A Conversation with Daddy-O

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Photo courtesy of Odad Truth Records

Photo courtesy of Odad Truth Records

In 1988 on the Public Enemy hit “Night of the Living Baseheads” Chuck D famously rhymed, “My man Daddy-O once said to me/He knew a brother who stayed all day in his jeep/And at night he went to sleep/And in the morning all he had was sneakers on his feet…” Twenty-seven years later the front men of Public Enemy and Stetsasonic still have a relationship.

Their current relationship is a business one. Daddy-O’s new album, “#EverybodyButKRS” is his first release in over twenty years. It is released on Odad Truth Records and distributed by Chuck D’s RCS Music.

#EverybodyButKRS is produced by Bobby Simmons, Bamba Nazar, DJ Infinite, Wynton Montgomery, Siba Giba, Bean One, JJTheProdigy, and Jimmy Da Beast.

Daddy-O spoke to The Real Hip-Hop about his return to rap, the future of Stetsasonic, and his new album, #EverybodyButKRS.

TRHH: Explain the title of the new album, #EverybodyButKRS?

Daddy-O: I had a long time to think about where we were. A couple of things happened and today is even more special because Iron Maiden is releasing an album that I got an advance of. But looking at Iron Maiden, U2, and Led Zeppelin who just released an album, it makes me think about us. When I say “us” I’m kind of talking about true school artists. Maybe it goes back to Melle Mel and them, maybe not. I mean the crew that came in around 87-88 with real classic material – the Stetsasonic’s, the Eric B & Rakim’s, the Nice & Smooth’s – all of those people. Even though I’m an emcee I’m a big fan of the music, how we felt about that stuff, and why we felt the way we felt. A lot of the reason we felt the way we felt was because there was some incredible lyrics there and there was some phenomenal voices there.

You fast forward to 2014-15-16 and I’m like, “Why can’t we make that anymore?” Led Zeppelin is making it still and even though the U2 record that they just put out is not the big classic U2 record, it’s U2 and we all enjoy it, understand it, and understand that it’s progressive. Why can’t we make that anymore? The first thing I thought about was just making it. The second thing I thought about is competition is the cornerstone of Hip-Hop. The only reason any of us was ever as good as we were was because we know that somebody was on our heels. My classic story is I produced “Top Billin’” for the Audio Two and Erick Sermon walks up to me and says, “Daddy-O,  you beat me on the single, but we’re gonna crush y’all with the album.” If you listen to the first EPMD album versus the first Audio Two, they crushed the Audio Two. It was always this level of competition going on so my thing was challenging my peers. I thought about challenging all my peers, but it was one guy that stood out that I wouldn’t stand a chance against and that was KRS. Everybody else is fair game.

TRHH: Wow. Have you talked to KRS about this?

Daddy-O: I haven’t, I haven’t. And you know [Kool] Moe Dee is really funny right? I accosted Kool Moe Dee and Grandmaster Caz in the dressing room when Stetsasonic did this show the other week. I just went in there and told him, “Hey man, here is a copy of the album and I’m just letting you know I’m challenging all of y’all. You too Caz if you want some. I know you go back a little further, but all y’all sound crazy to me right now.” They wasn’t really heated because Moe Dee is real funny. He said, “Oh, we’re having a mid-life crises moment. It’ll be over in a minute.” But I was going in on these guys. I told them the short version of what I just told you, why can’t we make these records anymore? It’s dope that you got records in the past that you’re able to hold on to, but why can’t you make records anymore? They started to make the argument that it wasn’t about records, but once we cross that line to make records now we’re in the game. If we were just freestyle rappers and never made records, Rapper’s Delight never came out, none of those records ever came out on Sugar Hill, none of those records ever came out Paul Winley, and none of those records ever came out on Enjoy, then okay. But we crossed the line and became recording artists and when we did that we didn’t do that to lose. We all was looking to be number one.

When does it get to the point that you get old and say, “Well it’s not about being number one anymore. It’s a promotion game, there’s an Illuminati,” man get outta here with all that! You make heat, somebody is gonna hear it. To your point Moe Dee teases me and is like, “I’m gonna call KRS and put a spin on it and make it seem like you’re against him!” KRS’ll get it. He’s my man. Ultimately I’d like to do a small little, almost coffee house tour with KRS. No arena’s, just small venues and I’ll do what I do and he’ll do what he does. He’s a little more expansive in his emcee game than me.  I just think I make great records at my age and I don’t think none of them make records like this at their age. I’m trying to give them a blueprint to say, “Look man, it can still be done if you leave alone ‘I’m back,’ ‘I used to be here,’ ‘you should learn from me.’” If you leave all of that alone and just rhyme then you’ll be okay. I just can’t understand you being an emcee and not having anything to say, or everything you have to say is predicated on what you did before. That’s wack to me.

TRHH: I was thinking about this when the Dr. Dre album dropped. He’s not considered a lyricist or whatever, but he’s a Hip-Hop artist that dropped a relevant album at 50-years old.

Daddy-O: Oh yeah, absolutely! I think it can be done over and over. My position is a little different than Dre because they look at Dre different. He’s in a superstar-ish position. I think that it can be done. More than that, when you’re a guy like me, [MC] Delite, or Bobby [Simmons], we talk all the time, but we’re pretty spread out. When I talk to them they say, “People say they miss us and miss our voices,” that tells me that there is definitely an audience out there. If we don’t fulfill that space then they put other things in that space. I’m not saying that jazz, old school, and R&B are not good things, but none of us are making records. Radio One just did this BOOM format. All over the country these classic Hip-Hop stations have been popping up. It’s cool but it ain’t no doper than satellite radio. It ain’t no doper than Rap Station. No disrespect to Radio One, but it’s just commercial radio trying to take a shot at it. I do think that there is an audience of people that wanna hear their own music. A few of my friends have given me feedback on this record and it’s been exactly the feedback that I’ve wanted. For them to call me and say, “Yo, man this is my joint,” or “My favorite line on that album is ‘Holla at your boy, I’m a grown ass man,’” or “I get it, this is for me.” I want them to have something. I can never be Future, Young Thug or Wayne. I can never be it.

I listen to everything. I don’t like all of it, but I like some of it. I deejay so if I can find a way to mix it in I’ll do it. I listen to all the rap records because that’s what I am. I can’t divorce myself from Young Thug in particular. I just have to look at him as a young person, try to figure out his flow, and if I meet him try to talk to him and throw a little something his way. But I can never be those guys. Neither could we be those who preceded us. It’s just the way things are in music all the time. Barry White is not Luther Vandross and I can keep going on and on in every genre – it’s the same thing. Even in reggae you might be able to mimic a little but Bob Marley can never be Toots and the Maytals. It’s always going to feel a little different as it succeeds. I got a lot of this from studying black Caribbean music, not only reggae but Haitian culture because my wife is Haitian. I notice that those pockets still exists for those classic artists. The young people come up and do what they gotta do, but the pocket still exists for classic artists. The same thing with reggae, the pocket still exists for the guys that are older and ain’t nobody stopping them from doing what they do. You’re gonna get a Baby Cham and any of those dudes that are gonna come up and they’re gonna do what they’re gonna do, but if Yellowman wants to do a show, he does it, and ain’t no problem there. I just think that we should be the same. There is no other way for me to express it but to just make it and hopefully they take the lead and I do something explosive. I wanted to come up with a title that was at least catchy enough to them. I’m not ruling the fans out at all, but I think the fans will listen to good music regardless of what it’s called. If it was called “Red Apple Daddy” they would listen to it, but I think my peers would definitely be a little shocked by the title and that’s exactly what I want.

TRHH: It’s been 22 years since your last solo album, You Can Be a Daddy, But Never Daddy-O. Have you had the itch in between that time?

Daddy-O: I been rhyming the whole time. I got a bunch of records, man. I rhyme all the time. If I can get in the studio I do it, if not it just sits in a book. I got a spoken word record done. I been rhyming the whole time. The itch? I don’t know. It’s tricky to answer that. I will say this, the itch for the stage never stops. That’s one thing that I can say never stops, especially watching people! You’re always itching when everybody was good, when everybody was throwing down, and everybody had a dope show but man when I see some of these dudes nowadays I be looking at them like, “Yo, are you kidding me right now? Are you really on stage harmonizing with the record and you’re four octaves above the octave that you recorded it in the studio and you really expect the fans to just follow you with this?” That’s crazy. The itch for the stage has never ever went away, the record thing kind of came and went. Chuck was really the one to push me. You remember back in the day when somebody pushes you into a fight [laughs]? I was sitting on a bunch of these records and Chuck was like, “Yo, what you doin’ man?” I said I wasn’t sure and he said, “Daddy-O, that’s now how we do it now, man. We’ll put it out and you just promote through.” Within a week of hearing the album he came up with a plan and said, “We gonna premier it on Rap Station on Tuesday and we’re gonna release it on Friday.” For once in my life I had no resistance – there was none. I had no reservations. I just said, “OK” and did it.

TRHH: Going back to the beginning of Stetsasonic, how much work did you guys put into your live show?

Daddy-O: We just did a show and we killed it. A lot, man. A lot. Stetsasonic may be a little different than everybody else. We are a performance band first. The reason we are a band is because we just didn’t want to be able to go on stage and not be able to duplicate what we did in the studio. So we said, “Every piece of equipment that we have here in the studio we’re taking on stage with us.” That’s kind of the philosophy around Stetsasonic being a band. We didn’t want to do all this stuff in the studio and then just get on stage with Paul. We felt that was really cheating. Where is DB in all of this? Where is Wise in all of this? Where is Bobby in all of this? We couldn’t see it. We’re a performance band first so for us even going in the studio every song, and we haven’t performed every song which is kind of cool because we have all this room now for future dates to do songs that we never performed, we went into the studio thinking about how we would perform it. Stetsasonic goes back to maybe 79-80 just rehearsing five times a week with no show – just being ready for a show. That’s our tradition. Our tradition is rehearsal is where we cut our chops and figure out what we wanna do and what we wanna say.

We can’t even wait to get back in after that show. Even though we killed it, we see all the holes and all these other things we want to try so we can’t wait to get back in the rehearsal studio and just do it. I think a larger point is how much should be into it. In the very beginning it was really a strong feeling of us against the world. No disrespect, but R&B hated us because we were the new kinds on the block and a couple of songs were pushing them out of rotation. They’re listening to what we’re doing and they’re trying to figure out exactly what it is we’re doing. It’s not the Last Poets, this is a threat. Last Poets was never a threat to any R&B group. Ask the O’Jay’s if they were threatened by those Poets – they never were. These R&B singers were totally threatened by us because it was rhythm there, it was off the heels of disco so there was a beat there. We mastered the 4/4, and the get down part that Herc and Flash and them talked about. We started making these records that were impacting these neighborhoods but we had no support. Chuck wasn’t lying when he said, “Radio, suckers never play me.” We had these great records and we’re beating up the clubs. Red Alert……you’re from Chicago, right?

TRHH: Yep.

Daddy-O: Pinkhouse, God bless the dead, and all these people were playing our records on the mix shows. But we’re not getting no daytime play. We we’re inching into it. It felt like us against the world. When we started putting together these shows it was based on that. We gon’ end up being on a show with Meli’sa Morgan and Luther. Yeah, they gonna make us open but they’re gonna have a hard time coming back after what we do. I think the epitome of that, whether people wanna believe it or not was M.C. Hammer. Hammer said, “Look, you are gonna recognize who the hell we are and I am gonna blow all of y’all away! I don’t care if you’re a pop artist, I don’t care what you are. By the time I’m done I dare you to try to follow this!” The show was really important because we had to connect at that arena, club, or wherever we played super-duper strong. Almost twice as much as artists of other genres because we didn’t know if we were gonna get another shot or not.

TRHH: What prompted Stet to return to the stage recently?

Daddy-O: We’ve been talking about it for a while. One thing I love about my band is there is a bunch of us and you almost have 3 factions. You got the old guys, the middle guys, and the young guys. There’s two young, that’s Bobby and Paul. Those guys stay active all the time. The younger guys really became over a period of time the largest Stetsasonic fans. Me and Delite started the band. I’m not saying we’re not big Stet fans, but these guys have a different appreciation because they’re honored to be in the group. I’m not saying I’m not honored, but I started the group so it’s a different feeling. As time goes on the kind of props that they get from being down with us is like, “Damn!” I didn’t know it was legendary status like that. Those guys, especially Bobby, being an advocate that way, we talk about it all the time. A couple of people were putting together some dates so we said let’s do it. We did something 5 years ago at the Knitting Factory in New York. That was hot. We killed the show, but it was a small stage. This one was a little different because Lady B does this Basement Party every year and it was the type of stage that we really, really enjoy. You give us 30 feet, we’re gonna try to use 31. With us being who we are and being able to use that whole stage it made a big difference. And Philadelphia made a huge difference because they’re such big Stetsasonic fans. By the time we did “Sally” it felt like the walls was gonna cave in.

Check out part 2 of A Conversation with Daddy-O

Purchase: Daddy-O – #EverybodyButKRS

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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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