Anti-Lilly: Stories from the Brass Section

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Photo courtesy of Anti-Lilly

Photo courtesy of Grant Tucker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TRHH: Yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TRHH: How old are you, man?

Anti-Lilly: I just turned 21 in September.

TRHH: You work a day job, right?

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

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

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

TRHH: Yeah, it sucks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Conversation with Big Daddy Kane

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Photo courtesy of Big Daddy Kane

Photo courtesy of Big Daddy Kane

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TRHH: And Dolemite!

Big Daddy Kane: Yeah, Dolemite.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big Daddy Kane: Yeah.

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

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

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

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

TRHH: Why is that your favorite?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TRHH: Tell me about Las Supper.

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

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

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

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

Big Daddy Kane: Probably Taste of Chocolate.

TRHH: Really?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big Daddy Kane:Set it Off’.

TRHH: Why is that your favorite?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TRHH: What’s up for Kane in 2014?

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

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

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

See Big Daddy Kane live in Europe:

04/23/2014 – Frankfurt @ Zoom

04/26/2014 – Basel @ Sud

04/27/2014 – Hague @  Paard

04/29/2014 – Stockholm @ Fasching

04/30/2014 – Oslo @ Bla

05/01/2014 – London @ Jazz Cafe

05/02/2014 – London @ Jazz Cafe

05/07/2014 – Copenhagen @ Loppen

05/10/2014 – Winterthur @ Albani

05/13/2014 – Prague @ Lucerna

05/14/2014 – Vienna @ WUK

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Archie Green: The Greatest Pretender

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Photo courtesy of McKinley Wiley

Photo courtesy of McKinley Wiley

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

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

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

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

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

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

TRHH: You ever read The Secret?

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

TRHH: How is this album different from Klapisms?

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

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

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

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

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

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

TRHH: How old are you, man?

Archie Green: I’m 28-years old.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Archie Green: That’s crazy.

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

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

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

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

TRHH: What beat-making equipment do you use?

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

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

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

TRHH:  Explain to me what ‘CLASS’ is.

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

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

TRHH: What’s next up for Archie Green?

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

Download: Archie Green – The Greatest Pretender

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Persia: Crown on Tilt

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Photo courtesy of Persia

Photo courtesy of Persia

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

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

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

TRHH: Tell me about The Love Tape.

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

TRHH: So what’s the second tape?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Purchase: Persia – The Love Tape

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A Conversation with DMC

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Photo courtesy of MSG Entertainment

Photo courtesy of MSG Entertainment

A little over a year ago I got the opportunity to interview Darryl McDaniels, otherwise known as DMC from Run-DMC. I was ecstatic about the opportunity to talk to one of my childhood heroes. I mean, this is the King of Rock!

Songs like ‘Sucker MC’s’, ‘Together Forever’, ‘Peter Piper’, and ‘Beats to the Rhyme’ still give me chills the same way they did when I first heard them in the 1980s.

Run-DMC was special.

Trendsetters, trailblazers, rock stars — that was Run-DMC. They were the first rap group to earn a gold album with their self-titled debut. Their follow-up album King of Rock was the first rap album to go platinum. Their third release, Raising Hell sold three million copies and brought Hip-Hop into the mainstream.

From sold-out tours, to starring roles in major motion pictures, the first rap group to be played on MTV found themselves in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2009, and it was well deserved.

Few artists in Hip-Hop become bigger than the music. That’s reserved for a select group that transcend the culture and influence their peers and future generations. Run-DMC fits the bill.

My conversation with DMC was spirited but brief. I hoped to reconnect with the “devastating mic controller” to continue our conversation and give the readers more insight into the thoughts of one of rap music’s living legends — that has yet to happen. I have so many questions for D regarding his favorite Run-DMC songs, working with Larry Smith, reuniting with Run, and the murder of Jam Master Jay.

Maybe one day I’ll get those questions answered, but for now just enjoy…

TRHH: Going back to the beginning, when you were recording Sucker MC’s could you even fathom multi-platinum records, tours, movies, and eventually being in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame?

DMC: No! Listen, truth be told we just wanted a record on the radio like Grandmaster Flash. They had ‘The Message’ and Afrika Bambaataa had ‘Planet Rock’. That was the whole thing. ‘Rappers Delight’ was cool but that was novelty rap and they wasn’t even the writers of that. The writers of that was the Cold Crush 4. Before rap records was ever made that dopeness wasn’t on radio. That Sucker MC’s with just a beat and two dudes rhyming, and not only DMC rhyming about chicken and collard greens and St. Johns University – that was universal. When we came along we just wanted to be on the radio. We hoped they played our record on Mr. Magic and Red Alert like our idols before us. What’s crazy about me is I went to catholic school my whole life. My mother and father worked their butts off to pay for me to go to school. I didn’t find out that I was adopted ‘till age 35 and I had to look back at all of that. Forget Run-DMC, we had no idea that Hip-Hop would do all of this. We knew it was dope to us, but I had no idea. Other rappers are just celebrities and famous but I walk into a room and Diddy, Eminem, and Lil’ Wayne start bowing. It’s embarrassing! I had no idea that I would be this guy.

TRHH: I saw you guys perform in 1986 when I was like ten years old…

DMC: Wow, you was ten-years old?

TRHH: Yeah, it was the Raising Hell tour with Whodini and LL.

DMC: That’s killer! Oh my god!

TRHH: I remember thinking that you guys were rock stars. How did your life change after the success of Raising Hell?

DMC: Raising Hell was the pinnacle. Before that we was just the new rap dudes. When Raising Hell came out with Walk This Way, Peter Piper, and then we got the Adidas deal then we were rock stars. I always tell people that somebody should have told Michael Jackson, “Michael, there is no reason for beefing with the music industry, devils, this and that. You just sold forty million albums of Thriller! You’ll probably never do that again, that’s your legacy. You just do a show every day and kick everybody’s tail.” For us Raising Hell was up planting a flag on the moon. That wasn’t even our desire. People say, “Because of y’all,” and “Y’all are pioneers,” but on My Adidas I say “We took the beat from the streets/And put it on TV.” People say, “We know there was rap before y’all but y’all invented it,” no, we just put it on TV. Whether you was in a dirt-poor ghetto or in Beverly Hills you knew Run, Jay, or D, and you know all the concepts, images, and ideas that we were putting in our music. Raising Hell made us the Beatles of Hip-Hop. After Raising Hell we didn’t have to put out another album again. It’s done for eternity.

Like you said, Run-DMC, LL Cool J, and the Beastie Boys opened up for us. We brought the white people and black people together. I think that’s significant because when I found out that I was adopted and went to rehab for alcoholism I was talking to all these therapists and stuff. Think about something real deep, in 1986 on the Raising Hell album I was proclaiming something that I wouldn’t realize would be important later. We had My Adidas, Peter Piper, Walk This Way, and Hit it Run, but remember the song Son of Byford when I started rhyming and Run did the beat box?

TRHH: Yeah, brother of Al.

DMC: I said, “Son of Byford, brother of Al/Banna’s my mamma, and Run is my pal/It’s McDaniels, not McDonalds/These rhymes are Darryl’s, the burgers are Ronald’s/I ran down my family tree/My mother, my father, my brother, and me.” I didn’t proclaim, “Oh man, I’m selling records and I have Benz’s and Rolls’ and money’” and stuff like that. I rhymed about the most powerful and significant thing in my life which was my family. Years later when I found I was adopted I understood something. My mother and father, Byford and Banna, those were my parents! Those were the people I was destined to be with. Those were the people who were put here to get me where I’m supposed to go. But when I did the search for my birth mother she was the lady that was supposed to get me here so I can do what I’m supposed to do. When I met my birth mother she said, “I know you’re dying to ask me why I gave you up,” and I said, “You got that right!” She said, “I gave you up to give you a chance.” We both laughed and I said, “Shit, you gave me one hell of a chance, lady!” first to go gold, first to go platinum, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, all of that. Within my journey there were so many elements that were set up for me to get to this point where I can be that guy to go on TV and say, “Y’all know me as DMC the King of Rock but I’m really Darryl McDaniels. I’m a foster kid, and I’m adopted,” that’s really changing more lives than I did with my music. It was all set up for that. To me that’s the whole reason why we created Hip-Hop.

TRHH: To give people a chance?

DMC: Before Hip-Hop came along it was disco and Reaganomics, premarital sex, gang violence, people dying, drug selling, everything that exists today. People tell me they listened to Hip-Hop to learn about black history! That’s what’s different from now. The difference is the so-called old school isn’t a time period. The old school of Hip-Hop is a consciousness. It’s a way of presenting and displaying your so-called Hip-Hop-ness. The thing that made it unique and powerful… the thing that made Hip-Hop what it is today, because I hate talking in the past tense, it’s still here and it’s just not dominant on radio, and BET, and MTV, the thing that made Hip-Hop so powerful was before rap records were even made the typical emcee was 12-22 years old and we wasn’t just talking about materialistic things.

First of all, when we first started we was talking about things we wished we had. All those things we rapped about on Rapper’s Delight we was only fantasizing. The next generation that came along, the Run-DMC’s and LL’s, when we rhymed about something materialistic we rhymed about it one time and you never heard about it again. It was all an evolution of ideas. The same way grown ass men in Hip-Hop now, 25-years old brag about being a drug dealer, we understood these guys don’t wanna be drug dealers. Real talk, the real gangsters and killers don’t put their business on records. The real gangsters and killers in Hip-Hop were the dudes on records telling you what they did but their record always ended with them saying, “But you shorty, don’t do that!” So we created Hip-Hop to educate, inspire, and motivate the young people. We stood around and said, “Government don’t care about us, but I ain’t gonna sit around and complain.”

Hip-Hop says to the person, not what can somebody do for you but what can you do? Some of those boys and girls had record collections and loved audio. Hip-Hop said take that music to the park, bust that light pole open, plug it up and let the world hear your beautiful music. You see what happened then? The police would come, pull the plug and say, “You fools can’t have a concert in the park for free, go home!” We would go home and come back the next day. There were onlookers, creative individuals who loved the sound of the music but didn’t know nothing about jazz, rock & roll, blues or what to do when you put that needle on the record. Hip-Hop said, “My son and daughter, don’t you worry. What do you like to do?” The brothers and sisters said they liked poetry so Hip-Hop said, “Put that poetry with that music in the park,” and we created a whole new genre of music with that!

It went further and it was never about discrimination. The whole thing was based on originality. I hate the term “rap game”. This ain’t no game. It’s a culture; it’s a way of life. It ain’t about you being in this, it’s about what you bring to it. Those other brothers and sisters said they couldn’t even read or write and didn’t understand audio stuff so Hip-Hop said, “Don’t you fret, what can you do?” and they said, “Every time I hear that beat I start spinning on my head,” well come on and join the party. It didn’t stop there. Even though it was wrong, it took somebody to see the beauty in the unfortunate underprivileged areas of life. I don’t suggest going around painting on walls, but stop putting these young people in jail. Just look at what this youngster just did with those markers and spray paint. It was art. It was graffiti. I tell young people that some of those old school dudes that were writing on walls are now at Adidas and Nike designing your shell toes and Air Force One’s. It ain’t some old executive with a suit, tie, and gray hair. They are boys and girls who look just like y’all.

Our generation was a young generation that listened to the elders. We appreciated that knowledge and put it with what we were living with at our time. If I’m 17-years old listening to everybody 18-to-150 years old giving me this knowledge and I’m looking around me for the wise things in my life, I’m taking all of that information and I put it on a record. So now everybody 16 and younger is getting what I’m getting from 18 and older. If I’m 17 and rapping on a record, “I’m DMC in the place to be/I go to St. Johns University,” and a twelve year old kid hears it, by the time he gets to my age he’s highly evolved. The evolution and the empowerment of the education of right concepts, illustration, demonstration, and presentation is being polluted. Don’t get me wrong, I used to always go at the record companies, but a business man who sells records is in the business of selling records. So he doesn’t care if he’s selling a kid filth and he’s getting rich off of that so the responsibility comes on the artist.

If you make a record about a gun, and our generation did this, on that very same album will be a record about not using a gun. We can make a record about being in a gang. I was in a gang, but the very next record should be about someone that’s not in a gang. That responsibility has been lost by corporate America who don’t care about kids in the hood. These record executives just want to sell records, cool, but we understand as young people that we ain’t gonna ask permission to be successful to do what we gotta do. I was on a radio station one time and a guy called up and said, “Yo DMC what’s up man? I just wanna say just because of you and Run, LL, Public Enemy, KRS-One, and Eric B & Rakim saying it, y’all didn’t preach it to me y’all just said it, I used to follow Run-DMC, wear Adidas, Cazals, my godfather hat, and gold chains and here comes DMC messing my life up.” I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “When DMC started rhyming about getting diplomas and St. Johns University was cool I didn’t have none of that, so I went and got my GED. With my GED I took some college courses at the community college and when I walked through them doors I saw the whole world of possibility I did not know existed. I just wanted to tell you I’m living here in Houston, Texas in a $3 million house, I got four whips outside, and that’s ‘cause of Hip-Hop.”

Our generation didn’t want you to say “rap guy” and think about where we came from, “drug dealing,” “gang banging,” and “shooting.” We wanted people to think about education, empowerment, and people trying to make their neighborhood better. Check the resume, people tell me, “Mr. DMC with all due respect y’all guys were materialistic and rapped about stuff like that,” but we only made one record about Adidas. Run only said, “Larry put me inside a big long Cadi.” You got dudes in this rap game now where OK, your first record you was on the corner selling drugs and seven years later I turn on MTV and you live in a big house in a gated community. Your kids go to the best schools. You’re not on the corner anymore, but you’re still making records saying that you are? First of all, it’s not like you’re making these records saying you don’t wanna do it no more and it’s not coming from an economic or political sense. These dudes want corporate America to praise them for being killers, drug dealers, and murderers, and 99% of them ain’t.

Think about what Chuck D did, what KRS-One did, Run-DMC, Beastie Boys, De La Soul, when we walk the red carpet nobody asks us who we’re dating or who is our stylist. They say, “Come here young man, why do you say what you say? Why are you making what you’re making?” ‘Cause we were young people taking responsibility for our lives and the only thing that we knew we had to do was do it with creativity. On top of that I was walking in Manhattan one day and an Italian dude looking like Tony Soprano was going to lunch with his boys and he said, “DMC, come over here!” My first thought was I ain’t going over there he’s going to extort me! He said, “I graduated on the top of my class but I’m where I’m at because of Run-DMC, Beastie Boys, and Kool G Rap & Polo.” This is a white guy. What was significant about that was whether you’re in a dirt poor ghetto or in Beverly Hills, young people all got the same problems. We hate our teachers, we hate our mothers because she said we can’t go out, peer pressure, bullying, having a crush on a girl who hates my guts, everything. The same way these kids are getting their Jordan’s taken I was getting my Adidas taken. It’s all about the presentation and showing that we all can get through this.

There are dudes in Hip-Hop who don’t want to rap and don’t want to be on the front-line. They’re managers, accountants, and lawyers. All of that happened because we were shown possibilities. I was a straight-A catholic school kid. When Hip-Hop came over the bridge from the Bronx [Kool] Moe Dee and Melle Mel were gods to me. So I understand when people say, “You, Run, and Jay were gods to us.” If you go back and listen to ‘Super Rapping’ and ‘Heart Beat’ and ‘At the Party’, and all the records that Treacherous Three, Funky Four Plus One, and Mel and them made the world hasn’t even heard what was on cassette tapes live from these people before Hip-Hop was allowed to go in a recording studio. The thing that enabled me to not get on a record and rhyme about things that I don’t do is a record by Kool Moe Dee and the Treacherous Three. I think it was 1983 they did a remake of the Pointer Sisters ‘Yes We Can, Can’. A lot of the Hip-Hop samples were inspirational and made you want to do something and figure a way out. Moe Dee and Melle Mel were the god emcees at the time. I knew Moe from battling Busy Bee and Melle Mel walked around with a staff and had a belt. These dudes had voices and legendary rhymes on their records.

When Obama first got elected I was happy he got elected. A black man being elected, I never thought it would happen in my lifetime. I was somewhere and somebody asked me a question and I said, “Obama don’t impress me.” They looked at me shocked because they didn’t know where I was coming from. I had to tell them that before Obama even existed, 25 years ago Moe Dee was my Obama. He just didn’t get to be elected in the White House. Obama’s campaign was called “Yes We Can” right? In ‘Yes We Can, Can’ the record started out saying what we’re going through right now. Like Chuck D said, it was prophetic. This guy Moe Dee said, “Eve of destruction, tax deduction/Price inflation, rocks the nation/And unemployment is on the rise/It’s hard to find a compromise/But if it lasts a long enough time/It won’t lead to nothing but a higher level of crime.” So every time I turn on the TV and see Chicago, hear about the price of gas going up, and hear about unemployment, I think the young leaders of my generation already schooled me on those things. The thing that inspired us is what I try to carry when I go to foster homes and high schools. Now I know I have to go to middle schools and catch these kids before they get to high school. Here is Moe Dee from the Bronx, he don’t have what I have. I lived in a lower-middle class area of Hollis, Queens. But what’s different between me and Moe Dee, Melle Mel, Cold Crush, and Funky 4? They live in the Bronx and Harlem. Harlem is good. If you go there now it’s like a renaissance. Black businesses and hotels, it looks crazy. But back in the day Harlem was Harlem. It was the Bronx and Harlem. I had a back yard, I had grass, my parents paid for me to go to school every day, but Moe and them had nothing.

Moe Dee said that and they rhymed about the armed forces, politics, stick up kids, but then Moe Dee said this, “Once a nobody from the neighborhood/Took a hop to the top ‘cause I knew that I would/Excel over the rest, ‘cause I make progress/ I don’t consider it luck because I’m not blessed/Got my life all together, love the way that I live/Go to school, really cool, and I think positive/It’s alright to have fun, lots of pleasures and joys/But it’s the brain that separates the men from the boys.” I had to pull that needle back. I was like, “Oh my god.” I’m 15 years old so Moe was like 17 or 18. I said Moe Dee is rhyming about school with that much ego and enthusiasm? So when Run put me in my group the first thing, I’m proud as hell I go to St. Johns University. “I’m DMC, in the place to be/I go to St. Johns University/And since kindergarten I acquired the knowledge/And after twelfth grade I went straight to college.” That was my first record. All the young dudes in my neighborhood was like, “Darryl, how the hell you go to St. Johns and you rapping and have Adidas and Cadillacs?” I said, “You damn right! I’m a straight-A student, I go to St. Johns, and I wear it proud.” Some of the dudes got rid of the guns, weed, got off the corner, and got out the gangs. Some of the brothers and sisters stayed, but we was always given ideas and directions to an opportunity. I just realized I can still turn on a record and do it, but I can also walk in a room with some young people and say, “I ain’t better than you, I ain’t smarter than you, and I ain’t even greater than you – I am you.” They say, “How you gonna say that Mr. old school DMC,” I say, “You wanna check my resume? Go and listen to my records. What I said 25 years ago is still relevant today.”

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A Conversation with Audible Doctor

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Photo courtesy of Joel Frijhoff

Photo courtesy of Joel Frijhoff

Originally from Wisconsin, but now residing in New York, Audible Doctor is swiftly making a name for himself as one of the most diverse producers in Hip-Hop. The Doctor (who also raps) has produced tracks for artists like Joell Ortiz, Tragedy Khadafi, his Brown Bag All Stars crew, and most recently, 50 Cent.

The Doctor also collaborated with Onyx’ Fredro Starr on his latest album, Made in the Streets. Made in the Streets is a gritty throwback album reminiscent of the 90s boom bap era. Audible Doctor crafted tracks that lived up to the album’s title and is sure to please fans of backpack and hardcore rap.

The Real Hip-Hop caught up with Audible Doctor and discussed producing Fredro Starr’s new album, Made in the Streets, crafting beats for 50 Cent, and new music he’s releasing in the very near future.

TRHH: How’d you hook up with Fredro Starr to create Made in the Streets?

Audible Doctor: People keep asking me that and I can’t remember. I honestly think I hit him on Twitter or something, got his e-mail, and sent him some beats. He wrote a couple of joints and originally it was supposed to be a couple of tracks on this project he was working on. He ended up leaking one of the joints and he got so much traction that he was like, “Yo, let’s do a full project.”

TRHH: Talk a little about the song ‘Everyday Hell’.

Audible Doctor: That was just one of the first I sent him. As far as lyrically where the song went, that was all him. That’s one of my favorites off the album. To me it’s exactly what I loved about 90s Hip-Hop and what some would consider, real Hip-Hop but with an updated sound that stands the test of time. It shows you can still do golden era Hip-Hop with updated sounds today.

TRHH: You said you can make golden era Hip-Hop sound modern, but what do you use to get to that point? I’ve talked to a lot of people who say using software they can get that sound, and some people say using software they can’t get that sound. How do you get that golden era Hip-Hop sound?

Audible Doctor: I don’t think it really has to do with the tools that you use. It has to do with what you do with them. I use pretty much all software. Most people think that I use an MP[C] or some kind of hardware to get that sound. It’s really just about my ear, the samples, and how I chop ‘em. I love the sound of an MP but when I started producing I never had the money to buy one so software was like the easiest and cheapest option for me. That’s kind of how I learned and I just stuck with it. I don’t think it really matters what you use as long as you know your tools well enough to get the sound that you want.

TRHH: What software are you using now?

Audible Doctor: Right now I use Acid Pro. I literally had to downgrade the operating system on my computer it’s such an old program. I use Reason and Pro Tools primarily.

TRHH: Do you find that you’re more pleased creatively by emceeing or producing?

Audible Doctor: I don’t know, I go through different phases. Producing comes more naturally to me. It’s easier for me to do, I can do it quicker, and it flows a little easier. I really enjoy doing both. I like rapping just as much; it’s just harder for me to write than it is to make beats. I think that’s why people know me as a producer more because it’s easier for me to get it done quickly and get as much out. I love doing both. It’s just a matter of what mood I’m in at the moment.

TRHH: Were you at Fat Beats when they shut down?                  

Audible Doctor: Yeah I was. I’d been at Fat Beats around six and a half years. I started interning and I eventually worked up to become the manager and buyer for the store. I think a month before it actually shutdown I had moved to the warehouse so I was running the website for a little while. I was there right up until the end.

TRHH: What led to the shut down and what was your experience like there?

Audible Doctor: The reason the stores had to close is the reason the industry is the way it is. There really is a lack of support as far as physical product goes. It’s really hard to sell enough to keep a storefront open, especially vinyl, because Fat Beats focused so much on vinyl, if you focus on an underground Hip-Hop market. I think if we were to expand in different genres of music and different products we could have kept the store open. The reason it closed was the lack of support. I was the buyer for the store and I saw the numbers dwindling. Over the years when a new record was released I would order X amount and the next year I would order half of that because it wouldn’t sell as much. The next year I’d order a quarter of that. Literally people would stop coming in because they were illegally downloading things and there was no reason to buy the physical product anymore. It still is that way. It’s gotten to the point where there really is a small fan base that’s gonna buy whatever you drop no matter what. They’re going to support it and spend money on it regardless of if they can download it illegally. They will support you as an artist, but it’s really down to them.

That’s where we’re at now. You kind of have to cater to your core fan base. The general public doesn’t need to buy it anymore. The DJ’s that would come up and pick up the new 12 inches to play in the club don’t have to anymore. They just download the mp3, use Serato, and rock like that. They don’t have to spend the money anymore so you’ve lost all that income. I mean, it’s how the industry is now. You kind of have to evolve, change, adapt, and market based on how it is now. As far as being at Fat Beats I think I owe my entire career to that. Coming from Wisconsin where I’m originally from, I moved to New York and ended up at Fat Beats and it’s really where I learned everything about the industry. Just being able to see the different artists and the history of Hip-Hop, especially in New York, and being invited to shows and parties, and being able to study the scene and how Hip-Hop has evolved and where it came from was phenomenal. I don’t think I’d be the same artist if I wasn’t there.

TRHH: How did you end up hooking up with Genesis Elijah for the ‘Dear Kanye’ song and did you have any apprehension about doing that song based on the content? It wasn’t like a diss, but it was kind of a touchy subject.

Audible Doctor: I originally linked up with Genesis because after I produced the Joell Ortiz ‘Battle Cry’ joint with Just Blaze, Genesis heard the joint and reached out to me and asked if he could freestyle over it because he really liked it. Ever since then I’d send him beats and we’d work on things here and there. So when he reached out I hit him with a few and he liked that joint. He recorded it on Christmas Eve and sent it to me. He said, “This is what I did with it. Let me know what you think.” I liked it. I think it’s dope because it’s not him being like, “Yo, Kanye you suck, you sold out!” It’s a really genuine heartfelt opinion. That’s him speaking as a fan to an artist that he loves and feels is a great creative mind who has kind of lost his way. Regardless of how I feel about the situation I think it’s a dope, genuine, and really real song. Regardless of how you feel about Kanye or Genesis talking to Kanye or whatever, I think it’s Genesis’ message and it’s a dope track – you can’t deny that.

TRHH: How’d you wind up doing the ‘This is Murder Not Music’ joint for 50?

Audible Doctor: It’s funny ‘cause it’s the same beat [laughs]. Before I sent Genesis the beat I met one of G-Unit’s A&R’s at Fat Beats a long time ago. I got his contact info and had been sending him beats here and there over the years. I sent him a batch of beats in like November and never heard back from him. I kept it moving and ended up doing the joint with Genesis. We put the track out and the video out and a week later 50 Cent’s joint drops and it’s the same beat. What actually happened was they liked the beat and used it. 50 obviously put it out on New Year’s Day, but the A&R that I normally speak to happened to be out of the country on this day. He wasn’t there to let me know they used the joint. He just recorded it, put it out with this engineer, and just dropped it without informing me because the A&R that was handling that wasn’t in town. Since then I’ve spoken to them and we’ve cleared it up. They gave me the credit and everything but it was one of those weird miscommunication things where the guy who was the link between me and him was out of town so he couldn’t handle it so they said fuck it and just dropped it.

TRHH: Is there any talk about you having placement on the next 50 album?

Audible Doctor: He has a couple of joints. He has that song and another full song that I produced recorded already. I’m still hitting him with more joints. I just hit him with a batch of beats the other week and I’m about to hit him with another batch of beats tonight. Until they sit down and narrow it down to what’s going on what project there is nothing guaranteed. It’s possible that I’ll have some joints on his album; it’s possible that I might not. We’ll find out.

TRHH: What artist would you like to produce for that you haven’t had the chance to yet?

Audible Doctor: In no particular order, Black Thought, Pharoahe Monch, Andre 3000, and Nas.

TRHH: They all have similarities.

Audible Doctor: Yeah, you can definitely hear where I draw my influence from.

TRHH: What’s in store for you in 2014?                        

Audible Doctor: As usual I have a lot in the works. I always have like fifty projects I’m working on and I don’t know what’s dropping when. The things that are guaranteed to drop soon are The Spring Tape which is the next installment of my seasons EP series. I dropped the Winter and Summer tape last year. This year I’m doing the Spring tape and the Fall tape. I have another full-length album with an artist that I’m working with from Detroit that we’ll be announcing somewhat soon. That should be dropping a little later this year as well. My group The Brown Bag All-Stars has an album dropping later this year. I have a lot of other projects in the works but those are probably the next projects that I’m doing this year.

Purchase: Fredro Starr – Made in the Streets (produced by Audible Doctor)

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Denmark Vessey & Scud One: Cult Classic

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Photo courtesy of Mario Butterfield

Photo courtesy of Mario Butterfield

One of the best albums of 2013 was Cult Classic by Denmark Vessey and Scud One. Denmark, an emcee originally from Detroit moved to Chicago and linked up with producer Scud One. What followed was a concept album about a man who seeks money and power in the name of religion.

Cult Classic is a sonically pleasing album that pushes the boundaries of what rap is lyrically while keeping it Hip-Hop. The album is produced entirely by Scud One and features appearances by Guilty Simpson and Quelle Chris.

Denmark Vessey and Scud One spoke to The Real Hip-Hop about their musical union, their future plans, and their critically acclaimed album, Cult Classic.

TRHH: How’d you come up with the concept for Cult Classic?

Denmark Vessey: I kind of grew up in the church. I went to a private catholic school in Detroit. It wasn’t like a prestigious private school, it was in the hood right next to Herman Gardens. I would up going there so religion has been a big part of all of my life. They always say that it takes all of your experiences up until that point to make your debut album. This is my debut album, and it’s my take on how I see things. Not just religion, but people in power, and people who have power and influence.

TRHH: How’d you hook up with Scud One?

Denmark Vessey: I used to record at the same spot that he used to kick it at. I would always see him and said, “You should get on a joint with me,” as a rapper because I didn’t hear him as a producer yet. The joint was dope and fast forward maybe a year later we wind up getting a studio together. I was doing beats at the time, well, I still do beats but he sent me a couple of beats that he did and I said, “We might as well try to go head and knock some stuff out.” Two songs turned into three, three turned into an LP. It was real organic, real smooth.

TRHH: Being a producer yourself, was it hard to hand over the reins to Scud?

Denmark Vessey: Yeah, yeah it was [laughs]. I take that part serious myself. It was a challenge for me to allow somebody to do that and not be so uptight about that aspect and challenge myself to see if I can do that. I make a lot of music with Quelle [Chris] and it’s a quick sixteen and I’m done. This is like a challenge to me to make a whole album primarily with me just rapping on it. That doesn’t mean that it was a difficult experience, it was just more so a new thing. A lot of times he’d make the beat on the spot or I’d write on the spot and it was no longer than a day that we’d have a song finished from start to end.

TRHH: Scud, how was it for you also being an emcee to step back and produce the whole record? I think you only rhymed on one track, right?

Scud One: Yeah, I only rhymed on one track. It’s kind of a similar question. It’s also kind of a similar answer. It was obviously different, but at the same time it was refreshing for both of us, too. Take a step back from what we usually do and kind of put in a little bit of extra work on the other side of things. I think the turnout was a beautiful thing. Overall it was an enjoyable process. There were a couple of joints on there where I was like, “Man, I wanna rhyme on this,” but Denmark took it and it all seemed to work out. It was a pretty quick process as well. We didn’t have too many hold ups as far as songs. I kinda made the beat, this dude knocked out the rhymes and it was pretty much that.

TRHH: I really dig your sound, man. Who are some of the producers that inspired you?

Scud One: This is one question that I try to not go too in depth with. As a producer I kinda just took what I listened to and not really what other people were doing. There is a lot of music that I listen to already and just decide to flip it with my own style. As far as who I listen to, I listen to all the classic Hip-Hop stuff. A couple of people asked me if I listened to Madlib or Dilla, of course, I listen to all of that. I listen to everything. As far as a specific influence I don’t really have one that I modeled my sound after. I’m really just trying to do something unique and original.

TRHH: What beat-making equipment are you using right now?

Scud One: Right now I got an MPC 2000XL. I hook that up to Pro Tools. I have other things here and there. I’ll even pull up Fruity Loops nowadays and mess with something like Reason. I’ve always liked software, but I’m getting more and more into the hardware too because it’s a lot more to experiment with.

TRHH: Denmark, what led to your move to Chicago?

Denmark Vessey: I grew up in Detroit my whole life and it was just getting to the point where I didn’t wanna be there anymore. It’s as simple as that, really. I went to Chicago when I was like 18. In my senior year they picked a couple of visual artists, I used to draw a lot, to come to Chicago and I thought it was a dope ass city. It’s a thriving city and an international city. That’s how I see Chicago. That’s what drew me toward that city. I started running with Quelle and he was in Chicago before us. He was like, “Yo man, if you ever get tired of being here you should come through to Chicago,” so that’s what I did. My grandmother had just passed away and I didn’t wanna be there no more. After five years I fell in love and all of that stuff.

TRHH: Detroit and Chicago have sports rivalries but they’re very similar cities. Wouldn’t you say they’re really close?

Denmark Vessey: Yeah. It’s definitely a different type of feel there. In terms of foundational stuff, at the core, yeah, we’re cousins. A lot of people from Chicago got people in Detroit and vice versa. It’s only six hours away so it’s not a huge world of difference, but I’d say that there’s a difference. I notice a lot of things where I’d say, “Oh, that’s some Chicago stuff right there,” [laughs]. It’s different to me but it’s all love at the end of the day.

TRHH: You mentioned that you were an artist; Kanye West also said that he was an artist. He talks about how he sees music in colors. I still don’t even know what that means. Can you relate to that?

Denmark Vessey: Yeah it’s called Synesthesia. I do relate to that. I’ve always seen colors. Everybody’s got their own thing and they may not know everybody else’s experience so they don’t say anything. As far as I remember I’ve always been able to see shapes in terms of different instruments and colors as well. It’s probably a more common thing that a lot of people know about it. I definitely see colors with all instruments. It’s a real thing.

TRHH: What’s the message behind ‘HoeininDaGaddaDaVida’?

Denmark Vessey: It’s talking about the story of Adam and Eve. A lot of people don’t know about Lilith, which is Adam’s first woman that refused to bow down to him. That’s kind of hidden and a lot of people don’t know about that. I thought it was cool that I incorporated that. It’s just keeping with the religious theme, talking about creationism. It has the alien in the video. I thought it was in that world of religion so I thought it would be a dope way to put a spin on it talking about pimps and hoes ‘cause that’s what people like [laughs].

TRHH: Did you worry at any point that the album would offend people?

Denmark Vessey: Yeah, but something is going to offend somebody. Somebody is going to be offended by something no matter what anybody does or says. This is art. It’s up for interpretation. You like it, that’s cool. You don’t like it, that’s cool, too. My aunt is a pastor and I got people that are heavily involved in church and I’m definitely not trying to make them feel any type of way. It’s art. I don’t think it was offensive. One person said the cover was blasphemous, but that’s a whole ‘nother talk.

TRHH: Talk about why you chose the rap name, Denmark Vessey?

Denmark Vessey: I chose Denmark Vessey because I thought the actual name was really powerful. It’s not his real name. His real name is Telemaque, which is Haitian. I chose it because it sounded powerful and the story was so dope behind it. He actually didn’t get to complete his mission, which was to have a revolt. Another slave told on him. I’m into people’s state of mind. That slave thought it was cooler to tell on the slave that was actually trying to liberate him. He felt more comfortable trying to appease the slave master. It’s like Stockholm syndrome where the person in captivity starts to sympathize with the captor. I think all of that stuff is interesting, how you can mold the mind. People want to survive so they’ll do anything. They’ll change their whole mind state just to survive. I just thought that was an ill story. And the way he died was real dope. Obviously they hanged him and he said some real ill words. His last words were on some super G shit. Some Bruce Willis type shit.

TRHH: Are you surprised by the reception you’ve received for this album?

Denmark Vessey: No. Honestly I wanted it out so people could hear it. I try not to really pay attention to the reception just because of the age that we’re in. Everything is so “of the moment” so while I do absolutely appreciate any kind of positive feedback that we got, only time will tell. I named it Cult Classic because I wanted to put that in people’s heads so ten years down the road people would be like, “Cult Classic is crazy!” That’s cool, but right now is dope, too. It’s not like I’m like, “Fuck all this stuff,” this shit is great, it’s awesome. I really wanna see how it does in five years and see if people will be talking about it with the same vigor. Will it be more? Will it be less? I have a long career ahead of me so…

TRHH: What’s next up for you? What do y’all have coming up?

Denmark Vessey: I have a lot of music coming out. I got a couple of EP’s coming out. One with a gentleman named T-White. T-White did all the beats and me and Scud One are rapping on it. I got my solo album coming out which is kind of like the prequel to Cult Classic which is called Chemtrail Soup. I have a four-piece band called Storefront Church. It’s all over the place as far as what we’re doing. It’s on some Cake or Damon Albarn stuff. I like stuff like that so that’s where I’m trying to go with mine. I’m trying to see what’s up with Crown Nation. We’re supposed to be finishing something by fall. We’re a couple songs deep but we’re trying to make sure it sounds good and works for everybody’s schedule. I got tons of music.

Scud One: I have the EP coming out with Denmark and T-White. I got a ton of feature production that you can look out for. I got a join on Fatt Father’s next record. The homie Cavalier who was on Quelle’s joint, I did an outro on his joint. I’ll probably do a solo record on some rapping type stuff, and the same old production, man. I’m just trying to innovate and expand on the idea.

Purchase: Denmark Vessey & Scud One – Cult Classic

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Smif-N-Wessun: Born and Raised

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Photo courtesy of MAC Media

Photo courtesy of MAC Media

Duck Down Records recording artists Tek and Steele, also known as Smif-N-Wessun, have two decades of experience in the game of rap. The duo came onto the scene as guest stars on ‘Black Smif-N-Wessun’ from Black Moon’s 1993 classic, Enta Da Stage. What followed was five albums in a sixteen year span, including the group’s critically acclaimed 1995 debut, Dah Shinin’.

Smif-N-Wessun ended 2013 with the release of a 6-track EP titled Born and Raised. Born and Raised is a Reggae inspired album filled with uplifting lyrics from Tek and Steele. The EP is produced entirely be production duo Beatnik & K-Salaam and features appearances by Junior Reed, Jr. Kelly, and Jahdan Blackkamoore.

Smif-N-Wessun spoke to The Real Hip-Hop about working with Beatnik & K-Salaam, the possibilities of a new Boot Camp Clik album, and their new EP, Born and Raised.

TRHH: What inspired you to make a Reggae influenced project this go round?

Steele: It’s something that we did sporadically when we worked on our first album in ’95, Dah Shinin’ we did a record called ‘Sound Bwoy Bureill’. Fast forward to this time, it wasn’t nothing that we was planning or premeditating, it was a natural evolve-ment. It was another part of what we already did naturally, we just tried to find the right spot for us to expound on it. It was good that we met up with K-Salaam and Beatnik. Dru Ha actually bumped into K-Salaam in the streets of New York and he was like, “Yo, I wanna do this project.” We always had it in our minds; we just don’t know what the right time would be, how we would make it happen, and what we would rap about. It’s like 360 degrees back home and it’s perfect timing.

TRHH: Why’d you title it Born and Raised?

Steele: We had a couple of other titles. We just tried to come up with something that would encompass what we were doing. You always do that as an artist. You try to do something artistically to grab the people’s attention. We had some other titles, the titles was wack. That title came after we recorded like half of the project. We realized instead of looking for a title we just need to call it what it was. We had a song and we just went with “Born and Raised” and it was perfect.

TRHH: Whether it’s Pete Rock, Beatminerz, or Beatnik & K-Salaam your projects tend not have too many different producers on them. Is that strategic or does it just turn out that way?

Tek: That’s the way we plan it when we go into a project. You can always get the hottest producer of the moment or this guy who does things this type of way, but it takes time and a lot more things just to get one producer or one engineer to make a bond and make beautiful, timeless music. Not to compare us to other people, which I don’t like doing, but they said Just Blaze wasn’t featured on the Watch the Throne album because Just Blaze and Jay-Z couldn’t find that vibe. They couldn’t catch that vibe at that moment to make the music that they like to make. Not that he couldn’t make another ‘PSA’ but they didn’t have the time to make that type of music. It’s like a relationship.

When you devote your time and energy to one person, you know that person, you feel that person. That person’s energy becomes your energy, and your energy becomes that person’s energy. When it’s an emcee and a producer that’s working together you’re going to feel it. Like I said, it’s like a marriage, you don’t want to spread yourself too thin out here in the streets and you don’t want to spread yourself too thin in the industry over these beats when you’re making a project that’s going to stamp your name on it. It’s certain projects that you can go and get more than one producer to show your versatility. At certain times you have to give the people out there what they ask for. Smif-N-Wessun are the peoples champions. They asked for this and this is what Smif-N-Wessun delivered. They didn’t want a bunch of guest features or what we gave them in the past. They wanted this right here in this day and time so that’s what it was.

TRHH: What’s your opinion on New York rappers rapping over keyboard down south beats?

Tek: For me personally, I like all good music. I hate when music awards, journalists, and DJ’s try to separate music. Music is music. Good music is good music. I don’t give a fuck if it’s on a keyboard or one chord on a bass guitar. If the artist can come and make some great music or good music, then why knock it or try to separate it? We got features with another group that’s our family that they may consider country music, which is the Da Grassroots. We have shows coming up with them and we make good music together. We make great positive music together. We have other music where it’s like Wyclef Jean or the Afros where people may consider that down south music, but it was still good music. It was still Smif-N-Wessun and this artist, nah bro, Smif-N-Wessun and this artist came together to make it. Smif-N-Wessun and whoever came together to make music. That’s what’s being made. It’s not one genre of music that’s being made. I don’t like the separation of music. The only other separation that you have in any other genre of anything is by weight class. In boxing it’s still all boxing but you have a featherweight, a middleweight, and a lightweight, but you still have the greatest pound for pound fighters in that genre of boxing, which they say is Floyd Mayweather right now. Even in music, it’s all great music. It doesn’t matter who is making what or who is on top right now. The music is the music which leads to the other things that all go back to the music.

TRHH: The EP has a lot of positive themes and messages. Was that calculated or is it just where the music took you?

Steele: That’s not calculated, man.

Tek: It definitely wasn’t calculated. Since the beginning of Smif-N-Wessun’s career we’ve always been doing the patois. We’ve always been doing the blend of Hip-Hop and Reggae. It’s always been brought up that we should do a cover of this type of song or this type of joint or whatever, but now in today’s time it was time for this album to be made. If you fail to plan then you plan to fail. If you don’t look ahead and think of the moves that you can make as an artist or a person, then you’re not looking ahead to better yourself as a person or anything, you feel me? When you hear talks about certain albums but it ain’t that time, but when that time comes you plan for that situation. As an artist you’re not planning for those same vocals or words to come out at that time. It could be 2-3- or six years for that plan to come to fruition. As an artist you’re constantly writing. So when I’m writing, “I let the music talk to me and I reply to the mic and tell the engineer to record/And he applies it to the board.” Smif-N-Wessun works on vibes and we relay that back to the people. I think the positivity comes from karma. It’s to balance all the negativity that we did and put out there. It was time for some of the positivity to come out from Smif-N-Wessun and let it be known that we can do it this way, also.

TRHH: Going back, whose idea was it to do the ‘Wreckonize’ remix and were you apprehensive about rhyming over that sample?

Tek: That was Steele joint. He produced that.

TRHH: Word?

Steele: We actually did a joint with Doo Wop for this mix CD and it was a freestyle. We were like, “You, that shit is dope. Let’s do a whole joint.” We did ‘Marry Juana’. “That’s why I had to marry Juana,” big up to the homie Doo Wop. We just did it like that. We weren’t trying to do nothing crazy. We were trying to pay homage to the music that brought us up

TRHH: That’s one of my favorite songs of all-time.

Steele: Word, good lookin’.

Tek: No doubt [laughs].

TRHH: I interviewed Sean Price a couple years ago and he said, “Buckshot and Steele taught me how to rock shows.” He didn’t go in depth about it but since I‘m talking to you now I have to ask, what exactly did you teach Sean about putting on a dope live performance?

Steele: I learned a lot from Buckshot, man. I’ll tell you some fly shit, we challenge each other and we’ve been in so many different positions where we got to see each other perform that we learn shit from each other that enables us to be better artists and better entertainers. If you ever see a Tek perform or Rock, Ruck, Starang, Louieville, or Top Dog, when they get into their zone you get that energy and see something you can utilize. If you’re smart you hold on to something that you can use later. It’s like each one teach one. We’ve always been comrades in our growth. Also the ones before us who have done great concerts have shown us things. We really tested each other to make sure that we could be formidable and valuable in this culture.

TRHH: I saw y’all perform in ’98 when the second album dropped at a show in Chicago with N.O.R.E. and y’all tore it down.

Steele: Oh wow.

Tek: Yeah, yeah.

TRHH: You think there will ever be another Boot Camp album?

Tek: I hope so.

Steele: I hope so. Smif-N-Wessun just put out the EP, Buckshot, and Sean Price just put out albums not too long ago. Rockness Monstah is about to release something new. Everybody is pretty much working. It would be a beautiful reunion to see that come to fruition. You just gotta stay tuned to see what’s going on.

TRHH: Why is Born and Raised an important release for Hip-Hop in 2014?

Steele: Born and Raised is important because we all came from somewhere and sometimes you forget where you came from. There is a saying that says, “If you don’t know where you came from you don’t know where you’re going.” What’s crazy for us is the place where we were born is the place that we were raised. We’ve been there the whole time. What’s it say for a person who has to represent decades of change and decades of dedication to your community, to yourself, your career or whatever you choose in life to remain there? We’ve seen people switch and have seen very few remain and still live to tell about it. For us to be born and raised in Bucktown, in Brooklyn, in music, salute the Zulu Nation, Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa, the pioneers that have added on to the Hip-Hop culture, we’ve been raised through that. We’re just giving our version of what we experienced through these travels and to add on to the culture and strengthen the bond for the ones who think, feel, and experience similar things.

Purchase: Smif-N-Wessun – Born and Raised

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A Conversation with Buckshot

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Photo courtesy of MAC Media

Photo courtesy of MAC Media

This is a piece that was originally published on Examiner.com on November 20, 2012. The interview was removed from the site for reasons unbeknownst to me. Part two of the interview was not removed however—makes sense. I recently learned of the interview being taken down and thought I’d share it with the readers of The Real Hip-Hop.com.

Enjoy.

Buckshot, the co-founder of Duck Down Records recently dropped his third joint album with producer 9th Wonder titled, The Solution. The Solution is classic Buck spitting witty yet to the point rhymes over 9th Wonder’s tailor-made beats.

The Solution however is just the beginning of what the BDI emcee has in-store for consumers. Buckshot has a whole lot to say. The emcee/mogul has seen a lot in his career spanning over twenty years and he wants to share that knowledge with the masses.

In a recent interview Buck discussed the reason for his longevity in Hip-Hop, the key to putting on a dope live performance, and his new album with 9th Wonder, The Solution.

TRHH: Why’d you name the new album The Solution?

Buckshot: The first album with 9th Wonder was called The Chemistry, the second was called The Formula, and the new one is The Solution because we’re creating a theme. Buckshot and 9th Wonder are in the science lab trying to come up with the ultimate solution. The question is how do we make ourselves better and that’s why we called it The Solution because the solution is you. You’re the answer to how you make yourself better. On the album I constantly say you’re the solution or the solution is you—that’s the outcome.

TRHH: How’d the ‘Change Up’ joint come together?

Buckshot: 9th was playing the joint while I was recording another joint. I was writing to that record and 9th was playing ‘Change Up’ in another spot and once I heard it I wanted to work on that immediately. That shit was crazy. It was one beat after another the same day. I’d be working on something and hear him in the next room working on something else and I’d be like, “Damn I can’t wait to get on this one.” That’s how it happened, I heard the beat and it was fire so I wanted to express this or talk about that on it.

TRHH: You told HipHopDX that President Obama needed to acknowledge the people that got him elected in 2008. Do you feel like he did that in his reelection speech?

Buckshot: I feel like he definitely stepped it up. I said that based on the first debate. Here’s a guy who has nothing on you and you just made him look like he got something. Maybe Barack Obama was feeling him out? I know it was bigger than that because they both knew each other’s strategies before they got there. He was giving him too much leeway and I was like, don’t let him embarrass you! Ain’t nothing wrong with being embarrassed. If you are a dope interviewer and you started asking me questions like, “Buckshot what you have for breakfast this morning?” That might not be an embarrassing interview to certain people, at certain times, in certain places but in certain times it might be. You can ask a more appropriate question depending on the kind of person you are. You might say, “That’s how I am Buck, I was just asking what you had for breakfast,” well maybe you’ll get the answer but the overall picture of your interview may not be as interesting if you had asked something a little bit deeper than that.

I know it ain’t easy for him at all because he’s a black man…. and yo, just when you thought racism was gone! We live in this little word called entertainment where there’s black and white and everybody is together but that ain’t really the whole perspective. When you start doing shit that I do like go on certain websites as an anonymous person, they don’t know me. I can tell them I’m Buckshot all day and they still don’t know who the fuck I am. Places in Wisconsin, Ohio, and PA are still under that stereotypical view that black people are pretty much over there. They’ll tell you they’re not racist and don’t hate black people but they don’t have the mind frame that that’s just another motherucker. They have that old American classism so Barack has to deal with that but anybody who is the head of any big organization is always going to have a goddamn headache. Trust me. We can look at it from our level. If you’re getting a headache on your level this guy must have a migraine. I give him his props all around. After I made that statement I started to see how a lot of people didn’t know what I was talking about but were quick to Barack bash or say something negative. It shows you how cruel the world can really be.

TRHH: Throughout his tenure as President and even more since his reelection I’ve noticed this, people are fucking racist [laughs]. You think things are sweet then all of a sudden it’s nigger this, nigger that, he’s a monkey, etc. I think it’s always been there but since there’s a “nigger” in office people are losing their fucking minds. I think there are white people who just don’t believe he’s in office and can’t accept it.

Buckshot: I mean of course they can’t! We’re going through so much and I’m going to be honest with you, do you know how long it took me to get to the point I’m at right now? If you only knew what I’ve been going through. Dog, I don’t even know where to start at, all I know is I’ve evolved. I’ve always been an evolutionist in the music industry and in life period. Here you are interviewing me and I got so much to say but the shit that I got to say is relevant and it’s not just relevant from the point of view of just the music that I make. I made Enta Da Stage twenty years ago, its 2012 and there are still people that are locked into Buckshot of Enta Da Stage. I don’t have a problem with evolving but there are people that are actually stuck in that vibe. That is a big problem, dog. That’s a huge problem.

TRHH: I think I know what you’re saying. People like Nas get this too. If you make the perfect record people will always glom on to that. People will always go toward that special record.

Buckshot: Pardon me for babbling but this is the result of buffering. There is too much information coming out of one stream at one time. When I said Enta Da Stage I mean the whole lifestyle, not just the record. If you tell me you love Enta Da Stage I love all of that. That’s not a problem for me. The people that come from my era show me that they’re stagnant in their mentality and they stagnate society with that mentality and we all suffer from it. A lot of the people from my era aren’t even internet savvy. I know this because I was here before the internet came and I’m here as the internet came. My kids won’t know about when the internet wasn’t here. That’s a big, big difference. What that’s saying is the people from my generation this is your opportunity to get y’all’s off now. Y’all missed the telephone, you missed the TV, but now is the chance to be a part of the growth and development of something that’s ill like the internet. Play your part and position; stop saying the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Right away when you bring an invention to someone their initial response is doubt. You gotta spend your time trying to motivate people out of that.

I can’t do it on the music tip. You know what people don’t peep? Enta Da Stage was called Enta Da Stage for a reason. I told people enter the stage because I knew which stages I was going to take them through and which stages I was going to go through. I don’t know why Wu-Tang called their album Enter the Wu. I love that though. I think it was because of Enter the Dragon one of my favorite Bruce Lee movies. I never got a chance to ask them.

TRHH: I think there was a movie called Enter the Wu-Tang.

Buckshot: OK, my bad for even being ignorant to that. As crazy as it is we all work right beside it each other but that shit skipped past me because I got other things that are priorities in my brain. I just knew that Enta Da Stage was the stages that we were going to take you through and Dah Shinin’ was the birth of that stage. Enta Da Stage was saying get ready for me to take you through the stages, enter the stage of the Buckshot Shorty–that was a record. I took them through those stages from then to right now. I knew about the internet before it came. As an artist I knew this was the road you had to travel. Don’t be a slave to the record label because they want you to be a star, I’ve been through those things.

TRHH: Next year marks the 20th anniversary of Enta Da Stage. To what do you attribute your longevity?

Buckshot: Business, straight up and down, business. Being business conscious and knowing how to be goal conscious. To be honest with you it’s studying because it’s too much for me to say–understanding the balance. Because when you wake up you spend 80% of your day with entertainment. You don’t think so, you may think you’re working but entertainment is described as a tension relief activity. When a person listen’s to some Buckshot they’re relieving their tension. If they listen to some Wu-Tang, or get a cup of coffee, that’s a tension reliever. If they wake up in the morning and get in their car that’s a tension reliever. If they go to work and start talking about last night’s game that’s a tension reliever. So 80% of your time is spent on entertainment and not education. For me it’s the opposite, I’m addicted to education. What you see from Buckshot is just a result of my education.

I’m not an artist saying I’m a rapper and Enta Da Stage is my life, Black Moon, and to this very day I’m trying to put out another album, no. I don’t even want to hurt the people by telling them that. Music is a part of everyday communication so if I tell you I’m not even on that vibe that you’re on it’ll hurt a lot of people. That’s why I ask to do certain interviews. Interview me at this point because I don’t want the album to come out and you start asking me the same irrelevant questions—maybe it’s relevant to the album for people who want to know. You don’t do promotion for people that know Buckshot you do promotion for people who don’t know Buckshot. So when we do interviews and videos we often do it for the people who know us and we call it going to our market but that’s not what you do.

TRHH: I saw you perform at Rock the Bells in 2009 and you were my favorite performer hands down.

Buckshot: Thanks.

TRHH: No doubt. I interviewed Sean P and he told me that you and Steele taught him how to rock shows. What would you say is the recipe to putting on a dope performance?

Buckshot: Learn from KRS-One [laughs]. Straight up, that’s who taught me. I learned from KRS. I could tell you pointers like always stay focused with your eye contact with the crowd. Don’t be afraid to get on the mic and get directly to the people because until you do that you’re really not with them. You can rap over their shoulder but that’s like talking to somebody and not looking at them. You don’t really get the true impact that you want. They say always look a man in his eyes. You’re never get the true impact that you’re looking for unless you look a man in his eyes. That’s what KRS always taught. He also taught breath control. I would always teach my guys how to utilize your breath in the right way. If you’re on the stage and putting your breath to the wrong things it can result in you being out of breath.

There have been plenty of times when I didn’t know those techniques and I’d end up hoarse by the fourth song. There were times when I was hoarse by the second song in my early stages because I didn’t know where to put the energy. I was too hype. I would see rappers that are too hype or I’d see rappers that aren’t hype enough. I didn’t want to be the type of rapper that wasn’t hype enough. I hate those dudes that walk from side to side. I’ve seen rappers do it like Rakim, and nobody could see them at that style of doing it. Me particularly, I’m an entertainer and I grew up around entertainment. I got bit with the bug of people putting that style on me. When you look at my shows I’m all over the place. If people start seeing Buckshot with lights, camera, and action on stage they’ll think it’s corny. I’m sorry to burst your bubble but that’s your version of me. Maybe that’s your brain telling you that’s what hardcore people do. I don’t even give a fuck about being hardcore. You’re either hardcore or not and when you’re really hardcore you don’t promote that shit. You’ll either slap the shit out of a nigga or you won’t. Don’t go around telling people or promoting that.

TRHH: You have a song on the album with Rapsody called ‘Shorty Left’ and you also performed on her album. What qualities did you see in Rapsody to make her get the Buckshot co-sign?

Buckshot: Wow. It’s self-explanatory. For anybody who is reading this the best way and the only way is for you to go and listen to her. I’ll never be able to translate that. Dope is dope. I could say her flow or her words. She’s different; she doesn’t just pick ABC words. ABC is fine because little niggas gotta do that but I’m an adult so work with me here. I don’t wanna read intelligent books and instructions in life but when it comes to my rap and music I’m going back to ABC. Motherfuckers is going jump, dump, pump and that’s intricate? No. My mind wants to be entertained so if you’re telling me something that’s simple and plain and I’m able to get it, it becomes boring. The only ones who are entertained with boring stuff are boring people. That’s what causes fights between certain places and certain cultures.

New York is a pace of its own so it’s get bored with shit right away. A lot of people from certain places don’t move that fast so it’s not boring to them. New York is like, come on dog. At one point in time New York music dominated the world and everybody wanted to move at a New York pace. If you peep it, without that happening you think Hip-Hop would have spread at the rate it did, that fast?

TRHH: Nah.

Buckshot: Exactly. You needed the fast paces to move Hip-Hop at first. Then you needed to slow it down—like a motor.

TRHH: How’s it different working with 9th Wonder than working with the Beatminerz?

Buckshot: I can’t wait for the Buckshot documentary to come out. It’s got me at 15 dancing and doing interviews when a record deal was nowhere in sight. I used to front like I was getting interviewed and what not. I used to be on the rooftop of my building and tell my man what to say to interview me. I say that because Beatminerz are my brothers and I love them. I can never say anything about my foundation—my beginning. It’s just that we evolve. Beatminerz has a style that I hope one day will return to the music. They’re my brothers but with the evolution of music there are going to be new artists and new producers that come along and they’re going to make the mark that you need at a point in time—that just happened to be 9th.

I was blessed to work with 9th. That happened by chance. I could have worked with him and people would say that combination sounds like trash. We knew what we wanted to do but we never knew the result of it. The people spoke. Beatminerz, when they make music they go into their own zone. They used to be like 9th. They would produce the track right there on the spot. Then it would vary. 9th produces right on the spot, Beatminerz would say give me a day and I’ll get back to you. They both come up with dope stuff it’s just that 9th Wonder is a student of Beatminerz. He’ll tell you that all the time. He was watching them when they were coming up doing their thing. He was influenced by that and added his own touch to it. That’s the reason why it matches Buckshot because it’s influenced by the Buckshot era.

Read part 2 of A Conversion with Buckshot

Purchase: Buckshot & 9th Wonder – The Solution

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Twista: Back to the Basics

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Photo courtesy of Get Money Gang.

Photo courtesy of Get Money Gang

One of the most respected emcees in the history of Hip-Hop is Chicago’s Twista. The father of one of the most unique styles ever in rap, Twista’s rapid fire flow has entertained fans for over two decades.

From the streets to the stage, Chicago’s west side rhymeslinger was courted by both Jay-Z and Kanye West to sign to their respective record labels. The artist formerly known as Tung Twista took his lumps in the game and learned many lessons that led him to the creation of his own record label, Get Money Gang Entertainment.

This week Twista released a 7-track EP on GMG Entertainment titled, “Back to the Basics” Back to the Basics is Twista’s first official release since 2010 and serves as an appetizer before the release of his next full-length album, The Dark Horse.

The Real Hip-Hop had the honor of speaking to Twista about his new EP, Back to the Basics, his recent collaboration with pop star Lady Gaga, and his new full-length album hitting stores in 2014.

TRHH: Why’d you title the new EP “Back to the Basics”?

Twista: It really pertains to me more than the industry. Sometimes I’ll lose sense of self trying to try so many things. I’m so creative that I’ll try different things that’s out the box and when I feel like I’m going too far out the box I bring it back in. Right at that time when I was bringing it back in I said I wanted to title my new EP “Back to the Basics” ‘cause that’s what Im’ma get to as far as the Twista sound and doing what I do that I know people like.

TRHH: You dropped the video for the Intro and I thought it was slowed down a little bit for you. Would you say that’s accurate?

Twista: Yeah, well I really do whatever the beat calls for. If I’m picking double-time beats then it’s all going to sound that way. If you listen to the style of beat that was, it’s just a Hip-Hop beat. It reminds me of an emcee-ish Hip-Hop type of beat so I really just rapped on it the way the beat asked me to rap to it. Some people know the earlier Twista stuff and if you knew me from coming up that flow wouldn’t sound so unfamiliar. It’s like, “Man, Twista sound like he did when he was coming up before he got on!” That’s what type of style that is.

TRHH: We know you have a long history of working with The Legendary Traxter, but who are some of the other producers that you worked with on Back to the Basics?

Twista: On the EP it’s mostly Traxter and my guy DJ Tight Mike. It was about me picking some songs that I felt was a good warm-up for people to get reacquainted with Twista before I dropped the album. It just happened to be that the 6-7 songs I picked were tracks from Traxter and DJ Tight Mike. I also got stuff I’m working on for the album with Young Chop and various other producers.

TRHH: Recently you did the song ‘Jewels and Drugs’ with Lady Gaga. That’s sort of an odd pairing. How’d that collaboration come about?

Twista: It was really Lady Gaga being a fan of Hip-Hop. She recently mentioned that she liked other artists from Chicago as well. It shocked me that she was actually that familiar with Hip-Hop, certain artists, and the way they sound. When I talked to her she wanted a certain original sound, not from a today artist, but someone who has been in the game for a while. When she was breaking it down to me it was me and Too $hort and I was really geeked that she was that into my music and familiar with it.

TRHH: You’ve been around a long time and had a lot of ups and downs in your career, what’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned in the music business?

Twista: Save money [laughs]. Definitely save your money. It’s a lot of different things. Business wise, the deals that you’re getting into make sure you got the right attorney’s. Know what you’re getting into. One of the biggest things I tell artists is to make sure you’re educating yourself about the business as much as you’re trying to put records out and do everything else. I definitely feel like a lot of artists today don’t know exactly what’s going on behind closed doors as far as the business side of it. If you want to maximize it I would say know the business you’re getting into. Everybody is using computers and at one point I was letting everybody know that it was the new thing and we should start using them and everybody is into them now. Also, stay true to yourself as an artist. A lot of times people hear all of these records that other guys are putting out and they try their best to imitate what they think is hot and it doesn’t work for them. Stay doing what you do, and stay being the best at what you know you do.

TRHH: There was a time when emcees from the Chi were moving to New York, L.A., or Atlanta to further their careers. Why did you choose to stay in Chicago?

Twista: Well with me it was just being close to my people. Some of us are in positions where we can just jump up and go, but I didn’t wanna leave my moms, my brother, and sisters and things like that. I was deeply rooted in Chicago. I would move around sometimes but never really make that major move. I think it was more necessary back then because we didn’t have access to the internet, but now I think one of the reasons that Chicago is so hot is that we don’t have to leave the city anymore. We can do it in the comfort of our own rooms. I just never really left because I’m grounded. Some people are more grounded in the city than others. Me being from the ghetto, the west side of Chicago, it’s something I was never looking into. I just love being in the city, sometimes to a fault.

TRHH: You’ve collaborated with a lot of the young kids coming up out of Chicago. What’s your opinion of the new wave of rappers coming from the Chi?

Twista: First off I would say the type of artist and person you are will have an effect on your opinion. So if you’re into this game for the hustle aspect or if you’re into it ‘cause you love rap, that to me will have an effect on your opinion. For me being a person who loves Hip-Hop and music every time someone new is coming out and getting notoriety and people are paying attention, it’s usually always something in what they’re doing that I like. The thing I like about the new artists that I like is they got a lot of swag. I feel like the game now is more about your swag than your lyricism. I’m a lyricist and that’s what I represent. The shorty’s now know how to swag it out without getting so intricate with their rhymes and everything and still be able to do what they do.

One of the biggest things I like about the artists today is they know how to put their music out and they know how they want to be seen. A lot of artists didn’t do that at first, especially in Chicago. I can remember a point where there wasn’t too many artists in Chicago that sounded half good. So now it’s like all these artists are coming out and doing their thing. I feel like a lot of them are dope as hell. I feel like some of them… I wouldn’t say garbage. A lot of people say, “Oh, that’s wack,” but I feel like there’s different types of music for different reasons. I feel like some people make music for the listeners who want to hear lyrics. Some people make music for the club goers and party goers. I feel like everything isn’t meant to be all lyrical. I respect what the shorty’s do a lot and I like it.

TRHH: What’s your writing process like? Do you ever write off the top of your head or do you always write to the beat?

Twista: Both of ‘em. As I acquired another writing style they all just became my technique. Sometimes I sit down and listen to the beat and I’m actually writing the verses out. Sometimes I’ll sit down listen to the beat and hold the lyrics in my head. I might say a third of the verse at one time, like 4 bars at a time, hold the lyrics in my head and spit ‘em out. Sometimes I sit down with no beat, and to me that’s where you can make the best styles from, not saying that you can’t listen to a beat and make a style but when you’re in your head and not listening to music and write a verse, that to me brings the best styles out of you. I actually do all three. I write to the beat, I write sometimes without a beat, and sometimes I just think and don’t use any pen or paper.

TRHH: Over 20 years ago when you got into this did you foresee being where you are now with Get Money Gang and being one of the most respected emcees in Hip-Hop?

Twista: Nah, nah. You definitely can’t see that far. To me it was about getting in the industry and actually getting some music out there so other rappers can say, “Damn, he’s dope!” or “Chicago got some rappers, too!” That was my intent when I first got in the game just to be recognized as being dope. Never had any idea that all of that stuff that happened would take place.

TRHH: You’re known for spitting street rhymes but you’re also a Muslim. What’s the role that Islam plays in your life?

Twista: I’m not fully practicing every day all day but I’m Muslim by nature. Islam has served as one of the steppingstones to my understanding of life, religion, and why we exist. Islam game me discipline and order. It made me understand religion better and how to live righteous better. Not to knock any other religion, but I think Islam is one of the most correct forms of religion that’s out there. One of the reasons is because the Qur’an was never changed. It’s still in its original language. I feel like Islam is one of the oldest and most correct religions, if you want to follow religion.

TRHH: What do you have on deck for 2014?

Twista: The album is the EP expanded. I think it’s just me making new songs and being passionate in the studio and making good product. I don’t feel the need to transform or change so to speak, because you have this music that’s coming out over the past few years that has everybody’s ear expecting a certain sound. I feel like the reemergence of me as I already am will be something a little new to the listeners because they haven’t heard me in a while. Really just expect Adrenaline Rush and Kamikaze in a 2014 version. One thing that I’ll say I’m bringing different with this album and kind of like what I’m doing on the EP is you hear rappers rapping about so many things like the streets, this or that. Some of them might get deep and speak on religion or something from Egypt. You really don’t hear rappers rapping about the science of creation – the science of existence. That’s one thing you’ll probably hear on the album. My album will be something cool for the Hip-Hop nerd. If you’re into the human design, the body, atoms, molecules, DNA, quantum physics, parallel universes, and all that type of stuff you gonna hear me going into a lot of that on the album.

TRHH: I just wanted to say as a native Chicagoan I’ve always appreciated the way that you and Common both held it down for the city for so long. Wherever y’all go y’all represent the crib. I just wanted to personally say thank you for representing Chicago wherever you are. I appreciate it and I’m proud.

Twista: Thank you, man. That means a lot to me. That’s why I do it is to hear this type of stuff. I appreciate that a lot — for real.

Purchase: Twista – Back to the Basics

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