go on a tirade you can believe that he’s going to have some factual-ness behind it. Whether you choose to take it or not he’s not going to make a blind, mindless speech. It’s going to be based on some type of facts. That’s how I feel about the brother. He’s doing what he wants to do. He’s a grown man and he can handle any backlash that comes with it. As you see, a lot of people are offended by it but even more are following him.

TRHH: Will we ever hear another Brand Nubian album?

Sadat X: Yes, I would like to hear another Brand Nubian album. I guess it would have to coincide with what everybody is doing. I definitely want to have another Brand Nubian album. I’d make priority time for it.

TRHH: Why is Never Left an important album for 2015?

Sadat X: When you have certain musical genres such as folk music that go back to the revolutionary days or classical with different compositions like Mozart and Beethoven 2-300 years ago, rap is still defining itself. If they’re giving rap an age cap of at the most 50, in terms of music it’s still in its infancy. Now it’s growing up a little bit and the people that grew up with it, they need to have an outlet, too. No, I’m not going to listen to the same type of rap that my 16-year old nephew listens to. I may not even listen to the stuff that my 23-year old daughter listens to. Me at 45-years old, I need something to listen to. That’s where I feel Never Left comes in. This album is an album for people that pay bills, people that are raising children, people that may have grandchildren, and people that are going through ups and downs in relationships. I think there has been a void in that area. People always say, “Don’t you make your music for everybody?” Yes I do make it for everybody and if I do get some youngsters or new fans that want to listen to me and know who Sadat X is that’s more than great. I feel at this point there is a lane for me doing grown folk music because I know enough grown folk out here that want it, so that’s what I tried to make it as.

Purchase: Sadat X – Never Left

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Anti-Lilly & Envy Hunter: REdefinition

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Photo courtesy of Grant Tucker

Photo courtesy of Grant Tucker

Houston rappers Anti-Lilly and Envy Hunter came together in 2014 to record an 11-track album called “REdefinition’. Solo artists at heart, Anti and Envy joined forces for the purpose of giving listeners a different taste of what they’re used to hearing come out of H-Town.

REdefinition is produced by Phoniks, Andrew Lloyd, Christo, RicandThadeus, G Cal and features appearances by Scolla and Plus.

The Real Hip-Hop chatted with Anti-Lilly and Envy Hunter about the beginnings of their union, their standing in the Houston rap scene, and their new album, REdefinition.

TRHH: How’d you two get together and decide to record this album?

Envy Hunter: We knew each other through mutual friends. At first we had chemistry as far as being friends. Everybody isn’t fit to do an album together. They wouldn’t mesh. It just so happened that we meshed.

Anti-Lilly: We actually met through my friend Express. He’s also an artist out in the city. Me and Envy didn’t really record any music together at first. We’d just hang out and get into some shit. One night we just came together and said we gotta kill some shit real quick. It was real organic. It didn’t seem forced or anything. We’d just be chillin’ and go cook up some music. It’d be a pretty quick process after that. That’s how we got REdefinition.

TRHH: What was the recording process like? Were you guys competitive with each other at all?

Envy Hunter: Of course we’re gon’ compete. It’s always survival of the fittest, but it was more of working together. It was a collaborative thing. We sat down with each other and went through things. We wrote things out like a script. We didn’t just turn some music on and come up with something. We thought of the concept, he came up with something, and I came up with something. We let each other know, “You should probably say this right there.” It was more like a teamwork environment.

Anti-Lilly: I definitely agree with that aspect. The energy was so crazy. It was competitive in a sense because I’d write something and Envy would be like, “Oh!” and vice versa. He’d say, “Anti, I wrote this crazy verse, check it out,” and I’d be like, “Man, let me start writing.” The energy just got so hot through the project that I haven’t had this much fun recording in a while.

TRHH: Is the title of the album taken from the Black Star song REdefinition?

Anti-Lilly: Yeah, in a sense it is. We kind of put a double meaning to it. That’s just flat out, I’m a fan of the craft and the culture. The whole Black Star album was crazy to me. I wanted to get that same vibe and at the same time it made perfect sense to me to use it as a title because of our region. When most people think of Houston or the general down south area they think of one or two things – swangin’ and we got the drank. Yeah, it’s true, we got that but we kind of wanted to shed light on the other stuff. We came up with REdefinition because we’re redefining the city. We’re not saying we’re through with all that old stuff we’re saying it’s a whole ‘nother spectrum to this thing.

TRHH: I’m a lot older than you guys so when I think of Houston I think of Geto Boys

Anti-Lilly: Yeah, most definitely.

Envy Hunter: That’s pretty much what we wanted because we felt that Houston hasn’t had that impact since the Geto Boys. You can say UGK – Bun B and Pimp C but they’re from that era. I personally feel that with the passing of Pimp C and Scarface going through his legal stuff, that sound didn’t get a chance to soak in with the new generation. Everybody adapted to the drank and the swangas and this and that, but that’s where the title REdefinition comes from. We’re not trying to say this is the new Houston because everybody say that – it’s a cliché. What we’re trying to say is we don’t sip drank, we don’t swang ‘lac’s. We know what it is, it’s part of our lives but at the same time we come from a whole different side of a spectrum. We’re just trying to mix it up a little bit rather than being a cliché and coming out like everybody else.

Anti-Lilly: It goes back to the energy we have. We’re just two regular ass people. That reflects in our music. We’re human and we really focus on bringing that human aspect. That’s why the album has so many different aspects to it because not every day is the same. You experience something different every day so we wanted to really draw on that aspect and show that artists from Houston can really do that. No offense but most artists from Houston are our friends that are coming out, but the music that’s coming out of Houston recently is nothing like me and Envy are making. We just wanted to show the people it’s more to the city.

TRHH: Are you guys accepted in the Houston rap scene?

Envy Hunter: Yeah, we’re very much accepted. Everybody knows who we are. It’s not a secret. We’re very much respected. If it’s not respect it’s that thought in the back of their minds that, “If this dude get the opportunity…” It’s always somebody waiting in the shadows to take your spot. We get that respect but it’s more like a fear. I always say just because you rap fast don’t mean you a good artist. I feel him being him, me being me, us being young, and growing up on the type of music we grew up on we have that edge. It’s not a fear as in ‘we’re the shit’ it’s more like they know who we are and what type of talent we have.

Anti-Lilly: I can paint a perfect picture for you right now, Sherron. Me and Envy we perform together we’re gonna kill it every single time, brother. But when we finish we’re not going to get that much applause, but we’re not going to get anyone booing us. People’s faces are just like, “What am I processing right now?” You got the old heads in the back and they’re going to be the ones to show us love every time. Guys in our age bracket they’re not used to hearing this type of sound. We have contemporaries in the city that are doing things right now, but our sound is quite different. We’re in the same spectrum as those other artists, it’s just a different lane that we’re in. I wouldn’t even say it’s harder to break through. We’ve got a different sound so it’s really redefining the city saying it’s more than one sound. We’re trying to bring the full diversity back to how it used to be.

TRHH: Tell me about the single ‘Gibberish’.

Anti-Lilly: [Laughs] We were chillin’ at my house… like I said we’re human. We work a 9-to-5, we have families, and we go through our everyday trials and tribulations. We were smoking at the house and Phoniks sent me a care package of a couple of beats and I was like, “Envy, you gotta listen to this.” It took us a good 30-45 minutes to put the pen down and that’s what we came out with. Personally in my verse everything from my little brother getting robbed, to my sister’s issue with her tires, all of that is real. I use music as a sense of self-expression so I had to express it and vent that out. I want to show a piece of myself and I want people to see a piece of their self when they see me. I know I’m not the only one that’s in that position. The reason we called it ‘Gibberish’ is because if you just bring that up in everyday conversation people are so quick to play it off like these type of things aren’t goin’ on when it is. That’s what people hear it as, gibberish. They’d rather hear a facade or a fantasy life when that’s not what it is. We’re all going through it. We ain’t got Bentley’s and chains and shit. We got rent, bills, and gotta get groceries on the table. That’s what it’s all about, surviving out here.

Envy Hunter: Gibberish wasn’t about a specific topic. It was a whole rambling about a bunch of realistic shit that happens in our daily lives. That’s where the title came from, just rambling about as much stuff as we can in a 16. Just trying to cram it all in one 16 and get our point across.

TRHH: I’m a big Stevie Wonder fan. The reason I love Stevie is because of the stories. He sings about real stuff. This person I was talking to said they didn’t care for Stevie. They said, “I don’t wanna hear that sad, depressing stuff about living just enough for the city.” I think that’s where we are as people. We live it, so we don’t wanna hear about it in our music. We wanna hear about poppin’ bottles and bitches – the fun stuff, not the sad stuff.

Anti-Lilly: That’s an excellent point, man. I honestly think it needs to be a ‘lil more balance. You got people saying, “I don’t wanna hear that,” but on the other side I won’t see my best friend until I’m 30. He’s locked up right now and that’s motivation for him to let him know he’s not the only one going through it. I got people who can’t pay their bills out here. Some of my peers from elementary, middle school, and high school don’t have no where to live right now. That’s motivation for them. It’s not just us saying, “Shit’s all bad,” we’re saying we gotta get better. I can understand if we’re just trying to beat the same point into your head that shit ain’t all good. Like I say, it ain’t all good, but it’s all good at the end of the day.

I feel like if you have that platform it’s important to convey the message the best way you can. It’s not for everybody. You just have to accept that as an artist. I had to accept that a long time ago, especially being in this city that my music isn’t for everybody. But for the people that it does touch I’m thankful that God gave me the platform to be able to be a blessing for their lives. I just want to keep that same mind state that it may not be for everybody but shit, I don’t pop bottles every night – it’s expensive. I bought two bottles for my dad and my cousin for Christmas and it was like $40 each. I can’t pop bottles every day [laughs]. Me and Envy represent the every man. I don’t think most American’s in general are out there like that because we have other responsibilities we have to tend to.

Envy Hunter: We are able to make that transition and make that kind of music if we wanted to. Being the type of artists we are we can. We showed that on one of the tracks on there, ‘Worried ‘Bout Me’. We are able to go out the box if we had to do it. I feel like being an artist and staying true to yourself you really don’t have to go outside the box because you can look at the Kendrick Lamar’s, J. Cole’s, Joey Bada$$’, and Big K.R.I.T.’s – I mean, they’re them. J. Cole is gon’ relate to the nigga that got $5 in his pocket and he trying to figure out if he gon’ catch the bus with this $5 and get something to eat or whatever. For one person that don’t like what you’re doing I feel like its 5 or 10 that do like what you’re doing.

TRHH: Definitely. I’m one of those people. I wanna hear something I can relate to. My favorite emcees are Common and Ghostface. I’m from Chicago and Common really sounds like a dude from Chicago. He reminds me of people I grew up with…

Anti-Lilly: Man, I can listen to Common and close my eyes and I feel like I’m in the room with my uncles or something. It’s so much game that he tells. He always offers another side of the spectrum and that’s something I always appreciated about Common. That’s definitely one of the emcees as an artist myself that I drew direct inspiration from. It’s probably only been about one or two Common albums that I didn’t like, being honest. He’s definitely one of the ones that inspired me to put the pen to the paper.

TRHH: Anti, why’d you decide to release this album so soon after Stories from the Brass Section dropped?

Anti-Lilly: Man I’m an artist! I like to rap, man. I had a feeling we should have waited a little longer, but I think it did great. It’s still doing great. People need to hear this music. I’m not saying like I’m some A-list celebrity and I can get it out to a million people, but to the people I can get it out to I will. It feels good receiving emails from fans in another country saying this got them through their week. It’s no better feeling than that. If I have the platform and opportunity to release music I definitely will. I don’t like to hold back my music. REdefinition was kind of random. The chemistry just kind of happened. We could be chillin’ the whole day and only spend like two hours recording it. In those two hours it was real.

Envy Hunter: It was literally an accident. We started chillin’ because of how we met through the mutual friend. He lives all the way on the southwest side of Houston and we live on the north side of Houston. Since we live down the street from each other literally we just started kicking it. By us being every day artists we just started gradually making songs on accident.

Anti-Lilly: Eventually it was like, man we gotta put this shit out!  We dropped a couple singles at first and said we might as well make it a project. We had 3 or 4 songs together.  We just made it a little more solid.

TRHH: Whose idea was it to flip the Jay-Z joint, ‘Can I’?

Anti-Lilly: I’ll give that all to Envy. That’s all Envy’s idea.

Envy Hunter: I go through phases where sometimes I get stuck listening to a certain artist. At that time Reasonable Doubt was stuck in my head. I was listening to it no matter what I was doing. Everybody always remakes something but Reasonable Doubt was that forgotten gem. Reasonable Doubt didn’t even go platinum. Everybody forgot about Reasonable Doubt. Everybody always shows Jay-Z love but they don’t show him love from the things that originated Jay-Z and made Jay-Z. They’ll remake Big Pimpin’ or something but they wouldn’t remake Can I Live though.

TRHH: It’s impossible to have a favorite Jay-Z song but that song is in my top 2 or 3. That album did go platinum…

Anti-Lilly: Was it after the fact? Like after Blueprint?

TRHH: Nah, it was platinum that year. It came out at the end of ’96. It went platinum but it was so low key because it came out around a lot of other big records. 2Pac dropped two albums that year, Nas’ second album was that year and it was like triple platinum, Mobb Deep dropped, Ghostface’s first album, Outkast’s second album, and the Fugees’ big album…

Anti-Lilly: It’s just so much damn music [laughs].

TRHH: Reasonable Doubt wasn’t even in the top 10 of what people were listening to that year. Compared to other albums nobody cared about Reasonable Doubt, but it did go platinum.

Envy Hunter: Yeah.

TRHH: Will we hear a sequel to REdefinition?

Envy Hunter: Why not [laughs]? Like I said we made it on accident the first time. You know how you make albums and you don’t want them to sound the same? In our current lives we’re going through different things so shit, when it’s time, and after we do our respective solo projects, it’s getting its burn and this starts to die out who is to say we won’t be at the crib smoking and chillin’ again? The things we went through over the last five-six months might fall into a track or 10 or 11 of ‘em.

Anti-Lilly: Im’ma say it like this, man, Envy is my brother. Even if we didn’t make music that’ll still be my brother. Given the fact that we do make music and bounce off each other so naturally we could make a REdefinition in a week or two if we really put our minds to it. We’ll just have to see. We’ll always have songs together. That won’t ever stop. This wasn’t just some freakin’ cross-promotional deal. This my man right here. Anything is possible. We’ll just have to see.

Envy Hunter: We’re self-made, man. Everything on REdefinition to the videos we did it on our own. Who is to say we can’t do it again?

Purchase: Anti-Lilly & Envy Hunter – REdefinition

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A Conversation with Easy Mo Bee

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Photo courtesy of SLAMJamz

Photo courtesy of SLAMJamz

Even if you aren’t familiar with the name “Easy Mo Bee” you’re familiar with his music. Twenty-five years ago Mo Bee’s first placement was on Big Daddy Kane’s classic sophomore album, ‘It’s A Big Daddy Thing’. Moe Bee went on to produce hits for artists like 2Pac, Craig Mack, Lost Boyz, Heavy D, Busta Rhymes, Mos Def, and the Wu-Tang Clan to name a few.

Easy Mo Bee most notably produced the lion’s share of The Notorious B.I.G.’s classic album Ready to Die. Songs like Warning, Gimme the Loot, and The What are embedded in the fabric of Hip-Hop for eternity, and we can thank Easy Mo Bee for that.

At the start of 2015 Easy Mo Bee released an instrumental album titled, “…And Ya Don’t Stop!” on Chuck D’s SLAMJamz record label. The 19-track release showcases Mo Bee’s signature sample-based production with sprinklings of R&B, Jazz, and Dance all guided by that old boom bap.

The Real Hip-Hop chatted with Easy Mo Bee about his new album, And Ya Don’t Stop!, working with the late, great 2Pac and Biggie Smalls, and his legacy and future in the culture of Hip-Hop.

TRHH: These are beats that would obviously sound good with vocals. Why’d you decide to make this an instrumental album?

Easy Mo Bee: I wanted to make a compilation album with featured rappers and singers on top. It was Chuck D and the COO of SlamJamz, Mecca, who suggested that I do just beats because they felt like it was time for people to concentrate on just me. I’ve always played the background and the reason behind a lot of other artists. They wanted people to be able to focus on me and I didn’t disagree with them. I think that needs to happen. It also brings about the subject of how I’ve been here, I haven’t gone anywhere, and as much as people may not want to think so I’m just as relevant, just as active, and on the scene.

TRHH: How did you wind up with SLAMJamz?

Easy Mo Bee: I guess Chuck sent Mecca at me [laughs]. Basically they were like, “Go and get him.” Mecca was the one who initially approached me and then I had the conversation with Chuck. He said, “I just want you to be yourself, just go head and do your thing.” I’m thankful for the union, association, and affiliation with Chuck D from the legendary Public Enemy. That alone should tell you that I have the autonomy and the freedom to be myself over there. I’m not feeling like I’m at some label that wants to change me. It should be obvious with a person like Chuck D that he would want me to be myself. He wanted me to come over for who I am and I appreciate that.

TRHH: When people discuss the greatest producers in rap your name doesn’t come up. How important is it for you to be recognized by fans of Hip-Hop?

Easy Mo Bee: It’s important to be recognized but you gotta remember things like record reviews and top 5 or top 10 producers of all-time lists are all personal opinion – they really are. They have a lot to do with measurements of people’s accomplishments and achievements, but at the same time a lot of those decisions are made via personal opinion. When you understand that kind of thing when it doesn’t just go alone by statistics it doesn’t really bother me as much as it seems like it should. On the other hand that’s the whole purpose of Hip-Hop. Back in the 80s it was all about showing out and being fresh, if it’s okay for me to use that term [laughs]. Hip-Hop is about style. The culture is about style. If I had to describe Hip-Hop in one statement I’d have to say for everybody that’s in it that performs Hip-Hop is about, “I’m better than you.” In other words it’s always been a competitive sport. In that light, of course I expect acknowledgment and recognition.

TRHH: On the single ‘Bad Meaning Bad’ you flipped the Bob James record and had some Run-DMC samples sprinkled in. Was this song your mission statement for the album?

Easy Mo Bee: Actually, no. I was just making a track and it was something that just happened. That, “Bad meaning bad, bad meaning good,” from Run-DMC stood out to me because a lot of the DJ’s in Hip-Hop as far as turntablism is concerned go crazy and get loose with that part. That was a key standout thing that I wanted to focus on and put into a beat that I was working on one day. It just so happened with that beat I said, “Okay, now I’m going to use it.” Every DJ in Hip-Hop will tell you that’s like workout and practice material right there. DJ’s go crazy back spinning and playing with that part. It’s very familiar in Hip-Hop. I think it was iconic for me to inject that into the song.

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

Easy Mo Bee: Bad Meaning Bad is one of my favorites. I’m a lover of soul music so ‘Soul Sister’ is a personal favorite of mine. We have a track on there called ‘Gimme Back’. ‘Throwback’ is a real personal favorite of mine. I love everything on there but you’re asking me if certain ones are going to stand out to me. I like when I stand outside of the box and experiment with different things like ‘Best Friends’. This cat told me yesterday, “Yo, man I kept rewinding that beat over and over and it had me writing!” I have all this boom bap stuff on the album and that was on the one that brought it out of him. I was really happy when he told me that because the album speaks to many different people in many different ways as far as the various styles on it. By me doing that it just shows my agility. I am what I always have been – a chameleon. I fit into different molds at different times, but still there’s always that signature Easy Mo Bee sound. Take for instance Craig Mack’s ‘Flava in Ya Ear’ versus 2Pac’s ‘Str8 Ballin’. They’re vastly different but you can still hear my signature on it.

TRHH: I was going to ask you about Str8 Ballin’. That Thug Life album in general is incredible and that ends it perfectly. Give me the back story on finding that sample and creating the beat.

Easy Mo Bee: 2Pac was here in New York. At the time he was filming Above the Rim at the Rucker Park across the street from Polo Grounds. I had met him at the Budweiser Superfest. He gave me the set location and told me to come by. He said, “On my breaks during filming play me some stuff in the trailer.” I came by and played him a track that I already made and he loved it! That happened to be ‘Temptations’. I always ask the people that I work with, “I’m playing things here that you love but is there anything that you ever wanted flipped?” He said, “Yeah, man! Bootsy, man! Can you flip some Bootsy for me?” He said he wanted something done with ‘What’s A Telephone Bill’ and another one. This was accomplished originally through his vision. It’s something that he always wanted to work with and he asked me could I do anything with it — Str8 Ballin’ was the end result. So many people came up to me and said, “Hey Mo, that’s outside of the box of what you normally do but that joint is bangin’!” Compliments like that and the courage that I have to step outside of myself and do different things is what pushes me further.

TRHH: Another song I wanted to ask you about was ‘Gimme the Loot’. The two voices that B.I.G. did on the record stand out, obviously. What was it like being in the studio and watching B.I.G. do two different voices?

Easy Mo Bee: The two character thing that Biggie had going on was all his idea. That was all his conception. You described it perfectly right, I just stood back and watched him do this [laughs]. As the song was being recorded he would record one character in a certain tone of voice. He would leave the gaps because he already had it written and he know where he wanted to insert them. The on a second track he would come on top and fill in those gaps with the second character with the higher pitched voice. I was like, this dude is creative, man [laughs]. I wouldn’t think of creating any record like that, actually having a conversation with myself, and it’s supposed to be two characters. People back then came to me and were like, “Yo Mo, who is the other dude on the record?” and I said, “That’s him!”

TRHH: Wow. You’re the only producer that I know of that worked with both Pac and Big. Can you give us some insight into how they were in the studio?

Easy Mo Bee: A lot of people have said I was the only one to work with B.I.G. and 2Pac while they were alive and that’s partially true. I’m not sure about any other situations but I know for a fact that Eddie F from The Untouchables, rest in peace to Heavy D – that was his crew, produced a song called ‘Let’s Get It On’ on Motown. This had to be at least ’95. This was during the period that Andre Harrell went over there and was president. The song contained Biggie, 2Pac, Heavy D, and Grand Puba. That is the second instance of Biggie and Pac on a record made together while they were both alive. The song that I did was ‘Runnin’ From the Police’. The title got knocked down to ‘Runnin’’ and it appeared on the Million Man March album titled One Million Strong. It was financed by Ben Chavis of the NAACP. It’s a rare piece of vinyl to get a hold of, too. There is an Eminem remix but there is an Easy Mo Bee original. On the original it had one of The Outlawz and Stretch from the Live Squad. The Eminem remix knocked it down to a Biggie and Pac record but there were other people that were on there.

TRHH: When you were working on Ready to Die did you know that you were creating something classic? Twenty years later I still play it.

Easy Mo Bee: Yeah. I had a feeling but at that time I was kind of new and green to the business and just getting on my way. In 1986 I started toying around with the music with Rapping is Fundamental and then The Genius, which is pre-Wu-Tang, then Big Daddy Kane, then Miles Davis. The Notorious B.I.G. came seconds after Miles Davis and I always worried back then as far as the Will Smith a la Tone Loc a la Young MC a la Vanilla Ice kind of thing. Miles Davis Doo Bop won a Grammy and I was worried about what I called “the Grammy curse”. A Grammy is something that people aspire to, chase, and will flip and do somersaults for now in Hip-Hop. Back then a Grammy was not really glamorized. As a matter of fact Hip-Hop was anti-Grammy so when the Miles Davis project garnered a Grammy I was worried about the Grammy curse and one of the best things that could happen happened.

My manager over at RUSH Francesca Sparrow, rest in peace – she just passed away, called me up and said Andre Harrell and Puffy had an artist that they wanted me to listen to. The chemistry between us just worked. Originally it started out as one or two songs but we just continued. Puffy saw the chemistry so he just kept this thing going and it ended up I recorded half the album with him – 6 songs. I realized the thing that we were doing was great, but at that time I was just happy to get back into Hip-Hop appreciation mode. In other words I didn’t want to lose my street credibility just because I worked with Miles Davis. I’ve always loved music, real music, all kinds of music, but I really love Hip-Hop. If you’re in Hip-Hop it’s so important for you to be a part of it. I mean completely a part of it – accepted and everything. This goes back to the recognition question that you asked earlier. It all worked out fine because after Craig Mack and Biggie that just solidified it all. People were like, “Wow, he went from Miles Davis to Biggie? Yeah, he really is Hip-Hop.”

TRHH: Staying with Miles, he’s a legend, it was his last album, and tell me if I’m wrong but there was a time when he didn’t respect Hip-Hop, right?

Easy Mo Bee: I had heard that. Miles had tackled everything else at that point in his career and his life and it was inevitable that he moved in that direction. I think it’s kind of equal to what they used to say about Hip-Hop in the mid-to-early 80s. Nobody believed in the genre, nobody believed it was going anywhere. As time went on and different artists added to the genre I think they saw that there was some creativity here. There were some cats here that are doing some interesting things with it so they wanted to be down with it. That was obvious as far back as 1984 when Chaka Khan took Melle Mel and put him on ‘I Feel For You’. It just goes on and on and it continued. It’s inevitable that he dabbled in Hip-Hop. At that time Jazz became a very important element in terms of sampling and interpolation in Hip-Hop records. Maybe it’s things like that, that he was seeing that made him say, “You know what, I think I can go this direction and this is a way to reach these young kids.”

TRHH: What was the experience like for you working with him?

Easy Mo Bee: I was so happy, man. I mean here is a Jazz legend. Legend is not even a good enough word, pioneer, that goes back to music making as early as the 50s. And this man wants to work with me? He wants to collaborate with me? He wants to follow me? We would sit down in the beginning and have conversations about the direction and he was like, “Im’ma follow you and do what you do. You do your thing and Im’ma go on top of it.” I was like, “Wow.” He gave me the autonomy to title the records on the album and title the album. I’d turn it in and ask Miles what we were gon’ call it and he said, “I don’t know. You call it whatever you want to. I don’t give a shit. You name it. I don’t care.” I ended up titling every song and giving the album a title. The story of the Doo Bop title came from Rapping is Fundamental, the group I was in. We had a style of mixing Hip-Hop with Doo Wop style singing. We created this term of prefix Doo, suffix Hop or Doo-Hop. When it was time to title the Miles album the wheels were turning in my head and I said, “He comes from a Bebop era of Jazz, let’s do prefix Doo, suffix Bop.” The title came from the song that Rapping is Fundamental, me JB Money, and JR, our performance on the Doo Bop song because we were rapping and singing on there. We had our Doo Hop style on this record with this Bebop guy and that’s when the wheels started turning.

TRHH: A lot of people have left hardware and moved digital audio workstations. What beat making equipment are you currently using?

Easy Mo Bee: I did the current album on the same exact equipment that I did Ready to Die, Do Bop, and Busta Rhymes’ The Coming album. In 2015 I still managed to make those machines sing. It’s the SP-1200, and the Akai rack mount samplers – S900, and S950. There are a lot of other peer producers in the business that are in shock that I’m still using em’. It’s a special reason why I’m still using ‘em, number one is because the analog sound. It just has a chunkier, fatter, more round sound. When I first came into this the idea for my sound was I always wanted it to sound like when you drop a needle to a 45. The way 45s are pressed the grooves are spread apart. The wider the grooves are, the bigger the sound will be. That’s why the old 45s and old 12 inches always sounded the best. I wanted that 45 sound – I always wanted that. The SP-1200 helps me achieve that – it has that knock!

The second reason for continuing to use those machines is because I’m a hands-on dude. I have to have my hands on the machine. It’s totally different from sitting there and pointing and clicking with a mouse. Any Hip-Hop producer will tell you that it’s nothing like having your hands on an SP-1200 or an MPC. That all alludes to a story that the late great Horace Silver’s son told me, his son is a really good friend – his name is G Wise. He said, “Mo Bee, you know what the difference between real instruments and drum machines is? When you play an instrument you put your body into it.” I was like, wow, I never forgot that. With the “put your body into it” theory that he had I feel the same way with the machines. It’s important for me to still have my hands on the machines when I’m standing there and tapping things in. A lot of the things that I do aren’t’ quantized, in other words you have a click. A lot of the things I do are loose feel or high resolution. It’s important for me to have my hands on the machine so I can put my body into it.

TRHH: You’ve literally worked with some of the all-time greats – LL, Big Daddy Kane, Biggie. Is there any emcee that you haven’t worked with that you’d like to work with?

Easy Mo Bee: I’d like to work with Jay-Z. I would love to work with Nas. I know this sounds crazy after all these years, I would love to work with Aretha Franklin. I always considered her to be the greatest as far as female R&B singers. She set the path for female R&B history. I don’t know how in 2015 that it could be possible, but before she leaves here I would love to do anything with her. Chaka Khan, too, I feel the same way about her.

TRHH: What do you hope to achieve with …And You Don’t Stop?

Easy Mo Bee: I hope that it injects a little bit more of inspiration into the culture of Hip-Hop right now. I think that the state of Hip-Hop right is so redundant – I have to say it. Everything is so cookie cutter. A lot of everything sounds the same. Everybody is using the same equipment, the same sounds, it’s so redundant. That’s why with And You Don’t Stop I’m giving people the opportunity to see that I still love real music. I love sampling, but I love the sound of instruments. It’s important to me. It doesn’t matter whether it’s live or it’s sampled, it’s important for me to hear the sound of instruments. They say music soothes the savage beast. When that expression was made they were talking about woodwinds. Guitars, pianos, horns, stuff like that goes through us like a breath of fresh air, man. It gives you hope. It just kind of elevates you. I love digital music, but it’s my responsibility to carry on the tradition of what music always was as we knew it.

I also hope with the album that with all those instrumentals it inspires guys to become more lyrical. I hope that people are riding around in their cars freestyling to the beat. I hope that female and male R&B singers are just singing and writing songs to it. I come from a very soulful perspective and I hope that’s what I can help inject back into the culture. Raise the bar so to speak. We’re so comfortable and laid back right now, it needs to change. I hope it influences a bit more diversity. We don’t have that either. Not many people are feeling like they can step outside of what they see. My album, the way that I’m coming off, the things that I’m doing, and my retro perspective, I hope that it encourages a lot of other people that still love that sound to step forward. Don’t be afraid. Do your stuff. Don’t worry about the way the mold fits, go with your heart. Be yourself, do you. That’s what I hope. With that, then maybe we can have some change.

Purchase: Easy Mo Bee – …And You Don’t Stop!

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Termanology: Shut Up and Rap

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Photo courtesy of Termanology

Photo courtesy of Termanology

Shut Up and Rap!? I couldn’t have said it better myself. The request is not only an appeal to today’s rap artists, it’s also the title of the latest offering from Lawrence, Massachusetts emcee Termanology. While Term is a new school artist he has a golden era approach to emceeing and puts lyrics at a premium – Shut Up and Rap is a perfect example of that.

Shut Up and Rap features Skyzoo, Torae, Wais P, Willie The Kid, Slaine, Superstah Snuk, Chris Rivers, Artisin, Astro, Chasen Hampton, Chilla Jones, Lumidee, Michael Christmas, Lil’ Fame, Hectic, Cortez, Cyrus DeSheild, Doo Wop, REKS, Dutch ReBelle, Ea$y Money, H Blanco, and Inspectah Deck. The album is produced by Alchemist, Statik Selektah, Billy Loman, and Termanology himself.

Termanology spoke to The Real Hip-Hop about his new album, Shut Up and Rap, the Good Dad Gang movement, and his upcoming album, Politics as Usual 2.

TRHH: What’s the meaning behind the title Shut Up and Rap?

Termanology: It’s a catch phrase and it also means there are lot of people out here doing a lot of talking and they can’t really rap.

TRHH: Did you purposely fill up the album with a lot of features?

Termanology: Yeah we kind of tried to shed light on Boston. I recorded the album in Boston so a lot of the people on the album were Boston rappers. Cyrus Deshield is from Boston, Chilla Jones, and Michael Christmas. Ea$y Money is from Haverhill which is near Boston. I was kinda giving dudes a chance around the way to flex their skills on the album.

TRHH: Tell me a little about the joint ‘The War Begins’.

Termanology: We felt it was a good way to get off the album with that. I like to set off my albums aggressively. On the last joint there was a joint called ‘Scandalous’ with Chris Rivers so this was kind of a part 2 to that. It was me, Chris Rivers, my artist H Blanco, and Inspectah Deck from Wu-Tang. I want to throw a couple more emcees on there to give it some extra life.

TRHH: What’s your writing process like? Do you write to the beat or whenever you feel inspired?

Termanology: If it’s up to me I’ll write to the beat. Sometimes if I think of something hot I’ll just write it down in my phone or on a piece of paper.

TRHH: You’ve always had a hardcore East Coast sound. What do you make of the wave of East Coast cats rhyming with a southern sound?

Termanology: I got mixed feelings on it. In a way I feel like it’s really wack, but at the same time it’s been such a long time that the music has sounded like that so to the younger crowd that’s Hip-Hop to them. They like that shit. I can’t be too mad. It’s wack when I see OG’s from the East Coast rapping like they’re from the South over trap beats. It’s kind of wack sometimes.

TRHH: What sparked the Good Dad Gang movement?

Termanology: I take such pride in being a good father and spending as much time with my kids as I can. It’s something that I hash tagged and I never really intended it to become a clothing line and everything else that it’s becoming. I’m really happy I did it because I opened a lot of people’s eyes. People are buying the clothes like crazy. Females are rocking it and supporting so I’m happy. It’s all about motivating fathers to spend as much time with their kids as they can. Money is cool, but you’ve got to be there and document it so you can see it later. Your kids are only going to be small once so you have to instill that knowledge at an early age.

TRHH: How difficult is it for you personally to spend time with your kids having the career that you have?

Termanology: Oh it sucks. It’s rough. I’m on tour right now. I haven’t seen my kids in over a week now. If I wasn’t on tour it wouldn’t be like that. I’d be trying to hang out with them as much as I can. As a parent it really sucks, but at the same time I’m able to supply a certain type of lifestyle for them. What I’m doing now with all this grinding is to set up their future so I gotta do what I gotta do.

TRHH: How has the Shut Up and Rap tour gone so far?

Termanology: It’s going good, man. People are showing up.

TRHH: Do you have plans to tour anymore this year?

Termanology: Yeah, February 13 the EST tour starts in New York. That’s me, Edo.G, REKS, Akrobatik, and DJ Deadeye. We’ll be in Rome, Paris, and a whole bunch of other countries.

TRHH: What else do you have on deck for 2015?

Termanology: I’m really trying to build the Good Dad Gang movement, the website TermanologyMusic.com, and my clothing line Term Gear. My artist Ea$y Money is dropping his new album. DJ Deadeye is dropping a new album. Politics as Usual Part 2 is my new album. It has beats by DJ Premier, Q-Tip, Statik Selektah, Buckwild, 9th Wonder, Evidence, and J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League. It’s really crazy and it’s shaping up to be some kind of a masterpiece.

TRHH: When will we hear Politics as Usual 2??

Termanology: I’m hoping for like April or May – we on it.

Purchase: Termanology – Shut Up and Rap

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Awon: Matte Black Soul

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Photo courtesy of PJ Sykes

Photo courtesy of PJ Sykes

Virginia emcee Awon has been on a hot streak as of late. Following the 2013 joint album with producer Phoniks, Return to the Golden Era, Awon joined forces with fellow Virginian emcee Dephlow for the 2014 album, Dephacation. Both projects produced enough buzz to give Awon’s music a few more ears and more opportunities.

Awon’s latest release is a solo album titled ‘Matte Black Soul’. The album was released by Awon and Phoniks’ newly formed label, Don’t Sleep Records. Matte Black Soul is produced by Phoniks, HDK, Ak, Rashard, and Awon himself.

The Real Hip-Hop spoke to Awon about his new album, Matte Black Soul, the formation of Don’t Sleep Records, and the upcoming sequel to the critically acclaimed album, Return to the Golden Era.

TRHH: I was surprised that you dropped this record so soon after Dephacation. Why’d you decide to drop it so close?

Awon: Well, I look at each thing that we do as a different entity. It’s not necessarily about sales and notoriety as it is about getting music out to the audience that I feel like they’ll vibe to at that particular time. I had been working on the project for a couple of years off and on. It was something I’d pick up in my spare time and set it down. After it was all said and done then Phoniks got his hands on it and we felt like it was the perfect time for it to come out. It was wintertime and cold in most of the country, and there are some social issues going on so the reason why we put it out was timing. If not now then we’re not going to have another opportunity. It’s that window right now.

TRHH: Explain the title of the new album.

Awon: Matte Black Soul was what we came up with. Initially it was “Matte Black” and what we realized after going through everything was it had a soulful feel to it so we wanted to prepare the listener for what they were about to hear. When I think of matte black I think of technology and how our devices are matte black. They use it now as a sign of luxury. You got luxury watches that are matte black. It gives an air of elegance and sophistication along with some nostalgia. When something is matte and not finished it gives an essence of that antique feel – especially when you see a car in that color. That’s where it came from, more maturity, sophistication, elegance and the sound is the soul. That’s why we ran with Matte Black Soul.

TRHH: The vibe of the album is upbeat. That wasn’t a conscious effort to make it that way, right? It just kind of felt soulful to you?

Awon: Yeah it felt soulful and passionate. The fact that I recorded that album on my own and worked on it in my own time and my own zone really made it stand out to me where I can feel free to take as much time as I wanted on the record. I wasn’t on the clock in the studio. I wasn’t on somebody else’s time. It was at my home studio and I really got to vibe with it. A lot of it was the mood that I was in. I recorded a lot of those records late at night – after I had company or after I had a good night. All of those records were done after I was hanging out and partying with my friends so that’s the energy that I carried on after the night ended and it carried on to the records.

TRHH: You produced some songs on this album. I wasn’t aware that you made beats. What equipment did you use?

Awon: Well I wouldn’t call myself a producer as much as I just hear certain things and utilize them. I’m using all software. Everything I do is done with Garage Band and Logic. It’s basically taking loops, adding drums, filters, and stripping the track down – nothing spectacular. I do like to get my hands on the production aspect of records, even down to picking samples. Certain records we’ll use because I just like that record in general. Somebody might have used it but they didn’t use it this way. You always hear something different.

TRHH: What inspired the song ‘Natural High’?

Awon: Actually my wife. It kind of just outlines the ups and down and funny things in a relationship. I just decided to write something that was fun and upbeat and almost had a comical satire to it. Usually songs like that are real emotional or vulgar in the sense of being degrading. I just wanted to do something that was a little more fun and take a lighthearted spin on it while poking fun at myself at the same time. It’s inspired by the relationship I have with my wife and that’s why I wrote it. That’s one of the first songs that I recorded for the record.

TRHH: What did she think of the song?

Awon: Oh, she loves it! She thinks it’s incredible. We sit back and laugh about it a lot. To be honest having her around is a great measure just by having somebody to critique your work. She gets to hear everything first so in actuality she kind of co-produced it by saying, “You should do this, you should leave that off,” and it worked out. Her playlist is what made the album so I definitely appreciate her for that.

TRHH: The song ‘Free Your Mind’ had the dope Richard Pryor intro on it. How’d that song come together?

Awon: That song is produced by one of my best friends Rashard. I actually found that intro from the Wattstax record where they had the big concert for the Watts movement back in Cali. That was a big thing so I said let me grab that because what he said was profound to me. I remember someone telling me that Richard Pryor just wanted people to take him seriously. In his comedy he put a lot of social issues that were provocative for the time but the comedy out-shined what he was doing. That was one of the instances where he said something incredible but nobody caught it because everybody is laughing. If you listen to the rest of the record you hear the crowd going hysterical. I thought for this time that people wouldn’t be laughing because it is an instance that we are faced with right now that’s in the media that we talk about. It goes into a greater sentiment in the song where there are a lot of stereotypes that are running at us – stereotypes that I hear, stereotypes that some of us may believe. It’s a respectability politics kind of standpoint that I’m coming at, but in the end of that record I denounce the word but I also admit that we’re programmed and conditioned to use it. At the end of the day who can we point the finger at? It’s also a play on A Tribe Called Quest’s ‘Sucka Nigga’. What Q-Tip did was incredible for that record. It was before its time. Twenty some odd years later we’re still having the same debate. That record really came about from the debate that different generations have about the use of the word, the stereotypes that go along with the word, and how it affects our community.

TRHH: Talk about the formation of Don’t Sleep Records.

Awon: Phoniks and I wanted to put records out and instead of it always being our name with no label we wanted our own imprint. We didn’t have an imprint to release music on and we don’t have a desire to sign to a major label or seek a record deal. It’s really pointless at this point and time. We look at what we do as collaborations when we work with another independent label to produce vinyl or another release. We just wanted to have an imprint that we could put our music out and music that we felt fell under the same umbrella of what we’re doing. Another project we have in line is with a young brother by the name of Peebs The Prophet and a producer from Budapest, Hungary, BluntOne. We feel like it’s the type of music that we like, it definitely fits in to what we’ve already done, and we just want to give these brothers a platform so that they can be heard and we can spread some light on what they’re doing. Hopefully we’ll continue to put our own music and music of other artists out on the banner when the time is right. We’re just growing it slowly and taking it day by day to help it expand. The goal is not necessarily monetary as opposed to ownership. A lot of people only think about monetary value as opposed to ownership, which is monetary value when you own it. That’s where we’re at right now. We don’t want nobody owning us.

TRHH: What’s the status of the follow-up to Return to the Golden Era?

Awon: That’s actually in the works. Phoniks came to Virginia over the summer and we recorded quite a few records at a studio in Richmond. We recorded directly to tape because we wanted to continue with the warm feel of our music. Since we had a couple dollars in our pockets we decided to go to an analog studio where they can make that possible. We plan on reconvening this April and finishing up some more records and keeping the process going. We’re hoping that by the summer or early fall that the album will be finished and we’ll be prepping on that release for everybody to have that proper follow-up.

Purchase: Awon – Matte Black Soul

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Introducing: Nick Weaver

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Photo courtesy of Ryan Skut

Photo courtesy of Ryan Skut

For the first three years of his career Seattle emcee Nick Weaver blessed fans with a multitude of music. While briefly residing in Los Angeles Weaver dropped mixtapes, EP’s, and collaboration projects leading up to the release of his 2013 full-length debut, Day One, None.

Since then Weaver has laid low on the music front to get some real life issues in order. He returned to his original habitat in the Pacific Northwest, which rekindled a fire that flickered in 2014.

Nick Weaver started off 2015 properly with the January 6 release of his free 6-track EP titled “Yardwork”. The EP is an ode to becoming a “grown ass man” that is produced by Weaver and Hilsyde and features appearances by Nige Hood and YC The Cynic.

The Real Hip-Hop spoke to Nick Weaver about the adjustments of becoming a full-fledged adult, his foray into production, and his new EP, Yardwork.

TRHH: Explain the title of the new EP, Yardwork.

Nick Weaver: It’s basically talking about the struggles of getting older, growing up, and becoming more of an adult. That’s the central theme. A lot of the stuff I talk about on the album is getting closer to my family again and figuring out what’s important and what’s not. The other part of that is life is like a yard – the more you tend to it and deal with your issues, problems, and stuff you’ve gotta resolve, the better it’s going to look in the end. That was the other part, putting in the yard work to make everything better than it originally was.

TRHH: How old are you, man?

Nick Weaver: I’m 28.

TRHH: I’m 38. It’s usually around the age of 30 that you start feeling enlightened a little bit. Do you feel like life is more serious for you now?

Nick Weaver: Yeah, definitely. Over the last couple of years that’s where it went for personal reasons and people around me. It’s all part of getting older I think.

TRHH: It definitely is. For me it was scary. I really didn’t know why but after a while I was fine. My life went from being fun to a “now I have to plan for retirement” type of thing [laughs].

Nick Weaver: For sure [laughs].

TRHH: What made you go from where you were to needing to spend more time with your family?

Nick Weaver: It’s been a couple things. I was in L.A. for a while and really working hard on music and over the last couple years my dad had gotten sick. I was coming home a lot to see him. Fortunately he’s doing really well right now and everything is good. It should never be something like that to drive you to focus more time and attention on your family, but sometimes that’s just how it is. That was a big driving force more than anything.

TRHH: How is Yardwork different from ‘Day One, None’?

Nick Weaver: The last album I was really trying to for a more accessible sound. I handpicked all these beats from all these different producers that had a sound that I thought anyone who turned it on would instantly start vibing to it even if they didn’t like Hip-Hop or were older or younger. Over the last year I started teaching myself how to make beats and make everything on my own. I did that and worked with my producer in L.A., Hilsyde and he pimped them out and made them sound really, really pro. There is not necessarily one track that people would throw on at a party or that type of thing. It’s very real, very upfront, there are only two guest features and they’re rappers – there are no singers on it. It’s pretty much just me on it. In that regard it’s more stripped down.

TRHH: What beat making equipment are you using?

Nick Weaver: I run Logic Pro and I run a 25 key midi. It’s got a built-in drum pad into it – like an 8 pad MPC. I would make a skeleton of the beat and take them to Hilsyde and he would flip ‘em. He uses a big Korg Triton and another keyboard that I’m not familiar with and he would build on top of it and make it sound much larger.

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

Nick Weaver: Growing up Nas, Biggie, Jay-Z, Eminem – those are my big 4. Those are the ones that I was fixated on. When I was really little between the ages of 7-to-10 and not really buying my own music yet my big brother had every kind of music under the sun. He would play the old school Ice-T, Run-DMC, and Snoop Dogg. I always listened to it when he was in the car and I liked it. When I could make the choice to listen to my own music it was dominated by that Bad Boy era [laughs]. I got into Puff Daddy and that quickly got me into Jay-Z, Biggie, Wu-Tang, Nas and Eminem.

TRHH: That’s a heavy east coast influence for a west coast guy [laughs].

Nick Weaver: Yeah, I know, for sure. My friends always clown me and say I have no love for 2Pac or anybody west coast. I do but I grew up obsessed with the east coast sound. I don’t know what it was. I was way more drawn to the grimy pianos and the way the drums were. I love west coast rap but something about the east coast sound stuck to me.

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

Nick Weaver: It’s interesting because in a way I’m a little bit of an outsider on the Seattle scene. Once I started doing this stuff I was already in L.A. There are a ton of talented people. One guy that I really like is Raz Simone. He’s got a raw and very exposed element to his music. He’s out there really putting his soul out in everything he does and it’s really cool to see. The whole Macklemore thing always comes up because everyone thinks that everyone is trying to go in the same lane because Macklemore is from Seattle but it’s really not like that. There are so many different eclectic mixes of it. There are people with maybe a little more general accessible sound, there is a lot of live band Hip-Hop, there are people on street Hip-Hop, and there’s some abstract stuff. It’s cool, man. It’s a pretty eclectic scene, way more than a lot of people think would even be in Seattle.

TRHH: ‘The Story’ was cleverly put together. What inspired that song?

Nick Weaver: The sample is an old Simon & Garfunkel song, ‘America’, and it just felt nostalgic. It felt old school but I didn’t want to rap about something generic like how good of a rapper I was. I didn’t want it to be too deep because a lot of the album is deep and serious. I was going through my old CD case and the beat was playing so I said, “You should just write about this like a story. Talk about when you were growing up.” The whole thing is the story never changes so the first verse is me talking about being a kid listening to all the rappers that I told you about. The second verse is me as an adult and music is there. I’m talking about listening to Big Boi’s ‘Ascending’ in the car and stressing out about my dad. I’m listening to Kendrick’s ‘Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe’ while I’m stressing out in L.A. traffic. The story just never changes. Music is always there and always has a presence.

TRHH: The Platter video was dope. Who came up with the concept?

Nick Weaver: I started writing that verse and I wasn’t even thinking about writing like a cooking show. I started saying, “Take a glass of heartbreak, a pinch of unrequited love…” and I just started going on this tangent about what kind of ingredients you need. Then I started thinking, well shit I should make this song specifically to be a video and it would be funny to make it a cooking show. I took it to my buddy in L.A. Mike Peer who is a great director and he saw the vision all the way through. He picked the perfect scenario, scene, and all the stuff for me to be doing on camera. It was a cool one. I was pretty psyched about that.

TRHH: What’s next up for you in 2015?

Nick Weaver: It took me over a year to get between Day One, None and Yardwork. I put out basically nothing in between that. I’ve made a big commitment to myself to change that. This year is all about putting out as much as I can that’s good quality music. I want to stay in the picture and the peripheral of the blogs and the music fans. I really want to lock in some big Seattle shows with some big names. Hopefully I can lock in some shows with some national acts. Ultimately it would be really dope whether I do it on my own or jump on with another larger Seattle act that’s doing it, but a small regional tour that did the whole I-5 thing and went from Seattle all the way to L.A. or San Diego and back. Music is tough, man. I’m sure you talk to plenty of artists who bitch and whine about this to some degree. When you get behind, you get really behind. You go out of the conversation and it gets discouraging. It’s funny you asked about goals because a lot of times you don’t set goals. You just go forward with what you’re trying to do. In short, that’s what I’m trying to do for 2015.

Download: Nick Weaver – Yardwork

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Chuck D: The Black in Man (Part 2)

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Photo courtesy of Carl Ryder

Photo courtesy of Carl Ryder

In Part 1 of The Real Hip-Hop’s discussion with Public Enemy’s front-man, Chuck D, he blessed us with stories of the late Jam Master Jay, gave us a glimpse into the making of Ice Cube’s first solo album, and provided background on the latest offering from Mistachuck, The Black in Man.

In part 2 the rhyme animal goes in depth about the 30th anniversary of Def Jam, his public tiff with New York radio station, Hot 97, his opinion on the recent racial unrest in America, and offers some insight into the next Public Enemy album.

TRHH: Do you believe that the recent incidents of unarmed black men being murdered by police will rekindle some kind of consciousness in young black people or Hip-Hop?

Chuck D: If education is not available 24 hours out of a day for a young black boy or girl and ushered in by older people, how do we expect them to actually turn the coin to actually say, ‘I’m conscious of the fact’? We know they’re frustrated. The United States of America made it seem like if you’re a young black person unless you’re famous you don’t mean shit. You ain’t got no money? You don’t mean shit. As a matter of fact you’re going to look at people that look like they got money all the time even if they don’t and this is what you gotta look like in order for you to mean shit. Police brutality has been happening all this time because it’s the end result of the captured – the captured demographic, captured culture, and captured people does not ever bode well for people who have never had the control to teach themselves, manage themselves, enforce themselves, educate themselves, and make a living for themselves. It’s going to be more catastrophe than one.

These things pop up even more so because of social media. You can get angry but you’ve got to process anger. How do you process the anger and who are you speaking to and who are you speaking for? Black folks are only 12% of the United States of America. In order to get things to change you need to convince a whole lot of white folks in America because it’s a big body and block of them. People keep talking about race riots, ain’t gonna be no race riot. It’s going to be racial tension in places where black people live if it don’t get better. We only live in so many spots in the United States where most of the American programs are going to be like, “Who gives a fuck? They don’t live near us.” You want to look for black folks in America you can find us. You know where to find us. That’s what happens when you don’t have the demographic numbers to be a legitimate threat at times. I mean a threat just knowing that you can do your own thing and you have your own thing rolling without always help from the government, although I don’t have anything against the government assisting the forwardness of our demographic of people. Other people seem to be actually moving because they have help from the outside. Black folks are cut off from the diaspora of black people around the world who are going through similar struggles because of the color of their skin or the detachment of where we are from.

You’re going to have these cycles perpetuating and people are going to make money off of our demise like they are now. You lock somebody up, you getting money [laughs]. Lock black folks up, shit, you’re getting money. If getting money is the name of the game who is getting money while we getting got? The prison industrial complex is the biggest cache industry for the past X amount of years in this millennium. You would think that it would get better but as time goes on we’re more into this programmed slavery that is evident. So what do we do about it? On The Black in Man I talk about the prison industrial complex on a song ‘P.I.C. I Hate Every Inch of You’ which actually was a record that Johnny Cash wrote about Folsom Prison. It’s talking about the prison ground. It’s another Johnny Cash reference. He used it on The Man in Black, and I’m The Black in Man.

TRHH: A lot of people, myself included, took offense last year to Peter Rosenberg saying, “Nobody made Chuck D president of Hip-Hop”…

Chuck D: Well nobody did. He was absolutely right. It’s a job that I wouldn’t have fuckin’ took anyway.

TRHH: [Laughs] You were criticizing Summer Jam, but his words didn’t seem to bother you at all. Can you explain your feelings behind the whole thing?

Chuck D: Well number one the thing that got me twisted was when they tried to defend that nothing was wrong with a stadium full of white folks hearing and also mouthing off the word “nigger” 500 times. My whole thing is Hot 97 was sloppy and it’s not censorship but damn man, control the goddamn performance. While everything has gotta be a nigga-fest you gotta have white folks in the stadium. And then you say, “This is the way it is now,” well who told you that? Who gave you permission to actually say this could go and you throw everybody black under the bus just because a few people with some jobs said so? That was my point of view.

When they had the audacity to try to defend it I had to go beyond just calling it sloppy. I just said it was sloppy. They got more offended that I called it sloppy as opposed to saying it was fucked up! I just said it was sloppy. They came out of left field trying to defend it saying it wasn’t sloppy. I’m like, dude I’ve been part of 5000 shows and concerts. You’re trying to tell me that this shit isn’t sloppy? It was sloppy when I was part of it. The first thing that the host said that year was, “Yo, you gotta peep these niggas. These was the niggas that started the revolution. Give it up for these niggas PE!” This was the host. Don’t try to tell me what you did and what you didn’t do. That’s some bullshit. It was wack when I was there. It was bound to get sloppier with nobody there to hold y’all in check.

TRHH: I was working Lollapalooza a couple of years ago and I heard a white kid recite a Kanye lyric, “Shout out to Derrick Rose, you know that nigga nice.” A white dude said that right in front of me. I ain’t going to jail for nobody, but it made me wonder, what happened that this is okay in their minds? Is Hip-Hop partially responsible for throwing that word out there to make it seem okay?

Chuck D: A grown man and a grown woman is partially responsible for pretending that it’s okay. That’s what it is. It ain’t got nothing to do with Hip-Hop. If you’re grown and a kid throws a battle at your crib you ain’t gonna be like, “Oh, that’s just what they do.” Fuck outta here! What you throwing a bottle at my house for? Ain’t nobody taught you better? What, are you going to be scared of the kids ‘cause they might have a gun? So as grown folks you’re just not going to say anything? How are you going to have a stadium full of white people up there and y’all spittin’ “nigga” like it’s water? Who taught you that? Nobody addressed those questions. Nobody came up with an answer. I would have even accepted somebody saying, “Man, I came up with that ‘cause I’m that nigga, yeah!” Yeah, okay, so we know how to deal with you accordingly. But nobody said anything ‘cause they know that something is wrong in that picture.

People try to legitimize the word “nigger” and I’m like, what educational process allowed you to think you could come up with that and get away with it? They’re like, “What do you mean? Fuck that.” Most people try to answer with some quasi-sounding education bullshit. Who told you that? Once you’re sloppy with something it has a tendency to get sloppier and even disappear. When it happens to get itself back on track what you have is somebody putting it on track that ain’t got nothing to do with you. Oh yeah, a lawyer is going to make sure that Hip-Hop is running right [laughs]. Some accountant is going to come in and give it infrastructure. Man, please. It’s like somebody coming in your house and cleaning it every day but you ain’t sanction them to clean it. You just sloppy as a motherfucker and going to take what is clean and find out at the end of the day that you don’t own it or shit.

The whole thing with Peter Rosenberg, I never looked at him as being the problem. He was never the problem. The things that he was saying were totally irrelevant. Dude, you aren’t even making sense to your friends and supporters [laughs]. I’m just saying give me some answers, man, and cats couldn’t come up with answers to support it.

TRHH: I met Rosenberg at Rock the Bells a few years ago and I find him to be disrespectful in general. He is dismissive of anything that was before he discovered Hip-Hop. If it’s not A Tribe Called Quest or Nas it’s old, angry, or whatever. It’s funny coming from a Jewish guy to me but he acts like he’s a champion for the culture.

Chuck D: Well, it’s understood. Everybody has that right. When it comes down to it, it might be one of those things where if it’s dismissive based on his convenience to have something to say or to have a hold on something that could be unfair to those that are before his time who are trying to get a leg up in the industry in which he has a job. But the more that you get deeper into it you’re humbled by the vast opportunity for everybody to make this thing grow even further. You’ve got to be humbled by the size of Hip-Hop. It’s a worldwide thing. Why would I go to Sao Paulo and do a free concert in the city in front of 50,000 people who basically speak Portuguese? Why would I get hired to go to Brazil and do that? It’s because of Hip-Hop. Does it mean they’re more or less than any Hip-Hop fan? No. The more that you’re humbled to the existence of what this music is, what it’s done, and where it continues to reach the more you’ll realize that your opinion should be building and not wanting to take it down.

TRHH: I think I heard him do an interview with Kool G Rap and G Rap was saying that he was inspired by Melle Mel and Kool Moe Dee and this guy sort of laughed. G Rap was saying how nice those dudes were and Rosenberg and his crew kind of thought it was funny. Not just Rosenberg, but a lot of people have little respect for the pioneers of Hip-Hop. The Rolling Stones are celebrated. The Beatles are celebrated. Certain genres of music respect their forefathers, but in Hip-Hop the people that laid the groundwork for you are laughed at.

Chuck D: For me to give you an analogy that runs into slavery it goes beyond the article that you’re trying to cover. It can’t be conveyed in two or three sentences. Even if I say it’s connected to slavery people don’t have the vast detailed concern to over-stand the answer and say, “I see that, I see that.” Or they don’t have the over-standing aspect of giving a fuck to know that that’s the reason [laughs]. So you gotta have to give it in broad strokes and go somewhere else that say, in order for Rosenberg to really be accepted by somebody in Hip-Hop he has to feel that he’s in a position that he knows more than who he’s talking to. And to fill the position to know a little more than who he’s talking to he’s relying on two instances. He’s relying on the appearance of people who might actually look the part but don’t know as much so he can actually seem superior to their inferiority in the knowledge of the genre. Or he could just feel like the history that starts with him is where it really started to take off and everything else is something, because nobody is concerned about that because he doesn’t encourage the concern in his position of power. If you don’t encourage people to be concerned about shit that you don’t know about that keeps you in a power position. It’s too deep to put into a few sentences.

It’s one of those things that I know more than you, so how come you don’t know your shit? I do know my shit, I know more than you! So what put you there? “Oh, the shit that you know doesn’t count,” that type of thing back and forth. Rosenberg didn’t invent that. He’s just part of that character role that’s been there for a long time be it Blues or Jazz. Eventually they rely upon the ignorance of black folks to not give a fuck about our history so they might feel that they’re lending a service to black folks like, “Hey, this is your history and I think you should know this and the fact that I’m telling you this gives me credence of being here.” [Laughs] A person has to rely on the ignorance of somebody who A, has never had their history presented to them on a regular basis through unusual circles and B, not being able to give a fuck about it since they haven’t been presented with it. It’s hard to put in two sentences, Sherron. Once you go down the road of racial reasons in 2015 it’ll make the most ignorant person of history come out and say, “What the fuck you talking about, you got Obama!” [Laughs] We’re not talking about that! What are you talking about?

Cultural history is important. I get blown to the side when somebody black especially wants to not pay attention to the white guys that follow black history like they don’t exist. The Rolling Stones named themselves after Muddy Waters’ record. But they don’t know nothing about Muddy Waters. They don’t even know Muddy Waters was the title of Redman’s album and they call themselves Hip-Hop! Where do I start with you? You gotta go bit by bit. You can’t teach history overnight. The closest time when history seemed to drown people overnight was when Hip-Hop decided to dip into history and you had this thirst out there. This thirst was out there having people go into history books and challenging teachers. KRS-One was dropping more history in verses than anyone has ever heard in their life regarding black people or people of color. People got interested and it was like, “Oh man, they infiltrated the mainstream with this. We gotta figure out a way to turn this shit down a little bit.” I’m not saying it was a concentrated effort but they, and what I mean by the ubiquitous “they” is the people at the cash registers of the culture, felt that they could make more money off of ignorance than they could off of areas that they defined as a threat. All along it was that fear that “If these black conscious artists get more and more educated what’s to stop them from following my white man company self to my home in Connecticut? It’s not like it’s some thug shit. They’re smart and they’re talking that thug shit. This is a problem!” A lot of the west coast gangsta stuff was really convenient because it took the heat off a lot of peoples backs too.

TRHH: That was the time that I stopped listening to Hip-Hop a little bit. It kind of turned me off. I was listening to Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and the alternative stuff that was coming out. I just didn’t believe it.

Chuck D: I know. The main thing was the belief of it. You had to believe Ice-T because Ice-T would tell stories. He would cap an end to a story that would really make you question whether you should go that route or not. N.W.A. came in with, “If you wanna take that road, we’ll watch you take that road.” Whether you believed that Dre and them were gangsters was irrelevant. Ice Cube would write a story and he was so clever that it would make it alluring. When Cube left that fold as a writer then the logic went out of it. Then you have a lot of people that copied off of that shit. I believed aspects of The Geto Boys because they were those dudes for real from the 5th Ward. Other cats would come out and you’d be like, “Damn, I don’t really believe if you’re this dude at all.” Some cats would come out and you believed them but they weren’t good [laughs].

Gangsta Rap was so supported at a particular time and now everybody wasn’t good and those that happened to be good wasn’t that cat for real so they were just faking it. But it was still supported. Even the conscious music era had a lot of cats that weren’t really true to the core honest and believed it. One thing you got at that time was rap music’s honesty in the late 80s and early 90s. Kurt Cobain and his crew were totally giving it from what they thought was real. Pearl Jam, those dudes man, shit! Layne Staley, them motherfuckers believed every bit of what they were saying to the point that it haunted them. 2Pac believed every little chord of whatever he said and did. It was a thin line with that like, “Yo, man do you really believe that shit?” Some cats were like, “Hell yeah I believe that shit!” and some cats wouldn’t tell you. That was a big change. By the end of the 90s the honesty of Hip-Hop was vague. It was kind of here and kind of there.

TRHH: Sort of along the lines of what we talked about earlier was your song ‘Anti Nigger Machine’. It’s another one of my favorite PE songs. Why was that song so short?

Chuck D: Because it had to fit the scheme of the album. We wanted to deliver 60 minutes straight like a radio show. On a radio show dead air will kill you, so we never believed in dead air. Everything longer doesn’t mean it’s better. If ‘Anti-Nigger Machine’ was longer I don’t think it would have been better. It’s almost like what I believed for The Black in Man. It’s 37 minutes and the biggest complaint about it is, “Damn, I wish it could be longer.” A, it ain’t gonna be longer, B, that’s what we wanted you to say. In this day and time less is more. You should make the most out of less. I think that’s the way albums should be in the millennium.

TRHH: The 30th anniversary of Def Jam just passed. I know you had issues at some point with them in the past, but what’s the biggest lesson you learned career-wise from your time at Def Jam?

Chuck D: Number one, I was recruited to go to Def Jam. Rick Rubin reached out and asked if I could be down. That’s a different dynamic than anybody else has ever dealt with. I was never looking to be put on. The biggest thing I learned at Def Jam was you gotta build your area around yourself to fit into their machine. The minute that they stopped having people that did it for themselves to fit into their machine and they started wanting to do it for others it helped some, but it also curtailed others. I never really had issues with Def Jam, but with Universal. It was never for public record to put out there for people to talk about because it’s nobody’s business anyway. It’s my business. Somebody asked me if I had an issue with the releases that Def Jam had just done and I said Universal has done it with Def Jam and why would I disrespect my releases? Or disrespect them trying to put it in the marketplace? They’re like your artistic kids. I support that and I support the fact that they were able to make sure that each piece was out there and thorough.

We left nothing in the vault. There is no such thing as being unreleased but, there are things that were released on 12 inches that people will never find and they don’t have. We were thorough with that and they got thorough with that at Def Jam/Universal, even down to re-releasing a DVD which we won an award with years ago and it was cool. You don’t go anywhere dissing the things that you made yourself, even if they own it and got the masters. I’m not going to diss any of the things that I was a part of. The things that I’m a part of stand the test of time because I still rely on those things. I’m gung ho about it and I’m glad. They just better send me a box of my shit [laughs]. Whatever help they need from me, if I got the time I’ll help them out. One of the best things was having one of our true scholars, ?uestlove curate it – that’s important.

TRHH: When will we hear the next Public Enemy album?

Chuck D: I don’t know. I think we’re going to come out in different rotisserie parts. The key for me and the crew is to release records and songs in different configurations and different elements. Part of Public Enemy 2.0 is breaking Public Enemy down into parts. Jahi who is a guy I’ve known for 15 years, is a veteran emcee, and Public Enemy with DJ Lord, Davy DMX, Atiba Motta, and Khar Wynn the band leader make up the baNNed. The idea came from going to a George Clinton show and their supporting band was an act that came from their camp called The Children of Production which was a song that was on one of Parliament Funkadelic’s popular albums in the 70s. In The Children of Production were other band members and disciples from Parliament Funkadelic, even George’s daughter. They would do the songs that Parliament would not do in their set – or songs they never did or haven’t done in a long time. The shit blew me away. Children of Production is coming out doing songs like ‘Funky Woman’ which is on the 1970 album and ‘Funky Dollar Bill’ and shit like that.

That gave me the idea that when we go around and do a tour we need another component of Public Enemy that sets Public Enemy up, which is me, Flavor, and the rest of the crew, but using Public Enemy parts. After a year of discussion we started Public Enemy 2.0 when Jahi comes out and performs records that we don’t ever stand a chance of doing, and we also cut an album on him reinterpreting Public Enemy records but in his own vein. We just released ‘YO!’ which is off of People Get Ready by Jahi. Jahi is originally from Cleveland so we released ‘YO! to coincide with LeBron James coming back to Cleveland like Jahi came back to Cleveland where I met him in 1999. Now he’s out in the Bay and he’s an “emcee”. He understands where Public Enemy is coming from. He can handle any crowd. He can take a crowd from shit to sugar and we’re glad to have him along as part of the PE machine. PE2.0 means Project Experience Millennium. The next PE record will probably be 2015 but before then you’re going to see a lot of the parts of PE also release pertinent songs – some of them with my involvement, most of them not. The PE album will definitely be short.

TRHH: The last time we spoke you were headed to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. I loved your speech. I was very proud of that speech…

Chuck D: You caught the edited version.

TRHH: Really?

Chuck D: Yeah, man. Flavor was up there 15 minutes, man!


Chuck D: I had to go to the bathroom and pee and I couldn’t find a spot. He kept talking and I was like, “What the fuck?” It was crazy, man. They took the knife to that whole thing. One thing they didn’t take the knife to which they could not which was also the biggest honor was having Harry Belafonte usher us in. That was bigger than anything else in the world. And Spike Lee! Spike came out. I’ll tell you a line that was really funny right — Spike is Spike, man [laughs]. We’re in the place and they’re naming the inductees, it took 18 years for Rush to get in. Their people were out in force! All of Canada came down, man! The reception for Rush was crazy and Spike said, “Yo, we’re on the road! We’re on the road at Boston Garden!” [Laughs] And Rush put it down in their performance, too. It was really good to get acknowledged. Harry Belafonte and Spike Lee – that was special.

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Chuck D: The Black in Man

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Photo courtesy of Carl Ryder

Photo courtesy of Carl Ryder

For nearly three decades Chuck D has consistently expanded the boundaries of how Hip-Hop music is perceived, created, sold, and heard. A true visionary and champion for Hip-Hop, the founder of Public Enemy continues to add on to his legacy and to the culture with his latest solo album, The Black in Man.

The ten-track release finds Chuck rhyming harder than ever over rock, soul, funk, and blues influenced tracks. The Black in Man features appearances by Mavis Staples, Jasiri X, Kyle “Ice” Jason, and Jahi of PE 2.0. The album is produced by DJ Johnny Juice, Confrontation Camp, C-Doc, Hardgroove, Sammy Sam, and Divided Souls.

The Real Hip-Hop spoke to the Rock & Roll Hall of Famer about the Bomb Squad’s impact on rap music, taking part in the 2013 Kings of the Mic tour, and his new album, The Black in Man.

TRHH: Explain the title of the new album, ‘The Black in Man’.

Chuck D: Well Johnny Cash was the man in black and I respect his point of view and he was able to come out with the truth and honest music, so I’m the black in man. The black in me is irremovable so that’s where that came from.

TRHH: How did ‘Give We the Pride ’ with Mavis Staples come about?

Chuck D: We actually got involved in doing a Stax reunion more than ten years ago. I told Ms. Mavis about another song and she recorded the vocals. Divided Souls who are actually located out of Baton Rouge, Atlanta, and Madison, Wisconsin are one of my top production teams. They were able to take the vocals and make a new composition. We tried to get it to Mavis to put on one of her new records, but she had just finished wrapping up her album with Jeff Tweedy. It was just kind of there so I put a vocal on it and they produced it and I was like, “Wow, okay, now what do we do?” I decided to build an album around it and that’s how The Black in Man was formed.

Also through our SPITdigital distribution and record company we were getting ready to test the market place with new approaches to albums – shorter albums, building an album around one song, and being able to have video be your main statement. Filler on an album nowadays is songs that you don’t do videos for. We wanted to be able to create a new template that classic Hip-Hop could follow and do well for themselves. The Black in Man came out and everything was ready. When you have a known commodity or known name you’ve got to lessen the period when you have the big wind up going to let everybody know, “Here’s the album.” I think those days are over. I think the first minute that you’re able to announce something or have a video or a song everything should be ready to go. Especially when you’re independent. Independent today means a whole lot more than what it used to mean.

TRHH: Why were there 18 years between The Autobiography of MistaChuck and The Black in Man?

Chuck D: It actually wasn’t 18 years. It was 14 years when I released Don’t Rhyme for the Sake of Riddlin’ in 2010. The problem in 2010 was the masses weren’t open to the configuration chain as of yet. The configuration got flipped around in recent years because everybody got acclimated on the same page just recently. 2011-2012-2013 was when smartphones, iPad’s, and tablets were the main vehicles for downloading music and that’s all new. In 2007-2008 downloading music meant downloading it on your own computer and making a blank disc out of it. 2010 was the beginning of phones being the biggest device to download music. In 2014 it’s understood. It wasn’t understood 4-5 years ago. Four or five years ago I released Don’t Rhyme for the Sake of Riddlin’ and it wasn’t an understood format – now it is. It’s not that people aren’t going to support another format, it’s just that they’re going to make a priority on what is going to be the thing they’re going to flock to first.

TRHH: I’m not familiar with that project and I bought everything Public Enemy has ever put out.

Chuck D: Yeah, it was only online. Social networks weren’t solid in promotions. What we were able to discover in 2012 and 2013 is that social media is our biggest way of promoting things that we have online. We’re going to re-release Don’t Rhyme for the Sake of Riddlin’ again in something like March or April.

TRHH: How are Chuck D albums different from PE albums?

Chuck D: Maybe the choices of music. Maybe the points of view are a little bit wider. With Public Enemy it’s like a one team notion and at the end of that particular notion you’re able to describe an attitude for more than one head. If it turns out to be a record like ‘Harder Than You Think’ it’s got to be something that everybody feels in step with. You don’t want to feel uneasy about a point of view that I might want to deal with individually while performing in the name of the group. A Chuck D record is still going to take some of the songwriting elements and I’m going to vocally record and take on some of the things that might not fit. My point of view is going to come through but the creation of songs might be different.

TRHH: I spoke to Edo.G and he was really bigging up SPITdigital. What differentiates SPITdigital from a TuneCore?

Chuck D: TuneCore is all over the place. I was one of the cats in the beginning that helped Jeff Price with TuneCore. I was one of the guys that helped Richard Gottehrer lending what I thought might appeal to the Orchard in 2004. TuneCore is now a major part of Universal because it’s been vested by big business. They’ve got a big infrastructure to bring in a lot of artists at a particular time. You know, big structures can sometimes turn into MySpace where you’re aggregated but you move from one sphere into the next and to the next. How do you get known? How do you get your stuff out there? I’m not saying that we’re known to get anything out there but we can be more personal, our accounting can be clearer, and until we build these other parts – a way to market and promote artists better – that’s what’s going to make us different. When you get aggregated it’s not a guarantee that that’s going to sell your product from the store. These are the next rounds of what people are realizing when they go to any of these stores, be it iTunes, Amazon, or Spotify you’ve got to be able to alert people. Hip-Hop is taking the easy way out with alerting people because it’s using drama and gossip and hype as the main thing to get a Hip-Hop artist known to the younger demographic. That’s been a fuckin’ problem.

TRHH: What do you think is a better way?

Chuck D: It’s not a better way, I think it’s a more patient way. You get a fan one at a time. One person at a time. I think this whole “we gotta get these numbers” is something a corporation would say when they have a staff and sales department. When you’re in an independent boutique situation you gotta celebrate one number, and one fan at a time. When you have that understanding that’s what makes it better. You gotta have an understanding of who you are, who you are not, what you can do, and what you can’t. I think the lowest hanging fruit is when somebody gets caught up with the law with their pants down and it becomes a big story and then all of a sudden everybody is talking about that person. I just think that’s a bullshit way. It’s comes from that adage that there is no such thing as bad news. That’s bullshit! Because as a grown man I don’t want people to know certain things about me. It ain’t none of their business. When does the way I shit on the bowl become part of my marketing plan? That’s bullshit [laughs].

TRHH: Is that society or is that Hip-Hop?

Chuck D: Well Hip-Hop is a part of society. Society is like that and Hip-Hop comes out of that just like a thumb out of the hand. Hip-Hop is culture and culture is a reflection of how certain things are, even if the culture is secure. This is something I think Hip-Hop can reach out to fix. I’m not even dissing but what makes Kim Kardashian “Kim Kardashian”? Nobody knows really. But we know how she ended up. That’s not enough for the average person to look upon and say it’s going to work for them. You’ve got to be clear about your craft and clear about your art and explain what it is. That’s important.

TRHH: I want to go back to Ice Cube’s AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted. Was there any extra pressure to deliver on that record that was different from a PE album by it being Cube’s first solo record?

Chuck D: Yeah, of course. It was the pressure to be able to deliver something that we’re going to deliver from our camp that’s going to make somebody in the west think we can’t do that. We had to make Dre and Eazy say, “Damn, okay. That shit is good.” We wasn’t playing around with our reputation and we really had to deal with Ice Cube’s reputation going back to his guys. We didn’t want N.W.A. to break up either. We thought Ice Cube could make this record and go back to N.W.A. but it wasn’t to be. The only reason Ice Cube came to us was because he said Dre and Eazy didn’t have enough time for his solo record. The only reason that Ice Cube felt that he had to get it out in a hurry was because he felt he wasn’t being compensated in N.W.A. like Dre and Eazy who had some ownership in it. He had the permission from Priority and Bryan Turner to be able to record and do his own solo album. He just needed somebody to help him so he could actually get paid too. That’s how that happened. He ain’t ever really looked back because he puts together movies with the same detail, vigor and aplomb that he puts together his music.

TRHH: When people talk about the greatest Hip-Hop producers you always hear the names Dr. Dre, DJ Premier, and Pete Rock. What is the Bomb Squad’s place in Hip-Hop history? There were a lot of records like stuff from Slick Rick and Doug E. Fresh that the Bomb Squad produced that people don’t know about.

Chuck D: The big difference with Hank Shocklee and the Bomb Squad was we dared to make records that people would hate. We would twist it until they ended up loving it. We never really looked to see if anybody would love our shit. We ain’t never make a move for popular things — at least that’s the Public Enemy program. Even Ice Cube took a page for himself as a persona by making the record “The Nigga You Love to Hate”. I remember Eric Sadler saying, “How is somebody going to talk about how much they’re hated?” [Laughs] But that’s all people talk about nowadays. Not how much they’re loved, but how much people hate ‘em. Nobody hates you. Nobody knows you enough to hate you!

TRHH: That’s true. How did the Bomb Squad’s production change when the Biz Markie thing happened and sampling laws changed?

Chuck D: It changed it a bit because people looked closer. They built departments at record companies that would reject certain sounds they thought they heard. But we were good at disguising and we got by with whatever, it’s just we couldn’t be obvious in any particular part of a production. The Bomb Squad sound started to change when boards became automated. Because that allowed one person to go in there and deal with an engineer with automation. Before that it would be five of us on a board making a mix. It’s easy to say that we made records with noise but the noise had to be sonically mixed and correct or you lose the record. Hank made all those mixes. That was an important aspect of Hank Shocklee’s production – not just hearing it in the beginning, but really hearing it in the end. Hearing it in the end is all you got. You gotta make sense of all that mess. We all would come up and say, “This is an arrangement but it’s gotta come out like glass in the end.”

TRHH: It’s impossible to have a favorite Public Enemy song. You guys are like The Beatles, there are so many great songs. But gun to my head I’d say ‘Can’t Truss It’. The video was incredible too. I remember seeing you guys on that tour and you lynched the Klansman….

Chuck D: I’ll tell you the story about the lynching of the Klansman. We wanted to do that in 1988 with Run-DMC. It was us, Run-DMC, EPMD, Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, and J.J. Fad. I remember being at the Philly Spectrum and it wasn’t a heated discussion it was more of a philosophical difference. I wanted to hang the Klan in our set and Jam Master Jay was like, “Nah, y’all can’t do it.” I was like, “But yo, this is our set,” and he said, “But this is our tour.” [Laughs] Jay is my man. He was really a dude in charge and I love him to death, man. It really straightened me out ‘cause Jay said, “Y’all do it on your tour!” which was two years later. I wanted to hang ‘em in 1988 and Jay’s explanation was, “We’re going to be going to places like Albany, Georgia where you have people who are in the Klan. They could be people that work in the arena or with the crew and they could just not really hang a light right and a light stanchion will come down on your head. You gotta be weary of that and we don’t want to be part of being a part of a casualty. At the end of the day we got assigned to this. This is the Run’s House tour, make no mistake about it.” I was like, “Yeah you’re right, I guess,” [laughs]. If anything we miss Jam Master Jay for his leadership and humility more than anything, man.

TRHH: That was the tour for the second album. It’s the one tour I didn’t see you guys on. I had a buddy who went and he said that you guys stole the show.

Chuck D: The whole key of performing that we learned from Run-DMC was it’s not about the individual act. It’s about how people came in the beginning and how they went out at the end. We were one show – one show! We weren’t five shows in one, we were one show. Everybody supported each other. They had another rap tour going on at the same time and none of the rappers got along with each other. Our tour was wonderful. A tour that I couldn’t check out a year before because we were on tour with LL was Run-DMC and the Beastie Boys. When people ask me what do I think about Hip-Hop today versus back then, the thing I miss the most is very cohesive touring where you came in the door and left more excited than when you came in. I don’t think today’s acts leave that because I don’t think that’s emphasized. I know when you came into a Hip-Hop tour in the late 80s you left better than you came in as a fan.

TRHH: I can say that I’ve experienced that and I was very young at the time. The only time I didn’t experience that was the N.W.A./Too $hort tour. That was not a good feeling.

Chuck D: Yeah, things spiraled out of hand when you started going into the area of harder-core. My philosophy was you had to mix it up. If you don’t mix it up you just got something without sugar in it. If it’s green tea without sugar in it you can drink it because you know it’s good for you. But that shit was whiskey [laughs]. It’ll get you high for a second and it might get you in a fight, but that shit was whiskey. You gotta mix up the packages. When Public Enemy went out in 1990 it was us, Heavy D, Kid N’ Play, Digital Underground, and then there was a hardcore group here and there. We had to roll with the mixed packages. When I played harder-core packages with Sisters of Mercy or later on with Anthrax then we’d let people know that this is the real deal, we’re playing hardcore shit now.

TRHH: Speaking of touring, a couple years ago you did the Kings of the Mic tour with you guys, LL, Ice Cube, and De La…

Chuck D: Oh the tour that everybody wished would go away and never would have happened? That tour hard zero coverage by BET and zero coverage by urban radio. It kind of wished that it never happened and we wanted to make a statement. LL, Ice Cube, and De La Soul are about the best that you will ever see. We wanted to roll out with a deep package and make a statement. I’m telling you from beginning to end LL was smashing them every night and they just tried to pretend that he wasn’t. What I mean by the media is your Hip-Hop blogs and your Hip-Hop conversations. I don’t think there was a better tour. LL was so despondent after because he didn’t get that he accomplished something great by the areas that are supposed to take care of Hip-Hop. He felt that they overlooked him and I thought that they did too.

What LL Cool J presented to the table, I’ve never seen a rapper command equally those aspects of Hip-Hop and Rap music where he has a large contingent of women getting a real rap song, not one with an R&B singer, and then being able to come back with a song that dudes will nod their head to, and do it for an hour and be ready for more! Who is keeping score here? Who got the scorecard, man [laughs]? It’s like, “I ain’t heard from L in a while,” You ain’t hear nothing? And you ain’t gotta hear 5 cuts, all you gotta do is hear 1 at a time. He’s got a song now that’s on our charts. It’s LL Cool J so he’s going to give you an hour or two of great entertainment. Z-Trip was incredible. To me it was like going to camp in the summer. It was like going to a barbecue. I drove half that tour. I would take the bus sometimes, I’d rent a car and drive through Michigan – I had a ball. Public Enemy just completed our 100th tour which was a date in Sao Paulo, Brazil in front of 50,000 people in a park. I’ve been on 100 of ‘em man and I’ll tell you, that tour was special.

Part 2 of Chuck D: The Black in Man

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Brian Coleman: Check the Technique

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Photo courtesy of Mary Galli

Photo courtesy of Mary Galli

Stories in Hip-Hop are rarely told correctly. They most certainly aren’t often told in detail. Author Brian Coleman has gone above and beyond the call of duty to give rap fans some insight into some of the genres most important creations. Beginning in 2005 with ‘Rakim Told Me’ Coleman compiled the most important information from some of Hip-Hop’s greatest albums by the people that made it happen.

Coleman’s latest look into some of Hip-Hop’s best albums, ‘Check the Technique Volume 2: More Liner Notes For Hip-Hop Junkies’ carries on the tradition that he started nearly a decade ago.

Check the Technique Volume 2 gives a detailed glimpse into several classic albums including Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, Ice Cube’s AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted, Black Sheep’s A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing, Mos Def & Talib Kweli’s Black Star, and DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince’s He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper to name a few.

Brian Coleman spoke to The Real Hip-Hop about the start of his love affair with Hip-Hop, his all-time favorite Hip-Hop album, and his new book, Check the Technique Volume 2.

TRHH: Let’s start from the top, how did you get into Hip-Hop?

Brian Coleman: That’s a very complicated question. I grew up all over the northeast – New Jersey, Massachusetts, and I was born in New York. I wasn’t born in New York City, I was born on the other end of the state in Rochester. I kind of always been around the northeast. From a young age I was always a big music fan. I listened to the Fat Boys and Run-DMC back when they hit in 83-84. I was only 13 or 14 so I wasn’t really that sophisticated of a listener so I didn’t realize there were different kinds of music. It was all just music to me. I was listening to The Police, Van Halen, and a bunch of different shit. I think my love affair with Hip-Hop was more like 86-87. I definitely remember very clearly hearing Miuzi Weighs A Ton from Public Enemy’s first record and just being like, “What the fuck!? This is crazy!” From that point on that was it.

I was fortunate enough in high school in the late 80s in central New Jersey I could get in KISS 98.7 so I listened to Red Alert. Red is a man that influenced millions of people through that radio show and I was one of them. I used to listen religiously every week to what he was doing. That was really all you needed. I wasn’t seeing a lot of live stuff back in that era. I was going to a lot of Punk shows. What the crossover was for me was I felt that same energy from golden era Hip-Hop and Punk. Some people think it’s weird, but I didn’t think it was weird at all. It made perfect sense to me. From there I gradually went from being just a fan to doing a radio show in the mid-90s in Boston. I’ve been in Boston since like 1988. I did a radio show where I went to college at Boston College and I kind of started writing. It was a gradual thing. Writing books about any kind of music, Hip-Hop especially, was never really my life-long goal. It was a natural progression and it just kind of happened. It’s all been very random and beautiful.

TRHH: What inspired you to write the first book, Rakim Told Me?

Brian Coleman: I was writing for a lot of magazines at the time. I was getting kind of frustrated with the word count that some of these spots were giving me to cover some of these old school guys. To be fair, it wasn’t very sexy to do a huge feature on Dana Dane or even Slick Rick back in 2003. That was the least sexy thing you could do if you were writing for a magazine. That was my passion and that’s what I wanted to do. I was fascinated by these back stories when I started talking to these guys. Really it grew almost directly out of me being annoyed and frustrated with the way the magazines were. Keep in mind this was before the blog world even existed, so that wasn’t an option. I think if the internet was where it’s at now or even 5 years ago back in 2005 I probably would have just started a blog. I might not have decided to print up that first book. It wasn’t an option. I put that book out almost as like a fanzine on steroids. I wanted it to be out there.

I’ve always valued books. I like magazines –they’re fine and I respect them. I actually like fanzines more than magazine’s because they’re more from the heart. They don’t have these slick ads and there is no real agenda. There is no back door shit like, “Well they took out $10,000 in ads so we better feature their artist.” Fanzines are more my style, which is from the heart and spazzing out over music you love. That’s really what Rakim Told Me was. I took a bit of a risk in that it was not destined to succeed and guaranteed that people were really going to like this shit. I felt it was worth a shot. I got a designer who is a friend of mine and I figured out a little about how to get stuff printed for a fairly decent amount of money. I just did it. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. I had friends at Traffic Entertainment who are still my boys to this day and they’re distributing the new book, too. They helped me get out in record stores and that was really the key.

My philosophy has been that this book doesn’t live in book stores. This book is for record stores. That was really the crux of it really. It’s not like no one had ever thought of this before but I just said, “Getting it in Barnes & Noble and Borders and all that shit is probably not going to happen.” First of all they don’t give a shit about Hip-Hop and second they don’t give a shit about books that are independently published. That was okay with me because I knew it was a book about music and a book that should live in record stores and they bought it. As much as I dislike Amazon, Amazon and a bunch of incredible indie book stores bought it. It sold a decent number and that confirmed what I always knew which was, I wanna know this shit so I do it on my own, for very selfish purposes, but I know there are tons of people out there who want to know the exact same stuff and feel the exact same way about this music. That’s really it in a nutshell.

TRHH: How is Check the Technique Volume 2 different from Volume 1?

Brian Coleman: From what it’s about at its very core there is no difference. It’s about wanting to know everything you could possibly know about your favorite records. It’s different albums, it’s a bigger book, it looks better, but at its core it’s the same exact thing. But, that being said this is 9 years down the road and I’ve figured out some things. I had some time to put into this and do some lengthy interviews with a lot of different people. I’ve been very fortunate in that I’ve been able to get access kind of building on the success of the other two books. So it helps that I can send the previous books to people I want to interview so they can see what I’m trying to do and they can make their own decision on whether they want to take part or not – generally they do.

Visually I think it looks pretty amazing. I’m proud of it. My designer James Blackwell crushed it. It has over 350 images in the book. I think it helps to break up the texts because there is a ridiculous amount of texts. It can make you go blind just reading straight texts. It also kind of draws you in even more as you make your way through the chapters. I’ve always hated when you have all the images in the middle of the book and you have to go back and forth. That’s stupid to me. I can’t imagine why you would do that. I know why people do it, I just think it’s idiotic. They do it because it’s super to have everything on that glossy paper in the middle. But people who do that shit don’t think about the reading experience because it’s a horrible reading experience. I wanted to do it my way – the way I would want to read it. That’s really the big difference.

I think a lot of people are kind of shocked that it’s a self-published book because it looks so good and I love that. It makes me proud. It makes me proud for myself and it makes me proud for anyone who self-publishes a book because you don’t have to wait for people’s permission to let you publish books. If you’re energized by something, just do it. That’s what Hip-Hop is. What’s more Hip-Hop than that? What’s more Punk Rock than that? Schoolly D wasn’t like, “Will you please let me put my music out?” It was like, fuck that, I’m doing this shit if you like it or not. The world is a better place because he did. Just think of all the people that he influenced. If he’d waited around begging people for a record deal he might have just given up. Luckily he believed in it and did it. That’s what Kool Herc did and that’s what Grandmaster Flash did with their art. That’s what it’s all about.

TRHH: How long did it take to complete this book?

Brian Coleman: I mean it’s a difficult question to answer. I can tell you that the intense work that I did on this book was probably about 9 months to a year. Some of the interviews were older interviews, but not many of them in this book. I kind of supplemented them with tons of more interviews. For instance people have asked me how I got Doom on the phone, but I’ve been sitting on this Doom interview for 13 years. But there are other interviews in that chapter that I did a year ago. The Doom interview that I did in 2001 was dope, but it wasn’t enough to do a full chapter. I’m pretty proud of this list. I always tell people, “I think it’s about 50,” of albums I’ve covered in these books but it’s actually 66 in all three books. I’m pretty proud of that.

TRHH: What albums did you try to do for the book that just didn’t materialize?

Brian Coleman: I generally don’t like to talk about the ones that don’t happen because these books are about what does happen, not what doesn’t happen. I’ll say that there are definitely a lot of artists that I wish I could have covered. Queen Latifah is one who her handlers just constantly block me from getting to her. Dre is another example. Here is the one thing I’ll say because I’m not going to talk anymore about stuff I didn’t do because there are so many that I have done, every artist that I do talk to seems to really enjoy doing these interviews. If I can get to the artist in an ideal world it’s never a problem.

Some people surround themselves with people who are meant to keep guys like me away from them. Because I’m not going to sell their next movie, their next talk show, or next TV series. It’s something that the artist would enjoy but from a business perspective it’s not really going to help their current box office career or sell more headphones or whatever. Their job is to keep people like me away because they’re trying to monetize every second of these peoples day. That’s sad, that’s too bad. Sometimes if you’re Will Smith that’s the way your life has gone. I don’t think Will Smith is losing sleep because he’s not in that chapter. It’s too bad for fans, and I’m one of those fans. It’s still a dope chapter so I don’t lose any sleep over it either.

TRHH: What was the most surprising thing you discovered during the process?

Brian Coleman: There’s a lot. Surprising is relative I suppose. Something can be surprising without being super dramatic. A lot of this shit is kind of hidden in plain sight. If you have an early copy of the first known album from DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince. People knew Rock the House, but it wasn’t a ridiculous smash. I’m taking about He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper. There’s a sticker on the front of it that says “And plus bonus scratch album”. That was Hip-Hop’s first double album. The reason was is because it actually started as a solo DJ Jazzy Jeff scratch album that would have been the first turntablist album ever made. You can look at that record now and think, “Wow, that’s crazy!” There really is no DJ presence on ‘Parents Just Don’t Understand’ so it’s almost two albums that have been mushed together. Most of the heavier DJ cuts are toward the end. That’s a perfect example.

You already love a certain record and subconsciously don’t think you can love it anymore or be more attached to it, but then you learn shit and are like, “Wow.” Kool G Rap almost died before they made Wanted: Dead or Alive. He was in the hospital and people thought he was going to die. I’d never heard that one before. It was new to me. He came back from that and was stronger than ever. He even said, “People joke with me that they put a microchip in my brain in the hospital.” Guys can look back on that shit and laugh but it was not a laughing matter at the time, I can tell you that. So basically there are revelations like that in every chapter and that’s the beauty of it. Some of them are minor and some of them are major.

With the Dr. Octagon album you may love it and think, “Wow, they must have been in the lab for about six months crafting this crazy record,” but they didn’t record for more than a week. That was a record that was put together fairly quickly. Not that it’s sonically this glistening record like The Chronic or some shit, but that was kind of the point. If you read what Dan the Automator was talking about he was trying to do the anti-Dre record and shake Hip-Hop up — the same thing with El-P and Company Flow. Those are the guys that I’m drawn to. The people that want to shake the tree a little bit and wake people up and let them know Hip-Hop doesn’t have to be a certain way. Dan the Automator makes an interesting comment in the intro of the chapter. He says, “People say that the sun rose and set with DJ Premier and Dr. Dre and that just wasn’t the case.” That doesn’t mean that he doesn’t love and respect Dr. Dre and Premier, because he does. You can tell because any producer that comes after them will do so. He was just saying that Hip-Hop is more than what they offer. That was more about fans than those artists. It’s reminding fans that there was Public Enemy back in the day but there was also Biz Markie. Things don’t have to be one way and that’s the beauty of music.

People say, “What is Hip-Hop?” and how do I answer that? You’d need a week for me to talk about all the different shit that Hip-Hop is. There is so much under this tent that Hip-Hop is and that’s the beauty of it. Most people like it all. Most people aren’t like, “I only listen to Public Enemy and X Clan and that’s it!” No they listen to all kinds of goofy shit, serious stuff, and R&B shit. I don’t know anyone that listens to one certain kind of music and one specific type of Hip-Hop. Everybody likes a wide range of it and that’s what these books are all about really. You have Too $hort, Company Flow, Public Enemy, and X Clan and that’s a beautiful thing.

TRHH: One thing that surprised me was with Ice Cube’s AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted. I did not know how big of an impact that Sir Jinx and Eric “Vietnam” Sadler had on the creation of that album. That really surprised me. Talk a little about the AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted chapter.

Brian Coleman: That may be one of the examples of the one thing that is really the motif that goes across every single album I cover and that’s that making art is not easy. It’s never just one person. There are always a lot of different people involved. Emcees can influence producers even if they don’t co-produce. The Bomb Squad was a complicated enough group on its own making a Public Enemy record or a Son of Bazerk record. Adding Cube, Jinx, and the Lench Mob to the mix and it was penciled to be a total shit show. It could have been chaos, everyone clashing, and all these egos, but it wasn’t. That was kind of the beauty of it. Jinx was brought in originally because he and Cube had a history together making music – both as emcees and having Jinx produce. Jinx was really brought there to make sure, and both Cube and Jinx agree, solely to make sure it didn’t end up sounding too east coast. They wanted to keep L.A. in there. Jinx was a dope producer and the Bomb Squad wasn’t always around so there was down time. Jinx would fuck with stuff a little bit to see what happened. It’s not like you couldn’t erase it or use some other shit.

That’s really what happened, it was the dawning of Sir Jinx as a top-level producer. It happened very naturally. Like Cube said it wasn’t like, “Fuck the Bomb Squad, Jinx is going to produce some songs here.” Jinx could have said, “Hey, this shit sounds east coast,” and The Bomb Squad who was literally ruling the world then could have said, “Who the fuck are you? Shut up.” But they respected Cube and Jinx so it was a give and take. That’s really when the best art happens — that’s really what that album is all about. It can be a very volitive mixture to mix the sounds, aesthetics and sounds like the west coast and east coast, which are very different. And also to mix egos and personalities. AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted is a triumph of mixing both of those together and coming up with something amazing. That’s the back story but on its face that’s just a fucking dope record. You can listen to it and it makes sense. I can hear how it’s a Bomb Squad record and I can hear how it’s a Cube record. It’s not one or the other. It was the only Bomb Squad/Cube record. It was a one-time thing and that also can be very powerful as well.

TRHH: In the final chapter you cover Wild Style. When people think of Hip-Hop albums they don’t think of the Wild Style soundtrack, but it’s an important movie…

Brian Coleman: The interesting thing about that one is it’s not even the soundtrack. It’s the break beats that were never even released as an album until this year. Originally I’d done a version of those for the liner notes for this package that Kenny Dope did on his KD label. My chapter looks different but I added a bunch of stuff from what they did so it’s a little bit different. To answer your question, the Wild Style soundtrack is ridiculously underrated in the impact it’s had. That album was out there and a lot of people to this day bump that shit all the time. That’s really the shit. It’s the essence. Krush Groove was Krush Groove. It wasn’t, “Wow, I feel like I’m in the middle of this shit!” It was a Hollywood version of what Hip-Hop was. Wild Style is the New York version of what Hip-Hop was. That was the real fuckin’ deal. There are some parts of it that makes you raise your eyebrows like the Patti Astor stuff. Those live sequences is as real as its ever gotten.

Tell me a movie where people have actually captured a more realistic version of what live Hip-Hop is? That was 35 years ago – that says something right there. Me babbling about all that stuff is to say the break beats were the actual DNA of that whole movie. That’s what they used for the live sequences on stage when Busy Bee was rockin’, Double Trouble, and Cold Crush Brothers. That’s what they used and that story has never been told – ever. That’s important to me. People have talked about Ice Cube’s AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted before, maybe not as in depth as I have and maybe in different ways, but no one has ever fucked with the Wild Style break beats. That’s kind of what happens. I’ve already covered De La Soul, Ice-T, Eric B & Rakim, Run-DMC, irrefutable classics. So when you get to the third volume you can really start stretching out and I can say, “You might not consider this a classic but once you read it you might think differently.” That’s the luxury I’ve had this time around. Keep in mind too that I’m also my editor, so I can do what the fuck I want [laughs]. Whether people like it or not.

I’m not lecturing you on it but I’m saying, “Maybe check this out you and might think a little bit differently about Wild Style and you might like it even more the next time you watch that movie.” The same with Dr. Octagon. That might not be on their list of the best Hip-Hop albums ever made and that’s fair enough. I can tell you that once you read this chapter you’re going to appreciate it more – there is no way you can’t. With all these chapters it tells you about the process that goes into it. No one ever knows about the process. You can talk all you want about the hit single that came after they’ve done all this work to make it, but I’ve always been more interested in the shit that I don’t know. I know ‘O.P.P.’ was a big hit, OK, got it. It was a great video, people love it, but how did that song come about? That’s kind of a crazy song. That’s what I’ve always been more interested in.

TRHH: Have people told you that your book introduced them to certain albums?

Brian Coleman: Introduced? Sometimes. Just last week somebody told me that they always loved the Jazzy Jeff and Fresh Prince album but kind of put it away 15 years ago and hadn’t thought about it. They said, “As soon as I read that chapter I was like, ‘Shit, man I love this album.’” Or conversely someone will say, “I never heard of this Dr. Octagon thing before. I know Ice Cube and Naughty by Nature, but I went and listened to it and bought it on iTunes and it’s great shit!” The books are supposed to be gateway drugs for people to get into shit. If they come in knowing half the albums or more, but they learn 2-or-3 or 10, they learn more about groups that they’d heard about in the past but maybe didn’t pay attention, maybe they heard the single but never bought the full album, that’s the best thing that can happen in my view. It’s kind of why I make the books as long as I do. You may not know every one of these albums and you may not give a shit about every one of these albums, but hopefully there is enough that going in if you only read the ones that you know you’ll still get your money’s worth. The other shit is just bonus.

TRHH: What are your top 5 Hip-Hop albums of all-time?

Brian Coleman: Oh jeez. I don’t do lists. I think it kinds of paints you into too much of a corner when you do lists. I’ll tell you my number one and that’s Public Enemy’s It Takes A Nation of Millions [To Hold Us Back], hands down. That’s the best Hip-Hop album ever made. No one will ever top it – ever! I don’t care if it’s 50 years from now you won’t top that record. I’d put that as my number one. You can look at my books and I love all those records. I don’t see the point in debating what’s the top 5, 15, or 20 albums ever made because it’s all personal taste. If someone loves a certain artist I don’t say, “You’re an idiot.” A lot of people will look at my taste and be like, “What the hell is the matter with you?”

I listen to crazy shit, man, believe me. I listen to stuff way beyond Hip-Hop that people would be like, “Shit, dude.” If people really knew all the stuff I listened to my street cred would be right into the toilet. I’m proud of it because the producers that people love don’t listen to just Hip-Hop, they listen to everything. They listen to Madonna, Lorde, and all the shit that’s out there because you have to do that to be a great producer. Your ears have to be wide open to everything, not just Hip-Hop. That’s the way I live. I think that it’s tempting to do a top whatever list, but I’d rather just talk about albums I love rather than trying to rank a bunch of shit. I understand why people do them, but I try to leave it to other people to do that. PE is definitely number one and it will never be dethroned.

TRHH Why do you say never?

Brian Coleman: I just don’t see how it’s possible. Maybe I’m wrong, you’re right [laughs]. Maybe that is foolish of me to say in the same way that you could be like, “I never thought I could be more into ‘3 Feet High and Rising’ and then I read your chapter and was like, ‘holy shit’. I never realized all that shit and it made me like it even more!” You’re right, it could happen. But when that album hit I bought it on the day it came out and I had the highest expectations you could possibly have and they were all just destroyed. They were blown out of the water. It was 400 times better than I even thought it would be. The tidal wave that it created after it happened, I mean Straight Outta Compton wouldn’t have sounded anything like it sounded without Nation of Millions. Think about all the shit that Straight Outta Compton influenced. It’s crazy to think about the tidal wave. There was so much stuff that came before Nation of Millions that was dope. It took all of that and put it in a blender and injected some kind of nuclear plutonium into it and made it into a giant crazy beast that was better than you could ever expect. I hope someone makes an album that’s better than that in 10 or 50 years, but I don’t see how it’s possible.

TRHH: Why is this the last installment of Check the Technique?

Brian Coleman: Just to be clear, it’s not my last book hopefully, but it’s the last one in this series. I just feel like the albums that are really dear to me personally, because that’s what these books are – they aren’t me telling the book reader what the best albums of all-time are, I wanted to know more about them and now you also know more about them. That’s really what the books are. That being said, there are still some outlying records that I love that I could cover. I don’t feel like a fourth volume in a series would have as much meat in it. It would be like Run-DMC’s first record that has several tracks that are filler. It would be a shorter book. It would be weird for me to do a 200 page book after doing two 500 page books. Finally, going back to something that we talked about earlier in the interview, there are some artists that I tried to get for three books in a row and they’re just not fuckin’ with me. I’m kind of tired of that too. I tried. I tried for 9 years to get you on the fucking phone and clearly there’s something that says you don’t want to do this book.

I don’t take it personally with any of this shit. It’s the handlers, it’s not the artists. Cube has got better things to do than to talk to me, and I understand that. It doesn’t offend me in the least. I do consider it an honor that he looked at all his options of shit he could have done and said, “I wanna talk to this dude.” For every time I get rebuffed from someone I say, “Chuck D didn’t mind talking to me. Ice Cube didn’t mind talking to me. Some people that I idolize found it as a valuable way to spend an hour or two of their time.” I feel good about it. I feel good about everything. I do want to do more books, I just don’t feel like doing another one in this series. I wouldn’t be as fired up about it. That’s my requirement; I have to be fired up about some shit to do it. Believe me, I’m not buying my lake house with profits from this book [laughs]. This is a passion thing. All of the books are passion things. Even when I was on Random House I wasn’t making any money. If I’m not ramped up about it, it’s not going to happen.

Purchase: Check the Technique Volume 2: More Liner Notes For Hip-Hop Junkies

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