Kid Vishis: Timing Is Everything

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Photo courtesy of MAC Media Promo

Photo courtesy of MAC Media Promo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Purchase: Kid Vishis – Timing Is Everything

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Mac Lethal: Alphabet Insanity

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Photo courtesy of Pierpont Artists Co.

Photo courtesy of Pierpont Artists Co.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Purchase tickets for Chalice California

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

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Photo courtesy of Suburban Noize

Photo courtesy of Suburban Noize

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TRHH: Tell me about the Underground Scrolls mixtapes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Conversation with Brother J of X Clan

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Photo courtesy of Brother J

Photo courtesy of Brother J

During a time when Hip-Hop was overtly afrocentric one of the premier pro-black acts out of New York was X Clan. Comprised of Professor X the Overseer, Sugar Shaft, Paradise the Architect, and the Grand Verbalizer Funkin’ Lesson Brother J, X Clan combined funk samples with Professor X’s trademark spoken word delivery and Brother J’s effortless flow to create one of the most original groups in rap history.

The group released two albums in the early 90s, To the East, Blackwards (1990), and Xodus (1992) before disbanding. In 1995 DJ Sugar Shaft passed away from complications of AIDS. Professor X passed away in 2006 from spinal meningitis. Paradise the Architect relocated to Pittsburgh and continues his activism in and out of the music business.

After the passing of Professor X, Brother J resurrected the X Clan with all new members. The group signed to Suburban Noize Records and released two albums, Return from Mecca (2007) and Mainstream Outlawz (2009). The Clan is currently in the lab working on the groups’ fifth album slated for release in mid-2014.

The Real Hip-Hop had the pleasure of speaking with Brother J about the past, present, and future of X Clan.

TRHH: Going back to the first album, To the East, Blackwards, what was your mindset while you were making that album and did you have any idea it would be classic?

Brother J: No, not at all. At that time I was about 17-18. I joined the movement at about 16-years old. I was still in high school. By the time I got to make my album I had been on point doing security for different social leaders like Dick Gregory, Dr. Sebi, Sonny Carson, you name it. We were security for elite people learning different things and that was feeding my lyrics. Days that we would go out and defend the streets if a youth was killed or an elder was attacked by the police or whatever we were into, I’d take parts of that and put it in the lyrics. What people heard on that album was sincerity more than anything because I was really for letting people know what was happening. When we moved around people would tell us their stories of what was going on in their town. The content continues to grow from there. Eventually it became a classic because a lot of artists don’t have the courage to speak about what’s happening. They don’t know how to implement funkin’ lessons to a degree. So that’s what the album was an example of. It’s like a blueprint for conscious artists to find the path.

TRHH: You went to high school with Q-Tip, right?

Brother J: Yeah, brother Q-Tip and Brother Ali [Shaheed Muhammad]. Also Jungle Brothers Brother Afrika, and Brother Mike, those were my good brothers. That’s who I actually started with when I started rhyming. There was another dude named Mighty Matt that y’all never heard of – he never got off the ground. The Jungle had more leverage ‘cause their uncle was Red Alert. They had an in-door and once they let Quest through Q-Tip’s nasal style won at that time. It was a heavy time for people with the nasal style so he rode a little further than what Jungle did. It was all good. You would come to our talent shows and I had two DJ’s, Q-Tip and them had the beat box kid Jarobi, Ali, and Phife. I remember them way back when. Jungle Brothers’ first DJ was named Brooklyn B and Mike’s cousin came in and replaced him, Sammy B. That was good times, man [laughs].

TRHH: How different was your style then? Was this before the Blackwatch Movement?

Brother J: Yeah. Even in high school, man I was never really on no raunchy, wild out stuff. I wasn’t trying to be no fly dude. I’m from Brooklyn so I’m not on no prima donna business anyway just on a borough tip. My hardness and confidence toward the mic was groomed in the block party so the talent show really wasn’t nothing. I’d go in there like how Kool Moe Dee did on Graffiti Rock [laughs]. I really didn’t care. My thing was to dig into the beat. I didn’t care who the premier dude was or what the hoopla was, you would gravitate toward what I’m kicking. That’s how we handled the talent shows. It was really just fun at the time. It was some serious grooming. Our talent shows were like the Apollo at Murry Bergtraum.

TRHH: ‘Fire & Earth’ from the second album Xodus is such a great song. My father loved that song. He passed away five years ago…

Brother J: My condolences, my condolences.

TRHH: Thank you. I played that song on the way to his burial because he loved that song so much. Talk about ‘Fire & Earth‘ and how that song came together because you said some heavy stuff in there, man.

Brother J: Wow. That’s deep. It was several things going on. One, I was tired of people comparing PX to Flavor Flav. It’s two different missions. PX was a father of a movement as a young head. He was older than me, but as far as elders who had established organizations I had a different respect for him than just a hype man. He wasn’t a hype man for me. You never seen him “yeah boying” behind my verses or any of that kind of stuff. People were so busy trying to match us to P.E. in every way that I was like, “PX, you’re going to have to spit on one.” He’s a Leo and I’m a Capricorn so we made Fire & Earth. I was working with him to put some verses down and it was a lot of stuff on my mind. MTV had banned us because we had ‘Fire’ and other things but they had BBD “Smack it up, flip it, rub it down”. It was the same problems back then that people are having now. Nothing has changed my brother. They were playing all of that stuff but I can’t say “nigga”? They tried to correct my verse before the video came out but where I come from it’s language. It’s not offensive to anyone. I wasn’t trying to say it to keep up with N.W.A. or any of those groups that were young then. It was different for me to speak it. I was learning different things about the word itself. They were trying to tell me to erase it so I wrote more “nigga” in the verse than the one line I had. I started off the song with it just to be arrogant. If y’all will ban us for saying that I’ll stop saying “nigga” when you stop showing ass and titties and shit on the videos. It was early then when they were starting to do this with the stripper type girls on the video. This was early 90s when it started to peek its head out. We had to spin it backwards because it was considered a curse so I had to lay off my BS. I was young and arrogant but I was trying to make a point that that market was growing then and I saw its head peek out of the ground. I said if y’all allowing them to do that I should be able to speak my lingo, especially if I’m trying to put a positive swing on it.

To look back it was a small battle to fight. I could have fought for a better terminology I’m sure, but I was trying to make a point that you can’t change how we communicate with each other. This is entertainment. Now you see every record everybody is saying “nigga” all the time. Even Justin Bieber is saying “nigga” now [laughs]. And cats don’t really mess with them. On TV they’ll spin it backwards or whatever but it’s so much lingo now that white kids is kicking “nigga” now. If they let me define it and send it to where it is it would have been a defense on that. Don’t talk the way we talk. I don’t go around Mexican hoods talking about, “Hey ese, what’s up?” That’s not my language. So I said let black people communicate on their own and if we get tired of the word and move on and find something else, let us find that in our time. Don’t tell me how to talk. A lot of things were going on. The Jeffrey Dahmer thing was going on, Mayor Dinkins doing the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and they celebrate him on that but when he did an African-American thing they don’t have as much press on him for that. I was just seeing little different things that I could point out in my verses to let folks know we don’t mess with the swine, we running Tarzan out the jungle – the concrete jungle. These kinds of things were sprinkled in that song. It was a little B.B. King sample that we rocked on that with the jungle drums. We laid it out my lord. It was a fun record to have PX start his lyrical transformation a little bit.

TRHH: Correct me if I’m wrong, but when he was talking about “humanists” he was talking about KRS-One, right?

Brother J: I don’t have a problem with KRS like that. I just had a problem in philosophies because he had so much influence over people and to make it like “let’s hold hands, forget about whatever, and be Hip-Hop” I think that’s a better platform to teach where the core racism comes from. You have people who come to the table and really front on what a humanist value is supposed to be about. We’re supposed to come to the table as a unified force. I don’t have to have a humanist label to be that. My thing was let everybody come from their specific culture and represent. If you’re a white person, be proud, you shouldn’t be acting like me and I shouldn’t be acting like you. I thought it was a great time to teach that before you go into a humanist platform. By the time you get to a humanist platform it should be an organization formed – real serious things instead of titles being flashed around. My elders admired KRS and he put out a video talking about the flavor of ice cream comes, I forgot what song that was…

TRHH: You Must Learn.

Brother J: Yes, yes, yes! I was so pit bull for the movement and so pro-black meaning “let’s get our stuff together first” because I don’t like coming to the humanist table or any table for that matter with dirty hands and dirty robes. We gotta clean up in our hoods and while we have this influence let’s focus on ours before we get a stereotype that we don’t deserve. When we say “pro-black” that’s what that means. Let’s get clean for the table, let’s wash our hands and not only that, let’s change garb. Let’s sit with the culture. We’re so busy worrying about who is holding hands and who is being sincere and who is not as far as other cultures we’re not focusing on our own. That’s where that was coming from. It was too complex to explain to a young Hip-Hop nation. They wanted to see someone combat against KRS’ flip flop at the time. One day it was “Edutainment” and one day you’re “smoking izm” and it’s like, Yo, man, if you’re going to be the teacher, be the teacher. He was like how Ice Cube was in the West, one day you’re Muslim and then you’re back to Player’s Club.

People were trying to have people step to them where they didn’t have the heart enough to say, “Yo man, we buy your records. Stop flipping so much and have one focus.” They didn’t have enough heart to say that, but we had enough heart to say that my lord. Come to the table, let’s build. I didn’t throw it out and say no names so he didn’t have to take offense. People read through it. It could have been a silent delivery, comfortably. It was meant to say anybody thinking like that, check yourself. It wasn’t directed at KRS like that. I admire KRS. He’s one of the greatest showmen in the game. I rarely see people throw down like he does consistently from day one. I don’t want no issues with that. I’m in admiration but I’m not a groupie. If I see something that needs to be spoken I have a microphone myself. I’m going to say to my brother, “I’m your keeper. Don’t let these white folks get in your head and twist things backwards. Don’t lose perspective.” Don’t be a emcee when there is so much more message inside your situation. Don’t become Benetton before you understand red, black, and green. That’s all I was coming from my lord. I didn’t feel that was insulting on no level.

TRHH: I want to say for the record that I wasn’t implying that there was beef or anything. I just wanted to know more about it because I know you rocked with KRS years later on ‘Speak the Truth’.

Brother J: Yes sir. And that was to let them know that we don’t have no issues. We sat down as men before the record to clear whatever. If you have a philosophy and I have my different walk of life I’m not going to step on your toes on any level. As long as we have a common denominator that we’re trying to elevate people, I’m good [laughs].

TRHH: I saw you perform with KRS in 1990. I was 14-years old…

Brother J: [Laughs] That must have been in the Midwest?

TRHH: Chicago at the Arie Crown Theater. Poor Righteous Teachers was there and D-Nice.

Brother J: Yeah, I remember that [laughs]. And K-Solo. That’s crazy. K-Solo got robbed that night. They ran up on his bus.

TRHH: What?

Brother J: Yeah, I tell cats man you gotta watch these females. It just was an awkward time. People was all on that jewelry, trying to run up on cats, and setting people up. The Midwest is a dirty bowl sometimes, man [laughs]. You gotta be on point.

TRHH: Very dirty.

Brother J: Real deal.

TRHH: Why did the initial incarnation of X Clan break up and how did the Dark Sun Riders form?

Brother J: X Clan had to take a hiatus because the movement was growing so fast that we had issues on how to reorganize it. When you got a lot of people you can think “power” but if you don’t have organization it’s weak. You’re weakening people. We’ll start contributing to the beast if a person comes to the movement and doesn’t get the conditioning that they seek to complete themselves it could become a joke. I thought that people were getting so much into the music they were forgetting that X Clan was the group and Blackwatch was the movement. They’d say, “I’m with the X Clan movement,” and that means you’re not paying attention. X Clan was not presented as a movement for you to join and you’re trying to get a crown and one of the pieces on that neck – it ain’t that. It’s not something that you sign up, send your letter in, and all of a sudden you’re down. If you’re in the understanding of what it requires to understand liberation then the Blackwatch movement accepts you. Come to our events, come to our meetings, come to our cyphers. We didn’t have internet then so as popular as we were in the country there was no way to really organize. That broke the group up. We’re not paying attention to what really made us and that was a problem. So I said I’d rather take a break from all this music until we can get an understanding about what we’re really doing here because people really believe in us. It was insane then. It was new then. We’re having a conversation twenty some odd years later but at its peak it was crazy, man.

You don’t wanna get caught up because any time entertainment is intertwined in your situation you gotta check your ranks at all times. That beast can make you greedy and Gollum-like. My thing was let’s take a break. We never stopped touring from the time we started. We got families, babies was being made at the time and we’re not even getting to see that. It was time for me to take a break so I did a little production project to keep things afloat so Island Records gave me a Dark Sun Riders project. I wanted to plant the seed to see what the real cypher is. I wanted to reform the X Clan and offer it to Hip-Hop as a council. I don’t need my council to rap. When we come to your town if we stay more than 2-3 days we can hold classes in several areas and give y’all a bomb ass show before we leave. I don’t know too many groups offering positive cypher like that. I wanted to create a trend because if there are other groups I wanted them to see that people here will welcome you. Let’s try to start our own chitlin circuit. Dark Sun was the planting of the seed. It was us stepping into digital sound. I had to start letting go of sampling. I’m a DJ, homie. I love analog sounds, I love sampling, and mixing and the collage but that music would sound like mud now up against the new sound as far as the boost and frequency that technology provides. It’s a different beast now. I had to let that go in ’94 when I started to see the transformation starting. I’m not waiting ‘till 2000 to do that. So Dark Sun was my time in the lab learning engineering and learning how to respect production even more. I was sharing my time and then cleaning up my lyrics totally where I didn’t want cursing in my music anymore. As much vocabulary and science that I study I think I can find much more to build on that just these germane phrases to entertain who? If I’m trying to raise the hood how am I spitting at them awkward? So I started to check that in myself. I shared with them the conditioning. That’s what Dark Sun Riders was.

It was a refreshment house. It was time for all of us to sit down at the table as even cypher. I had elders in that circle; I had new jacks in that circle that were conditioning lyrically just to see if everybody can get along. Some elders don’t like the generation beneath them – they don’t like them at all. Dark Sun was me doing some things at that time with the elders and the young heads and giving off a little lesson from a different frequency. I didn’t want to have ‘Funkin’ Lesson and ‘Heed the Word’ type joints. I wanted to try some new things. I wanted to try from the hands of my circle and see where it could go – fail or success. It worked out. I paved some good paths for us. On the underground years later to see people approach me with that product is a respect. That was during the time that Shaft passed, man. That was a heavy thing to even get to finish that product. It was heartbreaking to lose the person that was with me from the beginning of the conversation — from high school, homie. That was my DJ back then. Through all of my success to Dark Sun. He never got to see the later years of the Clan and combining both coasts together. I know his spirit is with me. I still have an eye for the tracks. I still hear my brother saying, “Yo, that’s wack, don’t mess with that,” or “Yo, that’s dope, put your ear to that.” I still hear him over my shoulder. It’s all blessed.

TRHH: Keeping with Sugar Shaft and also Professor X, talk about what they brought to the group and how did their passing affect you personally.

Brother J: You start a band off if you got a bass player or keyboard cat you adjust to their flows, especially being with them for ten years. PX was a manger for us when we started. He was always that guidance. He taught us the ins and outs of the game – the good and bad. He got us security jobs before we was rapping to go get a little twos and fews as young boys up in clubs we wasn’t supposed to be at. But the movement allowed us to be on point and learn behind the curtain of this rap. I never had groupie time and that was why my music stayed so focused. All that groupie thing was killed when I was 16. I done seen Salt-N-Pepa, I done seen Kane, I done seen Eric B. & Rakim behind the curtain. I didn’t have to stand out in the crowd and jump up in the air with everybody. I’m back stage securing them cats and making sure nobody don’t come and take them jewels or any of that. Our edge was different, that’s what PX was. Shaft was “something’s missing, let me find something in my crate” to fix it up a little bit and fill in the gap. He was that. That final gloss on the project to say, “Now it’s ready to go,” I trusted him like that.

Those brothers are dearly missed, man. It took me years to find people that I trust like that in the game that can help me with production now. My production style now is totally different. It’s another level of professional and it’s because I had those years with those brothers to know what the quality has to be at, whether it’s sampled or digital. Those brothers really were the hammer behind me, and Architect, Paradise too. He was a great influence. He was the first person to bring me to Latin Quarters and bring me to the turntables and let me see how the big dogs do it. So I can see what kind of rhythms people really dance to and don’t. I can see cats performing and what I would do in my show and what I didn’t wanna do. He was the dude that opened up Fantasy Island. If anybody has been to Latin Quarters, that was like a Fantasy Island for Hip-Hop, homie. All boroughs was up in that bad boy, son [laughs]. It was good times with them brothers, always. Their spirit rides with this. We don’t move on to the new cypher forgetting about where we came from. But I can’t let something sit and say, “If it’s not the four brothers then it’s nothing.” Nah man, I brought X Clan to Blackwatch. When we were doing security I said, “Yo man, our crew is going to be named X Clan and we ain’t gonna be hollering about none of that stupidity. I’m gonna take my spoken word and block party skills and take that somewhere else.” That’s what it was, and that’s what it is.

Part 2 of A Conversation with Brother J of X Clan

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Introducing: Precise

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Photo courtesy of Eddy Lamarre

Photo courtesy of Eddy Lamarre

Chicago emcee Precise  dropped a new EP this week titled Ladies Love Mixtapes. The EP is geared toward women but relatable to men with stories of love, lust, and loss. The project is produced by Tye Hill, Crankz, D.J. Thunder and Precise himself.

To celebrate the release of the project The Silver Room in Chicago, Illinois will host “Love Sessions”, a listening session of the Ladies Love Mixtapes EP with Precise on May 24.

The Real Hip-Hop spoke to Precise about the Chicago rap scene, his style of music that he calls ‘Adult Hip-Hop’, and his new EP, Ladies Love Mixtapes.

TRHH: What inspired the Ladies Love Mixtapes EP?

Precise: Actually I was having a conversation with Kevin Maxey of CTA Radio on WHPK one day. We were talking about the change in music and he mentioned a discussion he had with someone who said that lawyers and women killed Hip-Hop music. I thought about that and I was like, I can kinda understand why lawyers with all the sample laws and licensing and all that stuff. But then from my perspective the reason that someone would feel that women killed Hip-Hop is because we really haven’t involved them in the process of this culture. Meaning that from the perspective of rap music we don’t really create music for them or that caters to their sensibilities. That gave me the idea to create the Ladies Love Mixtapes. The EP is centered around stuff that I think women are drawn to — conversations about relationships, conversations period.

TRHH: How many of the songs on this release come from personal experiences?

Precise: Wow, all of them [laughs]. That’s a great question, bro. Every single one of them come from personal experiences. The way that the album is, I do want to touch on the women’s sensibilities but in terms of where it’s coming from, it’s coming from me and all the experiences I’ve had when it comes to women and relationships.

TRHH: Talk a little about the single, Take Our Time (Right Away).

Precise: Take Our Time (Right Away) was produced by Tye Hill and D.J. Thunder. The way that the album opens up I’m chilling with Tye at a club and I’m telling him how I just got out of a relationship but then this woman catches my eye and I approach her. Just to play on words we really don’t want to rush into anything, but we don’t want to waste our time moving too slow and letting the feeling pass.

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

Precise: I don’t know if I have a favorite song ‘cause I like them all, but I like ‘I’m Dreaming’ and I like ‘Let Go’ – that one comes from a real personal place.

TRHH: Was it important for you to show that there is something else coming out of Chicago other than what’s been promoted recently?

Precise: Man, I’m so happy that you asked that question. I was just reading an article out of the Chicago Tribune where they were talking about the demise of Drill Music and how it’s taken its course. I think Chicago has always been a melting pot in terms of what comes out of the city. Part of my motivation is really to shine a light on a different aspect. I’m an adult so I label what I do as adult Hip-Hop. When you become a person of a certain age your subject matter changes so it really doesn’t matter how many cars and stuff you got. It’s more about your personal experiences and the experiences you have with others and the challenges you may have as you get older and grow in the world. To answer your question, yeah, that is part of that to shine a light on a whole ‘nother perspective – on something that hasn’t been given much light at all.

TRHH: What’s your take on the whole Drill scene?

Precise: I think it was birthed out of a struggle. I don’t think it was an accident but at the same time I think it’s been exploited. Chief Keef’s name is in the news every day and it’s never about his music. Again, it’s kind of a blessing and a curse. The reason why I say it’s a blessing is because the spotlight is on Chicago. All of these people dying every day and getting shot every day, come on, what you gon’ do about it? This has to wake up the minds of individuals who aren’t paying attention to what’s going on here in Chicago and the Drill music is the voice of that.

TRHH: What’s your take on the violence that we have in our city? Nationally we’ve become a joke. I see people on Twitter joke about how terrible Chicago is and it’s embarrassing and sad.

Precise: Sherron man, it is embarrassing. To have to answer a question like that for one of the most beautiful cities in the world it can be embarrassing, but at the same time it’s just a glimpse of what’s going on around the world. There are people getting killed in Syria right now. There’s people getting killed in Russia right now. At the same time even from the perspective of news coverage, there is more coverage of what’s going on over there than in Chicago every day. The reputation that Chicago has is really up to us to reshape and reformulate how wanna approach this and how we want our city to be seen. It’s in our hands.

TRHH: Back to the music, who is Ladies Love Mixtapes for?

Precise: Ladies Love Mixtapes is essentially for the ladies, number one. It’s also for; I’m going to coin a genre right now, Adult Hip-Hop, for those people that don’t wanna hear the gun shots and the loud drums in every song. It’s kind of a laid back spring time feel. I specifically chose the spring to drop it because I feel like that’s what it is. It’s a spring album to bring some rejuvenation and some chill out – it’s a chill mode kind of release.

TRHH: What do you hope to achieve with this project?

Precise: I hope to bring in some more supporters from the female species. I really wanna be able to branch out internationally with this release in terms of a different kind of sound coming from Chicago. I just want to shine a light more on what Precise is doing and how versatile I am an as artist and a songwriter.

TRHH: What’s next up for Precise?

Precise: I’m working on a few different projects. I’m working with a gentleman named Dray-Yard from Belarus. The Anti-Skinny Jean LP is officially dropping in July. That’s with Rkitech, Keith Murray, and Stat Quo. Rkitech is a producer from Long Island, New York. He’s worked with EPMD, Mary J. Blige, and those sorts of individuals. We’re dropping that in July and the single that I’m on is called ‘The Feeling’.

Purchase: Precise – Ladies Love Mixtapes: The EP

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Rita J: Lost Time

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Photo courtesy of Ronan Lagadec

Photo courtesy of Ronan Lagadec

In 2009 Rita J released her long awaited debut album Artist Workshop. Nearly five years later the Chicago emcee is back with her sophomore album appropriately titled, Lost Time.

The album features production by !llmind, Proh Mic, Kenny Keys, Black Spade, and Ali Shaheed Muhammad of A Tribe Called Quest. Guest starring on Lost Time are Mr. Greenweedz, ADaD, Wes Restless, Nina Rae, Isa Starr, Doc Brrown, GQ Tha Teacha, and Rasheeda Ali.

Rita J spoke to The Real Hip-Hop about the Chicago Hip-Hop scene, the status of the Family Tree crew, and her new album, Lost Time.

TRHH: Explain the title of your album, ‘Lost Time’.

Rita J: Lost Time. Lost Time is basically just a collection of songs that I got down to sound cohesive as an album. I figured since it had been about four years since my last album, Artist Workshop that it was just time lost, i.e., Lost Time.

TRHH: How is Lost Time different from your first album Artist Workshop?

Rita J: I think it’s just a fresher sound, an updated sound. Again, when I put Artist Workshop out it was a little late. It took five years for that album to be released. Lost Time is a little fresher. I worked with international artists on this album. It has a more cohesive sound. I have less producers on this album as well.

TRHH: The song ‘The Dough’ seemed a little bit different from what we’re used to hearing from you. What inspired that song?

Rita J: That beat was made by a producer named Proh Mic based out of Seattle, Washington. I had been listening to a lot of music and he has a really funked out West Coast sound and vibe that I was really diggin’. I just wanted to see what I could do over some of his music. He actually has four tracks on the album and he mixed the album. I got to work with him more and we connected. I don’t want to give credit to solely him, I know I’m on the song too but I feel like that’s his style and represents his style of music.

TRHH: A couple of songs on the album have different sounds to them, like ‘Survival’. Was your aim to take this album some place unexpected?

Rita J: For me, yeah. After a while things can get boring. I feel like you should change it up and mix it up. I’m always looking for different interesting songs and vibes that I feel like can still come across on. ‘Cause not everything is for me. I definitely wanna get more into different instrumentation and live music. It’s just pushing me closer to that point.

TRHH: The last time I interviewed you, you were in Atlanta. Are you back in Chicago?

Rita J: I am back in Chicago.

TRHH: What brings you back?

Rita J: I think my time was up in Atlanta. I had some things going and it kind of got to a point where I just made a decision that this is not really for me, I don’t see myself growing here, so maybe it’s time to go back home and work on this album release and get back in tune with my Chicago family, and that’s what ended up happening. I got offered to go to Brazil which was my first trip out of the country as well as being able to perform. That kind of kicked things off after Artist Workshop got released – this was 2010. I got back to Chicago and ironically as much as I said I would never come back and didn’t want to come back, I came back and things fell in place and it gave me the opportunity to travel more and be able to go overseas and stuff. I think it was a good move.

TRHH: What’s it like performing overseas versus performing in the states?

Rita J: I just think it’s a different energy. The energy over there is more refreshing. They’re more eager to hear what you have to say and what you’re brining to the table versus here I feel like people are a little more jaded. They’re like, “I’ve seen that and heard that before. We need you to burst into flames on stage!” Here I feel like people have an agenda where it’s like, “Let’s work together, let’s do this, let’s do that,” but there they’re just listening. They’re enjoying the music, they want the CD, and the t-shirt, or whatever and they’re cool.

TRHH: That’s interesting. Are you familiar with the comedian Patrice O’Neal? He passed away about four years ago.

Rita J: Yep.

TRHH: He had a joke where he said American’s all think we can make it. We all think we have a lottery ticket. We all have that hope that we’ll be something better than somebody else. I never thought of it that way but it’s really true.

Rita J: Yeah, it is true. Everybody is someone, but everybody thinks they’re someone so it’s overcrowded in my opinion. It’s harder to weed people out. Who really stands out anymore with the influx of so many artists? Music is everywhere, on the internet — it’s so many people that do music that it’s overwhelming. I’m still trying to get out here in the states. I find it harder to book shows in the states. I don’t get to tour the East Coast, West Coast, or the South, but when I go overseas I’m hitting all different cities and countries so it’s like a disconnect here.

TRHH: What’s your opinion on the current Chicago Hip-Hop scene?

Rita J: I’m considered old school or something now [laughs]. This new scene which is titled “The Drill Scene”, which I just found out because I’m not hip, is like Chief Keef and all these kids or whatever. That’s what comes to mind when people think of Chicago Hip-Hop now, but I’m coming from a Common era, or even a Lupe or Kanye. They’re not here anymore. They’re global and worldwide. My goal is to just expand or do more than what’s considered Chicago Hip-Hop. But there is a scene here, it is active, there are plenty of things to do, shows to perform if you want to, but it’s at that same level.

TRHH: I talked to a lot of artists from Chicago about the Drill scene and everybody has a different opinion. Some people think it’s detrimental, like Rhymefest and Lupe. But some people say they like what the kids are doing.

Rita J: I think we should definitely be free to do what we wanna do and say what we wanna say. I don’t believe in censoring words, the n-word, what type of music you do, or whatever. Because you don’t know who you can be inspiring so just do what you do. I do not condone negative behavior and violence and I’m not particularly interested in hearing anything about women being degraded or taking drugs. It’s just not my thing. Do I feel like it’s destroying the community? Not necessarily. A lot of things are destroying the community – the fact that there are no grocery stores with great food in it, outlets for children to have activities to do after school, gun laws, TV, so I don’t wanna put that on the Drill scene. But like I said, I’m not into the negativity of what that scene seems to be involved in.

TRHH: Me either, and I think the Drill scene is a result of all this stuff in our communities. I interview a lot of those kids and I really like them as people. I can’t necessarily get into their music but I really like them as people. They’re really nice kids, but something is off here. I can’t put my finger on it.

Rita J: I think that they’re attracted to what they think they’re supposed to be doing. Since Hip-Hop is worldwide now, is corporate, and making money, a certain type of rap is being promoted so that’s what they kind of go for. So they go, “What’s selling?” and it’s somebody talking about how many cars they have, how many girls they have, and how many drugs they smoke. Being young you kinda don’t really know what you need to be doing if you don’t know yourself. So I think they get caught up in thinking that’s what they’re supposed to be rapping about. They don’t see Rita J, Elzhi, or whoever else and they aren’t into it because who are we? We’re just some underground rappers who aren’t on the radio, aren’t on MTV, so they don’t think of it in terms of that. A lot of these kids don’t have the long vision.

TRHH: Back to the album, On ‘Peace, Love, & No War’ you worked with Ali Shaheed Muhammad, how’d that collaboration come together?

Rita J: I was in the studio one day with the All Natural crew, Cap D, MC ADaD, Proh Mic was there, and some other people. We basically were trying to just record some songs and we had a long list of beats that we were going through. Producers weren’t listed and that beat was the first beat listed on the tape. I chose that beat to work on and I just ended up writing to it and nobody hopped on it with me. Down the road I revisited that song. Even though it says his name on the track it never really clicked to me. I was talking to Tone B. Nimble and he was like, “Yeah, that’s an Ali Shaheed track,” and I was like, “What?!” So basically Tone B. Nimble and Cap D, All Natural, they source beats and they get beats from different producers and whatnot. I think Cap might have a relationship with Ali. It was just one of those things where I chose a beat and didn’t really know much about it and it ended up being Ali Shaheed Muhammad’s beat. Of course I wanted to talk to him, see him or something and give him the song. I almost had the chance to this summer in Switzerland but I didn’t meet him. Proh Mic saw him in Seattle and gave him the CD. That’s as far as that got. I’m still waiting to meet him [laughs].

TRHH: That’s so cool to have a beat from Ali Shaheed Muhammad.

Rita J: It’s so rare, too. Who has that?

TRHH: Nobody. You mentioned Cap D and them, what’s your relationship like with Family Tree? Does Family Tree exist still?

Rita J: It exists loosely I guess you could say. I don’t see any reunions happening any time soon. Everybody completely went their separate ways. Everyone is older now. Cap D and Tone have families. Cap D actually moved out to Oakland and he’s the attorney for the Golden State Warriors. I still talk to them as much as I can, but we don’t hang out and aren’t in the cyphers outside the clubs anymore. They’re doing great things. We’re just growing as people so everybody kind of split off into their own things. I think Tone B. Nimble’s focus is like gospel music now.

TRHH: What happened to Iomos [Marad]?

Rita J: I’m not sure. The last I heard he was living in Minnesota. I heard he was still doing music up there and was a teacher. I heard he was doing gospel or spiritual rap but I haven’t heard too much from him lately. The Twins [Daily Planet], I think they moved out to California. Greenweedz of course is still around — he’s the booking agent at The Shrine.

TRHH: What’s next up for Rita J?

Rita J: I just wanna continue to put out good music. I’m gonna keep promoting this album, it’s still pretty fresh. I just released that video ‘Survival’ in Paris. I’m trying to get back to Paris. I’m trying to get back to Europe in general this summer to tour. I’m also interested in booking shows in the states, but I’m not going to lose any sleep over it if it doesn’t happen because there is a lot of interest overseas. I just wanna broaden my horizons and incorporate a little more art into the things that I’m doing. For example, my release party, I’d like it to be more of a collaboration of artists and not just, “Oh, I’m at the club drinking and doing songs.” I want it to be an art gallery, somebody is painting bodies over there, and somebody is playing the drums – just more of a livelier set. I’m just brainstorming of different ways to approach the music creatively because I do understand that it gets boring and people get tired of seeing the same old thing – I mean I do. So to keep it fun I try to think of different things to do. That’s basically it. I’m just brainstorming on how to keep the ball rolling.

Purchase: Rita J – Lost Time

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Anti-Lilly: Stories from the Brass Section

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Photo courtesy of Anti-Lilly

Photo courtesy of Grant Tucker

Houston emcee Anti-Lilly came onto the scene in 2013 with a stellar mixtape titled, ‘Memoirs & the 90s’. The mixtape paid homage to 90s era Hip-Hop musically as well as lyrically. Anti-Lilly’s rhymes are more 1994 than 2014, which caught the ear of another young artist inspired by the “golden era”, Phoniks.

Phoniks and Anti-Lilly united for a joint released titled Stories from the Brass Section. The album is produced entirely by Phoniks and features appearances by Awon, Scolla, and Devin Miles.

Anti-Lilly spoke to The Real Hip-Hop about his musical influences, working with producer Phoniks, and his new album, Stories from the Brass Section.

TRHH: Explain the title of your new album, Stories from the Brass Section.

Anti-Lilly: Before we came up with the title for the album me and Phoniks was just sending tracks back and forth between each other. One thing I noticed was when he does his production it’s just crazy how he gets everything to blend. Everything he did was with trumpets, trombones, and saxophones so it only made sense for us to make an album with my storytelling and his production, it’s the title that we collectively came up with.

TRHH: How’d you end up hooking up with Phoniks?

Anti-Lilly: He reached out to me. My homie Ray at Respect mag actually posted an article when Phoniks and Awon came out with their album, Return to the Golden Era. They mentioned me in the write-up so he took the time to listen to my album Memoirs & the 90s. He took the time to reach out to me and we didn’t look back from there. We just kept clickin’.

TRHH: How is this album different from Memoirs & the 90s?

Anti-Lilly: That’s a great question. Memoirs was more of a prelude or an introduction. It was showing my versatility but with Brass Section I could focus everything and it had more of a complete sound. The chemistry between us is just ridiculous. Sometimes it would be the same night, sometimes it would be a few days, but whenever we got the songs finished it just meshed and that really helped with the flow of the whole album.

TRHH: Was the ‘Young G’ remix the first track you and Phoniks worked on?

Anti-Lilly: Actually no. The first track we did was the Respiration joint with Scolla on it. Phoniks is a mad genius. He’s always dropping these remix albums. He loved the original ‘Young G’ so much that he threw a beat on it and it was crazy. It brought new life to the song. On Memoirs it was actually a freestyle I did over the Notorious B.I.G. original, but he brought new life to it. He knows what sounds I’m looking for. We didn’t really butt heads too much on this project at all.  Things we didn’t agree on were really miniscule things. We didn’t disagree on the direction of the music. It was things like release dates and stuff like that. He remixed ‘Young G’ and randomly sent it to me and I fell in love with it.

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

Anti-Lilly: A long list. First off my rhymes are an embodiment of my life so before I can name any emcees I’m just gonna say my dad. He always instilled that work ethnic in me. He always let me know that nobody can tell you nothing in this life and anything you want you can grasp it. I always had that mentality and to this day he keeps me focused and my head on straight. When I was coming up it was a musical household. My cousins listened to a lot of UGK and Scarface with us being from Houston. When I started dibbling and dabbling with Hip-Hop on my own I listened to a lot of Wu-Tang Clan, the Fugees, Black Star, Common, and Nas. As far as Hip-Hop I really don’t have a certain genre that I listen to but my favorite emcees are the storytellers. You can kind of get that by listening to my music. Listening to Scarface, Nas, my dad put me on to Slick Rick when I was about 13, and it’s crazy how they can paint a picture in your head like they’re just sitting right next to you. I’ve always been fascinated by telling stories and incorporating my past experiences, stuff I’m going through now, and what my people are going through. Just to be able to put that type of art in the music is truly a blessing. I’m trying to use my God-given talent as much as I can. Those are my influences. I don’t wanna be the guy that just names rappers all day. For the theme of this album I was definitely listening to a lot more of the storytellers in Hip-Hop.

TRHH: In your opinion, who is the best storyteller of all-time?

Anti-Lilly: Nas [laughs]. Nas man, hands down. Have you heard ‘Undying Love’?

TRHH: Yeah.

Anti-Lilly: The way he puts you in that scenario you feel like he came to your house and said, “Yo, I just caught my bitch cheating on me.” Nas is my favorite storyteller. A lot of people will say Slick Rick or Jay-Z, but for me it’s Nas, hands down.

TRHH: What’s the reception like for you in Houston, because your sound is different from what we’re used to hearing from Houston artists?

Anti-Lilly: That’s a really good question, too. It’s a misconception. Houston is a very diverse place musically. It’s not much of a balance as far as what’s played on the radio. We have the history of screw music and Swangin’ on Boppers and things like that, but it’s actually a really dope music scene. There are a lot of dope artists making music like myself. I’ve got a pretty dope following out there. Of course we’re just trying to keep building on everything. The city loves me, what it comes down to, and I firmly believe this, no matter what type of music you make whether it’s boom bap, backpack, or trap rap, if it’s real and genuine and you can get it out to the people they will follow you and believe in you. You just gotta keep that belief in yourself and keep pushing. They’ve really been loving the project out here. We’re going to set up some shows and keep pushing it as far as we can go.

TRHH: ‘A Million Stories’ is a takeoff of a Tribe Called Quest record. Are you big into Tribe and how’d you discover them?

Anti-Lilly: I wanna give a big shout out to my cousin. She put me on to their music. ‘A Million Stories’ was on Midnight Marauders and that’s one of my favorite albums. The way Phife painted that image I wanted to re-do it and do it in the right way. I still listen to that song today. It’s one of my favorite songs and hopefully he gets to hear it one day. I like to flip old choruses and rhymes and try to make it modern. It’s history at the end of the day and for the kids coming up that didn’t get to experience or know who A Tribe Called Quest was I want to shed that light and pay homage. When I say those lyrics it’s stuff that’s going on, but I want them to know at the same time it’s the stuff that influenced me – I got that from Phife Dawg. Same thing with Respiration, I was listening to Black Star at the time and ‘Respiration’ is one of my all-time favorite joints in Hip-Hop, period. Just the energy from Mos, Common, and Talib, it was a crazy joint and I wanted to bring new life to it and flip the subject matter to focus more on my personal life. I like to do that from time to time. Flip some of my favorite joints and put my twist on it to get some new ears on it. I’m definitely a Hip-Hop head and I want to keep the culture spreading. What the issue has been is there hasn’t been much of a balance. There’s not much of substance that’s being played by the masses. Me and Phoniks are just trying to help even the numbers out.

TRHH: How’d you get the name Anti-Lilly?

Anti-Lilly: Funny story. I’ve been making music since I was about eight years old. My government name is actually Drake. My full name is Drake Lilly so around the time the rapper Drake started poppin’ I couldn’t go by that name anymore. I switched it to “Anti” and used it as a replacement for my first name. I’m pretty much against negativity. I’m just trying to spread the good word out here. It’s kinda wack looking back at it from a 13-14 year old, but it just kinda stuck.

TRHH: How old are you, man?

Anti-Lilly: I just turned 21 in September.

TRHH: You work a day job, right?

Anti-Lilly: Yeah, I work a 9-to-5. I work about forty hours or more a week. If I’m not doing that I’m in the lab.

TRHH: What are your goals with music? Is music something you do or something you want to do full-time?

Anti-Lilly: It’s definitely something I’ve been pursuing. Besides rapping I play instruments as well – I’m a percussionist. I’ve always been involved with music from an early age. It’s always been something I’ve had a strong passion for. I tried the college thing. I went for about three weeks and I just left. I still owe ‘em money to be honest with you [laughs]. It’s just something I’ve always had a passion for. I’ve always loved writing and listening to instrumentation. I’ve always been involved in the arts and what I wanna do is give my music to as many people that are willing to listen. The ultimate goal is to be a full-time musician. I say it in my rhymes, “This 9-to-5 is really not cut out for me.” I’d rather make my own shots. I don’t like taking orders too much.

TRHH: Yeah, it sucks.

Anti-Lilly: It’s definitely one of my ultimate goals to be able to make an honest living off of creative music. Even more importantly I feel like I have a message, especially at the time that we’re living in now, you don’t really hear it too much. I just wanna get my voice and my message out there and keep spreading this positive stuff ‘cause it’s a lot of bullshit that be going on in life and I try to show people it’s a brighter side. I got people coming up to me now saying, “I listen to ‘Respiration’ or ‘Everyman‘ and it really helped me get through my day.” When I hear comments like that it makes you wanna keep pushing. I’ve been blessed with the gift of being able to speak and having people listen.

TRHH: I remember reading an interview with Rhymefest where he talked about how he was a janitor and somebody took a shit on the wall and the toilet and that was the day he knew he would rap full-time. He quit the job and has been making a living off of rap ever since. There is going to come a point where you’re going to have to choose. Do you feel confident enough to take that leap anytime soon?

Anti-Lilly: Yeah, I’m definitely more than confident. The only thing that’s held me back in the past is I’ve been living on my own since I was 19 so I pay a lot of bills. I’m definitely willing to make that leap. I talk to Phoniks every day. I’m just so confident in this project and I know it’s gonna do great, even if not now, throughout time. We’re going to get some ears on it and we’re going to keep working on individual stuff as well as doing more stuff together. I’m more than confident in the music. I’m not cocky or anything but I do have a lot of confidence in myself, not only as a person but as an artist.

TRHH: What do you want to accomplish in the music industry?

Anti-Lilly: As far as the music industry I really don’t have much personal experience with it. Stuff didn’t really get poppin’ for me until last year. I just wanna get to as many ears as I can. It’s more than just being able to make a living. If I can make a living off of making music, that’s the perfect thing for me. I don’t need to be at the Grammys or anything like that. If I can make a comfortable living while providing for myself and my family while at the same time being able to use my God-given talent you can put a bow on that. That’ll be perfect for me, bruh.

Purchase: Anti-Lilly & Phoniks – Stories from the Brass Section

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A Conversation with Big Daddy Kane

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Photo courtesy of Big Daddy Kane

Photo courtesy of Big Daddy Kane

The term “legend” gets thrown around an awful lot these days, especially in Hip-Hop. Few artists actually leave an impact on the culture strong enough to deserve that title. Big Daddy Kane is one of the chosen few that has earned the title of “legend”.

A premier lyricist from day one, Kane managed to integrate battle rap, consciousness, storytelling, and love songs into one perfect package. During a time when LL Cool J was the most popular rap artist, Rakim was the most respected lyricist, and gangsta rap was emerging from the West Coast, Big Daddy Kane was at the top of the heap in Hip-Hop.

For my money Kane is one of the top 3 emcees of all-time and that’s saying a lot. He’s influenced the likes of Jay-Z, the Notorious B.I.G., Common, Nas, Black Thought, and Ghostface Killah among others who have gone on to influence a generation of their own.

Kane is preparing to tour Europe this spring with dates in Frankfurt, Stockholm, London, and Vienna among other cities.

Big Daddy Kane spoke to The Real Hip-Hop about his storied career, his 2014 European tour, his influence on the culture of Hip-Hop, and his various upcoming projects.

TRHH: Let’s start from the first album, Long Live the Kane. What were your expectations going into that album?

Big Daddy Kane: Just hoping that people recognize my lyrical skills and look at me as the dopest emcee out at that time. That’s what the whole objective was.

TRHH: I remember seeing you on LL’s Nitro tour and you kind of stole show alongside guys like LL and Slick Rick. Were there any rivalries with those guys who were your contemporaries back then?

Big Daddy Kane: Everybody always wanted me and Rakim to battle. If I did have any rivalries I guess it would probably be him.

TRHH: Did you view it that way at the time or in hindsight?

Big Daddy Kane: Nah. Me and Eric B were close friends. We still are close friends.

TRHH: I always thought you and Rakim might have been cool because you shared the Nation of Gods and Earths and had similar styles, but y’all never hung out like that huh?

Big Daddy Kane: Nah, we never hung. We just really started recently being around each other.

TRHH: Was there any pressure to top the first album going into It’s a Big Daddy Thing?

Big Daddy Kane: Not at all because by the time the second album came I had seen more. With Long Live the Kane I only knew a bunch of local stuff – what I had seen around New York, Philly, or places I had been with Biz [Markie]. By the time I was making my second album I had toured the world. I’d been all over the U.S., London, and Amsterdam.

TRHH: That album cemented you as the top guy in 1989. What was the ride like being number one with that album?

Big Daddy Kane: ’89 was a beautiful year. We covered a lot of bases. We covered East Coast Hip-Hop, West Coast Hip-Hop, the men, the women, the adults, teenagers, and the kids. It was beautiful. So many doors opened after that album. I ended up doing songs with Patti LaBelle, Barry White, and Quincy Jones. It opened doors for me to actually work with legends.

TRHH: And Dolemite!

Big Daddy Kane: Yeah, Dolemite.

TRHH: On Taste of Chocolate you had a song called ‘Mr. Pitiful’ that chronicled what you had gone through to that point your career. I found it to be extremely honest for that time. Did you ever have any apprehension about recording that song?

Big Daddy Kane: No, not at all. This is what was on my mind and I wanted people to know exactly what my life was really like. That was just from the heart – direct.

TRHH: Another direct song was ‘The Vapors’. I interviewed Rhymefest some years ago and he told me that The Vapors was an inspirational song and I never looked at it that way. I thought about it and yeah, it is motivational. Take me through the process of writing The Vapors.

Big Daddy Kane: That’s the moral of the song; you can achieve your goals. Biz had this whole concept of people catching the vapors. It all started about a joke he was making about a girl who went to high school with me and now that we was doing shows she followed me around the mall asking me to take her to Latin Quarters. Biz was walking behind her constantly saying, “She caught the vapors, she caught the vapors.” He told me about the idea for the song and he wanted to talk about people catching the vapors. People that was frontin’ at first and acting funny and all of a sudden they wanna be in your corner and be down with you. I remembered [TJ] Swan telling me a story about how he worked for UPS and how chicks wanted to front then, and I remember when Cool V was working for a record store in Elizabeth, New Jersey. I was basically taking real life stories and showing how it was and how it changed.

TRHH: You were a ghostwriter before they called it ghost writing. What’s your writing process like in general? Do you write to the beat or write whenever a rhyme comes to you?

Big Daddy Kane: Both. Sometimes I’ll get a slick idea and just start jotting it down and going with it. It might be something that I have on stash until I find the right track to go with it. Sometimes if I’m in the studio and somebody is playing a beat I’ll sit and write to the beat.

TRHH: What a lot of people don’t know is you produced a lot of your own records. How did you make that transition from Marley Marl on the first album to making your own beats?

Big Daddy Kane: What a lot of people really don’t know is on the first album that was mainly me with help from Biz on certain songs like ‘Ain’t No Half Steppin’’. Stuff like ‘Raw’, and ‘Long Live the Kane’, them joints was me I just didn’t get the credit. It was nothing new. What was really going on was Marley was mainly engineering a lot of those sessions. He did do ‘I’ll Take You There’ and ‘The Day You’re Mine’.

TRHH: Shan did tell me that. He said his album was the only one that Marley really produced.

Big Daddy Kane: Yeah.

TRHH: On ‘Show and Prove’ you had an up-and-coming Jay-Z and Ol’ Dirty Bastard, before they dropped solo albums. Both men will be loved in Hip-Hop forever, what did you see in them to put them on your album in 1994?

Big Daddy Kane: At that point in time we were trying to shop Jay-Z to get him a deal. He was an artist I was working with at the time. With Ol’ Dirty, me and Wu-Tang did a show together at Newark Symphony Hall and after the show I told my people, “I wanna meet that Ol’ Dirty Bastard dude and the little kid.” I went to their dressing room and they came to a party in Queens with me and hung out that night — ever since we were cool. Ol’ Dirty used to come out to Queens and spend the night at my crib a whole lot. Shyheim, I took him on the road with me on the Budweiser Superfest. He was like fifteen years old, too young to be on a tour sponsored by a beer company [laughs].

TRHH: Chuck D said that Looks Like A Job For… is one of the best Hip-Hop albums of all-time. I think it’s definitely underrated, but it’s not one of those that people mention when they talk about Kane. Do you have a favorite Big Daddy Kane album?

Big Daddy Kane: Oh yeah, It’s a Big Daddy Thing, my second one.

TRHH: Why is that your favorite?

Big Daddy Kane: I just think that it’s one of those complete tight albums. That’s difficult to do when you’ve got so many songs. I believe that there is 16 or 17 songs on there. It’s kind of hard to listen to that many songs from the same person. I think we pulled it off by the different directions we went with that album. There’s a lot of conscious stuff, a lot of gutter stuff, and something for the ladies. It was just a well-rounded album – and the production too.

TRHH: Why did you decide to put the live version of ‘Wrath of Kane’ on the album?

Big Daddy Kane: I thought it would be interesting. I think about the live of version of ‘Let’s Get It On’ by Marvin Gaye from his album when he hit that note “please” and you hear all the chicks screaming and losing their mind. Or the live version of Teddy Pendergrass from the Coast to Coast album where he screamed, “Turn ‘em off!” and you hear girls in the crowd scream, “Turn ‘em off!” The reaction from the crowd, for fans to really experience that like, “Yo, that’s how I was at the show!”

TRHH: Yeah, I feel like I’m at the Apollo when I listen to it. DJ Premier produced ‘Show and Prove’ and some other songs that you’ve done. There’s talk about a Kane/Primo full-length album. Can you give us an update on the status of that project?

Big Daddy Kane: I don’t know. Right now there is so much other stuff going on that it’s hard to focus on that right now. It’s definitely something that I would love to do. Premier is real busy too. If I’m correct, I think he’s getting ready to do some stuff with Nas. If our schedules can permit and you give us the time to really sit, yeah, I would love to.

TRHH: Why was Veteranz’ Day the last Kane album that we’ve heard?

Big Daddy Kane: [Laughs] When we were doing Veteranz’ Day it was the type of thing where at that point I wasn’t really focused and I let people talk me into going and recording an album. I personally think Veteranz’ Day is better than Looks Like A Job For if you ask me. I put a lot of time and effort into that. The people that I was dealing with label wise made it a situation where I was gonna end up catching a charge. I’m getting too told to have to do 10-15 years so I’m good. I just left it alone. We were performing all over the world so I didn’t need to do nothing new. Everybody wanted to hear my catalog. They’re content with that, then so am I.

TRHH: I interviewed DMC and he said after Raising Hell they didn’t have to do nothing else. But if they had we never would have had ‘Down with the King’ or ‘Run’s House’. It was so much more after that to me. But I understand being at the pinnacle.

Big Daddy Kane: Yeah. I’m cool because since then I’ve been fortunate enough to be on the ‘Next Up’ cut with UGK, the ‘Brooklyn’ song with Joell Ortiz, ‘Don’t Touch Me’ with Busta Rhymes. I’ve done a lot of work with other artists doing feature appearances so you still get to hear new stuff. So, I’m cool.

TRHH: Yeah. When I see you perform you stick to the classics, but the last time I saw you, you pulled out the Big L joint, ‘Platinum Plus’. That was a nice surprise. I’m a hardcore Kane fan so I wanna hear the album cuts, but I know you gotta give the people what they want.

Big Daddy Kane: Depending on where we’re at. Whenever I do European tours we do ‘Another Victory’, ‘Young, Gifted, & Black’, ‘It’s Hard Being the Kane’, and I even do the D&D joint ‘Hot Shit’ that I did with Guru and Sadat X. We dig deep in Europe because it’s an audience that appreciates the whole catalog. Sometimes you’re in front of an audience that wanna hear the hits so you give them what they want so they don’t get bored.

TRHH: Tell me about Las Supper.

Big Daddy Kane: That’s my group and basically what we do is combine 60s and 70s soul music with 80s Hip-Hop and do it over live instrumentation.

TRHH: Are you still going out on the road with them?

Big Daddy Kane: Yeah, we just did a West Coast run in Oakland and L.A. We have dates coming up in May after I finish this European tour.

TRHH: Which one of your albums would you go back and change?

Big Daddy Kane: Probably Taste of Chocolate.

TRHH: Really?

Big Daddy Kane: Yeah, because Taste of Chocolate was a time when I was a little upset with Warner Bros. I was upset and was saying to myself, “This is album number three and I only owe them five, so let me just rush through this.” Really I was saying, “I’m a big fan of Barry White so let me work with him. I’m a big fan of Dolemite, let me work with him. Barbara Weathers from Atlantic Starr is fine as hell, let me work with her.” I was making like an autograph book really or a stamp collection. I wasn’t really focused on giving the people what they want. I think there are some nice songs on there. ‘Mr. Pitiful’ is my second favorite song I’ve ever made. There are other nice songs like ‘Dance with the Devil’ and ‘It’s Hard Being the Kane’, but had I been focused it would have been a whole lot more solid — tighter. I had people saying they wanted to work with me like Q-Tip and I’m like, “Ok, what’s up? You’re not going to be in the studio this week? Ok, never mind.” I’d just blow it off so I could hurry up and get the album out so I can move on to album number four.

TRHH: Doesn’t the business of music really mess up the art?

Big Daddy Kane: Yeah, sometimes. Especially during that time period when the majority of the record executives and A&R’s were fresh off of working a Prince record or Ronald Isley and then they’re trying to predict what Hip-Hop song is going to work and they don’t know. At the time Hip-Hop was new to those people because they had never worked a Hip-Hop song. You try to explain to them that the first single needs to be something street – you gotta keep the streets on your side. But they’re like, “No, this song is more radio. This is what we need to go with!” You have those types of arguments or it’s like, “I have this dude and he’s willing to shoot a video for this particular song for just $10,000,” but they wanna spend $100,000 for the more R&B radio-friendly song. You deal with stuff like that and you get frustrated and make you not wanna work with these people. You wanna please the fans, but you wanna please the fans at another label.

TRHH: Going back to Taste of Chocolate, ‘Who Am I’ was another important record. The first verse you spit is one of the most important and underrated rap verses ever to me. “I was born a black man from the motherland/Speaking a language today most people don’t understand,” man, that was incredible! You were talking about us — black people in America. I appreciate you for that one.

Big Daddy Kane: Absolutely, absolutely. Well thank you, I appreciate it. I definitely love that song and I loved working with Gamilah Shabazz, Malcolm X’s daughter. She was such a sweetheart. Just being in the studio with the daughter of Malcolm X was so motivational. It was incredible. That alone had me touched. It was very inspirational.

TRHH: You said ‘Mr. Pitiful’ is your second favorite song, but what’s your first?

Big Daddy Kane:Set it Off’.

TRHH: Why is that your favorite?

Big Daddy Kane: It’s that song that just always gives me energy. It might be a night where I ain’t get enough sleep, I’m tired, or arthritis is killing my back and as soon as we get to that song everything is gone. I don’t feel no pain, I’m not tired no more, I’m ready to go! That song just gets me amped! That’s my “go” button.

TRHH: On that song you said, “I could sneeze, sniffle, or cough/E-e-even if I stutter im’ma still come off.” Big Pun did a similar rhyme where he said, “Even if I stuttered I would still sh-sh-shit on you.” You heard that rhyme, right?

Big Daddy Kane: Yeah, yeah, the John Blaze song.

TRHH: Did you feel like that was paying homage to you?

Big Daddy Kane: Absolutely. Matter of fact, that’s where I met Pun, at the video shoot for ‘John Blaze’. We came on [Fat] Joe’s tour bus and it was the funniest thing in the world. Pun was like, “Oh shit it’s Big Daddy Kane! Yo ma , go get the kids!” [Laughs] It was hilarious. I was like, wow.

TRHH: There is a whole generation of emcees that revere you. I spoke to a 23-year old kid out of Chicago named Giftz and he said Jay-Z inspired him. He said, “People always say they like Rakim and Ghostface but I don’t listen to those people, I listen to Jay-Z.” I said, “Well you know Jay-Z is kind of like an offshoot of Big Daddy Kane,” and he was like, “What? I’ve never heard that!” He said he was at a radio station and the people told him he rapped like a Big Daddy Kane and he said I’ve never heard a Kane song. I told him to go and listen. It’s available.

Big Daddy Kane: You know that’s the way it is with this generation. I think that’s the reason why Hip-Hop is so stuck because this new generation is not really studying their predecessors. I grew up a student of Grandmaster Caz, Kool Moe Dee, and Melle Mel. Your following generation, Nas, Biggie, Jay-Z they grew up as students of Rakim, KRS-One, and myself. Afterwards you had Eminem and Ludacris who were students of them. I think that after Ludacris, Kanye, Lil’ Wayne, and Eminem I don’t think there has really been any new top artists that studied their roots. That’s why now someone is hot for 3-4 months and then gone. We lose our history. It’s hard enough to get a kid to stay in school and stay focused. Even those that listen to music every day only care about what’s poppin’ right then at the moment.

Radio plays a song about thirty times a day so it’s embedded in your head so you’re focused on what’s on and poppin’. Even if they do play something from the past you don’t really respect it as a great song because when they get ready to play it they say, “Back in the days, 1988,” so as a youth you feel like, “Man, this is something for my damn parents to listen to. I don’t wanna hear no old stuff.” That’s sad because in country music Willie Nelson is a legend. In pop music Madonna is a legend. In R&B music Patti LaBelle is a legend. In reggae Bob Marley is a legend. In Hip-Hop Big Daddy Kane is old school. It’s the way it’s taught to the youth. It’s taught to the youth like, “That’s some old stuff, this is what’s poppin’.” So nobody really takes the time to do their history. The youth feels like listening to something old is like doing what your parents do – it ain’t cool.

TRHH: How do you combat that though? I saw somebody recently say 50 Cent was old. 50 came out ten years ago! That’s old?

Big Daddy Kane: You can hear that on the radio. Like I said, go to one of these major stations and they will say stuff like, “Back in the days, 2006”.

TRHH: [Laughs] I’m a Chicago guy and Common is my favorite emcee. He really pays homage to you. He always says you’re his favorite emcee and you can hear the influence in his music. What does that mean to you when somebody like Common says Big Daddy Kane is his favorite emcee?

Big Daddy Kane: That’s my man. That to me is what this is all about. When somebody tells me, “The Source magazine had you in the top 5 emcees,” I’m like, “Ok, that’s cool.” The other four may not be who I consider dope emcees. If you got me with somebody who is there because they sold a whole bunch of records, or they’re popular, or a multimillionaire then I don’t really know if you know what really makes an emcee an emcee. Or somebody telling me, “Rolling Stone had ‘Ain’t No Half Stepping’ as one of the top 50 rap songs of all-time,” and I look at the list of songs I don’t really respect their judgment either. But you know when somebody on the street says, “You’re the reason I started rapping,” or “I always thought you was the dopest emcee,” or “Yo, you know you top three,” and then they say something like me, KRS, and Rakim or Me, Biggie, and G Rap, that’s the stuff that I love to hear. That’s what means something to me.

This was never something I did to sell a bunch of records or become rich from doing. I’m someone that actually loves Hip-Hop. I love it so much I’m someone that tried to open the audiences mind to all the different forms of Hip-Hop. When you look back at Cold Crush and Fantastic these were Hip-Hop pioneers who did singing routines at parties. When you look back to what everybody rhymed off of, ‘Good Times’, ‘Got to be Real’, these are disco records. Kraftwerk’s ‘Trans-Europe Express’ is techno music. I tried to open people’s eyes like, nah, it doesn’t have to always be a gutter beat because Hip-Hop musically has no origin. All it got to be is the break. It could be a break from a pop record or a rock record. ‘Big Beat’, ‘Walk this Way’, those are rock records. I’ve always tried to open the audiences mind to new things because of my love for Hip-Hop.

TRHH: To me you’re top 3 alongside Rakim and KRS. There are so many guys you can mention like LL, Slick Rick, G Rap, Ice Cube, Scarface, Nas, and Jay. One thing I can say about you that’s different from the other top tier emcees is you’re definitely the most versatile emcee. Just listening to you talk I realized nobody had the rough shit, the stage show, and the shit for the girls like you did.

Big Daddy Kane: Like I said, that’s my love for Hip-Hop. I know that there are chicks at the party. I know that people love to dance. I don’t know about now, but back then people loved to dance. I want to be entertaining. I don’t want you to come to my show and it looks like the album sounds. I want you to feel like you left with something extra like, “Yo, these dudes was dancing, jumping over your head, flipping and all types of stuff! Then he did some ill freestyle about such and such, yo, it was crazy!” That’s what I want you to leave feeling like.

TRHH: What’s up for Kane in 2014?

Big Daddy Kane: Right now we have a European tour coming up. We’re creating a TV show. At the present moment I’m the narrator for a new show on Centric called ‘Being’. So far they’ve shown Boris Kodjoe, Al Sharpton, and Wendy Williams.

TRHH: I’ve said this to a couple of people like Chuck D and Willie D from the Geto Boys, but you guys raised me. In my formative years I was listening to ‘Young, Gifted, and Black’ with Farrakhan on the record. That stuff made me into the man that I am. I feel bad for the kids today because I don’t know who that Chuck D, Rakim, and Big Daddy Kane is to give kids those messages. But it changed my life and I just wanted to say thank you for doing the music that you did.

Big Daddy Kane: [Laughs] That’s what’s up, man. Thank you, brother. I appreciate it, man.

See Big Daddy Kane live in Europe:

04/23/2014 – Frankfurt @ Zoom

04/26/2014 – Basel @ Sud

04/27/2014 – Hague @  Paard

04/29/2014 – Stockholm @ Fasching

04/30/2014 – Oslo @ Bla

05/01/2014 – London @ Jazz Cafe

05/02/2014 – London @ Jazz Cafe

05/07/2014 – Copenhagen @ Loppen

05/10/2014 – Winterthur @ Albani

05/13/2014 – Prague @ Lucerna

05/14/2014 – Vienna @ WUK

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Archie Green: The Greatest Pretender

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Photo courtesy of McKinley Wiley

Photo courtesy of McKinley Wiley

Cleveland, Ohio producer/emcee Archie Green in many ways is unconventional in today’s era of rap. Green refuses to put on a “rapper suit” instead opting to be himself – what a novel idea.

Having earned a Master’s degree from NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, Green is an educated man and he raps like it. His rhymes are eloquent and his beats are soulful in the tradition of other Midwest like emcees Common, Elzhi, Rhymefest, and Kanye West.

In 2013 Archie Green released The Greatest Pretender, a free album that showcases Green’s skill as a songwriter behind the boards and in the booth.

Archie Green spoke to The Real Hip-Hop about why Kanye West is his favorite emcee, the importance of having “CLASS”, and his latest album, The Greatest Pretender.

TRHH: Why’d you title your new album The Greatest Pretender?

Archie Green: The main reason behind the title was where I am with my life and a lot of my peers and people around me, right now we haven’t made it to that goal or that dream that we all wish to accomplish. Through mediums like Twitter and Instagram we fake it ‘till we make it. It’s like, “Aw man, I got all my shit together,” but in reality I’m still trying to figure shit out. For me, pretty much everybody that knows me when they meet me think, “This guy went to Morehouse College, he graduated with honors, he grew up in the suburbs, he grew up with two parents, his parents took care of him, he has a job, he has his shit together.” In reality I have a lot of inner demons that I fight with. I’m able to shield those from the outside world and that’s what the greatest pretender means to me. In this game, especially in Hip-Hop you gotta put on like you got shit going on – that’s just what we do. I feel like with a title like ‘The Greatest Pretender’ I’m one of the greatest ones out to tell that story. I’m faking it until I make it. I’m telling myself I’m the greatest until I really am the greatest, period.

TRHH: You ever read The Secret?

Archie Green: Yeah, I’m definitely a huge advocate for that. The book that I read that changed my life was ‘Manifest Your Destiny’ by Dr. Wayne Dyer. It really preaches the importance of meditation, having daily affirmations telling yourself that whatever it is you think you are you will be, period. I’m a firm believer in that. Again, that’s what The Greatest Pretender is about. You keep telling yourself these things until you become them. I interweave so many hidden messages of believing in yourself in the album as well.

TRHH: How is this album different from Klapisms?

Archie Green: I would say any project, not just Klapisms, that I did before this project I feel like I really didn’t go through as much. This was the first project that I was actually in a recording studio working on. For the other projects I did everything on my own. I didn’t get anything professionally mixed and mastered. With this one my fans helped me with the indiegogo campaign. My fans helped to put me in an actual studio. It was a lot more that went into this album, and I went through a lot more in terms of I broke up with my fiancé, I was broke, I couldn’t find a job, I had to move back home. There was a lot of things that went on with this project that people don’t really know. With my other projects I didn’t struggle as much. I was just putting out music to put out music. With this one the messages that I delivered was everything that I was going through at that time, not just stories of other people and other situations. These were first-person stories of everything that I was going through at that time unfiltered and unadulterated. Unlike the other projects where I was putting out what I felt to be good music but I was still kind of biting my tongue, with this one I totally let loose and I just said what was on my mind.

TRHH: Did you find that to be therapeutic at all?

Archie Green: Oh yeah. More so now than ever my art is very therapeutic, especially the situation I’m in now, moving back home. There are times when I listen to songs myself for inspiration to keep going. On ‘Sea of Fish’ I talk about a friend of mine who had quit working on music and was doing the 9-to-5 thing but that wasn’t really him, because he stopped believing. I’ve gone through that myself. I listen to it now and it’s reaffirming that I’m doing the right thing. I need to keep doing this music and not give up on this dream that I’ve had since I was 13-years old. Its songs like ’40 Acres’ where I tell the story of being this token black kid growing up in the suburbs and that not stopping me from being a great rapper. It’s the ten-year anniversary of one of my idols first albums, The College Dropout, he was the one that opened the door for somebody like me to get into Hip-Hop and be myself. I don’t have to worry about talking about drugs, talking about guns, or degrading women, I can just be myself and be one of the greats in this art. Writing this project was very therapeutic. The music kind of speaks for itself in what I went through when I was making it.

TRHH: I found out about you from the ‘40 Acres‘ video. Why was it important to you to put out that particular song?

Archie Green: I think for me one of the biggest stigmas I’ve always looked at in Hip-Hop is you have to have some type of street cred or be from some type of financial struggle to make it as an artist. Or you have to pretend that you came from some type of struggle in order to be an artist. You’ve got artists like Drake and Tyga that came from a well-to-do upbringing that don’t talk about it. I grew up in the suburbs. I won’t say I was spoiled or anything. My parents are the most humble people I know. I grew up blessed. That’s the American dream, right? We as people want to be able to give and provide for our families to give them a great life. I feel like in rap you can’t be respected if you came from a well-to-do family. I wanted to break that down. I wanted to say look, Just because I didn’t come from the hood doesn’t mean that I’m not a true Hip-Hop head, or I’m not a true artist, or my music would suffer from that. I’m not going to pretend that I came from the hood.

I’m proud of the way I was raised. I’m proud that my parents preached the importance of an education. I’m proud that I got the chance to be in a cotillion as a kid. I’m proud of the fact that my pops let me drive his Beamer to prom. As a black man in America I shouldn’t be ashamed to talk about that. There are other minorities in this country that grew up the same way I did but because of their surroundings or the way that America puts this norm on things like, “If you’re black” or “If you’re a minority” and you achieve something great you can’t talk about the fact that you grew up blessed and able to do wonderful things with your family. People won’t really respect that because you didn’t have any real struggles. My struggles weren’t financial struggles, my struggles were prejudice struggles. Being the only black kid in school, being called “nigger” on a daily basis. Most of these so-called hard rappers that talk about street raps, gangsta, and bitches and hoes couldn’t walk a day in my shoes. I know what it’s like to be the only one in an environment where I’m the only person of color. What I wanna do is break down the barrier that there is supposed to be some kind of struggle. Everybody has struggles and at the end of the day my struggle was more so from a standpoint of being an outcast, being the only black, or being well-to-do and not being able to relate to other black kids.

TRHH: How old are you, man?

Archie Green: I’m 28-years old.

TRHH: OK, I’m ten years older than you. I grew up before Hip-Hop had all this posturing and stuff. Kool Moe Dee didn’t come from the streets and he didn’t rap like that. Fresh Prince was like a suburban Philly kid and he was respected. Something changed in the 90s where your image became bigger than the music. You had to be negative or a thug or whatever to be a rapper. What do you think changed that Kid N’ Play were regular guys, they were dope, and even had a movie, but today if somebody came out that way they wouldn’t be as accepted?

Archie Green: There’s a story, some might call it a conspiracy theory but you can take it with a grain of salt. There’s a story that there was a group of people who owned parts of some of the most powerful record companies in the 90s that also had ownership of the prisons. As the story goes, they basically were saying we need to increase our population. One of the main mediums we can use to increase our population is through music. There was basically this motivation at this meeting where they were trying to tell these labels that they need to pump out more gangsta music, and negative music within the black community which would perpetuate violence, drug use, and more prisoners. When Kanye says, “That privately owned prison,” what the everyday average person might not know is these prisons are businesses. They make their money off of the population. How do we get the population? We set the system up for them to be fucked up in the system. For them to be arrested, add to the population, and add more money to our pockets. Like you said, most of the music in Hip-Hop was positive and that’s what was selling. At some point, whether you believe it or not these record labels started supporting artists that were putting out a negative message or a quote, unquote “real message”.

I won’t sit here and say groups like N.W.A. were doing that just to sell records, no, they were telling the truth about what was going on in L.A. during the Rodney King era and there was racial profiling and things like that. But there were definitely artists our there perpetrating. There were artists putting out a negative message because that’s what the record label wanted them to put out. These record labels were being told by certain entities that this is what we need in order for us to make more money. You can look at it like that or you can look at it as a sign of the times. Around the time Barack got elected to the time he got reelected the type of music that we were listening to, this ratchet movement, was because it was a sign of the times. The economy was in the shitter, people weren’t really finding jobs and because of that people didn’t really want thought-provoking positive music. They wanted to let loose, they wanted to laugh, and they wanted to go somewhere. They wanted to get to the club as soon as possible to drink away the pain of either having to look for a job or working at a job that they hated but they needed a job. There are a lot of different ways that you can look at it. you can look at it as these artists were being forced to put out this message or you can look at it as this is what the fans wanted at this point because people weren’t looking for their minds to be stimulated, they were just looking to escape.

TRHH: What’s the Cleveland rap scene like? It seemed like there wasn’t any noise coming out of Cleveland after Bone Thugs and then came Kid Cudi, Chip, and Machine Gun Kelly. Is the scene rejuvenated?

Archie Green: I did this show at a popular venue in Cleveland Heights called the Grog Shop and I was talking to this promoter about it. Right now I feel like there is starting to be a resurgence of the Cleveland music scene. I feel like there is a lot of great talent here, but I think we all need to work together. There is a little bit too much of a divide within the city. Cliques on this side, cliques on that side, and there is not enough unity within the community to bring visibility to Cleveland as a whole. That’s one of the reasons why I was drawn back here. Me bringing some of the energy that I got from New York back here to Cleveland, I wanna be part of this resurgence of the scene. I wanna bring visibility back. Cudi is one of the guys that did it, but he had to leave to do it. I think that Cleveland has the potential to develop a wave like Chicago, Detroit, and L.A. We can be another major Hip-Hop city, we just need to work together to do it.

TRHH: Earlier you mentioned Kanye West as an inspiration. What about him inspired you? He’s like a lightning rod; you either love him or hate him. A lot of people have turned on him recently. What’s your take on him today?

Archie Green: What first inspired me from Kanye is our upbringings are kind of alike. We came from middle-class upbringings. Both of his parents are educated, he’s kind of a loner like me, but his message is what initially connected with me — the positive messages in his music about his faith, being in school, being at a dead-end job, and everyday life. He put it in a witty way that was catchy, cool, and funny, but emotional at the same time. As far as how he’s evolved, I’m still a huge Kanye fan. I really think that at the core he’s still the same dude, he just has a larger platform. He’s learned a lot over the time that he’s had in the game. It’s been ten years since he’s been mainstream. A lot of people haven’t experienced what he’s experienced and a lot of people aren’t in his shoes and can’t relate to it as much as they could when he initially started. He’s trying his best to continue to project an image that people can understand. It’s hard for him because he’s in different circles now.

In terms of the type of things that he’s putting in his music now with Yeezus, it kind of touches on this whole spirituality thing that I’m on and a lot of people in my generation are on as far as millennials – being more spiritual, liberal, and open to things. I’m right there with him in terms of understanding what he’s talking about as far as everything he’s dealing with in the fashion world. Ten years ago it was the rap world when people didn’t really believe what he can do. Every time Kanye says he’s going to do something in five years and people are going to love it, people look at him crazy but ten years later here we are talking about him. I feel like he’s going to continue to do that with everything that he touches. I can’t wait to see what he does with Adidas. I’m really excited about that. I would say what inspired me about Kanye is his fearlessness and his relate-ability. It was the first time I could listen to a rap album and really relate to it.

TRHH: I always tell people my favorite rapper is Common. I relate to him. He’s about 3-4 years older than me but his stories are very Chicago. I went through a lot of the same things he rapped about early on. I find that in Hip-Hop you either love Common or are indifferent about him like, “Eh, he’s OK,” but I love the guy. If he’s doing a show I’ll be there. For my money I think Rakim is the greatest rapper of all-time but Common is my favorite…

Archie Green: Yeah, yeah I was talking to somebody the other day and they were trying to ask me what kind of music I do and although Kanye is my favorite rapper of all-time, my message is more along the lines of what Common puts in his music. His most recent album The Dreamer/The Believer is like what you would expect from a 40-year old rapper. He’s grown with every project but his message stays the same in terms of real life stories, believing in yourself, and also paying homage to some of the great pioneers of the past. He put his pops on the albums and of course having No. I.D. As far as producers, No I.D. is my biggest inspiration right now.

TRHH: He’s incredible and he’s had a resurgence which I’m happy about. It’s funny, I was just playing The Dreamer/The Believer the other day and for me it was sad. I was thinking, “People really slept on this.” I think a lot of it had to do with the Drake thing. It was like, come on man, you’re dissing Drake? But it was a very good album. Every year I rank the top 10 albums of the year and it was number one for 2011. I saw him perform twice since that album came out and he doesn’t do songs from that album.

Archie Green: That’s crazy.

TRHH: But people don’t know it. I guess he’s thinking people don’t know the songs so why should he do them? To me that album was almost flawless. Every song was in sync with the next. I really enjoyed it.

Archie Green: I feel the same way. I love that album and I was really a big fan of Nas’ album too. I feel like No I.D. was the main ingredient. He knows how to bring out that right sound from both Nas and Common. He was able to not only tap into their artistry in a newer way but their message and what they talked about. Nas put out Life is Good and for the first time he was sounding more grown as far as the subject matter and the things that he talked about. But it was over dope production. No I.D. brings out the best in artists. It’s totally clear with Big Sean in that situation [laughs]. On Big Sean’s first album No I.D. was all up in it and his latest one he put sprinkles on it but he wasn’t really there.

TRHH: You mentioned No I.D. and his production, but you produce as well. Do you prefer producing or emceeing?

Archie Green: I started out being an emcee first writing raps when I was 13. I started doing beats when I was 18. As one of my boys from back in the day would call my earth, what I started with, rapping is what I started with but I do love making beats, man. Sampling is obviously my bread and butter. I don’t know what it is about certain samples but it’s something that strikes me in my heart and soul. Me wanting to put my own twist on it is something I really enjoy. In terms of what I prefer it’s a hard question because I love ‘em both. I think out of the two I probably prefer writing songs more. Coming up with something that people can sing along to, it strikes them more than something that people can dance to.

TRHH: What beat-making equipment do you use?

Archie Green: Since day one I’ve been using FL Studio. I’ve been trying to convert and get into Logic and all these other programs but FL Studio hasn’t done me wrong. I’ve been using it for ten years now. I use an M-Audio controller to play out some tracks, but I use FL Studio as far as chopping my samples. I load everything through there.

TRHH: It got a bad rap back when 9th Wonder came out saying he was using it but I think everybody is using it now — especially in dance music.

Archie Green: Hit-Boy, that’s all he uses is FL Studio. He’s got Grammy’s so it’s like, hey, I’m gonna stick with it [laughs].

TRHH:  Explain to me what ‘CLASS’ is.

Archie Green: CLASS is an acronym. It stands for “creatively learning to achieve sustainable success”. I’m a firm believer in learning something new every day — learning something new that you can apply to your life in order to not only succeed but to sustain that success. Whether you’re reading about history, or how to do something, I believe that we all should be learning something new every day. What CLASS originated from was an homage to different icons in black history – Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Miles Davis, Quincy Jones, Dizzy Gillespie, Harry Belafonte, Lena Horne, Billie Holiday, Maya Angelou, the list could go on for days. CLASS you can put as style, demeanor, confidence, and so many different things, but it also goes into what my brand is, which is learning and education. What I’m trying to do with CLASS is exude this image of an articulate, confident, stylish black male, that never sags his pants, can wear hard bottom shoes and a suit and make that shit look cool, just like the guys back in the 60s did it. It was kids walking around in hard bottom shoes and a button up shirt and making that cool. To me that’s what class is. I feel like it’s also black excellence.

I was also inspired by being in New York and roaming in some of the same circles as Joshua Kissi and Travis Gumbs of Street Etiquette and Mr. Ouigi Theodore of Brooklyn Circus. In a day and age where all these guys are wearing Jordan’s these guys are wearing PF Flyers, bandanas on their necks, hard bottom shoes, and tailored clothes. They’re also exuding confidence and paying homage to how the styles were in black America in the 50s, 60s, 20s, and 30s. I think one other element of class is jazz music – Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, and Dizzy Gillespie. If you look at my album’s artwork for The Greatest Pretender there is a picture of me sitting at a table playing chess by myself, there is a microphone there, and I’m wearing a jacket and a tie. I got the inspiration from an image of Dizzy Gillespie sitting at a table playing chess by himself with a jacket, bow tie, and his trumpet. That’s what CLASS is to me. Putting a modern twist on what black excellence was in the past.

TRHH: What’s next up for Archie Green?

Archie Green: Honestly what’s next up for me is I want to continue to do more shows. I want to pump this project out as much as I can so reputable people like yourself kind of take me serious as an artist. The thing for me is I feel like I’ve been spending so much time trying to chase after A&R’s to give me a shot, my thing now is to focus on the people and putting out a positive message. I’m not sure what new projects I’m going to put out this year. I know I’m always working on new music. My goal by the end of the year is to tour, do shows in Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, and D.C. to get this message of CLASS out as best I can. That’s pretty much it, man. I don’t want to put out too many new songs or too many projects until people really grasp this project. I’m just spreading the message of CLASS.

Download: Archie Green – The Greatest Pretender

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Persia: Crown on Tilt

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Photo courtesy of Persia

Photo courtesy of Persia

Far Rockaway, Queens emcee Persia came onto the scene as a contestant on ego trip’s The White Rapper Show. Since then she’s grinded hard. The brash beauty has had several guest appearances, dropped a handful of videos, and released a couple of mixtapes to spread her music to the masses.

Persia’s most recent release, The Love Tape is a departure from the hard hitting rhymes that we’re used to hearing her spit. The Love Tape takes a look at love, lust, romance, and relationships from a lady’s perspective.

The Real Hip-Hop chatted with Persia about her time on the White Rapper Show, her foray into battle rapping, her upcoming project ‘Crown on Tilt’, and her latest release, The Love Tape.

TRHH: Tell me about The Love Tape.

Persia: The Love Tape happened by accident. I was working on the Ruby in the Rough tape and when I listened to the final product it sounded less “rough” and more “love”. Not necessarily love but relationships – good, bad, ugly. So I decided to scrap the tape and split it up into two tapes.

TRHH: So what’s the second tape?

Persia: The second tape is ‘Crown on Tilt’ and that’s coming out on March 15th.

TRHH: A lot of the songs on the album sound angry. Is it safe to say love makes you angry?

Persia: [Laughs] I think the tape starts off angry. I didn’t do that purposely. It just kind of sonically went that way. Toward the end of the tape it’s more about love and meeting a good guy. I think it just starts off kinda rough.

TRHH: You think that’s usually how it goes? Relationships start out rough and you end up with “the one”?

Persia: No, not necessarily. I think that’s just the way the tape sonically meshed. I could have put it in relationship order, and then it would have just been a different order.

TRHH: Are any of those songs from real life experiences?

Persia: Everything is from some part of real life. I’m sure there are a couple people put into one song. The songs aren’t about people, they’re just about situations. But everything on the tape I’ve been through.

TRHH: You got a lot of publicity from your battle with Raine last year. Why did you decide to go that route and what has that meant for your career?

Persia: I did it partly for the money and partly for the promotion. It was a good look to get my name out there on VladTV and Star & Buck Wild. A lot of people are taking to battle rap now because it seems to be a pure form of Hip-Hop that they can’t find in the music. For me it was about the money. I have kids so of course I’m not going to turn down good money. I’m not trying to make it a career move. It’s something I did. I’m not really trying to be a battle rapper though.

TRHH: If the opportunity came up would you do it again?

Persia: I have a battle in April. The circumstances have to be right. It’s not about ego and, ”Oh, I can beat this person,” it has to benefit my music career as well.

TRHH: I didn’t go into it the first time we spoke but I wanted to ask you about your experience on The White Rapper Show. Do you think it was a negative or a positive for your career?

Persia: I think it depends who you ask. Some people will take the negative from it and just dismiss me. Some people will see that I stood out on a negative show. Certain people have said to me, “The show was kind of a joke, but we really saw who you were.” It was more good than bad for me.

TRHH: Do you keep up with anybody from the show?

Persia: I speak to Serch, $hamrock, I haven’t spoken to Sullee in a while, I talk to the producers a lot.

TRHH: Serch, what impact has he had on your career? He’s still kind of out there. Didn’t he just start a TV show or something?

Persia: Yeah, he has a talk show on WPIX — WB.

TRHH: To me he’s kind of an example of life after rap. He got out of it but he’s still making money doing other stuff in it. Did he school you on any of that?

Persia: Right, he gave me some advice musically. A few things here and there but I don’t get inspiration from Serch. Certain things that he said to me were very inspiring that stayed with me, but as far as his path, I don’t follow in it.

TRHH: I was watching an interview you did where you talked about the brothel. It surprised me. I never knew about that. How do you go from running a brothel to rapping?

Persia: I don’t know, man [laughs]. I was actually sitting in the brothel when I found the ad for The White Rapper Show. I kinda just wanted to do something different. I grew up in Far Rockaway, I was basically raised in the brothel, and I took over when I was 16. My life was pretty… I don’t want to say normal because it’s not normal to other people, but it was normal to me. I woke up in the morning, went to the brothel, worked all day, and went home. That was my former hustle. Because my business was illegal I didn’t have the freedom to spend my money, go out of town on trips, and things like that – I always had to be there. One of my girls wanted to answer the phones and I said, “OK, I’m going to leave you in charge and I’m going to do something for me.” I wanted to do The Real World but they had just finished casting. I saw an ad that said, “Looking for white rappers, must have personality.” I got personality for days but I wasn’t sure I could rap though. I loved Hip-Hop but I wasn’t sure I could rap. They said to send something in raw so I wrote it and sent it in through an e-mail and I got a call back. I still wasn’t even sure I could rap ‘till I got there and everybody started looking at me kinda funny like, “Where did you come from” [laughs]. I said ok, I must have something. After the show I went to All-Star Weekend to host a couple of parties and the business had gotten busted. I realized that I had to choose and to me it was like God gave me a gift to get out of the brothel. I couldn’t keep one foot in music and one in the brothel.

TRHH: That’s a tough thing to do because it’s bringing you money.

Persia: Ugh, I miss my money. I miss my money [laughs].

TRHH: I bet you do! I remember Rhymefest saying he was a janitor at an elementary school or something and somebody took a shit all over the wall and he said that was the day he decided to rap full-time. He made the point that you can’t have a foot in both worlds, you gotta go all in.

Persia: I think a lot of New York rappers have one foot into the drug game, and one foot into the music game. I’m spiritual so I feel like God won’t allow you your blessing until you accept your blessing. It was a tough choice. I miss my money something awful but I have to know that sooner or later it’s going to pay off.

TRHH: I’m so intrigued by the brothel thing….

Persia: [Laughs] There is actually footage on me and my mom. We did an interview on 20/20 and I’m still trying to get that footage.

TRHH: Without going into too much detail, what was your role? Was it dangerous? Did you have to protect these girls?

Persia: I basically managed the place. I answered the phones, screened the clients, and brought the clients in — things like that. It wasn’t an unsafe environment. It’s a brothel.

TRHH: How do you screen clients though? How do you know that this dude is not crazy?

Persia: I basically asked them where they worked and I investigated. People are so eager to get money that they’ll let anybody in the door. Me, I told people, “It’ll take me a month to screen you.” Because we were the highest brothel in New York City and the name was so reputable they understood. I’m going to randomly call, I might pop by the office, I might know someone who works in the same office – I’ll ask them.  My main thing was security. I couldn’t go to jail and I couldn’t have my mother go to jail.

TRHH: So the difference in your life now is just the money?

Persia: Woo, lord have mercy, yes! I averaged a good $800-to-$1000 a day easy. I was young and I didn’t have anything to do with it. What bothers me now is now that I have something I invest in I don’t have the money. I had nothing to do with it before but go out partying, by chains, clothes. Now that I have kids and a career to invest in I have nothing [laughs].

TRHH: How often do you write? Do you write every day or are you the type to get in the studio and write?

Persia: I write at home and I started that way mainly because of the kids. I drop the kids off at school and it’s hard to write when they’re home so whenever they’re gone is when I can write. I have to break out of that. Usually I’ll write a song and run to the studio that week to make sure everything is fresh. I don’t have a rhyme book and stashes of songs. I just take everything by the moment.

TRHH: Talk a little about the other releases you have dropping. I know you’re releasing three this year, right?

Persia: Oh, there is going to be a little more than three [laughs]! I’m working this year. Crown on Tilt is dropping March 15th and hopefully April 15th or May 15th I’m dropping Lordess of the Underground. I’m going to drop another three tapes that I haven’t named yet. I’m trying to get out as much as I can this year. I have a lot of people watching me and a lot of things are happening this year. I need to prove that I deserve to be here. The fact that I can keep pumping out music is not a fluke. I’m not trying to skate by. I’m willing to work and I want people that are watching me now to see that.

Purchase: Persia – The Love Tape

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