M.I.: Omerta

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Photo courtesy of AboveGroundStudios

Photo courtesy of AboveGroundStudios

Meyer Lansky and Lucky Luciano were the fathers of the National Crime Syndicate. The Syndicate was a conglomeration of Italian and Jewish criminal organizations in the United States in the middle of the 20th century. To pay homage to the prevalent gangster theme in Hip-Hop, DJ Cutt and M.I. of Constant Deviants took on the monikers of the late gangsters for a new album titled “Omerta.”

Produced entirely by DJ Cutt, Omerta is one of the best releases of 2016. The album is a throwback to mid-90s east coast Hip-Hop with a 2016 feel. Omerta is big on beats and rhymes with Mafioso mentions sprinkled throughout.

The Real Hip-Hop spoke to one half of Constant Deviants, M.I. about the American mafia, SIX2SIX Records’ foray into film making, and his new album, Omerta.

TRHH: For those that don’t know, explain what Omerta means.

M.I.: Omerta is a code of silence. It’s a term in the mafia that means “code of silence.” It means that you don’t speak to people about what goes on and whether it even exists or not.

TRHH: Why’d you name the album Omerta?

M.I.: In today’s day and age there is so much talk about people telling that it’s kind of like a twist. With the music game everybody is talking about not snitching and everybody is talking about the mob shit but I’ve never heard a rapper use the word Omerta before. It’s so unused and we wanted to come from an angle with this project that we wanted to touch on the mob stuff but we didn’t really wanna come off like Kool G Rap or somebody came off with it before. We didn’t want to play on it too hard. With me being Italian and Cutt being Russian we got the heritage of Lansky and Luciano and that’s where we came up with the title. Omerta being such a big part of the culture and a term I’ve never even heard used in mob movies, it felt like the right word to use with what we were trying to come across with and represent the balance of the mafia thing with the album. We’re not trying to come off like we’re mobster either on it.

TRHH: Did you come up with the Meyer Lansky and Lucky Luciano idea before or after you came up with the concept for this album?

M.I.: Really it popped in my head one day when I was watching a documentary on them. I always knew Meyer Lansky was Jewish but I didn’t know he was Russian. Cutt is Russian Jewish. When I heard that in the documentary I was watching I was like, “Oh shit, that’s bugged out.” It’s been a while since somebody really touched on that mob thing. In the 90s everybody was naming themselves after mobsters and stuff like that but it kind of faded out. We dropped the Avant Garde album last year and it was more jazzy and smoothed out. We needed something hard and more rugged to go back to our original sound. We try to do a little something different on every album. That’s when that came up. Omerta was always a word I wanted to use anyway for a name of a song or whatever. It’s a unique word and it’s not used a lot. A lot of people claim to have knowledge of mob stuff but they don’t know what that is. When we came up with the concept we decided to use that to title the album.

TRHH: Tell me about the single So Underrated.

M.I.: That was the first joint we actually did for the album. Initially when we decided to do this album we wanted to have that MPC feel – an MPC swing to it. It was supposed to be an EP actually. The plan was to do 6-7 joints, throw it on vinyl, and throw it out there. That’s when Cutt hit me with the So Underrated joint. He already had the cuts on there. A lot of times we’ll come up with the hooks together. That particular one he sent it to me and it already had the cuts on it so it set the precedence for the album. After we did that joint I thought we should do an entire album. The album isn’t like every record has a point about the mafia to it. A lot of the samples we chose for the album are samples that have the feeling of that Luciano/Lansky era musically. A lot of the metaphors and punchlines are based off of books we’ve read or movies we’ve seen about the mob. It’s not necessarily that every song is about the mob. That song doesn’t have anything to do with the mob but there are lines that touch on that. It was a hard joint that set the precedence for the album.

TRHH: Whose idea was it to integrate the sound bites throughout the album?

M.I.: Me and Cutt do that together. Pretty much everything we do we kind of have a formula. We do something like that on every album. I couldn’t tell you if one of us said to do it more than the other. It kind of just happened. Once we decided we were gonna do that we went back and thought about certain things that we wanted to use and found the songs that we wanted to use them for. We used the Richard Kuklinski joint from the Iceman documentary that was on HBO. That was after the record “Fuklinski.” The “GTFOH” joint was from the Goodfellas piece that we used when they were having the conversation at dinner and Tommy was teasing Henry Hill saying, “I’m funny how? I mean funny like a clown? I amuse you? I make you laugh?” and he was like, “Get the fuck outta here!” We took a Meyer Lansky interview and used that as a hook on one of the joints. We did that together. It’s something we do on every album whether we use sound bites or music interludes, it just kind of happens naturally.

TRHH: How’d the song Delorean come about?

M.I.: With this album we just wanted to use things that kind of had that feel to it. It wasn’t just about Luciano and Lansky and trying to have this feeling of the 30s and 40s. We just wanted to talk about stuff that nobody ever talks about, kind of like Omerta. Nobody ever talks about Delorean but Delorean got an ill story. If you knew about what was going on in 80s you knew what a Delorean car was and homeboy got caught up in that whole cocaine conspiracy thing. Everything isn’t based around the mafia on this album, it just kind of set the tone for it. Delorean was just a word I wanted to use so I told Cutt, “Yo, I wanna do a record called Delorean.” It triggered him and he made the beat for it. I wrote the rhyme, we sat in the studio one day and found some good lines to throw in the cuts and that was it.

With me and Cutt when we make music it happens organically. It’s about words and feelings. The joint on the album Sparks Steakhouse doesn’t have anything to do with Sparks Steak House, it’s just a mob reference. The name of the beat was “Café Piano” when he sent it to me. Because it was café it made me think of food. The hook talks about somebody being food. Because of that reference I thought about how we could make it go back to the mob stuff and Sparks Steak House was a popular mobster restaurant in New York. That’s where Paulie Castellano was killed in front of. I just wanted to do something to set the tone with the cocaine shit and the 80s appeal and Delorean felt like the perfect title for that song.

TRHH: How did SIX2SIX get involved in filmmaking?

M.I.: Originally me and a homeboy of mine, JPowell did a project with these guys from Switzerland some years back, SWC, who did all of the production on it. The name of the album is SWISS BANKS. It’s a nine-song album that we put out on vinyl. JPowell did a lot of our videos over the years and when he heard the album he was like, “Yo, let’s do a video for all of these joints.” I thought we could do videos for ‘em but let’s do something different like a movie. What we did was we shot full videos with acting in between. I guess it’s similar to something like a Streets Is Watching but it’s a little different because it goes straight through. It’s an hour long. There is acting and a video will set up what’s in the scene. The songs that are on the album that we didn’t shoot videos for are inside of the score of the movie.

We did that joint and I kinda enjoyed it. I liked writing in it and acting in it. It was a chance to try our hand at something like that. It came out good and a lot of people liked it a lot. We screened it when we went to Switzerland and they really dug it a lot. What I realized at that time was we didn’t have the means to do a full feature movie, but I had a full feature movie written. I wrote it back in 2008 with a homegirl of mine. He kept wanting to shoot it but we did what we did because we got our homeboys and homegirls together and put a little something together. It wasn’t like we got real actors and really planned it ahead of time. It was like, “Yo, we shooting today?” “Yeah, we shooting today,” and we did it like that. I knew we couldn’t do a full feature movie like that. He had a homegirl of his that was a producer named Cass Riddick. She’s been in the independent film industry for about 8 years. He introduced us and she helped put our first full feature movie together, which is SIX2SIX The Movie. We’re running it through the film festivals right now. We just finished it in March so we’re starting to submit it to all the film festivals right now. We’re actually going to shoot our second full feature movie soon. It happened organically.

Nowadays the music is awesome, I love making music and that’s going to happen automatically, but you need to do more than just making music now. You gotta be more involved and more active. People don’t really buy music that much anymore. Yeah, we sell physical product and put everything on vinyl, CD, and limited cassettes, but that’s not enough to really make a living off of. Digital is cool but once something is online digitally for sale it’s free somewhere too. It’s hard to actually make a living selling just music. The movies give us a chance to put our music in the movies. We also have a clothing line so it gives us a chance to market our clothing line inside of the movies. It’s just another form of expression. You just have to be broader now as a company. You can’t just make music and think that that’s it. You have to try different things. I enjoyed the film aspect of it. I want to get into more acting, not just in our movies. I want to act in other people’s movies as well. I’m getting more into that now. I got a few gigs coming up this summer so it’s cool.

TRHH: Who is Omerta for?

M.I.: It’s for the old and the new. People say our music sounds like the stuff from the golden era, boom bap, old school Hip-Hop but we try not to limit it. With Avant Garde we tried to mesh the golden era sound but make it sound up to date sonically. A lot of what happens with these cats that make music from the 90s is they get stuck sounding like the music was actually made in the 90s. Their rhyme flows, beats, samples, and the way its mixed sounds like something from the 90s. Other than the fact that they’re not recording in analog, which is the probably most important aspect of something sounding like it was from the 90s. That’s what gave that music back then such a solid sound. Everything sounds like it’s from the 90s except for that, so it really doesn’t even sound that great. It sounds tingy and the drums are weak.

I would say Omerta is for our original fan base that’s been rocking with us because we’re going to give you what Constant Deviants gives you on every album. It’s also for people that have never heard of Constant Deviants and just like good rap music. It seems like as much as trap music and all of that is still surviving, it seems like it’s a lot more people wanting to hear quote unquote rap music. I don’t even consider that other music Hip-Hop. I don’t even dislike it, I think it’s cool. It’s just not Hip-Hop music to me. It’s more R&B. I don’t know what it is to tell you the truth. This is for people that like lyricism, hard beats, like hearing scratching, and want to hear a good rap record with a good bounce to it – you’re going to like this album.

Purchase: Constant Deviants – Omerta

About Sherron Shabazz

Sherron Shabazz is a freelance writer with an intense passion for Hip-Hop culture. Sherron is your quintessential Hip-Hop snob, seeking to advance the future of the culture while fondly remembering its past.
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