Daniel Son and Saipher Soze are two emcees from Toronto, Ontario, Canada. While they’re both young in age they are longtime musical collaborators. Their lyrics and flows are reminiscent of a time when groups were at the forefront of Hip-Hop and each members voice complimented the other. The undeniable chemistry of the Daniel and Saipher led to a union with production team and record label Crate Divizion. The result is an album called Divizion Rivals.
Divizion Rivals is a free project tailor made for those that love raw beats and rhymes. PhybaOptikz, Giallo Point and Vic Grimes of Crate Divizion produced Divizion Rivals. The 14-track album features appearances by Skuddy Rankz, Blizz & Raspy, and SmooVth.
The Real Hip-Hop spoke to Daniel Son about his history with Saipher Soze, the Toronto rap scene, and his new album, Divizion Rivals.
TRHH: How did you and Saipher Soze link up for this project?
Daniel Son: First off me and Saipher made our first track together when we were 13 years old. We met when we were in grade 8. We’ve been building ever since then. We never actually released a tape before, so this is the first time we’re dropping a tape. We’ve got hundreds of songs we made over the years. For 14 years we’ve been rhyming together. We’re both 27 now and we linked up when we were 13.
TRHH: Why did it take so long to do a project?
Daniel Son: We never really had the situation that we have now. We have a team of producers that we work with – The Crate Divizion. We just never really had the vision. Now we have the vision and understand what we’re trying to do with the music. The situation is proper now. We’re dropping on Crate Divizion’s independent label. It’s a good look. We’re both at the top of our game. We’re focused. We pretty much just banged out this tape in a month.
Daniel Son: I’m a Washington Redskins fan and he’s a Giants fan. Off of that and the label and producers are named Crate Divizion so we just flipped it like that. On the cover I’m in all Redskins gear and he’s in all Giants gear. We’re kind of bringing that theme across and flipping the words a bit.
Daniel Son: I didn’t really know that I was making The Gunners Tape until I started getting a collection of tracks. Really since the summer time I’ve been working on three albums. Each one is produced by each of the Crate Divizion producers. Gunners Tape was produced by Giallo Point from London, England. Really I was just recording a whole bunch of joints. The producers were flooding me with beats. I was going to the studio, that’s another different aspect, actually going to the studio for that album. I was going to a studio called Number 9 Studio in Toronto. Drake and his people are always in that studio. That studio is seriously official.
This whole tape I recorded at my crib and mixed the whole thing. We’re handling all the recording, mixing, and mastering ourselves. With this one we had the vision. With Gunners Tape I had a good collection of songs. I put it together and didn’t know what to expect. When I released that DJ Eclipse picked it up, DJ Premier, and PF Cuttin’. That made say, “I have to go real hard now.” I went to Soze and was like, “Bro, I’m not trying to make this shit about me. We gotta do a tape so we can both get the shine.” We got the vision now. We’re sitting down doing all of these tracks together. I’m banging out my verse and sending it to him and he lives five minutes from the crib so he’ll fly over and knock out the track just like that.
Daniel Son: Test Drive was one of the first tracks that we recorded. It’s crazy, I just moved into a new spot and my landlord is the best reggae artists in Canada – literally he’s the number one reggae artist in Canada. Through him I’ve been meeting a lot of local legends and a lot of the OG’s. He’s exposing them to my music and the love I’ve been getting from all the OG’s made us want to put that video out first because the OG’s say we got that “bring ‘em back” type of thing. We wanted to start it out with that, set the tempo off right, salute the OG’s in the game, and move forward from there. That track is vintage Vic Grimes on the beat. That’s his alley all day. That get away pursuit music is what we specialize in.
TRHH: We always hear about Drake when it comes to Toronto but not much else. What’s the Toronto Hip-Hop scene like?
Daniel Son: You’re right about that. Drake has shined a lot of light on the city, though. The scene is really inspired right now, even the music isn’t really my style of music. There’s a lot of youngins that are popping off right now. There’s this cat Top5, he’s like 17-18 years old and he just did a track with Styles P. He’s from a big hood out here called Jungle. He brought Styles P to Jungle. I don’t think Styles has really been to the hood in TO and they brought him to the hood. There’s some people that are popping but they’re really trying to make drill music. All the youngins out here are trying to copy Chicago as heavy as they can, even down to the language.
Everybody’s an opp out here now and the shorty’s are all thots. All the youngins that are really popping and getting views on YouTube are inspired by Chicago and making Toronto-themed drill music. There’s not a lot of people like us that are making music like we’re making, that’s why I know our shit is gonna pop soon. There’s some cats but they had their chance. There’s some people that were making our style of music while we were still coming up. They had their head start on us, but it’s our time now. They had their chance to make it pop now we’re gonnna make TO pop with this classic music.
TRHH: Who inspired you to want to be an emcee?
Daniel Son: Nas, Redman. When I was young I start doing the text battles when I was 9 years old. My uncle Danny is from Harlem. He had a record label called Bulletproof Records. They won the Canadian version of a Grammy for reggae – a Juno. He had a studio in his basement. Every time I would go over there for family functions I would see the studio and he had old Hot 97 tapes of Big L freestyles and my cousin would bump that. I don’t even know what made me start rapping. I just know I would bite rappers lyrics on one message board and use them on another message board. I got caught and I had bit so many rhymes already that I knew what it took to make an ill verse. I owe all my bars to text battles.
TRHH: Text battles? Explain to me what that is.
Daniel Son: I used to go on raboards.com. My name back then used to be Technique. You sign up and people would put out open challenges so you say “Let’s battle.” You set a little due date, write your verse trying to play off the man’s name or where he said he’s from – that’s how I learned how to make punch lines – straight up. When I was little I used to take the Freestyle Friday verses. That’s how I got caught stealing bars off Freestyle Fridays and a man called me out. I was like, “I ain’t gotta bite no more. I already know what it takes to make an ill verse.”
That shit was big, bro. I was like the youngest text battle champion of all-time. I was literally like 9 years old battling grown men and shit. What’s funny is they don’t call it free styling, they call it “key styling.” There used to be MSN chat rooms where motherfuckers would go there and battle. When I was young I didn’t want to do records, I wanted to be a ghostwriter. I recorded my first track at 12 years old. My pops bought me a mic and I was using Cool Edit Pro. I mastered that shit by the time I was 14 years old. That was the life back then, bro. Ever since I was a little kid I’ve been going hard with this shit.
TRHH: What can people expect to hear on Divizion Rivals?
Daniel Son: Divizion Rivals has a good mix and a good balance of everything. It doesn’t matter what type of style you go there for. There’s jazz samples, slow tempo, high tempo, there’s joints with banging drums, there’s joints with no drums, there’s all types of saxophones. We make our vintage getaway driver music. We make music for people to steal boats, helicopters, all types of shit like that. High pursuit speed chases. Giallo Point and Vic Grimes handle 50/50 of the producer duties. My dude PhybaOptikz only has one joint on there. The beats are crazy.
My dude Soze is about to show why he’s the illest. I’m just here trying to set up the alley oops all day. I’m setting up the assists. People kind of know about me, but my man is about to jump on the scene in a big way with this tape. Everybody that knows us is saying, “Wow, it’s his time.” He’s ready to step into the spotlight. I’m excited for him. This is some good shit. There’s going to be a track for everybody on there. I wouldn’t even say that we’re rappers no more, we’re more like jazz vocalists with how many jazz-inspired themes there are. It’s good music at the end of the day – original production, good sampling, the bars are there, and the hooks are there. We got like two features and the rest is just us. It’s not a feature heavy tape, it’s just us going back and forth – good shit.
SKECH185 & Analog(ue) Tape Dispenser are War Church. From Chicago, Illinois and Houston, Texas respectively, the group released their debut album New Age Middle Finger in 2011. SKECH’s unorthodox rhyme style meshes perfectly with ATD’s electronic-influenced production to create for lack of a better term, a beautiful mess.
War Church returned in 2016 with a full-length follow-up album called Gunship Diplomacy. The 12-track album is produced entirely by Analog(ue) Tape Dispenser and features appearances by I.B. Fokuz, Lamon Manuel, Teddy Faley, Malakh EL, and Collasoul Structure.
The Real Hip-Hop chatted with ATD and SKECH185 of War Church about their unique sound, their growth as artists, and their new album, Gunship Diplomacy.
ATD: Gunship Diplomacy refers to “Big stick ideology”; another way of saying “Walk softly, and carry a big stick.” It refers specifically to the practice of displaying naval superiority during political negotiations with foreign entities. In short, it’s the act of parking a gunship off the coast of another nation with whom you are negotiating. For me, the record’s title is an expression of the frustration we feel politically and with the music industry, in general. The record is our gunboat, the threat of our superiority [laughs].
SKECH185: This record is very uncompromising. It doesn’t placate to a particular audience nor does it beg for acceptance in anyway. It was put together over a good stretch of time so all signs of trying to keep up with current trends was nixed very early in the process. Because of those elements we needed a title that fit that school of thought. When ATD suggested that all I could say was “fuck yeah.” In all seriousness, over the period between New Age Middle Finger and Gunship Diplomacy I felt like indie rap became more visually artsy without taking steps in that direction sonically and in large part became very vanilla in approach. Everyone is overly branded and media trained. Excellent merch, great logo’s but lacking heft in terms of content and subject matter until the rise of the next guard 3 years ago. That said, this is an assault on the adopted frailty of the indie rap scene and self-victimization championed by many socially conscious people. You either step out of the way or get left as rubble.
ATD: To me, Gunship Diplomacy is much more mature record than N.A.M.F.; I mean that in terms of how we produced it and it’s production quality in general, and the content that lies within. When we made N.A.M.F., we were two broke kids in college and, to me, that life experience is ingrained in that record. Now, we’re both in our 30s, I mean, SKECH was the best man at my wedding. We’ve gotten older. That comes with some bonus attributes like more patience with specific projects and a slightly greater social and political awareness. I think those old man attributes show themselves throughout GSD.
SKECH185: In many ways, this album lacks the insecurities of N.A.M.F., whereas we were testing the waters of our sound and technique on the first one but now we know who we are. I truly believe becoming more mature as men helped shape the writing in regards to our willingness to say “fuck it” and go for the unfamiliar. We threw traditional rap formats out of the window and tried to make something that was foreign to us because we are aging weirdoes and we care less about peer approval.
Lyrically, there is far more ownership of the man that I have become than it was on the first record. Ownership of ones message is a very big thing to me because I’ve seen the positive and negative effects my music has had on people in my life. I don’t play it safe but I respect the power of words and don’t throw anything out there for shock value in the way I think I did a few times on N.A.M.F.
TRHH: What are the origins of the name “War Church?”
ATD: Christianity strangely enough. It started as a conversation in the Flat Iron in Chicago. We were talking about the origins of the Christian faith over cheap beer and whiskey. Recently, I’d seen a documentary about a religious scholar that theorized that Yahweh, the Christian god whose roots begin in, at least, the Canaanite pantheon if not beyond that, may have initially been a god of war. I don’t recall the exact conversation but we both agreed it was interesting that all of these people professing this supposed faith of peace would really be worshipping an old god of war every Sunday, at which point SKECH shouted “War Church!” and the project we were already working on took on a name.
TRHH: Was it difficult for you guys to do this album being in different cities?
ATD: For me, our process is a curiosity. I’m not really aware of anyone else that works how we do but, I mean, it’s sort of a recent development in human history that we are even able to work this way; over the internet. We tend to, sort of, go into our own black holes or silos and work solo and, after a few weeks or months we’ll share something. I’ll hit his inbox with a beat or he’ll hit mine with a recording or some lyrics and we’ll just kind of go from there; sharing notes, re-working ideas, et cetera.
SKECH185: I find it kind of magical in the respect that without speaking to each other about our progress or process, we will turn around and have things that sync up. In truth, I write most of my rhymes without having a beat and he doesn’t sequence his beats for regular rhyme structure yet when he sends them to me I, more or less, have verses of the same tone structure fairly similarly to his sequencing. Of course there is reworking but not as much as you would think. Thanks to the internet, we can talk and bullshit or chew the fat about society at large and that friendship I believe forms the bridge between cities.
ATD: In terms of its difficulty, I don’t know. We definitely don’t have a lot of direct contact during the albums actual, physical development, if you know what I mean. I’m not there when he records a verse, he’s not around when I’m making a beat. That comes with it’s own set of inherent problems, but I don’t know that I’d say it’s especially difficult given the availability of cell phones and the internet.
TRHH: ATD, what’s your production set up consist of?
ATD: I think most producers would laugh at my set up, if it even qualifies as one. At this point, it consists of a Macbook Air and an $80 USB record player. I predominantly use Ableton as my DAW but, on occasion, I’ll fire up Reason. Inside of those, I use a few different software synths. That said, most of Destroyer and Gunship Diplomacy use the standard Ableton kit. I’m content to mouse-in samples, synths, drum hits, and use my QWERTY keyboard as a midi-controller. I mean, I’ve had various pieces of gear over the last, something like 17 years, but at the end of the day I’m just not a gear head. It’s not about that for me. The tool is just the means for an end result.
TRHH: How would you guys classify the sound of War Church?
ATD: I have no idea. I listen to this record and can’t really point out its origins. In a way it feels alien, even to me. It’s aggressive, it’s frenetic, it’s noisy, it’s socially and politically aware. It’s something I’d like to see Hip-Hop in general move towards; recapturing that anger and class consciousness it once had in acts like Public Enemy.
SKECH185: I agree. The goal was to make something as unfamiliar to the genre as possible. It’s uncompromising, intense, artsy as fuck, intelligent, goofy and tries not be referential. Because of that, and laziness, we haven’t really come up with a catchy name yet [laughs]!
ATD: For anyone with $9.99 [laughs]. In all seriousness, I think it’s for people like us — frustrated people who see in the world so much ignorance and ill will towards men.
SKECH185: I used to say we make music for people who read books and lift weights [laughs]. Perhaps it’s for the folks who feel like they can almost see the hidden cameras capturing the mundane and magnificent for the entertainment of an unknown audience.
MZ Boom Bap is a producer from Porto, Portugal. Part of his name (Boom Bap) is indicative of the style he brings forth in his music. MZ’s classic Hip-Hop sound has caught the ears of emcees throughout Europe and America. His music also caught the ears of Awon and Phoniks of Don’t Sleep Records.
MZ’s first official release comes courtesy of Don’t Sleep Records and is entitled “The Rawness EP.” The Rawness EP contains six tracks of Boom Bap’s production with vocal assistance from Awon & Phoniks, Curtis Roach, Philo, Ryler Smith, Nemesyzz Rigby, and MC Shinobi.
The Real Hip-Hop spoke to MZ Boom Bap about the Portuguese Hip-Hop scene, why he prefers working with new artists over established artists, and about his new EP, The Rawness.
MZ Boom Bap: I chose that title because I try to use old machines like the Akai s950, the Ensoniq EPS-16, and the MPC 2000 – old dirty stuff – 12 bit machines. I try to make it sound like it did in the early 90s. I chose that title because of that and also because I like my sound not clean. I like my sound dirty and I tried to put noise on this EP.
TRHH: Did you always use those old machines?
MZ Boom Bap: Yes, always. I never use software. I use only machines. I never liked software and computers. I’m not good at computers. I’m bad with computers and for me the process of creating is better with machines.
TRHH: What does the “MZ” in your name stand for?
MZ Boom Bap: It stands for “mistake” but with a Z. In my country my name is Jose [JO-ZAY], but people call me “Ze” [ZAY]. I put the Z in the middle. Many people think I’m a girl.
TRHH: I did. I thought you were a girl. I don’t know if it’s an American thing but here we’re used to seeing “Mz” as “Ms.”
MZ Boom Bap: That’s true. Many people before knowing me thought I was a woman and call me “sis” and all that. In my country we don’t have that meaning. In your country you’d call me “Ze” [ZEE].
TRHH: Right. In America and maybe in other places too your name would be pronounced Jose [HO-ZAY].
MZ Boom Bap: Yes, because you have that Spanish word. Portuguese and Spanish are very similar languages. Only talking you can feel the difference.
TRHH: I have a friend from Brazil who is in America now and she’s taught me some Portuguese words…
MZ Boom Bap: It’s the same language. We write the same way and all that because Portugal discovered Brazil. It’s an old colony.
TRHH: Yeah, I know. That’s a long story [laughs].
MZ Boom Bap: I don’t know if it’s true or not [laughs].
TRHH: No, no. It’s true. They definitely took it over. A lot of people think America was the biggest home of the slave trade but it was actually Brazil.
MZ Boom Bap: That’s true and I can tell you why, Portugal had a lot of colonies in Africa. The middle of Africa was from Portugal like Angola, Mozambique, Guinea, and Cape Verde. All those countries before ’75 were Portuguese colonies, that’s why the slaves go to Brazil because we put them there. We had many countries in the world. Many people don’t know that because we are very small, but we had a lot of colonies around the world. India was a Portuguese colony, and Macau, China, a lot of countries.
MZ Boom Bap: Look, Phoniks was following me a long time on Soundcloud. First he started to repost my music on his channel then later we met by internet. The guy that was more interested in my work was Awon. He contacted me because he knew that I was making this project and he asked if I could show him the project that I was making. I tried to make this project without spending any money. At the beginning this project was to be free on the internet. What I did was find some young dudes to make the rhymes – all youngsters. I have people on the tracks that are 16 years old. I did research on Soundcloud and I tried to work with the little dudes. I had an opportunity to work with known rappers in the underground scene in the U.S., but I preferred to work with young kids on this project.
TRHH: Why did you prefer to work with young kids?
MZ Boom Bap: Because I think it’s easier to talk with them because of egos. I think when we work with someone that is already known they look at us like, “Okay, you are a new guy, I’m going to do what I want with your music,” It won’t be easy for me to say, “I don’t like that rhyme,” or “I don’t like that verse.” I think with youngsters I have the opportunity to make the project together and say what I feel about the tracks they did.
TRHH: How long have you been making beats?
MZ Boom Bap: I’ve been making beats like ten years. I stopped at six years because I was a rapper in a big, big crew here in Portugal. I was only focused on that at that time. I decided to go out of it because in Portugal we don’t have a Hip-Hop market. It isn’t easy to make music here. I decided to start making beats and the music I like alone. I’m living now in a small, small city. I go out from the big cities to be only focused on my music.
TRHH: How did you get into Hip-Hop?
MZ Boom Bap: I started hearing French rap. It’s the first contact that I had with Hip-Hop because my family was immigrated in France since the 70s. I started hearing NTM, IAM, and all that old school. Then I started having the first contact with Portuguese rappers and then I started to rhyme first. At that time I don’t have microphone to rap and all that. I downloaded Fruity Loops and started making some beats. I liked it a lot and never stopped making beats.
TRHH: So you started with Fruity Loops and now you use all of these older machines?
MZ Boom Bap: Yes, many years with Fruity Loops. I think I was with Fruity Loops like six years.
TRHH: And you didn’t like it?
MZ Boom Bap: I like it but it was not the way I wanted to make music. Imagine here in Portugal we don’t have access to all those old machines. No one has it. I think I’m the only guy in Portugal that has the Akai S950. No one has the Ensoniq EPS-16 here. No one knows that machine. The first machine that I had was the MPC 1000. Then I started making beats and selling them and I bought all the machines that I have now – selling beats on Soundcloud. I made beats for people all around the world, Australia, Africa, America, Europe. It was very good to me because I’m having a lot of support from all those countries. When I sell a beat to someone I like to keep them as a friend. If you follow me on Facebook you can see all of the people that go to my page and comment I always reply.
TRHH: What’s your take on the current keyboard influenced sound in mainstream Hip-Hop?
MZ Boom Bap: I respect the mainstream a lot. My music is old school but I can understand that some artists need to make an evolution. You don’t need to do the same thing your whole career. I think it’s frustrating that for 10-20 years you’re doing the same music. I respect all kinds of music. I’m not that old school guy that doesn’t like anything. I don’t like trap music, but I respect it. I don’t have any problem with that. I think it’s wrong when people say, “Trap is shit,” I don’t think that. It’s an evolution. If you ask me if I like some dudes and the clothes they use, no, I don’t like. They look like girls. But I respect their music. I’m not that kind of guy. If they’re playing it in the club I won’t go home.
TRHH: What’s the Hip-Hop scene in Portugal like?
MZ Boom Bap: I can’t explain it very well because you live in a different reality. It’s a very small scene. You have a market for maybe 3 or 4 guys, but don’t expect to make millions. A concert for a big guy here is like 2000. We don’t sell CD’s, we don’t have vinyl — we don’t have nothing. People only earn money from live shows.
TRHH: It’s the same way in America [laughs].
MZ Boom Bap: Yeah, but in America you have big labels, we don’t have that here. No one pays for beats and all that here. I already produced for the big guys here and I don’t even mention that on my portfolio.
TRHH: Why not?
MZ Boom Bap: Because it’s not interesting to me. I don’t want to be in this market. People don’t like my music here. They don’t know nothing about Hip-Hop. Hip-Hop here is like the young kids brought in after 2000. They don’t understand the music I do. They say, “Oh you use the machines with floppy disks, why use that when you can make beats in the computer?” I can tell you with this record I’ve already sold like 60 vinyl’s for Portugal in the last two days. I’m happy with that.
TRHH: Would you ever consider leaving Portugal?
MZ Boom Bap: No. To be honest I think I can do my music here. The way I work I can work here and be worldwide. But, who knows? In the future, maybe. For now I don’t think that. I think I might move to a big city here like Lisbon.
MZ Boom Bap: I like them all because they’re all so different. The track with MC Shinobi is the most different track on the album because that shit sounds like ’94. They’re all different tracks. I can’t say that I like one more. I think the track that people like most is the one with Curtis Roach – the kid who is 16 years old.
MZ Boom Bap: I found him on Soundcloud. When I had that beat I said, “Man, I’d like to have a dude rhyming like Q-Tip on this,” and the kids had the same type of voice. It’s because he’s a kid. His voice is going to change in the future.
TRHH: You said you don’t want to work with any famous emcees….
MZ Boom Bap: It’s not that I don’t want. I want. I’m not making a big deal to work with big ones. I’m happy with what I’m doing now. I think I can keep working with kids and do a good job with them.
TRHH: If you had to pick one emcee to work with who would it be?
MZ Boom Bap: I love Onyx, bro. Let me explain why I love Onyx, to me they are the real definition of gangsta rap. The first time I saw the DVD of Onyx’s tour I said, “This is crazy.” I thought that shit was unreal. I think they made a revolution in rap. They made the hard street part. Their faces are the definition of their music. They are scary, man. I was with them in Portugal last year, they are scary dudes.
TRHH: Well, they’re actors now.
MZ Boom Bap: They’re still scary [laughs]. Sticky is a big guy with a crazy face. I never saw that dude smiling.
TRHH: They get overlooked. There was a time when the west coast dominated rap and the east coast came back. When people talk about the east coast coming back they mention Biggie, Wu-Tang, Nas, and Mobb Deep, but they never mentioned Onyx. Onyx was the first big group that brought the east coast back.
MZ Boom Bap: I think that’s a mistake. I’ve never seen any group that does a live show like them in rap history. You talk about Mobb Deep, but I think their concert is very boring. On the CD you think it’s the real shit but you go to a show and they are so boring. It’s boring to see them on the stage. When you see Onyx, if you don’t move the dudes look to you like, “Hey man, if you are not moving go away.”
TRHH: Well they were tutored by Run-DMC who was amazing on stage. It’s a little bit of a different era between Onyx and Mobb Deep – maybe a year or two.
MZ Boom Bap: One day I will show you a group from France that doesn’t exist now called Saian Supa Crew. Their live shows were crazy. They had beat boxers, break dancers, all of that shit on stage. I like that. I like Onyx’s live show. I think the definition of gangsta rap is a little distorted. I think the real gangsta music is Onyx. In Europe they have a legion of fans. If you go to Poland or Russia and ask what group they love and they’re going to say Onyx. In those countries you have real hard people – crazy people. They are tough. They like to go out and fight. Onyx is the number one group there. I think they spend more time in Europe than the USA. They’re working with dudes from Germany called Snowgoons. I don’t like their music. It sounds to me like Jedi Mind Tricks. I don’t like that type of music.
MZ Boom Bap: I’m working on an album. I’m hoping to have it done in February and try to find a label to release it for the summer. I already have 7 tracks. I work 24 hours a day on this, bro. I need to work ten times more than people in America because I need to show that I’m working. I put videos on my page with beats and I’m making live beats and all that. That’s my method, you know?
1996 was a pivotal year in Hip-Hop. The Fugees released their record-breaking sophomore album, The Score. One of Hip-Hop’s all-time brightest stars, 2Pac was murdered in Las Vegas at the young age of 25. Nas released his biggest selling album to date. Dr. Dre left Death Row to start a little company called Aftermath. The Geto Boys reunited after a short hiatus. Acts like De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, MC Lyte, UGK, Mobb Deep, Snoop Dogg, Redman, Too $hort, and Outkast added on to their legacies with critically acclaimed releases. The debut solo albums of a couple of artists named Busta Rhymes, Foxy Brown, Lil’ Kim, Heltah Skeltah, Xzibit, Ghostface Killah, and Jay-Z were also released in 1996.
Another artist that made their debut in 1996 was West Coast rhymer, Ras Kass. During a time when gangsta rap was the dominating sound coming out of California Ras Kass’ music was all about lyrics. Punch lines, similies, metaphors, historical references and storytelling permeated Ras Kass’ debut album, Soul on Ice. The highlight of the album was a near eight-minute song called “Nature of the Threat” that chronicled the origins of white supremacy and its impact on the world. Nature of the Threat cemented Ras Kass’ status as one of the best lyricists in Hip-Hop.
To commemorate the 20 year anniversary of his rap debut, in the fall of 2016 Ras Kass released the sequel to Soul on Ice, “Intellectual Property: SOI2.” In addition, Ras Kass rereleased his debut album, Soul on Ice completely re-mastered and restored, as it was originally intended. Soul on Ice: Revisited also contains 21 never before released Ras Kass tracks.
Ras Kass spoke to The Real Hip-Hop about the lessons he’s learned in his twenty years in the music business, the rise of President-elect Donald Trump, Intellectual Property, and Soul on Ice: Revisited.
TRHH: How were you able to go back and release the original version of Soul on Ice 20 years after its release?
Ras Kass: That’s kind of a gray area. They didn’t have digital rights back in the days. If they don’t put it out after a certain time, and they only have it for a certain amount of time, so we kind of went into the gray area with that. I believe also the other part of it is not having the same cover. I have the original. It’s very similar but it’s not the same. We kind of did some fuckin’ TMZ shit where they’d draw something with a marker over it and it changes the picture. Some of the things are remixed. It’s a bit different. The Diamond D remix is on it, we put Jack Frost on there, that’s why it’s revisited. It’s not exactly Soul on Ice, it’s kind of looking back at it.
TRHH: Sequels usually don’t deliver in movies or in Hip-Hop, but SOI2: Intellectual Property does. Were you concerned about living up to the first album when you were making Intellectual Property?
Ras Kass: [Laughs] That’s true. First off, let me just say thank you, I appreciate it. Yeah, of course. I never thought I’d do it. Period in life people are going to pass away. The nature of life is death. We’re born to die. I don’t have the illustrious billion dollars of Jay-Z and Eminem, but this is what I do for a living and I’m blessed to be able to do this for my career. For me I was starting to look at my mortality and what I’m passing on is my intellectual property. The whole thing with Capitol Records – this is what I leave to my children. This is what they can make money from, just like The Beatles. When Michael Jackson dies or Prince dies the intellectual property is what they’re trying to sell. That’s the money!
Once I decided I would do it, it was about making it bigger than me. What have I learned from twenty years of my life that I’ve given to this culture of Hip-Hop? What legacy am I leaving if I never get all the money and fame? That’s what it was about for me and I was definitely afraid. I don’t like doing the part two’s. I feel sequels is what people do – they sell you the same thing over and over again. But people are trained monkeys and want the same thing over and over again. I didn’t want to do that. I knew I was doing Soul on Ice: Revisited and it brought up a lot of feelings and emotions. I took it from there and I was blessed to have so many awesome people help me get it done.
Ras Kass: [Laughs] It’s kind of the defining transition in Pac’s journey. That movie changed his trajectory. I’ve never talked to Pac directly about it but I talked to Treach and he auditioned for that part. Bishop was an ode to one of my favorite movies. I was feeling some type of way, to be honest. That was no fucks given. Fuck it, Bishop from Juice. He didn’t give a fuck. He started popping his homies and everything. He was a bad guy. He became like a bully. I didn’t’ want it to be too lyrical. I wanted it to be everyday street shit, life shit, that you would encounter and have that “I don’t give a fuck” attitude about those things.
TRHH: You have a couple of tracks on the album that feature the late Sean Price. Sean was a funny guy and an amazing emcee. What’s your favorite Sean P memory?
Ras Kass: I think my favorite memory of Sean is the one that he talked about in the skit before Paypal the Feature. Me, Bleu DaVinci, Rock, Sean, we was in his project in Brooklyn. We like rap music and we’re fans first, so discussing where rap was at and looking at our record deals, I still had my deal and I didn’t even know Sean had got dropped. I guess they weren’t going to distribute Heltah Skeltah through Priority anymore. We were in the neighborhood, two dudes from L.A. and the entire projects in Brooklyn. He came up with this rap scheme in his brain and I’m laughing like it’s so stupid that it’s probably going to work. It was funny and it was him. He was funny and he was a gang leader. Watching that become Sean P, he became himself.
Twista would always say, “When I hear your records I hear a lot of you but I don’t hear how funny you are and you’re a little more street than you put on in your records.” Twista would always advise me of that and I was there to see Sean Price actually snap – Twista would call it snapping. That was dope. I feel like I finally snapped, too. It took some things in the journey to snap and convey who I am in my music. I strived to do it but people didn’t get it. I found a better way of making it audible where they can hear it. Soul on Ice is still me, but it’s almost two different records. It’s very lyrical and talking about the Illuminati, and then there’s Marinatin’, Drama and fucking with bitches and all that. I caught flack about it every other album. Nobody has ever appreciated the fact that I was dealing with my entire personality. I never had a catch phrase or one way to make it a song so you could get it – like how Eminem had “My Name Is.” People have these successful songs that communicate who they are, I never had that. Ghetto Fabulous was an attempt at that. Sean not only made one song but his projects were him.
We were having a specific conversation about rap and he did the flow, the whole, “P!” It was dope that he told that story and I was able to get it and put it on the album. Rest in peace to my brother. It’s dope to be able to be a part of something that special. To me that’s bardom to have Sean remember Ras was with me when I kind of snapped. That’s awesome to be a part of my brother’s life and his journey — Sean, his daughter, Bernadette – it’s dope. Some people get some retro love for people. People started rocking J Dilla or Phife Dawg t-shirts but didn’t have love for the person in life. I’m thankful to have been somebody who believed in him and supported him before and after. I was there loving him in real time. Even with people who aren’t passed away, I can say I believed in Eminem when nobody fucked with him when he had brown hair. I like to support people because they’re talented, not because they sell a lot of records or it’s ‘cause they die – that’s corny.
You can look at it in rap and look at who people put on their albums. They don’t put necessarily the dopest emcees, they put the popular people. That’s not what I thought this shit was about. It’s about loving the craft, but it’s still a popularity contest. If Sean Price came back from death how many of these people that are successful would have him on a record now? Or J Dilla? How many people would buy that beat now? That shit is corny. Rap is corny for that. Hip-Hop is corny for that, it’s not just rap. Hip-Hop does corny shit like that – fuck with people after they die. Hollywood with them, wouldn’t do a song with them, and when they die they wanna wear his shirt. My favorite moment is knowing I was there when my friend grew and snapped. A lot of people don’t do that. They don’t support people from the beginning; they only support them in success or in death.
TRHH: Why do you think that is?
Ras Kass: If I had the answer I’d solve it. I don’t know, man. I’m not like that. I don’t know why people dress up like furry’s and have sex. I don’t. I can’t relate. I kind of don’t wanna know ‘cause if you know you kind of went too far. I don’t know and I don’t care to know. I just know that it’s weird and I think it’s corny to fuck with Phife Dawg and follow him on Instagram after he dies, or Sean Price, or Prince, or whoever. Love ‘em while they’re here, support ‘em while they’re here. And then don’t support an artist when he blows up. It’s easy to support ‘em when a million people jump on your dick. Support ‘em when they need that help and that support. That’s what I wish Hip-Hop would get back to – core principles, loving the talent, and supporting the music and not supporting the brand.
TRHH: You laid it all out on AmeriKKKan Horror Story and explained the disaster that the country asked for with Trump. Were you surprised on election night when Trump won?
Ras Kass: I felt the apathy amongst my peers, even the quote unquote knowledgeable people. “My vote don’t count,” and I’ve been there before. I’ve been to prison, bro. Once you go to prison you realize that there are levels to this shit. Once you go to prison you have to sign something where you renounce your citizenship. You’re no longer a citizen of the United States, you are a ward of your state. Basically when you take your deal and sign those papers you’re owned by the prison. I understand that there’s level to it and I needed to step it up. There were times where I didn’t vote and I can’t expect everyone to have a growth or understanding of where I may be at. I really felt the apathy of black people. I felt the apathy of young people who were busy partying, bullshitting, trapped out, and getting money.
I’m not trying to pinpoint one person but it’s indicative of Lil’ Wayne saying, “My life matters,” instead of saying Black Lives Matter. You can’t even be frustrated and say that. You’ve made millions of dollars, brother. It’s people that work their ass off at a 9-to-5 menial job and make $40,000-$30,000 a year. Come on, man. Have some empathy. We live in a world with no empathy. That’s what Trading Places was about. Have some empathy for your fellow human being. I heard it, “If we can’t have Bernie we’re gonna fuckin’ blow up the game,” but they didn’t blow up the game. They really just let the biggest demon win. When you have somebody coming out saying the things that Donald Trump said you can see the pattern. We saw the pattern when Barack Obama got elected of an 800% increase in white power hate groups. We saw a dude walk into a church and say, “Jesus told me to kill the niggers.” That’s what Helter Skelter was about – creating this race war that they believe God – the white Jesus Christ – told them that niggers and Mexicans shouldn’t be here or they should be enslaved, and white people should have privilege.
To quit because you couldn’t get it your way is exactly what they wanted. I was very disappointed in my people as black people. I was very disappointed in the youth as a whole. When I was 24-25 we had music that was giving us brain food, not telling us how many drugs they took. At least niggas was talking about how many drugs they sold to get some money, these niggas talking about being on the drugs! I saw it coming. I was hoping it wouldn’t I was just dumbfounded so I started trying to do the research to learn the numbers. I didn’t really want to reach a conclusion. I knew it was fucked up, I just wanted to know how did it get fucked up. Looking at the percentages and statistics was interesting in itself. To really come out and find out 40% of eligible people didn’t vote, they got exactly what they wanted. Everybody said, “Fuck it, my vote don’t count.” Well now you can kind of see it does.
I kept trying to tell people that if nothing else but what our grandparents went through getting hit with water hoses just to vote, if they’re trying voter suppression then it gotta mean something. It may not mean everything, but it gotta mean something. If they don’t want you to do it, that’s probably the reason why you should do it. Everybody fell for the okie-doke and meanwhile the polarized, galvanized racist whites went and did their job. They put the man in power who spoke the language of hate that they wanted to hear – white privilege, white power. It’s people still trying to justify that. When you’re wrong, you’re wrong. Admit that you made a mistake and hopefully we can change thing in the next two years! Go vote! I know we don’t have the power to select, but to some small degree we have to power to elect. We didn’t. I wasn’t surprised, I was just disappointed. I was surprised at how much of a margin. We did nothing. We bent over [laughs].
Ras Kass: You know what was shitty? I was doing the research for AmeriKKKan Horror Story and it fucked me up because I want to live in the world as a human being and I wanted to evolve past that and not believe that every white person was a potential predator, but doing the research it kind of reinforced that. It is what it is. I wanted to be more human, like the Common shit, the peace and love shit. It drove me to reach the old conclusion and that was sad for me as a human being. It’s not me saying it. It’s the statistics. The Amish voted – they don’t normally vote. They don’t like electricity! That’s the devil, bro. But they went and voted because he was speaking their language.
Catholics, the Pope Francis said Trump is not a man of God. He also said climate change is real. Literally in the Catholic community it splintered. White Catholic’s voted for Trump. Everybody who was white, I don’t care if they are Buddhist, Muslim, Christian, rich, poor, the majority voted for Trump. Which put me back like, fuck, white people are fuckin’ insensitive beasts! It don’t matter what they profess to believe as a religion, their white privilege kicks in. It’s not even self-preservation because self-preservation is wanting to be okay. Their superiority kicks in. That’s sad because I thought we were better than that as humans.
TRHH: I agree with you, but let me throw this out there and get your opinion. I’ve been hearing a lot of people say, “Sixty million people voted for Trump, they can’t all be racist,” and also what it was is he spoke to rural America – the Idaho’s, the Iowa’s, the places that nobody ever talks about that are losing jobs. Trump gave them hope because he said he was going to bring their jobs back.
Ras Kass: Where are these jobs going to come from? The car companies have automation. Those jobs aren’t coming back. That’s like somebody saying they’re going to bring back carrier pigeons. Dude, we got iPhone’s. I think what we’re talking about is symptoms. I don’t really deal with symptoms, I deal with disease. I want to understand what the disease is, which is why I write these songs like Nature of the Threat, AmeriKKKan Horror Story, and even Interview with a Vampire and TV Guide to a certain extent. I’m writing to understand what the underlying disease is, not the symptom. You gotta understand when they want these jobs back the other thing is, “they took your jobs” it’s Nazi Germany. They took your jobs — the niggers took it, the Mexican’s took it, China took it. It’s never self-responsibility where you have to start changing and go get an education. It’s the niggers took it.
In the good ol’ days in the 1950’s a white man could work a job and provide for his whole family. Meanwhile, blacks were busy sweeping the floor for him and had to eat in the back. That’s all just coded language. It’s coded language for a lazy fucking middle-American white man who thinks he deserves everything and any time it doesn’t go right for him, although he’s disenfranchised intentionally enslaved people, that he deserves every fucking thing really easily. It’s a fucking excuse! And fuck kowtowing to the fucking white man! And by not voting and trying to do that third party shit, this was the wrong time to do that! You just gave the same devil all the fucking keys to the car – just everything! What a fucking moron show!
TRHH: I will say this, I was intending on voting for Jill Stein but after I saw how close this motherfucker Trump was to being President I was like, “There is no way!” I voted for Hillary. A lot of people just couldn’t get over whatever it was they had against her.
Ras Kass: For those people I say, there are levels. It’s all being sick but one is worse than the other. I’d rather have the flu than have AIDS. I’d rather sprain my ankle than be paralyzed and be quadriplegic. I understood that. First of all, I don’t like Hillary Clinton. I don’t like Obama! He ain’t ever did shit for me. But come on, man. Does that mean I vote for David Duke because I don’t like dude and I’m making a protest? You think that’s a meaningful protest? That’s false equivalence and what we did was a massive false equivalence. We’re going to suffer the consequences of inaction or being apathetic or ambivalent. If you’re not part of the solution then what are you? A lot of people chose not to be part of the solution.
Like I said, I voted for Obama and I didn’t like the guy. I saw some cool black people got to go and kick it, but I’ve never been invited. I said some important things that need more of a voice, maybe he should have came and talked to me. Yeah, it’s cool for the cool blackies. I’m not a cool blackie. He didn’t spend time going to grab leaders in the hood, he talked to the cool niggas. So who gives a fuck about that? It’s the same social strata, but I voted for the nigga because it was better than voting for what the fuck Romney was talking about. I watched Chappelle on Saturday Night Live and he said some funny shit. He said, “All my wealthy black friends are talking about leaving the country, but not me.” It was a joke but jokes are rooted in honesty. He said, “These new tax cuts are going to be good for me,” because he’s rich. But they’re not going to be good for me. I’m not rich.
Whether you’re black, white, yellow, green, purple, gay, or whatever, if you’re rich it’s going to work out well for you. We have a completely shrinking middle class. We’re going back into poverty. It’s going to be a third world situation. I’m a small business. All these Obama laws have fucked my small business up. Big business is going to be good. It’s not going to affect Capitol Records who fucked with my life. My small business is going to suffer. Rich people can complain all they want. The actors and everybody that sang is disappointed, but they’re rich, we’re not! If they don’t like it they could move. Where the fuck can most of us go? His jest was funny but it’s for real. We don’t have nowhere to go.
On Instagram I posted a picture saying, “If you didn’t vote I don’t want to see you out there marching and protesting. You had a chance to exercise your vote. So shut the fuck up. You’re reacting when you had an opportunity to be proactive. I don’t wanna hear the votes don’t count because now you kind of see they do.” A sister from Detroit went into the votes don’t count thing and I said, “Well as a black woman and me as a black man, if y’all ready we can pack up and get the fuck on out of here, but where we gon’ go?” The other option is we start the revolution. What I wrote to her is, “Niggas is too scared to do either one.” Niggas don’t wanna leave their hood, let alone leave and go back to Africa. And niggas don’t wanna bust no guns, they shoot each other! They do not shoot the people that murder and kill them.” It’s cowardice. It’s an internal cowardice within our people and I hate having to have this conversation but it’s where my heart is at, it’s what I’ve been going through.
I said it in my music from the beginning, and I live this shit. I said it a long time ago, “Give me 50,000 black, angry role models/Take me to D.C. I’ll throw the first fuckin’ bottle/’Cause I don’t give a fuck about a menial existence/And I don’t give a fuck about a resistance/Civil rights will not suffice/In the name of Jesus Christ, they got my soul on ice.” That’s what I’m saying, I’m most disappointed in my own people. I bet most of my friends that legal weed is gonna be gone. They’re going to repeal so many Supreme Court decisions – Row v Wade – it’s a wrap, bro. Digging ourselves out of this hole is not going to be a four year thing. They got everything now. Pence is worse than Trump. It’s just bad. I perceive it as bad. It’s not a “cup half full” situation. This is ugly.
TRHH: It’s a nightmare. It’s a nightmare. Let’s get back to the music; you touched on going to prison and your issues with Capitol Records; you’ve had a lot of ups and downs in your career. What has kept you motivated to keep going in this business of rap?
Ras Kass: I don’t know, man. That’s a good question. I’m in too deep, bro [laughs]. What the fuck else am I gonna do? I can’t be an attorney at law now, I got felonies. Perfectly honest, I love the creative process. I’ve never liked the business side of music. It’s corny and snakey and skeevy. It’s broken my heart a couple times. At its best it changes lives and makes the world a better place. I’ve been blessed that sometimes it’s done that for me. It’s changed my life in a positive way. Other times people have let me know and shown me how I’ve changed their life in a positive way. I feel like the creator put me here for a reason and it may not be to be the big popular cool guy. I’m okay with that. That was never really my motivation anyway. I do want to make sure that I’m financially stable and that type of shit. I deserve a decent house and to be able to retire. I work toward that from a business standpoint, but the other part of that is the spiritual and what’s fulfilling.
I’m fulfilled and I enjoy doing this. When I’m not fulfilled I kind of don’t do it. I guess I put myself in prison [laughs]. That’s what I used to do. I’d get frustrated and say, “Fuck this shit! Damn it all to hell,” but I’m too old for that shit now. I’m motivated by the journey and feeling blessed. Once again, some people work 30-40 years for a lot less money and hate it and dread it every day. I’ve been blessed to be able to travel and see a lot of this world, and hopefully see a lot more of it being able to say what I feel. I don’t even have to go say some shit that somebody put in my mouth, I get to say what I really feel from my heart and sometimes people receive it and support me in it. That’s a plus, I can’t complain.
TRHH: Twenty years after the release of Soul on Ice, what would you say the highlight of your career has been and what do you see going forward?
Ras Kass: I don’t really have a highlight. It’s been a good journey. It’s peaks and valleys. I don’t have anything in particular. I would say this, on Bardom I allude to a few experiences that I’ve had. I forget more than I remember, but sometimes having those amazing experiences with people I looked up to, I still look up to, I’ve been that fly on the wall, and I’ve seen some amazing shit happen in a genre that I really respect. It’s priceless. I couldn’t pay to have seen and done some of the amazing things and met some of the amazing brothers. In Bardom I say, “Me and Pun shared a pint of Henny.” I’m a dude from L.A., I’m younger than Pun, I was a fan and I pulled out a pint of Hennessey. He was like, “Let me hit that,” and we were in the trailer drinking Hennessey, just me and him. That shit ain’t gon happen again. Fuck bro, that’s awesome. Me and Big Proof, rest in peace, we were on the Anger Management Tour and all the buses accidently left us. We had to figure out how to get 100 miles to the next venue on our own. That will never happen again.
There’s no particular best moment, I just call those the Bardom moments of my life. I just had so many great journeys, and sometimes not-so great. Sometimes it was really shitty, but I think the good outweighs the bad. I don’t wanna depend on being a rapper for the rest of my life, but it’s always a part of me. I do want to be able to invest and help other artists. I’m still trying to put myself in a position of power and influence so that I can bring people to the table that I think deserve a chance to be heard. In the future I’d like to be the same way everybody else in my grade is. I would say in my grade is right before me is Outkast, Xzibit, Pharoahe Monch, Common, Kweli, Mos Def, around that class. They have good careers and they don’t do albums all the time. They do albums once every five years or so when they feel like there is something to say they say it. I wanna be there, obviously, and making an impact, but not necessarily as an artist.
In 2008 Termanology gained notoriety with his critically acclaimed solo album, Politics as Usual. The album boasted a list of all-star caliber producers that hadn’t been since Nas’ Illmatic – and oh yeah, Term could really rhyme. The coupling of Termanology’s lyrics with a hall of fame list of producers made Term and underground darling and one of the best young artists in rap. Eight years later Termanology is revisiting that old formula with a new album called “More Politics.”
More Politics is produced by Just Blaze, Buckwild, Dame Grease, Hi-Tek, Q-Tip, Statik Selektah, Nottz, and J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League. The album features Saigon, Bun B, Bodega Bamz, Masspike Miles, Chris Rivers, Ea$y Money, Westside Gunn, Conway, Your Old Droog, Crushboys, Sean Taylor, Cyrus DeShield, KXNG Crooked, Joey Bada$$, Kendra Foster, Sheek Louch, and Styles P.
Termanology spoke to The Real Hip-Hop about More Politics, how his lifestyle changes are reflected in his music, and about his next solo album.
Termanology: I think growing as a person has something to do with it. You grow as a person and you grow as an artist. A lot of the things I was involved in eight years ago when I dropped that first album are not the same thing I’m involved with these days. Now I got two kids, I got an organization called Good Dad Gang. I’m not running the streets anymore so I think that kind of helped me open up my topics and the way I approach making music as well.
TRHH: More Politics has a more personal tone to it than previous records. You rhyme more about relationships and your children. Was it difficult for you to express that part of yourself?
Termanology: I wouldn’t say it was difficult for me to express it. I think it kind of comes out real naturally. The more difficult piece for me was, now the song is done, do I let the whole world know this? Do I really want to share with the whole world my relationship with my girl or my relationship with my kids? It is real personal. The hardest part is making the decision whether or not the people get to hear the music. At the end I felt like the music was so strong that it was okay to share my life with the people. The music was that dope that I thought people would rock with it.
TRHH: You made reference on one song that More Politics has more jewels than your previous projects. Was it calculated that you added more substance to your rhymes or did it just kind of come out that way?
Termanology: I don’t know, man. Over the years just realizing what stands the test of time, a lot of the times it’s the music that’s actually saying something. When you first get in the game you’re so hungry and you just want props. You want people to say, “He’s nice. He can spit.” In the beginning I focused on a lot of that, especially doing underground rap, that’s what they want – they want the bars. I focused on that a lot of my career but making this album it was conceptual. When you lean conceptually your thoughts come to life and my thoughts were positive. I’m trying to be positive these days and that’s what it all comes down to, spreading jewels.
TRHH: I remember years ago Ice-T said the greatest rapper is not the best rapper, it’s the one that touches people the most. He was saying that in reference to 2Pac. What’s your opinion on that? Is that how you see yourself going in the future?
Termanology: I kind of agree with what he said. I like a lot of artists where a lot of people would be like, “Term, why do you like that artist? I’m not a fan of them. I don’t like their style.” A lot of times my excuse is, “But do you hear what he’s saying though?” For instance, French Montana, a lot of people in the underground circle don’t really care for French Montana. They would rather listen to The Roots or more underground stuff. When you listen to the album it’s not only pop. You get a clear vision of who this person is, their struggles, and their pain. Then you start to relate to them as an artist. I feel what Ice-T was saying. I feel like Pac was one of the greatest. I don’t feel like he was technically lyrically as good as a Big Pun or a Big L, but he still touched the people. I like to do a little bit of both. Sometimes I do simple rhymes where they’re not really intricate or mind blowing, but the words that are said are deep so I still keep them. Some rhymes I say are all about word play and just being lyrical, too.
Termanology: Buckwild had came to Boston to host a beat battle. I told him, “Hey, let’s get in the studio after the beat battle.” He went to the studio with me in Cambridge at my man Arkitek’s spot and laid down seven new beats. Out of the seven beats I had Dream B.I.G. and I’ve been sitting on that beat for like three years now. It was one of the first beats I got for the project. When he gave me the beat I came up with the chorus and the first verse. I was going to finish it myself but I kind of got lazy and felt like I said everything I had to say. I did a couple of beats for Sheek Louch’s album and in return he said he’d do a verse for me whenever I needed it. I just thought it would sound real fly with The Lox on it so I reached out to Sheek and then I reached out to Styles. We shot the video and I was lucky to be able to have Jadakiss in the video, Styles, Sheek, Buckwild, and Chris Rivers.
TRHH: I wasn’t aware that you made beats, man.
Termanology: Yeah, man. I got a few placements. I did a joint called “Drivin’ Round” on the Wu-Block album with Erykah Badu. I did two beats on Sheek Louch’s last album Silverback Gorilla 2. I did “Obamacare” and “Hold it Straight.” Even on my album Shut Up and Rap there was a beat that I made on there. I got a couple joints. I don’t really promote that I’m a producer like that. That’s more something I do for the fun of it ‘cause I just love Hip-Hop.
TRHH: The last time we spoke you said this album had beats from all of the producers on it, but also DJ Premier, 9th Wonder, and Evidence. What happened to those songs and will we ever hear them?
Termanology: The last time we spoke was the beginning. That was before I got Just Blaze and Dame Grease. I had a whole different lineup for this album. I had an Evidence beat and a Primo beat, but those two beats I ended up putting on a different project I got coming out called Anti-Hero. The 9th Wonder beat ended up being put on the Term Brady EP that I put out last year. All them songs are coming out, it’s just they ended up getting split up because conceptually they fit different projects more. The 9th Wonder joint is fire. There’s a video for that, it’s called Grade A. The record with Premier is amazing! It’s crazy! It’s going to be the next single off the next album, Anti-Hero. I got that in the stash and there’s a video for the Evidence joint, too. As soon as Anti-Hero drops you’re going to hear the new Primo joint and the new Evidence joint.
TRHH: When does that album come out?
Termanology: We’re looking at March. I’m about to go on tour with the Beatnuts and then I’m going to Europe with REKS. After that when I get home hopefully I’ll be able to get into the studio and put the finishing touches on Anti-Hero. It would be nice if it dropped in March or April, if not maybe early summer.
TRHH: We’re Both Wrong is a real powerful song. How did that concept come to life?
Termanology: I just rhymed with the beat. The beat says, “We’re both wrong.” I went to Q-Tip’s house with Statik and they were working on some DJ stuff. Tip started playing us some beats. Once Tip started playing beats I told him, “I had beats from Primo, Pete Rock, Statik, Alchemist, and all these people, but I’ve never worked with you, Tip.” I did a song with him rhyming called Stop, Look, Listen with me, him and Styles P, but I never rhymed on one of his beats. The beat that was playing just happened to be “We’re Both Wrong” and he was like, “Oh, you like this one?” and I was like “Yeah.” He gave me the beat right then and there on the spot.
The concept came because there was a lot of police brutality and things of that nature going on so I just wanted to touch on that. Not only did we touch on police brutality we also touched on certain social issues like dad’s not seeing their kids, or spending money on alcohol, designer sneakers or belts but not putting money in the bank for your kids. That’s what my verse was about and Saigon’s was about how police brutality has been going on forever and it’s only getting worse so we kind of have to keep our eye on the situation and hopefully we can make some changes to our community and the way that we’re operating as a society.
Termanology: Honestly it’s made for me. I didn’t sit there when I wrote it and thought, “I really hope everybody who bought G.O.Y.A. or 1982 likes it.” I really didn’t wanna go about it like that because when you start making music for other people that’s when it gets funny and it’s not really you. The album is just for me, man. I made it because I wanted to express how I’m feeling and make some art that reflected who I am as a person now and who I am as a rapper. So far everybody is saying it’s my best album, so apparently I did a good job at executing it and I’m really proud of it.
Code Nine and Purpose are members of a crew called Tragic Allies. Purpose has handled production duties while Code Nine serves as one of the crew’s emcees. The Massachusetts natives have joined up for an official release called “Below Sumerian Skies.”
Below Sumerian Skies is a 14-track album produced entirely by Purpose. The album is the epitome of what Hip-Hop should be – raw beats and rhymes. Released by Below System Records, Below Sumerian Skies features appearances from Paranom, Estee Nack, and M-Credible.
The Real Hip-Hop spoke to Code Nine and Purpose about the difficulties that come with being perfectionists, why they refuse to dumb down their sound, their Tragic Allies crew, and their new album, Below Sumerian Skies.
Code Nine: The title of the album kind of embodies my whole style in a sense. It’s kind of a metaphor. Below Sumerian Skies insinuates that we’re under skies of the Sumerians. For people who don’t know the Sumerians were the original urban civilization under Sumer. It’s modern day Iraq. It’s kind of a vision that I had and it encompassed the whole feeling of the album. It’s a metaphorical term for life situations. The whole album is like that. It’s not really something that’s concrete – it’s a lot more abstract and a little bit more in depth.
Code Nine: Staff of Moses was actually a beat that was taken. Purp had it sent it out for another project. We were sitting in the lab one day and we just laid it down randomly and it came out really dope. We remixed it and as we always do we sit down and we build with the homies about the music that we’ve made. Essentially everyone who listened to it kind of felt the original more. We reached out to who we gave the beat to and see if they’ve done anything to it. We didn’t get a response so we put it on the album because we really liked the joint. The song itself is kind of one of those braggadocio, metaphorical joints again where I’m flexing lyrically. It kind of felt more like a single. It didn’t really have a single concept, it was just a little more loosely based. That’s the feeling we were going for. I know when Purpose really likes something then I have to roll with it because Purp is really an analyst when it comes to music. I respect his opinion a lot so when he really feel something I run with it.
TRHH: Have you heard back from the person who originally had the beat yet?
Purpose: Interesting story is I was on the phone with Killah Priest. He was out somewhere with Ghost doing some shows. He was like, “Yo, send me some beats!” I sent that beat to Priest and he was really feeling it. A couple months went by and he never used it. I hit him up like, “Yo, what’s good? You using that beat?” There wasn’t any response in email so I called him and he didn’t get around to recording anything to it so I was like fuck it, let’s roll with it on the Code project.
TRHH: Code, why did it take you so long to release a project?
Code Nine: A lot of things. I’m kind of a perfectionist, which is a double edged sword because there’s some point where I have to draw the line and be like, “Alright, enough of trying to perfect this project. I have to release it,” even releasing the album how it is. Of course being an artist you always notice the flaws in it. I love the album and I think it’s a good representation of the type of music that I make. It took a long time because it took a long time for me to get out of my head as far as the music and get out of my own way. You can ask Purp, there is a running joke with the whole crew that if I hate the song then everyone else is going to love it. I’m so critical of my own music. It took me a while but I’m glad that it did. We had an album in mind back in 2012. That was when we started to lay the foundation and we had to see what direction we were going in. Toward 2014-15 it really picked up and we started really seeing the vision so we had to change the way we were going a little bit. We recorded like 27-28 song for this project.
Purpose: It was like 38 joints, yo.
Code Nine: It was a lot. It was a lot of songs. We’re still sitting on crazy material but we had to narrow it down to 14. I can honestly say that it was me having to step out of my own way a little bit. I was starting to get too much into it and at some point you gotta just let it go and let it be.
TRHH: Do you worry that your rhymes might be over the heads of today’s listeners?
Code Nine: Honestly, yeah. It’s a constant battle. I’ve been trying not to dumb it down but figure out a less intricate way of putting cool ideas. That’s the only way I can describe it and I think I’m getting a little bit better at that. I want people to really have to listen to it, analyze it, and break it down. A lot of my younger dudes don’t really listen to the stuff that I listen to so when they hear it they feel the vibe. They don’t really catch the lyrics and the references, but they feel the vibe. And I got my homies that really listen to and analyze lyrics. I’m trying to play a game where it’s right in the middle. I can make music that anyone can vibe to if they’re not listening to it, but at the same time if you really wanna listen to and break down the lyrics it can blow you away. I personally want people to sit down and have to listen to my lyrics. I want it to grab your attention and I want you to go, “Yo, what is he talking about?” and have to do research to figure out what the hell I’m talking about. Those are the emcees that I really feel, the ones that make me have to rewind some shit. For me that’s what Hip-Hop is about.
Purpose:Tragic Allies as a whole we try not to dumb the shit down because let’s be real, nowadays I ain’t concerned about whether the listener can get it or not. If anything the listener needs to step up their game because today’s music there is no intellectual value to it. It’s not making the listener any smarter. Back in the day when ill rappers were coming up and saying witty and intellectual shit it made us wanna get on our knowledge shit and expand our vocabulary’s Today’s music is missing that. I ain’t catering to people who wanna listen to some dumb down shit. They can go to the club and listen to that shit, but I ain’t with it.
Code Nine: I’m the youngest one out the crew. I started hanging out with Purp and Estee when I was 15 years old. I came from that era because of them. I was a young cat reading the dictionary. I would make it a habit of finding a random word and starting my shit off with that. Nowadays cats don’t have to do that because that’s too much work. That’s not the type of music that they’re doing anyway. I feel like there is a big demographic of people that are craving that substance. I feel like even with our music, if people really wanna give us a listen, the Kendrick Lamar fans, and the J. Cole fans, those people want some sort of substance and we can appeal to those crowds. The genre that we’re doing is more in the category of people who fuck with Planet Asia, Roc Marciano, Westside Gunn, and Conway. I feel like we fall into that vibe and we’re comfortable with that because we know those people are gonna appreciate the music.
TRHH: Recently a kid came out and said he couldn’t name 5 Biggie and 2Pac songs.
Code Nine: Yeah, Lil Yachty.
TRHH: Right, and Lil Uzi refused to rap over a Premier beat. A lot of those same kind of people think the boom bap sound is old and dated. What’s your take on the new wave of cats that push back on what they consider old school?
Code Nine: Being somebody who is 28 years old, I’m a little bit older and a little bit wiser. I’m by no means old or wise, but I still have a lot of people I mess with who are younger. I understand at some point everything has to evolve and change. I’m not hating on kids doing their music. I even heard some dope shit coming out of Chicago like the drill scene. I listen to a lot of music. Even if I don’t like it I pick and choose and listen to a lot of different shit. I’m a little bit more open to certain stuff. I’m not hating on what none of them kids are doing – I don’t fuck with it. What they’re doing is being disrespectful. You can do what you gotta do and not spit in the face of the people who made it possible for you to do that. That’s a slap in the face, so I don’t fuck with that. As far as them doing their music, that’s cool.
My biggest beef with it is the game doesn’t have a lane for anything else other than that. It became a corporate monopoly where it’s all about money and what’s selling, so there is no lane left as far generating real profit and being comfortable making music if you’re doing something like we’re doing. My biggest beef with it is the behind the scenes shit that make it possible for a Lil Yachty to be popping. I don’t even blame them, they’re doing what they do. It’s somebody putting them in the position where you got little kids looking up to them, that fucks with me. That’s the true change of the game that I’m having a hard time adapting to, not so much the music. To me the music sucks – a lot of it. Some of it is good, but a lot of it sucks. At the end of the day I can’t blame them. I straight up blame the corporations that take that shit and make it popular and give them the avenue to be able to do that on a widespread level.
TRHH: Don’t you think the J. Cole’s and Kendrick’s are changing that? They’ve proven that you can talk about something and still sell records.
Code Nine: Yeah! No, definitely. But they also have a lot more commercial appeal than a lot of people who are doing music and are very talented but just don’t have that commercial appeal. I feel like it is essential right now to have those guys because they are keeping the last leg of that part of the art form alive. To me though the one thing that’s still left and is still the last branch that’s really connecting the younger generation to emceeing is battle rap. A lot of these battle rap cats can spit. They may not be able to make crazy ill music, but a lot of these dudes are putting together crazy, witty, lyrical, clever lines. A lot of these young dudes still fuck with the battle scene. That and having people like Kendrick Lamar, but there’s not a huge lane for it and they still have to do almost pop records to sell records. They have an album with different material but it’s different, it’s different.
TRHH: Purpose, what’s your workstation of choice?
Purpose: Right now on the right side of my lab is my production side where I do all production. On the other side I got a custom made Mac where I do all the recording. I got an old school MPC, I got the MPC Renaissance, but to be honest I use them shits sparingly nowadays. I really do fuck with a lot of the software now. People say maybe you can do certain shit differently if you use drum machines and all that, but honestly if you know what you’re doing you can do that on software as well. Some of the software that I use is FL Studio just like millions of other people. It’s about the way you EQ shit, the way you mix shit, the way you make snares snap, kicks have more punch to them, the way you use effects on your samples, the way you construct everything. I can make a beat on the MPC and reconstruct it in FL Studio and it will sound the same or maybe even better because I feel like I have more options with the software.
TRHH: Do you guys have a favorite song on the album?
Code Nine: Probably not the same one.
Purpose: Definitely not the same one.
TRHH: Both of you give your favorites.
Code Nine: There’s a lot of joints that I really like. For me the one that stands out is When the Saints Out. It was literally the last joint that we did on the whole project. We were already wrapping up, I was at the lab, he played the beat and I was ready to lay something down real quick. It ended up being one of the strongest joints on the album. That’s by far my favorite and it just happened to be the last joint that we did.
Purpose: That joint is tough but my personal favorite is the joint called Forces of Nature…
Code Nine: I knew it!
Purpose: [Laughs] It came out of nowhere. I almost scrapped that beat. He had come over and I had been fucking with that beat. I wasn’t sure about it and he just comes through and just starts kicking his verse to it. He made me feel the beat that much more. He opened up my eyes and my ears to what the beat was supposed to sound like. From him spitting that verse I ended up adding on to the beat, he ended up spitting another verse, and we just laid it down that day.
Code Nine: A lot of the joints that came the most organically were the best. It was a couple of joints I wrote at my house by myself. A good chunk of the album was written there in the lab with the beat shaking the whole crib. The joints that come out organically where I show up, he’s making the beat already, I start kicking something, and it ends up on the album, I feel like that’s the best way to do music.
Purpose: It’s for everybody. For people who feel like we feel. I really don’t cater my music or my sound to anybody particular. I do music that I feel. That’s why I don’t go out of my lane because I don’t feel like I have to. I do what I do and what I feel inside of me. I make music for people who feel what I feel and go through what I go through. I would say it probably caters more to the intelligent street cat or the true Hip-Hop cats that still fucks with the real sound and likes melodic beats with hard lyrics – music with substance, that’s what it caters to. The Sumerians’ whole view was brought upon because they were people who lived in perpetual darkness. Our studio is the Gray Skies – it all came together like that.
Code Nine: I would say the album definitely has street vibes. It definitely caters to the streets and that’s definitely because of how we came up and where we came up. It’s definitely something that I feel like a lot of people can feel. I look at a lot of my fans and I have people from all different walks of life and people going through all different sorts of circumstances and they can relate to it. You’re going to have a couple joints on the album that make you feel a certain type of way. You’re gonna have other joints where you might not feel a certain way emotionally, but you can connect to the sound. It caters to somebody that can feel that sort of vibe, somebody who is going to take the time to listen to lyrics, a message, and people who appreciate the art form.
That’s who it’s for, but I don’t feel like it’s limited to anybody. It’s for somebody’s uncle. They might hear one of the old samples and be like, “Oh my god!” It doesn’t just cater to one demographic of people. We know the type of listener who is really going to appreciate it though. It’s not one type of person but it is somebody who is definitely going to take time to break down the lyrics, but also appreciate some incredible, amazing production. The production makes it easy for almost anybody to listen to it. People that truly appreciate it are people who are going to listen to more than just the beat.
Fuzz Jaxx and Sam Brown are LegSweep Specialist. From Augusta, Georgia and Greenville, North Carolina respectively, the duo met in Wilmington, North Carolina where they began their working relationship. Hip-Hop veterans in their own right, Brown and Jaxx brought their talent and experience together for a full-length album titled “LegSweep.”
LegSweep is an 11 track album chock-full of soulful beats and introspective lyrics. Released by Below System Records, LegSweep is produced entirely by Sam Brown and features appearances by Nottz and MindsOne.
The Real Hip-Hop spoke to Fuzz Jaxx and Sam Brown of LegSweep Specialist about the origins of their groups’ name, the North Carolina Hip-Hop scene, and their new album, LegSweep.
TRHH: How did you guys get together to form LegSweep Specialist?
Sam Brown: Originally Fuzz was part of a band here in town called The Organix – was the emcee. I used to go see him all the time at live shows. I was looking for an emcee to work with and he was looking for an engineer at the time to record his music. I engineer as well as produce, so basically while engineering for him we ended up connecting with the music he heard me making on the side.
TRHH: Who came up with the name LegSweep Specialist? The name is super dope.
Fuzz Jaxx: [Laughs] That’d be me, man. Since the first day I heard Sam’s production I was like, “Yo Sam, your beats are gonna take people off their feet like a leg sweep.” When we started making more music I was like, “Yo, we should just go with the name ‘LegSweep Specialist’ because the music is gonna take you off your feet as soon as you hear it.” We just went with that and it kind of stuck.
Fuzz Jaxx: I know for me when I wrote that verse I was going through a few personal issues and I was looking for something positive. Instead of depressing everybody with that I was going through I was going to do the opposite and try to write something positive. I wanted to make a record that focused on keeping pushing no matter what.
Sam Brown: As far as me I feel like a lot of the stuff that’s hot nowadays is so see through. I feel like one thing that me and Fuzz definitely have going for us is everything is genuine. We are who we are. We aren’t trying to impress somebody just because they’re that type of way. If you enjoy my music then I think we’ll vibe well. I don’t think we were looking to fit into somewhere. We just wanted to carve our own lane and run with it that way.
TRHH: I feel like North Carolina has produced some of the best music in Hip-Hop in recent years and has kept the boom bap sound alive. Why do you think North Carolina has gravitated to and expanded on that sound?
Sam Brown: I just think that is the level of North Carolina that the masses have heard. To be honest, Wilmington is a half a million people population and there may be five people that we work with who truly enjoy and make boom bap and traditional type Hip-Hop. Charlotte and a bunch of other places in North Carolina are about to blow for a lot of the more traditionally southern trap music. I think the few people who have gotten opportunities to shine out of North Carolina have actually been the right people, ironically. It’s so few and far between when you’re trying to work with people to find what’s genuine anymore. The few that are here in the state try to uphold each other.
TRHH: That’s interesting. That’s not the norm. Usually it’s the opposite and the other sound comes out. Why is that?
Sam Brown: I don’t know. That’s a good question. To be honest the whole reason that North Carolina music ever got attention is because of Little Brother and the fact that 9th Wonder had produced on The Black Album. Before that there were ties to Hip-Hop but people weren’t really looking at North Carolina for production or beat makers. I think that the only person that has really made it as far as production is 9th and now you have Khrysis, and people who fall under him. He’s the one person that has the outlet or the plug. If you make a different type of music it doesn’t make sense for him to plug that. It’s not like he’s cutting the gate off, he just doesn’t make that type of music.
TRHH: What’s your take on the new wave of artists that view the boom bap sound as old?
Fuzz Jaxx: I think a lot of it has to do with them just being so young that they don’t get it. From that standpoint I really don’t mind it. It’s just when they try not to accept that that was the norm at one point and try to call us old and say it’s dated without giving it a chance, that’s when I have a problem with it.
Sam Brown: At 17 Miles Davis wasn’t my shit, but now Miles Davis is my shit. I wasn’t hating on Miles Davis back then like they hate on the old stuff today. I know why it happens. I think with anything in the media nowadays they’re gonna show the most outlandish statements that go on. They’re not gonna show you the kid who truly likes Hip-Hop if that’s not what’s gonna get clicks on YouTube.
Sam Brown: I gotta go with Faded. It’s kind of the direction I wanna take Fuzz on the solo project. It’s one you can twist one and ride to. All of the other stuff I don’t take anything away from it. I listen to the whole album from beginning to end and every time I get to Faded I’m like, “Damn, we couldn’t have ended this album any better.” It’s like the point that I wait for. It makes everything end on a good note. It sums everything up for me.
Fuzz Jaxx: Basically with this album we wanna let people know that North Carolina is here and we ain’t going nowhere. We’re two artists that really, really enjoy what we do. There are so many artists out there doing Hip-Hop but I don’t really hear the enjoyment. With LegSweep, I just want people to know that this is Hip-Hop music that you can enjoy listening to and you can tell that we enjoyed making it. We wanna bring that enjoyment and excitement back with LegSweep. Back in the day every Tuesday we’d wait for new records to drop and we’d be so excited. We’d go cop the CD and be like, “I’ve been waiting for this and now I got it!” You just wanna play it and listen to it and I feel like that’s what we’re bringing back with this album. We’re bringing the faith back into the movement like, yo, there are still real emcees and producers that love what they do. Nothing else matters and you can hear that through our music.
Nearly 25 years after entering the rap world one half of M.O.P. is going for dolo. Billy Danze is preparing for the release of his first solo album, which will be a little different from his Mash Out Posse work. An older, wiser Danze has taken on the role of CEO of the We Build Hits imprint and aims to not only release his own music, but the work of young up and coming artists.
The Brownsville, New York native released the singles “Barclays Music” and “We Out Here,” which prominently feature some of the artists signed to his label. His second single, 6 O’clock Briefing, shows us a different Billy Danze altogether. On the song Danze has a sit down with President Barack Obama and breaks down the problems addressing the United States of America – a far cry from classic M.O.P. material like “Ante Up” or “How About Some Hardcore.”
The Real Hip-Hop spoke to Billy Danze about hot button political topics, his We Build Hits imprint, upcoming solo album, and the future of M.O.P.
Billy Danze: You know what, bro, me and you can get together and talk about all this stuff that’s going on in the country with the police shootings and all of that, but that’s something that we can just talk about. I knew people were going to be doing records about these shootings, I’ve heard records about ‘em, but I didn’t wanna do that. I wanted to say something directly to Mr. President. I wanted to say exactly how I felt. It’s not a political piece. It’s not even a record in my eyes, it’s just me having a conversation with him and saying what I wanted to say. I made sure that the beat was the way it is ‘cause we didn’t want no dancing, we didn’t want no head bobbing, and we definitely didn’t want no clubbing going on with this. I just wanted to say what I wanted to say to the President. People are receiving it like I expected, so I’m really appreciative for the response I’m getting on it, you know?
TRHH: Would you say that you’re disappointed in Obama’s tenure in office?
Billy Danze: No. I’m not disappointed in him at all. The thing about the song is as a black man, well, as a man period, do you not see what’s happening? If we check the facts Obama did great. A shit load of jobs done popped out of the blue since he’s been in office, the economy is much better, fuckin’ gas prices went down, living situations for a lot of people have gotten better, too. So he’s done a great job. You and I both know he’s the President, which means he’s just the face. This is America – America is never going to be ran by just one person. He’s just the President and everybody else makes decisions. He has the right to object to those decisions and try to fight and push bills, but he doesn’t make all the decisions. Even in the record I said that, “We know you did what you had to do,” he did the best that he could. I’m very proud of our President of the last eight years because he turned the country around and did a lot better than the last President who left us in a really bad spot.
TRHH: What would you have done differently if you were him?
Billy Danze: I don’t know. I don’t know if there was anything that he could have done differently. The only thing that I may think about when it comes to that is maybe the points that I made in the record that, “I need you to see what’s going on out here with our people.” Business is business and I understand as the President running the country, it’s only business. But as a human being are you telling me that you don’t see what’s going on here? I think I would be addressing a little more of the incidents that’s going on because that’s very important. It’s almost like we’re going back into fuckin’ time where white officers are allowed to kill black men and women, Spanish men and women, even their own race.
They should not be allowed to shoot people, especially in the damn back, especially unarmed, without any kind of consequences. Even now if someone walks in my home and is trying to hurt me and my family and I shoot ‘em in the back I’m going to jail for murder and they came in here to kill me. So how is it cool for a police officer to shoot an unarmed man in the back and he don’t go to jail at all? At the very most they send him on leave or suspend him with pay. That’s fuckin’ ridiculous to me. I would address that a little more – senseless killings – especially police against citizens.
TRHH: You mentioned the issues going on in Chicago in the song. I’m from Chicago, how do you think the gun violence problem can be fixed?
Billy Danze: You’re from Chicago I’m from Brownsville; we basically live in the same place but in two different spots. It’s the same thing. Gun violence has been going on for years. Even now they want more gun control. What they’re trying to say is they want to take the guns from model citizens to protect themselves. They’re all gonna be disarmed but the guys on the block aren’t. I don’t know how that’s gonna help gun violence. I really don’t have an answer for that because how are we gonna move the guns? We can’t get the guns from them now! The police can’t take the guns from dudes now, so how is that possible? In the state that I’m in now there’s a lot of gun shops. Some of them were empty because they thought Hillary Clinton would get in the chair and take all the guns back from the citizens.
Some of the gun manufacturers stopped producing guns, but they’re still millions of ‘em out there. They would have been able to take them back from people who have legitimate licenses, but the criminals are still gonna have them. I don’t really know what to do about that. I don’t see that there’s much that can be done. They’re not gonna be able to get all the guns off the street unless they do some martial law shit – head door-to-door, start possibly killing people, that’s the only way it’s gonna happen. People just gotta wake up and understand you’re shooting people in your own community, you’re bringing your own property value down, you’re hurting the person that’s next to you that can possible help you. I don’t think it’s anything that can happen with the law that can stop the gun violence. I think people are just going to have to come to their senses and realize what they’re doing.
TRHH: I want to correct you on what you said about politicians wanting to take the guns away. That’s not true. I think what Hillary Clinton and other Democrats wanted to do was to make the people buying guns go through a little bit more of a background check…
Billy Danze: But there’s already a federal background check. How much more can we go through?
TRHH: I don’t know. But I do know that people with mental illness like the kid who shot those black people in the church in South Carolina, or racist people, probably shouldn’t have access to guns.
Billy Danze: Definitely not, but on the actual application they ask you all of this. You can’t be dishonorably discharged from the military, you can’t have domestic violence charges, you can’t have any kind of felonies, and you can’t have a history of mental issues, that’s basically it. They put it through this whole federal thing where they check all across the country to see if you’ve ever been involved in anything that would prevent you from getting this firearm. The only thing that possibly can happen is you actually have to go to see someone and they evaluate you and stuff like that. The kid that walked in the church and shot those people, if he had any kind of mental issues they wouldn’t have gave him a firearm. It’s probably not even his firearm. It probably was his father’s, his mother’s or somebody else. I get what you’re saying, they want to do a different kind of a background check, but everything that’s on the application is everything that can be done, unless they make you walk in a room and get some type of screening, which that would be cool, too. I mean we’re talking about firearms. Pulling the trigger to actually harm someone is not easy. It’s not easy to do. Once a person does something like that, I don’t care how sharp you’ve been your whole life, but something goes through your head and you’re a changed person after that. It’s not easy.
I just hope for the best, bro. I hope that we figure out a way to stop the violence. Maybe the people that are in Chicago and Brooklyn that are not in gangs and are just taking their kids to school or coming from work, they need to be able to protect themselves. If nobody had guns and I’m coming from school or work and I can protect myself, if you’re fighting, I’m fighting. But you’re pulling out a fuckin’ gun, how am I going to protect myself? You gotta allow me to protect myself. This is something that the government should think about too because they allowed people to get the guns in the first place. You know what it is, man. This government is all fucked up [laughs]. Let’s call a spade a spade. I’m trying to sugar coat the shit because I don’t want nobody to be mad and shit, but let’s call a spade a spade. The government is fucked up. I watched a video of an OG from Chicago who had changed his life and said his man came and woke him up one day and was like, “Yo, it’s a crate of guns in the alley!” What you mean it’s a crate of guns in the alley? It was on Worldstar or something. First of all you know ain’t nobody in the hood sitting no crate of guns in the alley [laughs]. We ain’t doing that! Who actually did that? It doesn’t make sense, bro. They want us to off ourselves so they don’t have to do it. Because we haven’t been doing it fast enough now they’re doing it. I didn’t want to get political, man.
TRHH: One last political question, what are your thoughts on Donald Trump?
Billy Danze: Trump’s an asshole. That’s my personal thought. He’s just as bad as a motherfucker in Chicago or a motherfucker in Brooklyn. He’ll fly off the handle one day. He’s used to flying off the handle and having lawyers sit around and fuckin’ tax people – that’s his kinda beef. But in this shit, you can’t be mad at fuckin’ Melania one day ‘cause she didn’t cook the right shit or she did something out of pocket and then you’re pissed off when Putin call and you talk to him like he ain’t nobody. You talk to Putin like he ain’t nobody and we all gon’ be fuckin’ fried. He’s not the dude for the job. I wish Bernie Sanders had made it this far because he was the right guy here.
TRHH: Why did you decide to do a solo project after all these years?
Billy Danze: People asked for it from time to time. It was something I was never comfortable with, even though around 2006-2007 I started doing solo records that I was leaking. They were good, people enjoyed them, and I enjoyed making them. It was a weird process for me because I’m used to sharing the mic, the song, and the spotlight with Fame. It was a little strange to me. I had to actually come up with the whole song, the concept, and everything myself. Now I just brought it back up and decided to go ahead and do it. People are really appreciating the way I’m doing it. It’s nothing different from M.O.P., because I’m always going to be myself, but it’s much different from M.O.P. because it’s a different sound, a different angle, and I get to showcase myself as an individual as opposed to doing it as M.O.P. the group. Fame is also doing a solo album, too. We’re both doing them at the same time. Right now we’re working on our solo projects, an M.O.P. project, and an M.O.P. & Premier project. We got our work cut out for us.
TRHH: Oh my God. I’ve been hearing about the M.O.P./Premier album for a couple of years now. How deep are you into that?
Billy Danze: We’re a little over halfway through. We’re working artists. We’re touring all the time, Premier is touring all the time, and that’s been the hold up. We’re really not in a rush because it’s a classic album that has to be almost perfect when we release it to the public. We don’t mind taking our time. If we weren’t touring and Premier wasn’t touring I’m sure we would have banged it out within a month or so. With the touring and doing the other projects – Fame heavily on production for other artists, myself, I’m running the whole We Build Hits Company with my own artists – we’re just kind of taking our time with everything and making sure we do everything right.
Billy Danze: Thank you, brother for asking that. What we’re doing with We Build Hits is putting out artists that we feel deserve to be put out. We have an artist from Atlanta, Florida, Toronto, Philadelphia, North Carolina, from different places. I didn’t want to do a record label. In my eyes a record label is labeled for a sound. No disrespect to all these guys because they’re all friends of mine, but you have G-Unit, which has that sound, you had Death Row, which had that sound, Roc-A-Fella, which had that sound. In my opinion when you have one sound on a label once that sound fizzles out then the whole label fizzles out. We’ve seen it with Death Row, Roc-A-Fella, and G-Unit. What we wanted to do was build a company, which had different sounds, so if one sound fizzles out the other can keep going so the company never dies. Sort of like a Sony or Interscope.
We wanted to do it like that because I really don’t need people around me that sound like me. I already got that covered. We can cover anything from traditional Hip-Hop, to trap, to pop music at We Build Hits. We have artists that do all of that. I wanted to make sure that people get an understanding about myself because even though I made music the way M.O.P. made music for years, I’m talented enough to do other things. That’s why you get 6 O’clock Briefing and some of the other records that you get on the solo joint. People have been responding well to all the artists that we’ve put out – my boy Ronve, D-Dub, Lucci Loner, Eyeznpowa, and my boy Tona out in Toronto. We’re just gonna keep moving and keep pushing and hopefully we get over that hump where we need to be and we can start making it a little bigger.
TRHH: What can we expect to hear on the Billy Danze solo album?
Billy Danze: All kind of things, man. I don’t know if you heard the first single, Barclays Music. It was more traditional Hip-Hop but had a really big sound to it. We just released the next record, We Out Here. I’m going after those features that I’m supposed to get and I deserve from artists that wanna rock with me like The Lox, Jada, Sheek, and all of those cats, Rakim, my crew from We Build Hits, and a few other dudes. It should be a good album. I’m working really hard at it and it’s coming out really good.
Devine Carama has had a busy 2016. The Lexington, Kentucky emcee kicked off the year with a free mixtape titled The Jewelztape II: 500 Bars to Glorious. He followed that up with summer release of The Glorious BIG EP. Carama has capped off 2016 with the release of a full-length album called, “Kingtucky.”
Kingtucky has over 20 tracks and features appearances from D’Lee, Allen Poe, Joey Traux, Sheisty Krist, Talor Hall, JK-47, Deven Roberts, River Greene, Vegas Posada, and EF Cuttin. EF Cuttin, Obvious, and Well Blended produced the album.
Devine Carama spoke to The Real Hip-Hop about his reinvigorated rhymes, exactly who is trying to steal Hip-Hop, the Believing in Forever nonprofit organization, and his new album, Kingtucky.
TRHH: Kingtucky is one of the illest titles ever, how did you come up with that?
Devine Carama: The title Kingtucky is kind of double-faceted. Part of it is when it comes to Hip-Hop I feel like I’m one of the kings. I’m one of the guys that’s been doing it for a long time and kind of putting on for the state. I think the other part of it was just trying to inspire the other cats coming up to want to be kings and want to have a discography – some of the things that don’t really matter to this younger generation of emcees. It was kind of a push for them to care about complete bodies of work and just them being kings in their own right. I thought it was a good play on Kentucky – Kingtucky.
TRHH: You rhymed with a sense purpose on this project…
Devine Carama: Yeah. I kind of feel like I always put lyrics at the forefront when I’m making music, but on this particular project I definitely did that. A couple of my OG’s, Deacon the Villain from CunninLynguists and Sheisty Krist, and some other guys from my city were saying, “We miss that old DC.” Where my mission is bigger than music now music has become a tool to try to inspire young people in my city and be more socially conscious. I think I kind of got away from the boom bap and trying to out-rhyme everything. I got away from a lot of the elements that got me fans from the beginning. On this album I just wanted to really focus on the technical rhyming and flexing as an emcee.
TRHH: You released a mixtape and an EP earlier this year in addition to this album. Why did we hear more music from Devine Carama in 2016?
Devine Carama: I think that was from the 11 months to almost a year that I took off the year prior. I had dropped one project and I pretty much took 11 months off. I noticed that the game really changed a lot in that year. I put out a freestyle and a lot of the blogs and websites that were posting me early on were asking for money now when I’d send an email out. That was just one of the ways the game changed. It was more service based. It seemed like a lot more people were making music. Things changed. I really felt like I had to not only shake the rust off, but kind of get back in the fold. I felt like I had fell out of the fold a little bit. So I was just creating music at a high level just trying to get back in that rhythm and let people know that I’m back to making music regularly. It was more of a personal thing just trying to get back into it.
TRHH: What’s your take on the upcoming young artists whose music doesn’t put lyrics at the forefront and is more about a vibe?
Devine Carama: I think me and you might have talked about this before, I’m always going to appreciate a Hip-Hop artist that focuses on lyrics as one of the forefront elements, because that’s the essence in which the game was at its best. From a personal standpoint it’s kind of disheartening as a Hip-Hop fan when I turn on the radio and it’s 99% no lyricism. But I think that from a broader perspective I’m not really mad at those emcees, I’m just more frustrated with the lack of balance. I was talking to my daughter last night and I was like, “Yeah, we had Nas, Jay, and Big on the radio but we also had M.C. Hammer and Vanilla Ice.” The difference was we had balance and those guys weren’t on the cover of magazines and at the forefront of the culture. It’s just frustrating when it seems like lyricism is almost like a relic. I think Kendrick and J. Cole are dope lyricists but it’s almost like they’re heralded so much because it lacks so much in today’s generation.
I feel like if you threw J. Cole and Kendrick in the era that we came from in the mid-to-late 90s I’m not even sure they would be considered one of the top emcees – just being honest. It’s become so much of a relic that you’re almost looked at as an alien or it’s a big deal when Kendrick drops a Control verse. That just shows you how much lyricism is kind of dead to this new generation. It’s boring when you’re really rapping, that’s what a lot of the kids say that I work with. I think that part kind of hurts and it’s almost like part of the culture is dying. If it was more balanced maybe I wouldn’t feel that way. Lyricism is dying on a mainstream level, but also on an indie level as well. Social media allows indie artists and their fan base to be big, too. You got a lot of indie artists copycatting what’s popping. Back in the day the indie artists and the underground cats were the ones keeping the game true. I understand it. When I go out to the club I don’t wanna hear Canibus. I understand that, I just wish it was a little bit more balanced and focused.
TRHH: You have a song on the album that I love called “Devil Stole Hip Hop.” What inspired you to write that song?
Devine Carama: I’ll be honest with you and I’m sure you can catch it, it’s definitely some subliminal things there too but something I’d definitely love to share. I feel like Hip-Hop is beyond commercialized now. You got a lot of cats that have come into the culture that are not from the culture, don’t relate to black people, yet they’re coming in trying to capitalize on the culture. That’s one aspect that I’m speaking of in the first verse. I’m in Kentucky and it’s totally a different culture. You got cats in the country that don’t even know what Hip-Hop is built off of that have come in and because they outnumber us they’re trying to dictate the culture. I’m trying to constantly battle that. That’s one of the other reasons for Kingtucky because I feel like I successfully battled that wave of people outside of the culture trying to come in and dictate what it is. This isn’t blue grass, this isn’t country music. When we talk about things that affect the black community, this is what Hip-Hop was built off of.
Also I had the 9th Wonder clip – I really do feel like in the age when we have more freedom and technology privy to us the system uses Hip-Hop against our people. I really believe that. I think it started a while ago and it’s so embedded that it’s not something you could just turn off like a light switch. It’s so many things that have been embedded that these artists are doing when it comes to the music and what these radio stations are continually shoving down our throats – pause. I just feel like it’s a greater evil at work that might be beyond what some of these artists even realize. Some of them might be part of the problem and don’t even realize it. They’re the devil’s henchmen and they don’t even realize it. Again, that just goes back to the lack of balance. I turn on the radio, I turn on BET, and they threw Big K.RI.T. out there, that was cool, but all of these atrocities happen to the black community and I turn on the radio and I don’t hear nothing about it? Not even one? The industry at least used to be good at coining one or two quote unquote conscious rappers. We don’t even have that. I just kind of feel like the devil stole Hip-Hop or is in the process of stealing the culture away from us.
Devine Carama: Believing in Forever is my non-profit that I started in 2014. A middle school teacher said a lot of kids in her class were fans of the music and asked would I come in and talk to them. Prior to that I never really did a lot of community work. I was just focused on my kids, music, and playing ball. I started going to schools regularly. I got a chance to go to Chicago in 2015 and went to Simeon Academy, some Boys & Girls clubs and spoke. I got a chance to go around the country doing that and when I saw that impact that’s what motivated me to get real involved in the community. We do a lot through the non-profit. We do weekly tutoring sessions, we did the Fresh Water for Flint water drive, we do a youth coat drive, and we do youth open mics. I’m in the schools every other day. That was the bigger mission that I was telling you about earlier. I feel like God has kind of took my life toward that. That’s my passion right now. I still makes music ‘cause I love it, and just to keep my profile up so I can continue to do things in the community. Believing in Forever is definitely where my heart is at right now.
Devine Carama: Obviously at my age, 36, there is no delusions of grandeur. I’m not really trying to get big time, famous or popping. For me it’s inspiring these younger emcees. That’s my main goal. Somehow being an old head I’ve still been able to maintain my status in Kentucky as an emcee in a game where they turn these OG’s over quick and it’s on to the next. Somehow I’ve been able to maintain my position so I wanna use my position to shine a light on what real emceeing is. A lot of these kids 18-19 might not even know. They might have came up in the game on this mumble rap or whatever you wanna call it. I feel like it’s a privilege but it’s important for me to remind them that it is an art form, it’s a craft, it’s something you’re gifted with or something you work real, real hard to achieve, and something you gotta pay your dues in. An artist I always loved was T.I. He wasn’t going to blow you away with your lyrical techniques and all of that, but he was a dope emcee that made club music or anthem music. At least I wanna push these artists and let them know that you can be you.
If you wanna make vibe music or club music you can do that, but there is also a way that you can respect the craft and the art form of Hip-Hop and still do that. So just continue to push these younger emcees to be better and learn more about the history of the game so they can be better and find a way to use that history and take it to the next level for the future. I don’t wanna see this culture as an art form die away. I wanna see it still thriving in the younger generation. That’s my goal with the album so when these young cats come up like, “This Devine Carama, why is he getting posted on these websites? Why is everybody talking about him in Kentucky? Let me go see what he’s talking about.” I want them to know that they can still be an emcee who doesn’t necessarily sell out, maintains lyricism and subject matter in his music, and still maintain his position. I think that’s real important. That position is all a lot of these kids see. So if I can use that position to say, “Hey, this is where I’m at but I did it by staying true to myself and staying true to the culture,” that’s my biggest objective with the album.
Tone Chop and Frost Gamble are veterans in Hip-Hop. The Binghamton, New York natives have worked together over the last two decades on each other’s projects, but never as a group. With Frost moving north of the border and Chop holding it down in their hometown it would seem that an official project would never materialize – but it has.
The producer and emcee finally brought things full circle with their first official release as a duo — an EP that stakes a claim to their time in the game called “Veteran.” Veteran is a 7-track EP that is produced entirely by Frost Gamble. The EP features appearances by Awful P, Nobi, DJ Waxamillion, S.One, and Ruste Juxx.
Tone Chop and Frost Gamble chatted with The Real Hip-Hop about their history in Hip-Hop, growing up in the golden era of rap, and their new EP, Veteran.
Frost Gamble: It’s about a couple of things. It’s about our history in the game, the length of time we’ve been doing it — we’re not kids, obviously. We’re grown men and we’ve been through every era. We’ve seen the changes in Hip-Hop, both good and bad. We really just wanted to make our statement which is true to the way we were raised and the principles of Hip-Hop that we care about, but still contribute and not just regurgitate and copy what’s been done before. Create in that tradition, but also make our mark and show that that time was well spent and not a waste.
TRHH: How did you guys link up to decide to do this project?
Tone Chop: We’ve been doing music for years together. We just never put together a whole project. I’ve been doing mixtapes a long time. I’d always have 2-3 beats by him on there every single time. We just never linked up to do a whole project. We were supposed to a couple times, it just never panned out all the way. I made sure this time.
TRHH: What was the recording process like with you guys being in different countries?
Tone Chop: He would just send me the beats, I’d knock the track out and send him the vocals and he would mix ‘em and all that. I would just send him a rough mix and he would master and everything for me. He’s been doing that for a while. The last mixtape I did he did every single mix on there, too. I got a bunch of mixtapes out even though they’re not gonna matter too much right now. I put a lot of work in. I’ve been rapping since about 1989. I grew up with all the good stuff. I was one of the fortunate ones. I used to do graffiti, break dance, and all that, too. I grew up around all the good stuff about Hip-Hop. It’s a lot of changes now.
TRHH: What’s your take on the negative connotation that the boom bap sound has on younger people in Hip-Hop?
Tone Chop: I feel it’s disrespectful if you ask me because it’s a lot of rappers from the golden age that are still relevant now and are still great at what they do. Look at Kool G Rap for instance, he’s still relevant. There are a lot of rappers from back then that are still relevant. They may not get as much attention as some of these younger guys, but they still deserve it. It don’t mean that they don’t deserve it. I like some of the newer rappers, but not a lot of ‘em. I think Dave East is pretty good, Fred the Godson, I like a few of ‘em. Not no Fetty Wap or nothing like that. I’m not into none of that.
TRHH: There is this wave of drug rappers and to me it’s wack, but the young kids love it.
Frost Gamble: The thing that’s changed is the way that people earn their stripes anymore. Hip-Hop has always been about the younger talents pushing back on the veterans. It’s always been that way from KRS-One going at Melle Mel. It’s always been the case with the young cats trying to claim their spot. The difference was they did it with bars. They claimed their respect with bars. When you were undeniably nice on the mic that’s when you got your stripes. Nowadays kids literally don’t rap. No sideways talk, they don’t rap. They warble on a microphone and run it through AutoTune and focus on melodies and other things. That’s cool, I don’t have a problem with that. In fact, I can respect it as art and their creative output. But, if we’re talking about emceeing you can’t come in the discussion. If you can’t get on the mic and spit some fire you can’t come in the discussion. Your opinion isn’t credible, even though I may still give you respect for the music you created.
TRHH: On a different note, what do you think about the emcees who use writers? I think there is a place for Diddy, Kanye, and Drake, but they shouldn’t be mentioned as the greatest. They make good music and they make hits, but they shouldn’t be mentioned with Jay-Z and Biggie, ever. What’s your opinion on the artists who use writers?
Tone Chop: Absolutely not. They shouldn’t have ‘em. When it all started if you didn’t write your own stuff you was terrible. You wasn’t an emcee and you wasn’t genuine. I used to like some Drake stuff here and there because I thought Drake could rap, but when I found out he had somebody writing for him I can’t respect it no more. I can’t even listen to him no more – that’s just me. Now they’re saying even other guys are not writing their own stuff either. I don’t even listen to Fat Joe no more. I used to be a big fan but then I heard Remy Ma was writing all his stuff, too. I don’t know how true that is, but that’s what they say. I don’t respect it. I couldn’t let nobody write nothing for me.
TRHH: What about guys like Biz Markie? Big Daddy Kane wrote all his stuff, but he’s still Biz Markie!
Tone Chop: Big Daddy Kane is one of my favorite rappers. He still is. He might not be in a lot of people’s top 10 but he’s in my top 10.
TRHH: He’s in my top 3.
Tone Chop: I don’t know. I like some other people but he’s definitely in my top 10. I got every single Big Daddy Kane album. I collect ‘em, I know. Lord Finesse is actually one of my favorite rappers of all-time.
TRHH: Yeah, I think he heavily influenced Nas and he’s not ever mentioned…
Frost Gamble: Yeah man, or Big L. Everybody talks about Big L, but nobody gives Finesse the credit.
Tone Chop: When I first started using the punchlines that’s who I listened to. Lord Finesse is the one got me addressing punchlines. I like rapping with metaphors and punchlines and all that. Lord Finesse is one of my favorites with Big Daddy Kane, and Kool G Rap.
TRHH: Everybody’s top 10 list is gonna be different…
Tone Chop: Yeah, of course. I think it depends on which stuff you grew up on. A lot of these younger guys ain’t grow up around Big Daddy Kane. A lot of them don’t even know who they are. I got two boys and I teach my boys about the older stuff. They like newer stuff and I tell them that stuff from back in the 80s and 90s is better – it’s more to it.
TRHH: Like we talked about a minute ago, there is a divide and somewhere the history got broken. I interviewed this kid Ric Wilson recently who’s 21 and he said Drake inspired him to rap. He doesn’t sound like Drake, his music is different. He said his cousin is J. Wells and he told him to learn about Rakim, Chuck D, and all these other people and that’s how he got his style. I think it’s important that somebody take these young kids and says, “Hey, you should know who this is.”
Frost Gamble: Let’s talk about that for a minute. You mentioned Chuck D, Chop and I come from that era. I believe there was an effort by record labels to remove knowledge from music releases. I grew up listening to Boogie Down Productions, Poor Righteous Teachers, X Clan, and Public Enemy. This exposed me to all kinds of thinking I never would have been exposed to. I never would have become conscious about the things that people have to go through in the world if it wasn’t for that. But people today don’t get that. They don’t get that education, the jewels, and the wisdom. The 5% influence is gone. They don’t get the same opportunity to learn if every song is about strippers and molly what opportunity do they fuckin’ have? There’s inputs to that.
TRHH: I think that’s why some of us hold on to Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole so much. Those dudes aren’t like KRS but they’re saying something more than the rest of these cats are saying.
Frost Gamble: They’re saying something.
Tone Chop: I like J. Cole. I’m a J. Cole fan.
TRHH: Yeah, he’s dope.
Tone Chop: I don’t know, Kendrick don’t really do it for me, though for some reason. He is nice and everything but I think maybe it’s the beats. Some of his old stuff when he was doing mixtapes, I like all that. But the last albums he did I really wasn’t big on it.
Tone Chop: A lot of people like him. I don’t hate him, I’d just rather listen to J. Cole over him by far.
Frost Gamble: I like how J. Cole produces for himself, too.
Tone Chop: J. Cole is saying something, too. He’s not just rapping. I think that’s another problem, too. Nowadays, dudes ain’t rapping no more. The rap part is not important to them no more. They just feel like they want to sell a record. Who doesn’t? But at the end of the day why sell yourself short and not give something to the people? The most terrible thing to me about rap is all these guys got children and they all make negative songs. I got two boys and I got song about the older one teaching the younger one. All these dudes got children and you never hear them do a positive song, ever. It’s terrible. We know you’re turning it up and all this other stuff but what about being a father and the stuff that matters? I don’t get it.
TRHH: I think we lost the personal touch in Hip-Hop a long time ago. It still exists, you just gotta dig for it.
Tone Chop: You gotta dig for it. I listen to a lot of music, but it’s not the stuff that’s playing on the radio. I like underground rappers. If it’s any old school it’s gotta be somebody like Vinnie Paz or somebody like that. Vinnie Paz is a real good artist, too, all the way around. I don’t know if he’s in my top 10 or nothing but I listen to him and he has a message, too. It’s the message that’s gone.
TRHH: I think there needs to be a balance. Everybody can’t have a message. I remember when Ice-T dissed LL and was like, “He ain’t talking about nothing,” but let him do his thing with the girls, you know? It’s okay.
Tone Chop: I’m an LL fan still. I like all the stuff he does. I think he does both good. He does commercial records well and hard rap well, too.
TRHH: I think he’s one of the most underrated rappers of all-time. People just focus on the love songs.
Tone Chop: If he comes out with something I won’t skip over it. I’ll check it out.
Frost Gamble: I think L is super dope, but he wins his battles even when he loses battles. Moe Dee got him as far as I’m concerned, but he won that battle somehow. Canibus definitely killed him, but he won that battle, too because Canibus is working in a Starbucks somewhere and L is still L.
Tone Chop: He’s got records with some of the young dudes, too. I heard a couple records. He got one with Raekwon, Murda Mook, the battle rapper dudes, and whatever else. I watch a lot of battle rap, too. I ain’t gonna lie. It’s still a lot of lyrics in that – punchlines and all of that. You can get a lot of that from battle rap these days. I don’t know. That’s why me and Frost got a formula. We trying to stick to the formula. I been rapping for so long. I was gonna give it up not too long ago and Frost was like, “Nah man, nah. Just keep going at it.” I been going at it for so long. I been king around here where I live at. This town is just a lot of trouble and it’s going down fast. You got a bunch of young dudes around who think they got something but they really don’t.
I been around here for a long time and I always wanted to get recognized worldwide for what I do and that’s what we’re hoping to do this time around. Me and him been making music for over 20 years together. The title is about how long we been doing it and how long we been putting in work together as a team. We could have did an album a couple times but I was just on my mixtape game for a long time. I was at a point where I was doing a mixtape every other month and putting it out myself. I used to record and do everything all by myself. if you don’t got somebody backing you to promote it and get it in the right spots it’s not gonna get the attention anyway, no matter how good it is.
Frost Gamble: The meaning of it is complex to me. I made that beat a year or two ago. When I made that beat Sean Price was still alive. I played it for him and he thought it was dope. We set it off to the side. As a side story, Sean Price is just an emcees emcee and I very badly wanted to work with him. You couldn’t approach him on social media. You weren’t going to have a pleasant conversation that way so I knew that wasn’t the correct approach. I figured one day with one of my friends I’d go to Brooklyn, get to meet him, and make it happen organically. A couple years go by and it never happens. He passes away on my birthday. On the day I turned 43 he passed away and he was 43 years old. It really affected me. It made me think, “I’m never hesitating again. If there is a move to be made, I’m making it.”
That had a bit to do with us doing this album. Because I wasn’t going to make the same mistake twice I reached out to Ruste Juxx and I was doing a different song for another project I was working on. When we realized we wanted to use Leave it Alone for Veteran and kind of use it as quazi-Sean Price tribute it made sense to have Ruste jump on it. I asked Ruste, “You gotta say it’s cool if you don’t feel it’s official for us to use his voice, let me know and I’ll kill it.” He was like, “Nah, man. This is crazy and I’m gonna smash it!” He jumped right on it and did his thing. Nobi is Chop’s boy and had done a track with Sean Price before. He’s from Queens and he brought the whole New York connect together. That track is really special to me for that reason.
Frost Gamble: Nobi’s dope, too. He has music out there and he’s official all the way around. He’s a good dude. You meet dudes and you get a relationship with ‘em and it’s fake and not real. He always tells me, “Whenever you need me, I’m here.” ‘Cause I make beats, too and he used to rhyme over my beats or whatever. If I need a drop or anything like that he was always there for that. He always respected what I did so I told him when I need him I’m gonna make sure it counts. When I hit him up I knew this record was good because he had a record with him. I’m a big fan of Sean Price, too, so it just all came about. I told him I had an EP coming out and it could be exposure for the both of us. He hopped on the joint fast, too, no problem. He got a nice little website and whenever I came out with a mixtape or anything he always put it up on his website to try to get me a little extra exposure. He’s a good dude, man.
TRHH: On the song Dedication you shout out a lot of veterans in the game in your verses. What was the inspiration for that one?
Tone Chop: Just all the rappers I grew up listening to. Everybody I mentioned on there is everybody I listened to growing up from Boogie Down Productions, to MC Shan, to Three Times Dope. That’s the era I grew up on. I listen to old school rap all the time. I just had to make that record. I did a beat for it and I did it to that originally. I told Frost it would be perfect for the EP. I sent him the vocals and he did the breaks and stuff behind it. I did it originally to a Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes sample that I spit it to. He put all the break beats behind it and it came out much better the way he did it. The rhyme just came from not only influences, but all the people that I grew up listening to. I’m still missing a few names in there, but I tried to cover as many as I could.
When I listen to it now I hear a couple other names that I could put in there still. I covered a nice amount of it so people could understand where I’m coming from. It’s just paying homage and respect to the rappers that I grew up listening to. A lot of people nowadays don’t even know as many rappers as I do. They can’t name an album, a song, or nothing. I think that’s terrible. To do anything you have to know some type of history. These young cats nowadays don’t know history or nothing. They’re just rapping to get a check. It was never about that for me. The fame wasn’t about that for me either, but I know it comes with the territory. It’s just all the rappers I listened to growing up and they influenced me in one shape, form, or another.
TRHH: Frost, you use the MPC right?
Frost Gamble: Yes.
TRHH: Which MPC?
Frost Gamble: I’m currently on the Renaissance. It’s one of the more modern machines, and I love it. I’m an old school guy but I’m not opposed to technology at all. On the other hand I still have an Akai S900 in my studio which was built in the mid-80s and I still use that as well. I’m an MPC guy because I like the physical aspect of it. Software is cool but I gotta have the pads. I gotta play the instrument, I just can’t program the song. I use the Renaissance, the S900, and samples.
TRHH: What do you guys hope to achieve with Veteran?
Tone Chop: Exposure definitely. The main thing is exposure so the world can hear what I got, not just where I’m from and some areas not too far from here. I’m pretty known in Upstate New York. I got a nice little reputation ‘cause I used to battle. I crushed a lot of mics in my day. Worldwide exposure definitely and the more exposure the better. That’s the main thing for me. I’m sure for him, too. We’ve been wanting this type of exposure for a long, long time and feel like we deserve it. Hopefully it takes us to another level so me and him can follow up and kill this project, too. I know we’re gonna follow up with something way crazier.
Frost Gamble: I would agree. I don’t care about money, I don’t care about fame, I care about the respect of people who I give respect to. That’s the Hip-Hop we were raised in. It was always about mutual respect among those who had a shared understanding, belief system, and appreciation for the culture and the art. That’s what we’re going for. Definitely I’m hoping we build a platform where we do have an opportunity to do releases again like Chop talked about. Maybe even have the opportunity to help out other people that are important to us. The biggest thing is engagement, reach, and having people hear, enjoy the project, and hopefully respect the passion and commitment that went into it.