Edo.G: After All These Years

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Photo courtesy of Myster DL

Photo courtesy of Myster DL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Purchase: Edo.G – After All These Years

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Rhymefest on AAHH! Fest

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Photo courtesy of Rhymefest

Photo courtesy of Rhymefest

This past weekend the first annual AAHH! Fest took place at Union Park in Chicago. The event featured an all-star lineup that was headlined by the festivals founder, Common. Other performers included Lupe Fiasco, Twista, Dave Chappelle, Jennifer Hudson, MC Lyte, De La Soul, Jay Electronica, SZA, Lil Herb, Damon Williams, and a special surprise performance by the one and only Kanye West.

Prior to the heavyweights taking the stage courtesy of the Common Ground Foundation, the 2014 AAHH! Fest featured a Community Stage that showcased aspiring young talent from music and arts programs throughout Chicago. The event was highlighted by a special performance from Diggy Simmons and was hosted by Chicago’s very own Rhymefest.

Rhymefest has been hands on with cultivating the talents of young artists in Chicago through his role as the Creative Director at Donda’s House. Along with Donda’s House founder, Kanye West, Rhymefest curated the “Got Bars” program – a program that allows young people to have a creative outlet and equips them with the tools to reach their potential.

The Real Hip-Hop spoke to Rhymefest during the event about his role at Donda’s House, his upcoming album, and the 2014 AAHH! Fest.

TRHH: Talk a little about your experience at The Community Stage.

Rhymefest: It’s legendary. Bringing arts, curriculum, and opportunity to young people who otherwise may not have had it – and it being brought by people who have experienced the best of it, the worst of it, and are teaching through giving. Being of service and not self-serving – I mean, it’s a beautiful thing.

TRHH: How has your work at Donda’s House helped you become a better human being?

Rhymefest: It’s taught me patience. It’s taught me about the human condition. It’s taught me about what’s necessary and what’s needed and it’s not only jobs. It ain’t only money, its validation, being listened to, and information. We suffer from the lack of information. My experience at Donda’s House has really taught me how to be a better organizer and leader.

TRHH: Early on you were vocal against the Drill movement in Chicago. After working with so many young people at Donda’s House what do you think is the best way to approach the youth and guide them in a more positive direction musically and personally?

Rhymefest: To correct it, I haven’t been against Drill music. I’ve been against glorification of killing. I’ve been against glorification of self-destructive behavior and fratricide. How can you not be against that? Anybody of moral conscience how can you not be against that? Example is the best way to guide young people. To go back to the lack of information, give them information and be an example of how that information and application is successful. What we did was go around the city and collaborate with 21 different community organizations, do open mics, and get young people involved. They all got to perform today on stage – the same stage with Jennifer Hudson, Common, Kanye. This is life changing for a lot of young people. If somebody could have grabbed Chief Keef or whoever before they went down a road and put ‘em on a stage like this we might have a whole ‘nother dynamic.

TRHH: Can you give us some insight into the Violence is Sexy album?

Rhymefest: Violence is Sexy is put on hold. It’s a new project coming. I changed the name and the direction of the album. That information is going to be released next month.

TRHH: What will you take away from the AAHH! Fest and what should the fans walk away with tonight?

Rhymefest: I think what I’m going to take away with what’s been happening today is anything you’re consistent with, you put your mind on, no matter what is said — hate or whatever, can be done. Anything that you collaborate and work with others and are consistent with, we can make it work if we work together. Collectivity is the key, that’s what I’m taking away. Lupe, Kanye, Common, this is the first time all of the legendary Chicago rappers are going to be together in one place. The first time ever – including Rhymefest. What people should take away is Hip-Hop has a bad rap, Chicago has an image problem, and today young, old, middle-aged, we all came together in the name of good music and community. And this can be done over and over. This is not the exception, this is the standard.

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A Conversation with Dinco D

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Photo courtesy of Jessica Glick

Photo courtesy of Jessica Glick

In 1991 a group called Leaders of the New School burst onto the scene with a colorful and energetic presence that had never been seen before in Hip-Hop. Charlie Brown, Busta Rhymes, and Dinco D each had completely different rhyme styles that managed to mesh together perfectly to create the Leaders sound.

The group released two albums, 1991s ‘A Future Without a Past…’ and 1993s ‘T.I.M.E.’, but are most known for their appearance on A Tribe Called Quest’s classic single ‘Scenario’. The group disbanded due to internal conflicts, but each emcee maintained their presence in Hip-Hop.

One member of Leaders in particular, Dinco D, left his imprint on 2014 with the Dinco De Mayo mixtape. Dinco’s latest release is a collaboration with Brooklyn rock band Shinobi Ninja called ‘MeUWe’.

Dinco D spoke to The Real Hip-Hop about his start in the rap game, the breakup of Leaders of the New School, his current projects, and the possibilities of a Leaders reunion.

TRHH: Take me back to the very beginning. How did you start emceeing?

Dinco D: My brother had a local crew that had a DJ set. I used to bring records to him. I watched him coming up and picked it up on my own from there.

TRHH: How’d you link up with the other guys in Leaders?

Dinco D: We grew up together from elementary. Brown grew up three blocks from me. I went to school with his sisters. They were in my grade, Brown was a grade ahead of me, and Busta lived across town. I was doing stuff on my own and Brown seen me one day through a mutual friend and we connected since then.

TRHH: What role did Public Enemy have in your early career?

Dinco D: Public Enemy gave us our first big show. We opened up for them at a show in like ’88. It was our first big show out in Baltimore. Chuck D was like our tutor or our professor. He spoke to us about the music business, the industry, building a group, and he gave us the name Leaders of the New School. He gave Busta Rhymes his name and he gave Charlie Brown his name too – I just kept my name.

TRHH: The first album had a couple of hits on it. What was the group’s mentality going into Future Without a Past?

Dinco D: We was still in school so we wanted to make it relatable. We tried to keep the idea and the concept of the whole school thing. We all had samples. I used to have a lot of samples from my father’s record collection and we used a lot of those samples for the album.

TRHH: Let’s talk about the Tribe record ‘Scenario’. How did that song come about, and did you think it would be as big as it became?

Dinco D: We was both doing our thing around that time ‘cause we had been coming out doing shows. Finally at the same time when both of us was out we connected. Tip had talked about doing a song, everybody pushed it and we went over there and did it. We had did like four songs. It was different people on that song. Dres from Black Sheep was on there, Chris Lighty was on a version, De La Soul was on a version, Jarobi – we did like 3-4 versions. Finally we decided to narrow it down to us four and by the time we went into the studio to do the final version we knew it was a hit when we finished the record. Everybody did their verse right there. We went one-by-one and when everybody came out from doing their verse it was cheers.

TRHH: Do you think that’s the greatest posse song ever?

Dinco D: Yeah, it’s one of the best, man.

TRHH: I really like the remix, too.

Dinco D: It’s the only record where the original and the remix was played like it was both singles.

TRHH: I saw you guys perform on the Public Enemy tour with Tribe back in ’91 with some heavy acts like Geto Boys, Naughty by Nature, Jazzy and Jeff and the Fresh Prince, Latifah…

Dinco D: MC Lyte, yeah. It was different regions. We were on the Midwest dates of the tour. We didn’t do the West Coast dates, but we were on most of the dates for that tour.

TRHH: I remember you guys got almost no stage time. It was like two songs and y’all was out…

Dinco D: Yeah, it was about three songs.

TRHH: That’s crazy because Low End Theory was like the hottest record at the time. What was it like being on that tour with so many established acts?

Dinco D: It was a powerful tour. It was like 8 groups on that tour. It was fun. Some dates we would get a little extra time or we would catch the right crowd because we went on pretty early. Most of the dates we caught it was a real good tour.

TRHH: Dante Ross said on a podcast that the second album T.I.M.E. was wack. Was the chemistry off with you guys on that record and do you view it as being wack?

Dinco D: Hell no! That album is powerful. That was a classic album. Dante Ross really didn’t have too much to do with that album so he was a little upset. If he don’t have his hands in something he don’t really like to talk about it. We wasn’t really getting along with Dante Ross because they were doing a lot of shady stuff up at the label and he was involved in it. That album was classic, man. By that time we were so lyrically aggressive. The first album was a concept album and now that we’d proved ourselves we wanted the freedom to do what we do and lyrically go at it. It was a competitive album. It was lyrically dope and we were all at our prime in lyrical skills.

TRHH: You produced the song ‘What’s Next’ on that album, right?

Dinco D: Yes, yes.

TRHH: That song is incredible. I still bump that to this day.

Dinco D: Yo, peace.

TRHH: No doubt. Give us the story behind creating that song.

Dinco D: I was the first one to have an S950 and get my equipment at the crib. When we was traveling I used to buy records, come back, and work on stuff. When I found that sample I was like, “This is the song, I got it!” I went and made it at the crib upstairs in my house. We all had one song that we wanted to produce. We had different producers for the album but that was my song. I found that sample and I added on stuff. Brown helped me formulate some of the pieces with it. It was just a dope song. Nobody can deny that. That’s a dope record.

TRHH: On the outside looking in it seemed like Charlie Brown was the culprit in the split of the group, but I’ve read interviews with you that made it seem like Busta was responsible. To set the record straight, what’s the real story of the breakup of Leaders?

Dinco D: You know what, everybody had their part to do with it, man. The main part was the outside part. It was Dante Ross. Dante Ross was a part of the split-up, Lyor Cohen, and our management. There was a chance for Busta to stand his ground and tie it together where he could still do his solo thing and we could still make Leaders albums. Outside forces really worked on the split-up. He took it — ain’t nothing wrong with that. That just led to a wider crack opening the crack up for other things.

TRHH: Recently Dame Dash said that Lyor Cohen was a culture vulture…

Dinco D: Yeah! [Laughs] Listen, he was a part in breaking up a lot of groups.

TRHH: Why would he do that? How does that benefit Lyor?

Dinco D: You gotta understand Dante Ross and Lyor Cohen are outside dudes and they’re controlling stuff. They don’t really care about groups and the essence of it as long as they got a hand in it and they’re controlling something.

TRHH: So it’s basically about how they can get rich off of it.

Dinco D: Yeah, exactly. They take the key element out, or what’s hot right now and get rich off of it.

TRHH: I saw you perform on the Hip Hop Gods tour a few years ago. What was that experience like for you?

Dinco D: That was dope, man. That was dope. Brown was actually supposed to come out on that tour with me, but at the last minute he got sick and couldn’t make it. I had to handle that whole tour by myself. I had to change my show and do different stuff. It was a great experience though. I stepped up and handled that and it benefited.

TRHH: How did you wind up working with The Bigg East?

Dinco D: One of the dudes is my barber, he live in my house. The other dude is his cousin. I met them when I moved back to Long Island after moving from Atlanta. That’s how I connected with them cats.

TRHH: So you’re back in New York?

Dinco D: Back in New York. I’ve been back in New York for a couple years now. I was in Atlanta and Connecticut for a minute.

TRHH: What led you back to New York?

Dinco D: The music was changing down there. A lot of the business I was doing there was a whole different game from when I first went down there in ’96. I first moved down there in ’96 and then I moved back, but it changed to a whole different game.

TRHH: What’s next up for Dinco?

Dinco D: Right now I’m working on building some tours. I’m working with Chuck and the Bomb Squad on some more Hip Hop Gods stuff. I got some stuff coming with some other cats – The Bigg East. I’m working on an album with different bands. I got a single coming out that’s going to be crazy with Shinobi Ninja. I got a lot of projects. I’m just keeping busy and entertaining and making sure I leave a mark of some new stuff to give them an idea, man.

TRHH: Is there any truth to the rumors that there will be a Leaders reunion?

Dinco D: We talk about it. I talk to Busta here and there. It’s going to have to be up to him to step outside of his box and what he’s doing and make time for it. He talks about it, we’ve talked about it, so we’ll see, man.

Download: Dinco D – Dinco De Mayo

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Hilltop Hoods: Walking Under Stars

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Photo courtesy of MAC Media Promo

Photo courtesy of MAC Media Promo

This past Labor Day weekend Chicago’s North Coast Music Festival played host to some of the brightest stars in electronic dance music, but it was Hip-Hop and its rebellious spirit that will remain in the brains of Windy City concertgoers.

Raucous performances by the likes of Action Bronson, Talib Kweli, and Riff Raff entertained festivalgoers, and show stealing sets by headliners Kid Cudi, and Snoop Dogg capped off the weekend’s events.

Performing to a late arriving yet enthusiastic crowd Southern Australian trio Hilltop Hoods made new fans during their hour-long set in Chicago’s sweltering heat. New to America, but not new to the music business the Hoods are comprised of Suffa, MC Pressure, and DJ Debris.

The group recently released its seventh studio album, Walking Under Stars. The album features appearances by Maverick Sabre, Drapht, Aaradhna, Dan Sultan, and Brother Ali. In support of the album Hilltop Hoods are touring North America to expose this part of the globe to their brand of Hip-Hop.

The Real Hip-Hop spoke to Hilltop Hoods about their performance at the North Coast Music Festival, exposing American fans to their music, and their new album, Walking Under Stars.

TRHH: What’s it mean to you guys to perform at the North Coast Music Festival?

MC Pressure: North Coast Festival is an amazing opportunity for us. It’s our first time in Chicago so it means that we’re like fresh meat in front of an audience that don’t know who the fuck we are. It’s like starting all over again for us. We get to go out there, prove ourselves, have a lot of fun, meet new people, meet with our fan base, and connect with people we’ve never played in front of before, so it’s huge for us to be able to play this festival.

TRHH: How do you feel your set went?

Suffa: It was okay. We were early and we weren’t expecting anything. That’s the key when it comes to stuff like that. It was hot, but by the end we had a crowd and they were rocking with us. We enjoyed it.

MC Pressure: It’s kind of interesting to watch people’s faces. They kind of walk up with not much expectation and by the end of it those same people are kind of getting into it. That’s the reward for us.

TRHH: How is it different performing in the States versus performing in Australia?

Suffa: We’ve been doing it for a long time back home and we’re established. If we play a festival set like that back in Australia we’re usually on a headline spot so we’re playing to 10-20,000 people. You adjust your mindset and you’re playing to a few hundred, but we try to give the same set wherever we go regardless. If it’s 200 people or 20,000 we try to give the exact same energy. Your sun doesn’t help though [laughs].

MC Pressure: I thought the “C” in Chicago was meant to be fucking cold! You’re a bunch of liars. TV has lied to me [laughs].

TRHH: [Laughs] Hey, it’s the summer time, it’s going to be hot. Explain the title of the new album ‘Walking Under Stars’.

Suffa: This is part two of a set of albums we’ve done. We did ‘Drinking from the Sun’ in 2012 and this is the second record in the set of two. Drinking from the Sun was about Hip Hop in our country coming to the surface and becoming popular. Walking Under Stars is sort of like a celebration of that a little bit.

TRHH: What inspired the single ‘Won’t Let You Down’?

Suffa: Wifey [klaughs]. That’s a song about our partners. We were working with Maverick Sabre who has such a soulful voice and it lends itself to that sort of song. Wifey is a big fan of Maverick as well so it’s almost a gift to her as well getting one of her favorite singers on a track dedicated to her.

TRHH: The video was crazy! Who came up with that?

Suffa: [Laughs] I wrote most of our video treatments. There were a lot of people confused on Twitter, Facebook, and the Youtube comments and everything. I said it on Twitter and I mean it, I’d rather confuse you than bore you.

MC Pressure: Some people were just outright angry with the confusion that it caused saying, “I fucking hate this video ‘cause I don’t get it! It’s dope, but I don’t get it! Fuck you!”

Suffa: It polarized people. Some people were like, “I fuckin’ love it, this is really different.”

TRHH: I liked it.

Suffa: Oh cool, thank you.

TRHH: How’d you wind up working with Brother Ali on ‘Live & Let Go’?

MC Pressure: I’ve been a big fan of Ali and so have the other boys. In the last ten years everything he’s dropped has been dope. I’m a big fan of pretty much most of the shit that the Rhymesayers camp puts out. Our manager touched bases with Ashanti, his manager and we ended up meeting up with him in New York. We were recording at the Red Bull Studios there so we ended up hanging out with him for a couple days, getting to know him, and recording the track. It was a really fucking good opportunity for us to make a track organically. It’s so easy with the internet these days to throw someone a 16 bar verse or a beat or whatever. It was really good to have the opportunity to sit in the studio. All of us wrote our raps in the studio the day that we recorded them together. We were all on the same page so I think it really helped with the whole vibe and authenticity of the song as well.

Suffa: We’re working through our favorite emcees — emcee by emcee. We’ve worked with Pharoahe, Black Thought, Chali 2na, and now Ali.

DJ Debris: It’s a bucket list.

TRHH: Who’s next?

Suffa: I don’t want to say in case they don’t want to work with us [laughs].

TRHH: You guys have been around for a while and are big in Australia, but how important is it for the group to make it big in the U.S.?

Suffa: It’s not. That sounds weird but we’re ambitious with music and we work hard and everything, but we don’t lay there at night going, “We’ve gotta make it, we’ve gotta make it.” We’re established back home, we’ve toured for years, we’ve bought our houses, we’ve got our families set up, so if we can get it popping over here it’s definitely a bonus and something we’d love, but as far as priorities go, our priorities are family and shit like that. Ambition goes down the page a bit.

MC Pressure: I think the bottom line is as long as we can make a living off of our music and be comfortable, that’s enough. We don’t have to be rich or the biggest. As long as we’re comfortable and we can make the music that we want to make, tour, and bring it to people – especially overseas. It’s a gift for us to be able to come over here and perform to several hundred people at a side show. Ten years ago I never would have dreamed that I could come to the States, the birthplace of Hip Hop, and be able to perform in front of 3-4-500 people at our own show. That’s a gift for us. It’s almost like a luxury.

Suffa: But if it does pop off then we’ll take that [laughs].

MC Pressure: Of course. I think that’s the best attitude to have. You can’t try to blow up. You just have to make the music that you’re feeling, be authentic, and make sure your music is you. If it happens, cool. That’s the only way to blow up. You can’t just aim to blow up. You come up fast and you disappear just as fast.

TRHH: What do you guys think of Iggy Azalea and how are people feeling her back home in Australia?

Suffa: She’s just as popular back home as she probably is here. She’s pretty big with the kids. To be honest I can’t comment on her because I’m outside that world. I’m listening to the new Roots album, Pharoahe’s P.T.S.D., and that type of music. I haven’t even heard her so I can’t comment on her. Most people consider her an American artist because she’s lived here for such a long time and she uses the American accent. It’s very much rap music rather than Hip-Hop.

MC Pressure: She’s a product of the American music industry and not the Australian industry. Obviously she was born in Australia, but her music comes from here. People don’t look at her like homegrown music.

Suffa: She’s successful; more power to her, fuck it.

TRHH: You guys are touring North America for all of September, what do you have in-store for fans that come and see your show?

DJ Debris: Hopefully less hot weather [laughs]. No, we’ve got a bunch of songs off the new album that we’re slowly introducing on this tour. We’ve got songs from our last album, what more can we say?

Suffa: We’ve got a live drummer Plutonic Lab. We’re just trying to bring energy. It’s exciting for us to be in a new territory so every time we come out we’re trying to bring as much energy as we can.

MC Pressure: It’s not even like a manufactured energy. We played in Minneapolis last night and I was like, “I hope someone walks up to this gig.” We had a few hundred people in there and that’s fucking amazing! That’s exciting to us.

DJ Debris: We played Madison and that was hype as shit.

MC Pressure: Pardon my ignorance but I didn’t even know where Madison was before we rocked up there in a bus. We rocked out at a show to a gang of motherfucker’s that knew our music. That’s a privilege.

TRHH: What’s next up for Hilltop Hoods?

Suffa: We go back to Australia. We’re doing our tour over there finally. We haven’t toured Australia for like two years so people at home are starting to get mad [laughs].

MC Pressure: They’re mad at us because we came to North America before we did home!

Suffa: It’s hot over here so we’re waiting for the Australian summer to tour probably. We’ll tour hard for the next year, hopefully be back here next year again and in Europe around July. We’re just going to hug the road really.

Purchase: Hilltop Hoods – Walking Under Stars

See Hilltop Hoods on tour:

9.05.14Bluebird Theater – DENVER

9.06.14The Aggie – FORT COLLINS

9.07.14Park City Live – PARK CITY

9.09.14The Roxy – LOS ANGELES

9.11.14Crocodile – SEATTLE

9.12.14Commodore – VANCOUVER

9.13.14Rifflandia Festival – VICTORIA

9.15.14Garfinkel’s – WHISTLER

9.16.14Wild Bill’s – BANFF

9.18.14 Dinwoodie – EDMONTON

9.19.14SAIT – CALGARY

9.20.14O’Brien’s Event Centre – SASKATOON

9.24.14Underworld – MONTREAL

9.25.14The Hoxton – TORONTO

9.27.14Brooklyn Bowl – NEW YORK

9.28.14Middle East – CAMBRIDGE

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Cormega: Mega Philosophy

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Photo courtesy of Vshootz

Photo courtesy of Vshootz

Veteran emcee Cormega is back with his first studio album in five years titled “Mega Philosophy”. The critically acclaimed release is classic Cormega with his “less is more” approach to emceeing that gives the listener food for thought in every verse.

The album’s first single ‘Industry’ finds Mega pulling back the curtain on the music business. The Queens emcee raps on Industry, “When Styles made ‘I Get High’ it was playing all day/When Styles made ‘I’m Black’ it didn’t get enough play/ I guess they got a problem with anything positive/It doesn’t make sense if it doesn’t bring dollars in.”

Mega Philosophy is produced entirely by one of rap music’s greatest producers, Large Professor and features an A+ cast of guest stars including Raekwon, Redman, Styles P, AZ, Maya Azucena, Chantelle Nandi, Nature, and Black Rob.

Cormega spoke to The Real Hip-Hop about working with Large Professor, his quest for positivity in his life and in his music, the recent protests in Ferguson, Missouri, and his new album, Mega Philosophy.

TRHH: Explain the title of your new album, ‘Mega Philosophy’.

Cormega: It’s not much to it. The title is basically a reflection of what the album is, which is a reflection of my thoughts on particular topics. It’s my ideologies and what I believe. It’s just an album full of my thoughts.

TRHH: Why’d you decide to have Large Professor produce the entire project?

Cormega: I mean, he’s Large Professor. That was an opportunity that was just worth it. I had to seize that opportunity.

TRHH: You say some real heavy stuff on the single ‘Industry’. Talk about what inspired that song.

Cormega: I guess the industry did. That song is nothing but me putting a mirror to the industry. It’s me talking about what I’ve seen and speaking on reality. I’m just saying some point blank, accurate, factual stuff that if you give it a little bit of thought, not even a lot of thought, you’ll tend to agree with me. I had to do it tastefully and in a way that doesn’t come across as some dude that’s mad at the industry ‘cause that’s the not case. I’m actually able to make a living from the industry but I’m not going to conform to the bull crap that I see.

TRHH: Well you never really have in your career. When I think of Cormega I don’t think of somebody who has conformed to industry norms ever.

Cormega: Thank you, I try not to.

TRHH: In the late 80s and early 90s lots of emcees put excerpts from speeches by Minister Farrakhan in their songs. You don’t hear it as much today. Whose idea was it to have Minister Farrakhan snippets on ‘Industry’?

Cormega: Mine. When I did ‘Industry’ I just wanted to have something on there that was monumental and something that drove home what I was trying to say. I heard what Farrakhan was saying and it just complimented the song perfectly and I was blown away by it. It was perfect. So I put it together and the rest was history.

TRHH: When did you discover Islam and how has it changed your life?

Cormega: I don’t know when I discovered Islam. Islam has always been there. It’s not about discovering Islam, it’s about embracing Islam. There’s many branches of it. You have Nation of Islam, you have the Nation of Gods and Earths, and you have traditional Muslims. I’ve always been fascinated with Islam. Some of the figures from rap that were into Islam whether it was Rakim, Kane, or Kool G Rap are some of the greatest emcees of all-time. If you name ten of the greatest emcees of all-time probably 8 of them were either affiliated or influenced by Islam. That’s just something that’s going to make any emcee take note that’s going to be great. I think it’s impacted my life in a lot of ways. It makes me strive to be a more positive person. It pushes me to be disciplined and it makes me humble myself. In this day and age when Islam is criticized by the media and given a bad light due to the actions of a few, I feel like it’s more of an incentive for positive Muslims to show how positive they are and to contribute to the world in a positive manner.

TRHH: Speaking of positivity, you have a song on the album with Nature called ‘Divine Unity’. You and Nature have a history of beef. What led to you two squashing the beef and doing a song together?

Cormega: I think that’s a misconception. Me and Nature don’t have a history of beef. We just had a disagreement. A history of a beef is America and Russia [laughs]. We didn’t have a long stretched out period of differences and animosity. It was very short lived. We just had misunderstandings. Me and him have been cool for a very long time. We didn’t even squash nothing ‘cause it was nothing to squash. Me and him been cool for many, many years. The idea of doing a record was to show people that we’re bigger than grudges and it’s about unity. We understand our legacy and where we come from – not just the era but the community that we come from. We’re trying to set the bar and lead by example. I’m going to remix that song and try to get as many people as possible on it.

TRHH: You also squashed your issues with Nas some years ago. Take me back to what you thought the first time you heard ‘One Love’.

Cormega: I really don’t feel like answering that. That’s one of those questions that I answered so many times that it feels out of place to answer in 2014. Whenever somebody gives you love you always appreciate that. I’ll say that, but I’m just tired of talking about all that stuff.

TRHH: Okay, what’s your opinion on the situation in St. Louis? A guy in New York was choked out by the cops and obviously Mike Brown in St. Louis was shot and killed — it seems like the late 80s all over again. What’s your opinion on the current situations going on where seemingly innocent unarmed black men are being murdered by the police over nothing?

Cormega: I don’t think that there was ever a point where there’s been police hostility and brutality toward minorities and there was a cease or a point where it lessened. I think what has happened in recent years is the technological boom has caused the world to take notice in different situations. Nowadays when things happen people have their phones and their phones have cameras in them and the cameras are very good quality. What was once compressed and swept under the rug is hard to do now when nearly everybody has a camera in their phone.

I think America really needs to be ashamed of itself. If the country was a person it needs to put its head down in shame. This country was built by slave masters and its laws were made by slave masters. Its laws were governed by people that adhere to the rules and abide by the rules with a slave master mentality. So when the police come to urban neighborhoods they have the look on their face like hunters. I see it myself. Their eyes are wide as they stare through the window of their car, driving by slowly looking at you. You could just be minding your business eating an ice cream cone. You could be the most innocent guy. You might be an entrepreneur, a doctor, a lawyer, they don’t know what you are but they just look at you like that.

The racial lines are drawn and there is a contempt for people of color that has never disappeared. America gives off the illusion of one community, but it’s only an illusion. The reality is racism is as alive and prominent as it’s ever been. It’s just there are different ways to manifest now. There’s different ways to oppress, exploit, and enslave. The police have always had hostility toward people in the community and now it’s just being manifested. The thing that’s different now is people are getting tired of it. Police scare people. Their aura, energy level and way they conduct themselves is like they’re a secret army to themselves. People are tired of that and now people are trying to rebel. St. Louis is a reflection of people being tired. The fact that it’s unarmed innocent brothers that this is happening to is making people rebel. That’s what we’re seeing right now.

TRHH: Why is it important for you to speak on social issues in your music?

Cormega: I really don’t know. To be honest I don’t know why it’s important. I have no answer for that. When I do stuff I do it from the heart. I don’t know if my music will make a difference in the world. I don’t know if my words will change what’s happening in the world, but I know my words will reveal what’s happening. My words depict what I’m seeing and what I’m feeling. When I write, I write from a perspective of somebody that’s seeing it – a narrator or a journalist. I’m giving people an in depth look at my world, my thoughts, and my ideologies. That’s what it is. I don’t know what impact the music will have, that’s for the people to decide. I just do what I feel is right.

TRHH: Why is Mega Philosophy an important album in 2014?

Cormega: I think Mega Philosophy is the voice of a lot of people. I think it’s the voice of the voiceless. I think it’s for the people that are frustrated with rap, but not totally against rap. I think there is a growing number of people that want to embrace rap. They want to listen to content and substance that they can relate to but they wasn’t getting it. I think it was a breath of fresh air and the reason I’m using that term is because I’ve seen it used many times by fans. If you go on my Twitter timeline you can see the response from the people. The people have spoken. A lot of people said it’s the album of the year. A lot of people are just saying “Thank you for this album.” I’ve never had people tell me “thank you” for an album. The response from the fans has been inspiring. I’m humbled, appreciative, and in awe by the response – that’s how I feel.

I felt like I was going to lose a lot of people with this album because I was talking some other stuff and sometimes people ain’t ready for that. There are some people that I lost, obviously. No matter what you do you’re always going to lose people. But I’ve gained so many. This is my best-selling album in years. It’s the biggest buzz I had in years and I didn’t even have to diss anybody, say any names, be disrespectful, or cause controversy. All I did was speak facts and my theories on things. The song ‘Industry’ was released on May 20. Here we are in August and you still see ‘Industry’ everywhere in social media and people are still talking about it around the world. For that song to do that in 2014 where hot records die out in a week is amazing. I’m definitely taken aback by the response. I’d be lying if I said I knew it would be embraced like this. I had no idea. I’m really thankful.

Purchase: Cormega – Mega Philosophy

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7evenThirty: The Problem

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Photo courtesy of MAC Media Promo

Photo courtesy of MAC Media Promo

Born in Jackson, Mississippi and now residing in Dallas, Texas producer/emcee 7evenThirty came on the scene in 2012 with his concept album, Heaven’s Computer. The futuristic album introduced 7even to the rap world and took him musically to outer space. With his recently sophomore album “The Problem” 7evenThirty has come back to earth to speak on our planet and its ills.

The Problem is produced entirely by Mello Music Group producer Gensu Dean, who also happens to be a Jackson, Mississippi native that relocated to Dallas. The project features a single guest appearance by Duck Down recording artist Sean Price on the song ‘Hook Heavy’.

The Real Hip-Hop spoke to 7evenThirty about joining forces with Gensu Dean, working with the incomparable Sean Price, and his new album, The Problem.

TRHH: Why’d you title your new album ‘The Problem’?

7evenThirty: The original idea for it was a 4 track EP – kind of like a holdover EP until the next full album. I originally titled it “The Problem” because I wanted it to be a showcase of me as a producer and a rapper. Like the slang definition of “the problem”, 7evenThirty is a problem for other emcees. Then it kind of grew into a bigger concept when I decided to bring Gensu in as the producer and do it as a whole project. The concept of The Problem grew from being just a slang term. It’s still representative of the slang term but it’s also talking about “the problem” as in issues in the community, particularly the black community.

TRHH: How’d you and Gensu Dean get together to decide to work on this project?

7evenThirty: Gensu and I are from the same hometown. Now we currently live in Texas. We kind of reunited in Dallas. Me, Gensu, my wife, and his wife all hang out. I was letting him hear some of the ideas that I had in mind for an upcoming project. My wife said, “Have y’all thought about working together? What if you got Gensu to do the beats?” We decided that it was a cool idea because we always wanted to work together anyway. We had a couple of tracks together that was on some of his projects. We found our chemistry by then anyway so we decided to do the whole joint together.

TRHH: How’d the song ‘Hook Heavy’ with Sean Price come about?

7evenThirty: It was after the album was just about completed. All of the verses were done and we were in the mixing process of the album. We still stuck with the concept of it being me on all of the lyrics with no features, but we thought it would be cool to do at least one really strong feature. I thought about Sean Price because he’s one of my favorite rappers right now. I was going through tracks to see what track would be good enough to suit a strong feature. I thought about that ‘Hook Heavy’ track and thought Sean would just sound beastly on this track. We reached out to him through the label. He was already familiar with Mello Music Group and he thought it was a good idea to do something. He said, “Let me hear the track first and I’ll let you know if I can rock with it.” We sent him the track and he thought it was dope. He did his verse and sent it back that night. When he sent the track back to Gensu he said, “Tell 7evenThirty that this shit was dope and if y’all wanna do a video I’m down to do that too. Just hit me up.”

TRHH: Wow, that’s dope, man.

7evenThirty: Yeah, and it meant a lot coming from him because he’s a hard cat to impress. He ain’t that easily impressed with too many people so that went a long way.

TRHH: How is this album different from Heaven’s Computer?

7evenThirty: Heaven’s Computer was very purposely done as a concept record. It was a specific concept storyline — a fictitious sci-fi, soundtrack, storyline to that whole album. Me and the producers that I worked with on that album took it as far out as we could take it and followed the storyline concept. It’s basically a sci-fi, graphic novel, comic book type approach to it. We took it very seriously so it’s like you’re listening to a movie. The Problem is more stripped down. There are no skits like on Heaven’s Computer, there are no special effects, there is no sci-fi artwork or soundscape to it. It’s less synthesizers and things involved, less voice acting — it’s straight beats and raps. As Dean would say he has many different chambers in his production so he could get crazy wild with the beats to fit my personality. He refers to me as a quirky and eccentric kind of artist so he has beats to match those different chambers. He was throwing me some of the craziest unorthodox beats with the craziest beats per minute that he could throw at me that he knew that I could rock. He may not give those to Planet Asia, Roc Marciano, David Banner, or Large Professor. He has beats that he crafts for those guys too, but for The Problem every beat was hand crafted with my personality in mind. Even though it’s just beats and raps it feels just as crazy and weird as Heaven’s Computer is.

TRHH: What was the recording process like with you and Dean?

7evenThirty: Dean has so many beats and all of them are dope. It’s weird the way he works. He doesn’t make any beats normally with anybody else around and I don’t really record vocals with anybody else around. We would get together and pick out samples and beats, which he never does with any other artist that he ever works with. I had the honor and the privilege to sit around with him and say, “That sample is dope, let’s do something with that.” Or he’ll already have something in the vault that nobody has heard before and I’ll say, “That’s dope, let’s do something with that.” When I got ready to write to each song he would send me one track at a time through Dropbox and I would write to it at home in solitude and send it back to him. I told him not to send me any other beats until I sent him the finished version. I had to execute it one at a time for me to stay on task. If he sent me a folder full of beats I wouldn’t get anything done because I would literally sit around and listen to the instrumentals because they were dope. I wouldn’t focus on either one. My attention span isn’t the greatest so I have to do these kind of tricks to keep focused on one at a time.

TRHH: How would you compare the Hip-Hop scene in Jackson to the scene in Dallas?

7evenThirty: That’s a good question. Jackson is more of a smaller city so everybody knows each other and it’s really close knit. Everybody is very creative. We have a lot of creative artists coming out of Jackson but Jackson as a city doesn’t have the monetary resources that a city like Dallas has. On the flip side of that, Dallas has access to the major monetary resources that a major city would have, but the scene as far as the artists go is not as close knit as the artist scene in Jackson. Dallas is a bigger city so everything is more spread out. You may see a whole slew of different artists and it isn’t like Jackson where you have the main artist running the scene on a regular basis. In Dallas it’s less close knit than Jackson is.

TRHH: How’d you develop your style of emceeing?

7evenThirty: I have a lot of different influences that I pull from over the years. I’ve been writing since ’96. When you’re forming any kind of craft you kind of emulate who you’re inspired by. You can tell very loud and clear in my earlier works who I was inspired by. You’re going to hear Andre 3000, Busta Rhymes, Eminem, Ol’ Dirty and shit like that. It’s very obvious who my influences are in my earlier recordings. Over the years you kind of learn to listen to your own voice. The way that I did that was I stopped listening to all my favorite artists. I stopped listening to Outkast, I stopped listening to Dirty, Busta, and all the Hip-Hop artists that I knew had a major influence on me. I kind of forced myself to listen to myself and that happened during the Heaven’s Computer album. I found that as a result I may have my subconscious influences thrown into this pot, a kind of creative gumbo, but the story was told through my voice. I can express it as myself and at the same time I figured out a way to give homage to people that influenced me like Dilla, I loved the way Dilla wrote rhymes and I would give homage to Dilla without necessarily sounding like him. I would give homage to Outkast and Wu-Tang without necessarily sounding like Outkast and Wu-Tang. It’s to the point now where I can listen to my inner self and what you hear is what came out of it.

TRHH: What do you hope to accomplish with The Problem?

7evenThirty: Even though it’s not a concept record there is an underlying theme. I feel like The Problem is way more of an accessible album than Heaven’s Computer is. Heaven’s Computer is more like a niche market – your comic book readers, sci-fi, anime, nerd group. With The Problem it’s a way more accessible album with tracks like ‘$ Stacks & Body Bags’, ‘Filthy Rich’ and the single ‘Hook Heavy’. I wanna draw people in with that but there is this underlying message that you get when you listen to the album. It’s a time of great turmoil with the situation in St. Louis with Mike Brown, the brother Eric Garner that got choked out in New York, and John Crawford that got shot in a Wal-Mart in Ohio for holding an air gun. This type shit has always been happening but I guess it’s more evident now with technology. People with cell phones and cameras make it a little more in your face now. My objective with The Problem is to play my part in keeping my message out there and keeping people’s eyes and ears open to what’s really going on and start to find some solutions to these problems.

Purchase: 7evenThirty – The Problem

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A Conversation with Blacastan & Stu Bangas

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Photo courtesy of Stu Bangas

Photo courtesy of Stu Bangas

The formula of having one emcee and one producer on an album works best in Hip-Hop. Parading in cavalcades of producers on rap albums has soured the game. Rarely does the recipe work when there are too many chefs in the kitchen. Demigodz emcee Blacastan and producer Stu Bangas have resurrected the tried and true formula for their latest project, Watson & Holmes.

With the title of the album taken from the fictional characters Sherlock Holmes and his partner Dr. Watson, Blac and Stu created one of the grimiest releases of 2014. The album is produced entirely by MPC master Stu Bangas with guest appearances by Apathy, Block McCloud, Celph-Titled, Vinnie Paz, Planetary, and Esoteric.

The Real Hip-Hop spoke to Stu Bangas and Blacastan about the genesis of their collaboration, working side jobs while still being involved in Hip-Hop, and their new album, Watson & Holmes.

TRHH: Why’d you guys decide to get together and do an album?

Stu Bangas: We first met four or five years ago at a show in Boston. Some dudes that Blac was with and myself almost got in a scrap. No brawl broke out or anything like that. Afterwards we discussed it and talked about working together. Fast forward a year after that it was a record that a label wanted to do with myself, Reef, and Blacastan. We started bouncing beats back and forth but that album never materialized. Me and Blac decided to take the stuff that we had done and went ahead and put out a whole record. We liked the stuff that we had done, and the chemistry that we had, and the end result of the initial songs.

TRHH: How much of the record is new stuff?

Blacastan: Most of it is new stuff. We started with the core of it being a lot of the records that we salvaged from the previous project. That would have been 3 or 4 maybe. We had such a good flow going that coming up with records wasn’t even a problem, even to this day. Right now we’re working on an EP and the stuff that Stu produces I usually never have a problem with writing lyrics to it. I’d say four joints were from the original project. A lot of the stuff we re-worked. Some of it was halfway done and we finished or added to it. It’s not like we just had records that were sitting around that we just threw in.

Stu Bangas: The main one was the single ‘Nubian Metal’ that we dropped. It was the first one we ever did and it was dope. That was in 2012 and one other one. The rest is shit we did in the past 6-7 months.

TRHH: Who came up with the concept for the ‘Nubian Metal’ video?

Stu Bangas: I did that, man. We were trying to get a video done with Celph and Paz but we didn’t want to stress them. It’s hard to get everyone together. Blac was like, “Just throw it up on Youtube.” I tried to do something a little different with it so I was looking up old Blaxploitation films. I found this one video with all the trailers from the illest Blaxploitation films. It was like an hour long but I downloaded it and took the parts out that I liked and thought it fit with the song.

TRHH: That was dope.

Stu Bangas: Thank you.

TRHH: How did the song ‘The Machine’ with Apathy come about?

Stu Bangas: That was a record I found off this person I buy from in China. It was an Asian record and it was just dope with the vocal sample and keys. It reminded me of that record that Alchemist did for C-N-N with Foxy Brown on it, ‘Bang Bang’, just because of the piano and the way the drums hit with it. I sent it to Blac and he said it was dope. He killed the first verse and we planned on getting Apathy on the record anyway so I said, “Why don’t we use this one?” Blac stayed on him because he was busy working on his record. I was bouncing at the time and Blac called me and said, “Yo this is crazy! Ap did his verse, we did it back and forth.” I wanted to hear the song but I couldn’t because I was busy bouncing at this club I work at. I got home and heard the song and it was crazy. These dudes went in.

TRHH: I didn’t know you were a bouncer, man.

Stu Bangas: Yeah, for extra cash.

Blacastan: Dude, he’s an Olympic class power lifter!

TRHH: [Laughs] Well I could tell by looking at him, but I didn’t know he made money off of that.

Stu Bangas: Yeah, it’s steady income because the music money comes and goes in waves.

TRHH: Stu, how was doing this album different from doing Machete Mode?

Stu Bangas: It’s really not that different, man. To work with Esoteric and Blacastan is really effortless. They like my beats. I’ve worked with other emcees who like my beats but they’re like, “Do this to it and change this,” or they take forever to write and get back to you. These dues hear the beat and go in. Both of them have good ideas to add on. It’s not just raps and beats. They know where they want drops to go, they know how to sequence the album, stuff like that. They see stuff that I don’t always necessarily see myself. They bring a lot to the record and it’s easy to work with them.

TRHH: Blac, the song ‘The Road’ gave pretty good insight into life on the road. Do you ever feel like giving up rap for a more normal consistent life?

Blacastan: Yeah, I mean I’ve dabbled. I’ve gone back and forth. I’ve worked at grocery stores in produce. I’ve worked in car lots as a lot attendant, I’ve worked in sales — I’ve done everything, man. Like Stu said, every now and then I have to revisit a day job because the money in rap just isn’t that consistent. I’ve been blessed to go out on tour and make thousands of dollars, and then you’re left high and dry. For 6-7 months you’re dead broke sleeping on your aunts couch or whatever – it’s crazy! ‘The Road’ is an accurate description. The first verse of the road I wrote while I was in St. Catharines, Canada on a tour with Block McCloud. We just had a terrible show. We dealt with a terrible promoter. All of those frustrations were so real. What we were talking about was actually happening in real time. The second verse I wrote six months later toward the completion of the album.

TRHH: I like the honesty in the record because I believe in rap there’s a lot of phoniness and flossing. What you described is the average rappers life.

Blacastan: Well I’d say the average independent rapper. This game has got so much smoke and mirrors it’s not even funny.

TRHH: Why do you think people don’t speak on that kind of stuff more often?

Stu Bangas: They’re embarrassed. I don’t know why anybody is embarrassed to admit that someone is working. You gotta respect someone that works. What I don’t respect is these lazy bums.

TRHH: That’s a ridiculous thing to be ashamed of.

Stu Bangas: Yeah, it goes against every core thing that should be instilled in people. People think it’s cool to not work – I don’t know.

Blacastan: It’s almost more acceptable to say, “I’m a gangster, I kill people for a living, and I rap.” That’s more acceptable than saying, “I punch the clock and I’m a blue collar dude.” You’re viewed as unsuccessful if you have to rap and subsidize your income with it. It means that you suck as a rapper. If you were dope you’d be making thousands off of this. You suck so you’re not making anything off of it. It’s not true. If you look at Hip-Hop right now, the wackest people are the people making the most dough off of it.

Stu Bangas: Even the independent dudes that are touring and selling a lot of music, they have people backing them. It’s not technically independent. They have a big push behind them, but people call it “independent”.

TRHH: What’s the meaning behind the Sherlock Holmes and Watson title?

Blacastan: Stu made a beat and he sent it through to me. The beat was so fresh that I just blacked out. It was probably one of the quickest songs that I wrote for the whole project. I wrote it almost instantaneously. In that song I have a line that’s like, “As we embark on a journey like Watson and Holmes/ Enter the hood, neighbors wanna lock up their homes,” and the light bulb came on. I don’t know where the hell that reference came from but it was crazy! I referred to us as Watson and Holmes. I thought maybe we should name the song Watson and Holmes and after that I was like, we should name the whole project Watson and Holmes. Sherlock Holmes and Watson were a duo together. They complimented each other real well and knew what each other was going to say. It’s the same thing with me and Stu. We’re doing business together, we’re making music together and at some points me and Stu are thinking the same things at the same time and it’s real crazy. That’s how ill the chemistry is. Nothing is better than Watson and Holmes – it just works. It sounds dope. Also there was a comic book that was out and we happened to come across it while we were in Philly.

TRHH: Who is Watson & Holmes for?

Stu Bangas: Blac was just on the AOTP album and that was a really good look for him in terms of broadening his fan base. We kind of tried to tailor some of the music toward that fan base. We both know what that sound is and what the fans of those artists like, but we also tried to take it to another fan base. You got certain indie rap fans that like the AOTP sound and some that don’t. We tried to step out a little but to get it to as many people that might enjoy it as possible. With the theme of the album we thought maybe we could interest people that are more into the stylized conceptual things – like with the art, and the sequence of the record is like a Sherlock Holmes movie.

Purchase: Blacastan & Stu Bangas – Watson & Holmes

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Introducing: Sean Anonymous

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Photo courtesy of Sean Anonymous

Photo courtesy of Sean Anonymous

The final installment of this week’s look at Hip-Hop on the Warped tour features Sean Anonymous. Anonymous serves as one of the headliners on the Yo! Bring it Back stage at the 2014 festival. The Minnesota emcee’s introspective lyrics carry on the tradition of Minneapolis rappers that spit with substance.

The Real Hip-Hop talked to Sean Anonymous about his musical influences, upcoming projects, and performing on the Yo! Bring it Back stage at the 2014 Vans Warped tour.

TRHH: What’s it mean to you to perform on the Warped tour?

Sean Anonymous: It’s just a good opportunity. Performing is one of my favorite things, if not my favorite thing to do in life. It’s a chance to get my music and my message out to different people in different cities every day and it’s a beautiful experience. I love it.

TRHH: Have the audiences been receptive to your music?

Sean Anonymous: Very receptive. Especially with the amount of younger kids that come out to Warped tour. They’re very open to new music. They are down for the call and response and down to get moving. It seems like they’re having a good time.

TRHH: Why is it important in your opinion to have the Yo! Bring it Back stage at an event like this?

Sean Anonymous: It’s so many reasons – countless reasons. Especially growing up with Hip-Hop like I did – I started listening like 15 years ago. It was a different vibe back then, people were freestyling, there were still people dancing. I think there are a lot of aspects of Hip-Hop that people are losing out on with mainstream Hip-Hop culture nowadays. I think this stage is a great representation of what it’s like, but it doesn’t feel antiquated by means. It still feels new, but it goes back and includes all the elements. We’re bringing that to these kids that may have never seen a break dancer before. The may have never seen a freestyle before. They may have never seen DJ’s scratching and cats painting out there. I feel like that’s one of the most important reasons. Also, it’s just really fun to do. It’s one of the most fun experiences I’ve ever had in my life.

TRHH: Are there any acts that you’ve seen on this tour that you’ve never heard of but are kind of diggin’ now?

Sean Anonymous: Yeah, definitely. Especially being next to the Beatport stage. There are a couple of cats on there like my bus mate DJ Nicola Bear and she’s been smashing it. She’s one of the better DJ’s I’ve seen in a long time. Also Bad Rabbits. I’ve heard of them before but I’d never seen them before. I saw them play at the barbecue a couple weeks ago. It’s kind of throwback soul but they kind of have some punk elements too. They are one of my favorite acts out here. I could go on and on. There is a huge list of great cats.

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

Sean Anonymous: Growing up the first time I remember listening to Hip-Hop was being 4-years old in the back of my mom’s car and she would flip it to the Hip-Hop station by accident and I heard it and I would get down. She probably wasn’t completely about it. I heard M.C. Hammer, but I’m all about syllables. The people that made me want to rhyme were Busta Rhymes, Talib Kweli, Eminem, and even before that Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Ludacris, all those great people. I still listen to their music to this day and I still dig what they’re doing. I feel like Busta Rhymes is overlooked. I love Jay-Z and everybody but when people talk about the greatest emcees of all-time Busta has been doing it since the 80s and he’s still very relevant and killing it. He’s one my favs.

TRHH: I think it’s because his personality is so big that people forget that he’s actually spittin’.

Sean Anonymous: Oh yeah. A perfect example of that is the ‘Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See’ video. He’s walking around with the aboriginal face paint and there is like black light paint, he’s walking around with a cane and a top hot and there’s an elephant behind him walking to the beat. Man, I will never forget that video as long as I live. That was some of the shit that made me want to rap, write, and be an artists in general. Shout out to Busta Rhymes.

TRHH: How’d the collaboration ‘Weight’ with DJ Snuggles come about?

Sean Anonymous: Oh, you know about Snuggles?

TRHH: I know a little bit.

Sean Anonymous: Snuggles is my homie. We’ve actually worked on a couple different things back in the day. I asked him to come up because he makes the sets that much better. I’ve been knowing him for a while. He was Brother Ali’s tour DJ, he won Scribble Jam for the beat boxing stuff. I started building with him and he would beat box on stage. At Soundset three years ago they were doing a compilation through Fifth Element, the Rhymesayers Hip-Hop shop in Minneapolis, and they wanted it to be a big collaboration type thing. They put me in touch with some of the cats from Audio Perm which is a producer collective in Minneapolis. I did this thing with Julian Fairbanks and there was a little open space on it and I was wondering what can happen with it. He didn’t even beat box on the track. It was a track called ‘Seats Taken’ and I had him doing vocal scratches. We just kept on building and he was working on his EP, That Beat, and he got a dope, dope beat from Big Cats back in Minneapolis and it was the type of beat where you just wanna write to it as soon as you hear it, which are my favorite types of beats. It’s easily one of my favorite tracks that I’ve been a part of – I love it. I’m glad that you know about that, man, that’s nice.

TRHH: What’s next up for you?

Sean Anonymous: I actually have an album coming out with my dude Dimitry Killstorm. It’s my first full-length. We haven’t announced the name of it yet but we’re hoping to put it out either in the fall or next spring. It is my best album I’ve ever made. It’s also the realest album I’ve ever made. It took me about a year and a half or two years to make. I went through a lot of stuff while making this album, a lot of hardships, a lot of rough times. I lost my mom in that time and there is a lot of songs dealing with that. It’s definitely the most personal album that I’ve ever made. I know when it comes out that there will be people out there that can relate to what I went through and I just hope listening to this album can help them get through it, because it helped me get through it just writing my feelings while going through that stuff. It’s going to be good. I got Wordsworth from Lyricist Lounge, Aceyalone, P.O.S. from Doomtree, my old roommate Lizzo who is blowing up. She just got signed to Virgin over in Europe. She’s Rolling Stone’s top 10 artist to watch – she’s killing it. It’ going to be a good time. You should check it out.

See Sean Anonymous on the Yo! Bring it Back stage at the 2014 Vans Warped tour:

July 24 Atlanta, GA Aaron’s Amphitheatre at Lakewood
July 25 St. Petersburg, FL Vinoy Park
July 26 West Palm Beach, FL Cruzan Amphitheatre
July 27 Orlando, FL Central Florida Fairgrounds
July 28 Charlotte, NC PNC Music Pavilion Charlotte
July 29 Nashville, TN Tennessee State Fairgrounds
July 30 Milwaukee, WI Marcus Amphitheatre
July 31 Bonner Springs, KS Cricket Wireless Amphitheater
August 02 Salt Lake City, UT Utah State Fairpark
August 03 Denver, CO Sports Authority Field at Mile High

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Wax: Continue

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Photo courtesy of Wax

Photo courtesy of Wax

In keeping with this week’s Warped tour theme The Real Hip-Hop chatted with L.A. based emcee, Wax who is performing on the Beatport stage as part of the festival. Formerly a Def Jam recording artist, Wax was dropped from the label in 2011 due to creative differences. His release from the legendary label turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The comedic emcee flourished musically and personally upon venturing out on his own and released the critically acclaimed album ‘Continue’.

Wax spoke to The Real Hip-Hop about the perks of being an indie artist, performing at the 2014 Warped tour, and the follow-up to his album, Continue.

TRHH: What’s it mean to you to perform on the Warped tour?

Wax: It means a lot, man. It means I must be doing something right, I guess. It’s interesting because it’s a very young crowd. I think that’s good. When you’re young and you hear music for the first time it affects you even more. I’m definitely making a lot of new young fans and it’s a good thing.

TRHH: Have the audiences been receptive to your music?

Wax: Yeah, they have. I’m not as big as some people are here. A lot of the younger folks aren’t into it as much but the parents love my stuff. I see all the old folks gathering around. It’s been good.

TRHH: Are there any acts that you’ve discovered on this tour that you’re a fan of now?

Wax: Yes, absolutely. K. Flay being one of them. This band called Plague Vendor. A lot of people on my stage especially. This band called One Ok Rock from Japan is amazing. Those are the main ones I can think of off the top.

TRHH: What’s the difference between being an indie artist and being an artist on a major label?

Wax: You can make a lot of your own decisions being independent. You can do the music you want to do. You might not make the most money, or you might make even more because you don’t have to pay them anything. I think the most important thing is creative freedom – doing what you want and not having somebody looking over your shoulder.

TRHH: What inspired the song ‘Feels Good‘?

Wax: I went through some depression in my life and that was a song I wrote when I was starting to get over it. That song and my whole album was about continuing on and not letting things affect you. That was written in a time when I was getting over some bad rough times.

TRHH: Was the music therapeutic for you at that time?

Wax: Absolutely. It always is. Music is always therapeutic. Music saved my life a million times.

TRHH: How’d you get into the podcast world?

Wax: To be honest with you I’m a big fan of Bill Burr’s podcast. I pretty much was like, “I’d like to do that,” because it’s almost therapeutic. I just talk. I pretty much stole his formula for the most part. I’ll tell him that openly. It was fun.

TRHH: When will we hear the follow-up to Continue?

Wax: Hopefully at the end of this year. This tour kind of put off my recording process but as soon as I’m done I’m not doing any touring, I’m just working on the album. So hopefully December or January but I don’t know, man. Sometimes it takes a long time, sometimes it goes real fast. We’ll see.

See Wax live at the 2014 Vans Warped tour:

July 23 Virginia Beach, VA Farm Bureau Live At Virginia Beach
July 24 Atlanta, GA Aaron’s Amphitheatre at Lakewood
July 25 St. Petersburg, FL Vinoy Park
July 26 West Palm Beach, FL Cruzan Amphitheatre
July 27 Orlando, FL Central Florida Fairgrounds
July 28 Charlotte, NC PNC Music Pavilion Charlotte
July 29 Nashville, TN Tennessee State Fairgrounds
July 30 Milwaukee, WI Marcus Amphitheatre
July 31 Bonner Springs, KS Cricket Wireless Amphitheater
August 02 Salt Lake City, UT Utah State Fairpark
August 03 Denver, CO Sports Authority Field at Mile High

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Introducing: Pat Maine

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Photo courtesy of Paul Montano

Photo courtesy of Paul Montano

All this week on The Real Hip-Hop we’re highlighting acts that are currently performing on the 2014 Vans Warped tour. The Warped tour isn’t typically known as a platform for rap artists but this year’s tour features the Yo! Bring it Back stage, a stage that showcases the four elements of Hip-Hop – the emcee, the DJ, the b-boy, and the graffiti artist.

One of the artists performing on the Yo! Bring it Back stage is Salt Lake City emcee, Pat Maine. Maine spoke to The Real Hip-Hop about the Salt Lake City Hip-Hop scene, the follow-up to his last album, Doomsday Charades, and performing on the 2014 Warped tour.

TRHH: What’s it mean to you to perform on the Warped tour?

Pat Maine: I think it’s one of those things that every artist has to do. It’s like that stepping stone. Warped tour is legitimately one of the hardest fucking tours there is out there because of the places it goes in the country and the time of year it goes through them. It’s always the hottest time of the year and the hottest places. It’s a grind – it’s like 13 hour days no matter how you look at it. Realistically to me it means that I’m doing the right thing. I look at a lot of artists that I looked up to and early in their careers they did Warped tour. When I look at their interviews they always say the same thing too – it’s one of the hardest tours. I would just say it makes me feel like this is the beginning of something bigger at this point. We’ll see.

TRHH: Have the audiences been receptive to you so far?

Pat Maine: Yeah, it’s cool. With the Yo! Bring it Back stage we’re a ground level stage so we get to interact with the people a lot. I spend a lot of the day walking around with CD’s. I have 10,000 CD’s I brought out on this tour and I walk around and tell people about my set time to get them to come and hang out. I make ‘em laugh, give ‘em my Instagram, follow them, and they follow me back. I stay super interactive throughout the day and sometimes I get some of those kids that make it back to the stage and we all have a good time. I feel like for every handful of people that actually makes it to the stage it goes pretty well. I’ve been giving away like 300 CD’s each day. A lot of them people are donating money for – at least 50 of them. Freaking Cleveland did really well for me. I checked my Twitter today and had like 17 notifications from kids from Cleveland. I thought I did horrible in Cleveland to be honest with you. I thought it was an off day and I check out my feed and it’s lot of love from Cleveland. It’s been really cool. My social media has completely changed. I’ve had to figure out how to be interactive. It seems like these kids don’t really care about Facebook that much. They’re all on Instagram and Twitter and that’s where I’ve been at all on tour. My whole approach has changed since being out here.

TRHH: Talk about the importance of the Yo! Bring it Back stage being on a tour like this.

Pat Maine: I think it’s super important because Hip-Hop culture is important. There is not a whole lot of representation of Hip-Hop culture in mainstream society. Warped tour is a very mainstream thing at this point in time, however Kevin Lyman and their team do a good job of bringing bands on that they believe in. At the same time Hip-Hop is not represented at its fullest extent. We get to do that. We get to give kids that perspective and point of view. We get to unify with them in the moment with freestyles, cyphers, and get to have a good time. We have emcees, DJ’s, graffiti artists, break dancers, we get to expose them to all of that and they have a legitimately good time. It’s a whole new perspective for them. When you say you’re a Hip-Hop artist to these kids and the first thing that pops in their mind is chains and hoes — what’s glorified. We actually get to expose these kids to what Hip-Hop culture is. A lot of them don’t realize it’s actually a culture rather than rap music. They are only exposed to one piece. That’s why I think it’s important to have it out here.

TRHH: Are there any acts that you’ve seen on this tour that you weren’t familiar with and now you’re a fan of?

Pat Maine: Yeah. I’ve really grown to like Scout. He’s the only turntablist that’s out here. He’s also the engineer and writer for the band Issues. He’s out there cutting every day and he really shows us a lot of love because he comes from an underground Hip-Hop background as well. K. Flay, I wasn’t very familiar with her and what she was about until this tour. It was cool to watch her. I’m still trying to keep my eyes open.

TRHH: When I think “Salt Lake” I don’t think “Hip-Hop”. What’s the Hip-Hop scene like in Salt Lake?

Pat Maine: It’s awesome. There is a strong Hip-Hop scene in Salt Lake City right now. I didn’t grow up there. I actually grew up in an even smaller place that no one has ever heard of in Utah called Heber City. I moved there from San Diego when I was 9-years old, so I knew what Hip-Hop was going there. I listened to a lot of 2Pac when I was 8. I can imagine how funny that looked me being an 8-year old white kid listening to 2Pac in Heber City. That was what opened the door for understanding it. I moved to Salt Lake City because there was a Hip-Hop scene. It’s really cool and grassroots. If you take Minneapolis’ Hip-Hop scene and go back 10 years, that’s what Salt Lake is almost like. It’s very young. There is still a lot to do but there is so much love for it all. There are so many raw graffiti writers, a lot of dope emcees that are doing more battles on bigger battle channels. As far as touring artists actually making a name for themselves there’s not really a lot of that. A friend of mine named Task Rok has gotten a lot of Youtube love but nobody from there has really ever made it. It’s all very new, very fresh, and very raw. That’s what I appreciate about it for sure.

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

Pat Maine: It just depends on what period of my life you’re looking at. When I was super young I always wrote. I found poetry and realized what I was writing was poetry. Then I got older and realized that I liked Hip-Hop a lot. They eye opener was obviously Eminem when I was a kid. I listened to a lot of Busta Rhymes and obviously Wu-Tang. I also listened to a lot of Metal that had Rap in it when I was super young. What made me want to be more on my independent stuff was when I found Tech N9ne, Living Legends, Hieroglyphics, and all those super underground artists that were pushing that movement. That was when I found myself as an emcee. Before I felt like I was emulating and imitating and then I found what I connected with. That’s kind of the chain of events that led me here.

TRHH: What exactly does “Doomsday Charades” mean?

Pat Maine: It’s like a dark piece of art, that’s what that whole album is. Doomsday Charades is all about personal doomsdays that we all kind of go through and this is about picking your own doomsday. It’s a game of charades basically. Every song is related to some sort of struggle that I had to go through. It’s struggle music. Doomsday Charades is very fitting because each song has an in depth background to it. It took 5 years to make. It only took that long because I wasn’t forcing that album. I had made two or three albums in between the time of starting that album. Those are all the darker songs that ended up coming together and Doomsday Charades is what it came to be.

TRHH: What new music do you have coming up?

Pat Maine: I’ve started so many projects over the last couple of years since Doomsday Charades released. I’m trying to find the right producer. I think I’ve pinpointed a few of them. I started a live band project and a project with a couple producers. I made a couple of songs with them and it didn’t work out. I always end up more focused than everybody else is. They kind of have their own agendas as well. For whatever reason I’m sitting on a bunch of songs that I think I’m going to release as an EP, but they’re all so over the place from the different projects. The next album that I’m planning on making is with a guy by the name of Tsuruda out of Salt Lake City. His beats are sampled based but he also has that grimy bass sound that you hear in EDM. He really bridges the gap between that modern sound and that classic Hip-Hop sound. It’s like Madlib meets Skrillex. The beats get your head nodding but they have that aggressive tone that electronic music can create. I’m kind of going that way. I think we’re going to make a dope album together. I don’t know when that will be released – probably in the next year or so I imagine.

See Pat Maine on the Yo! Bring it Back Stage at the 2014 Vans Warped tour:

July 22 Columbia, MD Merriweather Post Pavilion
July 23 Virginia Beach, VA Farm Bureau Live At Virginia Beach
July 24 Atlanta, GA Aaron’s Amphitheatre at Lakewood
July 25 St. Petersburg, FL Vinoy Park
July 26 West Palm Beach, FL Cruzan Amphitheatre
July 27 Orlando, FL Central Florida Fairgrounds
July 28 Charlotte, NC PNC Music Pavilion Charlotte
July 29 Nashville, TN Tennessee State Fairgrounds
July 30 Milwaukee, WI Marcus Amphitheatre
July 31 Bonner Springs, KS Cricket Wireless Amphitheater
August 02 Salt Lake City, UT Utah State Fairpark
August 03 Denver, CO Sports Authority Field at Mile High

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