Shabaam Sahdeeq & Fokis: Recognize Your Power

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Photo courtesy of Loyalty Digital Corp.
Photo courtesy of Loyalty Digital Corp.

Edo.G, Shabaam Sahdeeq, and Fokis are Hip-Hop veterans. Together they have nearly 60 years of experience in the business of rap. These three men know the importance of utilizing their abilities to reach their goals, and they want to spread that message to fans of Hip-Hop.

The two emcees and producer have linked up for a new EP on Loyalty Digital Corp. titled, “Recognize Your Power.” The 9-track EP is produced entirely by Fokis and features appearances by Craig G, Torae, DJ Eclipse, Liteskin, Oh No, Planet Asia, and Ras Kass.

The Real Hip-Hop spoke to Fokis and Shabaam Sahdeeq about working with Edo.G, why it’s important to play to win, and their new EP, Recognize Your Power.

TRHH: How did you guys get together to decide to do this project?

Shabaam Sahdeeq: We all been working on a few joints together but in different locations and on different albums. Fokis wanted to make it happen. Me and Edo had been talking about doing a song or two here and there and the same thing with me and Fokis, so we decided to do it all in one lump on this EP. It came together pretty fast and dope. I did a lot of my vocals before I went on tour in Europe. By the time I came back they was done and ready to go. Now we’re going about shooting videos and releasing some things.

TRHH: What’s the meaning behind the title of the album, Recognize Your Power?

Fokis: Shabaam actually came up with it. My cousin did the poetry on the project and Shabaam was just listening to it and came up with that. It’s consistent with everything concerning why we even put this project together. The theme is about recognizing your powers with the ability that you have right now.

Shabaam Sahdeeq: Yeah, the ability that you have within. Whether it comes from getting up and going to work out or even voting. The power is within you.

Fokis: And what you choose to do with it. We chose to create a project. We’re all in three different places so we chose to utilize technology and that’s the beautiful thing about where we are right now musically. We have the ability to do that. I don’t ever have to see these guys and we can create a project and that’s dope.

Shabaam Sahdeeq: And then when we do meet up we can shoot some videos. We get it done. Everybody is in a different state and everybody has different things going on, but where there is a will there’s a way.

Fokis: And my name is Will so it all works [laughs].

TRHH: Talk a little about the single Play to Win.

Shabaam Sahdeeq: Play to Win is just about champion bars. Play the game to try to win every time you release a joint.

Fokis: We’re trying to maximize. We got the heavyweights on there lyrically. We thought it was the perfect single to release first because it just represents everything – bars, hard beats, scratches – boom, that was it.

TRHH: What was it like working with Edo.G?

Shabaam Sahdeeq: Edo is on tour right now. As far as putting the music down it happened 1, 2, 3. Right now he’s on tour so he’s missing out on the promotional aspect of what’s going on. I’m sure as soon as he gets back in town he’s going to jump right in.

Fokis: He definitely works fast. He knocks out vocals, shoots them right to you, and boom.

Shabaam Sahdeeq: Yeah, they shot like four videos in one day, right?

Fokis: Yeah, we drove out to Boston to shoot videos and Shabaam came into New York for a couple days and we knocked out some more videos.

Shabaam Sahdeeq: That’s how you do it. That’s the power right there.

TRHH: That’s a lot of work, man. Speaking of work, Shabaam, you also recently released a joint project with Marvelous Mag. Talk a little about the God’s Coins EP.

Shabaam Sahdeeq: We had that project done since like wintertime. We was just sitting on it and toying with how we were gonna release it, and what joints to release. We actually got more joints than what’s on that EP. It’s about continuously working and finding new, different things to drop at different times that segue each other. This is like a segue into Recognize Your Power. It’s a free project for everybody to get. Recognize Your Power is the main event with the vinyl, cassettes, and everything.

TRHH: Like an appetizer.

Shabaam Sahdeeq: Yeah, God’s Coins is the appetizer, this is the main meal. Word up. Some of those are industry beats. We took one from J Dilla, we took one from White Lotus. Those joints obviously we can’t put out to sell commercially. Recognize Your Power is obviously the main course.

TRHH: Fokis, talk a little about your recent weight loss.

Fokis: It’s simple, I was 303 pounds. I was recording and mixing the Barrel Brothers album with Skyzoo and Torae. While I was doing that album a friend of mine introduced me to CrossFit. At that point I wasn’t even rapping like that anymore of even producing. I was just engineering.

Shabaam Sahdeeq: He was trying to look like a G.I. Joe [laughs].

Fokis: [Laughs] I saw the success of the Barrel Brothers project. I recorded and mixed that in my home. Just seeing the success of it inspired me how you could create something right in your crib and it could shoot out to the world and you can get bread off of it. At the same time a friend of mine introduced me to CrossFit. It’s very challenging, but I love overcoming challenges. I basically got hooked on the CrossFit and as I started to drop weight I got more and more motivated musically. I hit a point where I’m down to 217 and I feel fantastic creatively. It made everything around me so much better – life itself. I love my job. I get up, I go to the gym, and then I go and create music. Back to the Recognize Your Power, it’s what we make of it so I’m going hard. Shabaam goes super hard with this music thing. Fitness and music go hand in hand.

Shabaam Sahdeeq: Yeah, you’re definitely recognizing your power ‘cause I’m trying to get on that, too. I’m trying to get on that fitness. It all goes hand in hand.

TRHH: Who is the Recognize Your Power album made for?

Shabaam Sahdeeq: This album is made for all the people who think they can’t do it, but they can. That’s why we called it Recognize Your Power. The people that’s out there trying to make it every day recording joints, mastering, doing art work, engineering, working out, painting, everybody is trying to tap into that inner power and make something happen this is what you put on. This is the soundtrack. You pop it in your ear when you’re painting, driving, making moves, this that joint right here. I think all the songs are pretty much motivational joints.

Fokis: Absolutely. Definitely some good hard bars, some good hard beats, and some melodic flavor in there. If you’re a fan of some rap music – Hip-Hop – you’re gonna love this project. It’s two amazing legends on there.

Purchase: Edo.G, Shabaam Sahdeeq, & Fokis – Recognize Your Power

Tiff the Gift: It Gets Greater Later

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Photo courtesy of Teo Frank
Photo courtesy of Teo Frank

Virginia emcee Tiff the Gift released her debut solo album Cool, Calm, Chill in 2010, She followed that up in 2014 with her sophomore project, Better to Give. After a two and a half year wait Tiff has returned with her third album released by Don’t Sleep Records titled “It Gets Greater Later.”

It Gets Greater Later is produced by Phoniks, JR Swiftz, LinkRust, F. Draper, Kalvion, and Kameleon Beats. The album features appearances by Rodney “The Soul Singer” Stith, Dephlow, and Tiff’s husband and emcee, Awon.

Tiff the Gift spoke to The Real Hip-Hop about the importance of growth and acceptance in her life, the creative dynamic between herself and Awon, and her new album, It Gets Greater Later.

TRHH: Explain the title of the album, It Gets Greater Later.

Tiff the Gift: It’s basically a statement that I’ve always said since my early years in high school. Me and my mother would talk and when I’d be in a bad mood or things wouldn’t go exactly the way I wanted them to go she would always say, “It gets greater later.” I lost her not too long ago so I wanted to find some way to tie her to the album and that’s just kind of how I tied it.

TRHH: How is this album different from Better to Give?

Tiff the Gift: It Gets Greater Later shows growth. I’ve had a lot of things that I’ve gone through. I mean, it’s a natural growth process over the years since I dropped Better to Give up to now. I’ve learned a lot of different things. I picked a variety of production and I tried to expand my audience. Trust me, I love the listeners that I already have but I want to reach out to different demographics and people who have different ears so I wanted a mixture of production on this one. That’s the major difference. Growth is always big for me so you’ll see a lot of that on this album.

TRHH: Is the growth lyrically as well as musically?

Tiff the Gift: Just all around growth. They say experience is the best teacher and I feel like I’ve had experiences that have allowed me to grow, whether they’ve been musically or in my personal life, all of that comes out in the music anyway. I have a big thing about authenticity so when I saw “growth” I mean all around growth.

TRHH: Tell me about the song Passed Out.

Tiff the Gift: That was the first single off the album. It’s a song that was dedicated to my mom. I don’t think I’ve dealt with everything upfront as soon as it happened. One day I was in a different place and I kept trying to force myself to write a song that was dedicated to my mom. For an artist that’s the natural thing to do but it just didn’t come. For some off reason it just didn’t come and a year later that song came about. I just started thinking about everything. Even though the song may seem kind of dark it’s actually a point in my life where I came to the realization of a lot of different things. It’s acceptance, so for me that was super powerful because that was a turning point in my life.

TRHH: Would you say acceptance has trickled down into other aspects of your life? Would you say learning how to accept things has helped you with other things?

Tiff the Gift: Oh, absolutely. That whole situation changed the way I felt. I’ve always been a super strong person, but we all go through things in life where we have some sort of ignorance about something. I think the biggest thing about me that I can say I got over is the lack of ignorance and thinking that you can change everything. Sometimes things happen and you don’t have control and you have no choice but to be faced with acceptance. That’s what that taught me in every aspect of my life. Even with the kids, sometimes you can be super overbearing not realizing that these kids are gonna be who they’re gonna be. You can help guide or give advice, but certain things in life we just don’t have control over. It made my faith a lot stronger, that’s what I mean about acceptance.

TRHH: On the song “Same Old Tree” you have a line where you say, “I don’t even like rap.” Do you really not like rap? Can you explain that lyric?

Tiff the Gift: [Laughs] Yeah, that’s a very good question. It’s crazy that you asked that. I was talking to one of my best friends, Kaveen, he’s like a big influence over everything that I do musically. He calls me a part-time rapper because I’ve always worked full-time and went to school. He was like, “Yo Tiff, if you actually went hard and put 100% into it you could go further than you can imagine.” That line was kind of for him.

TRHH: I hear that kind of thing from a lot of rappers. I read an interview years ago with Rhymefest and he was saying how he was a janitor at a school and someone took a crap all over the wall or something and he quit that day and has been making money off of rap ever since. His point was that you have to give 100%…

Tiff the Gift: [Laughs] Yeah, you have to.

TRHH: Do you feel like you’re at that stage now?

Tiff the Gift: Yes, yes. That was what the whole line was for. That has so many meanings to it, not only the going hard part. I love the questions you’re asking because they’re outside of the norm. People always ask me in interviews what motivates me when I write and it’s funny ‘cause I never listen to rap to get me motivated or hyped to write a rhyme – I never do it. I’m a big soul head and a big R&B head. I actually listen to slow music. I’m kind of soft on the low. I’m a rapper, I’m not supposed to be [laughs]. That’s what I gravitated to from being around my parents they loved music and kept it around me. That’s what they played and we couldn’t touch their radio.

TRHH: Is there any current soul music that you’re listening to?

Tiff the Gift: Man, you kinda put me on the spot. I don’t think it’s soul but it is kind of R&B, she’s from northern Virginia, Kali Uchis.

TRHH: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. She’s from South America somewhere.

Tiff the Gift: Yeah, but I think she moved to like northern Virginia or something. I love listening to her sound. I can vibe out and relate. She did it real different in my opinion.

TRHH: Yeah, she’s dope.

Tiff the Gift: What They Say is one of my favorite songs. A collab with her would be dope.

TRHH: That would be dope! You should try to do that. How does being married to another emcee help or hurt you when coming up with lyrics?

Tiff the Gift: [Laughs] I’m an extremely competitive person. I don’t think I could have married anybody that was not an emcee, not musically inclined, or somebody that didn’t challenge me. It’s a very competitive household. The worst thing to hear is, “Your husband is so much doper than you,” and on his end he don’t wanna hear that his wife is so much doper than him. We wanna hear that we’re both dope, so we go at it [laughs]. We argue over beats, we argue over a lot of different things. It’s just a creative household. The energy is awesome. I can say that music has truly kept us together for this long. When you can sit down with your partner and they can tell you??? What you don’t want is a yes man. No artist has a whole plethora of great music [laughs]. Something they did was terrible and he stopped me from a lot of terrible things like, “Nah that sucks, babe. Don’t do that.” The feeling is mutual and he doesn’t let it ride. I don’t let it ride either.

TRHH: Do you ever get sensitive about stuff like that? Like for me, I make beats. I’m not that good [laughs]. But I’m learning and I sent a lot of beats to a lot of rappers and nobody is really feeling them.

Tiff the Gift: [Laughs].

TRHH: Hey, it is what it is. I went from the stage of having my feelings hurt to, “Okay, how do I fix this?” and “How do I get better?” Was there initial hurt feelings if he called your work wack?

Tiff the Gift: I’m going to give you some background and try to make it as short as possible. I was raised in a house full of truth. When I lost my mother I lost my best friend. A lot of people throw that out there, but people who know me know how close my mother and I were – my father as well. I have a real tight bond with my parents. Still to this day my dad is my strength. I’m a Taurus so I was a hard head. My feelings would get hurt easily and I was very defensive. My mother told me one day, “Step back. Why are you so angry at your father about his criticisms? You’re listening more to the way he said something and you’re worried more about your emotions than you are about what he’s saying.” Over time you learn. So I guess the answer to that is I don’t really get defensive anymore because I’m an adult and I’ve learned that’s part of the growth process.

You can’t really pay attention to how somebody is saying something or how you feel about something. You have to listen to what it is they’re saying and the meaning behind it because if he didn’t give a damn then he wouldn’t say anything. A lot of times when people give you that criticism they save you from standing in front of thousands of people and embarrassing yourself. So it’s not really about how somebody says something or my feelings, it’s about what kind of message they’re trying to send and is it going to be beneficial for me. In one line I said, “My daddy is a stoic too, I guess that it’s inherited.” My daddy always said, “Baby girl, you gotta put your emotions to the side sometimes and make sure that you make conscious decisions. Because emotional decisions will put you in a bad position every time.” You can’t get better if you don’t take that criticism and if you don’t move on from how you feel.

TRHH: What inspired the single “Somebody”?

Tiff the Gift: [Laughs] Me and my homegirls have conversations all the time about relationships. They come to me about relationships or whatever. Sometimes I share with them what I’ve learned in marriage and things like that. Sometimes they even teach me things because I’m kind of outside of the single life at this point of my life. Somebody is about sometimes relationships are to be taken very seriously and sometimes they just are what they are. Loyalty is important, fidelity is important, but sometimes you just need somebody. Sometimes it’s not about tomorrow, next year, or your future, sometimes you just need somebody. And you can’t worry about what other people say. “Some men and their attempts and their intentions be boring me/Pretentious in a sense, and even more and importantly/Your opinion ain’t offensive, I’ve been mentioned historically.” So right now it’s okay for me. I’m not worried about what anybody says, I’m going with the feelings that I have right now. Not that I trust you or anything, but the “somebody” that you need sometimes is not that serious.

TRHH: What do you hope to achieve with It Gets Greater Later?

Tiff the Gift: I hope to expand the listener base. I hope that the people that are already listening can get a good grasp of who I am and who I’ve become over time and the fact that I’ve been working for them. I’ve been working for the listener. I recorded my first and second album within a week’s time. With this album I kind of just took my time and I wanted to make sure that first I reached out to everybody that I knew in some way, shape, form, or fashion so they could feel the energy that came from that record. And then I wanted to make sure that I could reach out to the masses. I wanted to have at least a couple of tracks on there that you can feel whole heartedly and say, “I understand, I can relate.” It’s simplicity but it’s complex.

Purchase: Tiff the Gift – It Gets Greater Later

From the Vault: DJ Premier

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Photo courtesy of The Real Hip-Hop
Photo courtesy of The Real Hip-Hop

The next installment of The Real Hip’s From the Vault series features the greatest producer in the history of Hip-Hop, DJ Premier. The interview was conducted in February of 2010 during NBA All-Star Weekend in Dallas, Texas.

Preem had just tore down a club and granted me a few minutes of his time. I was grateful, nervous, but grateful. This is Preemo, the architect of numerous Hip-Hop classics!! He’s produced for the likes of Jay-Z, Nas, Biggie Smalls, Rakim, KRS-One, Common, Ludacris, Snoop Dogg, Heavy D, Big Daddy Kane, Joey Bada$$, Game, MC Lyte, Big L, and Dr. Dre, just to name a few!

His work as one half of Gang Starr with the late Guru is the true definition of classic material. Premier is a genius at what he does and a living legend. It was my first time speaking with him, and hopefully not the last.

Ladies and gentlemen, DJ Premier.

TRHH: What has All-Star Weekend been like for you so far?

DJ Premier: It’s been really great. We just got here today. The funny thing is I’m from New York and we just got a little rough snow but I’m used to it. I shovel my own drive-way, I shovel the side walk, take care of all my neighbors, and make sure all the old ladies get their drive-ways shoveled and get taken care of with salt and all of that. I’m from Texas originally but I’ve been living in New York for 22 years. My sister lives out here and to come out to 9 inches of snow is funny. I’m used to 36 degrees but everybody out here is panicking, flights were cancelled and all of that. We made it here safely. Big shout out to 944 magazine for having us out here, we appreciate it. Shout out to The Boardroom for having us, Russell Simmons, Melanie Fiona, Paul Pierce, Snoop Dogg, DJ Reflex, and Doug E. Fresh. It’s a beautiful thing to be out here. Shout out to Nick Javas who ripped it with me. He’s on my label Year Round Records. Also shout out to all the people that came through, Amare Stoudemire, LeBron James, Chris Tucker, Magic Johnson and also Allen Iverson who couldn’t be here who I’m a big fan of.

TRHH: I read that you were working with MC Eiht on his new album, how did that come about?

DJ Premier: We’ve been friends for a long time. I’ve known him since the 90’s; we came up in the same era. When the West Coast was strong with Death Row, MC Eiht had his own lane—he also became an actor in the film Menace II Society. I did my first gig in L.A. in 1989 with Gangstarr, Compton’s Most Wanted, WC and the Maad Circle, and Ice Cube. This was when Ice Cube first left N.W.A. He got into a big beef backstage. All the action wasn’t out in the crowd it was backstage. It was crazy to witness that and see how many people were mad at Cube for moving and taking that step. It turned out to be one of the best moves that he made. The first person I met in Long Beach at the show was MC Eiht. He had two beepers on his hip, a big fresh jheri curl, and black khaki’s. He said, “What’s up DJ Premier my name is MC Eiht,” and we’ve been friends ever since. I just love his style. He has a unique voice and a unique flow—he has his own lane.

That’s what it’s all about, having your own lane. Everybody always wants to sound like everybody else but when you’re different you always prevail even if it takes a minute to get there. He never switched that up. When I put out an artist named Blaq Poet on my label Year Round Record in June of 2009 we wanted to do a remix. Eiht and I were on the phone talking about new music he was working on and I let him hear the song and he loved it. He was like, “Yo let me get on it.” I let him get on it and then my man Young Maylay who’s down with Dub C. WC and Crazy Toones who is also from the West Coast let me hear his stuff and he’s a great MC. He’s going to be on my label, too. I asked him to get on it too and he sent it to me in a day—done! I said let’s shoot a video because I was working with Christina Aguilera on her new album out in L.A. Gordon Franklin who runs my label said, “Yo, I got some cheap tickets we can get. Let’s bring Poet, fly out to L.A., shoot the video, and go back to New York the next day.”

I stayed out there and worked with Christina. I snuck away…she don’t even know I broke away. I’m going to get in trouble now. I broke away from a session that she’s paying me to be out there for to go and shoot the video with Poet, MC Eiht, and Maylay. It came out really good, it’s called “Ain’t Nuttin’ Changed.” Then they came to New York and did the show for our release party. We flew them up, put them in nice hotels, and took care of them—we’re old friends. I said you know what, we should do an album. Eiht gave me like 40 songs and he doesn’t know how to mix. He gave me like 40 songs all sparse and crazy but the beats and lyrics were dope. I said, “Yo man we could do two albums together! I’m gonna put you on my label and do a couple of one-offs.”

That’s what my label represents, pure Hip-Hop from the bottom up! You gotta start from the bottom and work your way up. Everybody now is so caught up on first week sales and soundscan. Forget soundscan and forget first week sales, it’s all about integrity and quality music. We care about our fans and we care about giving them their money’s worth. That pays more than a payola record. Paying for a record means you’re buying your friends. I don’t have to buy my friends to like me. I want you to like me because I’m real and I’m me. So all those other motherfuckers let them pay for their records, we know that they don’t hold water next to what we do. I don’t care if they get 20 million spins they can’t stand next to us when we drop our stuff. Play yours then play mine—ours is better [laughs].

TRHH: Pete Rock is in town, I think 9th Wonder just left town…

DJ Premier: Family man…all family.

TRHH: I recently saw clips from the show that 9th did to honor you and Pete in North Carolina….

DJ Premier: Yeah man. That’s one of the dopest things I’ve ever experienced. To be honored…. Man I feel like I got so many more miles to go. I’ll be 44 years-old this year. The love that 9th Wonder gave me and Pete was so incredible. The band that played for us mimicking our records and sounding just like the beats we produced from out heart and soul, it was one of the biggest, dopest events ever in my lifetime. I love 9th Wonder, I love Pete. Big shout out to both of them.

TRHH: Are you still using the SP 1200?

DJ Premier: No, I’m using the S950 which is one of the old, old 1984-85 machines. And I’m still using the MPC60! The first MPC! Roger Linn, big up.

TRHH: I watched you deejay tonight, what’s your opinion of Serato?

DJ Premier: I used to be against Serato just because vinyl is the essence of how we’ve developed Hip-Hop culture. Shout out to Kool Herc the father and Afrika Bambaataa the godfather. I was against it for a long time and then DJ’s I respect like Jazzy Jeff and DJ Jazzy Jay from the Zulu Nation were like, “Preem this is what you’ve earned. You’ve carried records, amps, and speakers for years; bruising your legs, being tired, sore, paying overweight fees on planes for your record crates on tour. This is a gift to you–utilize it, learn it, and master it and you’ll be incredible.” I finally mastered it and I can do the same thing I wanted to do which is what I was afraid of losing—the integrity of what makes me great when I do vinyl.

I own all of these records that are actually played on Serato. I have every one in storage with the artwork and the credits showing who produced it, engineered it, mixed it, and shout out to my man Ronnie, Ra-Ra, and Rollo! All that means a lot to us so I don’t want that to go away. I like all the rock artists like Katy Perry, Pearl Jam, U2, and Radiohead that put out vinyl. Jay-Z still puts out vinyl, Blueprint 3 is on vinyl. I love that because they don’t neglect what made our culture great, which was the DJ. Before there was an MC there was the DJ and we are the reason why you dance and party. I stay true to the essence. I can play these types of party’s where it’s cross-over music but I’m really deep rooted in the 80’s, 90’s era of Hip-Hop. I like the grown and sexy stuff, 70’s funk, Parliament, Curtis Mayfield, Al Green, Aretha Franklin, Natalie Cole you name it, all of that stuff.

TRHH: When you deejay at a club do you try to avoid playing Preemo records?

DJ Premier: Nah, ‘cause I know that’s what they want. I didn’t do it tonight. The gig’s I usually get that’s all I do is do a big segment of Premier and Gang Starr. Then I go into other stuff like breaks and the original records that we sample from. At the end of the day it’s all about your knowledge and respect for music. As long as your knowledge and respect for music is there you will always prevail because I can do any gig from House, Folk, Country, Rock, and everything. We really, really respect music. We don’t just listen to it and love it, we respect it. You gotta respect it to love it and take it to the next level and that’s what I do.

TRHH: I interviewed MoSS a few weeks ago and he said that you guys had a surprise coming this year. Can you drop a hint?

DJ Premier: If it’s a surprise then it’s gotta remain that. Shout out to MoSS, Works of Mart, Toronto, Canada. He’s one of the illest, fiercest, original producers that I really respect. That’s why I signed him to my production company because he brings another piece to the puzzle. And plus I give people their credit. You have a lot of producers that take the credit but other people produced the song—that’s just how they’re structured. With me, if MoSS produced it, it will say produced by MoSS for Works of Mart. If Gemcrates produced it, it will say produced by Gemcrates for Works of Mart. If it’s produced by Premier, it’s Premier for Works of Mart. I’m not gonna take it and put my name on it but they did it. Plus my sound is already embedded and I don’t want people to say, “Ah man now you getting other people to do your beats?” I worry about that stuff. We all have our own style; they’re just another added piece to making solid albums. It’s all about albums, I love making solid albums.

TRHH: This is the 20 year anniversary of Just to Get a Rep. That’s my favorite Premier beat of all time.

DJ Premier: I appreciate it man, thank you.

TRHH: Go back and talk about Just to Get a Rep and how you made that beat.

DJ Premier: We made that record based on that fact that Guru and I had just got our record deal for Step in the Arena on EMI and Chrysalis Records. We both bought brand new whips, he had a 4Runner and I had a brand new MPV. He was actually robbed for his car and he wrote a song about it. The crazy thing is, the guy who robbed him for his car, we found the guy. We chased him and he ran into an ice cream truck, crashed ,and died. God bless his soul. He crashed into an ice cream truck and died, what can you do? Guru wrote the lyrics based on that incident. That’s a very, very sacred and deep record. I remember the day that we went to the precinct to see the car and it was smashed up like an accordion. There was no way he would have survived that crash. It’s unfortunate that the guy got lost but at the same time it’s unfortunate that he took it upon himself to take Guru’s car. At the end of the day we prevailed. God bless his soul and God bless his family. We don’t wish death on anybody.

TRHH: You have over 20 years of experience beat-making. Do you have a favorite Preemo beat?

DJ Premier: Nah. I’m not into riding my own dick. It’s not my style. You know? Not my style.

TRHH: So what’s up for DJ Premier in 2010?

DJ Premier: Year Round Records is my label for 5 years strong. We have a NYG’z album coming out. They have an album that came out in 2008 called Welcome to G-Dom, more of a compilation type of an album with me bringing up the body of it and they did their own thing while I was on tour with Big Shug of Gangstarr Foundation. We’re also working on his album called Blue Collar. Also Nick Javas from Jersey, his album is called Destination Unknown—a very good album. I got Khalil from Houston, Texas–Missouri City to be exact. His album is called “My MC Name is.…” I’m also doing my DJ Premier album, MC Eiht, and Young Maylay. Also KRS-One and DJ Premier, we’re doing Return of the Boom Bip. Not “Boom Bap,” Boom Bip. Shout out to Q-Tip who is already on it. Grand Puba and Ice-T who are on it, it’s going to be one of the illest albums of 2010!

Purchase DJ Premier’s discography:

Gang Starr – No More Mr. Nice Guy

Gang Starr -Step in the Arena

Gang Starr -Daily Operation

Gang Starr -Hard to Earn

Gang Starr -Moment of Truth

Gang Starr – The Ownerz

Gang Starr – Full Clip: A Decade of Gang Starr

DJ Premier & Bumpy Knuckles – Kolexxxion


Sa-Roc: MetaMorpheus

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Photo courtesy of Robert Adam Mayer
Photo courtesy of Robert Adam Mayer

With over a dozen releases under her belt in just a brief amount of time Sa-Roc has solidified her position as one of the most though-provoking emcees in Hip-Hop. The titles of her projects and songs pay tribute to great civilizations and icons throughout history. Her lyrics harken back to the days when the emcee made the listener say, “Yo, rewind that!”

The Washington D.C. native released a mixtape in mid-2016 titled “MetaMorpheus Mixtape.” The free mixtape combined classic Sa-Roc material with new songs to serve as a reminder and an appetizer for her fall release, MetaMorpheus. MetaMorpheus is a five-song EP released by Rhymesayers Entertainment. The project is produced by long time Sa-Roc collaborator, Sol Messiah and Gensu Dean of Mello Music Group.

The Real Hip-Hop spoke to Sa-Roc about the upcoming U.S. Presidential election, why boom bap will never die, and her new EP, MetaMorpheus.

TRHH: What’s the meaning behind the title of the new EP, MetaMorpheus?

Sa-Roc: MetaMorpheus is a play on two words, metamorphosis obviously, and Morpheus. I’m a big fan of The Matrix. Morpheus is one of those characters that if you read more deeply into the unwritten part of the script of the movie, he thought he was the one but it turned out that he wasn’t. Essentially he wasn’t the one because he didn’t believe that he was the one. He believed that someone else outside of him was more capable of carrying out or shouldering that power. The idea of MetaMorpheus is the transition or development of one’s self from a being of untapped potential to one that blossom’s into the one that’s capable of anything.

TRHH: So do you see yourself as the one?

Sa-Roc: Of course! We should all see ourselves as the one [laughs]. We come here with a unique blueprint. We come here with a unique genetic makeup and unique electronic signature. No one is capable of achieving the same potential as any one of us. We are unique in our imprint on the world. Just that alone makes us amazing individuals and beings capable of anything.

TRHH: What’s the inspiration being the EP’s title track?

Sa-Roc: That kind of speaks to that whole transformation bit. It’s somewhat autobiographical but it can be applied to anyone in a sense that as we go through life we transform from our beginnings into something. In particular this one speaks to an experience coming from a beginning in inner-city neighborhoods where it can be a struggle trying to get out of that environment mentally and physically – and all the challenges that you face trying to do that. In the hook we say, “We’re more than just a city,” we’re capable of more than this existence that seeks to define us, shape us, and keep us trapped — It just kind of talks about developing ones potential beyond environment.

TRHH: Your music has always been filled with references to past great civilizations and people. Where exactly does that come from when you’re writing?

Sa-Roc: I’m a student of history and culture. I’ve always been exposed to that very early on. I went to a school that taught Pan African centered education so we learned about great empires, specifically great empires of the east. That’s always resonated with me and I’ve always had an alignment with ancient and modern eastern culture, from Africa to Asia. That greatly influences my writing and my rhymes.

TRHH: Do you write to the beat or when rhymes come to you?

Sa-Roc: I have lines that I’ll write down when I think of them. I have written songs off the top with no beat or with a tempo or a skeleton beat that I’ll find off the internet. Sol Messiah might create a beat with the same BPM as that beat and I can rap over it. I’ve done different things, but mostly I catch a vibe off of a beat that’s already been created.

TRHH: On the song Eye of the Phoenix you snapped! Talk about how that song came together.

Sa-Roc: Why thank you. That actually was produced by a compadre of ours, Gensu Dean from Mello Music Group. We met him through David Banner and we always kind of wanted to work together. He sent over the track and I just vibed over it. We made history [laughs].

TRHH: The music that you rhyme over can be considered boom bap. In recent years a lot of newer artists have called that sound old or dated. What’s your take on that?

Sa-Roc: [Laughs] Well good music to me can never be dated. We live in a fast food age. As the internet progresses and is more accessible to people, certain internet applications and programs are more accessible. So you have programs like Fruity Loops and Garage Band on every phone, which makes it really easy to learn how to produce. You have a lot of up and coming producers who are creating, in my opinion, fast food beats. Then you get fast food rappers who’ve only practiced or been trained on fast food beats. There’s only so far that you can go so it becomes more difficult and complex to rap over a quote unquote “old school” or “boom bap” beat. I think the attempt to stigmatize boom bap is just an attempt from people who have a little less talent, aren’t able to articulate themselves, and aren’t able to ride the beat the way they can some of these more simplistic beats. I think that’s where some of that comes from.

TRHH: That’s an excellent answer. I’m so glad you said that [laughs]. That’s one of those things that’s been annoying me so much. I’m 40 years old so boom bap is everything to me. I try to listen to the new stuff and it’s not for me. You know Dante Ross, right?

Sa-Roc: Uhhh, no.

TRHH: He’s an executive. He helped discover De La Soul, Brand Nubian, and some other people from the late 80s and early 90s. He’s a white guy from New York. He tweeted “When did real Hip Hop come to mean dated boom bap?” and I was like, “Nah, not you!” I’ve heard that a lot recently and it’s really surprising to me.

Sa-Roc: That’s the thing, a lot of these mature cats don’t want themselves to be labeled as old or in the past so they try to ride the wave of what’s new, current, and popular. They start dissing or trying to minimize what they came up on, and what some of them even rapped over or produced. I just feel like it’s definitely political to try to stay in the loop because that’s what they’re pushing right now. They’re pushing this… this drivel.

TRHH: [Laughs] That’s a good word for it. It’s kind of sad. What’s your opinion on the upcoming Presidential election?

Sa-Roc: [Laughs] I generally don’t get into politics, but let’s just say I’m not really happy with either of the candidates. We have more pull and the more potential to exercise our power with local and grassroots elections. So it’s important to be a part of electing local sheriffs, councilmen, and mayor’s to actually exercise your political power. Both parties in my opinion are a train wreck. I don’t necessarily believe in voting for the lesser of two evils because either way you’re still voting for evil. It’s interesting. It’s certainly once again called into the question of the age old practices of these two political behemoths and why there can’t be any other party on the main platform or the main stage whose voice can be heard.

We’ve seen with Bernie Sanders how that quickly kind of got squashed. A lot of his platform was opposed to Hillary but because he’s part of the Democratic Party he had to acquiesce to her. I don’t want to say she bested him, but they pushed her because they wanted her to represent the party and not Bernie Sanders. Again, I believe it’s really important to exercise your influence over local government. That’s where I believe we as a people have the most power. But definitely keep abreast on what’s going on and if you feel compelled to vote for either of the two candidates, do you. I feel like both candidates are a train wreck, for sure.

TRHH: What about the Green Party candidate and the Libertarian candidate? Are you up on Jill Stein and Gary Johnson?

Sa-Roc: I’ve heard some things about Jill Stein. I’m not completely solid on her platform.

TRHH: I feel you. I’m voting for Jill Stein. I mean, we lived through Bush but I don’t recall the candidates ever being this bad. This is the best that they could produce? It’s kind of sad.

Sa-Roc: Yeah, it’s sad and scary.

TRHH: How is the MetaMorpheus EP different from your other material?

Sa-Roc: I guess it’s different in a sense that I’m just in a different space musically. Every project that I produce I feel like I advance creatively. I think it’s consistent with most if not all of my projects that I present a pretty diverse offering of what I can do as an artist. MetaMorpheus is more a sentimental kind of vibe, then I’ll have hard hitting and gritty deliveries on songs like “Cthulhu’s Revenge” and “Eye of the Phoenix” and I do a little melodies and singing and stuff. I think it’s consistent as far as artistic caliber for sure. I’m just at a different stage creatively in my career.

TRHH: What’s next up for Sa-Roc?

Sa-Roc: Working on a new album. We’re actually starting that now. The fall continues with shows and performing. We’re just going to continue to put out more content and videos. I really, really wanna focus on this new album that we’re gonna be releasing probably in 2017. We’ve got some heavy hitters on this one. Musicians who’ve worked on some Dungeon Family stuff and some really dope singers and writers. I’m really excited about the way that this project is going to be developed and I’m really excited about it being launched with Rhymesayers because they are consistently taking care with my offerings and what I present to the world in their platform. That’s my main thing, just to keep moving forward and increasing visibility.

Purchase: Sa-Roc – MetaMorpheus

Ryu: Tanks for the Memories

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Photo courtesy of Score Press
Photo courtesy of Score Press

Los Angeles emcee Ryu is most known for his work as part of many different groups. Ryu is the ultimate team player as a member of Fort Minor, the Get Busy Committee, and Styles of Beyond. Now Ryu is going for dolo with his first solo album titled, “Tanks for the Memories.”

Tanks for the Memories is produced primarily by Divine Styler with one track handled by Apathy. The album features appearances by Divine Styler, Everlast, Tak, Gravity Christ, Bishop Lamont, Jams, and Celph Titled.

The Real Hip-Hop spoke to Ryu about working with Divine Styler, why he finally decided to do a solo project, his thoughts on today’s mainstream rappers, and his new album, Tanks for the Memories.

TRHH: Explain the title of the album, Tanks for the Memories.

Ryu: Tanks for the Memories is kind of a metaphor loosely based on my experiences in the music industry. I’ve had a lot of ups and downs and it’s been a bit of a battle. The “Tanks” symbolizes the battle. If you look at the album artwork it’s a little kid kind of looking back at his past – that’s where it came from.

TRHH: On the single “Been Doin’ This” you pay homage to Gang Starr. How’d that song come together?

Ryu: My man Divine Styler who produced the whole album came up with that beat. A good friend of mine named Redeem just passed away a couple years ago and he was a huge Gang Starr fan. I’ve been kind of thinking about doing a tribute to Redeem because he was the one that got me into rapping and he was my biggest fan. When he passed away it was hard on all of us. I figured I’d rock that one for Redeem. The whole song is a story about growing up with Redeem. With it being a Premier beat I shouted out Guru as well.

TRHH: Why’d you decide to do a solo project after all this time?

Ryu: It was one of those bucket list things. I didn’t want to wonder “what if?” I figured no matter what happened with this record, if it’s successful or if it’s not, at least I can scratch that off the list. I just did it for me basically. In this day and age in this climate of music it’s not going to sell a million copies. My incentive was to just do it for me and hopefully people like it.

TRHH: How was recording this album different from doing a Styles of Beyond album?

Ryu: In some ways it was the same because I worked with the same cast. Divine was one of the original producers of Styles of Beyond along with Vin Skully, and Cheapshot was our DJ. I basically just stuck with the same people I’ve worked with my entire career. I did the whole record with Divine and had Cheapshot do cuts. It was kind of the same process, a little more tough in a sense that I had to carry all the duties of rapping and conceptualizing with the songs. It’s a little bit harder to do on your own but it’s also more fun that way because you get to do what you want. You don’t have to compromise with anyone. Also I got Tak from Styles of Beyond on the album too, so it’s kind of like a Styles of Beyond album.

TRHH: Divine Styler produced the album and it has a golden era feel to it. Was it a conscious effort to give the album that sound or did it just turn out that way?

Ryu: It just turned out that way. We started doing some tracks and it starts taking a shape of its own once you get 3-4 tracks in. I could have went a couple different directions with this album. I could have went the Fort Minor album direction with radio singles. I could have went Get Busy Committee and did some new school stuff. I decided to do on this album what comes most natural to me, which is just spittin’ over hot beats. That’s all I really wanted to do. The end result ended up sounding like something that was kind of throwback-y but current at the same time. A lot of people that I played it for said it has that old school golden era feel but it doesn’t feel throwback-y, it feels current.

TRHH: That’s definitely the vibe I got from it. I love the album, man.

Ryu: Thank you, thank you.

TRHH: I’m feeling the album and I’m very excited about it.

Ryu: That’s good because you’re the first person outside of my friends who has heard it, so that’s good coming from you.

TRHH: Like you said, it’s got old school elements but it doesn’t sound dated. It’s very modern and dope.

Ryu: I could have been one of those grumpy old rappers and complained about how music doesn’t sound good nowadays or I could have just made an album and showed ‘em how to do it. That’s where it came from.

TRHH: I won’t use the term “grumpy old rappers” but I hear older school cats say shits wack now, but I also hear some say, “Stop hating on the young cats and let them do their thing!” What’s your take on the old school’s take on modern rappers and what’s your take on modern rappers?

Ryu: I think it’s fine. I don’t put too much on it. I don’t hate on the young kids and I like a lot of it, too. It just is what it is – it’s different. This is their version of Hip-Hop. You can’t really blame them for that. Some of it I like more than others. A lot of it just sounds the same. It’s good, there just needs to be variety. There is people out there doing traditional Hip-Hop records but a lot of time that even sounds like they’re emulating and it’s not coming from the heart. I’m kind of indifferent about it. It’s cool. Once in a while I’ll catch a new song that I kind of like, but very rarely. I just listen to old stuff.

TRHH: I feel like after a little lull the west coast has been producing the best music in recent years. The best shit is coming out of California now. What’s your take on the resurgence of west coast Hip-Hop?

Ryu: I don’t know, I can’t really call it. I agree, the west coast is bringing some innovation back into the game. Schoolboy Q’s last record was amazing. I liked it better than Kendrick’s to be honest. It’s got that street feel to it. L.A. artists are lyricists since the Project Blowed days and even Snoop. Our gangster rappers were even lyricists at the same time. Everybody has their time to shine and the west coast was bringing something different to the equation and it started catching because people were sick of the same old thing. Kendrick, Schoolboy Q, and the whole TDE thing kind of set that off. Even YG does traditional gangsta rap but that was missing. It wasn’t any of that going on right now. I think we’re just filling a void.

TRHH: You have a song on the album called “I Did it To Myself” that’s real introspective. What was the inspiration behind that song?

Ryu: That song I actually did a few years ago. A lot of people liked it so much I just tacked it on the end of the album. That’s the only song not produced by Divine — it was produced by Apathy. The concept behind that was I was signed to Warner Bros. with Fort Minor, which is Mike Shinoda’s group with me and Tak from Styles of Beyond. I also was signed as Styles of Beyond with Warner Bros. It basically didn’t’ work out. It was a bad situation. I spent a lot of time blaming other people for that, “The record label sucks. The President of Warner just don’t understand us. Linkin Park could have done more to promote us.” I was blaming a lot of people. I realized after a while that I was sitting there on the record label waiting for someone to do something for me instead of going and doing it on my own. At the end of the day the only person I could blame was myself. That was like a diss record that I was going to do about the whole situation but it ended up being a diss record to myself.

TRHH: That’s a great lesson to learn though.

Ryu: Yeah, me being a little bit older in the game for rap, that’s the kind of stuff that I appreciate. The younger me wouldn’t have looked at it like that. Me being older I think the timing is right for everything because if I had done a solo album when I was 21 I don’t think it would have been the same. It would have been ignorant. It’s good to be able to look at yourself and factor in all things when you’re making your decisions as an older rapper.

TRHH: Who is Tanks for the Memories made for?

Ryu: It’s made for me and Divine Styler – that’s it. We did that record in my kitchen. We had no expectations for it. We just did it to watch ourselves bug out [laughs]. We’d just sit there in the kitchen, play a beat, make ugly faces, and dance around. We made it for ourselves. Like I said I could have went a couple different directions and tried to cater to what I feel was the best selling or the most people would like it. I just did it for myself and Divine, that’s it. We had a fun time doing it.

Purchase: Ryu- Tanks for the Memories

Substantial: Present

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Photo courtesy of Kokayi
Photo courtesy of Kokayi

Substantial and Marcus D make up the group Bop Alloy. Originally from Maryland but now residing in Virginia, Substantial is the emcee of the group. A veteran artist, Substantial boasts one of the best voices in Hip-Hop with substantive lyrics to match. Marcus D is a producer from Seattle, Washington who currently resides in Tokyo, Japan. Marcus’ music merges his talents as a pianist with that classic boom bap sound.

Bop Alloy’s most recent release is a 5 track EP titled “Present EP.” The project is produced entirely by Marcus D and features appearances by Precious Joubert, Intelligenz, and Steph the Sapphic Songstress.

One half of Bop Alloy, Substantial spoke to The Real Hip-Hop about The Present EP, his role with the HipNott Records label, and his upcoming solo album slated for a fall release.

TRHH: You and Marcus D have been making music a long time on your own. How did you initially come together to form the group?

Substantial: We initially came together after he reached out to me a minute ago, back when Myspace was still a thing. He contacted me through Myspace and asked me to hop on some tracks on his debut album. We basically kept in touch and kept working. I stepped to my agent that was handling my stuff in Japan at the time and told him if I did an album with this kid it would probably go pretty well. I mentioned it to Marcus and we had already done three or four tracks by that time. We’ve just been making music together ever since.

TRHH: Where does the name “Bop Alloy” come from?

Substantial: Around the same time that I had that conversation I figured if we were gonna do a project that we needed a name for it, or us together. A lot of the production that he was sending me was jazz influenced. It was fusing jazz with Hip-Hop so I basically tried to come up with something that summed it up really well. Bebop is a well known style of jazz so I just shortened that and went with bop. Alloy is a type of metal fusion. So I just used those words to describe our sound and we’ve been rocking with the name ever since.

TRHH: Why’d you title the new EP “Present”?

Substantial: Present is part three in a series of EP’s that all lead up to my solo album. The solo album I’m working on is called “The Past is Always Present in the Future.” There were different EP’s that tie in to different portions of the full album. The first EP that came out was called “The Past” the second one was “Always” and now “Present” is the one we just released. The songs that fall into the “Future” section are all gonna be included on the album. We went with Present for this particular EP because it’s part of the title for my album, but also of all the producers that I collaborate with Marcus D is the one I presently collaborate with the most. So when I was choosing who would handle the production for that particular EP it made the most sense to work with the guy I work with the most right now.

TRHH: Tell me about the song The Sub Way.

Substantial: I was basically vibing to the beat that Marcus sent – it’s an amazing track. When you’ve been writing as long as I have the challenge is coming up with an original concept. The first thing that you have to accept is the chances of you talking about something that no one has ever talked about before is slim to none. The least I can do is come up with a creative way to do it. I talk about my life growing up in Maryland and the other areas I lived leading up to present day. It’s tied into the title of course, but I wanted to use the various subway trains that are tied into all of the neighborhoods that I describe. It starts in Maryland then it goes up to New York and I mention all the trains around there. Then I talk about the MARC train in Baltimore which is how I used to get back and forth to D.C. and PG from Bmore when I wasn’t driving, and eventually Virginia where I’m resting at now. I figured using the subway would be an interesting way to tie my life story together.

TRHH: What’s your recording process like with you guys being on opposite ends of the country?

Substantial: Most of the time it depends. If we’re working on something for the other’s project that will determine who hits up who first. In this particular case when I started working on this project I hit up Marcus and was like, “This is what I’m thinking.” He started sending me tracks, we’d have enough tracks, and then we wouldn’t ‘cause I’d change my mind about one. As the process was going on he’d e-mail me the beat, I’d open it up in a session and lay down what I call “scat tracks” where it would be no words. I’d just be scatting over the beat with different flows over whatever melody. I’d develop the idea, lay down a rough, and send it back. He’d give feedback. It’s at least one phone conversation a week, a whole lot of e-mails, and a couple of text messages on the joint until we got it where we needed it to be.

TRHH: What exactly is your role at HipNott Records?

Substantial: At HipNott I’m Head of A&R. I’m also an artist on the label. That’s how I first came into the fold. Maybe a couple months into my contract with them as an artist they offered me a job as Head of A&R with the label. That was maybe March of 2015.

TRHH: Has your role at HipNott Records changed the way you create and view music?

Substantial: I wouldn’t say it’s changed how I create or approach music. The only thing now is I spend a lot more time on the phone with artists making sure they have what they need, following up with different things, and pitching ideas to them – just whatever they need to help make their project happen. Truthfully it’s not too different from what I’ve been doing for years with different artists that I knew needed my help, it’s just now I get paid for it [laughs]. We all kind of know a bunch of artists so if you’re like a big brother to a lot of them you’re always offering advice. You’re always making calls on their behalf, linking them with whoever, kind of going out and checking out the latest acts and taking one or two under your wing. That’s something that I always did even when I was doing demos, it’s just now it’s in an official capacity.

TRHH: Give us some insight into the upcoming solo album.

Substantial: As I mentioned before the new album is going to be called The Past is Always Present in the Future. Right now I have production from Oddisee on there, The Other Guys, Marcus D, my man Algorhythm from The Stuyvesants, Gensu Dean off of Mello Music, and John Lane who is part of Oddisee’s band, Good Company. There’s a lot of great production. The title is somewhat self-explanatory like, no matter how much things change over time there are certain things from our past that will remain constant, which I think applies heavily to what we see going on in the world right now with police brutality and a long list of other issues that are facing the black community. So I think it’s something that we kind of know to be true, I just feel like The Past is Always Present in the Future is the perfect way to sum up what we’re seeing.

The album deals with a lot of those things. It talks about legacy – recognizing what I’m ultimately gonna leave behind, cause I ain’t gonna be here forever. And basically making from that standpoint and recognizing the fact that I can get out here, tap dance, and do all this bullshit that a lot of artists do to make money, however if it was all about that for me I’d just hit the block [laughs]. I decided to go this route with my music because I saw this as a vehicle to not only help myself, but other people. Starting with my community and branching out and affecting change throughout the world. I recognize the power of this art and me putting a lot of thought into what I’m doing and making sure my legacy is one I can be proud of, and more importantly my family can be proud of.

Purchase: Bop Alloy – Present EP

Masta Ace: The Falling Season

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Photo courtesy of zoefotografie
Photo courtesy of zoefotografie

From the start of his music career Masta Ace has always pushed the creative envelope. His projects come across as more movies than albums. Ace beautifully intertwines beats and rhymes with stories that everyone can identify with. Ace’s latest release adds on to his legacy of making full-length albums that display his talents as a storyteller and a lyricist.

The Falling Season is an album that takes us back to Masta Ace’s high school years. Ace guides the listener through the highs and lows that he experienced during his most pivotal years in his home of Brownsville, Brooklyn. The album is produced entirely by KIC Beats and features appearances by Chuck D, Your Old Droog, Pav Bundy, A.G., Nikky Bourbon, Torae, LT, Queen Herawin, Wordsworth, Stricklin, Cormega, Beej Gordy Brooks, Deion, Denez Prigent, Pearl Gates, World Famous Supreme Team, and the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble.

The Real Hip-Hop spoke to Masta Ace about The Falling Season, why making the right decisions is critically important for young people, working with producer KIC Beats, and his dream of writing for the big screen.

TRHH: Explain the title of the new album, The Falling Season.

Masta Ace: The album takes you back to my high school years between the ages of 13 and 18. That’s kind of the age I feel like young men make sometimes the wrong decision and sometimes the right decision. When they make those wrong decisions at that age it’s the time of your life where one wrong decision could impact the trajectory of your life and send you in a whole different direction. I found at that age that a lot of cats that I was hanging with started to fall, make mistakes, go to jail, and just go in different directions in their lives and they never really recovered from it.

TRHH: Why do you think that is? Why do you think that at that age so many life altering moments happen, especially in our community?

Masta Ace: That’s kind of the age were you’re sort of transitioning from kid to young man. You can kind of see adulthood right in front of you. Once you hit the teens you start thinking you know everything and nobody can tell you nothing. You think you got everything figured out and your parents don’t know nothing. You start going out there and making those decision. At that age also you start hanging out a little bit later and kind of do your thing a little bit. You’re able to have a little bit more freedom but sometimes in the city that freedom is a bad thing because you wind up being with the wrong kind of people in the wrong kind of situations. If you haven’t been given the right foundation from a parent then you can easily fall into the wrong trap.

TRHH: How long have you had this concept in mind for The Falling Season?

Masta Ace: This concept really just came up when I wrote the first song for the album. I had a bunch of beats but the first song that really came to me and made me want to write was the Young Black Intelligent record. Once I wrote that record it kind of spells out what I was going through at that age – the struggle growing up in Brownsville, Brooklyn, having friends that went a different direction, feeling that pressure to not necessarily be a good student because that was a cool thing to be, but wanting to do what felt right to me. Once the lyrics were written I knew exactly what the album was going to be about.

TRHH: Young Black Intelligent is a song that I relate to. Unfortunately a lot of young, black, intelligent children have to deal with feelings of isolation in their own neighborhoods and even some homes. What inspired you to write that song?

Masta Ace: The song just really spoke to who I was at that age and that time of my life coming up in the neighborhood that I came up in. So many of the kids that I hung with on a daily basis and played football with had no interest in school or anything related to school. They were really all about the streets. For a while there had I made one or two different decisions you and I wouldn’t be talking right now. There would be no artist named Masta Ace. My fate would have been completely different. I wanted to tell the story of that struggle. I didn’t even think about how it could relate to other people, I just wanted to tell the story from my perspective. It just so happened that many people, and many young people now can relate to being in that situation.

TRHH: Did you purposely have KIC Beats produce the entire album or did it just turn out that way?

Masta Ace: It’s purposely because I was looking for a producer or producers that could put together some music that was sample free or pretty close to it. When I heard his sample free music it still felt like it was samples. That’s what I was looking for – somebody who had music that sounded like samples even though it wasn’t. Once I heard his little library of beats I knew that he was the right guy to do the whole thing. Right away I picked out 4-or-5 that I definitely wanted to write to. That just carried through the whole album.

TRHH: Why was it important to have sample free music?

Masta Ace: At the time the album that I was working on was supposed to be for Penalty which is distributed by Sony. It was made very clear early on that we couldn’t bring any music that had samples in it because it was going to create an issue because of the Sony name. When people see that Sony name and they know that you used their music they’re gonna come after you with guns blazing. That was the initial reason why I was looking for a producer that was sample free. They worked on the eMC album as well. As the project came together I just felt like it wasn’t the right home for the album and decided to move it, but I stayed with the plan.

TRHH: How long did it take to complete the album?

Masta Ace: If you count mixing and everything it took a year. In terms of writing, picking all the beats, and creating the songs it was probably 7-8 months. I was on the road with eMC and that kind of slowed the process down. It wasn’t like a continuous 8 months working on it. I was out promoting the eMC record and doing shows with them so I would take big blocks of time off while I was touring with them and then I’d come back and work on it some more.

TRHH: You have a lot of great guest appearances on The Falling Season; talk about the joint you have with A.G. on the album.

Masta Ace: That’s probably the one record on the album that doesn’t have anything to do with the theme of the album. There is no message there that connects with the theme of the album. He and I had collaborated on a few records together over the last maybe year or two. I felt like we had good chemistry musically. I felt like we were a good match. I’ve known A.G. for a long time. We’ve been cool for years. I decided to reach out and see if he was down and he was definitely down to jump on it. That just made it all the better.

TRHH: Was this album the most autobiographical of all your albums?

Masta Ace: Definitely the most autobiographical of all of them. The two previous albums, Disposable Arts and A Long Hot Summer were fiction based but had autobiographical elements in it. This album is kind of the reverse. It’s autobiographically based but had elements of fiction mixed in to make it more fun. So yeah, definitely the most out of all of them.

TRHH: What’s next up for Masta Ace and M3 Records?

Masta Ace: Next up is a project with Marco Polo next year. I’m trying to really transition into writing screenplays. I have a TV show idea that I’m developing. I want to take my writing to other areas — TV, movies, big screen. That’s where I’d like to go with it – that’s what I’m pursuing.

Purchase: Masta Ace – The Falling Season

Jyroscope: On the House

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Photo courtesy of Jerry Graham Publicity
Photo courtesy of Jerry Graham Publicity

I.B. Fokuz, Collasoul Structure, and DJ Seanile are Jyroscope. The Chicago trio came onto the scene five years ago with their debut album, Ragtime. Soon after Jyroscope released a mixtape paying homage to their favorite rock tunes titled, “On the Rocks.”

Jyroscope returned in early 2016 with a new project paying homage to a genre created in their hometown of Chicago — Hip House. Born in the late 1980s and reaching its peak in the early 90s, Hip House combined Chicago’s soundtrack, house music, with New York’s burgeoning music called Hip-Hop. Jyroscope reintroduces fans to the once popular music on a free mixtape called “On the House.” On the House is a 9 track release available for free download that features appearances by Jondae Scott and Malakh EL.

The Real Hip-Hop spoke to the members of Jyroscope about the On the House mixtape, their growth as artists since their 2011 debut, and their upcoming EP, Mute.

TRHH: Why did you guys decide to do a Hip House project?

I.B. Fokuz: First and foremost we kind of came off of our last project “On the Rocks” where we were rocking over a whole bunch of rock tracks and we wanted to dabble in different genres. We chose to do house. It started as a fun idea but as we watched it manifest before our eyes it really hit home because this is the Mecca of house music. Mixing Hip-Hop with house music really hit home for us. It was a great idea at first but it really manifested into something that we wanted to explore even more. It was a good choice and as you listen to the music it kind of progresses with those thoughts, if that makes sense.

TRHH: What are some of your early memories of Hip House music in the city?

Collasoul Structure: With Hip House of course the obvious would be hearing Fast Eddie. Frankie Knuckles of course, Mr. Fingers, and obviously The Percolator is the most well-known song across the board. People in different places on different planets know that song.

I.B. Fokuz: Later on down the line we got Outhere Brothers. I think sometimes people did it unintentionally. Because it’s the city of house music you were bound to ride the 4/4. I think the appreciation for that authentic Chicago sound kind of got lost when it started to go overseas. Not to put down anybody – obviously everything it evolves. It took on as EDM, rave, and things like that which is still cool. Taking it back to your first question and connecting it to your second one it’s like bringing it back to the essence of where it comes from but with a modernized flow and modernized approach, we thought it would make things interesting.

TRHH: Do you guys know if Fast Eddie or any of those other guys heard On the House?

Collasoul Structure: I would hope so. I really hope some of the greats and legends get to hear it hopefully. I’m praying for it. If they do I hope they know that we are truly trying to pay homage and uphold the standard. People haven’t really jumped onto Hip House in a long time. It blossomed then and fizzled and stayed where it was in that time. People are kind of starting to do something similar. You can sort of say that Flo Rida is on that wave. No one really touched upon that genre and that portal. We sat and thought about jumping into this full force and brought it back to the city.

I.B. Fokuz: Just to camelback off what he said we were very sensitive to the fact of paying that homage and making sure what we were doing was done right. Even though we did it in our way and wanted to elevate it we still wanted to make sure the roots were deeply planted so it could be appreciated by the greats. Actually by you asking did these legends hear it, funny enough one of the tracks that we did called “Vibes” was collaborated with The Black Madonna and Simba.

Collasoul Structure: It was a Simba Selecta song and Black Madonna remixed it. I heard it a little while back and played it for I.B. and Seanile. It’s the essence of house right here. When you hear that song you think “house” like this is what it’s all about right here. We went straight to work on it. Thankfully we got a dude that believed in us and helped us put together a video for it – Mr. Kory Stewart. He put together a masterful video, we put it out, and people embraced it. Simba Selecta and Black Madonna tweeted to us, “Hey, we are in love with this song. We would love to play it in shows. We really dig it and appreciated that you re-worked our song.”

I.B. Fokuz: Just to bring it full circle back to your question directly, that’s what we would love to hear and I think that’s the reason why you even asked the question. It’s one thing to do something and get love from the people but when you’re really paying homage to somebody, for the people that you’re paying homage to, to reach their hand out and be like, “Hey, y’all did it right,” that makes us appreciate the project more. This project is still growing wings. We released it in February but with the video coming out it’s spreading more wings. To be honest with you, and I can speak for all of us, On the House is really just the prototype to what we are prepared to do in the future. This is really just to open up the portal. We really want to tap more into the Hip-House, not meaning that we don’t have the boom bap because we got a lot of cards up our sleeves. But the Hip House is very special to us.

TRHH: How have you guys grown as a group since the release of Ragtime?

DJ Seanile: It’s been a lot of years since Ragtime. Everybody has grown as artists – digging for records, finding new styles, and different things that we all want to do with the music. Since Ragtime we’ve just been evolving day after day after day after day. With the Hip House record it just shows that there is no genre that we can’t discover or research that we don’t try to give it our all to make our own sounds with the genres that we come across. I’m really looking forward to the next one, but the Hip House genre that we decided to do this time really touched home with me because I grew up on house and I spin house all the time. It’s a moment where it’s finally a record that we could put out and really get into, and doing live shows with it makes it even better. The Vibes video just shows you the evolution since Ragtime.

Collasoul Structure: I feel like we were pretty good then but we’ve grown leaps and bounds. When you listen to Ragtime we sound like 15-16 years old. You can hear the growth in our voices and the styles. Our wording has gotten sharper, our delivery has gotten sharper, Seanile’s cuts have gotten sharper literally and figuratively. We studied ourselves, our influences, and basically jumped in a plane and went up there a little bit. I’m very, very proud of us.

I.B. Fokuz: Just to add to that, when you speak about Ragtime first and foremost Ragtime was a representation of our struggle and endurance before that was released. Just to give you some background, when Jyroscope came about that was ’05. Me and Collasoul Structure we were in the same high school in the same division class at Hyde Park Academy. Funny enough, we really didn’t clique up until senior year. We had amazing conversations and builds, but it really didn’t kick off until senior year. When we graduated in ’05 that’s when we really took it serious to link up and do what we was doing.

We started off on the south side just doing open mics and stuff. As we were growing in these open mics in our own approach it was a lot of guys that took us under their wing just to say, y’all need to get out of the hood on the south side and the rest of Chicago needs to hear you. It’s almost a metaphor of the whole world needing to hear you because you’re not going to be heard just being on this block. We give credit to a lot of brothers that helped us out. When we went to the north side we started exposing ourselves and performing in different cities in the country. It really helped us to understand what we had. This whole process of us learning all this stuff and maturing was us creating Ragtime.

Ragtime really was like a representation of the starving artist in the struggle. A lot of people don’t know that Ragtime came out in 2011 but it was probably written in 2008. It was all written by ’09 it’s just that we didn’t record it. This was a project that captured our early moments when we were buzzing in the streets and out here in Timbs in the snow passing out flyers, going to open mics, building with the rest of our brethren which is now Tomorrow Kings. All of that stuff was being built around that time. When we finally released Ragtime in 2011 that’s the reason why you heard On the Rocks.

When you listen to the style and flow on On the Rocks you can kind of tell that there was a little maturity and growth in our rhyming skills, patterns, and concepts. You can tell that On the Rocks is different from Ragtime even though they were released in the same year. It was a point where we were like, “Should we put out Ragtime?” but this was like a photo album of everything that we experienced so when we released it, it was appreciated as such. When you ask how we have grown from that point, it was a lot of growing before that point which led to this moment that makes us approach things the way we approach it now.

TRHH: Because of that growth is it difficult when you guys are performing to do those songs?

I.B. Fokuz: Could you elaborate on that question?

TRHH: Do you not want to perform the songs off of Ragtime because the sound has changed or because you’re just in a different space right now?

DJ Seanile: I personally feel like anything that we’ve done in the past I’m always down to do again. At the gig today I was listening to some of Gilead’s records off of ADVENT and I was like, we gotta perform “Sophia” again, it’s been too long. There is nothing on Ragtime that I wouldn’t perform on a daily basis.

Collasoul Structure: That’s a very, very good question. One thing I can say first and foremost is I never feel ashamed to perform any of the songs from Ragtime because they got us to where we are today. We hold those so close to the heart. We definitely still do perform songs from Ragtime. We still have a very limited supply that’s for sale, too. We’re gonna rock it until the end. Some of those songs still can compete today I feel. I definitely understand what you mean when you ask if it’s difficult to perform those because you feel like you have grown so much.

There will be a disparity in the styles when you hear something live from Ragtime, to when you hear something from On the Rocks, to when you hear something from On the House, and when you hear the new stuff from the Mute EP. It’s gonna be there. If anything it’s a challenge for us to re-learn songs from Ragtime that we haven’t done in a long time. It’s actually fun, it’s exciting. One day I’d like to perform the entire album of Ragtime all the way through like we did at the release party. It would be hard as hell but it would be fun.

TRHH: I spoke to Gilead7 a while ago and he said the Tomorrow Kings would come back as a crew pretty soon. How soon will we hear something from Tomorrow Kings?

I.B. Fokuz: I will say this, Tomorrow Kings never left. Tomorrow Kings never split up, Tomorrow Kings has always been united. To put it in more perspective as to why Jyroscope is starting to buzz again like we were doing in ’08 and ’09, Tomorrow Kings being this collective of emcees we founded this and brought this together as a collective of unity. A lot of people have attempted to do this but weren’t able to capitalize and build an umbrella to build from. We actually did that. We released a great album, Nigger Rigged Time Machine. We did a lot of great things as far as touring and getting out here. We really created a platform for the individual artists in the crew.

The reason why I say that is because you have to understand when Tomorrow Kings started Jyroscope as far as emcees was the only duo within the crew. We was technically how Souls of Mischief is in Hieroglyphics. Jyroscope is like the Souls of Mischief of Tomorrow Kings and everybody else is solo emcees. When we all came together to build Tomorrow Kings we put in some years to even get that recognized, honored, and respected. By even doing that we all kind of put our own individual thing on hiatus to really nurture what Tomorrow Kings is right now and the respect that it has. By us putting those years in now it got back to that point where now that we solidified this foundation now we all gotta get in our own individual stations so we can nurture where we started from.

When we came together we all were hungry on our own stations but we put so much time as a family that it was a point of emphasis that we all had to grow individually to be those pillars to hold up that building. That’s the reason why you’re hearing Skech185 coming out with his new album. That’s the reason why you’re hearing Lamon Manuel about to release his debut project. That’s the reason why Gilead7 just released his project. That’s the reason why you heard Jyroscope just released On the House and we got more stuff in store. We all individually are strengthening ourselves as we built this foundation so now when we release all these projects best believe that, that next project of Tomorrow Kings is going to be brewing.

The more projects you hear coming out from each individual member, that’s when you need to put the clock on and be like, “Okay, I done got an album from him, an album from him, and an album from him, I know what’s next! Tomorrow Kings is about to come back out with that haymaker again.” Everything is calculated. Everything is put into place in its right pattern so it can still be accepted well but it still has the breathing room for everybody to shine which was the point and emphasis from the beginning.

TRHH: What can fans expect to hear on the Mute EP?

Collasoul Structure: For starters it’s gonna be hard. It’s gonna be tough. Tough meaning it’s gonna bang. You’re gonna feel it. We really, really put some energy into these rhymes. We always do, but we really put some strength and conditioning into these rhymes. I’m over-elated about how it’s coming out so far. You can expect production from Jason Gatz of Gatz and Goods. Also Ashley Good from Gatz and Goods because her vocals are on one of the songs. You’re gonna expect some hard hitting instrumentation.

I.B. Fokuz: My production is scattered on there.

Collasoul Structure: Right. Crazy rhyme schemes, ridiculous word wizardry, really cool creative concepts, some DJ Seanile cuts –super sharp cuts! When you listen to it your ears are gonna be bleeding.

I.B. Fokuz: He ain’t leaving the studio until we get that right cut!

DJ Seanile: [Laughs].

Collasoul Structure: A little bit of this, and a little bit of that. We’re gonna keep it short and sweet. It’s gonna be an extended play, but it’s gonna be short and sweet.

I.B. Fokuz: And to be honest with you, bro it’s easy for us to say this is a new beginning but this is just a continuation of our growth and maturity. On the House was really our proper introduction back into the wave of things. Mute EP is us flexing our guns a little bit like, “Yeah, don’t get it twisted, we still got that sledge hammer on deck.” It’s not gonna stop there because you might get another Hip House project right after that. You might get a rock track after that. You might get a jazz album right after that. You might get a folk album right after that.

If this hasn’t been emphasized, if you know what a gyroscope is it balances things. It keeps things balanced. The reason why we are Jyroscope is because you can put us in any environment and we will adapt to it. Best believe that this Mute EP is gonna get thrown at people like a haymaker but we ain’t stopping there. That’s a little jab to the neck. Once you recuperate from that we’re gonna give you something to bob your head to and hopefully your head don’t fall off your shoulders from the last blow. We’re definitely keeping it coming, but the Mute EP is gonna be pretty tough.

Download: Jyroscope – On the House

Ras Beats: Control Your Own

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Photo courtesy of Worldwyde Recordings
Photo courtesy of Worldwyde Recordings

Born in Denmark and raised in Queens, New York Ras Beats continues the East Coast tradition of making that old boom bap. His sample-based sound provides a feeling from a past era with a modern day appeal. Ras Beats’ work is on full display on his newly released album on Worldwyde Recordings, Control Your Own.

Control Your Own is a 14 track album that features O.C., Elzhi, Roc Marciano, Sub-Con, Breeze Brewin’, Kool Sphere, Fev, A.G., J-Biz, Rasheed Chappell, Blacastan, Sureshot La Rock, Masta Ace, and Sadat X.

Ras Beats spoke to The Real Hip-Hop about his beginnings in beat-making, the current sound of mainstream Hip-Hop, and his new album, Control Your Own.

TRHH: Explain the title of the album, Control Your Own.

Ras Beats: That came from a conversation I was having, actually. We were talking about some real life stuff at the moment and I said, “You gotta control your own,” and when I said that I thought that should be the name of the album. When it comes to the album it’s in reference to this album being independent and making sure you control your own music, the sound of it, and the integrity of your music. On a larger scale as a grown person, you may not be able to control a lot of this necessarily on the outside but you can control how you act, your own morals, and your behavior. That’s something that means something to me and that’s the meaning behind the title.

TRHH: What made you decide to do a producers album?

Ras Beats: I’m always making beats, listening to music, looking for samples, chopping them up and all that stuff. I came to a point where there were some great producer albums out there but I wanted to add my two cents. It’s something I had thought about for a while and it got to the point it was inevitable and I had to do it. Also to put some good music out there and kinda get busy with it. It’s something I had an idea with for a while but I kind of went back and forth, but I had to do this. I started working on it and that was it.

TRHH: Tell me about the first single, Wit No Pressure.

Ras Beats: When I decided I wanted to make an album Roc Marciano was one of the guys I had to get on there. He’s one of my favorites. He’s an emcee so you want to make sure as a producer that you do your best when you get him on a record. I came up with the beat and it was for Roc. I was fortunate enough that I knew him and we made it happen. It felt like a good way to start the album.

TRHH: How did you initially get into production?

Ras Beats: Probably the same story as a lot of people that do beats in my kind of style – sampling and chopping them up and all that. For me it came from just looking for old records, listening to music and being like, “Oh, that’s where such and such got the sample from!” My knowledge started expanding from there and after a while I decided to make something on my own. Like anything else you start working on your craft and you get to a point where you start making songs. It was very organic. I was a fan of music then I started making my own and going from there.

TRHH: What’s your take on the keyboard sound that has taken over Hip-Hop in recent years?

Ras Beats: That’s a tough one. At this point I think I’ve gotten into the mindset that if I don’t like something I don’t really listen to it. It sounds cliché, but if it’s good it’s good. I just always liked my Hip-Hop to be funky. I like it to have a certain grit and grime to it – something that affects you in a way that no other music affects you when you hear that first couple bars. To me it’s not that much keyboard production that gives me that feeling. Not that it necessarily has to be based on samples but there is a certain feel that that type of production gives you that I don’t personally hear in the cleaner keyboard sound. I like it a little grittier, personally. With that being said there is some stuff played on keyboard that still has that feel to it, but to my ears it’s not all that much that has it. It’s personally what I like listening to.

TRHH: What is your workstation of choice?

Ras Beats: I keep it really simple. I got my turntables set up and I got my Akai MPC 2500 next to it. That way I hear something, get inspired or am in that mood I can kind of get going in ten seconds. I do it on the 2500 at first and then go to Pro Tools when it’s time to record and mix. It’s the 2500 and I have a little keyboard hooked up to it – not so much for keyboard beats but for any samples I want to manipulate. I basically try to work with the samples and do my own take on it. I find something I want to work with and change around enough to where it’s mine now. I think the science behind it is if you find some incredible record to sample you have to add on to it and make it more than what it was when you heard it.

TRHH: How did the new single, Knowledge of Self with Elzhi and O.C. come about?

Ras Beats: I got the verse from Elzhi and I wanted to finish it up with somebody that could match what he was talking about. Elzhi is saying some things in there and you can’t just put anybody on the record next to him. O.C. was somebody that came to mind. I knew he could bring that home from there. A.G., who is also on my album was able to put me in contact with O.C., and he heard the record and was down with it.

TRHH: Do you have a favorite verse on Control Your Own?

Ras Beats: [Laughs] A lot of people ask me about my favorite songs and favorite verses. I don’t think I have one. It changes from day to day. The O.C. verse is pretty incredible. Off the top of my head I’d have to say that verse but I’m really happy with what everybody gave me on that album. Everybody that’s on there definitely came through and I really appreciate that. If you ask me tomorrow it’s going to be a different verse [laughs].

TRHH: If you could produce an album for one artist who would it be?

Ras Beats: Oohh, that’s tough. I might have to think about that. I don’t know.

TRHH: Okay, give me a few.

Ras Beats: I would have to go all-time favorites. I would love to do a record with Grand Puba – he’s one of my favorites. I would love to do a whole album with Craig G. Roc Marciano, I’d love to do a whole project with him. There’s a lot. There are a lot of people I’d like to work with and a lot of people I’d love the opportunity to do a whole project for them.

TRHH: Who is Control Your Own made for?

Ras Beats: I mean without sounding weird first and foremost it’s made for me. I wanted to make sure that this was the album that I planned to make. I wanted to make sure that it was good. I wanted to make sure that if there was a track or an interlude that I’m not loving it came off. There are a couple songs and interludes that didn’t make it. After that, once I was happy with it I want people out there who are looking for music and don’t care about politics, trends, and things like that and love music, beats, rhymes, good lyricists, drums, bass lines, and filters, that’s who I made it for. People that love music and don’t care about trends and what’s hot right now. They love music and that’s who it’s for.

Purchase: Ras Beats – Control Your Own

Reef the Lost Cauze: Furious Styles

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Photo courtesy of Jerry Graham Publicity
Photo courtesy of Jerry Graham Publicity

Twenty-five years ago the film Boyz N The Hood was released and it launched the careers of several young actors, most notably Hip-Hop’s very own Ice Cube. A coming of age film set in South Central, Los Angeles, Boyz N The Hood centered around the lives of three young men – Doughboy, Ricky, and Tre. The calming, no-nonsense, father figure in the film played by Laurence Fishburne was named “Furious Styles.”

Furious Styles is also the name of new joint album from Philadelphia emcee Reef the Lost Cauze and producer Bear-One. The title of the album is indicative of Reef’s status and outlook in the game of rap. Furious Styles is produced entirely by Bear-One and features appearances by REDiROC, Peedi Crakk, STS, Truck North, and Slaughter Rico.

The Real Hip-Hop spoke to Reef the Lost Cauze about his writing process, what it was like to work with Bear-One, and their new album, Furious Styles.

TRHH: How did you link up with Bear-One to do Furious Styles?

Reef the Lost Cauze: Bear has been a friend and an OG that I’ve known for about 12 years. He was always doing his thing around Philly. We recorded some tracks together for different projects and collaborations for other artists. We had a few tracks of our own in the cut and we decided one day to get the project poppin’. I hate to use the word “organic” because I feel like so many people have used it, but this is one of those projects where that was my friend first. That was my man and he just happened to be a great producer. He respected me as an emcee and we moved from there.

TRHH: How long did it take you to complete the album?

Reef the Lost Cauze: Once we got going it was off and on because we both had a lot of stuff going on. I’d say it was about a year. Some of the tracks were recorded over the last 4-5 years. We just added maybe 5-6 new joints and kept it moving like that.

TRHH: How was doing this album different from doing an Army of the Pharaohs or JuJu Mob album?

Reef the Lost Cauze: This is actually my twelfth solo album. Every time I work with an artist or a producer on my own project it’s my show, as opposed to an Army of the Pharaohs or JuJu Mob. Those are group projects. I play the role of making sure everybody else’s vision is respected and I’m able to feed off of other people’s energy. When it’s just you and the producer and it’s your project you’re able to do a lot more, have a lot more fun, with a lot more freedom. No constraints. You’re running the show.

TRHH: Why did you title the album Furious Styles?

Reef the Lost Cauze: I always loved that name and it just fit with the ferociousness. It’s a very raw project. Also I am Furious Styles. I’m an OG now. I’m an old head. I got my two sons and in the hood I’m constantly spouting wisdom to the young boys but I’ll also give you hell. Those things all combined and lined up for that title.

TRHH: Tell me about the single All Ours.

Reef the Lost Cauze: All Ours is a joint with my man REDiROC from a crew called Ape Gang, which is a crew out of North Philly that’s really repping. He’s an artist that Bear has worked with for a long time. We just got in the studio, Bear made the track, which is a gritty soul sample, and we just got together and knocked it out.

TRHH: What’s your writing process like? Do you write rhymes as they come to you or do you write to the beat?

Reef the Lost Cauze: When I had a lot more time on my hands I would just write, and write, and write. Now it’s more or less when I hear a beat that really strikes the mood and gets me inspired I’ll sit down and start writing. I’ll always try to keep a pen and pad or a recorder close by for when I think of some rhymes. As far as writing to music, it’s usually the beat that does it first.

TRHH: What inspired the song You Know Me Well?

Reef the Lost Cauze: Aw man, the beat was just so sinister. When I heard it the first time I just went in. It’s just basically a testament to the skill and art form of raw Hip-Hop. I couldn’t wait to get that out there to the people.

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

Reef the Lost Cauze: It’s definitely You Know Me Well. That’s my one right there. I love Black Out, but I would have to say You Know Me Well.

TRHH: Why is that?

Reef the Lost Cauze: It’s the perfect marriage of music and rhyme. It’s one of those things that when I started writing right away it spoke to me. I heard the beat and went right in on it.

TRHH: Who is Furious Styles for?

Reef the Lost Cauze: Furious Styles is for people that appreciate that raw, gritty, street, Hip-Hop. I make music depending on moods and who I’m working with. That’s the mood I was in and Bear’s style is the style I gravitated to for that project. I’m not a one trick pony. If you listen to any of my projects it’s different vibes and different moods for each palate that the producer lays out for me. This is just for that and that’s why we went with that title and that’s the vibe we’re coming with. It’s a heater. Short and sweet, punch you in the face, get in and get out. I think people will dig it. It’s the perfect summer time wild out music and Bears beats are incredible.

Purchase: Reef the Lost Cauze & Bear-One – Furious Styles