During part 1 of A Conversation with Daddy-O the Stetsasonic front-man discussed the origins of his crew’s critically acclaimed stage show, his return to wax, and why he wanted it with everybody, but KRS-One.
In part 2 of The Real Hip-Hop’s conversation with Daddy-O he discusses Stet’s extended stay from the rap world, re-making a 2Pac classic, and his hope to educate Hip-Hop.
TRHH: Why did Stet originally disband?
Daddy-O: We didn’t really disband. What ended up happening was after In Full Gear Frukwan went his own way. We had success with In Full Gear and had successful touring. We went back in the studio and made Blood, Sweat, & No Tears without him. It’s the only album without Frukwan. We did okay with the record – it sold decently. We really didn’t disband, we just kind of went off into our own thing – primarily me and Paul. I got into the production thing and then I kinda slid into the music executive thing and went over there with Hank Shocklee to Universal. After De La Soul Paul started doing his own thing like Handsome Boy Modeling School. It wasn’t really a “disband”, it was more like cats got other jobs. DB[C] and Wise moved into more of a family oriented thing. DB started doing stuff with animation –he’s a phenomenal inventor. He just showed me a power source that he made that needs nothing. He built this thing! The Tommy Boy thing wasn’t in place no more so we didn’t feel this strong obligation to make records. We kept it open and from time to time we would do records. I got a guy I’m talking to from overseas that does 6-song vinyl things and he wants to do some unreleased stuff. We got a ton of that!
We got all these records that we made that are just sitting. We could not see each other for two years and link up and cut a couple of records. We wouldn’t do nothing with the songs [laughs]. Keith Shocklee had a studio out in Long Island and I’d come up with an idea and we’d go cut the song. We’ve been doing stuff throughout, but nothing really solid. I’m probably the spearhead and if it ain’t all the way I really don’t like to mess with it like that. Once some of these things started to come together we had to make sure everything is right. We had to make sure they got everything that we need because we gotta do the full band, the rider’s got to be right, drum sets, all of that has gotta be right. It was right so we put it together. Now we’re talking album again. We got some great ideas for some new songs. I think we may go in and do a single soon. It might even be sooner than I thought, ‘cause me and Bobby got this dope idea for a single. We got a show coming up in Europe in November and It would be hot to open up to this song ‘cause the track is bananas! Coming out to that could be crazy. Just coming out to the music could be crazy, but if they hear us rhyming when we come out, it might even create a little demand. So now we’re starting to talk records again and it’s kind of cool.
TRHH: Is the single “Psychedelic Sally” an extension of the Stetsasonic classic “Sally”?
Daddy-O: No, it’s the prequel. It’s actually when I met her and after that the group met her, but I met her first.
TRHH: On the album you cover the 2Pac song “Hail Mary”. Why’d you decide to remake that one?
Daddy-O: [Laughs] Rich Nice, most peole know him from Sway in the Morning, but Rich had a solo record out on Motown some years ago. Rich Nice and I some years ago started a group effort called Escapism. What we’re gonna do is called B-Boy Rock. If you look at Run-DMC you’d probably say that’s “rap rock”. B-Boy Rock is taking it back to before rap was on record. It’s a whole bunch of that “yes, yes y’all” stuff. If you listen to Hail Mary you hear a lot of that, “Sound check, 1, 2, 1, 2.” We want to do this B-Boy Rock thing, but lyrically we want to make it very loud. Rich was like, “Yo, we should probably do a remake.” I said, “Well Rich, rap remakes don’t really make a lot of sense.” He said, “What if we do a 2Pac joint?” and I’m like, “What 2Pac joint?” He’s like, “Hail Mary,” and I’m like, “Loud?” I was with it. We put it together. We wrote probably half of the Escapism album already. I’m getting a lot of good response on the Hail Mary record. People are liking that so much that we may just stay in that direction. We wanted to do something eclectic and it ended up being Hail Mary. I wouldn’t have chose it but when Rich chose it and said what he wanted to do I knew exactly how I wanted to attack it. I knew how loud I wanted to be. I like screaming, man. If you listen to “Just Say Stet” I’m screaming. This gave me the opportunity to step about a foot away from the mic and really get it in.
TRHH: You have one of the best voices in rap history…
Daddy-O: Thank you, sir.
TRHH: You’re welcome. Is there anybody that you listen to and go, Oh, man this guy has a dope voice?
Daddy-O: Melle Mel is the greatest emcee of all-time. He’s not in particularly my hero, but he is my vocal hero – voice wise. I don’t know a better voice than Mel’s. I wish I could tell you one. I know some dope voices in Hip-Hop, but Melle Mel is the greatest emcee of all-time. He’s been able to do some ill stuff and maintain bass and a clarity that’s stupid. I know where it comes from. Even right now if he grabs the mic right now he still sounds the same as if he was 17 – That’s just bananas. Style wise I listen to a whole bunch of people. I got some of the styling on this album from listening to Travis Porter. I listen to everybody, B. I’m getting ready to do this lecture series called “What Happened to Hip-Hop”. I’m revealing this to you, but people are going to think I’m going one way and I’m not saying nothing [laughs]. I’ll go through a whole bunch of stuff but at the end of the lecture it’s really going to be nothing that happened to Hip-Hop. It’s pretty much still in the same place that it’s always been. There are some other underpinnings that happened that are weird but there’s some things that we need to take control of.
I listen to everything. There’s Andre Nickatina in Sacramento… Do I listen to [E-] 40? Yes, but I listen to The Click more than I listen to 40. I’m listening to them as a collective. Even though D-Shot is not the greatest rapper, but listening to what Shot is doing up against what Suga-T, up against B-Legit, up against 40 and Ton producing that, I’m listening to that! I’m all over the place. I listen to some New York cats. I don’t listen to a whole bunch of old school Atlanta, but I listen to new school Atlanta. I like that kid Cool Breeze a lot. Andre 3000 wins, of course Big Boi wins. Killer Mike is my favorite Atlanta emcee and will always be. I listen to everybody, man. I’m just ingesting it. To me the best beginning, middle, and end record ever in Hip-Hop is “Train With No Love” by Andre Nickatina. A lot of people have probably never heard it, but I’ve never heard a more perfect record than that. It’s perfect. It’s so perfect it could make me cry. It’s so good! Taking it back to your original question, voice wise it’s gotta be Melle Mel.
TRHH: You provided the voice for Dead Mike in the film CB4. What was that experience like, not only being a part of a film, but also writing rhymes that were funny and not typical of an artist like Daddy-O?
Daddy-O: It was dope because of the team – Bill Stephney, Nelson George, Chris Rock, Mike D of the Beastie Boys, and Hi-C who was doing the Gusto voice. It was a team thing. Ultimately it was encased in an experience. It was in L.A., I’m a New Yorker. It was done in a very L.A. movie star way. It was a dope studio, we had anything we wanted, any mic we wanted, great engineer, all the time in the world, and no pressure. It was fun. It had its degree of challenges because we worked strong on inflection. Honestly, sometimes you gotta pull me back. If I can go aggressive I’ll go aggressive so a lot of times I’ll go in there a little too hard for them, believe it or not. Once we got it, balanced it out, and heard it, it was a lot of fun. When I think of CB4 I wonder why we don’t do more of that. I’m not a movie maker, so I can’t speak for movie makers. But I look at that movie and it’s funny, it’s not foo-foo like some of that other stuff, it has a redeeming value at the end, you have real rappers doing voices, why aren’t we doing a little bit more of that? That’s the one thing about CB4 that always bugs me. I’m not talking about remaking CB4, I’m saying why is that kind of storyline and some of that other stuff is just not there?
TRHH: I heard Chris Rock say they’re going to do a sequel.
Daddy-O: That might be cool. I’m not a big sequel fan of any movie, ever. I guess the only one that really worked was the Godfather, for me. It’s a whole bunch of movies I loved and by the time that second one came I’m like, “What the hell did they do here?” Exorcist II was trash, Omen II was trash. If he wanna do it I know he’ll hit me up for the voice and I’ll do it. Hopefully it can be real dope.
TRHH: Tell me about the hash tag #EDUHipHop.
Daddy-O: My partner Leslie Greene did a TV show. She’s a good friend of mine. She came to me and told me she had this idea. I did it because she’s my friend, I didn’t think she would really pull off anything. When I got there it was a six camera shoot, sound people there, everything. We shot a full episode of a show called 1 Mic Cypher. If you’ve ever seen Project Runway I play the Tim Gunn of the show. I’m the artist development coach throughout the whole show. We issued two challenges in the first episode of the show. One was to write the theme song of the show and the other was a crew battle. Out of that experience we began to really see that the largest “A-Ha” moment out of the whole thing was the lack of understanding and education of Hip-Hop, even amongst people that wanted to do it. There was a lot of people that had talent but it was like, “Damn, if they could just look at Fantastic tapes, or listen to Mel when he first started, or check out some KRS-One Latin Quarter freestyles,” that guy would get who he really is. We just started this effort to kind of usher in some of that stuff.
We did some stuff online where I asked questions on Twitter and Facebook. We started doing it more on Instagram since it has the 15 second thing going on. We would ask questions like when Remy [Ma] wasn’t home I asked, “What should Remy do when she comes home?” or “Who is the best fast rapper?” What we’re going to do is ultimately build it into a course. It’s going to be a little different than Lamont Hill and some of the other people that are out there. I respect all those people – I know most of them that are classified as Hip-Hop professors. I know who they are, but they’re kids to me because I’m over 50. They’re kids that went to school and understand Hip-Hop. Me and 9th Wonder are real cool. He’s like, “Daddy-O, I gotta take my hat off to you. I’m at Harvard doing things, but you was there!” It’s a whole different experience. We’re pairing that with another effort called “Hip Hop Speaks” which came out of that weekend hanging out with Moe Dee and a bunch of guys. After we had our little argument, this frickin’ guy is like a damn computer, man. There is nobody like him. There is nobody like him in terms of the way he remembers dates. He broke down dates when everybody’s record came out. When Super Rhymes dropped, when this dropped, what was happening, and all of those particular things. We started saying that we need to think about taking Hip Hop Speaks maybe to a South by Southwest panel, and taking it around and running it through that #EDUHipHop effort.
I got this from 9th Wonder, not to say I wouldn’t have got it, but 9th gave it to me clear, but this is American history now. This is exactly who we are – we are American history. Lamont Hill can’t do this. Some of the professors can’t do this. They can’t lay down the line of what it was like for Stetsasonic and Public Enemy to share a bus and the lessons that came out of that. They can’t talk about the lessons of one producer named Hurby Luv Bug that happened to grab a few people from his neighborhood and create a sound. There is no way for them to get their head wrapped around that ‘cause they just wasn’t there and they just don’t know it. They can go interview Hurby and they still wouldn’t have as much as I have ‘cause I was there. The easiest way to describe it is the way they give people honorary degrees. It’s like, “Yo man, we know you didn’t sit here and study this course, but we also know that you were right there to experience it, so we’re gonna give you a degree.” That’s kind of what the #EDUHipHop effort is. We’re kind of figuring out how we can build some courses out of it. We’re debating on if we’re going to do any online courses at all – we may. What the lesson is from as early as we can start. If we can start from Pete DJ Jones, and Grandmaster Flowers and Flash getting his name from that and what that means, what it means for the culture, what you learn from that, how you build from that, what it meant for Flash and them to be Grandmaster Flash & The Furious 5, what some of the gangsters meant, what the Gestapo Crew meant at that time, and moving into our era and all those particular things, the lessons that can be learned through it is what the effort is about.
TRHH: What do you hope to achieve with #EverybodyButKRS?
Daddy-O: This is what I said when I started making this record, “I don’t think I’m a radio dude,” meaning I don’t think I’m a commercial radio artist. We as Stetsasonic never looked at ourselves as commercial radio artists. God bless Red Alert, Mr. Magic, God bless the dead, Pinkhouse, God bless the dead, Greg Mack out in L.A., and I could go on and on. God bless all of these people that actually promoted our records on these underground shows so much that it seemed like it burst at the seam, and daytime radio had to play our record. We never looked at ourselves like that. We looked at ourselves as a band that was kind of there for the people, you could say the street, but it wasn’t what they call the street now because there was no crack and all that at the time. We were for the street and for the people. I still see myself as that kinda emcee. Let’s just say getting on the radio is level 8, I think I’m a seven and a half. If Kane was to do what I’m doing he’d be a 9 – it would be easy for him.
What I look to achieve with this is to create a blueprint for my peers. First I’d get ‘em riled up with the competitive stuff and hope they come at me with stuff because I got records for people on a mixtape level. I hope they get riled up and we start some competition on that level, but then kind of realize, “Whoa, listen to this emcee record that he did. I see where he’s trying to go with this thing.” And for them to know that it’s me, my dream is for them to say, “Man, I wanna beat Daddy-O,” then I accomplished my goal. We would again own a portion of radio, and I’m talking about regular commercial daytime radio – we’ll get ‘em. If Kane beats this album, if Rakim beats this album, and you can grab your other three, if they beat this album, we’re back. And when I say “we’re back” all of us are back!
Purchase: Daddy-O – #EverybodyButKRS