Emcee Azariah and producer Laddie have an incredible chemistry. They collaborated on a series of albums that equally highlight each artists skill. In 2017 the Rochester, New York natives released “Phase I: Lord of the Underground.” That album was followed up by “Phase II: The Return of Sloppy Smooth” in 2021. The latest release in that series is titled “Phase III: Blessed and Highly Favored.”
Phase III: Blessed and Highly Favored comes courtesy of SmoothFreshness/Established and is produced entirely by Laddie. The 11-track album features appearances by Jae Hussle and Times Change of Da Cloth.
The Real Hip-Hop spoke to Azariah and Laddie about Hip-Hop needing more variety, why negative images are glorified, and their new album, Phase III: Blessed and Highly Favored.
TRHH: Why’d you title the new album Blessed and Highly Favored?
Azariah: That’s just how we felt. It’s our third time around. We hit ’em with Phase I: Lord of the Underground in 2017, Phase II in 2021 The Return of Sloppy Smooth. A friend of mine was on Phase I: Lord of the Underground. We had a voice message that he left and he was like, “Yeah, you know you’re blessed highly favored.” It was something he was doing for my birthday. He couldn’t reach me so he left me a voice message on my birthday just basically telling me what he thought of me as an individual. So, it always stuck with me when he said “blessed and highly favored” and we just want to run with that.
TRHH: How would you compare Phase III to the previous Phases?
Azariah: It’s just more refined. Me and Laddie been working together more. The chemistry is there and it’s just more refined. It’s more what you’re going to get on Phase I and Phase II, but it’s just building and building and climbing and climbing.
TRHH: What is it about your styles that mesh so well together?
Azariah: Laddie has just been around me for a while, even before we were working together. He kind of picked my brain and kind of seen the trajectory I was on and seen some of the things I like to do. I feel like when he gives me beats he kind of tailors them toward my sound.
Laddie: I would definitely say I like to try to tailor it to make it sound the best for his voice to shine the best.
TRHH: Laddie, the music seems kind of mellow to me; how would you describe your production style?
Laddie: On this one I would say that it had more of a cooler, more relaxed, vibe on it. That was kind of like the theme — more of like a relaxed thing but still having Az actually spitting over it, giving his voice more of a shine.
TRHH: What does your production workstation consist of?
Laddie: Fruity Loops.
TRHH: That’s it?
Laddie: Yeah. I use vinyl and I’ve got different types of preamp hookups, so I use that, too.
TRHH: I think it was DJ Khaled who had a comment about FL studio. What’s your opinion on people like him who don’t believe that people that use FL are real producers?
Laddie: I mean, well it is a difference between like a producer and a beat maker, but I don’t believe that though because people like 9th Wonder has used the program to actually be successful. He has a Grammy. I don’t think it makes you more or less a producer. All of them got the same things, it’s just in different places.
TRHH: On the song “Telescope” you say “The house of Hip-Hop needs some renovation.” What would you change about Hip-Hop?
Azariah: More variety. I mean, we got a lot of variety in Hip-Hop now, but not like in the golden era where you still heard a wide array of things on the radio in prime-time hours. It’s pretty much the same that they’ve been giving us for years now in terms of what they feel a hit song consist of, and what elements you need, and the singing and this and that. So, just more variety. There’s a lot of places online to find stuff, you got satellite radio, you got podcasts, and people just doing their own independent radio. I would just say if that could be seen more on a larger level I feel like that’d be something good.
TRHH: On the song “Glorify” you speak about negativity that’s glorified. Why do you think negative images are glorified and how can we change things so that positive images are glorified?
Azariah: Negative images are glorified because it’s like to a degree that’s what people aspire to be. People like to root for the bad guy or just the wrong thing to do for whatever reason seems like it’s celebrated. Or you get like a special notch. Some people say they don’t feel like they’re a man until they get locked up. As far as changing it to something positive, I feel like we’re starting to do it a little bit. But if the youth just would see if you do the right thing your chances of being here are gonna be way longer than if you’re just out here running reckless.
TRHH: I was interviewing Philmore Greene and we talked about how young people can’t see that far. I was saying like, “Yo, when I was like 14 I never thought I’d be 16. I never thought I’d be 18, I never thought I’d be 21.” So, I was hitting all these milestones like, “Damn, I might live.” I sadly feel like that’s uniquely a young black American mindset, but I think young people in general can’t see far enough, so we make stupid decisions when we’re young. I don’t know if there’s a way to change that. Is that just the normal course of things?
Azariah: It’s something that’s been embedded for years. Maybe from our humble beginnings or capitalism, I don’t know. The way the country is set up it could be a lot of different things.
TRHH: Who is the Blessed and Highly Favored album made for?
Azariah: Ah, that’s a good one. Just people in my age range. Anybody could take something from it, but people that find it relatable. People that find it palatable, people that may not just like the microwavable music, but people that like more to their Hip-Hop, I would say it’s for them. The listeners, the ones that’s been rocking with me for a while. The new people out that’s discovering me and everything, and we just going to keep hitting ’em with it and keeping it coming.
Laddie: I think it’s definitely for the underground crowd and along the same lines as Az was saying, it’s for the people that are coming to see real Hip-Hop and want to see a real emcee.