M.C. Craig G released his first song in 1985 at the age of 12 years old. He shined alongside Masta Ace, Kool G Rap, and Big Daddy Kane on the greatest posse record of all-time, The Symphony. A superb battle rapper, Craig wrote the rhymes in the battle scenes of the Eminem film, 8 Mile.
Since 1989 Craig G has released a handful of quality albums, but his latest release just might be his best material to date. I Rap and Go Home is an 11-track release that finds Craig G emceeing at arguably the highest level of his career. The album is produced entirely by VaporWorldz and features Kool Keith, Canibus, Ras Kass, Jarobi, Buckshot, and Rockness Monstah.
Craig G spoke to The Real Hip-Hop about the art of battling and coming off the dome, the secret behind his longevity in the music business, and his new album, I Rap and Go Home.
TRHH: Explain the meaning behind the album’s title, I Rap and Go Home.
Craig G: The reason I named the album “I Rap and Go Home” is basically because I have been doing this a very long time and I’ve seen every aspect of it as far as the unnecessary things that are involved with being in the entertainment business. I have been doing it since a very young age so I didn’t have a normal childhood or a normal home life. I was on tour a lot, traveling, and in studios. Now I just feel like it’s more about displaying the music, doing your shows, going home and not giving everything of yourself to the business. I just want to keep something for myself. I want to have a regular life so I rap and go home.
TRHH: How is this album different from your last album, Ramblings of an Angry Old Man?
Craig G: To be honest with you none of my albums are different. I just posted something on Twitter a little while ago where I was explaining that people should stop expecting me to reinvent the wheel with my music because I like the original wheel just fine. I just believe that there is an unprecedented amount of people that still just like hard beats and lyrical skills. That’s pretty much what I represent. It’s nothing new, I totally understand that. It’s nothing ground breaking, I just stick to my strengths. Ramblings was more of a testament about the music business. This is more a collection of songs about my general thoughts. It’s nothing contrived or made up, it’s just how I feel about things. I just hope when I release music that there are enough people who feel the same way.
TRHH: The titles of your last few albums give off the vibe that you’re secure being an elder statesman in Hip-Hop. What’s your take on those who believe that there should be an age limit on emceeing?
Craig G: I believe that they’re out of their rabbit ass minds because there is no age limit in other genres of music. I don’t think that a particular genre of music should be singled out with ageism. It’s not sports. A lot of people that are older their brains are still as sharp as a young person or even sharper. It’s not athleticism so as long as you crank out good music you should be able to stop when you feel like stopping. No one bats an eye in our genre of music when the Rolling Stones are touring and they probably need oxygen tanks back stage. They still make hundreds of millions of dollars on the road. I believe that the Run-DMC’s, Public Enemy’s, and LL Cool J’s of the world should be doing the same.
TRHH: You’re known by many for your freestyles; what’s your take on how now freestyles are no longer off the dome and how battles are just two dudes in each others faces trading insults?
Craig G: Wow. For one, I appreciate being known for freestyling but for me that’s just something I do. It’s not a huge part of what I do. The problem for me with freestyling was that I got pigeonholed. After a couple of battles I’ve had I got tossed into the “He can freestyle but he can’t make music” box. I had Droppin’ Science, The Symphony, and numerous songs out before anybody even knew I had those skills. I don’t tend to lean on it. That comes so easy for me. The challenge for me is writing cohesive and good songs.
As far as the battles go I just believe that they should have kept a freestyle round in these newer battles for the simple fact that you want to see if people are witty enough to respond under pressure. To me there is no pressure in knowing who your opponent is months before when it comes to mental fitness. I believe that there should be a freestyle element in all battles just to see how nice you are off the dome. The art of battle came from snapping which is what we did growing up when we made fun of each other. You had to think quick and on your feet. That’s the only discrepancy I have with the battles now. If you walked into a room and didn’t know who your opponent was it would take way much more skill to have to battle that person.
TRHH: There has been a lot made about Drake not writing his own rhymes recently. What’s your take on ghost writing in Hip-Hop?
Craig G: To me not writing your own lyrics doesn’t make you a bad artist, but at the same time at least admit to it. Be real with the fans. There are artists who have writers and they’re still great artists. Almost every R&B and Soul song that I like had a different writer so I can’t penalize a rapper for it unless he’s acting like he didn’t do it. I say stick to your strengths because there are great writers who probably don’t want to get behind a mic. They need jobs, also. At the same time if you’re acting like you’re the hottest thing since sliced bread, you have all those skills, and you’re so nice, and you have someone else pulling the strings just be real about it — that’s all.
TRHH: What inspired you to write the song Long Time?
Craig G: Ah man, Long Time is probably one of my favorite songs ever now because of the simple fact that I just wanted to talk about being fortunate enough to see the birth of it and like I said in the song, see it go from park jams to infiltrating the club scene in New York City, Run-DMC and them infiltrating the arenas and sponsorships, and even into the 90s and growing bigger. I just wanted to tell that story because I feel like the younger generation, much like we were when we were younger, thought we knew everything. The difference was we actually listened if we knew someone knew what they were talking about. It’s okay not to have all the answers and it’s okay to learn something. I feel like people who think they’re perfect and they know everything scare the hell out of me. I feel like I’m not going to stop learning until I go on to the next life. I believe that it was more of an educational piece for me but it was still really heartfelt because I got to witness a lot of this stuff. It just felt very organic.
TRHH: You’ve been making records for over 30 years but you’re still a young man. What’s been the key to having longevity in a volatile music business?
Craig G: To not care. Honestly. My son who is 21 is getting into Hip-Hop and making music. I constantly remind him, “Just do what feels right to you because no matter what you do someone is going to say something.” It’s okay to not be stuck in your ways. It’s also not okay to alienate your core base of fans. I feel like from album one to album seven that I always tried to make sure that my core base of fans… Let me correct that, album two because I did not like my first album. That’s why I named my second album “Now, That’s More Like It” but that’s a whole ‘nother story. Just stick to what got you where you’re at and don’t alienate them because you’d be surprised how many people still like your strengths. Some people may say you’re stubborn for sticking to those or you’re stuck in the past, but the way I see it I’m speaking to the people who grew up with me in Hip-Hop.
If there are younger fans that are going to come along they’re more than welcome, but I generally speak to the people who grew up in Hip-Hop with me because they’re alienated. Even as a Hip-Hop fan they feel like at a certain age you shouldn’t like this or you shouldn’t like that. The biggest testament to that is all of the classic Hip-Hop stations that are popping up all over the nation. Now people our age are the guys that advertisers are looking for. I just wanna speak to them. Like I said I’m not trying to alienate anyone myself, but my core people who came up with me in this don’t get recognized enough as fans in Hip-Hop so I cater to them. That’s the secret to longevity to me. That and having an “I don’t care” attitude. I just do what I do. I wasn’t the biggest 2Pac fan as a technical emcee but he said something on a song that always resonated with me, “People are gonna hate you for whatever you do, so just do you.”
TRHH: I can’t let you slide without asking why you hated the first album?
Craig G: I was 16 years old and got a $50,000 check from Atlantic Records. I won’t say that they said, “Hey, do a House music record,” but because the simple fact of it was I loved House music before it went really left in those years. When I did “Turn This House into a Home” which is the first single off The Kingpin that song sat for a year and a half before it actually came out for commercial release. So by the time it came out the label was like, “Give us a couple more of these songs.” I just feel like we weren’t focused and rushed the album. That’s why I named the second album, Now, That’s More Like It. That’s one of the reasons I did not like the first album. I had no input.
To me honestly my first two albums were good albums but I feel like I didn’t hit my groove until I got into the independent world where I can display more of myself without having to do a single or a radio record. I’m able to go in and do what I do. I think that if it wasn’t for the independent game I would have walked away from this completely. I appreciate all of the indie artists that are striving, trying to do it on their own terms, and trying to make a new fan a day. I just appreciate them all and the community is very warm and welcoming if they know that you’re genuine about it. It keeps me going and it’s very inspiring to me, also.
TRHH: Why is I Rap and Go Home an important album in 2016?
Craig G: I Rap and Go Home is very important in 2016 because as you know in this era everything is centered around a persona or not being yourself. Basically what I try to preach and try to do by example is just be me. It’s a hard job trying to live a life that’s not yours – it’s very hard. Not every entertainer wants to go to the after party and drink champagne, buy overpriced stuff, or rent stuff and act like they own it. Some of us live a regular life. I just feel like it’s important because you gotta go home. If you don’t feel comfortable at home then you’re doing something wrong at home. Just be yourself. I’m 43 years old and I’ve been in this for thirty years. I’m not interested in being on the scene as much as opposed to being heard. It’s very important that people understand that life is not completely a party, and it could be a party without being at a party. I enjoy being at home. I cut my grass and do stuff like that because I didn’t get a chance to do that when I was younger. I started at 12 years old. It’s important because I want more people to be comfortable with who they are.
The biggest problem facing this world today is people being followers. If everyone were individuals and everyone accepted everyone as individuals, maybe, just maybe things would be a lot better. My last few album titles have just been honest. I just want to be honest with people, that’s all. Honesty is missing in Hip-Hop. Everyone can’t be winning at the same time. That’s not how life works. I’m not speaking on me personally, but because you’re losing doesn’t mean it’s the end. Maybe you can inspire someone by telling your story about how things aren’t going right. That’s why I became a huge fan of Alternative Rock because they’re truthful about their music. They’re not averse to speaking about how they weren’t cool. Not everybody can be cool at the same time, that’s not how it works. It’s important to me because I Rap and Go Home represents having a normal life and being regular. Not everybody has to be extra.
Purchase: Craig G – I Rap and Go Home