SigNif: Friction

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Photo courtesy of Dunn Deal PR

Photo courtesy of Dunn Deal PR

Born in Milwaukee, and now residing in New York SigNif is an emcee that carefully balances sharing her opinions in her music with just plain old having fun. Her sound is immersed in East Coast boom bap, while her rhymes are reminders that she’s from the Midwest. SigNif recently dropped her third full-length album on the Intelligent Dummies label titled, “Friction”.

Friction features appearances by Elzhi, Sadat X, Aldrick, Genesis Renji, Shaun Bake, and Emmy Wildwood. The album is produced by Skeff Anselm, JBM Beatz, DJ Puerto Roc, Fate, Radio Raheim, Tay Lee, D-ski the Illeagle, DJ Enygm, Tivon “Symphony” Jeffers, and Moteleola.

The Real Hip-Hop chatted with SigNif about her move from Milwaukee to New York City, her opinion on the term “femcee”, and her new album, Friction.

TRHH: Why’d you name the new album ‘Friction’?

SigNif: I named the new album Friction because to me it was just fitting given the obstacles that I had over the last 5-6 years doing Hip-Hop. I just wanted to touch on those issues that I had. I know it kind of comes off as negative when you think “friction” but I wanted to play on that title and address the issues I was having throughout the years being a female emcee, me dealing with so much opposition and people not taking me seriously. That’s kind of where the name Friction stems from.

TRHH: The opposition that you’ve dealt with seems like negative friction to me.

SigNif: Yeah, it is because still to this day it’s hard to get people to listen to the album. It’s already an obstacle for artists with no co-sign or nothing behind them so it’s like, “Why should I listen to this and on top of that you’re a female emcee so why should I give this the time of day?” A lot of times people prejudge it before they listen to it or they might look at the package and say, “Nah, I don’t think so.” So it’s like you’re met already with all this aggression. I thought the name was just fitting because there’s been so many ups and downs with me doing music. I stopped for a period of time even with this album. It’s been close to two years since I put out my last project and I was battling if I was going to continue doing music.

TRHH: So what made you keep going?

SigNif: I got a spark of energy because the top of 2013 I was invited to France to tour. The tour kicked off in the summer of 2013 and I went to France for a 5-6 city tour. It gave me a spark and made me feel like people do care and people are listening. Maybe it’s not the right crowd I thought I was trying to gauge my music to or maybe it’s not hitting the right people that I wanted to touch, but somebody is listening and somebody cares. That really gave me a spark so I started putting the project together two months before I went to France to tour. That spun the actual title track, ‘Friction’ and I wrote ‘Beautiful’ and ‘Late Night Jazz’. That was something that I went to the studio to record so we could shoot a video while I was over there.

TRHH: What was the inspiration behind ‘Late Night Jazz’?

SigNif: Shout out to Radio Raheim who produced it. I have a song called ‘Afternoon Jazz’ that I put on my first LP that I released independently called ‘The Transition’. That song has that jazzy, 90s Hip-Hop feel so it reminded me of that song. There is a second part to that where on the third verse of that song I’m paying homage to some of the jazz greats, which I did the same thing for Afternoon Jazz. It just gave me that vibe so I wanted to play into that pocket. That’s where the inspiration came for that song. I never planned to write a second part to Afternoon Jazz. It was just the perfect timing. You can almost say that Radio Raheem set the events into play by sending me the right track at the right time.

TRHH: How is Friction different from Significant Wizdom II: Atypical?

SigNif: I would say it’s kind of on the same plane in my mind, but I took a step back and actually thought about how I wanted to present this album. I wanted it to touch more people and I wanted to present it in a way that was relatable and maybe not so “in your face” so to speak. I wanted to still be user-friendly but draw people in so they could get the message. I took my time with this. The project has been done for many months. After it was done I went into how I was going to market it. I took a step back and looked at everything I did previously and decided what I wanted to do different. The sound is the same, the message is the same, but I thought about how I wanted to get it out more.

TRHH: How’d the collaboration with Elzhi, ‘Play 2 Win’ come about?

SigNif: Oh, man that was totally random. At the beginning of the process I came up with the idea to only work with female emcees and female vocalists. I wanted to show that unity that’s not shown in Hip-Hop. When women are presented in the forefront of the mainstream and underground they kind of stand alone and don’t unify with other women unless it benefits both of them. I collaborated with female vocalists but when it came to female emcees a few people that I had relationships with gave me the OK that things were going to fall into place and they didn’t. I had to kind of regroup and think about what I wanted to do.

The producer for that track, JBM (Beatz) said, “Why don’t we reach out to Elzhi?” We started a list and after the females got scratched I came up with another list with a couple of names. Elzhi was not on the list but he knew Elzhi is one of my favorite emcees. I thought there was no way it would happen. JBM nudged me in that direction. We reached out and his camp was down for it. We sent the music over, he listened to it, and came back with a verse that tied into not only what we asked him to do but it tied into my previous work so you could tell he did his research. Elzhi doesn’t give half-assed verses anyway. Everything he does is legit. For him to take that further step and say things that tied into things that I’ve done previously was like, okay. He was the most notable name on the list. I had a couple other contacts and we went back and forth but those situations didn’t come into fruition, which is okay. We didn’t really expect it and low and behold he came through and knocked the joint out and it was effortless.

TRHH: What led to your move from Milwaukee to New York?

SigNif: I was flying out a few times a year working on music. I had a little bit of an opportunity that seemed promising. I thought if all of this was happening from me flying out a few times a year and I was taking meetings and things like that, then maybe I should move so I can be there all the time. For better or worse it didn’t work out like I planned it to workout but I’m glad I made the move. Music brought me here and it’s still why I’m here today. I came on a wing and a prayer pretty much with no family and no place to stay. I ended up being homeless for a while but it was the best decision I’ve ever made.

TRHH: Homeless? How did you get by?

SigNif: [Laughs] Yeah, like I said, I had no family and I had one friend here and his situation wasn’t that good. I ended up sleeping in a shelter for 3 months. It was bad, but when you’re like 21-22 you don’t care – whatever I have to do to make it. I was still doing music and what I had to do but the end result of it was I was sleeping in a shelter. It was a sacrifice and I don’t regret it.

TRHH: What inspired the song ‘You’re Beautiful’?

SigNif: That song is produced by Tay Lee. He’s a longtime collaborator. I always liked the song, “You are so beautiful to me,” and I thought it was the best song ever written because it’s the same four lines to the whole song – a lot of people don’t know that. For many years that song has been in the back of my head. When I got that beat I just kept saying, “You’re beautiful, ya, ya, you’re beautiful.” I don’t know if that seed had been planted for years and years, but when I got that beat it kind of struck a chord in me. Like, I love this song so much I need to talk about what beautiful is to me. I laid the chorus and had Aldrick sing the chorus over it before I finished the verses. When I went back and wrote the verses I thought about what beautiful was to me and what my mom told me made me beautiful. I didn’t know it was going to be such an inspirational song. I didn’t sit down and plan to write something for little girls and young women to be uplifting but that’s the way it turned out. I’m extremely happy it did. It was the beat and the sound of the track – I liked the way it felt and that’s how it flowed out.

TRHH: Where do you stand on the term “femcee” or just being labeled a female emcee?

SigNif: Actually I’m the only emcee that’s a female that doesn’t have a problem with the term. This is America, everything is gender-based. That’s the way the world works. I don’t care about a term because I’ve never been placed on a pedestal for being a female emcee. I don’t have anybody behind me and it’s just my brand and me pushing it, so when people do take the time out to listen they’re actually into it because of me. They aren’t thinking gender-based. So when they’re passing it along or writing a review they aren’t focusing on the point that I’m a female emcee. That’s why it never bothered me. I can understand why it bothers other female emcees because when they are given props people always throw that in there, “female emcee”. I actually don’t have a problem with the term though. It’s never been my main attraction. People are more focused on what I’m talking about, the show, or the lyrics. They might throw it in there that I’m a female but it’s not the headline or what they’re focusing on. I don’t feel any way about it. I know that’s what most female emcees want, they just want to be labeled as an emcee, but when I’m already getting love for being an emcee and my gender isn’t highlighted it’s already a plus for me. Plus I’m a woman first. I put that at the forefront of everything. I don’t mind it at all.

TRHH: How did you hook up with Skeff Anselm?

SigNif: Skeff was a mutual friend and it’s funny that it happened like that. Doing music and being in this industry people say, “I know so and so,” but Will our mutual friend said, “Skeff produced for Tribe and I’m going to tell him about you.” He told him and he checked out my stuff and we linked up. That’s pretty much how it went. Those stories never work out. That’s why Skeff is so important. He liked the music and he was down to be one of the producers on the project. He has so much knowledge and skill. We sat and talked for hours about him being on tour with Tribe when they first started – for a while he did the sound. It went beyond production and he ended up helping mix the whole album. This is the first time I got to take a backseat. I didn’t need to always be in the studio for the whole recording and mixing. I just focused on writing. He came in and took a lot of stuff off my shoulders. He helped me and showed me a lot of things. It’s a blessing to have him and I talk to him several times a week. We’ll be at an event and he’ll introduce me to people like, “This is Large Professor.” He’ll introduce me to people like it’s his next door neighbor or something [laughs]. It’s a blessing to have him on the team and we still have some more songs in the works.

TRHH: What do you hope to accomplish with Friction?

SigNif: I want each project to reach a little further for people that maybe have been sitting on the fence with me and aren’t sure if they should listen or people that have listened and are waiting for something to spark something in them. I want to keep reaching with each project. It’s not like I’m waiting to take over the Hip-Hop scene or be the next big thing or anything like that. I kind of want to keep it organic, even though that’s probably cliché to say right now. It’s still grassroots and I still want it to gravitate to people that say they’re looking for a little more substance or something that they can relate to. It’s something that’s homegrown and that’s what the plan was for this project.

Purchase: SigNif – Friction

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Fong-Sai-U: Ballads of a Massacre

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Photo courtesy of Dunn Deal PR

Photo courtesy of Dunn Deal PR

Emcee and producer Fong-Sai-U is trying to bring the griminess back to Hip-Hop. Raised in Washington D.C. and now residing in California, Fong-Sai-U came up in the game under true Hip-Hop heavyweights. Sai-U was mentored by Black Thought of the legendary Roots crew and the late Guru of Gangstarr. The golden era east coast sound is embedded in Sai-U’s DNA.

Hoping to give fans a much-needed dose of raw rap, Fong-Sai-U is preparing for the release of his second album titled, ‘Ballads of a Massacre’. The album is produced entirely by Fong-Sai-U and features appearances by Dice Raw, Scarface, and Guru. Ballads of a Massacre is slated to be released in the spring of 2015.

Fong-Sai-U spoke to The Real Hip-Hop about how he views his production, his relationships with Hip-Hop greats Black Thought and Guru, and his upcoming album, Ballads of a Massacre.

TRHH: Why’d you title the new album Ballads of a Massacre?

Fong-Sai-U: Everybody wanna be happy. All the rap music now is happy. Back in the days it wasn’t competition but it was more raw. Everybody had different styles and it was raw, but the music was like “snap your neck” music. I wanted to make an album where all the songs ain’t going to be battle rap but they’re going to be hard as hell. I felt like Ballads of a Massacre was a good title because lyrically I’m trying to slaughter it. I’m trying to take off heads and use my sword as much as I can. I’m not going at certain emcees, I’m just showing the raw side of things. You can’t really say my music is underground and you can’t say it’s mainstream, I’m just riding the fence.

TRHH: Did you produce the entire album?

Fong-Sai-U: Everything. Every single thing. I don’t really use outside producers much. I get people to send me beats and I listen to it and if it don’t stand up to my beats then I won’t use it. Most of the time they don’t. I’m not saying I’m the greatest producer but I want somebody to send me something better. If I can make it why would I take it from you?

TRHH: What beat-making equipment do you use?

Fong-Sai-U: I was on the MPC 2000XL for a long time and then I started using the Renaissance. I ain’t gonna lie it turned me out. I was one of those people that didn’t like software. I still don’t like software because I like to be able to pound my pads. I like hands-on stuff. I don’t really look at the computer. Most of the time I look at the screen on the Renaissance unless I want to send it to somebody or something.

TRHH: How is this album different from A Soldier’s Story?

Fong-Sai-U: A Soldier’s Story was rushed. It was a quick album and was really rushed. It’s me basically talking about life stuff, Hip-Hop, and the ghetto. It was topic-based but thrown together quick, that’s why it only had like 6-7 songs. I got a deal and they were rushing me to throw something out quick. They rushed me, I threw it out, and it didn’t really resonate. That’s why this album I wanted it to be 12-13 songs and bangers all the way through. A Soldier’s Story was 2011, it’s 2014 and throughout that period I’ve been producing this album.

When I make a beat I can’t rush to the studio and rap on it. I make so many beats I have to choose what beat is right for myself. I don’t have a crew or a team saying, “Yeah, put that on the album!” I have to be my crew and team. If I do a song and I don’t want to hear it more than one time I won’t use it. But if I do a song and I listen to it more than one time then I use it, because that’s how I want this album to be on every song. It ain’t no fast forwarding. You go to 1 then you got to 12 and that’s it. I didn’t want it to be all short. A Soldier’s story was cool but this is going to be one that people can feel and talk about.

TRHH: What inspired the single ‘Bad Guy’?

Fong-Sai-U: Oh man, truth! I heard that Jay-Z hook and I just had to go in on it. I just get tired of songs where everybody is drug dealing and everybody is ballin’. Everybody does something that really they’re not. I was ripping the song but at the same time I was trying to get a point across. Just ‘cause you take a Jay sample that don’t mean you gotta rap about cars and money. Every time you hear somebody use a Jay sample they’re rapping about the club or cars. It’s never on no Hip-Hop. If you think about it you can’t really find a Jay sample that somebody samples and rapped about Hip-Hop music. I ain’t never heard it, that’s why I used it. A lot of these cats is BS. I done did it all. Every song don’t have to be about the street or who you killin’. That’s just the times we’re in, but I refuse to lay down my mic and go to that level.

TRHH: You used to go by the name Divine, right?

Fong-Sai-U: Divine, that’s’ my attribute. I’m a five-percenter. I still go by Dvine. Fong-Sai-U is my emcee name. You gotta understand my background. I’ve been there with RZA and Mef in ’93, The Roots in ’92, and Guru from 2000 to when he passed. My travels in this music game has really been sick. I seen a lot of things. If I wanted to follow the leader then I probably would have been on, but I’m my own leader with my own team. I don’t believe in following people – I don’t care how cool we are. Most of the time when you’re signed to a rapper you ain’t gonna see the light of day and most of the time when he goes down you’re going to go down too.

Guru was the first person that put me out. I was with him on some crazy adventures. As a producer he took a chance on me and put me on Baldhead Slick when nobody else would take a chance on me. I met him on the Okayplayer tour. I really give him the credit. I was out there, but I wasn’t “out there”. I wasn’t on records.

TRHH: The new album has a verse from Guru on the song ‘What’s Real’. How long have you had that verse?

Fong-Sai-U: Man, we did it in 2001 or 2002 but nobody heard it my G. I held on to it. I didn’t know he was going to pass either. Guru went through a dark place before he died and he was secluded from a lot of people. It was just him and that wack nigga Solar. Nobody knew what was going on. This was for years until he passed. I held on to that verse for a minute, but when we did it, it was crazy because Ice-T was in there, Treach was in there — everybody was in there! That was the time when Guru was still drinking so it was a party in the studio. We did it in one take. I freestyled my part. I’m a battle emcee so I freestyle a lot. I’m not one of these dudes that says, “I go in the studio and do a whole album freestyle!” If I do it I ain’t gonna tell you and you ain’t gonna know. That’s the whole art of freestyling. I give much kudos to that dude because he taught me a lot – even though at that time he was wildin’.

TRHH: What did you learn from Guru?

Fong-Sai-U: Stuff like be patient. I was always trying to get on. The thing between me and him was I never asked him to put me on. That’s what I tell brothers, don’t meet an artist and be like, “I got a CD and bla bla bla,” don’t do that, man. It makes the turn away from you. If you’re going to be cool just kick it. If y’all become friends that’s that. If he’s going to put you on he’s going to put you on, on his own. Patience is a virtue in this game. That’s what I learned from him. Back then I was young so I was trying to get on anything at any time. It wasn’t happening so I was getting frustrated. He also taught me at his age to live your life ‘cause Guru was acting like he was 20. He was living his life. He was a kid at heart and he never let his age get to him. Those two things I took with me to this day.

On Reasonable Doubt Jay was getting up in his 30s – he wasn’t 21, he wasn’t 18. A lot of people think that this is an overnight game. Stuff happens on YouTube with these little dudes getting on but if you want classic material it ain’t no overnight game. You can’t wake up in the morning and have a classic album. Everybody screams “classic” but it be doo-doo. It don’t work that way. Everybody screams about Dre’s Detox and are mad at how long it’s taking but you gotta understand he takes his time. If you want classic material it takes years. Look at Prince. Patience is a key.

TRHH: Earlier you mentioned Solar, what do you make of the relationship that Guru had with him? It doesn’t make sense to anybody.

Fong-Sai-U: I met Solar one time man and I remember Guru told me, “He’s crazy, God.” It destroyed me when it all went down because somehow this nigga had a mind control thing on him, man. I know it wasn’t a secret because Guru wasn’t gay — it wasn’t none of that BS. To this day nobody knows. A lot of people don’t know that Guru wasn’t talking to anybody. He secluded himself. I think Solar went to Guru when he was in seclusion mode. He used the trust factor — he was the one to trust, he was the one to befriend, and fuck everybody else. He rolled with that and that’s how it all came about.

He stayed away from everybody and started producing a whole bunch of wack albums with Solar. Him and Premier didn’t talk for years before that. He secluded himself and Solar found a weakness. When you seclude yourself sometimes you’re going to need somebody, and that was that somebody. It was just a bad somebody. Everything that went down was terrible after he died. Dude produced a letter that Guru room didn’t even write. I bet you don’t hear about Solar now. You don’t hear peep.

TRHH: Was Solar responsible for help him to stop drinking?

Fong-Sai-U: No, man! No, that’s a lie. Guru stopped drinking before Solar. Guru was sober before Solar. He started working out before Solar. Solar just tried to take credit for something that he didn’t do. He was full of lies man. Ice-T and everybody wanted to beat him up. Ice new Guru from the beginning. Solar just came out of the blue with a whole bunch of lies. He wasn’t responsible for anything in that man’s life but devastation. That’s it. He destroyed that man. He made that man put out all these wack albums. Guru could have gotten back with Premier and banged out. Solar had that nigga talking bad about everybody. He put it in his head that Premier tried to get over and get money from him. Guru believed it. That’s how it all ended. If they could do a documentary on it, which they won’t, it would be a good one.

TRHH: You came up in the game under Black Thought of The Roots. What’s the best piece of advice he ever gave you about the music business?

Fong-Sai-U: When I met Black Thought I tried to battle him with a girl named Timber Red. This was like 1992. I was 15 or something. He took to it and liked my “umph”. From there every Roots show I would be at. From then on I was on the mic at every Roots show. I don’t care where they were. I would catch the bus and do whatever I had to do to get there. He took me on tour. That’s always going to be my older brother. Sometimes I get pissed at him and go off on him and he’ll laugh. I get emotional and all of that but that’s always going to be my big brother — to the death. Because he fought for me as far as going on tour when nobody else would. Me and ?uestlove wasn’t that cool but he vouched for me. He vouched for me a lot. So I wouldn’t say The Roots I’d say Black Thought. That’s somebody I would ride for.

He said, “When you go on stage you’ve only got five minutes. In those five minutes what are you going to say to make the crowd scream?” I’ve stayed with that the rest of my life. It’s true, when you go on stage you have five minutes to say something to make that crowd go off. If you can’t make them go off it’s a done deal, period. They don’t know who you are or where you’re coming from. All I had was five minutes every time I got on stage. I did a song with Jaguar and then I would do The Lesson. If you don’t have anything to say in five minutes to make the crowd go crazy then it’s done. That’s the key. He’s on the Tonight Show now so the last time I talked to him was a couple of months ago. We talk off and on but he’s mad busy trying to act and stuff like that. Sometimes I talk to him for advice and sometimes I shout out to make sure he’s cool. People grow up. Back then we were young and wildin’ out. Somewhere you have to come to a pause. Everybody is grown up and doing their thing. That’s like my brother. Me and Dice Raw knew each other from the same page. The same time I was around was when they were trying to put Dice Raw on. That’s why I have a song with Dice on my album.

TRHH: Who is ‘Ballads of Massacre’ for?

Fong-Sai-U: That’s a good question. It’s for everybody, man. I’ve got a joint with Res that I haven’t dropped yet. That’s my next single. I’ve got a joint you’d think Drumma Boy produced it. It’s for everybody. Some of the backpackers really don’t feel my stuff that much. I’m not talking real underground stuff that you can’t understand. I’m talking about stuff that anybody could listen to and understand it. It’s really for everybody.

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A Conversation with MC Lyte

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Photo courtesy of MAC Media Promo

Photo courtesy of MAC Media Promo

Every conversation about the best female emcees begins with MC Lyte. Lyte is the first female artist to release a solo album with 1988’s Lyte as a Rock. Her music has influenced every female rapper to ever pick up a microphone over the last 25 years. MC Lyte is Hip-Hop royalty.

The last ten years of Lyte’s career have been focused on other things besides rap. The L-Y-T-E spent a good amount of time in Hollywood doing voice over work, deejaying, and starting the Hip Hop Sisters Network – a non-profit foundation that promotes positive images of women of ethnic diversity.

During the last decade Lyte has blessed fans with an occasional appetizer to feed their cravings for her music, but now they’re about to be served the main course. Lyte is gearing up for the release of her eighth solo album slated to drop at the beginning of 2015. Lyte released the singles Cravin’, Ball, and Dear John in preparation for what’s certain to be another dope chapter in the MC Lyte book.

The Real Hip-Hop spoke to MC Lyte about working with Common for the single ‘Dear John’, the importance of Audio Two in her music career, her favorite album that she’s ever done, and her new album dropping in 2015.

TRHH: I saw you perform at the AAHH! Fest. What was that experience like for you?

MC Lyte: Oh man, it was emotional [laughs]! It was a beautiful occasion. I’m very honored to be asked to participate in that festival because they could have chosen anybody. Chicago happens to be a great city for me in terms of the love that they show and the support that they give. As a matter of fact I’m performing there on December 7th at the Arie Crown. They always show up, show out, and really represent for me. It felt really good.

TRHH: That festival was created by Common and you worked with him on the single ‘Dear John’. Talk about how that collaboration came about.

MC Lyte: Oh goodness, well after the song was done with my lyrics it had three verses on it. We felt like it needed a man on there to represent and talk to the men as well. When you talk about the subject matter and the tone of the song it felt like there was no one else to get but him. I went after him and said, “Come on, we gotta do this!” We’ve recorded before so it wasn’t our first collaboration. It’s certainly been a long time between the first one and this one so I’m happy that he was able to represent.

TRHH: Dear John is also the theme song for the Educate Our Men scholarship. How’d you get involved with that?

MC Lyte: We have an organization called Hip Hop Sisters. People can find out more information at HipHopSisters.org. Since its inception we’ve been able to give out two $100,000 scholarships each year. This year we decided to switch it up a little bit. We went and visited the president over at Dillard University and he talked about the shortage of young men on campus. We asked what we could do and we decided to start Educate Our Men simply because we wanted to drive numbers to HBCU’s. The first one is Dillard University for 2015. For 2016 and years to come we’ll be able to provide supplemental scholarships to men attending those different schools as well.

TRHH: I follow you on Twitter and your tweets are always positive and motivational. What is it important for you to share your thoughts with the world? Even in your last three singles the messages have been uplifting or have had a good vibe.

MC Lyte: Well I’m all about a good vibe [laughs]. I’m just wanting to provide something different in the midst of all that’s happening. It’s just really reflective of who I am as a person. It feels right in time and in step with who I am. Now is the time that everyone hears it because I’ve been able to garner attention by other means – through speaking, performing, hosting, and deejaying. Now that I have everyone’s attention it just makes sense to say what it is I want to say, and that happens to be something positive. I’m moving!

TRHH: Going back to the beginning, what impact did Milk and Giz have on your early career?

MC Lyte: Oh goodness, they are the reason! They produced the very first song, second song, and the album along with King of Chill. They were the ones who pretty much put the MC Lyte sound together. Also when it came to a record deal, the record company wasn’t really interested in a female emcee. Management said if you want Audio Two you have to have MC Lyte – this is a package. Initially that was how I wound up signed to a major record label. Somewhere in there they realized I wasn’t all that bad [laughs]. I was somebody good to have on the roster. We went from there and I wound up being with that label for 13 years.

TRHH: You reunited with some old friends at the BET Hip Hop Awards recently. What was that experience like for you?

MC Lyte: It was great. It’s been 20 years since we’ve all been on the stage performing that song. We’re certainly friends and we talk to one another all the time, but to actually get up on the stage and perform that song it was magical. Also to be included in the BET Hip Hop Awards, which is usually a male domination presentation, it felt good to be amidst what is considered current and give a golden era performance. It was great.

TRHH: Tell me about the new single, ‘Ball’.

MC Lyte: Well it’s featuring Lil’ Mama. She brings some youthfulness and some young energy to an already energetic song. It just seemed like the right match to be able to have a platform where we could show her skills, and it’s also true meets new. True School meeting New School and it just felt right in the studio. Once I dropped my lyrics and I had that second verse I knew automatically who I wanted on it – it was her. She came to the studio, wrote her lyrics, went in the booth and smashed it. When it came time for the video she brought the energy. She’s a dancer and she was able to do the choreography and add everything to the video. It made it a nice presentation.

TRHH: What will fans get if they download the MC Lyte app?

MC Lyte: Who knows? [Laughs] You’ll get the tour schedule. It’s a pretty generic app, however it does give the information that’s vital to an MC Lyte fan. That’s where I’m going to be, the latest photos, latest videos, and the latest MC Lyte music that you’re able to stream and also download.

TRHH: What is MC Lyte’s favorite MC Lyte album?

MC Lyte: Hmmm. Hmmm. Hmmm! Wow. I guess my favorite would either be the first or the second. The reason why is I wasn’t really thinking about it, I just did it. It wasn’t until I got completely in the music business that I took into consideration all of the politics and how it’s so important to be on the charts and on the radio. All of those things take effect and you start skewing things to satisfy those demands. Whereas with the first two I just did what I felt and didn’t think two things about it.

TRHH: I would go with those first two as well. It’s tough to choose between the first two. Kickin’ 4 Brooklyn is probably my all-time favorite Lyte song though.

MC Lyte: Yeah, that’s funny. The thing is, those rhymes were written already. I just sat in sessions with both Audio Two and King of Chill individually and they sort of built the music around what I had already written so it was pretty easy. I have favorite songs that occurred later like ‘TRG (The Rap Game)’ that I did with Jermaine Dupri on the Bad as I Wanna B. record ‘Cold Rock a Party’ was huge for me. It was fun and I liked the collaborative effort with Missy. It allowed us to perform in various places as well. ‘Keep On, Keepin’ On’ was great as well. There were songs after it like ‘Poor Georgie’, but when you talk about full albums with one to two producers – I like thematic projects where one producer can kind of do the whole thing, I’m fond of those two.

TRHH: What can fans expect to hear on the new album?

MC Lyte: The truth [laughs]. The truth and me and all the different sides. The many dimensions of what living life is really like and not this one dynamic that we’re seeing a lot today. There are emcees out there who let you know who they are and wear their hearts on their sleeves and want to be seen. I respect that take. For me that’s what this album is. Once again it’s new and true. It’s new with the sound that’s happening today and ‘Ball’ is reflective of that. ‘Dear John’ is part of the true aspect of the record – taking it back to true school, organic instrumentations and elements that people are accustomed to hearing MC Lyte rock to. We have guests on the record – Mama, Common, Faith Evans, Coko from SWV, Mario, and Kenny Lattimore. I chose people who are actually my friends. I know them and I can just call them and they come through without hesitation, “I got you Lyte!” It’s a really good record, I’m excited!

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Hasan Salaam: Life in Black & White

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Photo courtesy of Tarrice Love

Photo courtesy of Tarrice Love

There’s nothing black and white about New Jersey emcee Hasan Salaam. From his music, to his activism, to his role as an educator, Hasan Salaam is colorful. One of the most passionate rappers in the game, Salaam’s enthusiasm exudes in his speech and when he spits. His inclination to inform caught the ear of Executive Vice President of Viper Records, Immortal Technique and led to Salaam signing a deal with the label.

Hasan Salaam’s first solo effort on Viper Records is the recently released full-length album, Life in Black & White.

Life in Black & White features appearances by Immortal Technique, Hezekiah, Kendal Good, Maya Azucena and Drue Davis. The project is produced by Hezekiah, Snowgoons, DJ Static, Denny Carson, Remot, dj INSITE, Craig Rip, Beatnick Dee, Crossbone T, Southpaw, and Douglas G. Simpson and Kareem Knight of the Aqua League.

Hasan Salaam spoke to The Real Hip-Hop about joining Viper Records, his opinion on American’s racial tension following the murder of Mike Brown in Ferguson, MO, and his new album, Life in Black & White.

TRHH: Explain the title of the new album, Life in Black & White.

Hasan Salaam: I’ve always been into Black & White photography. It forces you to look at all the gray area in life and that’s really what this album is about – not getting stuck into boxes, not letting people label you, or try to fit you into their limited world view. I don’t want to be ruled by anybody else’s limitations because I see myself having none. It’s also just a play on things. My mother is African-American and my father is Caucasian so growing up and dealing with race in American in this quote unquote post-racial society we deal with a whole lot of racist bullshit that shows me that it’s not post-racial anything.

TRHH: I agree with that. How did you wind up signing with Immortal Technique and Viper Records?

Hasan Salaam: I’ve known Tech for a while. Him and Poison Pen are like big brothers to me. He asked me to be a part of Viper and be a part of the Rebel Army. He wanted to put out this album and it’s just been grinding and working to get it done since then.

TRHH: How’d the single ‘Jericho’ come about?

Hasan Salaam: I was on an album by Range Da Messenger that was actually produced by Hezekiah. Range was just like, “Yo, y’all two need to work!” I looked up all the amazing joints that Hez has produced and he’s crazy. His beats are amazing. I reached out and wound up getting two tracks for the record. One is another song called ‘Unorganized Religion’. For ‘Jericho’ he already had the hook on it and everything. As soon as I heard it I knew what I was writing to it. I knew exactly who I wanted to speak to and what I wanted to speak on. I played the record for Tech and he wasn’t sure about the beat because the beat is real different. I just kept telling him, “Nah, this is it. This is the one.” Once he put his bars to it and heard himself back and how dope that shit sounded he was like, “Word, that’s the one.” It’s interesting to me how he heard the “wall” part and built off of that. I just heard the “fuck how you feel about me” part and built off of that. It just came together really well.

TRHH: Earlier you mentioned race, I’ve heard a lot of people say that the Mike Brown incident in St. Louis has nothing to do with race. What’s your opinion on that?

Hasan Salaam: I think those people are completely delusional. I think that we do not see teenage Caucasians in this country getting gunned down in the street for anything. If you’re talking about the Mike Brown situation and they’re saying that he stole some blunt wraps from the store that still is not a crime punishable by death in this country even if you’re found guilty and convicted of it. It has to do with race because black life is not valued here. It’s not valued when we’re alive, it’s not valued when we go through life, it’s not valued at all. This country built itself on our blood and it still profits from our blood.

You can get into each case individually whether it be Mike Brown, Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant, neither of these gentleman were in a position that they should have been killed, especially Trayvon Martin. He stands out more because Zimmerman was not a police officer for one, and two he’s celebrated like a national hero to some people now. The same thing with Michael Brown and Trayvon with them having marijuana in their system, marijuana is legal in certain parts of the country. In other parts of the country it’s not, fine, but it’s also not something that’s punishable by death. It’s something they use to spin that Mike Brown and Trayvon were some kind of crazy, psycho super thugs or something like that. The word “thug” has really replaced the word “nigger” in how they describe us. There’s already certain connotations that pop into their head when they say “young black teenage thug”. It’s the way everything is sold and everything is spun. If race didn’t matter they wouldn’t call out what your race is when they’re on the APB. If race didn’t matter there wouldn’t be only young black and brown men and women getting killed by the police because white people commit just as many crimes. In situations like the gunman in Colorado, he had a gun, he killed people, and they just apprehended him. There are so many cases that fall along the same line.

In the song I mention two people, Phillip Pannell and Jelani Manigault. Those were two people I knew as a kid that were murdered by police In Jersey. They were both from one of the towns I grew up in called Teaneck, New Jersey. In both of their cases no cop was ever sent to jail. I was ten years old when Phillip Pannell was killed and it’s something that stood out in my life as something that showed me the world that we live in and what’s it like to be a man of color in this world. He was shot in the back by an officer that claimed that he pulled a gun on him. Forensics found that he was shot with his hands up surrendering and they still didn’t send that cop to jail. That was in 1990 and twenty years later it’s the same thing. Mehserle shot Oscar Grant in the head while he was cuffed, on the ground, and not resisting arrest. He shot him in the head in front of mad witnesses and he got a year in jail. To me that shows that there is no value for black life at all. You’re going to get a slap on the wrist if you kill one of these little black kids. There won’t be a real punishment. You’ll get desk duty.

TRHH: What do you make of these people who were murdered by police being shot in the head? Is that police protocol?

Hasan Salaam: Absolutely not. I don’t know why they send the police to the gun range to work on having some sort of sharp shooting skill if they’re always shooting to kill. They tell them that they’re supposed to shoot in the leg or somewhere else to disarm somebody. In the case of Oscar Grant he was cuffed and on the ground. There was no reason to even pull your gun on him at that point. In the Trayvon Martin case we’re talking about a citizen. We’re not even talking about someone in law enforcement and the police already told him, “Do not pursue.” He had every right to be there. He was going to see his family.

In these cases and situations it’s the verdicts that are rendered afterward because it’s like, yeah, it’s okay to do that. When you think about these officers who are just going straight to lethal force, what is their training for? Someone posted a really good post that said, “If you’re given a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail to you at some point.” The police officers are not from our community. They come in with some idea of what black people are like. They might not have come up in communities where they grew up with black people or have been in a black person’s house other than for a call to the police. So they have these particular perceptions and when they leave in the morning they have these sayings like, “Don’t get captured.” You’re not in an enemy zone, you’re in your own country and we’re not your enemy. It’s been proven time and time again that they’re an enemy to us.

TRHH: I think a lot of these racists don’t even view African-American’s as citizens. This is their country, we’re just kind of here.

Hasan Salaam: Absolutely. You see that in people still trying to prove that Obama’s birth certificate is a fraud. He wouldn’t be the fuckin’ President if he wasn’t from this country. That’s why y’all didn’t get to run Arnold Schwarzenegger. It’s really ridiculous that it’s still at a point that people can’t get past race. You look at groups like the Klan or the Tea Party who have all these things to say, but we didn’t do anything to you. Y’all forced us to come here, and since we’ve been here we’ve done every single thing within the means of your laws and regulations. We march peacefully, we’ve worked to become a part of society in all different ways, shapes, forms, and fashions legally. It’s hard as hell to be a president. Think of all the sacrifices Obama had to make. I didn’t vote for him and I don’t agree with everything that he does, but I do recognize how hard it was for him to get there. And at the same time you still have people who think that we’re the worst thing on this planet and the worst thing for this country. This country wouldn’t have been built without us. It’s fear. If we did rise up we’d be completely justified. Their revolution was fought over less – taxes — not brutality, not being slaves, not being the victims of genocide. And we’re still peaceful and cool about it.

TRHH: Getting off the serious stuff, I didn’t know you were involved in the adult industry until I saw it on HipHopDX. How’d you get involved in that?

Hasan Salaam: I’ve actually been involved in that industry longer than the music industry. I’ve been writing and doing music ever since I was shorty, like 10-11 years old, but actually putting out music took a little bit longer. I used to be a real wild kid. My mother could only take so much so at a certain point she kicked me out. I needed to eat, I needed to live and I had a homegirl who reached out to me. She was dancing in Philly at the time and she was like, “Yo, these people want me to be in a magazine and I need another dude ‘cause I don’t want no random guy all in my face.” Me and her had messed around. I did it and made like $300-$400 for like two hours of work. Some people I know went away to college, but everybody else I know was either working a shit job or hustling. At the time I was selling weed and I was like, “I don’t have to worry about getting arrested, I don’t have to deal with police, and I get to be around women!” That sounds way better [laughs]. That was my first introduction to it. I had to put a roof over my head. At the time I was bouncing from spot to spot and staying in hotels so I needed bread.

TRHH: Since you’re Muslim do you see porn as conflicting with your faith?

Hasan Salaam: What I did when I was younger is a lot different than what I do now. What I do now is more about education. I try to bring couples together to have better relationships and make better love with each other. I help individuals to help them love themselves. I don’t’ see sex as a bad thing. Everybody has their own idea of who, what, when, where, and how you should have sex. I don’t tell anybody what is and what isn’t. I feel like if what I do helps people and it’s good, then it’s good for me. I think a lot of times when people think “adult entertainment” they think, “Oh my God, it’s going to be the worst most degrading thing in the world.” I personally believe it doesn’t have to be that way.

I believe that sex is a beautiful thing and if people want to watch, that’s a fetish that some people have. If people want to be watched, that’s a fetish that some people such as myself do have. I think a lot of times people speak about homosexual’s coming out of the closet, but a lot of straight people as well keep their stuff in the closet, which is a detriment to themselves. Everybody has their thing, everybody is into something. If you keep it hidden and lash out at other people that you see having fun then it’s a detriment to yourself. Having sex is one of the most revolutionary things you can do in my opinion. Being able to love yourself and your partner is a revolutionary idea in these days and times because everybody seems to be filled with hate.

TRHH: The song ‘Father’s Day’ is really heavy and personal. Did your family hear it and if so what did they think?

Hasan Salaam: I played it for my mother. My mother’s first reaction was, “You took it easy on him.” There was a lot of stuff that I didn’t put in the song because I didn’t want to go into certain things. Her second reaction was, “Are you sure you’re going to put this out?” We had a discussion about it. To me, my music is honest. It’s never not going to be honest. However I feel, whatever is on my mind, what I’ve experienced is going to be what it is. I’m not going to pull punches, I’m not going to go off on some other zone. I know a lot of people who grew up without a father. I know some people that grew up with great, amazing fathers, so I feel that the whole spectrum should be spoken about.

At the end of the day Allah tells you to honor your mother and father and I wouldn’t be here without my father. He might have only taught me one thing, but that one thing has helped me out in life. Some of the terrible things he’s said and done is part of life. It’s made me into who I am today. If it wasn’t for that who knows if me and you would be talking right now? It is what it is. One of my biggest influences is Bruce Lee and he said, “Honest self-expression is the best expression.” It took me a year to write the song because certain things I just couldn’t get out. I had to come back to it to help me work through certain problems that me and him had. Since then he and I speak every 4-5 months and it’s easier to have that conversation because of the song.

TRHH: Will you play the song for him?

Hasan Salaam: I mean we’ve had the actual conversation that the song was. I’d play it for him but he probably wouldn’t want to hear the shit [laughs]. I don’t know, to be honest with you he’s just not a Hip-Hop person. It’s funny, he straight up told me when I was a kid that I wouldn’t be shit. I’ve known that I wanted to make music since I was a baby almost. I told him and he said, “You’ll never be shit if that’s what you do.” At the same time I actually took care of him when he was really sick and I wound up having all of my CD Baby and ASCAP checks go to his house for a while after I wasn’t there anymore like, “Yeah, I ain’t gon’ be shit? Fuck you. Hold my check,” [laughs]. It’s such a complex situation. It’s hard a question to answer honestly. Would I play it for him? Possibly if we’re in the right setting I’d say, “Check this song, it’s talking about you.” He might hear somebody else play it – I don’t know. I know when he hears it he’s going to know exactly what I’m talking about on every line. To me that’s what makes it a song that every time I hear it, it stirs up something in me and a lot of people I’ve played it for it stirs up something in them — people that I know with and without fathers.

TRHH: Who is Life in Black & White for?

Hasan Salaam: Everybody. Even though I name colors in the title it’s an album that’s’ colorless. The gray area is what will bind people together as we move forward as human beings. If we don’t confront the race issues that I speak about on this album we’ll all destroy ourselves at some point. I don’t think that white people should be offended. I don’t think they should be afraid of the album. I don’t think that people who aren’t black or white won’t relate to the things that are on there either. It’s an album that deals with life and life is full of so many vibrant colors. Sometimes we overlook all the beautiful things in the world because we focus on one thing. We focus on the things that we dislike or our differences instead of the things that bring us together. That’s what the album is about. I got a song on there called ‘Savor the Moment’ and it’s about two of the best days of my life. One day was beating a case in court and the other day was an Easter brunch with my family. Who doesn’t enjoy spending time with family no matter your race, color, creed, or religion? It don’t really matter. We all love our families, and that’s the point. We’re all one family – the human family.

Purchase: Hasan Salaam – Life in Black & White

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A-Villa: Carry on Tradition

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Photo courtesy of Andrew Zeiter

Photo courtesy of Andrew Zeiter

Chicago producer A-Villa pulled off the impossible. During his infancy in beat-making, Villa honed his craft while simultaneously politicking with some of the best and brightest artists in Hip-Hop. Over a 4-year span A-Villa worked tirelessly to create his debut album, ‘Carry on Tradition’.

An ode to that old “boom bap” Carry on Tradition isn’t a walk down memory lane, it’s more of a look into the future with features from some of rap music’s future superstars.

Carry on Tradition features an all-star cast of performers that includes Action Bronson, Roc Marciano, Willie The Kid, Kool G Rap, Noreaga, Twone Gabz, Rapper Big Pooh, Mikkey Halsted, Cormega, Killer Mike, Lil’ Fame, Ras Kass, Guilty Simpson, Skyzoo, Fashawn, Elzhi, Freddie Gibbs, Naledge, Vic Spencer, Blu, Reks, Chaundon, Joell Ortiz, Scheme, Big K.R.I.T., Inspectah Deck, Termanology, Sean Price, Oh No, Joe Budden, Saigon, Jon Connor, BJ The Chicago Kid, AZ, Freeway, Havoc, Macie Stewart, and Rapsody.

The Real Hip-Hop spoke to A-Villa about his beat-making techniques, his new album, Carry on Tradition, and why his first album will also be his last.

TRHH: How did you manage to pull off this album with so many dope guest appearances?

A-Villa: It was really just three-plus years of networking in the music industry. It was doing groundwork, going to as many concerts as I could, trying to get backstage, go to meet and greets, social networking, e-mails, and texts. I was just building contacts through the years and trying to get myself introduced to artists who I’m a fan of and really just playing the odds. Usually on the first meeting it was just me introducing myself, telling my story quick fast and what I’m trying to do with the music. Hopefully I’d meet them again when they come around on tour – sometimes artists pop in the city 2-3 times a year. I finally got the music in their hands and obviously the music spoke for itself. I kind of built it like that.

TRHH: I’ve been seeing you at shows for maybe 15 years or more and I never knew you made beats.

A-Villa: [Laughs] Yeah, yeah. It’s crazy. You bring up a good point. I just started out as a fan of music, obviously in the Hip-Hop genre. I never pursued music. I never even made music back then. When you say 15 years ago it was just a dream then. It wasn’t nothing I was pursuing or thinking about it. It was not until 2010 that I was finally motivated and pushed to do it. It was from the ground up learning how to make beats. I bought my first MP[C] in March or April of 2010. I just started competing in beat battles like a month later. I won my first beat competition at Reggie’s. It was a Mikkey Halsted event. I was battling cats that kind of had placements at the time. I got a favorable response and realized I had something and I really went full throttle and pursued it.

TRHH: What beat-making equipment do you use right now?

A-Villa: Maschine, man. Maschine is my baby. It has been for a few years now. I really jumped off the MP quick fast and jumped into Maschine. I mastered it right away. I’m comfortable with it – the whole Native Instruments. I always laugh and say they owe me a check because I’ve been screaming out “Maschine” for the longest. Domingo from New York, another legendary producer, me and him always been talking Maschine for years and putting other producers on it. I introduced it to Pete Rock personally. I was like, “Pete this is it. This is the future,” and he was like, “Nah, nah I’m still with MP,” so I really couldn’t pull his arm on that. Maschine is really my center console for my production among other things like keyboards. I like to implement live instrumentation into my music as well. I like to play my drums, record drums, and program ‘em after the fact. I like to use horns, guitars, and bass lines. All those things I try to mix together with sample chops as well.

TRHH: Do you play those instruments or do you hire musicians?

A-Villa: I play a little bit of keys. I play a lot of drums on this album and program them after. I play bass lines, and I did the guitar – just a few licks. I had Nico “Donnie Trumpet” Segal formerly of Kids These Days play the horns on a couple songs. I had another one of my buddies play some bass lines. Ninety-five percent of the sounds on the album are from me.

TRHH: Explain the title of the project, Carry on Tradition.

A-Villa: Obviously that’s from the AZ line from the Nas song ‘Life’s A Bitch’. How it works with this is a couple things — from a music standpoint just being a fan of the golden era of Hip-Hop music – the late 80s and early 90s. Coming up in that era is what really drove me to pursue music eventually. I’m not necessarily trying to bring that sound back. You got the new heads all the time saying, “Oh, you’re trying to bring the old school back,” but it’s not like that at all. What I’m really trying to do with my music is sustain and maintain the integrity of the music that was being made then. I think it got kind of lost along the way.

I’m just trying to bring that feeling back of a full album experience. You and myself looked forward to every Tuesday and buying that new album, the tape, CD, or the vinyl. We’d bust it open and read the liner notes and listen to the music. It was a whole full-on experience and I wanted to introduce that to this new generation that’s about quick fast music — iTunes, and Spotify. I’m not necessarily knocking that because everybody listens to the music differently, but I wanted to offer an alternative option. The album is available on CD, vinyl, and digital so they’re going to have that option. It’s really bridging the gap with new artists, popular artists, and the legends of the game. It’s people that you and myself came up on. You’re going to hear an album with Kool G Rap who is a legend and somebody that I look up to. That was my Jay-Z or Nas when I was coming up. Having him on the album with a popular artist like a Big K.R.I.T. that’s newer and more popular to this generation is something different.

On this compilation you won’t have the same three or four rappers rapping on the same song. My idea was to flip it and have an artist like Big K.R.I.T. on a song with Inspectah Deck. It’s something you wouldn’t normally hear and it might sound crazy on paper but it works. It works because they’re both just talented emcees at the end of the day. It’s just true artists making good music so it don’t really matter what generation you come from or where you come from, it’s all about good music at the end of the day and that’s what it is. On a personal level I just became a new father. The whole tradition of just passing on everything to that next generation, this is my gift to my daughter. My daughter is on the album cover and she plays an important role in it and she’s actually featured on the last song. I dedicated it to her, it’s called ‘Never Give You Up (One for Ava) and it has Rapsody, Guilty Simpson, myself, and her. It’s a song that ties up the whole journey of the album. She just represents the new chapter of my life and the next Hip-Hop generation. All those elements are tied together.

TRHH: The song ‘Live from the Villa’ is real hard. I’ve been waiting on somebody to bring those drums back and I’m glad you did. Talk about how that track came together.

A-Villa: I’ve always had that beat. I’ve actually used that beat in producer competitions and I always got the crowd moving. It’s a really hard beat. I was actually in the studio on separate occasions with Action Bronson, Roc Marciano, and Willie The Kid when they came to Chicago. I met Action Bronson through Dante Ross, the legendary A&R and producer in his own right. He was managing Action Bronson at the time and they were doing Closed Sessions, the label I’m affiliated with now. I kind of came in the studio, introduced myself, and started playing beats. It was the first beat I threw on and Action was like, “That’s the one!” He immediately started writing, jumped in there, and knocked it out. Even that night I was like, “Yo, this sounds crazy.” Before you even heard a joint with Action Bronson or Roc Marciano on it I was like, “Yo, I wanna put Roc on this.” It just sounds like something Roc Marciano would go off on. I sent it to Roc and I didn’t hear nothing from him. It wasn’t until Roc came to Chicago that he vibed with it and knocked it out. It was the same thing with Willie The Kid, he came into town and we knocked out that song and a couple of other songs. We did a song on the last Tony Touch album called ‘Power Cypher’. It was definitely an organic experience. It was no e-mail stuff. It was really just us in the studio bouncing off each other and it made a dope song. If you hear the album version it’s even deeper. The drums come in by themselves and it morphs into a beat box which is done by my man GQ the Teacher. He does the beat box and Chaundon starts rapping. It’s real dope.

TRHH: The song ‘A Day in the Life’ is incredible. The highlight of the song for me is having Macie Stewart on the hook. Talk about how this song came together and how her voice complemented the beat.

A-Villa: Yeah, man. I was inspired by the Raekown song ‘Heaven & Hell’ with Ghostface. Sonically I was trying to match that vibe with the production on here. I immediately thought about AZ when I heard it. I always wanted to work with him and I had a connection to him so we made that happen. I had the concept in mind of what I wanted it to be. Kind of like that hustler’s mentality and the struggle from the beginning to becoming a success, whether it’s in rap or anything else. I had wrote down a hook for it. It was originally for a male vocalist. I was working with BJ The Chicago Kid at the time, he sang on another song on the album, but I wrote it for him. I was a fan of Kids These Days at the time. I kept hearing this incredible vocalist from that group, of course it’s Macie Stewart. I invited her to the studio to kind of vibe with the music and the album. I played that record and she loved it. I showed her the lyrics that I had to it, she looked at what I wrote down and she did some scribbling on her own, and it’s what you hear today. She remixed what I wrote and put her own twist and talent on it and she made it a beautiful melody. It’s one of my favorite records. After that I met Havoc when he came to Chicago, the same with Freeway. Freeway jumped on it immediately because he wanted to be a part of something real special. He’s a huge fan of AZ and Havoc and it all came together like that.

TRHH: Who spit your favorite verse on the album?

A-Villa: Ooh, that’s a good question. It changes every time I hear the album. I like Sean Price’s verse. I like what Fashawn did. Willie The Kid spit an incredible verse and Freddie Gibbs. It really changes daily. These are not phoned in verses, which you kind of get sometimes with compilation projects. It was really like rap sport where they all were trying to out-do each other either in the studio or if I did have to send an e-mail to somebody they’d want to hear the other person’s verse and vice versa. I even had artists try to change their verse after the fact ‘cause they heard such and such’ s verse. They kind of prolonged the process of making the song. I get it, it’s a competition of emceeing but it made the song better.

TRHH: Why is ‘Carry on Tradition’ your last album?

A-Villa: Man, another good question. Really because it was a 3, almost 4-year process of my life. It was a lifetime dream of mine. Once I accomplished it, it was almost a sense of it being done. It was hard work and it took a lot of time. It was my blood, sweat, and tears. I put everything into it. Music wasn’t always something I was serious about as a career. I’m realistic, music doesn’t sell like it did back in our days. I have a career to fall back on. I did the opposite approach. I went to school, I graduated from college, and I became the Vice President of a bank. I built my career first and then I jumped to the dream. I’m not knocking young artists for jumping into the dream first, but there’s nothing wrong with doing it the way I did it too. I tell young artists all the time to have that plan A, B, C, and D prepared because nothing is promised, especially in the music industry.

Once I became a father that became my priority – raising my child and taking care of my family. I don’t think at this point in my life where I’m at I can make an album better than this. It took so long to do it and I really put my all into it. If you want to say it, it’s been a lifetime process in making this album. I just took all the elements that I gained just being a sponge and a fan of music and made it into what this is. I’m not saying I can’t make an album like this. If somebody wants to cut me a check and give me the time to do it, I’m not going to say never. I’m still going to make music, I still have side projects I’m working on, I have unreleased material, I have instrumental projects I can put out, and I have some major placements in the works. Music is still going to get made, but it may not be an A-Villa type album or a sequel to this album – but who knows?

Purchase: A-Villa – Carry on Tradition

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A Conversation with Apollo Brown & Ras Kass

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Photo courtesy of MAC Media Promo

Photo courtesy of MAC Media Promo

Merriam-Webster describes the word ‘blasphemy’ as “great disrespect shown to God or to something holy” but Apollo Brown and Ras Kass mean no disrespect to the creator with their new release. Blasphemy is a joint project by the Midwest producer and West Coast emcee that’s easily one of the best Hip-Hop albums of 2014.

Ras Kass and Apollo Brown masterfully mesh with each other’s styles to produce an album that’ll make listeners thinks, laugh, and bob their heads. Blasphemy is produced entirely by Apollo Brown and features guest appearances by Pharoahe Monch, Rakaa Iriscience, Royce Da 5’9″, Xzibit, Bishop Lamont, 4 Rax, Larina, Slaine, Sick Jacken, and Sean Price.

Apollo Brown and Ras Kass recently chatted with The Real Hip-Hop about the origins of their union, their new album, Blasphemy, and its importance in today’s Hip-Hop landscape.

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

Apollo Brown: Like I tell everybody I’m fortunate as a producer to work with artists that I’m a fan of. Me and Ras are obviously in the same industry and we work with a lot of the same people. We maybe have run in the same circles, but we never have crossed paths until now. I called him out of the blue one day and said, “Yo man, this is Apollo. We need to get together and we need to make some music.” Fortunately enough he knew who I was and was a fan of my work, just like I was a fan of his. I’ve been a fan of this man for years. We got together to make some music, and there you go.

Ras Kass: He could have said do a verse or some shit and I would have said, “I’m all in, let’s go.” Really for me it was the challenge of the ball being in my court now. I was like, “OK, this nigga gonna give me some hot ass beats, what the fuck am I going to do with this?” I like that fear, that nervousness of, yo man, I’m in a really good opportunity I can do something that we can both be proud of or I can fumble on the one. He took it 99 yards so what am I going to do [laughs]? I really feel like we did that and I’m very happy that people are receptive about it.

TRHH: Why’d you title the album Blasphemy?

Ras Kass: Blasphemy is a metaphor. The original title of the album was ‘How to Kill God’, which was still a metaphor. That’s the first song on the album. We’re made in the image and likeness of God, we’re all God’s creations so killing God is being evil, being a hater, being sexist, and being racist. Blasphemy on the flipside is the opposite spectrum of how to kill God. Blasphemy is the American flag, in God we trust on a dollar that some people will sell crack to their momma for, creating wars, droning people, that’s blasphemy. That’s why there’s duct tape on George Washington’s face. They’re both the same metaphors just envisioned differently.

Apollo Brown: We had placement issues with ‘How to Kill God’. It was a very abrasive title.

Ras Kass: It’s potato/potato. The song still exists.

Apollo Brown: Definitely. We still get our point across, so it’s all good.

Ras Kass: I believe in a supreme creator. I don’t want to get too far into my religious beliefs. I’m not trying to blaspheme the creator. I do have some issues that we fight and kill over a dollar and at the end of the day its Fiat money. Blasphemy and How to Kill God are pretty interchangeable conceptually. I’m not really trying to kill God and neither is it blasphemous. They are metaphors. I think it’s a lot deeper than the surface.

TRHH: I think the album in general is important because of everything you just said. I think it’s important to get people to listen. Fans of yours are going to listen to lyrics anyway, but it seems more multilayered than a lot of the shit that we’re hearing right now.

Ras Kass: Yeah.

Apollo Brown: I would say so, definitely. It provides the feeling that you need, it provides the concept, the political undertone, the religious undertone, and Ras Kass doing what he does best.

Ras Kass: And sonically it’s banging. You could pull the raps off and just listen to those beats. The production is A1. The challenge was to make sure we put the right hooks on stuff. Apollo produced it. He didn’t just make beats, he produced an album and I think it shows. I’m very happy with what we’ve done. It’s layered. It’s not just a bunch of raps over beats.

Apollo Brown: It’s definitely a full project. They are songs. You’ve got a lot of people out here that put words over beats, put it on a CD and call it an album. This is a production. This is a full-fledged album from front to back, top to bottom, that gives you everything that you need when you listen to this music.

TRHH: The intro of the album with the Spirit of Truth

Ras Kass: [Laughs] That’s Apollo, the whole concept.

TRHH: That shit was great, man. I loved it [laughs].

Apollo Brown: You know what’s funny, I’m a fan of the Spirit of Truth. I think he’s a funny guy and I think he speaks what he wants to speak when he wants to speak it. I’ve been a fan of this dude for years. I used to listen to him back in 2006. He used to blow my head, man. Let me pause that real quick, he didn’t blow my head…

TRHH: [Laughs].

Ras Kass: Whoa [laughs]!

Apollo Brown: But you know what I’m saying. Originally I had four different interludes that I was going to put on the album with the Spirit of Truth but I didn’t want to give people an overload of him. I think the way I did it was perfect. The intro was perfect. It set the mood to me. It was blasphemy. Everything he was saying was blasphemy.

Ras Kass: He’s me when I’m like 60. I’m probably going to be this guy at some point in my life. That shit was hilarious.

Apollo Brown: The way that he says things and puts certain words with certain words, who puts the word ‘fucking’ next to ‘God’? It’s so blasphemous the way he does that shit. It started off with a light mood and it runs into How to Kill God.

TRHH: That dude follows me on Twitter, which is one of my biggest victories in life [laughs]. He’s a funny motherfucker. He’s the shit. I love that guy. The funny shit about him is he really believes the shit that he says.

Apollo Brown: No doubt. He’s dead serious. He’s not playing or joking around. He is dead serious about that shit.

TRHH: He needs that show to come back on, man.

Ras Kass: He needs a cartoon. I’d watch that on Adult Swim any time. He’s awesome.

TRHH: Another interesting thing on the album is ‘Giraffe Pussy’ [laughs]. That’s got to be the most dope title of all-time. Who came up with that?

Ras Kass: Thank you! It’s an Xzibit hook. I use that phrase “higher than giraffe pussy”. If I was trolling on someone’s site and I saw something called giraffe pussy I’d go check it out. It’s just so fucking random. I’ve got to hear this. Who makes that song? What is this? It just worked out great. We had an interview with a female who was referencing the song and me and Apollo just started dying laughing. It’s just funny to hear other people say it.

Apollo Brown: Especially females when they’re like, “In your song Giraffe Pussy..”

Ras Kass: It’s awesome. It just makes me happy. I smile on the inside.

TRHH: [Laughs] You have to. Who thinks of giraffe pussy?

Ras Kass: No doubt and everybody dumbed out. Salute. I just want to thank everybody that was a part of it. Royce and Bishop, them niggas got it in.

Apollo Brown: No doubt. Hell yeah.

TRHH: Ras, did you approach this project differently from your previous albums? I don’t think you’ve done an album with just one producer.

Ras Kass: I haven’t. Everything is unique to me. Every time I go into conceptualizing where I want to go, sometimes I don’t know the direction at the beginning and this is kind of how it happened with me and Apollo. The cool thing is he wouldn’t overload me. He would send me four or five beats. Out of the first batch I might have picked four. A couple of weeks later he would give me another batch so it was really cool. I could process it, start to write, and then I’d figure out the concept. I approached it like I was getting an opportunity that I want. His production is A1; the nigga is a talented dude, so how do I complement that? He’s giving me his A-game. I’m not getting the throwaway shit so how do I make sure he doesn’t feel like he made a bad decision? Sometimes I have to scout around and say, “I kind of need a song like that,” but with one producer I can tell him the concept and he can create that for me. It’s dope.

TRHH: Apollo, how was working on this album different from doing an Ugly Heroes or The Left album?

Apollo Brown: The examples you gave are group albums so you’ve got a lot of different opinions going on. I approach every project and every album the same, but I do realize that I’m working with an artist that’s totally different from other artists. Every artist has their own walk of life, everybody walks a different path, everybody has their own plight, and everybody has their own thing that they want to say. I’m working with a professional; somebody who can get in the lab and do what he needs to do. I don’t have to babysit him. Like he said I’d send him four or five joints, and let him do his thing. Then I’d send him another four or five when he’s done with that. I don’t have to go to him and say, “So what did you write on that?” or “Why don’t you demo that out for me?” or “Why don’t you spit it over the phone real quick I want to hear it.” Nah I ain’t gotta do that. This is fuckin’ Ras Kass. I’m not going to babysit this man. I’m going to let him write what he wants to write and spit what he wants to spit. I feel as though the beats that I give him and anyone speak to you. Anything that I sent him spoke to him and urged him to speak back. What ever he spoke back that’s what Blasphemy is right here.

With my approach to making a record I’m very pro-getting in the studio with the artist. There are a lot of albums now that are made these days that are e-mail albums. With the way that technology is today it’s amazing that you can make an album via e-mail. That’s amazing, but myself, I can’t vibe with somebody over e-mail. We have to get in the studio together, we have to create this album, and we have to record this album. I want to see his face when I play this beat. I want him to see my face when he comes out from spitting that 16 out of the booth. When he comes out I’m like, “Woo, that was crazy!” Couple it together, mixed down, bounced out, and we’re listening to what we created and we’re vibing out together like, “This shit is going to be hot when it gets done.” You can’t do that over e-mail.

Ras Kass: And to me it’s little things. What if my internet is down? Here is an example, on one song my cadence went down. Do you remember that?

Apollo Brown: That was on ‘Please Don’t Let Me’, yeah.

Ras Kass: I hit a note because I heard it and I wanted it to go down. He was like, “Try it up,” because then it has more explanation because it’s going into the hook. That would’ve taken three days via e-mail.

Apollo Brown: When you get into the studio and vibe out with each other and its organic and natural you get to know the person you’re making the album with. It’s not just some old bullshit. You get to actually hang out. And I think everybody should want to. Why wouldn’t you want to get to know the person you’re sharing your craft with? I’m sharing my most intimate craft with you. This is what I do and this is who I am. This is how I live, these are my workings, and I’m sharing it with you. I want to on a personal level. You can’t do that over e-mail, you just can’t. The process is simple, easy, its organic, it’s very natural, and as far as I’m concerned it’s easy to make a classic.

Ras Kass: I was playing dominoes down stairs in my house in Carson. We were playing all types of CDs and I put my tape in. One of my friends was like, “Who is this?” I was like, “It’s me.” After the third song he was like, “Who the fuck is this?” I said, “It’s me,” and he was like, “Get the fuck outta here. My friend is the best rapper I’ve ever heard.” His name is Curtis Daniel. He owns Patchwerk Studios in Atlanta, which is a journey and a creation of me, Bob Whitfield, and Curtis. It was dope for him to call me today because he’s like my harshest critic. He loves me to death and believes in me but he called me today and said, “This shit sounds amazing!” That’s what I want to hear. That makes me happy.

TRHH: What inspired the single ‘Humble Pi’?

Ras Kass: There’s a movie by Darren Aronofsky called ‘Pi’. He did ‘Noah’, which is not really one of my favorites but he’s an ill dude. Basically the guy shows numerically how to reach God. He figures out the number and rabbis, men in black, and Muslims are trying to kidnap him. It’s an ill movie. Humble Pi was multilayered because a lot of times in rap there are elephants in the room. Not to be a hater but I pride myself in being sarcastic enough to tell a joke that’s really true about people. I’m not hating but I’m saying, “Hey bro, you probably shouldn’t put a Confederate flag on your clothes. Did you make so much money that you lost touch with the fact that they used to chop our dicks off and put them in our mouths and they would have picnics and then go to church?” That’s what happened. There’s pictures of it. They would bring their kids like a spectacle, hang a black man, cut his dick off, put it in his mouth, and you want to put that on your clothes? After you’ve made all this money? Somebody needs to tell you that’s not cool. If I have to be the one to tell you that’s not cool that’s just a pull up. That ain’t dissing. That’s pulling a brother up and saying, “Look man, get your money but that’s some wack shit.” Humble Pi is about that – the mathematics of God, and chill bro, some of that shit ain’t cool.

TRHH: Why is Blasphemy an important record in 2014?

Apollo Brown: It’s an important record in 2014 because it’s amongst so many other important records in 2014. It’s cool to put out an album when nobody else is putting out an album. You’re kinda forced to be the only one to get shine. But when you can get shine when you have albums like Run the Jewels, PRhyme, and Barrel Brothers come out and you’re still getting shine you’re doing something right. It’s important, and this year is a great year for Hip-Hop. You’ve got all these anticipated albums that are dropping and not disappointing including Blasphemy, come on, man. To me right there is why it’s important. Not to mention this collab. You’ve got Ras Kass doing what he does best, you’ve got Apollo Brown doing what he does best, putting that together, creating the perfect marriage, boom, you’ve got Blasphemy.

Ras Kass: It’s funny because Curtis Daniel texted me and said, “I think you’ve met your soul mate in music [laughs]. And that’s cool as shit, because he’s known me since I was fucking ten years old and he’s been my harshest critic. He supports and believes in me, and he’s like, “This is that shit.” That’s good that it comes full circle.

Purchase: Apollo Brown & Ras Kass – Blasphemy

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Rapsody: Beauty and the Beast

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Photo courtesy of Rapsody

Photo courtesy of Rapsody

The first lady of Jamla Records, Rapsody has been on a tear. After blessing 2013 with the She Got Game mixtape, she stole the show on the Jamla is the Squad compilation with her standout tracks ‘Illuminaughty’ and ‘Betty Shabazz’.

The North Carolina native kept that momentum going with the release of her new EP, Beauty and the Beast. Produced entirely by The Soul Council, the 10-track project ventures to musical places that Rapsody never previously explored. The always classy Rapsody invites fans in to see her beauty, as well as to see her in beast mode.

Rapsody raises the bar lyrically and stylistically on Beauty and the Beast, which is not surprising given her constant evolution and the consistency in her catalog. Her work ethic and talent are the reasons why 9th Wonder proclaimed Rapsody the leader of Jamla Records.

“We need a leader,” 9th Wonder said of Rapsody on The Combat Jack podcast. “She represents the culture and she rhymes her ass off.”

‘Nuff said.

The Real Hip-Hop spoke to Rapsody about the ups and downs of being a recording artist, her frustrations with being boxed in as a female emcee, and her new EP, Beauty and the Beast.

TRHH: While listening to the new EP it sounded to me like you were feeling a little loose and at times serious. What was your mindset like when recording this project?

Rapsody: With this one it’s probably the most free I’ve felt when I was doing a project. I didn’t feel like I had anything to prove. I wasn’t worrying about trying to make any lists or get people to understand that I can rap. This project was one where I felt totally free like, “I’m just going to do whatever I feel like and whatever feels right.” I think that’s the difference and why you say I was loose. Some days I might be reading up on the Mike Brown case or the John Crawford case and I got something on my mind so I sit and write about it. That’s why some songs are a little more serious than the other ones. Other days I just catch a feeling and don’t overthink it. However it feels, that’s what comes out. I just wanted to put something out that was dope, was me, tell more stories, and talk about more things that were important to me instead of trying to prove something.

TRHH: Not feeling like you have to prove something, does that come from being more confident in your rhymes?

Rapsody: Yeah, more confident and just coming to the realization that all that time trying to prove yourself or worrying about the gatekeepers, who aren’t always in it for the Hip-Hop culture but make the decision on whose hot and who makes this list — just realizing that, that really doesn’t matter. You have your own lane and your lane is wide open. You just gotta do whatever feels right. You can do it in your own way without having to go the path that everybody else does. Cater to your fans and just make great music. I think me just being comfortable with that is the difference in me feeling like I don’t have anything else to prove. This is my seventh project if I’m not “this” to you by now then it’s whatever at this point. I think it’s just not really caring anymore.

TRHH: The song ‘Drama’ sounded different from what we’re used to hearing from you. How’d that song come together?

Rapsody: We were in the studio and Problem and Bad Lucc came down to the studio for a week to hang out. Khrysis made the beat. I had the beat for almost 8 months or so, just figuring out what I wanted to do with it. I’ll get a bunch of beats for a project and I’ll sit on them until I catch a feeling from it. On this one I wanted to experiment and try to do something different. Just switch up my sound some because I felt like trying something new. Problem got in the booth and he did the hook, “go ahead, go ahead” and I just went in and filled in the rest. I recorded it twice. The first time I got in the booth I just had fun with it. When 9th listened to it he said, “This doesn’t sound like a Rapsody track. It sounds like how everybody else would rhyme over it.” He was right so I rewrote it and did it again just to make it me, but at the same time I still got to experiment with a new sound and a new beat, something that was fun and something that was party-like for me. A lot of my songs have a lot of feeling in them. They’re really laid-back and very soulful, so I’ve wanted to do something like that for a long time.

TRHH: I saw something where 9th Wonder said you were a beat hoarder…

Rapsody: [Laughs] Yeah that’s true.

TRHH: What’s your writing process like? Why do you hoard beats and at what point do you start working on ‘em?

Rapsody: Part of the reason I hoard beats is because we have a production team of seven producers and they’re all equally phenomenal. Everybody’s crazy amazing. I’m always in the studio. I stay in the studio more than I go to my house and sleep. So when I’m around and everybody is making these beats it’s hard for me to pass up on a beat. It’s like, “Yo, let me get that, let me get this,” and after a while I look at my playlist and I’ve got all these freakin’ beats that I want to touch but time doesn’t always allow me to get to them like I want to. I just keep them. I’m not selfish with them. If I put out a project I won’t use all of them. Let’s say GQ or Halo is behind me and they’re in the studio one day I’ll say, “If you want to go through this batch of beats I’ve got, here you go,” that’s how it goes [laughs].

My process, it depends how I feel during the day. I have a bunch of beats but I can’t necessarily sit down and write to a beat. I have to feel it. The feeling has to match. I go through all the beats that I have and whatever feeling I’m looking for that day. I’ll find the beat that matches that and we’ll go from there. Some days I’ll have a bunch of beats and nothing really fits the emotion I’m having or the story I want to tell or the angle I want to do, so I’ll go online and I’ll find somebody’s instrumental and I’ll write to that. 9th or Eric G will make a beat to whatever I write and will switch it out. That’s kind of how my writing process is. Whatever I’m trying to bring out in the lyrics I have to have something that matches that.

TRHH: What’s the meaning behind the title of the new EP?

Rapsody: It’s nothing too deep. The people came up with the title. Somewhere after She Got Game and Jamla is the Squad dropped we were putting out videos for ‘Thank You Very Much’, Betty Shabazz’, ‘Roses’ and people would tweet, “Yo, you’re a beast!” or “Beauty and the Beast!” We would see several of the same tweets like that. 9th was like, “Yo, that’s a dope title,” and I liked it too. He said, “What do you think about naming your EP that?” I said, “Cool, I’m with it.” The original name of the EP was supposed to be Betty Shabazz, but we felt like Beauty and the Beast made more of a statement and it fit better. It’s just talking about how you can be feminine and a woman but you can still be a beast on the mic. It’s just having those two world’s exist at the same time, that’s the idea behind the title in a nutshell.

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

Rapsody: No, I don’t really. I love all of them for different reasons. With every project I do it’s hard for me to pick like one favorite. There are standouts. I like ‘Drama’ a lot because it’s one of the more fun songs that I’ve ever done. I like ‘The Man’ just because I know a lot of people can relate to it. It’s an honest story for a lot of people. I like ‘God Forgive Me’ and ‘Godzilla’ – that was another one that was really fun and me stepping outside of the box and experimenting a little bit. That’s like my top 4 out of the 10 [laughs].

TRHH: The song ‘The Man’ kind of takes a look at how young men deal with having absentee fathers. What inspired you to write that song? It’s different because it’s from a male’s perspective.

Rapsody: I grew up in a two parent home, but I have friends and I know a lot of people who had to grow up early and be the man of the house. They didn’t get to enjoy their childhood because they had younger siblings to take care of and make sure things were straight, or they were raised by a woman. It’s something that I don’t ignore. I see it daily. I always see it in my life and it’s something I felt like needed to be addressed, whether it was from a male or female perspective somebody needed to talk about it.

What really pushed the idea forward was the beat. Eric G gave me the beat and the sample says, “The man.” The first time I just got in the booth and 9th wanted to hear me on it so I rapped three different verses that I had in my phone. 9th was like, “That’s crazy, I love it!” We came up with a hook and it was dope but I really wanted to do something with that “man” thing. I felt like I could so something and flip it. It took me a while. I’d sit and vibe to it and it just clicked. What made it click was I have friend named LeVelle Moton and he’s the head coach for North Carolina Central’s basketball team. He recently put out a book where he talks about growing up and his dad wasn’t there. Me reading that, reading a story similar to that, and riding around listening to that beat just made it all click. That’s what I wanted to talk about, a young boy who has to grow up early and be the man of his house because that’s an honest story. I thought a lot of people would appreciate it, so I tried it.

TRHH: When I saw you last fall in Chicago and we did that whole press thing where they drug us all down to that room and the dude asked you what female emcees you were checking for…

Rapsody: [Laughs].

TRHH: You remember that?

Rapsody: Yeah, I remember that.

TRHH: [Laughs] You said you always get the wack “female emcee” questions. Talk about why those types of things annoy you. What bothers you about that?

Rapsody: I do. Those are questions that put you in a box. It’s crazy that the majority of most interviews I know at least half of the questions they’re going to ask. I’m never usually wrong. “How does it feel to be a female emcee?” “How does it feel being the only female on your label?” “Who are the other female emcees you’re checking for?” “Is there anything you have to face as a female that was hard or different?” It’s always the same questions. I hate that you can’t see more about a female’s artists life. Why can’t we can’t have a wider range of questions like other artists who aren’t female? It’s just real general, basic questions that are asked over and over again. I think it’s easy. Those are just easy questions. Once I’ve done one interview if you do research you know the answer. I get tired of answering the same question over, and over, and over again. Across the board whether it’s me, Jean Grae, Noname Gypsy, Ill Camille, or Nitty Scott our answers don’t differ too much in that aspect. Let’s get a little more creative with the questions. I sit in a room with these guys and they’re getting all these dope questions and the first question I get asked I know it’s going to be something about being a female. It’s disappointing to me at times.

TRHH: I interviewed Persia a few years ago and afterwards she tweeted, “Shout out to Sherron. He’s the only person that didn’t ask me about Nicki Minaj.” I’m like, really? I would never think to ask you or her about Nicki Minaj. Are journalists trying to get a negative quote out of you or something?

Rapsody: Word! I think a lot of times that is what it is. They want women to be catty against each other. There is this mentality that there can only be one female emcee. There can only be one white rapper. That’s the mentality I see. They ask you these questions like, “I know you’re gunning for her head – you want her spot.” It’s never expected that we can coexist at the same time and we can all have a different lane. They don’t expect us to support each other. They don’t expect there to be a camaraderie between females and that’s the sad part. You know what drives media, social media, and television – it’s conflict. If they can get any little bit of conflict from your answer that’s going to be the headline for the whole interview: “Rapsody goes at Nicki Minaj” or “Persia something, something Nicki Minaj”. That’s the driving force nowadays, conflict.

TRHH: What’s the best and worst part of being an artist?

Rapsody: The best thing is just doing something you love. Having a career off something you’re passionate about, having the freedom to do that, and making music that touches people. All the hardships you go through is worth it when you can go to a show or meet someone in the street that listens to your music and they’re like, “Yo, I play this song all the time when I’m going through this,” or “Your song helped me through my marriage,” or “I grew up in a single parent home raised by my mom and I love ‘The Man’.” It makes me emotional. That’s what music is for, connecting with people. That’s what I love most about it. And just having the ability to create is great to me.

The not-so great thing is the music business. The business side of it will give you a headache. It will drive you nuts. That’s the thing I don’t like about it, the business part. Putting yourself out for the world to judge sometimes can be really hard. People don’t look at you as a person like them. They put you on a pedestal and you’re judged for everything you do. You can’t be normal. You just can’t be someone that enjoys making music. You have to be somebody totally different that they judge and pick at. I can’t imagine what it’s like being Jay-Z and Beyonce. Their child is in the media every day because her hair is like this, or whatever. To deal with that is nuts, but that’s what comes with it.

TRHH: What’s Beauty and the Beast’s importance in Rapsody’s catalog?

Rapsody: I just think for my journey, where I am skill-wise, where I am in my career, and where the culture is Beauty and the Beast hit at the right time. Coming off the momentum of She Got Game, there is a resurgence of females making headway again in Hip-Hop. It’s the rise of the indies, it’s like the perfect storm. Beauty and the Beast is a project that helps start the conversation that females can rap just as well as men. You can’t call us “female emcees”. Give us a respectful title, “emcee” like you would anybody else. You can’t box us in. It feels good to read people’s comments like, “Yo, she’s not a female emcee, she’s an emcee,” or “She can rap just as good as any of your favorite artists out,” or “She’s in my top 5 out of everybody.” Just to break those barriers, that’s what I think is the great thing about Beauty and the Beast, the time that it dropped, and everything surrounding it. That’s what I’m glad to see. I just want to do my part for the culture and help other artists that are female.

Purchase: Rapsody – Beauty and the Beast

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Juice: Bar’d Up

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Photo courtesy of Juice

Photo courtesy of Juice

In the 1993 KRS-One song ‘Outta Here’ he spit the rhyme, “Some said all they wanna do is battle, they can’t write a song, so their careers won’t last long.” That line was in reference to KRS’ start in rap in the mid-80s, but it still applies to battle rappers of today.

One emcee who has attempted to escape from the battle rap box is Chicago’s Juice. Most known for his defeat of Eminem and subsequent victory in the 1997 Scribble Jam, MC Juice has gone on to release a handful of projects that show fans that he does more than freestyle. Juice is scheduled to release two new albums in 2014 titled ‘Bar’d Up’ and ‘It Is What It Is’ respectively.

The projects are coming during a tough time in Juice’s life. While relocating to California, Juice was stopped by police in Nebraska, had $22,000 in cash seized and now faces ten years in prison. Juice is asking for help from his fans via indeigogo to assist with his legal fees. A $25 donation will get you both of Juice’s new albums while helping him clear his name in the courts.

The Real Hip-Hop chatted with Juice about his upcoming projects, his place in Chicago Hip-Hop history, and the legal situation that could land him in prison for a decade.

TRHH: You’re releasing two albums soon. Why’d you decide to drop two at the same time?

Juice: People hadn’t heard from me for a while. I started exploring different types of production and experimenting with new flows and hooks. I wanted to be able to offer music that satisfied my core fan base and the new fan base I am acquiring.

TRHH: The new single ‘When I’m Around’ is hard. Talk a little about the concept for that song.

Juice: The song was modeled after MJ’s return to basketball after being gone for a couple seasons. It’s really about me coming back in the game and reestablishing my dominance in the city. Only the rappers I respect are allowed to live under that scenario, so yeah, it does go kinda hard.

TRHH: Do you think being noted mostly as a battle rapper has helped or hurt your career?

Juice: Primarily, it has hurt my career. Historically, battle rappers are like Hip-Hop’s version of the circus act. There are no records to sell, no publishing to get, very little merchandising, and except for a cat like Supernatural, very little opportunity to tour. In my case, people know I can write but they try to deny it to keep me in a certain lane. Then they won’t have to put me in the top of anything. I am blessed to be in a rare class of artists who can emcee and freestyle as well as write. I am the ultimate threat to the one dimensional prototype commercial rapper. I can do what they do but they cannot do what I do – period. In a way, being pigeonholed has helped me creatively because nobody knows the actual level of my songwriting ability. I dare say that no one will be expecting what I hit them with. I can’t wait to see people’s reaction when it drops.

TRHH: What’s your writing process like?

Juice: It’s very fast when I am inspired. It just pours out. If I am not inspired, I write some of the worst stuff you will ever hear anywhere. It also takes me a very long time if the beat isn’t up to par. “For years, I would carry beats like Nick Cannon’s ex/Now I only write to the best quality tracks I can get.”

TRHH: What did you think when you heard about the kid from Arizona calling himself Juice?

Juice: I actually found it flattering. My guys, not so much though. I actually met dude at a show I did in Phoenix. At the time his name was Rugby. He hit me up on some Black Wall Street shit instead of on some Hip-Hop shit, but there was no tension. I’ve got some serious ties out there in Arizona so I wasn’t worried. Rugby basically told me he thought I was dope and shortly after changed his name to Juice. I don’t think he really knew that the name “Juice” means respect. I have built the name to embody a certain skill level and when he couldn’t reach that level it was basically over for him.

TRHH: Talk a little about the legal situation you’re dealing with.

Juice: Let me try to be brief; there are new laws that allow police to pull you over and take your money, valuables and/or property “legally”. These are called Civil Forfeiture Laws. In most cases you are not charged with a crime if you sign the money or valuables away to the police. The police department receives 80% of everything they seize and 20% goes to the US government.  My case is a little different though. Twenty two thousand dollars was seized from me and my lady. I threatened to sue and would not sign the money away so we are now being charged with illegal possession of money. We are each facing 10 years in a Nebraska prison. I have put together a fundraiser where people can buy my two new projects and support my cause. The money from albums sold will help me hire a legal defense team to beat the charges. People can go to www.helpmcjuice.com to help.

TRHH: When I think of Chicago Hip-Hop I think of Common, Twista, and Juice. What do you think your place is in the history of Chicago Hip-Hop?

Juice: Well I used to equate my place here with the lack of commercial success I have had. So my list would have been as follows: Common, Kanye, Twista, me, and Lupe. After being out here doing shows and grinding I have to say that people generally think I am the #1 rapper from Chicago and the backbone of the Hip-Hop scene here as we know it. I am learning that respect for the art form outweighs commercial success in the hearts and minds of most people. I think I embody a dedication to and an elevation of the art form in a different way than a lot of other Chicago emcees.

Help MC Juice

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Mama Sol: Inside Out

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Photo courtesy of Rynelle Walker

Photo courtesy of Rynelle Walker

Mama Sol is a poet, teacher, motivational speaker, and an emcee. Her music and her life is filled with messages of not only the struggle, but also hope – hope for a better future. Sol doesn’t waste time solely pointing out the negative, she also shines light on the positive — it’s in her nature.

The Flint, Michigan native is also a breast cancer survivor – something you don’t “survive” without a positive mental attitude. Sol doesn’t mind telling her story to others in hopes that she can educate and inspire – it’s in her nature.

Mama Sol’s latest musical release with her band Tha N.U.T.S., ‘Inside Out’ is another dope display of her music with a message. The full-length album features appearances by B. Pace, Johnny Manuel, Arubus, Mumu Fresh, and Stic.Man of Dead Prez.

The Real Hip-Hop spoke to Mama Sol about her fight with cancer, forming her band Tha N.U.T.S., and her new album, Inside Out.

TRHH: How’d you get into emceeing?

Mama Sol: My brother. My brother rest his soul inspired me to learn. I’d write poetry somewhat. I’d write down my thoughts and share them with him. He said, “Sis you need to start putting this on a beat and letting other people hear it.” As a kid I was always a writer and he inspired me to start putting it to music.

TRHH: Where’d the name “Mama Sol” come from?

Mama Sol: Well “Sol” is a name that my family has always called me because I’m a Leo and it’s a sun sign. Sun is my ruling planet and my sign. When I started teaching at an African centered school in Detroit all the kids addressed the adults as “Mama” and “Baba” because they were taught Swahili. They attached Mama to Sol. When I decided to leave the school to pursue music full-time I promised my students that I would keep that name for them.

TRHH: I discovered you from the song ‘Manhood’. I really love it. What inspired you to make that song?

Mama Sol: Thank you. I was having a conversation with a friend. They were discussing the whole child support issue and I told them I don’t get child support. They were surprised and I told them I hate court. I hate the way the system is designed. It dawned on me that I don’t know any deadbeat fathers. I don’t know any except my son’s father. As adults sometimes we have to realize that we made the decision to be parents. We can’t rely on the system to determine how children are raised or who sees who according to who has what. I felt like I owed that to all the brothers that helped me raise my son and all the brothers that are active and effective fathers. It came from my heart. It’s kind of more of a love song than anything else. Maybe I just have good friends but I don’t know any deadbeat fathers. We shine too much light on negativity and hate instead of love and positivity. So I wanted to write the song in tribute to these men because they deserve it.

TRHH: That’s interesting because in listening to you I realized I don’t know any deadbeat dads either. For some reason it’s the label we get as black men but I don’t know a single person that doesn’t take care of their children.

Mama Sol: Yeah. Think about the circle that you keep if you’re surrounded by a bunch of people that don’t take care of their kids and everybody is on child support and in and out of court. Come on, don’t nobody have time for that! I don’t. I don’t want them couple pennies. If you haven’t taken the initiative to help your child physically, mentally or, financially you going to court and being forced to do this is not going to necessarily light a fire under you. Having a child creates an unconditional love that I don’t think you’ve ever felt before until you have a child. If that light didn’t go off when you saw that child, held them, and said, “This is mine, I have to protect and nurture this child,” best believe the court system is not going to set that off. And now we got another brother in prison because of a lack of love. Where is the balance? It’s messed up how it’s set up. It’s some good guys out here and they deserve a little more recognition than they get.

TRHH: Your music is hard to put in a box. It has so many different elements in it. How would you describe your sound?

Mama Sol: It’s pure and it’s honest. A lot of times we don’t get a lot of honesty from artists. I’ve been through a lot so I give you every aspect of me. My music is like a diary of my life. My new CD Inside Out is not a Friday night “let’s go kick it” CD, it’s a Saturday morning “let’s clean the house” CD. It’s a CD you don’t have to take out if your boss came to the door or if your kids or your mother are in the house. The space that I’m in right now is where Inside Out was written. It is soul music because it comes from my soul. It comes from this inner space, but at the end of the day I’m a poet and I have a way with words. I don’t have a label for it. I don’t like to label myself as anything other than pure and honest. I’m just seeking enlightenment and as I grow the music will grow and the message will. You’ve got to refine yourself.

TRHH: There was a time in Hip-Hop where honesty was the norm. I’m 38 so I’ve seen Hip-Hop change a lot. When I was a kid there was Chuck D and Public Enemy, and that was okay. There was Ice Cube, and that was okay. There was Fresh Prince, and that was okay. Today mainstream Hip-Hop is very cookie cutter and you have to be a certain way. It seems a lot less honest. Why do you think that change happened?

Mama Sol: Partially I think videos played a large part in that – the imagery. I have older brothers and they put Chuck D and all of that into our heads as little kids. I’m familiar with all of those artists. I can recall a time where there weren’t million dollar emcees. I was watching Wild Style with my older brothers and they rapped for pizza, pop, and a couple dollars or whatever. They weren’t doing it for the money. It was a way to release. It was almost like an artist being able to write down their prayers. I think with the videos all the focus went on the money, cars, jewelry, champagne, and all of that. The videos kind of shifted everything. I don’t remember seeing videos of Rakim and Chuck D.

Me and my son went on Youtube and pulled up older artists and was just looking at the differences in the videos. They weren’t based on what you have. I think the imagery of Hip-Hop changed. People aren’t comfortable with themselves – the majority of people. It’s very difficult to find people that are comfortable with who they are and where they are and want to tell that story because somebody else is going through it. That’s tough to find. It’s at a point right now if you turn on videos you’re not going to see a video where people are telling a story and the video actually goes with the song. What we see we internalize and we want to become that. I think we kind of lost our sense of self along our way. It’s sad to say.

TRHH: When I think of Flint, I think of MC Breed. That’s all I know about Flint, Michigan. What’s the Hip-Hop scene like in Flint?

Mama Sol: There are a lot of good artists in Flint, actually. There is so much more than Hip-Hop. Jon Connor just signed to Aftermath with Dr. Dre last year. He’s out in L.A. doing a lot and he took Justin Daye with him. 1000 Bars is a very profound artist. They have The Art of Hip Hop, which is something they have at the Greater Flint Art Council. They have shows and everything but it’s a small city. There is a lack of love as far as self-love dealing with young African Americans. Flint is small and the mentality of the people here is trying to outshine each other. I was telling someone the other day, “If you compete with the person down the street you’ll never leave the block.” I really don’t focus on it. I’m not really involved in a lot of things that go on in the Hip-Hop scene here unless they hire me to come in and speak or do something. I try to do things on a scale where I can inspire instead of compete. I’m not here to compete with anyone. There is only one me and one you so there is no need for us to compete with each other. They try to compete with each other and being the best artist in Flint is like being the smartest person in special ed. It’s a small city and the mentality of the people is kinda small.

TRHH: Tell me about Tha N.U.T.S.

Mama Sol: [Laughs] New Under The Sun. They’re my brothers. I love them like family. My drummer Famada, he played with me from the inception of me deciding to do music full-time. He plays any drum that you put in front of him. He can play congas, djembe, or a set. His dad is a master drummer and he and I grew up together. My bass player Twain, and my keyboard player were in band together in high school. My DJ, he and I were doing music together in high school. When I came home I bumped into my DJ, Juice and he and I hadn’t seen each other in a while. He was like, “Yo, you still rapping?” and I actually wanted to get heavily back into it. I had breast cancer and was grazed by a bullet and I really had to take a hiatus from music for a long time. He and I just started recording.

I always wanted to play with a band. I never wanted to do the CD/rap thing. I’m really moved by live music so I started forming the band. Me and Famada were in Atlanta and I was doing some  stuff with the  Tupac Amaru Shakur Foundation. They had a poetry set and I would fly down there and host it. Tha N.U.T.S. are kind of like The Roots, it’s just that the names are separated. I don’t even perform without them. I’m not going to show up with a CD or I’m just not going to take the gig – I’ll do poetry. I love those guys. We are one unit. We operate as one; I’m just the vocalist for the group. I’m the voice of the group but everybody is instrumental in making the whole movement move. I hold them in a very high regard in my success. I owe a lot to them. They’re like my brothers. We cry together, laugh together, eat together, we do everything together outside of rehearsal and shows. They’re like my family.

TRHH: You mentioned having breast cancer. Talk about the discovery, how you got through it, and what you learned about yourself through the whole ordeal.

Mama Sol: When I discovered I had breast cancer I was living in New York working with FUBU, the clothing line. I was writing commercials for them. I was going back and forth from New York and Columbus, Ohio involved in some negative activity. I ended up being grazed with a bullet and I was kind of ashamed at how the whole ordeal went down so I never told anybody. It was just a graze so I thought I could nurse it back to good health and keep it to myself. So I came back home for Christmas and New Year’s and my mother caught me feeling the side of my chest. She was like, “You all right? You got a lump or something?” I’m thinking it’s cartilage from the graze because it healed up pretty good. I just felt like I was blessed and should leave the streets alone. My mom had a sister who died of breast cancer. She was very adamant about me going to the doctor to get a biopsy and have them look at it. I’m thinking, “Alright ma, there’s nothing wrong.” So we made an appointment, went to the doctor, they scheduled a biopsy. They did the biopsy and it came back cancerous. It shocked the shit outta me. At the same time I looked at it like the ancestors, the most high, and the universe talking to me like, “Yo, you know better. We gave you these opportunities to go out there and write these commercials and you went out there and tried to make extra money that you didn’t need.” I felt like it was a time for me to back away from all of that — all of the hype and celebrity events that I was attending in New York.  It just killed me from the inside out. When I discovered I had breast cancer it was alarming but I never thought that I was gonna die. I tell people that when I go to speak on breast cancer. Your mind frame has a lot to do with you healing.

I never thought I was gonna die through five surgeries, radiation every day for three months. I refused chemotherapy and went with a holistic approach to healing and I’ve been fine ever since. I’ve maintained being a vegetarian, not drinking, not smoking, and keeping good company. I thank the cancer, I thank the bullet graze, and I thank the universe for handing those things to me. I accept everything that comes to me. I don’t hate anything about my life, even at this point, even the bad things. That taught me to love more and take better care of myself, my mind, and my energy and protect that. I do that on a daily basis. I spend a lot of time alone with my son or one or two friends but my focus is the world. How can I assist the world to become a better place? That’s what cancer taught me. You can heal yourself of anything. Everybody has cancer in their body. Some people have cancer of the mind. Disease is “dis-ease”, not being at ease. I healed and I’m still healing in many ways, not just from cancer. My brother passed away during that whole process. He got shot in Flint. It’s a lot of things you have to heal from and just keep moving forward. Cancer and that whole experience helped me to get to where I am now and being able to take care of myself and seek enlightenment in every situation because everything happens for a reason.

TRHH: What’s your goal in this music business? What do you want your legacy to be?

Mama Sol: I just want to be remembered in a positive light. I look up to Malcolm X, Assata Skaur, Maya Angelou, and Bob Marley. I wanna make my ancestors proud. Before I make any physical thing proud I want to make the spirit, the energy, and things that you can’t see happy and in harmony with me first and foremost. I don’t want the fruits of my labor to ever be more important than my labor. I don’t wanna be known as an artist that was able to obtain all these material possessions and rub ‘em in the face of the community. I’m an activist, a mother, a lover, and a liberator before I am a Hip-Hop artist. I hold those things in high regard – being a good mother, daughter, and friend. At the end of the day I need my mother to be happy. I need the people that I encounter in the community to say, “I like Sol’s spirit,” which makes it easy to accept my music.

I’m more of a historian than a Hip-Hop artist. I’m constantly studying and trying to regurgitate these lessons in my music, my speaking, and in my daily living. I want people to remember that aspect of me. That’s what’s going to come through in my music – the genuine and pure search of enlightenment. I want people to say, “That’s somebody that helped me at some point,” or “That’s somebody that encouraged me at some point,” not somebody that took from me or, “I start listening to Sol and was ready to shoot a nigga.” I just want to leave that type of legacy for those that listen to my music. Where music takes me as far as labels and all that business, I don’t know. I know this is something I’m going to do regardless of who pays attention. In saying that, I just want people to know that it came from my heart and I worked in the spirit of my ancestors and getting their approval. In return, people that are living now think I’m a good person, and my soul is at peace with that.

Purchase: Mama Sol & Tha N.U.T.S. – Inside Out

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Edo.G: After All These Years

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Photo courtesy of Myster DL

Photo courtesy of Myster DL

With over twenty years under his belt in the business of rap Boston based emcee Edo.G continues to produce excellent product. Edo’s latest release was funded by fans via Kickstarter, and is the first release from Edo’s 5th & Union record label. ‘After All These Years’ is easily one of the best rap albums of 2014 and the title says it all – after all these years, Edo still goes hard on the mic.

After All These Years features production by Pete Rock, Marco Polo, Vanderslice, Explizit One, and 9th Wonder. Joining Edo on the album are Chuck D, Camp Lo, G-Dot & Born, Guilty Simpson, Walter Beasley, King Magnetic, and Jaysaun and Slaine of Special Teamz.

Edo.G spoke to The Real Hip-Hop about his new 5th & Union record label, working with Chuck D of Public Enemy on the single ‘Fight’, and his new album, After All These Years.

TRHH: Explain the title of the new album, ‘After All These Years’.

Edo.G: The title was just fitting being that it was my eleventh studio album. I’ve been basically putting in work since day one, man. And I’m still grinding hard and at a high level. I think I’m actually at my highest level right now lyrically in my career and I’m still putting it down after all these years.

TRHH: Why’d you decide to go the Kickstarter route for this album?

Edo.G: First because I really wanted to see if my fans would support me. That was one of the main reasons, man. Obviously me and my partner Jamieson Grillo started our own label called 5th & Union that we put this record out on. That was all part of it. I wanted to be totally independent and do what I wanted. I really just wanted to see if the fans would step up and help me reach my goal. That really motivated me more to keep hittin’ fans with music because they did. They over-funded it and we were able to launch the label and put out this product right now.

TRHH: How’d you wind up working with Chuck D for the single ‘Fight’?

Edo.G: Of course I’ve known Chuck for a long time. They were in town in Boston a couple of years back and he was doing the Hip Hop Gods Tour. I came through and rocked out with Monie Love, and everybody. I asked him, “Chuck, I need to get you on my album. I got this record that I think you’d sound dope on,” and he was like, “Word, send it to me.” He knocked it out and it was that simple. And then he was blessing enough to do the video which actually took it to another level. He’s a great dude, man. I work with him and I definitely look to him for certain advice. A lot of people don’t know he has an aggregate called SPITdigital where you can go through them to get on iTunes. That’s what I go through to get my iTunes stuff. Check out that site, SPITdigital.com.

TRHH: I talked to Chuck and he’s one of my most favorite interviews. We spoke in depth about SPITdigital. It’s opening up doors for a lot of people to do their own thing.

Edo.G: They blessed me by putting me down with that. For those that don’t know, unless you’re a label or a web guy you have to go through a third party to get on iTunes. Chuck and them only take 10 percent.  There’s no uploading fees like TuneCore and all these other sites that people go to and basically get robbed. Deal with Hip-Hop, it’s a fair deal.

TRHH: Pete Rock is on the album. You seem to have incredible chemistry with Pete dating back to My Own Worst Enemy. Talk about what it’s like working with Pete Rock.

Edo.G: Pete is obviously one of the best producers in Hip-Hop of all-time Every time I get a chance to do something with him I’m super-psyched and the rhymes just seem to come out easily. They flow out of me, man when I’m rocking on his beats. These actual beats were old beats. They were from cassettes that I didn’t use on My Own Worst Enemy. I rehashed three beats from back then and put them on this album. You can’t tell that they’re from 2002 or whenever. They sound like they’re from right now. His music is timeless and that was a point that I wanted to prove.

TRHH: The last time I spoke to you was five years ago when Arts & Entertainment came out. You said that there wasn’t enough originality in Hip-Hop at the time. Do you think that’s changed since then?

Edo.G: Yeah. I think there are definitely a lot more people doing their own thing from that time. But still, if you’re talking commercially things haven’t changed. You know how that goes. It’s the same thirty records across the country. That hasn’t changed but independently people are doing a lot more things. You got 50 Cent who is independent now and there are a lot more people who are willing to take everything into their own hands and do it all.

TRHH: It’s definitely changing. It seems like more of an entrepreneurial movement going on. Do you think that’s due to music being more accessible by it being more digital now?

Edo.G: Yeah, of course. The internet plays a huge role in us being able to do it independently. We can still get to the masses without having to pay millions of dollars to have our records and videos played. There is no real outlet for videos besides the internet if you’re talking independent and underground Hip-Hop. We’re able to reach the masses and millions of people, thousands in my case, but other people reach millions independently without any of that. It’s played a big role. Obviously it’s diminished the CD except for live performances. You can sell a ton of CD’s on the road. With this album we brought it back with vinyl and cassette – we went all the way.

TRHH: On the song ‘16s’ you spit some battle rhymes. Recently I’ve been hearing a lot of fans say they don’t want to hear rapping about rap. They want to hear stories that they can relate to or stuff that touches them. Why do you think this segment of rap fans is growing when battle rap is what the music was founded on?

Edo.G: In underground Hip-Hop there are a ton of people spitting battle raps. Maybe if the people are crying out and asking for stories and things like that, that’s what they want. The song 16s is really self-explanatory – it’s kind of a battle rap song. That particular record is just about that. I spit a lot of battle rhymes on this album on certain songs but you do have songs like ‘Da Beef Goes On’ which talks about domestic violence and different things that go on in relationships between grown men and grown women. I got a song with Walter Beasley called ‘Let Da Horns Blow’, produced by Pete Rock. I try to touch upon a lot of things in one verse to make you think.

TRHH: What do you hope to achieve with your label 5th & Union?

Edo.G: We’d like to really be a niche label. We’re trying to carve out our own little niche and create a nice catalog of good music. We do intend to put out other artists in the future. Right now we’re focusing obviously on me. We still have more product from me coming. I have a documentary called ‘I Got to Have It’ coming next year that we’re finishing up. We got another record coming next year too. We just want to be that little niche label that gives good product and puts out a lot of vinyl, cassettes, and special packages. We feel that people like to get more for their buck than just a CD or a download. We want to give them a bunch of stuff. We’re trying to be a brand basically and feed the people what they need.

TRHH: Why is After All These Years an important album in 2014?

Edo.G: It’s important for me because I want to just continue to do what I’ve been doing on a high level, and even on a higher level in these next years to come with that real Hip-Hop music. For me it was important to do the Kickstarter and make sure that my fans really wanted to hear me. If that didn’t happen it would have been, “Oh well, what’s the next step?” The fans spoke and they want to hear the music so I’m going to continue to feed ‘em. That’s why it was an important album for me. And for the rest of this year we got more videos coming – a bunch more stuff for this album. Be on the lookout, BOLO![Laughs].

TRHH: Alright, man. Thank you for taking the time to talk to me. I really appreciate it.

Edo.G: I appreciate it too, man. All the people out there check the new album, After All These Years. You can get it on iTunes or redline.bigcartel.edog. Follow me on Twitter @EdoGBoston, Facebook: EdoGBoston, and Instagram: EdoGpics. One Love!

Purchase: Edo.G – After All These Years

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