JR Rotem – Back to the Future

 |  March 19, 2007

By: The HipHop Journalist


      Music is not just a love to future super producer, JR Rotem, it is his life, literally. Having worked with some of the staples of both the R&B and Hip-Hop scenes, he has definitely made sure the world is familiar with his name.

Linking up with producer manager, Zach Katz, JR gives crackspace.com some insight on what an aspiring producer should be taking into consideration when it comes to getting those beats heard by the right ears.

      Talking education of the college variety and of the street variety, JR Rotem gives us a little insight to just the way he sees things. He gives it up on what decade he favours when it comes to sampling and inspiration and if strategic planning was part of his plan to ensure his name was linked to the biggest names in the game.


Now there seems to be an over abundance of artists and producers, would you agree that it’s hard to find good management…you know we have all these artists and producers but not all of them are being represented correctly?


Yes and no I think that quality management is definitely hard to find, I think very, very good quality is hard to find in any field. Top quality consistent producers are hard to find as well as artist management so I would agree with you. Management is more lacking than any other part of the industry.


You are represented by Zach Katz. I mean he is the most infamous manager there is out there for producers, how did you hook up with him and how did you get his attention?


I hooked up with Zach through ironically a mutual friend Evan Bogart, who is the writer that is signed now to mine and Zach’s publishing company. He introduced me to Zach when I first got to LA or shortly after and I just started loosely artificially working with him he was helping me with tracks you know telling me you should do this you should do that and sending the stuff out and things like that. I started to see that what he was telling me was helping out, like we were actually starting to sell tracks to people by the combination of his musical input and also his connections. So we really started proving to each other what we could do for each other, he was showing me what he could do and I was at the same time working really hard showing him what I could do. So we impressed each other and then we started working with each other on a more exclusive basis and the business relationship grew to what it is which is completely exclusive management, I’m pretty much the sole producer on his plate


Did you feel as you were coming up as a producer in the early days that you needed a manager?


Yes, I always thought that I needed a manager, especially because some people start out in this game with a lot of connections and know how and stuff like that they just kinda need somebody to manage their business a little bit. I moved here with literally zero connections so when I started in this industry I knew no-one and didn’t really know the way things worked. I had the musical talent and stuff but still needed input to make commercially viable beats, so for me it was completely necessary. More so than for others to really to have someone to guide me, who had been in the industry and help me get to where I needed to get to with a lot of hard work and stuff like that. For me it was a definite I always knew that I wanted a manager I just wanted a good one that could really make stuff happen for me


If you were to give advice to someone on the come up trying to get beats heard it would be better to get a manager than trying to do it themselves?


I think definitely if you’re trying to get to a higher level I think it is necessary, there are some people who don’t need a manager, but to me it’s like those people are on a high high level that already have a company and everybody knows about them. But you know me personally, I definitely rely on my manager


As you’ve said before you have a mutual understanding a mutual respect with Zach, you actually have a business together correct?


Yes, correct


How is the company coming along as I know when we have spoken before you were adamant that you were going to search for the people that fir right, rather than wasting time?


We are still looking but I think we’ve found a few that we’re looking at more seriously than we were before. I cannot say that we’ve moved full speed ahead like we haven’t signed an artist we’re being very selective, we are closer to it I would say


When you look back to 10 years ago there were nowhere near as many producers as there are now, do you think that’s why you have to be more selective because you have so much choice now?


I think it’s a personal thing for us, I’m not looking for… there are some producers who are more interested in signing a bunch of artists, you know that kind of company rather than doing tracks and producing for other artists. For me personally I’m most focused on making hot music for established artists at this point in my career. So for us to take on an artist it really has to be the right one; where as for other producers who might want to balance the two you know like they want to divide their time and make tracks for other people but also have a bunch of artists signed to them and that kind of thing that might be what they want to do. But for us I think our selectiveness is a function and a result of the way I look at my own career


Strategic planning is making a come back it would appear. Do you believe that good things come to those who wait?


I don’t know if it’s to those who wait, you definitely need patience, but I think that for me what I feel is really the thing that I can do what has worked is to stay positive and have faith and work hard. Beyond that the rest is really out of your control, so yes it definitely takes a while. If you really want to be in this game for a long time and have longevity and do things then yes you need patience, sometimes you can have something that happens really, really quickly but to me to be consistent and to have lasting success it’s not something that happens over night. You know I’ve been playing piano since I was 5 years old and I’ve been doing music in one form or another since that time. When I was younger it was playing classical and composing and then as a jazz pianist and composing like that and performing and I was always doing this type of thing in one form or another so it’s all of a sudden doing it for a living.


There was never any doubt in your mind that this wasn’t what you wanted to do, you’ve always been dead set on doing what you’re doing now?


Basically yes, it was. I thought it was going to be different things at different times but it was always music.  There was a point where I thought I wanted to be a film scorer you know compose music for movies and that still something I could see myself doing down the road and that’s why I went to Berkley College of Music originally. But instead I ended up studying jazz and became a jazz pianist and for a while I thought that’s what I wanted to do so I went full force into that. Then I wanted to move into production, so I moved into production and now I feel like that’s really really what I wanted to do. But yes ever since a young age I knew I was going to be doing music in one form or another, you know I knew I was going to go to Berkley College of Music since I was in high school (junior high) and I basically always knew I was going to do music.


On to music, I’m just going to pull out one track, because I’m English, and because I was around to experience the 80’s …. Rhianna’s SOS features that Soft Cell sample. How impressionable were the 80’s on you?


I would say I was very impressionable I think somehow I got that music into my head, you know the sounds, the chords just the type of vibes, it’s just kind a weird, usually I wasn’t into sampling to begin with. Even before, I was open to re-making and sampling a lot of my beats and my musical sensibility besides having a lot of classical and jazz pointers definitely had an 80’s vibe to them. People are really responding to it so with Rhiana’s SOS I actually did decided to sample… not much of it is a sample it’s more of a interpretation I replayed most of the stuff I got some 80’s keyboard at the time and replayed it… I just used some key vocal things from the original to give it a little bit of the original sound but yeah the 80’s sound is definitely is a big influence on me and even when I’m not sampling I have that sensibility in there it’s just kind of mixed in with the jazz and the classical


What other 80’s music left an impression on you?


Well I loved all the British stuff like Sting, Police and Thompson Twins and Eurythmics and all that kind of stuff like Tears for Fears I was very kind of big into that, when other people were listing more to a little bit more like glam rock whether it was like Guns n Roses and Nirvana and I was, I listened to hip hop too at that time but as for music I was never big on hard rock, I never really liked the sound of heavy guitars it never really felt that musical to me, where as the stuff that was coming more like you know the pop stuff was just cleaner sounding to me, the whole synth thing I was just very.. I just loved synthesizers I just love the sound and all that kind of stuff so I was more into that sound, I mean also a big influence on me was the Beatles and stuff like that, I think I always intended to write a things which were more musical, more chords more melodies not so much the heavy stuff. So that’s the part of the 80’s that’s in me that type of sound that’s really like….



Do you always have ideas for tracks in your head?


Yeah I’m always coming across stuff in my head, like my brother will bring me samples or I’ll be on I-Tunes and I will always have quite a few things in my mind. You might listen to something and think wow I really want to flip that, sometimes it doesn’t come out the right way or you have to think about it in a different genre or you might have to flip it in a different way. When I hear something, ‘I think wow people are really going to respond to that.’ I think people, when they sample, people like to do it in different ways you have like a Kanye West who I think, when he samples, I think he probably likes to pick something that’s like very not so recognisable and kind of flip it in an even less recognisable way so that you don’t exactly know where it came from. You know other people do it like that too, for me my concept of sampling has been more… I like to take something that’s very, very familiar… I like to almost toy it up and be more obvious about and I like to sample because I feel like it’s the recognisable the familiarity factor that’s going to make it more of a hit for me…. ‘cause I can play classical jazz, so if I want to do something that’s original I can do that but for me sampling is more about taking a recognisable sound or vibe and era and kind of like updating it in an obvious way so people are like “oh shit I know that song”


How was working with Paris Hilton as I know you worked with her?


Paris was really cool to work with.


Do you find some time to relax and chill out?


Not too much to be honest with you; but I’m really passionate about my work so for the most part it doesn’t feel like work I like to do it non-stop. You know when things get a little chaotic and non-stop but for the most part I like to stay working


You were born overseas weren’t you?


I was actually born in South Africa, I lived in Canada but for the most part I grew up in the Bay Area, yeah the San Francisco Bay area that’s pretty much where I grew up. I went to school in Boston as I told you, The Berkley College of Music and then you know went back to the Bay Area and then shortly after that moved down to Los Angeles.


Being that you are college educated how important do you think getting a degree or even some college education is in the music business?


I think it kinda depends, I’ll be honest with you, yes I’m college educated but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that somebody go to music college. If you wanted to be a rapper, a producer, an engineer you know anything in the music industry and they just wholeheartedly wanted to do it I wouldn’t recommend that they go to college. I think that most of what you learn in music is more about being and seeing and trial and error and working with people and that kind of stuff so I can’t say that I would recommend to people go to college, especially not music college. I mean if you’re going to be a lawyer or a doctor you need to go to college you need a degree but you don’t need to for music and I don’t think that it is necessarily the best use of somebody’s time.


Some people, some rappers just really frown upon education if it is of the college variety.


The thing about rapping it’s kind of a weird thing, musicians, it’s a different thing than being an actor, there’s a certain credibility factor. On the one hand music is entertainment as a lot of people will tell you and it should not be a reflection, you shouldn’t say something in a rap and then go and do it, but at the same point there is a certain weird kind of reality thing especially with urban artists. Their credibility and where the come from and their story and how real they are it has a lot to do with how their fans perceive them and how they buy into them. so it’s kind of like a confusing thing, a 17 year old blonde white girl doesn’t necessarily need to have the same kind of credibility as a rapper but you know for one reason or another rap music is of the streets. Even people who are not from the streets, you know suburban people, they connect with it I think because it plays into a certain kind of primal thing, there’s a certain kind of energy and a survival to it and being bad and illegal type stuff and even the violence to it, and that’s part of the entertainment factor within the music. Unfortunately for the music to come off credible and real and feel believable the people who are making it and rapping about these things for the listener I think they really need to feel like this person actually went through this story and they’re not just saying it for no reason. So I think that’s where a lot of it ties in, I’m sure if rappers say a college degree’s good, they will be looked at differently. 50 Cent he’s a great example really, 50 cent is a genius musically period so he deserves all of his success and plus he’s a workaholic and he’s one of these people that I probably look up to most but one of the stories that was big when he got into the mainstream was the fact that he got shot 9 times; that was huge. I mean think about it if you ask someone “what to do you know about 50 Cent’s story” I guarantee you a chief factor in most people’s minds is that. So it’s kind of a weird thing you know, it’s just part of the music somehow. The street music that people are connecting to comes from the streets; it comes from living on the streets and having those kind of stories with that kind of music.




B.G. Chopper City Boyz

 |  March 15, 2007

     By: Serge

       The city of New Orleans, Louisiana in  1999; B.G. releases ”Chopper City In The Ghetto”, off Cash Money Records. The album reaches platinum success, and the primary reason for that is the heavy rotation of the hit song, ”Bling-Bling”, a phrase coined by B.G. which means to have shiny and expensive jewelry. That phrase would soon cross over into mainstream America, and place B.G. firmly on the map.


      The city of New Orleans, Louisiana 2005; Hurricane Katrina devastates the state, leaving most of it submerged under water and causes billions of dollars in damage, forcing B.G. to relocate due to the natural disaster. Although he is no longer with Cash Money, B-Gizzle still manages to release a few acclaimed albums through Koch Records, while getting into disputes with Trina and former label mate, Lil Wayne.           


     Now fast forward to 2007; B.G. buries the hatchet with Cash Money label head Baby, while running his own imprint, Chopper City Records. He forms the group, Chopper City Boyz along with Sniper, VL Mike, Gar, and Hakim (AKA Hakizzle) for the their debut effort, ”We Got Next.” Not to be out done (by himself) he also plans to release his solo album through Atlantic Records and it’s rumored to be executive produced by the self proclaimed king, T.I. If all that isn’t an example of perseverance and determination, it would be really difficult to find what is.        


CrackSpace.com: Why do you think the South is so hot now, do you think it’s any particular reason for it?


Chopper City Boyz: We ain’t taking away from nobody else, but we are just strong right now. You can tell the difference between Southern rap and anywhere else, ya heard me. Bottom line is we are just bringing a different flavor right now.


CrackSpace.com: Do you think there is some animosity towards the South right now because the spot light is on you guys?


Chopper City Boyz: It don’t bother us, everybody got their personal opinions, and their personal feelings about what they want. Everybody gets their turn to do their thing, and right now we got the game in the mothaf**king choke hold, ya heard me. 


CrackSpace.com: How did The Chopper City Boyz come about, did you guys know each before getting into music?


Chopper City Boyz: Well B.G. Left Cash Money, and he was doing a little project and he wanted us to go on the road with him. We all grew up together, and it just went from there, we all street n***as, born and raised so it was on from there.


CrackSpace.com: David Banner did the production on ”Make ‘Em Mad,” who else have you worked with on this album?


Chopper City Boyz: Production wise, we just went with David Banner and all the features were just family. Not to be sh*ting on any outsiders, but we just wanted to do our own thing. We’ve been hungry for a long time, so we have a lot to say and just wanted to get it all out.


CrackSpace.com: So that was a conscious effort to just stay within the group setting?


Chopper City Boyz: Well yeah, it’s all about the Chopper City Boyz over here. Like we said we ain’t trying to sh*t on anyone but we just wanted to do our own thing, ya heard me.


CrackSpace.com: How do you feel when you hear Lil Wayne say things like he’s the best rapper alive, do you think that’s a matter of opinion?


Chopper City Boyz: To be real, if he wants that sh*t, he can have it that sh*t. That stuff don’t even float our boat, so he can have that bullsh*t. That best rapper alive sh*t; f*ck that sh*t. This is VL Mike, ain’t no cowards over here. I say something about that sh*t on the album, f*ck the best rapper alive. Ain’t nobody worried about that sh*t, I’m trying to eat. You can be a rapper, but I’m a street n***a, so it is what it is. Who ever don’t like it, get at me this; is VL Mike.


CrackSpace.com: So you’ve always felt that way?


VL Mike: Yeah I have, and just like I said who ever doesn’t like it they can get at me. Put that in print, or how ever you want to put it.


CrackSpace.com: During the whole drama of Southern rappers claming to be the kings of the South you guys managed to stay clear of that, was there any reason for it?


Chopper City Boyz: Well n***as want to call themselves that, then that’s what it is. W just try to steer away from other rappers talking about their titles and what not. We just try to keep it all about Chopper City over here.


CrackSpace.com: What would you say to people that just think Southern music is relevant because of beats and hooks, and that the South isn’t known for lyricism?


Chopper City Boyz: We don’t get bothered by none of those statements. If that’s how people feel, then they are entitled to their own ideas and opinions. But I’ll tell you this, we got this whole thing in the choke hold as of now; and I love when are haters involved. Because it only makes us go harder, so we can make the critics even angrier.



Big Rich

 |  March 11, 2007

By: Rainier Garcia AKA R Tha BlockStaR



HHC: How’s it feel, to finally be up on MTV, BET and all that?


Big Rich: It feels good man, the hard work is paying off and it feels accomplished.  But there’s still a lot more work to do, a lot more work to do.



HHC: How Do you feel about the Bay Area Hip Hop Scene Right Now?


Big Rich:  I think its definitely long overdue, there’s more work to do though, I came out, 40 (E-40) dropped, Mistah Fab, Keak Da Sneak, and them to drop.  We need the support, we need the unity, not no problems and shit, going on, that’s not gonna help this movement.  I think I’m bringing something new to the movement, especially with my style not necessarily be Hyphy, which is showing the country that “well, there’s more out there than Hyphy” that’s a good look, more work to do, but I’m 100% down with the movement, I’m on of the front runners, I’m definitely wit it, cuz its’ bringing the spotlight to this area, but we gotta keep pushing.


HHC: What do you say to all the critics saying that Hyphy is a knock off of Crunk, and that we have no talent, people passing prejudgments on everyone coming out of the Bay etc.?


Big Rich:  You’re gonna get those stereotypes, but I feel like at the same time, if they talkin’ about you, then you must be doing something right, if its good or bad, I feel I’m definitely bringing that alternative to the “hyphyness” to show the world that there’s more than that, if that’s a problem.  Even if it ain’t, music is music, man.  Hyphy is more than just music, it’s a culture, it’s a movement.  There’s all kinds of different shit that goes on with the Hyphy movement, and I’m just playin’ my part.  So I let the critics talk because that’s there job, I think The Bay should continue what they’re doing, and don’t worry about what they say, cuz it ain’t gonna stop us, only if they let it.  You know what I’m saying?


HHC:  What about all these swagger jackers, you know, out here in The Bay, we got our own  style, swagger, slang, you know E-40 is the godfather of a lot of this “slanguage” in the rap game these days, what do you feel about all these rappers, not necessarily from the East Coast, or Down South, but just all around in general, who come up with stuff like “poppin’ my collar” and “ya dig?” and all that type of stuff, what do you feel about that?


Big Rich: I feel like it went on for long enough.  At one point its slathering that mothafuckas is stealin’ your style, but when they continue to steal your style, that becomes an issue, because we was already in a drought, gettin’ no exposure, then you see people takin’ it and you see people buildin’ off what we started, but we’re here to take it back, so its like now, we’re gettin’ the spotlight now, so there’s no reason to let these dudes steal from us anymore, we just gotta keep pushin’.  I feel like we can’t complain about nothin’ anymore, we just got more things  to do.  My record “That’s The Business” wasn’t getting no radio play, when we released it to the radio stations in April.  So I hit the streets, and the streets got behind me, and we shot a video, with our own money, and that video made it to 106 and Park, and it made it to Direct Effect on MTV, it made it to MTV Jam of the Week, so instead of complaining, I just worked harder, and I think a lot of other people need to do the same.  If we’re behind, we just need to keep pushing.


HHC: What made you decide to go with Koch??


Big Rich: I get this question a lot, because Koch is a situation where artists go when they are towards the end of their careers.  We got the independent game out here in the bay area, and we know how to do it, so I’d rather get this deal with Koch and my pockets be safe, and when its time to go negotiate with the Warner Bros. and the Atlantic’s, and the Def Jam’s, which is already all calling us right now, our money is set, so we ain’t in no rush for no deal, like I don’t want to sit there and take whatever they throw us cuz we’re desperate, we go in there with our own money, so we got more power, a lot more leverage, and with a name, because when I came out, we beat out Chris Brown, Letoya Luckett, we beat out about five major artists for MTV’s “Jam of the week” so its like if we can do that on Koch, then what we gonna do once we get on a major deal? So it was kind of a way to make the money bigger, once we go and sign with a major.  Warner Bros. is looking like a good move right now, but we’re not signing anything until we’re done here over at Koch.


HHC:  How’d you hook up with J-Hood& Sheek Louch?


Big Rich:  That was definitely the Koch hook up, going out there to New York back and forth a lot, you know, I got to meet those dudes, and we said we was gonna get down a hook up, but the last time we went out to New York, we were getting ready to wrap the album up, and they showed me love.  It was all good.


HHC:  How was New York’s acceptance to Bay Area artists?


Big Rich:  They definitely got their perceptions, I mean they definitely don’t take a lot of us seriously, in rap, so I tried to be a proper representation of us and they love it.  I’ve been doing interviews with a lot of New York magazines and they were giving me a lot of respect for it.  I’m holding down my “Bayness” properly.  So we’re gonna keep jamming them in their face.  I respect Keak Da Sneak for what he does, I respect Mista Fab for what he does, they definitely represent our culture to the tenth power.  Bang them into their head until they feel it.




Speaking of that, you’re from the Fillmore District in San Francisco, which was a huge landmark for musicians from back in the day with likes of Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, etc. Fillmore has  a lot of artists that are veterans in the game and many young all stars, such as; JT Tha Bigga Figga, Bailey The Champ, Messy Marv, San Quinn, Sky Balla, Ya Boy, yourself of course also, what is it there that breeds so many artists, and so many respected artists?  Is it something in the water?


Big Rich:  Hahaha, it’s the swag, it’s the City.  You know Oakland, the culture is totally different and its just fifteen minutes away, right over that bridge, you’re in a whole different area.  I think Oakland is more like Down South, country, and we are kind of like East Coast.  Like our swagger is just a little bit different, how we walk, talk, and dress.  We’re slick talkers, na’mean? So our music comes out that way, and it’s a little bit more lyrical, and we’re just a product of our environment and we hold it down, we’ve been in a drought.  This Hyphy movement is definitely an East Bay movement, it originated from the East Bay, so we were just waiting for our time, and my album definitely sets it off for the City to let people know it’s our turn too.



HHC: What’s with the Done Deal Family?  What’s next for them?


Big Rich: They’re definitely doing their thing.  I think San Quinn is doing his album, Ya Boy I believe is still affiliated.  I’m really not sure what’s coming up next for them, they got a whole new roster out there.  We’re still family though,  I still talk to them all the time, but right now, we’re kind of on separate pages now.


HHC: So you got any promotional tours coming up?


Big Rich: We’re hitting up everywhere, we got about 35 shows booked from here to Atlanta, Miami, Midwest, Denver, St. Louis, Seattle, Portland, Phoenix, North and South Carolina, everywhere, we gotta sell this cd.


HHC:  So right now, on MTV Jams all I seem to see pretty much, is Bay Area control.  The Frontline had jam of the week, Champ Bailey, has lots of spins, Messy Marv & Guce, Keak Da Sneak, Turf Talk, is MTV Jams put together by certain regions, or is this nationwide?  Is this what everyone is seeing by watching MTV Jams?


Big Rich:  It’s 100% nationwide.  We went out there to service the video, and the guys who run it are straight out of New York, MTV offices, it’s definitely nationwide and everywhere, the guys over there are just feeling the movement.  They believe in it, and when it pops off the way we want it to, they will definitely be one of the forces that gets us there, because they gave everyone a visual.  MTV is the biggest music channel in the world, so they’re helping us you know.



HHC: So why’d you hook up with E-40 on this album, since you’ve always been affiliated with San Quinn and the Done Deal Family?


Big Rich:  When the whole split happened, E-40 took a lot of interest into the album, and he’s real close friends with Charles, the former CEO of Done Deal, and the current CEO of our label, Street Cred.  He was really close with him, and he came in as on some A&R shit for us, he was helping me getting this and that, getting’ the music, and as he saw how good my album was sounding so he put his stamp and his name on it and it was really a blessing, he didn’t have to do it, he just felt so good about the project, so he did it.


HHC:  So in you’re video for “That’s the business” you have E-40 and Mista Fab in it and they come from infamous “rival” record labels Sick Wit It, and Thizz.  Streets are talkin’ about some recent beef?  How were they both in the same video?


Big Rich:  Well, them two dudes.  It’s some personal shit with the whole Thizz, Sick Wit It issue it’s a real personal family issue.  So as far as Fab and E-40, they didn’t cross into that, that’s some internal beef going on with them, like Lil’ Bruce, and Fab stayed out of it.  And the whole video in general, all them dudes in front of that green gate, all them niggas was trying to kill each other the day before, literally.  We were looking at niggas that was bustin’ guns at each other days before, so that whole video was just unity, it was showing that we can get together and do something positive.  They came out and supported and its been peaceful in the hood ever since.


HHC:  So what’s it going to take for the Bay Area to be in the forefront of hip hop, like the hotness, Houston had it, Atlanta had it, The Bay Area seems like they’re picking it up, and we need to hold on to it.  What do we need to do to put our stamp and get the respect from the critics, the fans, and other regions?



Big Rich:  Consistency, bra.  We gotta stay banging them in their heads with this shit.  We gotta stay together, I think the music and the talent is going to speak for itself but we gotta maintain momentum.  If we fall off and start beefing with each other, it’s not gonna work.  What I noticed about Bay Area rappers, there’s a lot of insecure people with their talent, and that’s the number one reason  they’re scared to see the next man shine, cuz they feel like its’ less of a chance for them to shine, and that’s crazy, because the more people that come out of the Bay Area and blow up, the better chance all of us got.  You want to be the one to bring The Bay back, for what?  You ain’t gonna win no awards for that.  Be happy for every person, and be confident in yourself that you got what it takes to make it.  I’m confident in myself, I knew I couldn’t be overlooked for so long.  I just waited my turn, and now I’m getting what’s owed to me.


HHC:  So to wrap this up, where can they pick up “Block Tested, Hood Approved” album?


Big Rich:  Well, it’s been selling out everywhere, Koch I believe didn’t expect the buzz and I don’t think Koch really anticipated what would happen, it’s everywhere, local mom and pops, Target, Wal-Mart.  I don’t think my product was put in the right area at the right time, but they made all of this happen.  Go cop it!



MC Serch: White Rapper Veteran

 |  March 3, 2007


By Quibian Salazar-Moreno


      MC Serch made his mark as part of the legendary group 3rd Bass with Pete Nice and DJ Richie Rich. In 1989 they dropped The Cactus Album that featured the hits songs, “Steppin’ to the A.M.” and the classic “Gas Face”. In 1991, they dropped Derelicts of Dialect with their hit single, “Pop Goes the Weasel”, which was the last 3rd Bass album. That same year, MC Serch dropped his debut solo album, Return of the Product, and got rave reviews especially for the song "Back to The Grill" which featured a much younger and hungrier Nas.

      During that time, Serch was busy developing Nas and launching his company Serchlite, but he still had time to record another album. But the album was never released. Serch moved away from recording and focused on radio (he hosts a morning show in Detroit) and is now worldwide as host of VH1’s White Rapper Show. Now that Serch is garnering a little bit of worldwide notoriety, he thought it would be the perfect time to drop that 1994 album, M.any Y.oung L.ives A.go: The 1994 Sessions.

       We caught up with Serch to talk about the album, what he did during the 90’s, and of course the White Rapper Show and the white rappers who are mad.


So what’s the situation with the 1994 sessions? Why did it get shelved and why did you decide to drop it now?


      The reason the album got shelved originally is when I played for Russell [Simmons], I had done the album myself, paid for it myself and did the demos with DJ Eclipse and Riz and we were just in the studio recording while everything else was kind of going on around us and I just kind of wanted to make these songs and let Russell hear it and get Russell’s thoughts and Russell was not receptive. He thought the record sounded too much like an underground New York record, but with all due respect to Russell, he also didn’t get Nas, he didn’t understand the kind of artist that Nas was going to be. So I was like, “You know what, I’m not going to focus on making music right now”, I was focusing on O.C. from 1993 to 1995, I got offered a really cool job working for Wild Pitch Records, so I became the VP of Wild Pitch and my whole attitude changed. My attitude towards making the record changed and the masters just kind of disappeared.

      So when I moved to Detroit to do the morning show in 2002, I moved a lot of stuff out of my house and those boxes got locked in a storage facility. When I emptied out the storage facility, I found those masters and said “This might be cool, let’s put these masters back on and see what they sound like” They were in really good condition, but some of them had to be brought back to good condition but most of them sounded amazing. It was just good to hear what I sounded like and I thought “this was before [The White Rapper Show] came out, this would be cool to put out, we should just put this record out on Serchlite.” So we started the process of re-mastering and taking it from the analog world to the digital world. DJ Mark Allen and myself spent seven months re-mastering it.



So what about that gap from O.C.’s album up until Detroit, you didn’t have any desire to record another album?


      I moved to Detroit in 2002 and I was working with Non-Phixion in 1996 and I started helping them put their machine together. I was helping Ill Bill, Necro, Shabach and Gortex put their machine together, helping them build their studio, and help them record their music.


There are also some 3rd Bass reunion cuts on there from 2000, were you guys thinking about getting back together?


      Yeah, in 2000 we recorded those songs. I had a deal through Sony and I was looking to put out the third album from 3rd Bass called Ichabod’s Cranium. It was a great time being in the studio with Pete [Nice] but it just wound up where we were in two different places in terms of our schedule and we really just couldn’t find the time to put the album out.


So why was there no album after Derelicts of Dialect?


      After Derelict and after I put out my solo album and Pete put out his solo album, I just didn’t want to do a 3rd Bass record. I was not in a place of wanting to work with Pete on going back in the studio and going back and forth with him. I mean being in a group, one of the things about being in a group, especially when you have two A-Type personalities like Pete and I, you bump heads a lot. And I wasn’t in the mood, I didn’t want to bump heads with Pete about musical stuff and creative and I just wasn’t in the mood, I wanted to make my record. I wanted to make my album, my record and do it my way. Plus I was working with Nas and had a bunch of other stuff going on, I really didn’t want to do a 3rd Bass record.


Did Pete want to or was he in the same place you were?


      Pete had his own deal, he had a distribution deal with Sony and was putting out Kurios George and I think he felt like he was at another place as well.


X-Clan came out with a new album this year and you guys had words on record towards each other back in the day, are you guys cool now?


      I don’t know if I’m cool, I mean I had Brother J up at my show in Detroit and interviewed him for the show. But I never understood why X-Clan had bad words to say about us. I was always disappointed by that because I knew Paradise and I knew Lumumba and we all had come from the same place. And then Brother J and those guys making diss records about us, it just never made sense to us. P and I knew so much about these guys internally and it was really foolish of them to come out and try to diss us. Because the things we knew about them would have been really detrimental to them. It would have looked really ugly. But the best way that we dealt with it was the way we dealt with a lot of stuff and that was just to let them rock, let them do them and we’re going to do us and not deal with it. That’s how I chose to go about it and that’s how I kind of continue to deal with anything real negative in my life. Whether it’s about the show, or whatever, I really don’t respond to that stuff. I really don’t get into it, I really don’t have the need or the necessity or the desire.


The album is dropping on Serchlite on March 6, what else is going on with your company?


      In terms of Serchlite Music and Serchlitemusic.com we do a lot of consulting and a lot of brand development with ESPN on all of their platforms, specifically ESPN.com and 360.com, doing music licensing and creating content opportunities for ESPN. We deal very closely with the NFL and the Player’s Association, we supervise and produce events for a list of clients that we have, we continue to work records at radio. We’re working two records right now one by an artists named Greg Jarvis and another by a group called Dead Celebrity Status. So we’re working those records. We’re launching a section of our site called Serchlite Certified Hip-Hop, which we’ll dedicate to what we believe are the next wave of talented artists with the difference being, we don’t own their masters, we don’t own their publishing, we’re just giving them a vehicle to be heard and be seen. And with our partners at Orchard, we’re going to do digital distribution for these artists. And we just try to create more avenues for young artists.


Are there any plans to record an album of new MC Serch music?


      Yeah, I’m recording all the time, I host mixtapes on a regular basis for local artists and I’ll spit a 16 here and there and I’m always in the studio in one shape or form. I’m currently working on a project called Peace in the Middle East with DJ Wyl E. Coyote from WJHM in Greensboro, North Carolina, which is  a record of Jewish and Palestinian artists coming together to promote peace. With all the proceeds going to orphanages in Palestine and Israel that take care of children that have lost their parents in the war. I’m doing that and whenever the urge strikes me and I feel like I have something I want to say, I’m going to say and I’ll release it.


Have you heard of any plans for season 2 of the White Rapper Show yet?


      I have no idea. I have no idea at this time. I should hope so based on the popularity but this is a whole new area for me so I’m not sure.


When Lord Jamar came on the show, he didn’t seem too excited to be there. What was going on behind the scenes?


      We told Jamar, I said “listen, the best thing you can do, Jamar, is educate.” The thing that is great about Brand Nubian and the thing about him being a Five Percenter, he’s here to give lessons and teach lessons. And we told him, “Just go in there and be unimpressed.” And he was like, “Yo, that’s not gonna be too hard.” And it was great. He went in with a great attitude, him and Sadat, they had a great attitude about spending time with these dudes. Then seeing how shook they were when Jamar started breaking them down, it was just classic, you couldn’t buy that kind of entertainment. I mean, you can if you got cable, but it was just a great moment.


On the show, you said that you and Prince Paul handpicked the contestants, was that really the best of the emcees who came to try out?


      Paul and I were not the only ones involved in that process; there was a group of other people that you didn’t see and we sat at a giant table. But based on the different criteria that we thought would be entertaining to watch, those were the best contestants to pick.


So the selection wasn’t solely based on skills, but entertainment as well?


      Well, the music business isn’t based solely on skills. If that was the case then Non-Phixion would have sold 10 million records, Cage would have sold 10 million records, Company Flow would have sold 10 million records. The music business isn’t based solely on skills, you have to be a character, you have to be a personality. There’s several different levels that make someone successful.


I’ve noticed that the only hip-hop heads that are offended are the white rappers, have you noticed that?


      Yeah, it’s funny to me. I’m actually very intrigued by the pro-White, anti-Black white rapper movement. That is particularly very interesting to me that there is a core of white rappers who don’t care about Black people, who don’t care for the fact that this is a Black music culture. This is Black music and they’re talking about eff the Black man, he never showed me any love so eff him. That movement is amazing to me. I would have never imagined meeting or talking to those people if it wasn’t for the show. But hopefully, if there’s a season 2, these disgruntled rappers will try out for season 2.


What kind of experiences did you go through as a white rapper in the late 80’s and early 90’s?


      The thing that makes the Ego Trip guys and myself laugh so much, they’re going through an 8-week crash course of what I had to go through for 10 years. There was no way, in 1986, that if I didn’t know all the words to “F-R-E-S-H” by the Fresh 3 MCs and who were the Fresh 3 MCs, I’d get respect. And I got tested on a regular basis. I got tested as an emcee, “you got skills? Spit.” I got tested like “You ain’t really real to this, you’re just in it for the bread. Spit.” A lot of guys that want to get this kind of jumpstart, to get this kind of visibility, to get this opportunity, to be seen in the way that they’re being seen, they need to spit. Lyor Cohen (former Def Jam prez) does this to a lot of people, I don’t know if he still does it, but I know Jay-Z does it to a lot of people, “You’re a rapper? Rap.” There’s no chit-chat, you’re an emcee? Great, let me hear. That’s what you’re saying that you are.


Any last words?


      I just hope everyone enjoys the download on March 6, I hope people really get to enjoy the music and it takes them back to 1994. I’m really proud of it, Mark Allen did a great job remixing it and re-mastering it.

Devin the Dude: Comedy Central

 |  February 27, 2007

By: Rizoh

      Ever since he first stepped onto the scene in ‘98 with his cult-classic debut, The Dude, Devin the Dude (born Devin Copeland) has been dazzling heads with his self-mocking humor and southern-fried production. Now back with Waitin’ to Inhale, his fourth solo album, Devin sat down with HipHopCrack.com to weigh in on the ups and downs of being hip-hop’s version of Richard Pryor.


If there’s one thing you would like to achieve with this album, what would it be?


I don’t really want to prove anything. But if I can have a 4th solo album and people appreciate it, that’s good enough for me.


“Little Girl Gone” touches on a heavy subject. What inspired that song?

It’s the music itself. A lot of times I hear the music and it says something to me. So, I try to meditate and marinate to it. With “Little Girl Gone,” all I could hear was a message type story, something that’s not a happy story. We just added the guests (Lil’ Wayne, Bun B, Tony Mac, Tami Latrell) while mixing and mastering it. The song had been around for a while.


Your style is lighthearted and entertaining. Does it ever bother you that people might pigeonhole you because of that?

Not really. But sometimes, they’ll say it’s always weed, wine and women. And I don’t mind because certain things that I say tend to be accepted by some people in the game. Artists come to me specifically when they want to make open-minded songs…I don’t mind that at all.


Why do you think people sleep on you on a national level?

It lets me know that I still got some work to do, some things to accomplish, some things to strive for. If that’s what I want–to make myself a household name. But that’s not my specific idea of what I’m doing this for. Certain things you just gotta earn. You don’t control the tides. I love music. I don’t know where I am or where I got to go, but I still know that I got work to do.


What would you say to the people who criticize the dirty south scene as a whole?

Come down to H-Town and venture out to some of these hip-hop spots. You go to one place and it’ll be like a down south swangin’ and you go to another spot and it’ll be straight lyrical bashing and party-raps. There are different types of raps and different realms of it, and we always appreciated that. Back in the day, I used to record on my cassette, west coast, east coast, etc. Anything that had to do with rap that was hot at the time, we would play it. And that’s how our culture evolved.



Who are your personal influences?

Run-DMC, T La Rock…he was like lyrical lyrical. You know how you can just quote your favorite artist and go word for word? I don’t know one person that can listen to T La Rock as a fan of T La Rock and go word for word with him.



What artists do you admire for their comical content?

Slick Rick, Blowfly, Just Ice, and Biz Markie.


What’s your favorite album from the Devin the Dude catalog?

It’s hard to say, man. I know I had a lot of fun with The Dude album. Looking back on it, we did a lot of trippin’. There were so many thoughtful songs on there. The beat is still knocking but you have to listen to the words. Just Tryin’ Ta live was a good experience too. But i don’t have a favorite. It’s like my kids. I have four of them, and I couldn’t tell you which one I love the most.



In regards to the DJ Drama/RIAA scandal, would you say that mix tapes have been instrumental to the rap game?

I think they probably have been helping so much that some shit like that would go down, you know. The powers that be would rather see us out there slangin’ cocaine instead of trying to do music. It’s so powerful now, especially with DJs like that who have been putting it down and helping out artists. I don’t know exactly what went down but you have to be aware that this is our way of coming up now.


Is it safe to say that you’re the Richard Pryor of hip-hop?

If somebody said that I wouldn’t mind it at all, but I probably wouldn’t say that. Richard Pryor, man…he brought that comic relief. He was like an uncle I never had around.


Your album title Waiting to Inhale, you’re talking about air, right?

[Laughs] It could be air. It could be some good weed. It could be goodness, you know.


Whatever you wish to inhale



How do you want to be remembered 5-10 years from now: “Devin the Dude the artist that________?”


If they would just stop at “Devin the Dude” that’ll be cool. I just want to be remembered, man. A lot of people would say that what I do is nothing to be proud of. I just want people to remember me.






By Will “Deshair” Foskey


Persia White, the actress who plays the character, Lynn Searcy on the popular CW hit, “Girlfriends” has been given the opportunity to live out her musicians’ reality, on television. The 3 part series of Girlfriends which began on November 20th, co-stars the Grammy winning artist, half of the legendary Hip Hop group Outkast, Big Boi. Persia’s character is discovered by Big Boi, who plays himself, and is hired to write music with the ATL star.


“I was very excited at the chance of taping these episodes,” says the fairly energetic Persia who just stepped off the set for a break. “The writer’s of the show actually came to me with the idea. They wanted to show the arch of my character, trying to make it in the music industry, and asked me how I felt about them bringing in a celebrity that would discover my character. So they’ve chosen Big Boi to play the role of himself. What’s special about the episodes is that the song that we’re working on was written by yours truly.”


“Girlfriends” have defied all odds in making it to its seventh season with continued rave reviews and “word of mouth” fanfare. Persia took the opportunity to express her thoughts and emotions on the growth of herself and Lynn. “My character and I have grown so much since the first season,” says the actress behind the character of Lynn. “I’ve changed so much as a person, because in the beginning I was more of a recluse when it came to my acting, my music and how I’ve communicated with others. And instantly, I was placed into a situation where I had to open up and not be as stubborn as I was. As for my character, Lynn and I was more of a merger than anything else (she chuckles a bit). Lynn was not willing to commit to anything, and now she is finally ready to get it together.”


“And people need to realize that even with coming of age, that you’re not always ready to achieve greatness. Added maturity doesn’t happen for everybody at the same time. Sometimes it just takes a little bit longer to grow up. Personally, people would tell me that I have a rebellious side. Honestly, I didn’t think I’d have any kind of continuous job, let alone being a part of something as special as Girlfriends. I had that mindset of, ‘I’m doing my thing, I’m going to do my music and be underground with it.’ It just feels good to know that I have grown up, and that in a special way, fans of our show have had the opportunity to witness the maturation of Persia and Lynn.”


GIRLFRIENDS air on Mondays (9:00-9:30PM, ET/PT) on The CW and stars Tracee Ellis Ross, Golden Brooks, Persia White and Reggie Hayes.

X-Clan Returns From Mecca

 |  February 18, 2007

By Quibian Salazar-Moreno


      It’s kind of weird watching the new X-Clan video, “Weapon X.” The last time we saw the Clan together was probably in 1992 or 1993 when they were out promoting their last album together, Xodus. To see what X-Clan looks like in 2007 is kind of surreal – they’re without the African gear, leather medallions and verb sticks, but rep with button-ups, Bluetooth headsets, and a couple of hot cars (there’s even a chain or two). The message of upliftment is still there, the protection of the red, black and green flag is in the background, and Brother J is still slick with the words. But it’s like watching someone who passed on awhile back, like Tupac or Bob Marley and coming back to life trying to fit within an iPod and Blackberry world.

      But Brother J and company fit in well and pick up where they left off: uplifting and teaching their people through song. The group’s new album, Return From Mecca, finds the Clan staying within their funk sound (minus all the heavy samples though), but also explore a lot of reggae, jazz, and even rock. Lyrically, Brother J hasn’t lost a step and still comes with the witty, intelligent and memorable one-liners (“My cup spilleth over, so I cleanse dirty niggas”). There are even guest appearances from folks like KRS-One, Chali 2na, Papa Roch, Damian Marley, RBX and a host of others.

     We caught up with Brother J at his crib in Los Angeles and got the latest on the X-Clan, the new album, the new philosophies and the history of one of the most memorable movements hip-hop in history.



What spurred the return of X-Clan?


      Initially, after doing the Dark Sun Riders project I wanted to take the restructuring of the group a lot more seriously. We were up against the Golden era, basically needing support for conscious artists, so labels came to question our ability to sell records in today’s market. After that production project I needed more time to sit and see how to bring X-Clan back. I didn’t want to do an EPMD style reunion or a Run-DMC style reunion. To me it looked opportunist for me to do that at that timeframe. What sparked the coming in 2006 from that point, I needed time to stack my library, I needed time to study, not only the consumer but what was going on with the people as the time was changing.

      You come into the year 2000, there was so much fear and the world was going to blow up and you got the internet giving information overload to the kids and the parents can’t associate. We’re a voice for the people; it’s not just about me coming out with a rhyme and a beat. So we had to continue to wait until the door opened to let this second generation of Clan breathe. All this to say we didn’t want to bring it back on some “Yo, we got fresh beats and fresh rhymes, come and deal with us.” We wanted to bring it back as it is right now, which is a voice for the people.


Did the return also have anything to do with the cultural aspect of hip-hop and the society we live in as well? Like a new X-Clan album was needed?


      Exactly, no one is addressing the key issues. We can all say “Eff Bush” and all those other things, but Bush is not sitting in our homes or dealing in our communities. We can’t just keep calling out one person. Let him do his job as the commander of the United States, we have to do our job as the people in the streets. And the little bit of freedom that we have, we have to make it manifest for us.


What’s the meaning behind the name, “Return from Mecca”?


      The title was inspired by Malcolm X for his travels from the United States to Mecca to basically refine himself as a messenger and as a speaker. Return From Mecca for me, after a such long hiatus from the game, was basically letting people know that I didn’t sit on the sidelines, just taking notes to come back with nothing, I took notes to come back with something serious. I came back as a weapon for all the people that are frustrated with the current state of music. And not for me to be J or that, it’s just a set of balance because everything is so one dimensional. Hip-hop is universal and we’re going to listen to it all if it be simple lyrics or complex lyrics, all we’re getting right now through the radio stations is one dimension. But we have to step up our production and step up what we’re saying as conscious artists. I want this album to be an example. Just how like Malcolm X came back from Mecca as a refined and more universal messenger, so do I. If we learn all this history then we have to learn how to use it in some time frame to be true and living people.


Listening to the new album, I didn’t hear much reference to white people in terms of cave men and polar bears like on To the East Blackwards. Did you just grow up or has your outlook on race changed ?


      It wasn’t necessarily a case of growing up or saying something wrong, I was speaking from a perspective of where I was learning from. I was learning that our culture was being compromised and we were being placed as cave men. But it was our indigenous race that we know was so great for building a lot of the Wonders of the World and we were never given credit for that. As a youth studying, that made me angry. And all of the people that were calling us primitive, evolving from an ape type of thing, were actually probably the pre-historic beings themselves. So whoever that maybe, whoever twisted up our history books, if they be white, black, green, whoever they are, I was pointing them out.

      Simply, about the thing with the polar bears, because this was an issue at one time, I think Eminem had brought it up in Rolling Stone Magazine. My thing about stating the polar bears and the gorillas, if I was a polar bear in the artic region, I have to play my position. I can’t play like a gorilla in the jungle and swinging vines. And neither can I be a gorilla playing post in the Artic. So if we understand who we are, we can play or positions accordingly. So it was basically for Black people to understand, stop trying to play white, and for white people to understand, stop trying to be Black and we’ll get along that much better as people if we understand out roots and who we are. We have more to build on if we understand our culture. But at face value, it looks like “He’s calling us polar bears”, but I’m calling myself a gorilla. No one says the other side of it, they just take the offensive side. Well, I’m just trying to come up with a metaphor and tell people how to play their position.

      We have role playing happening in hip-hop. All the sudden when you push your hat to the side, you’re acting Black. Why is it acting Black when you twist your hat to the side? And if I wear my hat to the front and pull it down like a trucker, then I look like a white boy. We have strange stereotypes in hip-hop. I wanted to end all of that. Ending it means to approach it, so in that song I tried to approach it as nice as I could.


You really don’t tackle the race issue at all on the new album, is that on purpose or are you just beyond that now?


      The thing is, I never really wanted race to be an issue. I wanted energy and spiritual upliftment to be the issue for X-Clan. It was twisted through the media that we were just all about white and Black. The time was very heavy with rioting and racial violence and stuff like that. So we’re coming out in African garbs with the sticks and the whole nine. And symbolic from where we come from it looks like pro-black is saying only-black. And that wasn’t the case. I was saying if you wants these hoods to be better, Black folks need conditioning. They don’t need any conditioning from the outside, they need conditioning from the inside. So I’m here to improve that so you can stop holding your pocketbook when someone Black walks by or always feeling that someone Black is going to be overly aggressive. Look at the TV, every Black character is an overly aggressive person. Very rare do we take on the role as the builder or the patient person of peace, so I just wanted that to change as much as I could possibly put out energy-wise.

      So in this album, my thing was, like I said about Malcolm, coming back from Mecca you have a more universal perspective of things. Everything I did on that album wasn’t right or wrong, I just addressed the moment and what was happening on the streets. And how me as a young messenger wanted to relay that anger on the streets, but there’s also a peace that exists. And if we can get past certain things we can get to the peace value. I don’t know how easy it’s going to be, because my ancestors have been trying for years to get to the peace, but it takes all sides. So on this album I’m trying to unite culture because hip-hop culture is so divided right now, it has so many subcultures, that a lot of the audience for X-Clan is scattered. If I don’t create a universal album to bring the magnet out and draw these people, I’m going to lose. If I come up with face value points and they continue to misconstrue, it’s always going to be, “X-Clan is one of them super-Black radical groups, very political,” that’s the only label they can come up with. I don’t speak about politics and stuff, brother, I speak about how the system affects the people. That’s the only label of controversy and political they can name when they hear my music, but I’m trying to get away from that.


X-Clan and KRS-One had differences back in the day and it was squashed later on. How important was it to have him on the new album?


      It was very important for, in my eyes, to have two spokesmen of movements to come together to speak about what’s on their minds. Before any illusionary beef or whatever the case the people have made us to come to, it was me saying to another leader, he being in charge of the Temple of Hip-Hop and myself coming from the movement of Blackwatch and the spokesman for the X-Clan Millennium Cipher, I thought it was a good thing for molders of men. When I say molders of men, we assist people to find their destiny in life. We don’t tell people what to do. So even as an emcee, we’re giving people an option of survival when we speak as men of knowledge. I thought that was stronger perspective than a beef. I never had beef with KRS-One, I admire KRS-One. We may have a difference of philosophy, about how we handle things. But I never had a beef with KRS-One. The media made it a beef and made it a bigger thing that it was. We could have just sat down and came to a term. He could have told me straight up and down like, “Hey, you might see me as trying to unite all races at one time, but I’m about the progression of Black people first, or the progression of the minority.”

      There are more people oppressed than just Black people, all culture has been oppressed. Even cultural white people have been oppressed brother! If you’re a thinking person or a patriot, a lot of your feelings have been hurt when your troops are being sent over to get slaughtered. A lot of feelings our hurt when our neighborhoods and our states here in the United States of America, haven’t been taken care of first. And we’re sending money to all kinds of other nations. So I’m relating to everyone who is in pain right now in oppression. We were talking about it back then, but ain’t nobody safe brother. There’s a lot of angry white people out there right now who are taking our side with this activism. It’s never been different. With X-Clan it was the same thing. When I say cultural people, I mean all races homie. You don’t need to have blond dreadlocks to be a cultural person, you can look as geeky as you wanna be, a computer nerd or whatever and believe in what is right. Freedom and equality has no color. Even back then with the X-Clan that was an issue, our appearance and our direct way of spinning it always put people in fear. If my drive does it, that means it’s penetrating, my point is penetrating and I don’t apologize for what’s real.


Compared to the first two X-Clan albums, you really didn’t change up your flow that much on the new album. Was there any pressure to try to do so and try fit in with hip-hop today?


      Nah, there’s no pressure. When you acknowledge a gift that you have, you don’t put it in competition with other things. I don’t come out here saying, “I want an album like Game” or “I want an album like Xzibit” or whatever. I want an album that fits my style and I tell cats that I rhyme to be timeless. I write to be timeless. When you hear an album from yesterday, 1990-91, and you hear this one now, it all makes sense because you can use it five years from now, 20 years from now, 100 years from now. It’s lessons of survival, it’s lessons of research, it’s lessons of upliftment and enlightenment. That’s what’s timeless, more so than the flow. I’ve changed up my flows in so many different ways now because I have new production; I’m not depending on a sample to carry me anymore. The maturity of this album is that now when I feel something, I can play it over, I can hum a tune today and go over to any of my producers labs and get it out of my dome and put it on wax immediately, or CD or whatever it is. That’s the difference between yesterday’s album and today’s piece.


Was there any hesitance or anxiety of creating this project without Professor X?


      Well, here’s the thing, the project was going with or without Professor X, and I don’t mean to say it in a rude way. It’s just that I think the original foundation of X-Clan was not clear to people. X-Clan came to the Blackwatch Movement years ago as myself and Sugar Shaft. We were managed by Professor X and our production was guided by Architect. Because when you come off the street, you have a raw talent and you don’t know how to write in bars, your music theory and your knowledge on how to structure and compose a song is very low. Most times, if you’ve haven’t been studying all your life, if you’re not a prodigal son like Prince or something and you’re just rhyming to compete and keep your name in the hood and become a legendary hero or whatever.

      But when we came to the house, X-Clan was only two members and it was going to be extended to all of our people in Brooklyn, similar to what have Wu-Tang would be. Several boroughs coming together as a clan. But we felt it would have been a better thing to have mature men involved, moreso than adolescents trying to find their way and growing in the game, we have people who have been here managing groups and managing clubs that are historical in hip-hop. Professor X and Architect have been that. By bringing them in the group, it instantly brought a another generation that doesn’t listen to hip-hop to our group. Because with mature music, it’s one thing, but when you have mature men who lived the era of that music with you it makes an adult say, “Wow, I know Lumumba Carson, that’s the son of Sonny Carson, I’m familiar with that one. What’s this group here?” Then they pick it up, “This is the kind of hip-hop I like, you got Roy Ayers and George Clinton.”

       They started seeing the music that we dealt with and the message we were talking about and we were hitting them like Curtis Mayfield or Isaac Hayes. It wasn’t like rap music, it wasn’t like “Aw man, somebody is competing with KRS-One or Public Enemy” it became a classic situation for us. I don’t think people got the history right because Blackwatch movement meant so much more to us than what the X-Clan meant to the mainstream. The name X-Clan was broadcast as part of the Blackwatch movement, which was much more powerful. All of that to say that the foundation of X-Clan was never made clear on what influenced us to be stronger. We came there with raw talent but we got our sword sharpened to be a definite weapon for freedom fighters and activists in hip-hop that didn’t feel like doing the latest dance or ego trippin’. They wanted to talk about some real raw activism. Now can we do this how can we get down how can we organize ourselves, they were looking to the Clan for that.

By Quibian Salazar-Moreno


      Pharoahe Monch has been ripping mics for over 15 years, first as part of lauded hip-hop crew, Organized Konfusion, and then as a franchise solo artist on Rawkus Records. He released his debut album, Internal Affairs, in 1999 and followed that with a national and world tour in 2000 and 2001 as part of the Spitckickers. But then Monch disappeared. His label, Rawkus Records merged with MCA Records which subsequently folded, having most of its artists end up on Geffen Records. The label politics stalled any follow-up albums that Monch was planning.

      Although he was hard to find, Monch appeared in spurts by doing songs with Mos Def and Nate Dogg (“Oh No”), Styles P (“Life”), and recording his own singles (“Agent Orange”). He even managed to stay in the news with rumors of him signing with Shady/Aftermath Records. Last year Monch finally secured a deal with SRC/Universal Records and plans on dropping his long-awaited sophomore album, Desire, in March. HiphopCrack.com caught up with Monch to get the official word on his hiatus, the new album, and his controversial video for “Guns Draw.”


What should people expect from the new album, Desire?


Production-wise, we got Mr. Porter, Denuan Porter, The Alchemist, Lee Stone, Black Milk and I produced three cuts myself. And I just think, to describe it it’s real soulfully based, funk, political record.


Are you singing on it at all?


Definitely. Some of the music, which I think people will get when they listen to it in terms of why vocals are placed where and how it moved me.


When did the singing start to play a part in your creative process?


I did some for Internal Affairs and when I did, I pulled it off the record because it didn’t fit. It’s something that was always there. When you listen to the “My Life” record with Styles P or the history of the Organized Konfusion stuff, like “Black Sunday”, a lot of the stuff on the Equinox album, even on the “Oh No” record with Nate Dogg and Mos Def, I incorporated a lot of vocals like that.


The video for “Gun Draws” isn’t censored for television and instead you released over the internet. Why did you decide to go that route instead of shooting for MTV or BET?


I really can’t answer that question in terms of why it would have made the video better. I think things of that nature is why artists like myself who haven’t even gone Gold before, and keeps a certain edge or a certain integrity is why I have a valid place in the market place. But the response has been just incredible, I don’t know how much these stations would have played it and I don’t know if would be getting to people in Sweden and the U.K., if that makes any sense. The violence is actually needed as a ‘going in the complete opposite direction’. People have been desensitized to it and I needed to shock them to get my overall message across. I needed to do it how I wanted to do it, such a would be script writer, that I wanted to do it in that style anyway.


The song itself is reminiscent of “Stray Bullet” off of the Organized Konfusion album, Stress: The Extinction Agenda that you dropped in 1994. Why did you decide to broach the topic again?


Yeah, I was calling it a Part 2, but it’s more like a spinoff. But because I know it would be a challenge to do that, and people don’t usually do that in hip-hop. I want to stay out of the box and stay doing what people don’t expect you to do. And it was a big challenge for me because “Stray Bullet” was really respected.


So what have you been up to since Internal Affairs dropped in 1999 until now? Why so long for a new album?


The main thing, the hiatus was because of label politics and working on getting off of the label, the Geffen situation. That was the biggest reason for the hiatus. But mostly I went on tour, got a publishing deal, write records, produced records. I wrote two songs on the Diddy album and tried to stay busy here and there. But most of it really, was just enjoying my time off and not being involved in the hypocrisy and the BS, to be quite honest with you. It felt good, but its back to work now.


There were rumors you were signing to Aftermath/Shady Records, was that deal close to being done?


Definitely. The contracts were in the bag, but due to a lot of label overrides and what have you, it didn’t go over well in terms of the transfer of me going over from Geffen to Shady.


Did you get to record at all with the Shady Records crew?


Yeah, all of the Mr. Porter stuff on my album was going to be a part of that project, definitely.


Are you still down with the Spitkicker crew and planning on any tours?


Yeah, definitely. Funny you should ask, I just met with Kweli’s manager last night. And we were going over some tour dates for this Spring.


Of course, everytime there is an interview with you; everybody wants to know if there will ever be an Organized Konfusion reunion. Will there be?


And the answer to the questions is……. Who knows what the future holds!


Do you still talk to Prince Po, O.C. and them cats?


Yeah. And I just spoke to O.C. a week ago.


The hot topic for this season right now is the statement, “Hip-Hop is dead”. What’s your take on the whole situation?


It’s obviously not dead, and I don’t think it was meant to be literal. There are definitely aspects that hold true in terms of culturally and the different things that were implemented and aspects of hip-hop that are missing. But for the most part, what does Nas call the brand of music that he’s putting out? And what do I call the brand of music that I’m putting out? You know what I mean? So by virtue of that, I understand the statement but I don’t take it literally.


Who do you think is upholding the standards of hip-hop right now?


The one album that I’m blown away by now, is the Georgia Anne Muldrow album. She’s a jazz balladeer singing over Jay Dee, Sa-Ra and her own production.


Do you have a mixtape or anything coming to holds people over until the album drops?


The mixtape is out now, called the Awakening and you can get it from Clinton Sparks.com.


What’s the next single and video?


“Desire”, the title cut produced by The Alchemist. But the next video I;m going to do is going to similar to Gun Draws, kind of that feel. I also did a remake of Public Enemy’s “Welcome to the Terrordome” so I might do a clip for that.


Why did you name the album Desire?


Because that’s what I had to have to get through the industry BS. It was just the desire to continue through all the politics in the industry and the waiting and everything that goes on as well as a lot of everyday life stuff, that’s why I chose that title.


Did you ever feel like throwing the towel in on this rap stuff?


Never that. I think it’s apparent for the most part, and I think it will be apparent by virtue of why I waited so long to uphold integrity and just be patient shows that it’s not about… I could have put things out here and there but I didn’t. It’s not about king of New York or the commercialization, it’s something that I really love to do. If I didn’t love it so much, then I wouldn’t have a waited so long. I would have put my own records out.


So what do you hope people get from this album?


It’s really layered man, it’s like one of them records that implements itself and something you can buy into. I think you’re going to want to get the t-shirt and involve yourself in the whole vibe. I think it’s just not a good album that you listen to and you’re like “Yeah, that album is good, I like number 14, 8 and number 7” I think people will learn the titles, and I think when you go on a road trip, you’re definitely going to be like “Don’t let me forget my Pharoahe CD…”


That’s about it. Anything else you wanted to mention?


Just thanks to the fans for being patient. I know I’ve been stalling and pushing the dates back, but it’s for a good reason. I think they’re going to appreciate the record.




David Banner: Leading by Example

 |  February 12, 2007


By: Will “Deshair” Foskey


       On November 29th, Mississippi native David Banner was honored before 500 lawmakers and 200 students for his tireless efforts standing on the frontline after Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc through the Gulf Coast a little over a year ago. The Black Caucus of State Legislators celebrated its 30th Anniversary by presenting David Banner for his humanitarian work throughout his community with a Visionary Award.


      In a conversation between colleagues, David took the opportunity to express his gratitude, his disappointments and his victories as he sat down for a crisp haircut.


We both know that positive news is often swept under the rug, so I wanted to give you this opportunity to talk about the amazing night you’ve just had in your home state of Mississippi.


David Banner: For the most part, the Black Caucus which consists of the black leaders in Congress, assembled in the state of Mississippi for the first time and rewarded me with the Humanitarian Award for all of the things that I have been doing from giving out scholarships, I’ve always had special outreach programs for children, and the personal time that I put in during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. I was physically in the trenches with the people who affected by the different atrocities.


You’ve taken on an important role in the eyes of the urban community, when you were one of the first people to answer the calls of those who were in distress after Hurricane Katrina hit the gulf coast. People are looking towards you as not only a role model, but also as a leader. How do you feel about taking on that type of role?


David Banner: I tell people all the time that one of our problems in the Black community is that people send our leaders to us. For example, who elected Jesse Jackson to speak on behalf of black folks… not any of us? So we have to be very cautious of who we call our leaders. It also happens that a lot of people try to step up to that role of being a leader when they are not ready to handle the responsibilities of the role.


So for you, it’s more of just being a vessel to express the plight of the urban community.


David Banner: Yes, it’s more of being a vessel. And if it’s my calling to be a leader, than I’ll be that. I’m definitely not running away from that though…


On Jay-Z’s latest album, he has a song called, “Minority Report” which is based around the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Have you had a chance to listen to it?


David Banner: I’ve bought Jay-Z’s new album, but I’ve only listened to it once so far, so I can’t really give an accurate assessment on the lyrics. When I first listen to an album, I’m listening for the beats and the hooks.


Well he stated lyrically: Sure I ponied up a million but I didn’t give my time / So in reality I didn’t give a dime or a damn / I just put my money in the hands of the same people who left my people stranded.


Just hearing those lyrics, can you tell me how you feel about Jay talking about his actions…?


David Banner: First of all, I’d like to say that it takes a big man to admit when he’s wrong, especially in our generation. I honestly feel that it’s not everybody’s position to have done what I’ve done. I feel that a person with the influences of a Jay-Z is more effective in the board room. Jay-Z is more effective sending in a million dollars. Regardless of what I say, that is more powerful than me handing out a box. It’s funny that we’re talking about this, because I’ve had a conversation with Jim Jones along these lines. Jimmy talked about how there was a difference between you giving away 80 pairs of your own shoes and artists with the stature of a Jay-Z or a 50 Cent calling up Reebok and telling them to send out 10,000 pairs of shoes. As much as we might want to feel like we’ve done something bigger on an emotional level, I’d much rather that my people have 10,000 pairs of shoes and I’m not there, compared to me being there and only being able to hand out a few boxes; I hope that you can understand that. Emotionally, we can go at it, tick for tack, but I’d much rather that a person of that stature cut that check. So I respect Jay-Z for the decision he made.


I would like for you to talk about some of the good things that you have going on in your life right now.


David Banner: Everything happening in my life right now is positive. I would like for everybody to know that we have an opportunity after God blesses us to set our hopes so high, and understand that once you get to a certain level, there is no failing. Four years ago, I was homeless, so everything in my life now is positive. I got a show coming out on the Cartoon Network called, “That Crook’d ‘Sip”. I got my first movie that I just completed called, “Black Snake Moan” starring Justin Timberlake, Christina Ricci and the magnificent Samuel L. Jackson. I just finished producing a song for Chris Brown. I’ve submitted some music to Britney Spears, and it’s looking like they are going to accept the submission. Everything in my life is positive right now, I can’t lie to you. I’ve just won this amazing award and even though there was some negativity surrounding me receiving the Humanitarian award, that negativity brought exposure to the dedication to my community that I’ve been putting in all along as a philanthropist. I’m currently working on my fourth album on Universal, my fifth major release and ninth album overall, including my Independent releases. There are not too many people that can say that they’ve released 9 albums and are still relevant.


But I’d like to leave a message with for the fans. One thing about our generation and the younger generation that we need to change is that we need to give our artists a chance to grow. Our artists are not going to be the same person as when their first album was released. You’re not going to like every song that Snoop released; you’re not going to like every song that Jay-Z released, it’s just impossible. My mother told me that being a visionary is a gift as well as a curse. The gift is that God has blessed you with a higher level of understanding that the average person doesn’t have. But the curse is that you can see so far ahead of people that you disconnect from them, waiting for them to catch up with you. So give your favorite artists a chance to grow and in return, grow along with them.




Chamillionaire: One Proud Underdog

 |  February 8, 2007












By Will “Deshair” Foskey


      2-time 2007 Grammy nominee and clearly 2006’s out-of-nowhere, breakthrough artist Chamillionaire is readying his March sophomore album release, “Ultimate Victory”. In 2006, Koopa brought home a list of awards as well as a Platinum plague for his debut album, “The Sound of Revenge”. He was also crowned the biggest selling Ringtone artist ever in 2006, with 3.2 million Ringtone sales, certified by the RIAA as the first multi-platinum Mastertone artist in history.


      In our conversation (12-20-06), Chamillionaire talks about his new album which is still in the works, his lack of feeling vengeful in ’07 & why his feature on 20/20 that was based around his 2006 smash “Ridin” (Racial Profiling) was cancelled.


Honestly, after the year you’ve just had, is the “revenge” part of your movement over with?


Chamillionaire: Yes, definitely. I’m glad that you’ve asked that question because it leads to the title of my new album, “Ultimate Victory”. I spent this past year working so hard, trying to get my revenge that I didn’t have anytime to enjoy it. So I’m through with seeking revenge, I just want to enjoy life now.


There’s wasn’t much publicized on why 20/20 backed out on featuring you on their show to talk about profiling… now that some time has passed since then, would you like to speak on the reason why you feel that your segment was cancelled?


Chamillionaire: Originally, I was told that the feature was cancelled because the slot was already filled. But to me, the cancellation just happened to quick, like right before the scheduled taping. What people don’t know is that they’ve prescreened me before the interview through a phone call. I was asked questions about racial profiling and if I was ever a victim of racial profiling, so I said, “Yes.” Then I was asked to explain the incident. So I went into details about those incidents. I told them about how a cop pulled me over and told that I had warrants. After that he said that if I give him money that he’d let me go. So we drove to an ATM, I took out the money, gave it to him, and he let me go. I knew that I didn’t have any warrants in the first place, but that was also the day that I just got my car painted (the paint would change colors in the light when you look at it), plus rims on it. He was driving in the opposite direction when he decided to slow down, take a U-turn, pull me over and threaten to put me in jail for something that I didn’t do. I also told them about the time that the cops thought that the vehicle I was in was stolen. So they took me out of the car, threw me to the ground, stepped on my face pressing it to the concrete with guns to my face. They found out that the car wasn’t stolen so they let me go. After I told those two stories the representative was in disbelief, asking me if things like that still happened today. Maybe they thought that if I was interviewed for the show that people would think that I was crazy – I don’t know.



So I hear that you have a new album dropping in March… speak on it.


Chamillionaire: I’m actually in New York right now, recording on the new album. Last night, I recorded a song with Kelis called, “I’m Not a Criminal” (which was just released on January 16). At the moment, I don’t have much to say in regards to the album because we’re still in the political stages of it, trying to get music cleared. I have a song with R. Kelly as well, but I can’t promise that I will be able to get the song cleared by the label at this time. So I am still in the creative process for “Ultimate Victory” but it will consist of street commercial music. On this album, I’m the A&R, the administrator, the executive producer – I am doing it all, because I feel that I know what hot music is. In the industry you can get caught up in a lot of politics with people trying to tell you how to do your music. I feel that “Ridin” ended up doing so well because it was the closest representation of who I am. So if people loved that, I feel that they will love me for just being myself. Even though I worked with a lot of the same producers from my first album, you will see on this album that I’ve expanded my reach working with producers like Kanye’, Just Blaze, J.R. Rotem, but like I said before, I can’t say which songs will make the album quite yet.


What statement best defines 2006 for you?


Chamillionaire: Hard work really pays off. People can talk about the hits, but they don’t realize how much hard work I really put into this year. I went on tour to every nook and cranny in this country, from small to large venues. I went overseas, then I came back to the states for more tour – then I went back overseas. I was pushing myself to the limit; going platinum was not easy.


www.Chamillionaire.com has relaunched before the turn of the year with a special gift to his fans – “The Mixtape Messiah 2” can be downloaded in its entirety.


 By: Will “Deshair” Foskey


      From back when he was only known as that dude who sat at the back of the bus and sang the hell out of the Coca-Cola jingle up until now, Tyrese has added a new a.k.a. to his repertoire: Renaissance Man. Oh, you must have thought that I was going to say, “Black-Ty”. Well Tyrese has been Black-Ty from the start. He was just wise enough to know what was best for his blossoming career at that time.


      Tyrese has done it all from modeling clothing for Tommy Hilfiger to knocking out exceptional performances on the big screen. The man who indirectly helped Morris Chestnut in bringing chocolate back (I thank you both, because my game with the ladies became that much easier) is able to adjust on the fly as if he wore the number 18 on his back for the Indianapolis Colts. His drive is unwavering, yet strategically calculated – anything less would be uncivilized.


      His latest musical contribution, “Alter Ego” which was released on December 5th, is currently #23 on the Billboard Top 200 charts selling 116,000 copies in its first week. For a long list of artists out there, selling over 100,000 copies in the first week is a cause for celebration. But for Tyrese, it leaves him to wonder what could have been if he was backed by his label on a higher scale.


(This conversation took place a day after the release of his double album, “Alter Ego”)


It has only been a day since Alter Ego hit the shelves. Have you taken any early looks at your sales so far or do you normally wait it out to know the entire first week total…


Tyrese: It’s funny that you ask me about sales. I’m actually sitting down in an office in J. Records at this time. I truly believe that my fan base is like a cult following. So I’m just going to be real with you… based on my video not necessarily being #1 on BET or Mtv and based on my spot on the charts, there was a set projection on how many albums to put out there. But we’ve been getting so many calls and emails that Target, Best Buy, Circuit City, and Wal-Mart has no more albums on the shelves because my fans came through and ate up everything they had. My supply and demand was cut short from the start, so whatever my first week sales will be, I know that in my heart that more people would have the album if they were available.


So right now, they are trying to fix it to make sure that it is available. But as an example, there’s like 150,000 units in back orders because of my fans that came in who weren’t able to get a copy, put there name on a list to receive it once copies made it back to the store. It’s a beautiful thing, but truthfully, I’ve been doing this for so long I’ve actually removed myself from being caught up in numbers (sales). The numbers don’t make or break me. I don’t really care about the awards, or any of that. For me, my drive is all about the passion.


Tyrese has finally welcomed Black-Ty into the world. Talk about that journey from R&B star to basically starting at the bottom trying to prove to the world that you can emcee…


Tyrese: I used to be a part of a rap group before I started singing called, “Triple Impact.” And as the R&B opportunity came up, I just wanted to get off the block to go and see the world. I’ve never been the one to question the order of the blessings. People say that it’s a jungle out here, but they choose to only swing on one vine – but once that vine loses its grip and falls, you never hear from them again. I am willing to figure out a way to stay creative and take advantage of the access that I have to people. So I go from one situation to the other. The crazy thing is, for the many things that I’m known for, there are so many things that I’m not known for that I actually do. I write movies, and I also run a multi-media empire called Headquarter Entertainment which is 10 different businesses under one roof. For me, there’s a lot of shit going on, but at the end of the day, the reason why I go as far as I go to spread my wings is because you’re not promised tomorrow. If you think about all of the natural disasters that are taking lives everyday; think about the fact that one of the greatest R&B singers that has ever done it, Gerald Levert has passed on, God Bless him. There were so many things that Gerald wanted to do, and that makes it even more disappointing that he passed on because there was so much more that we wanted to hear from him. There was just so much more that Gerald had to offer to the world – not just in music, he was also a great person. I’m 27 years old, so everyday I am on a mission to find a way to expand this opportunity. I was raised on these words: Every blessing taken for granted becomes a curse. The opportunity would never have been presented to you, if you weren’t supposed to find a way to take advantage of it. My career started from a 30 second Coca-Cola commercial, and I’m still here.  


In closing…


Tyrese: To all of my fans, I just want to say thank you. There’s so many other people out there doing films; there are so many people out there dropping albums this week. I just want to say that I love ya’ll for showing up. I love ya’ll for getting behind me and believing in me. And I know that I’ve been away from the music thing for a minute because I’ve been away doing films, but when you go out and get this double album, you need to know that I gave you my best. I was not away from the music game this long, to come back and give you some bullshit. This is my best R&B album, and this is the best of me as Black-Ty. I took my time, this is a double album that is being sold as if it was one, and when you hear it, you’ll know that I gave it my best. Thank you, I love ya’ll…



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