dFresh: Universal Laws

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Photo courtesy of Dub MD

Photo courtesy of Dub MD

The late great 2Pac famously said, “If you believe, then you can achieve,” and Delaware rapper dFresh echoes that sentiment. Inspired by Earl Nightingale’s self-help album “The Strangest Secret”, dFresh released a free EP titled Universal Laws: Chapter 1. The first installment of a three part series, Universal Laws educates listeners on the power of positive thinking.

Universal Laws: Chapter 1 was successfully funded via Kickstarter and features Damilleo Stacks. The 7-track EP is produced entirely by GxWay.

The Real Hip-Hop spoke to dFresh about his innate optimism, his theories on success, and his new EP, Universal Laws: Chapter 1.

TRHH: Why’d you decide to go the Kickstarter route for your project?

dFresh: Actually it sort of piggybacks on a story from before that. I actually started on Universal Laws several months before the Kickstarter even happened, almost a half a year. I have my own personal space where I record all my music. I went to school for sound so I learned a little bit about setting studios up. I set up a small set up of my own and it actually got broken into. All the equipment got robbed out of it.

TRHH: Oh my God.

dFresh: Yeah, it was pretty bad. I had about four songs for the Universal Laws and I lost everything. I ended up losing countless amounts of other material that I was working on. I had that equipment for 6-7-8 years, close to my whole career in Boston. The Universal Laws felt so strong to me that I had to keep it going. I had to make it one way or another. Besides that I had to get back on my feet. I wasn’t about to stop. The dude that did the video for Universal Laws spearheaded and partnered up with me to help with the Kickstarter. That’s where all that stems from.

TRHH: Explain the title of the project, ‘Universal Laws’.

dFresh: It’s not made up word or anything like that. A lot of people talk about it. It’s hard to describe it without using the words. It’s pretty much laws that are fairly universal. Laws that different religions, cultures, and ethnicities talk about like prosperity and trying to use your mind to do what you want. It’s universal so the tools can be used negatively and positively. It’s up to you to decide how you wanna use it. It’s certainly talked about in religion and other people use it for prosperity and stuff. It’s something that applied to me. Besides the instance that happened with the robbery, beforehand I really felt it. I listened to the speech “The Strangest Secret” by Earl Nightingale on my 25th birthday about three years ago. Honestly when I heard it I didn’t even know what to do with it at first. After really listening to it a couple of times it motivated me. Because I make music I felt I had to be a vessel for it to get the word to other people. I felt it was so empowering to me that I would hope that other people could benefit from it as well. Part of what he was talking about was laws of the universe. That’s where the name and title came from.

TRHH: What about it was empowering to you?

dFresh: The fact that I personally felt that I was embodying some of what he was saying already. I felt as though I was reaping the benefits of some of what he was saying without consciously knowing what it was. My mother is a very positive person so I got a solid foundation of the glass is half full theory. I’ve always been someone that was positive. I felt like when Earl Nightingale was doing his speech I almost wasn’t hearing anything new. I felt like everything I heard was said to me in a different way one way or another. So if I’m already reaping these benefits from me living like this and me trying to live like this, what’s more self-empowering than knowing that you’ve already been living by it? I came from Delaware, I have no family in Massachusetts. I came up to go to school and I’ve been building off of that. You know about me losing my equipment and there has been other extremes that have happened while I was in school that I talk about on Universal Laws. There is always going to be some type of obstacle. Even with my stuff being taken I was still trying to do that and with me trying to do that I’m already reaping the benefits. There is nothing more self-empowering. I feel like a lot of other people might have been the same way even if it’s not 100% of their life — at one point in their life. That’s some of the stuff that will motivate you, knowing that you can do it and you’ve already been doing it.

TRHH: Tell me about the single, ‘The Strangest Secret’.

dFresh: Well the Universal Laws project itself will be a series. When you listen to the whole series through you’ll get the entire Earl Nightingale speech – well, you’ll get paraphrases of a large majority of the speech. It’s a half hour speech. Theoretically you’ll be able to listen to the whole speech all the way through. The Strangest Secret is really just to open it up. It’s to start it off. The song titles will have different reasons for their names. The first universal thing is the title, The Strangest Secret, it’s the opener.

TRHH: What’s it like working with GxWay?

dFresh: It’s phenomenal really. Me and him actually have our own personal relationship. He and I went to school together. When I started he was one of the people that I met the first year I was there. We pretty much built a relationship from there. We really didn’t know each other from a can of paint. He was actually doing graphic design, he wasn’t even doing audio. Our school wasn’t a predominantly black school. It was a Rock & Roll type school. One of the main genres a lot of people did was Rock & Roll so you end up gravitating to a lot of the Hip-Hop heads. Everyone also doesn’t live in the dorms. Me and him lived in the dorms so we’d see each other and say what’s up. I’m the type of person that’s more outgoing when I need to get to know people. I didn’t even know he made beats. One day I was walking by his dorm room and heard some beats. I’m a performer so when I heard the beats I didn’t even knock, I just opened the door and started spittin’ something. We just hit it off and started doing tracks. He went different places but we always found a way to bring it back. We’ve been working on this project for the past 2-3 years and it’s almost like it’s back to normal how we always used to work.

TRHH: You said that you wanted to make this project more east coast, what does that mean?

dFresh: I wanted to have a little more of a boom bap-ish type feel. That was a good vessel for me to do some solid conscious rap. I think greats like Talib Kweli and Mos Def are really good at doing conscious stuff on east coast beats. I have a song on there that’s a little more south. GxWay makes the beats and I give ideas on formats. He brings the pain on the beats. It’s the last song on the project and it’s sort of southern but it has a Wu-Tang type element to it.

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

dFresh: I wanna say my peers but just like when you asked about working with GxWay, there are compound stories underneath that. In my teenage years my friends were freestyling on radio. I’m mulatto, and on the white side of my family there are a handful of musicians. No one is famous in any way, shape, or form but they’re people that like to play music. My mom has 5 brothers and each one of them did something musically. One that didn’t do something musically did something technically with sound. It sort of in a way been in me. I remember as a kid me loving just to listen to music. Sometimes it wasn’t necessarily Hip-Hop, but I just loved to listen to music. I’d sing my own jingles to songs. When I was ten years old my father passed away from cancer and part of the way for me to deal with it was to vent through me writing a rap. I didn’t necessarily have to talk about him but I had to get out that emotion.

Honestly I never told anyone for 4-5 years. I showed a few of my friends my raps but it wasn’t anything crazy. When I was ten I felt that even if nothing came from me rapping, just me doing something musical and getting in the motion, even if a few people liked it, it wasn’t enough for me to not stop. It was free at the time, I was just rapping in my room so I didn’t see any harm in it. When I got to middle school to high school I heard a lot of the surrounding rappers in Delaware. A lot of Philly rappers were influential. Roc-A-Fella had a lot of artists at the time. Going to battles and listening to DJ Kay Slay influenced me. I can’t say my whole style is based off that but I can safely say there have been phases where I listened to that music enough and you sort of embody what you listen to. I’m not sure where I can safely say when somebody inspired me to rap but there were enough underlying influences — relative and environmental.

TRHH: What are your goals in the music business?

dFresh: I can’t put my finger on it but it’s a very weird fickle thing. If I set a goal to sell a million records and I don’t sell a million records am I a failure in the music industry? “I want to make sure I work with Jay-Z,” but if I don’t work with that person does that make me a failure? I feel like there are a lot of different avenues of success. I will say that I’m not trying to be mediocre. I’m trying to go 100% and then redefine what 100% is. I’m definitely trying to go as hard as possible. I don’t want to get caught up in “This is what I have to do,” or “I have to win this amount of Grammys,” because there have been plenty of greats that didn’t win Grammys. Does a Grammy determine your success? I can’t put a label on something that has so many different avenues of success. You can still be successful even if you only inspire someone to be the greatest. I don’t try to set too many goals but to make a living, clothe myself, and feed myself. I’m going to try to do the best I can but at the bare minimum if at least I can do that in some way, shape, or form I’m going to feel pretty good about it.

Download: dFresh – Universal Laws: Chapter 1

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DJ EFN: Another Time

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Photo courtesy of MAC Media

Photo courtesy of MAC Media

Miami mixtape pioneer DJ EFN dropped his first mixtape in 1993. It’s pretty remarkable to think that his first official album would not drop until 2015, but that’s what happened. This month DJ EFN and Crazy Hood Productions released “Another Time”, a full-length album that combines legendary emcees with some of the best and brightest from the new generation of rap – EFN designed it that way.

Another Time’s star-studded line-up includes Fashawn, Smif-N-Wessun, Inspectah Deck, M.O.P., MC Eiht, Sean Price, Buckwild, Your Old Droog, Royce da 5’9”, Scarface, Troy Ave, Ras Kass, Black Milk, Cormega, Redman, Masta Ace, Kurupt, Jon Connor, Blu, David Banner, DJ Premier, Juvenile, Joell Ortiz, and Talib Kweli to name a few.

The Real Hip-Hop chatted with DJ EFN regarding the Miami Hip-Hop scene, his legendary deejay career, his foray into filmmaking, and his new album, Another Time.

TRHH: Why’d you title the album ‘Another Time’?

DJ EFN: The era that I started pursuing music seriously was ’93 – that golden era, classic Hip-Hop era. It’s my favorite time so far of Hip-Hop music culturally and musically. It’s what basically inspired me to do stuff. I’m paying homage to that era, I’m paying homage to the mixtape career that I launched in ’93 which basically helped me pursue other avenues within entertainment and Hip-Hop. It’s just another time. This project is made with the morals from another time.

TRHH: Why do you think things changed from the way it was during the golden era?

DJ EFN: One of the first key factors for Hip-Hop that changed it, for good or for bad, is how big it got in terms of financial rewards – for companies, for individuals, for artists, for execs, whatever. If you’re someone from the late 80s, early 90s and you were a fan of the music you know there was a very limited fan base and these artists didn’t do it for a payoff. They were invested in the art form and just wanted respect for what they were doing. Whether it was emcees, B-Boy’s, or deejays, culturally you just wanted respect. It wasn’t really a financial gain. Once money was infused into the system it was positive in a lot of ways, but money is the root of all evil. It really took a lot out of the art and it brought in a lot of new people that didn’t care about the progression of the music, the art form, and maintaining certain values within it. The next phase of the problem is technology. Technology has impacted every type of art form, scene, and business. Technology has really had a hand in changing it after money was a big factor.

TRHH: Speaking of technology, you have a lot of artists on this album. How long did it take you to put this album together?

DJ EFN: It took me about six months, really.

TRHH: That’s not too bad.

DJ EFN: Nah, not bad at all.

TRHH: Tell me about the single ‘Lane 2 Lane’.

DJ EFN: It’s a special track because going back to my mixtape series and what I’m known for, what’s important for me on my mixtapes is to provide a quality and consistent mixtape first and foremost for Miami, where I’m from. I want to make sure I’m providing quality mixtapes for the local scene but with the same stuff that they were getting from mixtapes coming out of New York or wherever else. When we were getting those mixtapes people were repping other places because those mixtapes came from other places. It was always important to help promote the Miami identity and the Miami Hip-Hop scene and Lane 2 Lane is one of those tracks on this project that represents me making sure I promote Miami and the local scene. I’m giving you Gunplay who is a veteran but is new to a lot of people so he’s a newer veteran. He’s well respected locally. There is this new guy Denzel Curry who is doing a lot and he represents the youthful side of things and the whole new generation. I wanted to bring those two together and give you a real solid Miami track the way I would do it.

TRHH: What’s the Miami Hip-Hop scene like? I’m 38 so when I think of Miami I think of 2 Live Crew or now Rick Ross.

DJ EFN: Right. I’m 39 so we’re around the same age. I think a lot of cities have had this problem outside of L.A., Atlanta, New York, and maybe Chicago, but we’ve always been trying to fight to get heard and show what our city has to offer. A lot of people think Miami Hip-Hop started with Rick Ross and Pitbull. Although they’re very successful and those are my people, that’s not the case. I’m kind of like one of the last of the Mohicans from a scene that was small but thriving. We had a lot of people that came out of that scene that are important to Hip-Hop like DJ Craze who is like a 5-time World DMC Champion. We had an artist that got signed to Island Music called Mother Superia who ended up getting shelved. Her album that was about to come out had production from Redman, a feature from KRS-One, and her first video was directed by the GZA at the height of Wu-Tang. We had way more emcees than I’m mentioning. We had world renowned B-Boys and graffiti artists, too.

Something that happened that capped the era that I’m speaking of, I wrote an article about this for MTV, but when Mother Superia got shelved and that album never came out I feel like it closed the door on the scene that I’m from. Coming out of that scene you’ve got Trick Daddy and Ross. They aren’t necessarily from the scene that I’m talking about. They are Miami in their own right and have their own scene, but a new scene developed and people felt like that was the beginning of Miami Hip-Hop and that’s not the case. A lot of the first times that you heard Ross or Pitbull were on my mixtapes before anybody was playing them on radio. But I come from another scene so really the foundation of what these guys started from is from another scene altogether.

TRHH: What did it mean to you to get Premier and Buckwild on the project?

DJ EFN: To make it easy on myself and also to put on people locally, most of the production is handled by either friends, local producers that I’m cool with, or producers that I manage under my wing. That was purposely done because it was easier for me to deal with. I did want to have feature production that was just as much of a feature as an artist. Premier was always in my head. If I ever did a studio project I wanted to have Premier. Having Premier is like the pinnacle for any Hip-Hop head. I got Premier and what made that track really special was I asked him if he could cut up these vocals that I had from Guru. Guru hosted some mixtapes of mine and did freestyles for me. I asked Premier if he could cut up the vocals saying, “DJ EFN, Crazy Hood,” and Premier obliged. It was extremely special to me. If no one cared it was special to me and now that I have it it’s never going to go away. I have something really special that I can always refer to and that’s dope. It’s the closest thing to having a Gang Starr record.

I had finished the whole album and I was done but I hadn’t had that Buckwild record yet. I needed one more record and a vibe that I felt like was missing on the project. Me and Buckwild had communicated a lot in the past. He would send beats for other artists that I managed — I manage Mayday and Wrekonize who are signed to Tech N9ne. I had a folder of his and I found that beat. I asked if it was still available and he said it was – Boom, that’s where that record came from.

TRHH: Who spit your favorite verse on the album?

DJ EFN: Aw man I can’t pick one favorite verse [laughs]. I can tell you a couple of favorite verses, definitely Your Old Droog on the Buckwild record – he killed it. Redman is one of my favorite emcees of all-time, he murdered it for me. I hope this doesn’t sound like a diss but I was actually surprised by Stalley. He just murked the Premier record.

TRHH: Oh yeah, he can rhyme, man.

DJ EFN: I knew his stuff but I hadn’t really paid as much attention until I started looking into him and tried to get him on the track. What he returned to me was more than I even expected.

TRHH: With over 20 years in the game to what do you attribute your success?

DJ EFN: Personally I believe in consistency. In whatever you do, stay consistent. Even if times are tough for you and it’s hard to be consistent, whatever you’re putting out there be as consistent as you possibly can. Be consistent with product, quality, relationships in terms of the people you’re dealing with, and be honest too. I always tell people it’s nothing wrong with hustling but polite persistence is the best way to get things done. It’s hard for people to diss you when you’re being polite. Even though they want to because you’re being too persistent, but you’re being polite about it and respectful. People can’t diss you for that.

TRHH: What’s next up for Crazy Hood?

DJ EFN: I’m managing my artists Mayday and Wrekonize. They’re doing their album on Strange Music. We’re setting up their national tour and a Canadian tour – that’s big on the plate. I’m going to continue to promote this project because I’m very aware that we live in the internet age where stuff comes out and it’s gone in the ether. I’m going to continue to put it in people’s faces until it finds an audience that appreciates it. I know that I can’t stop because it’s tweeted out in the world. I’ll continue to promote it and do remixes and stuff.

Another big thing on my plate is I started a film company with a business partner of mine. It’s branched off from Crazy Hood Productions and it’s called Crazy Hood Film Academy. We have these film project that we’ve been putting out in a series that I came up with where we’re exploring different countries through their Hip-Hop scene. The first movie was Cuba, which is my parent’s homeland. It got picked up by Revolt TV. We just signed a licensing deal for the next two series’ which is Coming Home: Peru and Coming Home: Haiti. They’ll air in March and in May. We have short films too. One of our short films just got picked up by Cannes Film Festival in France. We’ll continue to push the envelope on the film side. It’s completely new to me. I don’t consider myself a filmmaker but I have ideas and visions and I’m going to execute them the best as possible. If people like them, cool, that’s dope.

Purchase: DJ EFN – Another Time

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Mega Ran & Storyville: Soul Veggies

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Photo courtesy of Brick Records

Photo courtesy of Brick Records

The days of rap duos are seemingly dead. The early 80s meteoric success of Run-DMC spawned acts like EPMD, Salt-N-Pepa, De La Soul, and Mobb Deep to name a few. For whatever reason (ego, greed, and/or divisive record companies) Hip-Hop has been all about the soloist in recent years, but that trend appears to be changing.

Philadelphia raised artists Mega Ran and Storyville have joined forces under the banner of “Soul Veggies”. The group’s new album of the same name is a carefree project that harkens back to the days when Hip-Hop was fun.

Soul Veggies features appearances by Wise Intelligent, Russel Tate, Laura Zahn, D.O.E. Boy, and PT Starks. The album is produced by Small Professor, Wann Sklobi, DJ Seedless, Mike Paris, The Cymatiks, Kid Icki, Lost Perception, The Symphony and Storyville himself.

Mega Ran and Storyville spoke to The Real Hip-Hop about the formation of their group, the importance of being funny on the microphone, and their new album, Soul Veggies.

TRHH: How’d you guys link up to do this album?

Mega Ran: We’ve been linked up for a long time, actually. We’ve known each other for ten years. We’re both from Philly. We were in a rap crew together – RAHM Nation. We met through a guy named Ohene, a dope artist who was also a teacher at a Hip-Hop class at Temple. The class was kind of a talent scouting operation. When he found out we were dope and doing some cool stuff he would link us all up. I met a lot of the guys that I still work with today through that union. That was back in like ’04 in Philly. We started working on my first record together. I knew Storyville could rhyme but I didn’t know he could produce or do other stuff. Turns out the dude is like a multi-talented, multi-faceted cat. We continued to make more and more music from there. He produced one of my favorite songs from the first album, a song called ‘Push’. From there we just kept on working and built a great relationship. I moved to Phoenix a few years later and he moved to Boston but we still maintain contact and hit the road when we can. I figured it was just time. Maybe three years ago we started working on this record. Every time I’d come home to Philly to visit we’d record a song. It was one song after another until we had an album. Next thing you know it was ready so we just put it out, but it was literally three years in the making — maybe ten years in the making actually, but at least three.

TRHH: What does the title “Soul Veggies” mean?

Storyville: Soul Veggies mixes the two ideas behind the record which is that it’s an organic record with a lot of heart in it, that’s the soul. The veggies is like, we’re not taking ourselves too seriously. Yes, it’s vegetables for the soul but we’re not taking ourselves too seriously. It’s primarily a fun record. Also we both like to play video games so when you play video games you’re vegging out.

Mega Ran: Absolutely. It’s the combination of just making organic music from the heart and soul and vegging out on pop culture, TV, video games, or whatever it might be.

TRHH: The video for ‘React‘ is incredible, who came up with the concept?

Storyville: It was Cardoza, wasn’t it?

Mega Ran: I think it was the director Mike Cardoza. We had a bunch of different ideas but his ideas took it over the top. He was like, “Yo, I want some gangster Reservoir Dogs style thing,” and I was like, “Perfect, that’s one of my favorite movies.” Any time I get to put a suit on I’m down with it. It was a fun record. I wanted to make sure we had some scenes of B-Boy’s but he crafted the story around that. It was super dope, man. A lot of people say it’s like Beastie Boys’ ‘Sabotage’ style where it’s a chase and an old Dragnet style thing. The director Mike Cardoza who also produced and directed my documentary did that and he did a great job. He really knocked it out the park. I love coming to people with a concept and have them taking the concept to another level rather than them saying, “Yeah, yeah, I’ll do that.” He truly directed that video. He had a great idea and executed it to perfection.

TRHH: Is injecting humor into your music premeditated or does it just come out naturally?

Storyville: [Laughs] That’s a good question. It depends on the song. Ran and I both come from the freestyle era where people come straight off the top. A freestyle didn’t mean a written that didn’t belong anywhere, it meant improvised. We both incorporate a lot of that into our writing styles so a lot of the humor is sometimes goofy. There is a rap where I say, “You ever throw metal into a microwave/Well it’s worse with plutonium.” I was just saying random stuff out loud and it worked itself into the rap. The concepts a lot of times are premeditated so it’s both.

Mega Ran: I had to learn that through the years. I think working with Storyville helped that. I came from an era in the early 90s where a lot of Hip-Hop was hard. It was Timberland boots, skully’s and hoodies and it was hard. It was cold hard rap. It took me a while to be able to accept that I like to laugh and I like fun stuff. Why can’t I put that in the music? It started to come naturally. It was more or less trying to live up to the name that I’ve given myself, which is “Random”. I attempted to be unpredictable on the microphone and then it just started to come natural.

TRHH: What inspired the song ‘Rappin’ About Rappin’’? I’ve noticed a lot of backlash in recent years aimed toward rapping about rap, but I’m a fan of it. It’s what I was raised on.

Mega Ran: Me too! I love it. I hope people get this and I’m glad you asked, but we’re poking fun at ourselves. We’re from the school of old where it’s all about rapping about how dope you are. Unfortunately a lot of guys do it and you can almost tell that they aren’t necessarily the most talented at it if they spend a little too much time doing. Homeboy Sandman comes to mind – an incredible emcee who never raps about how awesome he is. It can happen and you can still see how great you are by just saying how silly you are, how you watch a lot of TV, or your last girlfriend broke up with you because you didn’t eat healthy or something like that. I came from that school so we’re just kind of poking fun at ourselves and the movement that we came from. A lot of guys continue to do it, but not a lot of guys are doing it at a high level. Story has a line that says, “My lyrics are lyrical/I deliver them like delivery.” [Laughs] These are the things that might come out when somebody is trying to flex so hard that they might neglect a pattern or a style instead of repeating the same word over and over again.

Storyville: With Rappin’ About Rappin’ it was originally making fun of that very hard backpacker movement, which is also the movement that I came from. If you check the track listing you’ll see that Rappin’ About Rappin’ comes right after ‘Artillery’, which is a rap about rapping. We’re definitely making fun of ourselves. The beat that I had in mind was also a trap beat so it’s also making fun of that, “I’m swaggy because I’m swaggy.” There is so much restatement of everything in Hip-Hop that you might as well be saying, “My lyrics are lyrical, son.” [Laughs] Okay but maybe let’s rap about something too. We can find a balance.

Mega Ran: It’s all about the balance. Like he said the track listing defines that because the song before we’re just rapping. So we’re just rapping about rapping and then there is a song called Rappin’ About Rappin’! The irony of it is what’s supposed to catch people.

TRHH: Will there be a sequel to Soul Veggies?

Storyville: Oh Gosh, it’s too early to say that. First of all there’s been prequels already and there will be sequels in a sense that Ran and I have been working on music together for ten years already now. Every time Ran does a project I’m involved and I wanna be involved. I’m going to give an effort to be as involved as possible. So on that level, yes, absolutely. Now will there be a Soul Veggies 2? I don’t know.

Mega Ran: Time will tell and in pop culture if the people want it bad enough it’ll happen. Spider-Man is now part of the Marvel Universe and is going to be a part of the next couple Marvel movies. We didn’t think that was possible because Sony owns Spider-Man, but if enough people want it it’ll happen. Honestly the people out there that are reading this you can decide if there will be a Soul Veggies 2 by speaking with your hearts and wallets and telling a friend of course. If y’all like it and if y’all want more you’ll definitely get more. Like Story said, he’s on every one of my projects. You could take every piece of every song that we’ve done and it would be like Soul Veggies 0.5. It’s very possible.

Storyville: Or order The Veggie Platter mixtape.

Mega Ran: That’s right.

Purchase: Mega Ran & Storyville – Soul Veggies

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Nutso: Divided Soul

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Photo courtesy of J. Segura

Photo courtesy of J. Segura

Queens emcee Nutso recently released a 7-track EP titled “Divided Soul”. The project takes a look at the duality of man, but from a street perspective. Released on Nutso’s very own #NoLabelJustUS record label, Divided Soul features appearances by General Steele, Rasheed Chappell, Dynasty the Prince, K-Major, Blacastan, DJ SupaDave, and Trae the Truth. The EP is produced by Divided Souls & DJ Pain 1.

The Real Hip-Hop spoke to Nutso about joining forces with Divided Souls Ent., the #NoLabelJustUS record label, and his new EP, Divided Soul.

TRHH: Why’d you title the new EP Divided Soul?

Nutso: Let me tell you man, I had to differentiate the good and the evil – the evil and the evilness. I had to switch it up. You already know, man. The devil and the angel. If you look at all the artwork for this release, it’s based on the Da Vinci Code type of hidden coding and the fight between science and religion so I twisted it and made it my fight with my good side and bad side. We all have it inside us and plus it’s a play off the producers name so it all came together pretty nicely.​

TRHH: How’d you link up with Divided Souls Entertainment?

Nutso: What happened was​ we linked up via the internet and Spank and my partner Mills have been working together for some time now via music distribution and the idea came up to do an EP with them as we’ve been releasing EP’s consistently with one producer for some time, and their beats are dope as hell so we all got together and agreed and voila, it’s finally here. Divided Souls Ent. & DJ Pain 1 are known for their work with many artists such as Scarface, Ludacris, G-Unit, Rick Ross, and so many more. It’s an honor to be a part of that group of names.

TRHH: The EP has a classic East Coast sound but the single ‘Block Boy’ has a down south vibe. How’d that song come together?

Nutso: Oh yeah! This what happened, man, I came out and did 4-to-6 projects over the last 2-3 years. I collaborated with producers from overseas and from the East Coast. I did a mixtape with Nik Bean and DJ Skee from the West Coast titled ‘Western Union‘ that later became an EP. It featured Game, E-40, Kurupt, Glasses Malone, and Psycho Realm from Cypress Hill. We switched it up and brought it to the West. We been doing the boom bap and keeping that East Coast shit hard but we hollered at producers like, “Who else got beats in the stash?” We switched it up. Divided Souls Ent. & DJ Pain 1 are producers from the South and it wasn’t about doing the trap beats and all of that. They hit me with like 20 beats and it was only a chosen few I picked. When I did Block Boy I got family down south saying, “Yo Nut, we love to hear you on that trap shit even though you do that boom bap hardcore shit.” I just had to switch it up on them fools for the non-believers, but I gotta get creative when it comes to me. I do good music — never stay in a box. We are here to have fun doing music and be creative so that isn’t a trap beat or down south song, it’s a Hip-Hop record! ​

TRHH: What differentiates a Queens emcee from an emcee from Brooklyn, Staten Island, or the Bronx?

Nutso: Nuttin’ really, man. It’s how you grow up – your environment. If you come from the burbs or from the gutter you gonna hear it in the lyrics. If a nigga frontin’ on his style and his whole motive they gonna pull your file at the end of the day. I made it this far and people know who I am. I’m a storyteller from the streets and people know who I am.

TRHH: What inspired the song ‘Hustler’s Spirit’?

Nutso: Aw, man. I’m a Texas fan as it is from UGK to all the above, rest in peace Pimp C. Once I heard Trae I was like, “That’s that shit from the South when Outkast, T.I. and Jeezy and them was coming out!” Once I heard Trae, he’s an up and coming artist like me – he’s signed but I’m unsigned – it was a perfect collaboration.

TRHH: Is #NoLabelJustUS actually a record label?

Nutso: It actually is, man. It’s an independent company consisting of Ron Mills, Mike Duse, myself, and producer Domingo. Domingo fucked with Pun, the greatest, G Rap, you name it. That’s the team. We’re trying to broadcast that live. That hash tag is major right now.

TRHH: What’s next up for Nutso?

Nutso: We got the EP available worldwide. It’s everywhere digitally. We got the physical copies on fatbeats.com, amazon.com, and undergroundhphop.com. The Block Boy video is out and the next thing we’re working on is deciding the next single. This is an exclusive, I’m working on an album with our partner and producer Domingo titled #REDSunday. After Divided Soul coming off the spring going into the summer we gon’ come out with another one. It’s going to be an all-Queens album. I already got verses from Prodigy, Cormega, Kool G Rap, and Royal Flush. That’s in the mix right now. We just wanna let heads know we on it. Go to my music shop nutsoppm.bandcamp.com and stay in tune on nutsoppm.com, and the rest is history, man. We have a long discography available online and a few mixtapes as well on soundcloud.com/nutsoppm so subscribe and walk with the team, #NoLabelJustUs.

Purchase: Nutso – Divided Soul

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Kenn Starr: Square One

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Photo courtesy of MAC Media

Photo courtesy of MAC Media

DMV area emcee Kenn Starr dropped his debut album, Starr Status in 2006. Since then Starr has released a couple of mixtapes but has remained relatively low key – until now. Kenn Starr signed with the Mello Music Group label and kicked off 2015 with the release of his sophomore album, Square One.

Square One is produced by Kev Brown, Kaimbr, Roddy Rod, 14KT, and Black Milk. The album features appearances by Hassaan Mackey, yU, Sean Born, Kaimbr, Wordsworth, Supastition, Melanie Rutherford, and Boog Brown.

Kenn Starr spoke to The Real Hip-Hop about his hiatus from the rap world, joining Mello Music Group, and his new album, Square One.

TRHH: Explain the title of the new album, Square One.

Kenn Starr: Square One is very literal, man. When I first got down with Mello Music Group we kind of had some different ideas for a project to put out. It kind of went through some different phases. At one point I ended up scrapping what I had and scaled back and started my official next solo project. I just took it from scratch and went back in so, square one.

TRHH: How did you wind up doing the deal Mello Music Group?

Kenn Starr: Shout out to my man Oddisee. Oddisee was the connect on that. Mello was already familiar with my music but my man Oddisee helped facilitate that.

TRHH: Why was there over an 8-year gap between your first and second albums?

Kenn Starr: ‘Cause life will humble you [laughs]. With my first album and all the excitement surrounding that I just kind of got caught up chasing the rap dream. Life kicked in and I had to settle in and get myself together. During that time the label I was on folded so I was looking for a new place to call home. Once I did get back in the mix it was a couple of false starts and the next thing you know you look up and it’s been 8-9 years – it’s crazy. I feel so fortunate to have an opportunity because that’s a lifetime in today’s Hip-Hop time.

TRHH: How is this album different from Starr Status?

Kenn Starr: If anything I would say it’s a direct continuation of Starr Status. Creatively I try not to overextend myself. I try to be the artist that people have come to know me for – a regular cat that enjoys putting out dope rhymes over dope beats, speaking on my own everyday man experiences, and getting busy with the 1,2 thing. I think the new album shows a more well-rounded individual. I have a little more life experience and maturity now and I think that comes through on some of the records. It’s definitely on par with what people came to love about Starr Status. It’s the updated version.

TRHH: Tell me about the single ‘Say Goodbye’.

Kenn Starr: Say Goodbye is a reintroduction of Kenn Starr as an artist. I’m speaking on what people know me to be as an artist, where I’m at, and the evolution that got me to that point. Just “Say goodbye to the guy that you’re used to,” this is new and improved.

TRHH: Black Milk did a few joints on the album, how’d y’all hook up?

Kenn Starr: The Black Milk production was facilitated through Mello Music Group. I didn’t get a chance to actually collab with him in person in the studio. I’m hoping that can happen at some point in the future.

TRHH: Is your verse on the song ‘Exodus’ based on a true story?

Kenn Starr: It’s based on aspects of different true stories [laughs]. When I go back and listen to records on my first album they’re very cringe-worthy. I kind of made a deal with myself that I would never dedicate a song to someone in particular. It’s too much energy to give somebody, especially with the more relationship-themed records. It’s usually coming from a general stance or a combination of maybe a couple of my different experiences or folks I know that went through different things.

TRHH: What’s your writing process like? Do you write to the beat or when you’re inspired by something?

Kenn Starr: Actually my writing process has changed a lot with the project that I just finished up. I used to write the rhymes beforehand and seek out the right production and the right fit. More so recently I’ve been getting into a more organic flow, kind of letting the music speak to me and seeing how I wanna approach the record. It’s such a long process, man. I’m notoriously slow with putting my stuff together. I figured a dope angle to take would be to let it be more organic.

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

Kenn Starr: I’m just working on consistent output. Now that I’m back I wanna hit the ground running and keep giving people product. I got a couple of projects in the works but nothing I wanna start promoting too fast. Really it’s all about Square One right now. I wanna see what the feedback is like and just try to focus on that and enjoy this moment of finally being back. Hopefully the listeners will want more from me. So far the consensus has been, “Don’t wait another nine years,” so I’m trying to make sure that doesn’t happen.

TRHH: Why should fans cop Square One?

Kenn Starr: Just ‘cause it’s dope Hip-Hop, man. It’s not something that you gotta think about or overanalyze. It’s just some dope beats and dope rhymes and if that’s something you can appreciate I think it’ll be a good fit for the collection. My motto is “All rappity-rap everything”. We’ve gotten to a point where you almost get shamed for being big on lyricism. Bump that! We’re back on that. That era is coming back, man.

TRHH: No doubt! I’m happy to hear that, goddamn!

Kenn Starr: [Laughs] We’re in a deficit right now. I’m just trying to do my lil’ part.

Purchase: Kenn Starr – Square One

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K-Hill: Truck Jewels & Filters

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Photo courtesy of Jon "J Water" Mullins

Photo courtesy of Jon “J Water” Mullins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TRHH: What beat-making equipment do you use?

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

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

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

TRHH: Why was every song remixed on this project?

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

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

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

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

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

TRHH: What’s next up for K-Hill?

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

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

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Sadat X: Never Left

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Photo courtesy of Tito G

Photo courtesy of Tito G

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TRHH: It seems kind of different for you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sadat X: Everything is Everything.

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

Sadat X: Yes.

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

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

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

Sadat X: Cool.

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

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

TRHH: Will we ever hear another Brand Nubian album?

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

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

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

Purchase: Sadat X – Never Left

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Anti-Lilly & Envy Hunter: REdefinition

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Photo courtesy of Grant Tucker

Photo courtesy of Grant Tucker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anti-Lilly: Yeah, most definitely.

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

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

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

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

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

TRHH: Tell me about the single ‘Gibberish’.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Envy Hunter: Yeah.

TRHH: Will we hear a sequel to REdefinition?

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

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

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

Purchase: Anti-Lilly & Envy Hunter – REdefinition

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A Conversation with Easy Mo Bee

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Photo courtesy of SLAMJamz

Photo courtesy of SLAMJamz

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

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

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

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

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

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

TRHH: How did you wind up with SLAMJamz?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Termanology: Shut Up and Rap

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Photo courtesy of Termanology

Photo courtesy of Termanology

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TRHH: What sparked the Good Dad Gang movement?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Purchase: Termanology – Shut Up and Rap

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