By Will ‘Deshair’ Foskey In 2007, it is time that we take the Rap Game back to its environment. Back to where our lyrical technicians birth their styles; back to where their blocks embrace them or maybe they embraced the block; back to where it is no place like home, well at least until you leave it. This is the Concrete Kingdom, and first up to bat is Washington Heights own, MIMS. If you’re not familiar with MIMS stomping grounds, enjoy this feature to the fullest. You just might learn something worth your while. Can we start off with some basic stats (birthday, dream car, at what age would you like to retire) MIMS: I was born on March 22nd. My dream car at the age of 13 was the Range Rover, but now it is the Lamborghini Murcielago. The perfect age of retirement is when I feel like I’ve exhausted myself in the music industry. At this point, I don’t believe that I will be rapping at the age of 40. For those who aren’t familiar with Washington Heights, give out the coordinates. MIMS: The best way that I could describe it is if you know the location of Harlem, all you have to do is go a few blocks Uptown from Harlem to find Washington Heights. You’ll know when you’ve reached Washington Heights when you see the African-American faces disappear, and more Dominican faces appear. If you could only shop in one place in the Heights, which spot would you choose? MIMS: It really depends, because as a kid growing up, my choice was 181st. 181st Street is to Washington Heights, what 125th Street is to Harlem. Describe the culture of Washington Heights and what do you believe it is known for. MIMS: Washington Heights to most people’s knowledge is best known for drug sales and what you can get out of there on the drug side. But if you live or spend a lot of time there, you’ll realize that there is a lot of culture – you’ll get to see how the Dominicans operate. I love their culture because my family is from Jamaica. When you get that Jamaican culture mixed in with that Dominican culture, you’ll begin to see that there are many similarities. So you can say that growing up in Washington Heights has allowed for me to stay in touch with my Caribbean roots. Now I must say that I am very familiar with the curvaceous frames of the women in your area. What can out of towners look forward to if they are trying to find them a female from your stomping grounds? MIMS: If there is one thing that I can say about any Latina in the area is that they are loyal. That’s the god honest truth. They will maintain their loyalty to you through it all. So if you’re looking for a female who would hold you down (stand by you), you can find them here. I’m proud that I’m representing Washington Heights. I lived in the Heights for a very long time. But I’m not going to lie; I also lived in the Suburban areas of Long Island. The course between the two, and the knowledge that I’ve gained from the two were very beneficial to my life. I wouldn’t trade how I grew up for the world. Growing up in Washington Heights really allowed for me to learn the hustler’s mentality. And when I finished my high school years in Long Island, it allowed for me to see a different part of life. Now I didn’t live in a $5,000,000 home, but I lived around the corner from one. So I was able to see what a $5,000,000 home looked like; and I was able to envision what I wanted out of life. Many would say that you have come out of nowhere with your first single. When did you know that you’ve arrived? MIMS: Most people would say that my success was overnight, or that I’m a one-hit wonder. But to know me, you’ll know that I’ve been into music since I was 13 years old. This ain’t something that I just picked up and said, ‘I’m going to be a rapper, and I just happened to make good song.’ I’ve been putting together records for nearly half of my life. People want to know what makes me so different from the next man, or how can they do what I’m doing. Well I put my life into this; I put a lot of grind work into this. I’ve been Dj’ing since 13, got into production and engineering at the age of 16, and had a Pro-tools equipped studio at the age of 19. So I can go into any studio in the country right now and handle myself behind the mic and the boards. Ok, so with your first single ‘This is Why I’m Hot’, would you say that the coming together of the song was more strategic or did it come to you effortlessly? MIMS: A lot went into this record. First of all, I didn’t write the lyrics to the beat that everybody is hearing now. Then I had the Black-Out Movement reproduce the beat for me. With that being said, a lot of time went into this record. People may think that it was a, “easy record” but the only thing that was easy about it was the hook, which came to me quickly. I wanted to put together a song that was simple enough for people to understand and then something that was brand new for me. So as far as the writing of the record and the overall body of it, it took about 2 weeks complete. Talk about you second single if there is one already in place. MIMS: The official second single off the album is called ‘Like This’. It’s a club record that is very competitive. It’s not competitive as in dancing, but more along the lines of male and female. I think that people are going to have a lot of fun with it, especially since it’s about to get warm very soon. In closing, why will 2007 be a big year for Mims? MIMS: I think that just like everybody in this industry, I have overcome a lot of obstacles. I’ve taken a record that a lot of people didn’t believe in, and I’m sure that people still don’t believe in it now, but I took that song to a #1 position on the charts. I have a great company behind me. This year is going to be mine. You’re going to hear a lot from MIMS…
Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category
By: R Tha BlockStaR AKA Rainier T. Garcia HHC: I got your Survival Mixtape Vol. 3 , and it’s a nice mixtape, but when are we going to see an album? Izreal: Well that’s coming in the first quarter of 2007, we’re in the middle of putting the final touches on it, and securing which avenue we are going to do distribution, we have digital distribution already, but we’re working out some stuff for physical distribution as well, so we’re just preparing the album, so we’re looking around April/May, lord willing’ it depends how things work out, its’ going to be a banger, so we’re excited. HHC: Are you guys going to stay on the independent route? Or are you shopping majors right now? Psalmz: So far, we’ve been independent thus far, and it’s working out just fine, and as we gain more leverage, we are going to consider the independent route, but work along side with the major, for distribution and promotions or what not. Independent is definitely the way to go, its’ the future, you know. For example, our label is called Defiant Entertainment, so it may be like a Defiant/Universal we’ll definitely have our hands all over, and it’s getting our hands onto a bigger level, and the reason we haven’t done it, is because we’ve been able to maintain our independence, now its time to take that next step. We still want to remain independent, so its’ going to be a combination. We don’t want a label to just come along, after we’ve put in years of our hard work, and grunt work, and just come in and put their name on it, and act like they built us, when meanwhile it’s like Nine years in the making. HHC: Who will you guys collaborate with for the album? Psalmz: We actually like to keep it in the house, and do it ourselves, to show people that we didn’t need a bunch of artists to make a good album. Besides, there are three of us already. We do have some collabos, like Pitbull on “Mira Mira” Trae from Rap-A-Lot records. There’s so much of us already. HHC: Do you guys produce your own music? Izreal: We produce some of it, but we also work with a few producers around the country. Our homey Fingazz out in I.E., Southern Cali. He works with a lot of the Chicano rappers like Lil’ Rob, Diamonique, etc. We also have a homey in Atlanta, Sam Traxx, by way of Texas, it’s a combination really, we don’t’ just drop our rhymes, we coordinate, orchestrate the song, intro to the end, it’s more like composing. With producer’s we can build a beautiful chemistry, and we know where we can meet, and I think the music will reflect that. HHC: I’m Latino also (Honduran) and I have this issue with Latino ARTISTS being typecast as one dimensional, that everyone is a Reggaeton artist, simply because they’re Puerto Rican, or Cuban, or whatever, how do you feel about that. Arkitek: First, in New York, that’s what introduced the Latin Hip hop. On the West Coast, you already had established Latin Hip Hop artists, then in New York, “Mira, Mira” was looked at as a Reggaeton track, so at the end of the day, we still get recognition as artists, and we just need to break the mold of that label, and let you take away the adjective as being an ill “Latin” rapper, or an ill “Latin” artist, to just an ill artist. You don’t see them say, “Yo, Jay-Z is an ill African American rapper” or, “Nas is an ill African American rapper” so we should get that label out there as well. HHC: Example, as far as press goes for you guys, what was sent to me was info on a blog for a website that I’m not endorsing, but the blog was on _______ Latino, or record labels making a whole new label catered to Latinos artists, such as Rocafella with Roc La Familia, I don’t know if you’re familiar out here but Thizz, The late Mac Dre’s label, has a Thizz Latin offshoot, do you still feel a segregation? Because they separate everything when it’s a “Latino” artist? Psalmz: We talk about this all the time; you do have the Wu Latino, the separate floor, or another roof. I feel that there are just so many of us in this world period, you got Puerto Rican, Ecuadorian, al these races and the influences from all over, and what do we do with it? There’s always two ways to look at it. It’s still breaking through, before we get into that level, this level has to happen. HHC: I like your remix to E-40’s “tell me when to go” I’m from the Bay, and some Dj friends of mine would spin it at parties and people like that, does NY get Hyphy? Cuz I’ve been getting and hearing a lot of hate from The East coast when it comes to Hyphy, mainly because of a lack of understanding that it’s not a type of music, it’s a way of life. Izreal: I happen to be out in the Bay right now. It depends, New York for a while we were stuck in the movement and the birth of hip hop, but all that as ourselves, we’ve been able to travel, and we see the unity in a lot of these markets, whereas new York has a whole different understanding, that used to be our mentality in hip hop. We had a tribe called quest, we had all that stuff. To me, being an artist is being a diplomat. Hip hop, the artist is so short changed because the artists don’t realize how big it really is. That’s one of our essences is we come to show that hey, all new York is haters, and the same time, we like to bring our influences back to New York so it becomes a broader scope. Hip hop is bigger than only one region, hip hop is international. You got Korean people rapping’ you got Chilean’s rapping’ Honduran’s rapping. You’ve got all of that,a and that’s one of the things is that even though we’re from new York, our album is more and the way we make music and the way we grind, we look at it as a global level. We want to be known all around the world, not just New York, not just The Bay, and our job, if it’s good, is to bring it back. That’s going to happen with any kind of music, you’re not going to like all of it, but there’s definitely hotness in everything, and our job is to be diplomats from New York and show New York there’s more than just what’s around. It’s not just New York Music. That’s one of the points that is lost in hip hop. Hip hop was created cuz it was our voice, we didn’t have a voice. So we had to fine a way to put it on record, for djs to spin it. Just the culture in general. It’s like the hierarchy in hip hop forgets just how it started, you feel me? I honestly think that in the next few years, with all the digital invasion and all that, it’s going to come back a lot to the Indies which is good because independent music is more controlled by the artist, where all the big entities have a certain formula and criteria that they want to live up to like how they want to market their projects. I think you’ll see a lot of Indies in all regions and they will have more an impact towards the music and eventually break down some of the radio stuff, because that might not just be relevant in the future. HHC: What do you guys prefer, rapping in Spanish, English, or spanglish? Izreal: We’re really mostly n English, but we never forget our heritage. Growing up, we grew up in a predominantly black neighborhood. East New York, was predominantly black you know? No one ever said “you’re Latin” cuz coming up, we were just nasty, it was just about being nice MCee’s . The Latin’ thing didn’t really come up till we got bigger. When we were on the come up, we were just nasty mc’s from Brooklyn. It had nothing to do with being Latin or black. As we got closer to the more corporate side of the game, and now especially with the reggaeton thing, like before, you didn’t look at Cypress Hill as “Latin mc’s” it was just hip hop. Beatnuts etc. Because of reggaeton, it did segregate to an extent, but that’s how I feel why T-Weaponz was set for, to break those molds, you know, and sometimes it takes longer for the people to listen, cuz they automatically assume, they’re so stuck in that mentality like “oh, they’re Latin’ they must be doing that reggaeton “ But this year and the last year, we’ve been breaking down those doors, to show that Latin’s can do much more than that. HHC: Do you think as Latinos, we need to be more united? The reason I ask that, is that a lot of people, and I’m not putting any names out there, but a lot of people example, rep like Cuba, or Puerto Rico, or Mexico or whatever, and go to concert’s and scream like “Puerto rico!” or “Mexico”, don’t you think we should be more united by representing Latinos period? I mean we all speak the same lengua (, we all like tortillas rice, chicken, and beans, Do you see how Latinos segregate themselves also. Arkitek: It’s crazy and sad in a way that there’s so many of us in the world and it’s so hard for an artist to even go gold. We can all try and unite, what needs to happen is somebody in power, or someone on a higher level to be able to start to be the flagship of that and to push that. Latinos, we don’t’ have ah pi hop voice. It’s one thing to say unite all day, but if you’re not doing it and you’re not doing anything for Latin people, than how you going to make that happen. It has to start up top. We need organization. Most Latin people are poor. Look at how many Latin’s are in the United States. We’re the biggest minority in the u.s. It’s also the artists’ fault also. Izreal: Here’s an example, on our records, you have Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, white Italians, black, it has to start somewhere, and I agree with you and pslalmz and us working towards that that will happen. In New York like 10 to 15 years ago, it was a large influx of Dominicans, and at first, they was at odds with the Puerto Ricans and Dominicans and as the years passed that got put aside. It’s still a little bit there, but now it’s more open minded. Latinos in hip hop, we still haven’t had that, R.I.P. pun, he didn’t finish what he was set to do. We need something else, and I think T-Weaponz is that. Once we start infiltrating that, artist wise, I think that it will happen. To be honest, the Reggaton movement wouldn’t succeed without the Mexican support in America. Like in Cali, and Texas, its’ predominantly Mexican out there, so the Latinos supporting are Mexicans, but they’re still supporting latins in general. HHC: How do you guys feel about immigration? I’m in Cali, and it seems like everyone just hates on not just Mexicans, but Latinos as a whole, and we’re starting to see the backlash, any of that out there in New York? I know that Puerto Rico is a commonwealth, and is considered the United States, so they’re already Americans. Is there any resentment to Puerto Ricans or Latinos in general about immigration out in NY? Arkitek: It’s crazy cuz I read about this all the time. I realized that Latin’s do stick together in things like this, you had Puerto Ricans marching, lots of NY residents are from different descents, and you had Japanese and Chinese marching. I know that L.A. they took it to another level, but out here they did their marches and stuff. I think America does a good thing of covering up things like this. Issues as big as this. It takes our focus off of one issue than to avoid a bigger issue. It’s one things to not let that happen, like Bush sending 20,000 more troops to Iraq. They throw more things there to take our focuses off. As important as it is in L.A. but it’s bigger than that. WE got friends who are Mexican, and friends who are illegal. You got to understand the history, Latinos built this land, we were the ones to build something from nothing. Every time we get a chance, we always address it. If you have 3-4 minutes in a song, to tell the war what you feel we should do, what are you going to tell them? To shoot someone? Or to unite and come together in this music. HHC: Any Promo tour? Izreal: We have a lot of that planned. Once the spring comes, T-Weaponz is going to be all over Texas, and Cali, northwest as well. We’re working on that right now to perform as many places as we can. Our aim is to touch down and get out to everyone. HHC: No Doubt. For more information oncheck outT-Weaponz
By Quibian Salazar-Moreno Toronto’s K-os is one of the few true hip-hop heads who still incorporates the four elements into his music. He’s one of the few emcees who continuously showcases a plethora of graffiti art and b-boys dancing in his videos as well as actually using a DJ to cut and scratch throughout his music – something rarely seen nowadays. At the same time, his music pushes the boundary of just rapping over a beat type of hip-hop, but essentially creating soulful and meaningful songs from a hip-hop perspective – it’s not just a bunch of rap songs. That’s where K-os excels. His new album, Atlantis: Hymns for the Disco, ranges from straight up b-boy jams to down home blues to reggae to even some acoustic rock. But all of it is done with the soul of a b-boy who grew up living, breathing, eating and sleeping hip-hop with side dishes of Bob Marley, Led Zepplin and Bob Dylan. We caught up with K-os while in Fort Lauderdale on his way to visit his parents in between shows and found out the science behind his new album, his thoughts on what critics think and what he thinks of being called a ‘male Lauryn Hill.’ What does the album title, Atlantis: Hymns for the Disco, mean? I don’t know what it means. I know the Hymns for the Disco part was because I was partying and a lot of these songs I wrote on Saturday mornings and Sunday mornings after I went out. And I tried to calm myself down a bit. There’s a lot of energy when you’re going out, hanging out drinking, meeting girls, but it was really unfulfilling. So I was trying to find a way, because I come from a very spiritual, religious upbringing, and I was just trying to find a place to ground myself. The Hymns for Disco comes from the hymns for the disco, it’s not like they’re songs for dancing, it’s more like they’re songs to play after you come from the disco, that’s where that part comes from. The Atlantis part was for, so many things man, I can’t even tell you, from Katrina to the water situation on the planet to me listening to Muddy Waters and Bob Dylan and the blues to the fact that I’m a Pisces and Aquarius. There’s just too many factors to explain the Atlantis part but the Hymns for the Disco was definitely me saying, ‘You know what, here are some songs you can definitely play on a Sunday morning or Saturday morning, after you’ve gone to the club.’ You can still feel hype and happy and even dance but it’s different that your regular kind of club music, ya, know? The album is real personal because listeners learn quite a bit about you when they play it. Was that the intention or did it just come out? I remember when Lauryn Hill was being interviewed for the Miseducation album and they asked her if it was a concept album. She said it was the concept found me. That always stuck out to me, that it was a concept that found me. In other words these things just happen to me, these ideas, these realizations, these epiphanies just happen to me and I made music from it. It wasn’t that I just sat down and said, ‘I’m going to make a personal album.’ I think it was just time and that I felt strong enough to say things about myself and no matter how they were judged to at least know regardless of how they were judged that they were personal confessions and that’s a beautiful thing. You’ve been pretty vocal about not lending your music out for use in commercials, but your song “Sunday Morning” was used in an NFL promo on CBS. Did you know about that? Yeah, that was some thing that happened after the fact. I didn’t solicit my music for that. I think there’s a certain, I don’t know how it rolls when they do TV shows or whatever, but your music is out there and they can choose to use it. But I didn’t have a problem with that. My brother was a football player and I played sports in high school. I think the thing with corporations is sometimes selling a product is hard for me, depending on what that product is. If I really relate to that product or even use it… I mean, I use condoms but I would never do a condom commercial. That’s as easy as I can put it. It has to make sense to me and it has to not compromise the song. It’s funny because everyone after that song played on the NFL was like, ‘Did you write that song for football players?’ It’s kind of cool because it shows how strong the artistic expression can be. That was a song I wrote for me but it ended up relating to that so amazingly, so that’s cool. I was cool with it, I thought it was fun. On the album you mention your mother taking you to church and your dad being a preacher, what kind of spiritual upbringing did you have? My parents are Jehovah Witnesses. We went to a lot of Jehovah Witness churches in Trinidad, in Toronto, in the suburb I grew up in. It’s a sect of Christianity that my dad got involved with in their late 20’s. Are you still involved? My parents are, for sure. I think that’s how they even got together. I think my dad even told my mom, “You know, I want to get married to you but you got to deal with this religion first.” It’s a basis for them for sure. Are you aware you have pretty big Christian fan-base? Well, yeah. I’m not that aware, I don’t really investigate it. But I would assume that. I think that there are a lot of people that would understand the life I’m living because maybe they’re living the same life, ya know? Then again, someone said that they heard my music played in a strip bar and I was surprised. But all kinds of people relate to it, ya know? You’re huge in Canada but in the U.S., you’re pretty much underground. How do you feel about how your music is received here? Well, Canada is pretty much the size of California right? So America is huge. So what I’m doing in Canada with the music I’m doing is way easy to penetrate. There’s not a lot of Black music out there and when they get something they enjoy, it sticks out. I’m thankful for my success in Canada, in fact, it kept me sane. As far as America, like I said, I’m on a tour bus right now going to play Jacksonville, Virginia, Rochester, you know, places I’ve never been. It’s just America is so huge. There’s a big difference in population. And I think with this record, with songs like “The Rain” and “Sunday Morning”, I think people here in the U.S., might get it more because there’s a lot of soul references, more so than my other two records. But I just think it has to do with the bigger population. It’s funny because my brother lives in Atlanta married to a girl from California, my parents live in Fort Lauderdale and I’m about to see them today. My other brother lives in Africa so I’m the last in my family living in Canada. But I really don’t come to the states that much, I love Canada, my boys live there. I visit my parents once a year, and my brother I just went to his house for the first time this year. In reviews of your music, you’re often called a “male Lauryn Hill”, what do you think about that comparison? That’s an honor, yo. She’s a queen. Lauryn Hill is the queen of this ish. To tell you the truth, if groups like The Fugees and The Roots didn’t exist, I would have lost my way, ya know? I said that on my record in the liner notes that if it wasn’t for The Roots, Eric B & Rakim, Mos Def and Outkast, these bands as a Canadian kid coming up, I would have lost my way. So any comparison to that woman, to me, is an honor. At least I’m a ‘male Lauryn Hill’ and not a ‘female’ one. I’m glad they choose to say I’m a ‘male’, as opposed to what, a ‘female Lauryn Hill?’ So, originally, Exit was supposed to be your only album, but now we have three. How are you feeling now? You still want to do music? Oh yeah. I was listening to a piece from KRS-One and Mecca from Digable Planets and the Dead Prez cats, they were doing a panel. And one of the guys, I think it was Grandmaster Caz and he said hip-hop is like a fountain of youth. Then I just kept thinking like, you know right now I want the dirtiest, nastiest DJ Premier sampled, full of record static, low budget recording hip-hop record ever. That’s what I feel like I want to do right now. So I’m hype right now because I feel like I’m ready to move on to the next thing and just have a DJ, two dancers and just me on stage and just wreck it like that. Yeah, I’m ready to go. Yo, don’t even put that in the interview because someone will try to do it before me! We got to keep that on the low! Reading what critics have written about you, a lot of them don’t get you. They don’t get your music, they don’t get what you’re talking about, does that frustrate you at all? Nah. They didn’t get Miles Davis when he started flippin’ his ish. You know how many bands end up being so popular after they’re gone or after they finish their thing? You know, when people don’t get me, it makes me feel good. I never considered myself to be down the middle ya know? I’m on tour with the Gym Class Heroes right now and these 15 year old girls are seeming to get it, and that’s fun. They seem to understand the music. I’m making leaps and bounds in different directions so certain people get it because I think the music has a message and it needs to reach kids. Whether the critics get it… what do critics get? Critics get the most obscure thing. They hate the bands their girlfriends like and they like the bands their best friends like. I really don’t care anymore, ya know, I’m sorry your girlfriend likes my music. I’m sorry about that. So what’s your stance on the ‘hip-hop is dead’ conversation? Death is a part of life right? So it’s only right that things die and they breathe again. You live in a forest, how many trees die but how many trees are born again? All you see is the forest. For Nas, again one of my top 3 emcees, he has the right to say that. It might be dying but it’s going to be reborn again in a different form and it’s exciting to see how it’s going to be reborn. I’m excited about hip-hop moving on. I don’t think that cats who listened to Whodini or the early hip-hop, I don’t think when hip-hop changed, they might have not liked Das Efx. But it was banging and the kids liked it and you could play it in a club. It’s only right in universal laws that the younger kids are going to like a form of hip-hop that might be out of touch to me. I have to find what I like about it, whether it’s 808 drums or whether it’s the sound of Kanye West putting on Twista and people vibing off that. I hear the things that I like, and I take from that and I enjoy what I can. But I don’t expect a 15-year old kid and me to vibe on hip-hop, especially when I was a kid at a Leaders of the New School concert with my chest against the barricade. I’m true to this, I’m true school. So I just got to find what I like about the new stuff and use that in my music to reach people. SO that’s okay, the generation gap is cool, I like space between me and them younger kids. One of your hottest tracks from your last album was “Emcee Murdah” and people are still rocking out to it. You even mention it on the new album. Are you still getting responses from that? I think for a lot of hip-hop heads, that was their favorite track on the album. I think if you’re a true hip-hop head that moved you the most. People might have expected me to do another one of those but you can’t do another one of those man. That’s years of frustration in three and a half minutes, yo. So I love that I track, I still perform it today in my live show, and I’ll probably perform forever, it’s my funnest track to perform too. [At the end of “Black Ice”] I just wanted to let cats know cats don’t worry, I see you, and that I was an angry emcee. I might seem a bit more happy now or more rock n’ roll but that doesn’t mean I don’t acknowledge the points of that song. It was a rites of passage, yo. So the first single, “Elektrik Heat: The Seekwill”, is that actually a sequel to “B-Boy Stance” then? Yeah, for sure. It was “Superstarr Part Zero”, “B-Boy Stance”, “The Seekwill”, they’re like triplets and they all serve a purpose. They take you back to the breakbeat. It was about the rapper not worrying about how much money he was going to make on the publishing and just rapping over a breakbeat. I discuss that with my management today, “You’ve spent so much money on that sample”, but I just believe we have to dedicate music now to the lost art of hip-hop, rocking over a breakbeat, ya know? There are just certain sounds that are hip-hop. Like in reggae music, it’s the same thing. So “Superstarr” is what it was, “B-Boy Stance” is definitely for the b-boys and “The Seekwill” is like making sure that even though there’s no other songs on the record like that, I can still show cats, you know what, I can still do that, I can do a whole record of that if I wanted to. But I would get bored with it quickly, I’m a musical schizophrenic. A real personal song on the album is “The Rain”, what’s the story behind that? When I was making my first album, Exit, there was an Ethiopian girl I was dating who I thought I was going to marry. About two weeks after that album came out she broke up with me. She couldn’t handle the whole touring and my life started to change a little bit in Canada. So I was carrying that emotion around for awhile but I was finally able to be honest about it. I think that any anger I had, like “Emcee Murdah” and stuff, yeah it was about hip-hop or was it really about a woman who represented hip-hop that I used to go to hip-hop jams with and loved hip-hop, and then broke up with me? I started to get angry and as a man I expressed that anger through bravado. But I think “The Rain” is me being pretty vulnerable about it, ya know. Are there any last words? I would just say that I go by the words of KRS-One, that hip-hop is something you live, rap is something you do. For the people who follow my music, this might not be a rap record, but it’s definitely a hip-hop record. It’s coming from a hip-hop way of doing things and I just hope more people can understand and expand upon hip-hop and make it more about hip-hop and not just rap. I think rap is amazing but we need to focus on b-boying, we need to focus on graffiti, we need to focus on turntablism, all of those things that are part of the four elements of hip-hop. We also need to focus on experimentation I think hip-hop artists need to experiment. Hip-Hoppers experimenting is such a fun thing to watch. We see it with Andre 3000 and Gnarls Barkley and Lauryn Hill and Mos Def and The Roots. I’m just trying to carry the same torch they’re carrying and have fun at the same time.
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.
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.
Musiq Soulchild’s "Luvanmusiq" in stores today (3/13)
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!
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.
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 Yessir. 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.
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.
iHipHop Blog Team