By: The Hip Hop Journalist When this interview was conducted, Kevin Black was VP of Marketing and Promotions Urban at the mighty Interscope. Surrounded by the best often has tendency to make you the best so it is understandable why pushing some of the most influential artists of the new millennium to unprecedented heights has thus encouraged his name to carry serious weight within the Hip-Hop world. Born in the Bronx and now located in the city of Angels, Kevin Black has never faltered in living his dream and he shares with us here his Four F theory which is his mantra to ensuring success. Going out on the road with Run DMC back in the day proved to a younger Kevin Black just what he hoped to be involved with one day. Positions at Death Row, EMI, Virgin and A & M have allowed this multi-tasking executive to rise within the ranks with ease. Kevin Black has ensured that artists like Eminem, 50 Cent, Busta Rhymes and Mary J Blige get the exposure their product deserves. For any artist looking to get signed this ten minute de-briefing with Kevin Black is a must read. He breaks down what characteristics you need to possess to be at the top of your league and what labels and executives take into consideration when looking for new artists to adorn their rosters. Hip-HopCrack: What does it take to make someone sell? Kevin Black: A lot of hard work and I believe if you are an artist you have to be true to your craft and it is a lot of marketing, a lot of promotions, TV, internet. It is not just one thing, it is almost like a cake, you know you cant bake a cake without sugar, eggs, flour, it takes a little of everything and you get a beautiful cake. Hip-HopCrack: Do you think marketing and promotion are more important than they were ten years ago? Kevin Black: Ten years ago, marketing and promotions have definitely taken a bigger role now. So many record companies are in competition with each other you just cant no longer throw out a 12 inch and think that is the way to do it. You have to put a little oomph and a little muscle behind it and get creative, know your artist a little better than you did before. Back in the eighties there were only about fifteen top artists. Now in 2006 there are about 40-50 top artists and you are always in competition and I love competition because that makes you step on the gas even stronger. Hip-HopCrack: How important do you think mixtape buzz, BDS, stage shows and today we have to mention image, are these factors in marketing nowadays? Kevin Black: I am going to be honest with you, they are very, very, very important. An artist going out on a promo tour is almost a necessity, not even almost, it is a necessity. Artists on mixtapes, artists in the streets, artists on satellite radio, it is a must. The artist that works the hardest will win. Hip-HopCrack: All these factors we have talked about, are these factors that a label like Interscope takes into consideration when shopping for new talent? Kevin Black: We always get artists that want to work. There is no room for artists sitting back and waiting for it to come; you have to make it come. Hip-HopCrack: Nowadays artists are investing in their own videos etc. Does that work in their favor, when you see an artist dipping into his/her own pocket to promote themselves? Kevin Black: Well I can tell you this; it depends on your situation, if you are an independent then yes you will go and spend the money on your own video and if you are the owner of a label you are going to spend money as you are trying to create your label and your artist, you brand. If you are with a company who spends the money on a video, what you are trying to do is create hype around the video so that when the video is shot, it is all good. Hip-HopCrack: In terms of technology, how important has the advancements in technology helped in terms of the marketing and promoting of artists? Kevin Black: Technology has helped me a great deal. The internet has been created, it is a monster, but the monster can be controlled, but it has helped out a great deal. T.V, Ipods there are a lot of things and my quote is to that, if you don’t keep up with time, time will not keep up with you. So everything is a change, you have to twist it a little more, you have to be on top of your game, because if you are not, someone else is going to pass you by. Hip-HopCrack: In your position what can you tell the millions of people out there who want to be rappers/producers in order to help them reach their dream? Kevin Black: I would tell them to follow my four F theory, which I know you are aware of. First of all you have to be friendly with everybody, it doesn’t hurt to give someone a smile, talk to people, and shake hands with everybody. Make sure everybody likes you; be friendly. The second F, you have to stay focused, know what your goal is and keep your eyes open and listen to everything as it may add to make you better. You have to stay focused on your goal and don’t lose track on it. The third F is you have to firm, you can’t be a jelly fish, if you don’t know what you stand for you will fall for anything, you know you have to tell people yes, no, maybe. Your fourth F is you need to know when to say ‘Forget it’ if you want the clean version, if you want the dirty version, its knowing when to say ‘Fuck it.’ Sometimes you can go so far into something and not know your way out. You know why go up a mountain that isn’t climbable. If you follow my Four F Theory and put a little logic behind it you will win. Hip-HopCrack: Nowadays you still see people trying to get on when they are in their thirties, what advice can you give them? Kevin Black: If you are still trying to get on in your thirties, I advise you to have a plan as people don’t plan to fail, they just fail to plan. Hip-HopCrack: Do you think there is a cut off age, where if you haven’t made it, try something else? Kevin Black: I am not going to say there is a cut off point, but I believe you have to know your marketing; you need to know your plan. You know they had that lady in the finals at some show that was known as the Rapping Granny, you know one of those shows. It shows that this Hip-Hop culture is bigger than what we think. It is touching people of all race, touching people al over the country and there is room for anybody and its up to you to just want it. Let me tell you how I operate, if I could find an artist, one that is willing and able; able to do what you want to do and able to make hits; willing is having the right attitude to make yourself work. If you have artists that have those qualities, I guarantee you the top is destiny.
Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category
By: Will “Deshair” Foskey It’s amazing to think that the overwhelmingly talented R&B superstar, Monica has already clocked a little over a decade in the industry, but she has. I can still remember as if it was yesterday when the young songstress stepped onto the scene equipped with vocal control and range beyond her years, and a feisty attitude to match. In 2006, Monica has returned with her fourth U.S. album “The Makings of Me…” Her second single ‘A Dozen Roses (You Remind Me)’ was released to all major video outlets on November 16, and is already receiving positive reviews that can be the springboard Monica needs to climb the Billboard Top 200 charts. In this conversation with Monica, we talked about the makings of her new album, as well as why she feels that she have staying power in both her music and in life itself. So what was it like being in the studio recording this time around? Monica: I was in the studio throughout my entire pregnancy. I found out that I was having a boy, so I became really emotional and attached to him, which in return got me in touch with my own feelings. I was then able to dig into places, write and talk about things that in the past I just might have kept to myself. What was the story behind your first single, ‘Everytime the Beat Drops’? Monica: My first single was a representation of where I’m from. It is a real party, feel good record because that’s what we do here (Atlanta). Snap music is very relevant here, but it’s very different from what I’ve normally done. The rest of the album is more R&B soul. I really have a phenomenal array of producers who sat down with me and created amazing music from Tank, to Sean Garrett, to Brian Cox, to the Underdogs and of coarse Missy and Jermaine. We took our time to create what I wanted ‘The Makings of Me…’ to be. So what exactly did you want “The Makings of Me…” to be? Monica: I wanted this album to be a musical diary, where I didn’t have to talk so much about the things that have happened to me. You can hear it in the music. You can hear the storylines and the tragedies. But most importantly, you get to hear how I bounce back. I don’t become my circumstances and I don’t live in my past. So with everything that has happened in my life, I try to talk about it so that people that may have been there; maybe going there; or may have ended up there can see that there is a way out of that struggle. I know that this is not exactly a question for you to answer, but I’d love to know your perspective on why you feel that your fans have remained so loyal to you over the past 10 years. Monica: To me, it’s the honesty that people know me for. I think that if people thought that I was portraying an image that really wasn’t me – that if I was singing songs that really wasn’t me – that I was singing about subjects that I didn’t know about, people wouldn’t trust and believe that what I say is sincerely from my heart. I walk my listeners through some of the mistakes that I’ve made and present to them some of the things that have happened to me. I’ve never been ashamed or have been the type to pretend that I didn’t date this person – to pretend that I didn’t hang in this area – or to pretend that I didn’t get into trouble. I believe in putting myself out there and allowing for people to get to know me for who I really am. I want for those who listen to my music to take me as I am. My career is a blessing, because if the people didn’t allow for me to come back, I wouldn’t have come back. My fans expect for me to be honest with them, so that’s what I continue to do. And I love music too. I didn’t just get into this for the fame. I was eleven years old when I met Dallas Austin. I was thirteen years old when my first album dropped. I didn’t want to be a star and I didn’t want to be rich. I just wanted to sing. I think that it’s that energy that allows for people to see me differently when they hear my music. I still just want to sing. “The Makings of Me…” is in stores now
By: Starrene Rhett Young Lord has come a long way from the teenager who had $1 parties in his mom’s basement so that he could buy his first drum machine. Now working with MPCs and Motifs, he says hard work pays off in pursuit of one’s dreams and is living proof. Responsible for the sales of more than $28 million records, he’s produced hits from P-Diddy, Notorious BIG and LL Cool J, to DMX, Consequence and several more. His latest work is Diddy’s “Come to Me,” but he definitely has more planned for 2007 and beyond. Hiphopcrack.com got a chance to chat with him about his career, why he’s happy he’s not an official celebrity, production trends and other business ventures. Hiphopcrack: You’ve produced “Come to Me,” by Diddy F. Nicole (from P Cat Dolls) but you’ve also produced hits by New Edition, Lil’ Kim, The Lox and Big Pun basically contributing to the sale of over 28 million records worldwide what’s it like knowing that you had a hand in the success of those particular artists? Young Lord: I feel good. It’s one of the best feelings that I’ve ever experienced was just creating a good song and hearing it over those extremely loud speakers in the studio. It feels good. That’s what keeps me doing this every day. Hiphopcrack: What’s the best thing about being a producer? Young Lord: No set hours, I get to travel for free. The best thing is the artist. I get to meet very different people that I wouldn’t have met if I didn’t work in the music business. Some of these personalities are so opposite of each other that I would have never bumped into these people and it really expands my view on life. That’s a good thing. Hiphopcrack: Are you the type of producer that just makes a track, hands it to the artist and that’s it or do you also have a hand in the creative direction as for as lyrics, a chorus and so on? Young Lord: I’m not a song writer but I know what feels good and I know what’s gonna work so I kind of put creative people together that do that and supervise and make sure it comes out the right way. Hiphopcrack: You started out by throwing $1 bashes in your mother’s basement so that you could buy your first drum machine. That was obviously a very basic machine, but what are you working with now to create music? Young Lord: I have all types of toys. I have two different systems, maybe three that I go in between. Sometimes I work with the MPC 2500, and the Motif, but then sometimes I work in logic, sometimes I work directly in Protools with the sample pink modules (???) from soft sense, so it depends on how I’m feeling that day. But I love changing things. Hiphopcrack: What do you think new trends will be for 2007 in terms of production tools? Young Lord: I think more people are going to make beats in Reason. I think that’s gonna be a very big, big tool. Hiphopcrack: There are magazines like Scratch that feature producers but for the most part, producers might be celebrity in name, but people don’t know the face and you’re out shopping right now, harassment free. How does that make you feel? Young Lord: It feels good. A lot of people have different reasons for doing this and my reason for doing this is the love of music and it’s fun for me. I’m not really doing this to be famous. But it does help every now and then when people know you in the clubs. But money is what it’s about ultimately. Hiphopcrack: What are you working on now? Do you have your own projects going on? Young Lord: Yeah, I have this artist named Busy from Atlanta Georgia, 17, rapper. He’s great so, I’m working on him right now. If you go to my myspace page, you’ll hear some of his stuff. Myspace.com/richardyounglord. Hiphopcrack: Do you have your own label? What’s it called? Young Lord: It’s called The Truth, Truth label. Hiphopcrack: Are you currently looking for artists? Young Lord: Yup. Hiphopcrack: What types of artists are you looking for? This is about to go on the net for everyone to see. Young Lord: I’m looking for rappers, singers. I’m looking for big personalities, characters. Hiphopcrack: If you’re looking for characters you know they’ll find you on myspace, right? Young Lord: [Laughs] Yeah, but one thing that a lot of people don’t know about me is that I do a lot of business in the film and TV worlds. I just started a company with one of the executive producers of the Jamie Kennedy show that was on MTV. This dude, Stone…We started a company up and we just optioned two films that we’re about to blast off on so we’re looking for talent on that end as well like writers and stuff like that. Hiphopcrack: Is it a situation where you just came up with the idea but you need writers and more producers to help steer the direction of it? Young Lord: We’re looking for great ideas. That’s not something I necessarily do as far as write stories. We have story line ideas but we’re looking to buy scripts and stuff like that. Hiphopcrack: What have you done in film and TV that people might be familiar with? Young Lord: My first project in the film world was this movie that’s about to come out with Vanessa Williams that’s called, My Brother [the music]. I think that’s gonna drop soon and from there, I did the music and score from The Jamie Kennedy show, and from there, this dude and I started the company and we’re starting to move forward with that stuff. So I’m really starting to look forward to moving into that game. Hiphopcrack: Is there a trend in production that you wish would go away? Young Lord: Nah. I’m pretty cool with every thing. But it would be cooler if rappers put a little bit more story into their songs. Did you hear the new Ludacris song? I just heard it the other night. He’s talking about runaways. Hiphopcrack: Not yet. Young Lord: That joint is a smash. Luda, I love that guy. I’ve been stalking him. Hiphopcrack: So, he’s definitely somebody you want to work with, right? Young Lord: Yeah. Luda is cool. Hiphopcrack: Are there any other artists that you haven’t worked with that you would like to? Young Lord: I got to work with Jay-Z on this new album but my song didn’t make it so I wish that the song had made it to the album. That would have been crazy. It would have been Young Lord year. But it didn’t, so I would like to see something out with me and Jay-Z. I think he’s definitely one of the greatest. Hiphopcrack: What are some of your favorite tracks for 2006 that you’ve heard? It could be your stuff and other people’s stuff. Young Lord: I really love “You Got a Long Way to Go,” Cassidy. People have been sleeping on that and I like the beat a lot, I like that song. Also, Lil’ Wayne joint called “Canon,” that’s not even right what he did to that one, and then a song that I did with a kid named Consequence. He’s about to come out with a song called “Callin Me.”Go to my myspace page and check it out. I love that record. Where you from? Hiphopcrack: I’m from New York. Young Lord: Where? Hiphopcrack: Uptown, I grew up in Harlem. Young Lord: How old are you? Hiphopcrack: 24 Young Lord: Do you remember Skate Key? Hiphopcrack: Of course, Allerton Ave and then it moved to 138th Street. Young Lord: That track, once you hear it, it reminds me of Skate Key [boom-bap New York]. I was trying to get Puff to do that song but Puff passed on it, but that’s straight New York, straight Skate Key. I was really impressed with the song. Consequence is nice. I think he’s one of those brothers that are too nice, that people won’t get sometimes but this time, it’s the perfect match. They’re gonna shoot a video in another three weeks or something like that. It’s gonna be his first single. But I love that beat, I love his rhymes, I love the chorus.
By: Starrene Rhett Ladybug Mecca stood out as the only female in Digable Planets when they burst on the Hip-Hop scene in the early ’90s. However, she has proven that she can hold her own since the world’s introduction to the trio (also including Butterfly and Doodlebug). Several years have past since Hip-Hop’s golden-era and things have changed ? some for the better and some for the worst, but Ladybug Mecca has positively evolved and her star has not dimmed. She’s back with a new album, Trip The Light Fantastic, and a slightly new sound. Singing a lot more and musically transcending Hip-Hop, Ladybug Mecca is someone people can learn a lot from. Now an artist and the owner of her own record label, she elaborates on why being an independent artist is better, and what it’s like balancing life as an artist and an executive. Hiphopcrack: The new album, Trip the Light Fantastic came out in June and I noticed that you’re singing on a lot of it. Why did you decide to come out with a more R&B influenced album? Is it something you’ve always wanted to do since the Digable Planets days? Ladybug Mecca: It was just natural. I started singing before I started rhyming. Hiphopcrack: You didn’t really sing at all with Digable Planets, right? Ladybug Mecca: No, we didn’t really sing, we did harmonies similar to the Sugar Hill gang, but it wasn’t really true singing. Hiphopcrack: Your has obviously evolved and it shows your growth, but there are still traces of your Digable Planets influence. What are some of the elements and influences that have factored into the sound of this album? Ladybug Mecca: I’m a fan of music period. It doesn’t matter what genre it is. I don’t really look at music like genres. I look at music as music, and if it speaks to you and you can dig it, then cool so, that was the inspiration behind the sound. It wasn’t really a concerted effort to make one type of album. It just happened naturally and it just happened to incorporate my Brazilian roots and Afro-Beat roots and Hip-Hop, and whatever else felt natural. Hiphopcrack: I know you have a video airing on Vh1 Soul but other than that, where have you been performing and promoting your album? Ladybug Mecca: I’ve been promoting this album throughout Europe and the U.S. All over. People can download the album on itunes or they can get it from my website. Hiphopcrack: You and your husband started an independent record label. What’s it called and why did you and your husband decide to start your own label? Ladybug Mecca: The label is called Paradigm Records and I decided to start a label because I didn’t want to enter into an artist deal where you make pennies on the dollar. I’m just too smart to sign that kind of deal. The best way to go about it would be to seek distribution in the independent world and go from there. I think that’s definitely the future of music. Fat Joe is now understanding that game. He signed his deal to Imperial not too long ago, I’m getting ready to drop so, a lot of people in mainstream Hip-Hop weren’t even aware of that avenue where you can actually make money and live. Hiphopcrack: What’s it like balancing being an artist and running a record label? Ladybug Mecca: I’m learning new things all the time. I’ve always had the knack for it. Now, I’m just able to exercise it. Even with Digable Planets with our artist deal, we were involved in every aspect of creativity and we gave marketing ideas to market our music so now, we just get to reap the benefits. Hiphopcrack: Is your label currently working with other artists? Who are they? Ladybug Mecca: Not any Hip-Hop artists right now but we have one artist. He’s more of a pop-rock artist; singer-songwriter; musician; named Remedy Jones. Hiphopcrack: What are some lessons you’ve learned while in Digable Planets that you were able to carry over into life as a solo artist? Ladybug Mecca: I’d say this business is a business, and even your best friends you can’t trust. You have to really know your business and know your worth, and make sure you put it in writing. I’d say that’s the biggest lesson. Hiphopcrack: As a woman who was around during the more formative years of Hip-Hop, can you reflect on the progression or lack thereof of women in the game today? Ladybug Mecca: You still really don’t see as many women as you do men in Hip-Hop. I don’t know what it’s like down south or out west but there seems to be more female artists down south. I’m not sure because I don’t live there but I hear a little bit and once and a while I see people creeping through but there’s still not enough representation and in music period there’s not enough representation of the diversity that Hip-Hop has to offer.
By: Will “Deshair” Foskey With his highly anticipated sophomore album, “The Inspiration” hitting shelves on December 12th and his lead single “I Luv It currently at #28 on the Hot R&B/Hip Hop charts, Def Jam recording artist Young Jeezy is the face of the Super December releases and for good reason. Jeezy is the one artist that Mr. Carter receives the sharpest reflection of his own beginnings as a hustler turned emcee. And with a successful “Blueprint” already laid down by the CEO of Hip-Hop, as long as Jeezy walks the line, he’ll be looking at a future in Hip-Hop which pushes far and beyond his wildest thug dreams. So what have you learned since the release of your first album up until this moment in time? Young Jeezy: I’ve learned that everything changes. A lot of people are happy for you, but they aren’t happy with you. Life is just different. People might think that you’re trippin’, but you just got things to do – you’re not the same ole’ dude anymore. But it’s pretty much the same. Talk about the Thug Motivation book. When will you be releasing it? Young Jeezy: It’s probably going to come out between this upcoming album and the next album. I thought that I was ready to finish it after my first album, but I’ve learned so much more about life. I’m looking at life from different perspectives now, instead of just one perspective. What do you feel will be different about the new album? Young Jeezy: It’s more personal. You have to understand that when I was working on my first album I was going through a lot of things, so I only saw things in one way, period. Now I have different perspectives to draw on. So I went in and made great music. I gave it who I am. There’s definitely a lot of growth on this album. It’s still grimy and it’s still Jeezy. Everybody who’s heard it says that it’s a better album than the first. I have some of the same producers from the first album. The only difference is that I went into the studio with Scott Storch and Timbaland because I wanted to try something different. How about the clothing line? Young Jeezy: My clothing line will be in stores on December 1st. I had to change the name to 8732 because the Government was trippin’ over the original name of USGA. Fabolous made a statement that people thought he was taking a risk putting you on a record with him when you were a relative unknown. What do you feel was one of the biggest risks you’ve taken? Young Jeezy: I think that the biggest risk I’ve taken was being me, you understand me. Just coming out with the music that I’ve come out with. I just took what I had and worked with that. A lot of cats can’t do that. For me, it wasn’t about selling a lot of records, it was about being heard. I’m pacing myself. I’m just cool, I’m here, and I’m not going anywhere. From an artist perspective, is there such thing as growing too much? Young Jeezy: Yes. If you take The Streets is Watching, Trap or Die, Can’t Ban the Snowman to Thug Motivation, I went into my mix-tapes like they were albums. So to the average person, they might know me from one album, but the streets know me from all of that. So I had to just try to pace myself with my next album because I didn’t want to come out too, “me.” Because I could have just went for it. It was nothing; I was already there. Leaving off with “Soul Survivor” I could have pretty much done what I wanted to do. I still wanted to remain Jeezy because sometimes through growth, you leave your fans behind. Everybody doesn’t change as fast as you change… no two days are the same. So I didn’t want to go in and do all of these big records and nobody understood them. I want for the people who love me and love my music to grow with me, instead of me going towards an audience that doesn’t know me and I don’t know them.
By Nova Slim Meet NYOIL. He doesn’t fashion himself the next bad-ass gangsta or a prophet with a direct line to God. But he is a man with a vision. Recently a video hit the Youtube that had everyone going nuts. “Y’all Should All Get Lynched” received somewhere around 6,000 views in two days before it was yanked for “inappropriate content”, which is odd considering Youtube only recently deleted South Park and Stephen Colbert clips that clearly violate their terms of service for copyright infringement. But the policing of this new, Googlized Youtube is the least of NYOIL’s worries. His mission is to offer truth in a time when hip-hop’s corporate monster has the masses blindsided with a game of smoke and mirrors WATCH HERE Did you have any specific artists in mind when you did the song? NYOIL: Ms. Peachez, the dude that dresses in drag and sings that song "Fry That Chicken". That, for me, was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I am a hip-hop artist, not a Revolutionary rapper per se. And I would have been content just doing hip hop songs. But watching that video was like that scene out of Malcolm X when he was staring at the TV and watching the marches in Alabama, and the kids getting bitten by dogs and blown over by water hoses. That’s what I felt, as if I could hear the kids outside my building screaming out "Ay yoooowhat’s good my nigger" at the top of their lungs. Shit is just out of hand, man. And now I don’t even care about a record deal. I just want to speak the truth and offset this bullshit with solid music. It’s funny you mentioned brother Malcolm, because I realized your approach was pretty no holds barred as far as the language. Some might say your approach is just as bad as the images you’re criticizing. NYOIL: It’s funny how people have so much tolerance for disrespect. I can call your mothers and sisters and daughters a rack of “bitches” and “hoes”–no protest. I can encourage your sons and daughters to sell drugs to the community–no problem. But let me say to those that are perpetuating it that they need to swing from a tree, the ultimate disrespect to a people that have been ultimately disrespecting us. And people say “Oh yeah, he taking it too far.” It is crazy how our people are so apologetic for those that fuck us over at every turn but have NO tolerance for someone speaking against the shit. Look at Bill Cosby. This is a man that thousands of people have to THANK for their college education, a brother that comes back to his old college to support and lend his star power too. This man that had the unmitigated gall to stand before his people and say, in essence, "Y’all are messing up". And people are up in arms. “Oh you ain’t supposed to air out black folks business in public.” So, to those who ask "Was Bill Cosby right?" you say "yes"? NYOIL: HELL YES. My only beef with Bill is this: He was saying what he said to the converted. These are people that already got their shit together. Bill is on another level with shit, he ain’t got time to be riding thru Redhook to tell that message. So you think you have a better chance of reaching the people since you’re talking to them as opposed to at them, or about them? NYOIL: I think I am speaking in a language and a manner that those that need to hear it will REACT to. It ain’t about me being the dude that makes it alright, I ain’t arrogant like that. It’s about you interviewing me about a subject that everyone is talking about ALL the time, complaining about ALL the time. Wishing someone would speak against ALL the time, and now we are speaking about it, here and now. So now, as the grumblings rise and the message is filtered up and about, maybe someone will articulate it in a way that is more palatable to the masses. There’s a line in your song that refers to Kanye being the only one to speak out against Bush during Katrina. What are your general thoughts about Kanye as one of our biggest artists that happens to have a different approach? NYOIL: I really don’t have much to say about son because I am neither here nor there with his music. He is a lil’ TOO arrogant for my taste, but I know that’s what you gotta do to do what he’s doing with the music. As far as the Bush thing, I was proud of that brother. That was some BLACKMAN business right there, because the horror of what was going on tapped into the man, not the image, and he spoke with passion and sincerity. “George Bush doesn’t care about black people”; Could he have said it any clumsier? Based on the images you used in the video, do you worry that other rappers might try to come at you for it? You didn’t really call out specific rappers in the song, but in the video there’s Cam, Lil’ Kim and some others… NYOIL: Lemme tell you, these brothers and sisters are going to learn what it means to have conviction about a thing. I am willing to DIE for my people. I love being a black man. I ain’t doing this for show, hence me not being about an identity, showing my face and trying to mean-mug and pretty up for the camera. I am doing my thing as an assassin, someone they can’t get at. If I am a nobody, just a voice, and they are "STAR TIME" it makes them REAL easy to get at. Truthfully I would rather hope that they would see the LIGHT, see that what they been doing is some bullshit. And corny too. Do u find it odd that with all the other stuff people can find on Youtube, they banned your video? I don’t find it odd at all. Of course they would because the white man understands my message better than black folks do. They know I ain’t advocating a lynching of good black men. They know I’m advocating a revolution of good black men to get rid of THEIR niggers, that they have bought for a platinum chain and a lil’ fame. Niggers that they have planted in this business to sell out their race. Of course they are going to remove the video. Plus they just got this Google deal going. No way are they going to have any waves made right about now. Who is more accountable for the current state of hip-hop? Record companies or the audience? NYOIL: Record companies and artists. See the audience is mere people. People are sheep, and that’s no disrespect because I am one of the people. But the media monster has been raised and trained to be a powerful adversary. My stepfather (RIP) used to say "I don’t cha-cha to no commercials", meaning he wasn’t buying into shit the television had to say without proof. Shit have you intoxicated before u can even see the product. This is what they do with music: At first hip-hop was a prime example of ART imitating LIFE. Once it started making money it got snatched up by marketers and manufacturers and they put it into their machine. The current media machine is this: YOUNG, SEXY, STUPID, BAD BOY/GIRL. Every artist fits this mold. Look at hip-hop right now. This is the first time in HISTORY that the music the parents listen to is the same exact music the kids listen to. Little Brother had a recent controversy when they asked if the hip-hop audience was just dumb. NYOIL: Nah we aren’t dumb. The people that provide the music for us think we are so dumb that we will keep tolerating this bullshit. But with the movement that is beginning to get ground with this song and others like it, they will see how dumb we really are. In your MySpace blog, you rejected the idea of selling music based on your image and instead want to be looked at as an ideal. NYOIL: My vision is lethal, believe me. This song I put out there, I’m not trying to make it rich off it. I ain’t tryna get a record deal ‘cause of it. I just want the word to spread, show the power of the people. These marketing types are like a thing that eats so much that now it only feeds off itself. They have dumbed down the people so much that they even dumbed themselves down. So that is their weakness. They campaign the same way every time, the same shit, that’s why the internet has the industry fucked up. Magazines are fucked up right now ‘cause how do you get people to buy your bullshit rag when they can go on the internet and read people’s blogs that have real writing skills and real opinions and real research skills for free? The record labels are fucked up because how do you get someone to buy that bullshit album when a dude like NYOIL is rocking the entire WORLD for free? They don’t know cause they are as dumbed down as the people they dumbed down. GOD IS GOOD. He finds a way even in the midst of awesome strength. He is making us Davids to the corporate Goliaths. Just like He is doing to the politics. You see how the Goliath Republican Neo Con’s platform has the country in a strangle hold and GOD is using small things to break them down? Like peoples’ natural predication to be human? Dude gets caught tryna fuck the congressional pages. Things like that are evidence of GOD, finding a way through the most humble of means to make things right. Do I think I am GOD sent? Nah. Do I think that GOD is present and moving to make things better? Yes. There is a proverb I want to quote. “My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.” So your love is tough love, huh? NYOIL: Sometimes that is the realest love. You want someone to love you so much that they can watch you fuck up and ruin your life ‘cause it seems like that would make you happy right now? Or do you want someone to love you so much that they not only love you in the present, but they love you in the future? They want you to be good long after the MOMENT. Yeah, getting some pussy is good right now. But in the future when that women turns out to be no good or that man turns out to be no good, you might have a baby to raise for the rest of your life. For about 2 or 3 hours of pleasure. And the way brothers and sisters go now, more like 20-30 minutes of fun. Nah give me that tough love.
By Quibian Salazar-Moreno After toiling for years in the indie hip-hop scene as a solo artist and a member of the celebrated group, Lightheaded, Braille is going the way of a label CEO. He recently launched, Hip-Hop IS Music, a new label specializing on on the musical art form of hip-hop. Out the gate, Braille’s label has released three albums from Sivion, Surreal & DJ Balance and Braille’s Box of Rhymes, the compilation project Heavy Rotation and re-released two previous Lightheaded and Braille albums and the year is not even over yet. “I want 2006, 2007 to be the Hip Hop IS Music era,” Braille said. “During that time we’re going to have a good 12 or 13 records by the end of 2007, God-willing.” In the next year Hip-Hop IS Music is planning to release albums from veteran and new artists including Theory Hazit, Sharlok Poems, Sojourn, a Heavy Rotation Part 2 and a project featuring Omegha Watts, Braille and Surreal called 4 days in Geneva, where on a break from tour they spent four days in a studio. We caught up with Braille while promoting his album Box of Rhymes to find out why he decided to launch a label, his place in the industry, and the science behind his new album. You were doing okay as an artist and a member of Lightheaded, so why the decision to launch a label? It’s funny because I look back through my artifacts and my hip-hop music fascination before even starting a label. I’ve been wanting to run my own label since I was 15 years old, which is 10 years ago. I used to make envelopes saying Brian Winchester, CEO, Lung Mechanic and my whole idea was to run this record label called Lung Mechanic. It was going to be a pit stop for artists because I realized at a really young age that some of my favorite artists were really discouraged and frustrated with their music careers. And I was like, “I don’t know what I can do, but maybe I can run a label or something that works differently.” Since then I kind of went off on my own path, signed to other labels as a solo artist, got my own taste of the industry and realized the idea that 15 year old kid had was relevant and maybe I should stand in the gap and help these artists that I don’t feel are getting the opportunities that they deserve, to put out honest and significant hip-hop music. How’d you get started in the game? I started putting out tapes. I’m a young dude, but when I started no one had CD burners or anything, so if you put out something on your own, it was a tape. I’d make my album covers at Kinko’s, gluing pictures to a piece of paper and folding it and handwriting the song titles. Then I would just slang them on the internet. It’s funny because I’ve been selling tapes online for over 10 years now. So back in when I was signed up on AOL, everybody was AOL back in 1996. So I just started putting out tapes that way, but my first official solo CD, Life First, Half the Battle, was actually one of the first full length albums that Kno from Cunninglynguists produced on, Celph Titled did the majority of the production on it, Mood Swing from the Anticon family did production on it, Sixtoo, now on Ninja Tune, did production on it, Storm the Unpredictable was featured on it. That actually came out in 1999 when I was 17. So that was my first official release. My first Lightheaded release didn’t come out until around 2002. What’s the science behind the label name, Hip-Hop IS Music? Growing up I’ve lived in areas of middle class America, never been upper class. I grew up in a middle class family and we went through a lot of financial struggles during various parts of our lives. But nonetheless the middle class respect and appreciation for hip-hop in most of the areas I grew up in Jersey and Oregon, the respect and appreciation for hip-hop as music was very limited. It’s not very often in a mixed crowd, you could say I am a fan of hip-hop and there might be one dude you can actually have a conversation about actual hip-hop. So although hip-hop became one of the most influential genres for art, for advertisements, for entertainment, it was influencing everything but it wasn’t being portrayed as an art form, it was being portrayed as a trend. Or it was being portrayed as “the new thing.” So for me I felt like, I’ve been doing this for so long and half the people that buy my records probably don’t even know how the beats are made. There’s no knowledge of the process or the appreciation of the process of creating a hip-hop record. The label name is just a statement. To some its obvious, to others it’ll make them raise an eyebrow, “Well is it really?” The record label is an opportunity for me to try and put out music that represents that simple statement. This is music, this took talent to create, we didn’t just buy a computer program and make our first demo and press it up on CD. We’ve been doing this for a long time. And every artist that is signed to Hip-Hop IS Music has been rapping for over 10 years, some of those guys have been rapping for 15 or more and this might even be their first CD that ever came out. They didn’t grow up in an independent era of music. They grew up in an era where if you wanted to put out a record you had to be signed to a major label. Aside from slanging tapes like I used to do, you might have slanged them in your local area but as far as putting out a CD with distribution it was either signed to a major label or nothing. And if you lived in New York or if you lived in L.A., there was a better chance of you getting a grasp on the marketplace; but if you lived in a smaller city, to really get something rolling it was very difficult. How do you decide who you want or don’t want to sign to your label? When I started the label, I sat down with a piece of paper and I kind of wrote out my ideal roster. There were certain artists that I would love to sign, but they’re already signed, so I can’t write down The Procussions or I can’t write down Mars Ill, so I had to think of artists that haven’t really put out anything or artists that I knew that were in transition. From touring I met a lot of these guys in person. As an artist, you do a show and there’s a local opening act and before the show you have no idea who they are. Then they perform and you’re like “Man, this guy is just more than local talent. This guy deserves to be heard and appreciated on a global scale.” So some of the artists it was a situation like that. With Sivion, I was in Chicago and he had done a couple of features on some other CDs and I heard and I took interest and said this guy is interesting I wonder why I don’t see anything out from him. Then I was at a BBQ in Texas like two weeks later after I took interest and I had a chance to meet him in person because he showed up at the same BBQ. There’s a different story to how I met each artist but ultimately the moment I met them, and you can look back through the Lightheaded releases, like on Pure Thoughts, we had this thing on the end called “Surprise Cipher”. We had Sojourn on there who I have been a fan of for a long time and on the second album, Wrong Way, we had another surprise cipher and we got Sojourn on there, we got Sharlok Poems (of L.A. Symphony) on there, we got Surreal on there, we got Sivion on there and Big Rec is doing an interlude and these artists I was interested in during that whole time and I was like, if I ever started a label, I know who I would go to. It’s no secret that you guys get love in Christian hip-hop circles, but do you ever get any flack from the industry for not being Christian enough or being too Christian for non-believers? As an artist who has shopped his material to other labels, every label has certain types of artists that they’re looking for. I’m not even going to narrow it down to Christian labels but I’m going to say for the most part if you look at Def Jam, Bad Boy, of course some of these labels have altered what they’re looking for based on market trends and so on. But whatever they’re looking for at that moment, if you don’t fit into it and you’ll notice everybody in the mainstream, everybody is hard, everybody hits the gym, and everybody has got some crew that’ll mess you up and everybody just kind of falls under that blanket. So the way I look at it, that’s the current market trend but I’m not hard and I don’t make records about being hard so right now I’m irrelevant to the market place. Unless I make something that is so mind-blowing that it shatters the entire industry, which I would love to do. But I realized there needed to be a niche label that specialized in the type of music that I wanted to put out. A lot of Christian labels are centered around Christian market distribution. In order to be successful with Christian market distribution, you need to make records that are good for Christian market radio, which in a lot of people’s mind are kind of bubblegum. I have no beef with that at all, but the thing is I’m not going to make bubblegum records so I can get play on Christian radio. When I started rhyming I didn’t even know there was such a thing as Christian radio, when I started rhyming I wasn’t even a Christian. I started rhyming so I could participate within hip-hop culture and not be limited based on my faith to the avenues for any artist to expose their music. That’s the type of avenue I wanted to create for my artists, like hey, you guys are hip-hop artists and what you believe, for any true authentic artist, is going to come through in their records. I don’t think there’s one rapper that doesn’t, unless they’re a puppet, unless someone else is pulling the strings, but if you have an honest artist, whatever they believe in life, whatever they really think, that’s what they’re going to say on their record. The only reason they wouldn’t is like “I’m rapping this way strictly for business.” But the guys we’re working with in Hip-Hop IS Music, they have a genuine love for hip-hop, a genuine love to express themselves through hip-hop music and what they’re saying on their record is exactly where they’re coming from in life. And just because there’s no labels looking for that, that doesn’t mean it’s not good, they’re just not doing what’s popular in the marketplace right now. There needs to be some label that says hey, as far as I’m concerned this is what’s hot and I’m going to put it out anyway. That’s kind of the stance I wanted to take with the label. So do you even target your marketing to the Christian market? The way I look at it is that I’m not ashamed to affiliate myself with the Christian culture at all. I’m more than happy to have Hip-Hop IS Music CDs to sell in Christian bookstores, play on Christian radio, so on and so forth. My point is I’m not going to change who my artists are or who I am as a Christian in order to fit in that bubble. So if that bubble is willing to take us for who we are, my same approach goes to hip-hop culture, any culture that’s willing to take us as we are, any listener, any fan, any critic, anyone who is willing to take a hip-hop record for what it is, that’s what we do this for. If somebody has already shut the door on us because we don’t fit into the bubble or box of what they think we should be, then it wasn’t for them. I honestly haven’t been met with any resistance. When it all comes down to it, it’s a matter of to what extent people are willing to get behind you, it comes to down to advertising dollars, marketing dollars, there’s very few people who are willing to get behind you just because they want to get behind it. Those people, I appreciate them more than they can imagine because there’s people who have gotten behind Hip-Hop IS Music and supported us and we haven’t really had much to offer them other than music. At the end of the day, if Hip-Hop IS Music had a million dollar marketing budget for a project, I don’t think anyone would turn us down. It’s like “yeah, you can run an ad in our magazine, we’ll write a review, we’ll do an interview,” that just the way it is. You’re putting marketing dollars in that magazine; you’re putting marketing dollars into that television station or doing a display at a store. Of course they’re going to showcase what you do. Since we don’t have that type of marketing capital, I send out everything from my house. So I just send out as many CDs as I can stomach. Your new album, Box of Rhymes, what’s the theme behind it and what should people expect? I remember the Jungle Brothers song, “The book of rhyme, book of rhyme, book of rhyme pages” and back in the day you would have your rhyme book. Now I’ve been rhyming and writing for so long, I have a rhyme box now. Literally, I have rhyme boxes. When we moved I had boxes and boxes filled with papers of rhymes that I wrote. Eventually I had to start throwing them out because they were taking up so much room. But I held on to it because in my mind it was kind of like those boxes represented how many rhymes I wrote, but at the end of the day, I’m only as good as my next rhyme. Every rhyme that I write today is a culmination of what I’ve learned from all the other rhymes I wrote. So the box of rhymes is kind of like, I can flip through a bunch of old raps and it automatically brings back to different moments in my life, almost like a photo journal. It’s like a journal of the history of me; the last 12 years of my life are documented through rhymes and my thoughts and things that I don’t even remember thinking or things I don’t even remember going through. Ultimately the box of rhymes is the history that leads to the future of who I am as a person, who I am as an artist.
By Quibian Salazar-Moreno It’s been a tumultuous four years for Malice and Pusha T. As The Clipse, the duo took the hip-hop industry by storm in 2002 by dropping their banging debut album, Lord Willin’. Led by the head-banging single “Grindin’” and backed by consistent hitmakers The Neptunes, it looked like The Clipse were on the cusp of hip-hop greatness. Then they disappeared. It wasn’t the group’s fault though; they were working hard on their follow-up album when a label merger left them in limbo. The Clipse were initially signed by L.A. Reid to Arista Records but were sent to Jive Records after the 2004 merger between BMG (Jive and Arista’s parent company) and Sony Music Entertainment. Due to contractual issues, The Clipse were stuck with Jive. For two years their album was continually delayed and when Pusha and Malice were asked to be released from the label, they were refused. In turn, they sued the label. While litigation was taking place the group launched their own imprint, Re-Up Records, and released a series of mixtapes that had the streets talking. With a buzz in the streets, Jive and the group finally came to an agreement to release their new album, Hell Hath No Fury, under the Re-Up Records banner along with Jive and to have total creative control. We caught up with Pusha T to talk about the new album, their label situation, and if they’re ever stop rapping about selling cocaine. So the album is dropping in a couple of weeks and— The album already dropped man; it’s leaked on the internet. It’s all good though man. Everybody’s got to get theirs however they’re going to get it. If they’re going to download it they were never going to buy it anyway. But I’m getting good responses so it’s working towards our benefit as well. What’s the science behind the album name, “Hell Hath no Fury”? The title of the album derives from a saying “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” And you know when that woman is scorned, she throws the brick through your window, keys your car, and tells your real woman how much you’ve been cheating. She shows your real woman how many purses you done bought her, she just makes your life hell. So that’s how we were attacking this album, attacking this game, attacking this industry. Seems kind of short compared to other albums, only 12 songs, why so short? You know, all classics are short. Illmatic, Common, everything that has been considered a classic is short. You know what it is, I’m a firm believer in this, if you can’t do it in 12, there’s no need for me to hear 22 records on your album. I can’t deal with that. Do you have a ton of unreleased joints then? We had a whole other album recorded. This has been a hiatus of four years. It’s one of those situations where you couldn’t feel those records anymore; you couldn’t rightfully rap those records. We have fans that follow us and follow our story, they know the plight, they know the situation we’re going through. Then to hear about me ballin’ in Miami, it wouldn’t have made any sense. It was records from 2003. How hard is it to choose Neptunes beats? Do they come at you with beat CDs? Nah, they don’t ever come with beat CDs. When we go in the studio, nine times out of ten, we’ve already talked about the direction, the feel and what we want. Then Pharrell and Chad go and implement that. Sometimes they’re on point and on the money, sometimes they’re not and other times we ain’t feelin’ it but they tell us to try it and we end up loving it. It just works like that. Has there ever been a beat they made for someone else that you were like, “I wish we got that one!”? Nah, I don’t think so. They make incredible records though. I think there’s a whole other chemistry with us, they don’t have any other artists like The Clipse. We take risks, we push the envelope. Our whole thing is disrupting radio and making it hell on radio people who work at these companies because we’re always going to do something different. Something that totally goes against the direction of what’s popular. But was there any temptation to maybe get that Kanye or Scott Storch beat or call on Young Jeezy because of what’s hot right now? Never. There was never any temptation. This is a family thing. I don’t know other people’s motivation or how they feel about it, but we pride ourselves on integrity and classic material. I don’t want just a number one hit, a number one is great if it happens but you don’t make music to do that. You make music to evoke emotion and make you feel a certain way. XXL Magazine gave the album a XXL rating, its highest rating, which ought to make you feel good about your work. We love it. The critical acclaim has been amazing. I’m so glad that people are recognizing. That rating in XXL was very special, something very important and we were ecstatic about it. We just really feel we put our all and emotion into this album and we love the fact that we’re being recognized for it. You guys have been open about the situation with Jive Records, where does that relationship stand now? It doesn’t stand. It’s always an issue. But I mean, it is what it is, it’s business. Was there anything you could have done differently to make the situation better? Nah. I think everything worked out best for The Clipse. I mean, there’s nothing so incredible that I’ve got from Jive. I did a record, but I signed a record deal, so I should do a record. You don’t see us having Access Granted, MTV Diaries, and all the major perks that come along with a major label. We ain’t on the cover of no magazines. With all the magazines rating us classic, there are no extra perks that we’re getting with this. There’s still no radio play, video play is minimal, so you know. So what kind of advice do you have for cats trying to make moves in this game? Always prepare yourself to not be courted by the label. Try to do as much on your own as you can, establish your own base. Use other methods like the internet, mixtapes, anything to get your popularity up in the street and create that solid foundation. Speaking of mixtapes, you guys kept your name out there with several tapes. Who is the Re-Up Gang? The Re-Up Gang is a crew of dudes who are driven by lyric-driven hip-hop. We love this rap game, it’s amazing and we’re all motivated by each other. It’s me, Malice, Ab-Liva and Sandman but we’re looking to add a few more guys. When is the next mixtape? We Got It Cheap Pt. 3 is on its way and that’s coming in the new year. Yeah, that’s how we’re setting off the new year. [People can enter to win a spot to spit on the upcoming mixtape, for more info, click here]. Will there be a Re-Up Gang album? Yeah, there will be a Re-Up Gang album, we’re going to do a Re-Up Gang compilation and you’ll hear these guys all over the The Clipse album. It’s going to be a great time for lyric-driven hip-hop man. Of course you guys rep VA, but you’ve been embraced up north by New York cats, some even saying that you’re bringing the East Coast back with this album. What do you think about that? Whoa! That’s amazing man. I’m just glad people are recognizing that’s a good thing. With that coming from people that aren’t where you’re from, like I said it’s a great thing. What are your touring plans right now? We’re on the road now, we’re never home. We’re on the road and I’m just getting to the house right now. I’m actually picking up my car from the airport while I speak to you. I’m only here for one day, get my hair done, and once I do that we’re back on the road again. We’re doing nothing but shows and more shows and more promotion. We’re trying to do 200 shows like The Roots. We want to be like The Roots. We respect those guys’ drive and hunger and that’s what you have to do when you’re with a label. Everything, 100 percent relies on you. Like I said, there ain’t no extras over here, no perks. One of the things you guys were criticized for on Lord Willin’ was all the cocaine talk, but now it seems like the in-thing with cats like Young Jeezy and Rick Ross… Yeah, ain’t those critics losers now? All those guys who said that and now they’re giving all those other guys love years later. Some people are just stupid, real stupid man… I love it. Now they got to come back and kiss the ring, that’s what it’s about. It’s about making people come and kiss the ring, feel me? They got to kiss the ring, and if they kiss the ring, I can like you again. If you don’t kiss the ring and act like it never happened, nah I’ll never like you. During that time was there ever a thought, “Maybe I should change it up next time out”? Never. I’m going conscious on my fifth album. I’ll probably be ready to go conscious then. And when I do go conscious, I’m going to do Andre 3000, turban daishiki and everything. I’ll see if everybody love me then, you think they’ll love me? As long as you spittin’ and got the Neptunes behind you. Okay, I’m going for it, B. I’m going for it, then. Any last words? I just want to thank the fans for keeping us relevant, just everybody who supports The Clipse. The year 2007 is definitely ours, wack label or not, it’s definitely ours. We’re putting out hot music and we got a slew of hot music ready for everybody, We Got It Cheap Vol. 3, The Spirit of Competition (We Just Think We’re Better), that’s what we’re running with. That’s how we’re going to set it off and we’re going to start the war with that.
By Will “Deshair” Foskey Four time Grammy winner, R&B songstress Tamia is back with her fourth album (first on her newly Independent Label, Plus 1 Music Group) “Between Friends”. Tamia’s first single ‘Can’t Get Enough’ written and produced by Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins is a sure fire hit that is currently rising up the charts. During my walk through Time Square with the beautiful and extremely hilarious R&B star, we talked about her new album, her new found independence & I got her take on being a recognizable star compared to not being noticed at all. “I co-wrote the entire album,” says the homebred Canadian. “I love working as a part of the team. Shep (Crawford) and I just clicked. I had that same energy working with Rodney. That chemistry was one of the main reasons why I titled the album ‘Between Friends.’ It wasn’t about ‘You call your lawyer and I’ll call mine.’ I’ve built a great relationship with both Shep and Rodney. Rodney and I wanted to work together for a long time. So when the opportunity finally arose after he found out that I was working on my fourth album, he gave me a call and said that he had to be a part of it. I asked him what he was doing that weekend, and from there I was on a flight to Atlantic City. Without building these friendships, it would have been a harder road for me as an entrepreneur. Running my own label (Plus One Music Group) is hard work, but its well worth it. I am completely hands on with every decision that is made and every dollar that is spent. One of the many lessons that Quincy (Jones) taught me was to own everything that I put my name on. He made sure that from the very start of my career that I owned my Publishing. I honestly believe that now is the time that more artists take back their rights in this industry.” For those who are familiar with the busy streets and sidewalks of Time Square, NYC, you know that traffic both on the road and on foot can get pretty congested. Yet during Tamia’s press day where we had the option of being chauffeured back to the Westin Hotel, she had no problem making the two block walk. “I don’t need validation of who I am when I’m walking through public,” says the pint-sized siren as we walk down 42nd Street towards 8th Avenue. “It doesn’t bother me at all if people don’t recognize me, immediately. I’d much rather be able to go to the grocery store without being mobbed. I know that there are people out there who thrive on receiving attention. I just prefer walking down the street with everybody else.” Tamia stated that she’d like to work with John Legend in the near future, and that she’s happy to hear that her ‘So Into You’ co-star, Fabolous is recovering quickly from his gunshot wound. The new video for “Can’t Get Enough” is playing on all of the major video outlets and her new album “Between Friends” is in stores now.
By: The Hip HopJournalist Interscope has to be the most strategically organized label in Hip-Hop, period. They encourage consumers to literally become crack fiends for their artist’s albums. Pushing projects back and back again, never reduces attention, it just heightens anticipation. But for one artist his album has been put back so many times that even he himself admits to a feeling of being ‘blackballed.’ Regardless of how he feels and how damaging this prolonged agony of sitting idle with a completed project ready to go for over a year has been, Styles P’s Time is Money has Hip-Hop fans ravenous. With a top notch team of producers including, Hi-Tek, Scott Storch, Akon and the timeless presence of Dame Grease all hopping on board to reiterate why Styles P is still that dude, it is guaranteed this album will fly off the shelves when it finally hits them. Holding Styles P back isn’t going to stop him; it may have played with his mind for a minute and had him doubting the business ethics of his secondary home, but this of course isn’t the first time someone else has had control over this Yonkers hard knock. But after the ‘long time coming’ resolution with P Diddy came into effect late last year and a scheduled drop for Time is Money in December,it looks like his patience and perseverance will be the victors. Here he talks about what has kept him up, what brought him up and just what he has been up to whilst time has inevitably marched on. Hip-HopCrack.com: So what excuses have they given you for putting the album back so many times? Styles P: I don’t even know the reasons, it is just industry politics. I think I was black-balled if you ask me. Hip-HopCrack.com: What sort of damage does this treatment have on your character? Styles P: It’s either going to make you or break you and it can be very frustrating, but you just have to have patience and perseverance. Hip-HopCrack.com: Has the track listing changed or has it stayed the same as I know when we spoke last year you were really happy with what you had? Styles P: Not, not really, not too much. I mean I love what I have. Hip-HopCrack.com: So while you have been waiting for this album to see the shelves what have you been up to? Preparing your next five albums right? Styles P: Yeah (laughs). I mean I just keep working; you can’t let it make you not work. You know if I didn’t work, it would make my situation worse; so I just keep doing the mixtapes. I stay in the studio; that’s basically all I can do. Hip-HopCrack.com: I know you had a listening session recently for it, how was it finally seeing other people’s reactions to it? Styles P: It was good; I mean I am just really thirsty to see how people are going to respond to it. It’s going to take you on a real ride, it’s 13 tracks and has Sheek, Kiss, Talib Kweli, Gerald Levert, Jagged Edge, Marsha from Floetry and a group called Flypside on there. Hip-HopCrack.com: You get so much love from the streets and from Hip-Hop fans, I watched you rock a crowd at S.O.Bs last month. How hard has it been to keep your fans onboard throughout all this bullshit? Styles P: I really say they have been what has kept me on board instead of me keeping them onboard. They have been waiting for it and waiting for it and they know it is coming. So there has been a lot of support from them and that was also what kept me going as they could understand. Of course I am always putting out the mixtapes, I am always about. You know if I ain’t frying up the airwaves I am still being heard on the bottom, you know the underground. Hip-HopCrack.com: When you look at what other projects that are dropping around the same time yours is scheduled to drop, are you pleased with the timing? Styles P: I mean I won’t say that I am ecstatic; you know I won’t lie to you and say I feel great about it. I do however feel great about getting my music out and you know my fans being able to get it, but I definitely could have had a better set up and a better impact. Hip-HopCrack.com: What is your situation with Interscope now? Styles P: I am just working on the Lox things and fixing up some paperwork for that, figuring what to do with the Lox. Then when that drops, D Block of course and J Hood, the D Block Compilation; just want to get all the paperwork for that right and get everything situated. Hip-HopCrack.com: Last time we spoke, we talked about a book you were working on, how is that coming? Styles P: Somewhat, I mean I get thrown off sometime but I am still working on it. Hip-HopCrack.com: You see recently a lot of rappers getting involved in television. Is that something you envision for you? Styles P: Yeah definitely so, I think I would be more involved in production and direction, I would like to direct. I would take the long way out, I mean I would like to do some acting, but definitely would want to be a ‘behind the scenes’ man. Hip-HopCrack.com: Why is that? Styles P: It is just my character. Hip-HopCrack.com: You are good at keeping low key, when you see this situation you are in. Styles P: I try to keep it cool. I have been through a lot in my life and no matter what I don’t want to be in a situation like my last album, you know as far as being incarcerated and being taken away from my family, my wife and my kids, not be at home and just be able to breathe fresh air. Hip-HopCrack.com: How do you think Styles P would have reacted to this had it happened ten years ago? Styles P: I would have spazzed (laughing). Even four years ago, even right before I came out of jail I would have spazzed. Hip-HopCrack.com: So what has calmed you down? Styles P: Jail and life in general. Suffering, you know it means a lot man. This sucks going through this, it really sucks, but jail, man that is being taken away from your family. Hip-HopCrack.com: Obviously your family has been a big encouragement. Styles P: Yeah I mean that is the most important thing to me. Everything else falls after that. You know I try to do things to see us alright. But see that’s the part that really frustrates you, as going through this you have to watch your family suffer, but my wife keeps me humble. There are a lot of people in a worse situation. You know we have a place to live, three beautiful children; we can travel and have nice things. My family definitely keeps me strong. Hip-HopCrack.com: What lessons have you learned? Styles P: Patience, perseverance and sacrifice. Hip-HopCrack.com: What do you feel you sacrificed? Styles P: A lot, everything, I have almost thrown my career out of the window somewhat; that’s how I feel on some days when I can’t do something. But I guess being here is more important than that, that’s just how I feel. Hip-HopCrack.com: Almost every legendary name in New York Hip-Hop has dropped an album or is going to drop an album this year. When do you think we are going to see some new blood step up in NYC? Styles P: They are here. Hip-HopCrack.com: So why aren’t they the ones putting out albums? Styles P: I don’t know what to say no more as the industry has changed so much; what I figure isn’t what they think they need. As they think that all they need is a catchy hook and a nice beat (laughing,) you know what I am saying? They think with just that, they are in; they can just say ABC on a track and get away with it. Hip-HopCrack.com: Does it bother you, this so called decline in Hip-Hop? Styles P: Yeah definitely so. As a fan and music wise definitely so, but to take something good out of it you do see a lot of dudes making money. Money should encourage the game to step up, but there are a lot of things that play a part in this. It’s not just the rappers; it’s the rappers, the record labels, the radio, it’s the parents in the way they educate their kids. It’s a lot of shit. a lot of new rappers probably never read, or read when they was coming up. But everything is a cycle though. Hip-HopCrack.com: Are you going out on the road promoting the album? Styles P: I’m actually about to start tomorrow and I am going to damn near every state. I am going to be out on the road a while. It’s not really something I enjoy anymore to tell you the truth. Hip-HopCrack.com: Miss the family? Styles P: Yeah it screws with my wife’s schedule, it screws my schedule up, but then I do enjoy performing, I love the performance part, but the traveling shit is irritating. Hip-HopCrack.com: Do you feel that you have to do an extensive tour right now? Styles P: Yeah I feel that I have to go for myself because the music is coming out. You know I gotta do what I gotta do and do what is in my fullest capabilities and in my power so I know I gave 110% as that’s all you can do. Because at least then I can say I did give 110% and did everything I could. Hip-HopCrack.com: So when can we expect to hear anything from The Lox, I mean that’s long over due too? Styles P: I would say first or second quarter. Everybody is working you know, J Hood is coming out with Tales from the Hood; we got the D Block compilation coming out. Then we are working with our other artists too. Hip-HopCrack.com: How do you find your artists? Styles P: I know most of them, you know I met them through someone or I heard something from them. I guess you could say through life’s natural circle.
By William E. Ketchum III At the end of his Separate But Equal mixtape with Little Brother, DJ Drama screams, “My swagger is at an all-time high! Nothing can take me out my zone!” But if you look at what Drama’s been doing for the past few years, it’s not hard to take him seriously. Along with being T.I.’s official DJ, the bearded board handler’s Gangsta Grillz mixtape series has taken the streets over in such a manner that everyone from southern slingers Young Jeezy and Lil Wayne to bi-coastal mainstays Jim Jones and Snoop Dogg is enlisting his services. Atlantic Records also recognized game, and has brought Drama aboard for an official Gangsta Grillz album, whose guest list would frankly take up too much space for this article. In an interview with HipHopCrack, DJ Drama reminisces on his come-up and gives his take on today’s mixtape scene. HipHopCrack: How did you get your start on the mixtape scene? DJ Drama: Basically, I just started by trials and tribulations. I was in high school, I was just putting together tapes, selling them out my locker for five dollars. I did my first tape with a cover in like ’95, and this was around the time when S&S, Doo Wop, and others pretty much reigned surpreme. I was trying to follow in the format that was already laid. I remember Doo Wop put out “95 Live,” and I kind of followed his formula. I put out a tape called “Illadelph” that had a couple of local at the time, but also became national artists out of Philly, giving me exclusive freestyles for my mixtapes and everything. That was my beginnings. HipHopCrack: What made you decide to take your mixtapes seriously? DJ Drama: I always took it seriously from day one, but I think that years later, being a DJ. … I started doing mixtapes when I was about 16 or 17, and when I got about 19 or 20, after moving to Atlanta and being a DJ for a few years, you realize that with the clubs, you have to rely on promoters to pay you or book you. I wasn’t on radio, I was (only) on college radio at the time. I was trying to get on mainstream radio, but I felt like the radio stations weren’t paying attention. So for me, it was just that the mixtape route was my own route, because I was my own boss on that. That was the best way for me to get my name out there; I was like “f” a promoter, and “f” a radio station. If they don’t see my talent, I know what I’ve got, so I’ma just do it myself and put it out to the streets. HipHopCrack: Gangsta Grillz is what a lot of people know you for. DJ Drama: It just came about from being creative, really. I never planned on that being my claim to fame; it was just a mixtape series along with many that I did. But I was onto something; I created a brand, I rocked with it, I fed it, I let it grow, and it became the phenomenon that it is today. So it just came about from me doing what I do, basically. I can’t front—it wasn’t anything that was planned, but once I started it and realized I was onto something, I ran with it. HipHopCrack: How did you establish that brand from scratch? DJ Drama: I always had visions and goals and directions that I wanted to go in. As a DJ, my main objective on the mixtape level was (to establish a reptuation, so that) when people go to the store to get my mixtapes, you didn’t necessarily have to go look at the playlist and read what was on the tape. I wanted them to be like, “Oh, that’s that new DJ Drama? Get me that.” That was my goal from early on, and by doing that, that’s just what I struck out to do. I wanted to differentiate my tapes from everything else on the market, and that was by making sure that I had exclusives, or just making my product different from everybody else. I was out to make mini-albums; that’s what I was trying to do, that was my early goal as far as creating a brand. HipHopCrack: How do you form relationships with so many big name artists from jump? DJ Drama: I’ve been in the game a long time, so thosre relationships come from years of just being around. It’s like the NBA. You come in the game as a rookie, and you might sit on the bench for a couple years and everything. You might see people like Jordan, Kobe and AI, and they’re in the league with you, but you’re not on their level; but you still meet them and play them in the game and everything. Even if you’re on the bench, you still need to shake their hand before the game. And on the same level, other artists like TI, Jeezy, even The Roots and Kweli, I came up with all those guys. I’ve seen their careers from very early on, and people see the same thing with my career. But along the road, I’ve also been able to meet people like Puff, Russell Simmons or Jay-Z that I grew up on. But now, those are my peers; I’ve scored my 30-plus, and I go to the all-star game now, so you play with the same all-stars you grew up on. Everything’s about in relationships. It comes in time, nothing is built overnight. HipHopCrack: As much as you work with bigger artists, how important is it for you to work with newer artists? DJ Drama: To me, just as important to working with artists that are superstars. As a DJ, that’s part of what I do—break artists. That’s one of the reasons I’m so well-respected in the game and in the streets. It’s not just that I have superstars hosting my mixtapes, but I’ve also been in a position to break new artists. Hip-hop is a very fresh culture, and people are always looking for something new, so it’s about having your finger on the pulse. I take pride in being able to spot what’s coming out, what’s about to be hot, what’s fresh, and what I can bring to the table, so people can be like, “Yeah, I remember hearing that on Drama’s tape.” HipHopCrack: Primarily, you work with southern artists. Is it a challenge for you to work with a Saigon or Jim Jones? DJ Drama: It’s not a challenge for me to work with anybody; if it’s hot, it’s hot. I grew up in Philly, and I spent the last 10 years of my life in Atlanta. So that tells about the type of individual I am: I grew up on East Coast hip-hop, but now I’m a mainstay in southern rap culture. So if a Saigon has hot music and a Jim Jones has hot music, it’s nothing for me to bang out. I represent hip-hop as a culture. I take pride on holding the South down, and I take pride in being part of the southern explosion. But at the same time…it’s like when people say that you’re an actor, but then you’re a black actor. Black actors are actors at the end of the day, whether they’re black or not. The music is hip-hop, so I don’t care where it comes from. HipHopCrack: How do you think that the southern mixtape scene and east coast mixtape scene are different? DJ Drama: I don’t think they’re different anymore. I think at a time, they were different, but I think the south is pretty much caught up. I don’t think that the south was on the same level as the north when it came to mixtapes, because it was primarily an east coat and up north culture for years. With the exception of people like Jelly and Screw, and it wasn’t wasn’t even a big mixtape scene with those guys, it was a different direction. Now, I don’t really tihnk there’s a difference. Hip-hop is so expanded, and after what 50 Cent did to the mixtape game and revolutionized it, I think that regardless of where it is, it’s so big, so it’s all the same. But one thing I think the South has had an advantage of for a number of years is the money aspect of mixtapes. Up north, it was like the crack game when it comes to the wholesale prices. It wasn’t making that money like the south was making, but times have changed. HipHopCrack: You’re signed to Atlantic Records. Do you find yourself having to switch hats, working with Atlantic execs one day and with street artists another? DJ Drama: Not really. I’m a very well-roudned individual, and I just do me. They signed me because they respect my grind as DJ Drama, so I don’t try to be anything that I’m not. DJ Drama’s a hustler, he’s a DJ, a businessman. I wear all those hats gracefully. HipHopCrack: Over the past few years, major labels have really utilized mixtapes a lot. These days, you can find a mixtape in Best Buy; that’s not something you’d always see. What do you think of that, and what affect do you think that’s having on the mixtape scene? DJ Drama: It’s grand! It was only right that the mixtape DJs get their due and major labels start realizing the power. It’s not surprising to me, it’s just like everything with hip-hop in the last 25 years. It just keeps growing and growing, so nothing really surprises me. HipHopCrack: Well as far as the growing goes, people say that hip-hop has been wattered down with all of its growth. Do you think that the mixtape scene has suffered the same fate due to its exposure? DJ Drama: Mixtapes are already watered down. Mixtapes are a dime a dozen, everyone thinks they can do it. I’m just always one to discard what I don’t like, and I applaud what I do like. I don’t think that there’s that much of an extreme of major labels and mixtapes that it’s come to a watered down point. I think the mixtape game in itself, and people not being authentic DJs making mixtapes waters that down more than anything. HipHopCrack: Elaborate on that a little bit. DJ Drama: People think just because you can get on the Internet and get some songs and get a cover made and put it together, that it’s a mixtape and you’re a DJ, and that’s not the case. I thank God that I was raised on the mixtapes and DJs that I was raised on. I come from the era of S&S, Ron G, Doo Wop, Clue…people have said that Clue changed the game for the worst, but he had his own lane, and that’s why he is who he is today—he rode his lane and he followed his niche. I don’t think there’s enough DJs that respect the culture or take a pride and passion in the art of the mixtape. That goes in from the packaging level, to the quality of the CD, the skill on the CD, the mic game, the exclusiveness. I don’t put mixtapes out just cuz; I have a purpose out there. There’s an elite group of others out there doing what I do, and there are some new jacks coming up as always. I still think there’s some good in it, but just like everything else in hip-hop—just like everyone thinks they’re a rapper, or everyone thinks they can make their own label, everyone wants a mixtape. HipHopCrack: You had a blog with xxlmag.com for a while. How did that happen in the first place, and why aren’t you there anymore? DJ Drama: It happened because my man Brendan (Brendan Frederick, online editor) over at XXL, when they revamped the site, he came to me and was like, “I want to give you this outlet to get out there and be a blogger, and write what you want to write.” I’m glad I did it, because I wasn’t aware of the internet hip-hop culture, as far as the bloggers or the chat rooms and all that stuff. Because I started doing that, I got put up on it, as far as the forums and all that stuff. It’s a whole ‘nother culture that I got to see. There’s a lot of geeks on there, there’s a lot of nerds, there’s a lot of haters. But at the same time, they’re real fans of hip-hop, so it’s interesting to read what they talk about. I put up my comments every time I got the chance. I don’t do it anymore because I really wasn’t that consistent with it, and I think they wanted someone at XXL to be more consistent. I had my hands full in a lot of different areas; I wasn’t the greatest blogger, to be honest.
By William E. Ketchum III A classic quote from American author, advertising executive, and politician Bruce Barton, reads, “When you are through changing, you are through.” So why has rap hated on Black Sheep? A part of hip-hop’s storied Native Tongue collective, the duo’s 1991 debut album, A Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing, garnered both critical acclaim and legend in rap circles with its playful wit and satire serving as a lighter, equally effective alternative to the angry political rap of its time. With their disc going gold (when gold really meant something in rap) and the Native Tongues going strong, Dres and Mr. Lawnge had quite the future ahead of them. But then, the NY-born, North Carolina migrant MCs changed. Their sophomore album, Non-Fiction, turned off fans with a tone that was notably more serious and less whimsical than their debut from three years earlier, and their Mercury recording home folded, and Lawnge left the group to pursue a solo career. Dres has kept busy with a solo project and cameos elsewhere, but the new 8VM/Novakane shows Dres coming back like Jordan wearing the 4-5, reigniting the amusing, soulful Black Sheep fire while maintaining the meditative ripeness of their second effort. In an interview with HipHopCrack, Dres reflects on where he’s been and focuses on where he’s going. HipHopCrack: So what have you been up to between then and the time the last Sheep album had came out? Dres: Various things, to be honest.I had bought a crib down in Carolina for a few years, I was down in Charlotte, and it gave me opportunity to be closer to my family and just some other things. I stayed kind of busy in the music, I did a solo project that I sold myself online, five or six years ago. I did some stuff with other cats Handsome boy modeling school, some acting in a movie called “Once In The Life” with Laurence Fishburn.I mean just little things, nothing where I was in the public eye. But at the end of the day, I kept busy and just tried to be happy. It’s kind of like if people don’t see you, they feel like you’re not doing nothing. But it’s just life; everybody lives once, and I’m enjoying mine. HipHopCrack: There’s a bit of confusion on my part—I thought you and Mr. Lawnge had broken up as a group, but he’s still on the album… Dres: He actually makes an appearance on a couple of hooks but he decided to pursuit a solo career, so Lawnge is pursuing his own thing. I wish him the best, and at the end of the day that’s what it is, dude decided he wanted to pursuit a solo career toward the end of this project, and he went for it. You’ll hear him on a couple of hooks on the album, though. But a pro to it is that I get a chance to bring Sammy B, the DJ of the Jungle Brothers, I bring him on the road with me now. But at the end of the day, Lawnge just had ambitions to do his own thing, so I wish him the best with it. HipHopCrack: So what is like with touring with Sammy B now as oppose to Lawnge? Dres: I think its kind of cool, me and Sammy B are cut from the same cloth. We both have grown man perspectives on a lot of things, and we get along really well. It’s cool. There are certain situations that he was privy too and I wasn’t and vice versa, so we kind get to see things from each other’s perspective. HipHopCrack: You are from New York but you actually grew up in North Carolina. How do each of those locations affect your music? Dres: I think more than geographical would probably be our parents. Like you kind of grow up listening to your parents’ music. So at the end of the day I mean, I think just me having lived in New York and Carolina it kind of open me up to the diversity of music. When I was in Carolina, I would probably been more serious about hip hop than if I was in New York. I felt like in New York, you kind of take it for granted because you grow up around it, and you see that cats that do it, if you don’t do it yourself. In North Carolina you study a record. You knew where LL took his breaths; you studied a record, because that was basically all you had. So it kind of made us more deft at the art hip hop in my opinion, because that’s what we were in to. And us being from New York, we were very much into the purest form of what we knew hip hop could be—and that was straight coming from the hood. It was just a New York thing, totally. I come from a place and I have friends, and all of us could DJ. All of us could rhyme. We were all into hip hop and I remember tagging up a board, a wall in North Carolina. It was probably a horrible tag [laughs], but it was just where I was from. I was just like, “Damn, it is just so clean out here. A kid would just love to be able to tag some stuff down here.” And I wrote my name real big with about eight different spray cans, and it was because that’s who I was a hip hop enthusiast. That wasn’t even necessarily who I was, I wasn’t running around tagging shit. That was probably the only time I tagged something in my life. HipHopCrack: As a side note, what you think of Little Brother? There from North Carolina, too. Dres: I got so much love for Little Brother, that’s my word. I think they are dope. I feel like they are younger cousins or siblings of ours, I feel like they were the young kids at the cookout my people was throwing who was studying what was going on. We kind of share some of the same terrain. And at the end of the day, I’m proud of who they are, I see how dope they are. I see them to be artists; alot of cats I don’t see to be artists. Regardless of what their records sold, regardless of who’s playing their video, regardless of anything, as a person, I see who they are and I dig them. I like 9th wonder a lot, (I like) his energy and I think he’s a dope producer, and I think them kids got something to say. Granted, when I say kids, we all evolve—fifteen years ago, I was a kid too. I like where they are, and I hope to do some stuff with them in the future. HipHopCrack: It’s been a decade since the previous Black Sheep albums, and it’s been a minute since your solo album, too. What are some things you do now or some topics that you looked at on the new album that you can remember thinking about completely differently during the time span of your previous albums? Dres: That’s a good question. I’ll say maybe something like a “Be Careful,” where I just hadn’t had those experiences yet, to be able to know…I think we’re all cautious as people of who we are around, but it’s only after you know certain shit in life that you know why you trying to be careful. Then a record like “Novakane,”where I’m talking about we’ve got to start choosing better options for what we do. Everybody likes nice shit, but at the end of the day. I’ve grown to a person who rather spends $50,000 on a day care center than $50,000 on a bracelet. To me, it just means more. And that’s how you shine, by taking care of yourself and by taking care of people around you, and helping each other. If you’re the catalyst of a cat being able to take his daughter to day care and go to work, or the woman being able to take her son to day care to go to work and provide for this child, you’re embracing a way that a bracelet would never to begin to have you endeared. That’s where I’m headed. Not saying I’m going to do that, I feel like it’s important to put that kind of energy in the air. It’s important for cats to know that those are options. I ain’t saying you got to do it, but I am saying you should know that a situation like that exists when you walk into a store to do some of shit that you walk into the store to do. Like, “Damn, what really make sense?” I’ve bought elaborate shit that I’ve lost; you can’t lose a day care, you cant lose a laundromat. It’s certain little shit we can start doing as a community to shine as oppose to shining for self. And at the end of the day, I like nice shit still. You’re going to see me and I look nice, and if you choose to price what I’m wearing, that’s on you. I’m not really the cat that’sgone make a record about it. I don’t really make a record about my attire and or my car. That’s shit that people who have nothing to talk about do, in my opinion. Whenever I’m in a conversation when someone is constantly talking about what they own or what they aspire to own, they’re not really saying shit. Those are people who don’t have nothing to say. HipHopCrack: Why do you think your second album wasn’t received as well as your first? Dres: For various reasons. I think the most important one was that the label we were on wound up folding. From us, to Vanessa Williams, to Tony Tone Toni, everybody wound up not having a label. If a label is about to fold, it means there is a going down process. It never really got the opportunity I felt like the first got. For the first album we shot four videos, there was so much more done to create (a buzz). At a certain level cats kind of expected A Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing Part 2, and that’s really what that record is. I think it’s a dope record in my personal opinion, but I think every artist thinks their shit is dope, so I’m not going to get caught up in that. But I’ve been approached by people that feel the same way, and then I’ve been approached by people who feel the opposite. So at the end of the day, I’m good with it. I feel like I achieve what I was trying to do; rather or not it does it for you, it’s your prerogative. But it was just who we were at that point; it was real, and it came from a real place. So I have no problem with what happened. I mean, yeah you wish your label had been a little bit stronger or whatever, but at the end of the day, that might’ve have been a blessing. I’ve been to a show where the bill was us, Biggie and Pac, so I really understand that I don’t have to be here. Even taking a step back from the industry, it gave me a perspective I honestly don’t think I would have had otherwise. I think I was just as caught up in a lot of shit as a lot of people, and it was only when I removed myself from it that I kind of found myself a little bit. And I’m good with it. I don’t live for other peoples’ expectations of me. I’m real good with my life, and I enjoy it. I have aspirations. I wake up to try to do what I’m doing right now, and I feel good about what I’m trying to do. HipHopCrack: I was asking that because it seems like this new project is really a happy medium between the both of those albums. Dres: That’s true. I don’t think it’s something I consciously try to do, but I agree with you. That’s very true. HipHopCrack: What was your main objective with the new album? Dres: Honestly I wanted to make an album that each song could stand on the merit of itself. I wanted to make an album where the song that came on didn’t sound like the song that preceded it or the song that would come after. I wanted to make a record where it was just soulful, and a easy listen. Like I didn’t want to do something other than make some hot shit. Real simple—regardless of who produced it or what was going on, I wanted to do something soulful and reflective of who I was as a MC or what I was trying to convey. HipHopCrack: Who do you look at as your audience these days? Your initial audience or some new listeners? Dres: I think this is definitely something for cats that know of us and like us as a group. I think they will be very happy with the album, and I also feel like it’s a great introduction for cats that might be too young or not know who we are, or might not have even been into hip-hop at that point. I come from a place when I feel like we were one of the groups that introduced hip-hop to the masses. In the hood it was always there, but as far as suburban wise, I feel like were one of the groups that introduced. There was lot of more introduction after we left, so there might be people who are really kind of new to hip-hop, and I feel like this is a great album for them to really get a gist of what hip hop isEverybody is quick to say what is not hip hop or what we hearing now is not hip hop. Well if you look for some hip hop, I think I’ve got a dose of it for you, so that you can understand what cats talk about when they say why (current rap) is not hip hop. I feel like this album is for anybody with a sense of self, and that kind of goes against age. Sometimes you can be a young cat and have a good sense of who you are as a person. And everybody with a good sense of self its kind going to listen to this record. I don’t feel like it is for everyone. At the end of the day, ignorance is bliss, and there’s a lot of bliss in the world. Not to say that those cats can’t get something from it, because I hope that they do, but its not really my job to make sure that they do. I’m really looking for the cat who knows who they are, and wants to carry a torch that lights the way to somewhere. HipHopCrack: Something that stood out with your music, especially your first album, is that your music really made it sound like you were having the time of your life while you were recording. Was this new album just as fun? Dres: Yeah, I’ll say so. This is me as a grown man. That’s a big difference. That’s not going to be as whimsical, don’t get it twisted. Certain aspects of who we were are always who we’re going to be, so I think that comes across as well. But there’s a lot of growth that people will see between the two albums, as far as delivery, enunciation and everything. It’s like a basketball player; he could be really dope in his rookie year, but he’s not really quite the player he’s going to be as a seasoned veteran. Even if his physical prowess isn’t the same, he’s just that much more learned, and has that much more of an understanding of the concept of the game. BlackSheep
By Quibian Salazar-Moreno The events that inspired movies like Scarface, television shows like Miami Vice and video games like Grand Theft Auto: Vice City are a lot more violent, a lot smarter, and definitely wealthier. In the new documentary, Cocaine Cowboys, the cocaine drug trade in Miami during the 1970’s and 80’s is explored through stories of the people who smuggled the drugs, moved the coke on the streets, and protected their turf by taking out the competition – permanently. The film gives you an inside look at the life of drug smuggler Mickey Munday as he imported tons of cocaine from Columbia to Florida, the smarts of John Roberts to took the blow from the plane and passed it onto the retailers who distributed the drugs into the streets. It tells the stories of Jorge ‘Rivi’ Ayala, a hit man who worked for Griselda Blanco, a female drug kingpin who makes Don Corleone look like a street level thug. Told through the experiences of police officers, journalists, television reporters and coroners, Cocaine Cowboys reveals how the drug trade made Miami one of the best economies in the nation, but also the murder capital of the United States. Opening in limited release this week, HipHopCrack.com caught up with Cocaine Cowboys’ director, Billy Corben, 28, to talk about the documentary, the research involved and the latest on what the former cowboys are doing and the current atmosphere in Miami. Cocaine Cowboy Trailer Why did you want to make this documentary? First and foremost we are Miami boys, born and bred and current residents. So this is a part of our history. It had been told pretty effectively in a dramatic context in Scarface and in Miami Vice. The funny thing about those projects, everybody thinks they were over the top; they were so outrageous and so violent and so flamboyant with all the money and the murder but when you watch Cocaine Cowboys, you see the reality and realize that they were actually toned down. The reality was so brutal and so absurd that I guess [Miami Vice and Scarface creators] said who’s going to believe that? But Scarface is 100 percent accurate and if anything, it’s toned down from what the reality Miami was. We wanted to get the true story out there. Growing up in this era, of course we were too young to cognizant of the fact that we were the murder capital of the country, but I remember the affluence and everybody doing really well. I grew up in a middle class community with modest houses but a neighbor would have a Porsche in the driveway or a Mercedes or something like that. And these weren’t people in the drug trade but they were certainly benefiting from it. We all did. If you were a car salesman, or worked on the retail level or if you owned a little restaurant or something, you had people coming in and handing you cash, lots of cash for lots of stuff. It’s all in the movie. So at 28, you really didn’t experience that much of the drug trade, but just kind of watched at what happened around you? I just remember being young and sitting in the mid-80’s and my mother cooking dinner and watching the local news and seeing that there was a substantial crime problem in the city. I remember sitting at home on nights watching Miami Vice on television. But this is really a question of where we came from, where our skyline came from and how the city was built. It’s obviously a national and international story as well because not only are people intrigued with Miami all over the world, particularly Miami Beach and South Beach, but the story about what the federal government had to do to curb the drug trade. So what kind of research and process did you go through to make the film happen? In someway or another we had been developing this project for 12 years. We started our company, Rakontur, when we were sophomores in high school, and this is something that we always wanted to do and always wanted to explore. Alfred Spellman, my producing partner, he read all the books on the era and Miami that had been written and this is something that we always wanted to do. We considered doing it as a dramatic feature based on the real stories but after Raw Deal: A Question of Consent, our first film made a splash at Sundance in 2001, we became like the Miami documentary boys, so we said we’d do it as a non-fiction. At that point that’s when we decided to research hardcore and that was in 2002 and 2003. Then it all comes down to the access; like who you’re going to get, who are you going to talk to face to face. You can always find a lawyer or a reporter or a cop to talk to, we wanted to talk to those people too because there is a lot of interesting characters in that aspect but most importantly we wanted to talk to the cocaine cowboys. That’s where it began; John Roberts is the first guy we got in touch with. One of the first books we read was The Man Who Made It Snow by Max Mermelstein, who ratted everybody out and has been testifying against the Medellin Cartel for 20 years, and that’s where we learned about John Roberts. From John we got Mickey Munday and we had the business covered. There are three facets to this story of the cocaine trade, there’s the cocaine business, there’s the money and then there’s the murder. So we wanted to get all three represented. We also wanted to talk to the guy who was behind the trigger of a Mac-11 spraying the streets of Miami so we got Jorge ‘Rivi’ Ayala. We got Rivi because he was in a very unique position to talk about all of his murders because of the deal that he cut with the state attorney. He has an encyclopedic memory of all these murders. He knows names, he knows dates, he knows wardrobe what everybody was wearing, he remembers what was said, and he remembers what songs were on the radio when he was on his way to a hit and he gave it all to us. We shot 160 hours of footage with just the three cocaine cowboys so it’s going to be a hell of a DVD. Griselda Blanco was released from prison and deported back to Columbia a couple of years ago, what have you heard about her lately? We know she’s seen the movie, we don’t know how or where. We know she was down in Columbia and was interested in going to Europe but I don’t know what country would take her. The woman is a multi-millionaire; she doesn’t have to work another day in her life. But she clearly has a lot of enemies out there and is trying to lie low. Some of our law enforcement connections have said that they would not be surprised if she was back in the United States. This is a woman who started her career not only as a prostitute but a document forger, doing passports and visas, that was her early career. Back in the day she would just walk back and forth between the U.S. and Mexico. This woman is credited by all law enforcement with not only starting the Miami cocaine wars but also being responsible for the homicide rate that made Miami the murder capital of the country. You can literally track the homicide increase in Miami with the arrival and the departure of Griselda Blanco. The success of her business down here, at its peak, she was killing left and right on the street. Do Roberts and Munday still have cash from their days as drug runners? I don’t know, but I’ll tell you they’re not living large right now. They live very modestly, they live very quietly. Even if I had some of that money, I’d live quietly anyway, so I don’t know. I know Mickey’s got a job; he has a regular day job in the boat business. And I don’t know what John is doing these days. What are your thoughts on how this era of Miami has inspired movies, videos games and hip-hop? When we finally got access and decided to greenlight this project, this was right in the middle of the Scarface re-release and after the massive success of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. The Miami Vice movie had just been announced, we expected the Scarface and Miami Vice video game to come out. Now in 2006, you have The Godfather video game, we got the Miami Vice movie and video game, we got the Scarface movie super platinum re-release and video game and you got the Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories (on PSP). And now you have Cocaine Cowboys. We were very aware of that angle. The movie premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York and sometime after it started arriving on the streets of Miami. Then a couple of months ago its at the flea market, my friend walks into an inner city barber shop and it’s playing on two screens on both sides of the barber shop. Then we start hearing from the hip-hop guys. Trick Daddy wants to do something for the soundtrack and we hear from Pitbull who’s seen it over 10 times, we heard from Noreaga, Cool & Dre, Smitty, DJ Khaled, Prince Markie Dee who’s down at 103.5 in Miami. So everybody was talking about it and giving it to each other. So we realized that this community has embraced our movie so we should embrace the audience. What do you make of the recent killing of that family in Florida? Source What’s the climate in Miami now? Yeah that family of four on the turnpike and right off the bat it was a drug angle, amazing. That was such an insanely public display, nowadays everything is low key. You can’t flaunt anymore. Drugs are cyclical man. Cocaine was a disco drug, a 70’s and 80’s thing. Then in the 90’s it was the club drug, ecstasy and stuff like that, but now I’m seeing blow around again. I’m seeing it in Miami, I’m seeing it in New York and I think it’s in the midst of a resurgence. And when you have a drug that expensive and making that kind of money, you get competition and you get violence. That’s the bottom line, you see ugliness.
By: Starrene Rhett D. One has something to prove. Relatively unknown, the Boston native has been grinding for years and is finally starting to make significant progress but you probably still have not heard of him. His song, “Patriots II,” featuring Canibus has been creating a buzz and he also scored collaborations with AZ, Royce Da 5’9,” Krumbsnatcha and more but he’s just getting started. He scored a record deal with indie label, Upscale Records since moving to L.A. on a whim last year, and is working on getting a major label deal by next year. His first project on Upscale is entitled Second Nature and hits stores worldwide next month.Sure he’s another rapper amongst millions of other rappers, but D. One wants the world to recognize and understand why he’s worth the time. Hiphopcrack.com:In a nutshell, who is D. One and why is he someone people should mess with? D. One:D. One is that young vet coming up slowly but surely out of the trenches. I been independently grinding hard for 6 years now and I finally see some light at the end of this long a- – tunnel. My music isrooted on that mid nineties era lyrical tip which is my idea of real Hip-Hop. I mean the talent / music has always been there but it’s on another level now and I made some real strong connections since I moved from Boston to LA last year. Hiphopcrack.com:Why did you move to LA as opposed to NYC, which is closer, or the South, which is supposedly poppin’ on the Hip-Hop front? Did you have any family or friends in LA to hold you down? D. One:I got tired of the snow and cold! Boston to LA seemed like the two furthest points. My girl and I moved out pretty blindly, honestly. We didn’t even really plan it or think about it too much. Hiphopcrack.comHow did you make out when you first got out there? D. One: I was focused on surviving. First, I found a studio right away and spent half the year recording and finishing up my latest project, “Second Nature” it def. took a minute for anything to pop off. Hiphopcrack.com:And when it finally did, it happened at a gas station or car wash right? Can you elaborate? D. One: Actually at a Mercedes dealership. I was valeting cars part time while interning at a music management firm in LA. Nothing happend with the music job , but at the dealership I ended up valeting the car of Manny Mijares; owner of a record label out here….I ended up getting a $10,000 advance, plus studio time, beats, promotion, etc Hiphopcrack.com: You did a song with Canibus and you’ve also worked with Royce da 5’9′ and AZ. How did you hook up with them to do music? Who else have you worked with and what collabos are planned for the future? D. One:Each one came about at different times in different ways. I hooked up with AZ in Boston last summer right before I left when he was in town for a show. He has always been my favorite rapper so that was a real honor being in the studio with him. It’s crazy getting on tracks with dudes I grew up listening to. I try to collabs with legends not just whoever is buzzing at the moment. The Canibus track is something we are adding to Second Nature before its national re-release this year. Canibus is a genius. He was schooling me on the evils of this business and all that, and once again it was an honor [working with him] and we did that “Patriots II” joint and brought those lyrics back to the people. The track was released for download on all of his fan sites and really took off last month. Hiphopcrack.com:Who are some of your other influences? D. One:Jay-Z, Big Pun, Lost Boyz, Biggie, Pac,Pearl Jam, any real music no specific genre and obviously AZ, Canibus and Royce Da 5’9”. Hiphopcrack.com:Let’s jump into your album. Second Nature is out next month, what does the album represent for youand what do you want people to get from it? D. One:This project has taken on a life of its own. I mean originally, it wasn’t really an album or a mixtape it was a collection of tracks from the 2005-2006 year, collabs and freestyles. Now, we are adding some more solo tracks from my 2004 project Dvisione to it and replacing some others.I want people to get what they get from it and give it an honest listen. I know they will feel it. My only major set back so far has been exposure. Hiphopcrack.com:What type of exposure are you getting now and how could it be better? D. One:When I first signed with Upscale Records we were planning on getting the album distributed right away, but then some bigger meetings came up. We are now working with Qadree El – Amin (Boyz II Men, Blackstreet, Michael Jackson), taking him on as a second manager, and if everything goes well I hope to have the album in stores before Thanksgiving, that will be distributed through Sony Red. Also, a major label deal by the end of my Upscale contract next summer. Hiphopcrack.com:What does your album sound like in terms of production? Who are some of the producers on there? D. One:the production is real tight in my opinion. There’s some samples, some raw beats; young cats like Decap out of Boston and DJ Broc ( Mobb Deep, AZ, Chino XL, Game) out of NY and Upscale on the Canibus joint. I also executive produced it, coming up with sample ideas, song arrangement, drops, etc. Hiphopcrack.com:Are you currently touring or have any coming up? D. One:A tour is in the works. It’s still up in the air. There have been talks about the Microsoft tour but nothing is definite. Hiphopcrack.com:Where can people find your album once it drops and are you on any mixtapes? Hiphopcrack.com:Everywhere! as far as mixtapes i couldnt tell you which ones I am constantly sending djs tracks to use for their tapes…..as far as major ones that stick in my mind my track with AZ "What We Do" was featured on an Echo mixtape last year after they heard it on hiphopgame.com Hiphopcrack.com:Now is your chance to freestyle, is there anything you wan to add? D. One:Thanks for the interview. My official sitesare D. One and D1music. Second Nature is coming worldwide next month. Peace!
ByQuibian Salazar-Moreno Mr. J, Res and Stro the 89th Key are not your average hip-hop group. When asked about any crazy stories from their world tours as The Procussions, the best they can come up with is Res tripping on a curb in Europe and twisting his ankle while his luggage fell around him. That’s not your average hip-hop tour story. “We don’t really do the groupie thing, or mess with the drugs or get all drunk,” Mr. J explained. “We hang out, read books; we’re some pretty straight edge guys.” These straight edge guys met while living in Colorado Springs, Colorado. As part of rival hip-hop and b-boy groups the trio used to see each other around different shows, battles and other events in the Springs and Denver area. They finally came together in the late 90’s to form the Procussions, which started off as a larger crew and then was pared down to three. They opened for everyone from Tha Alkaholiks and The Pharcyde all around Colorado. But because of the lack of support for local hip-hop in Denver and Colorado, The Procussions made the move to Los Angeles in 2001 and subsequently released their debut, As Iron Sharpens Iron, on their own label, Basementalism Records. The album harked back to the Golden Age of hip-hop and the early 90’s sound with horn loops, bluesy basslines, and boom bap beats. Lyrically the group covers everything from their love of hip-hop to one’s spiritual identity. With their latest album, 5 Sparrows for 2 Cents, on Rawkus Records, the crew sticks with their signature sound but also brings in other influences from reggae, rock, and funk. Stro the 89th Key, a trained musician, produced most of the album and is on his way to the upper echelon of hip-hop’s top beatsmiths. The fellas are slick on the mic as well, bringing more meaning and purpose to their words instead of your run of the mill braggadocio type of rhymes. From the way we’re raising our children in “Little People”, to dealing with daily hardships in “The Storm” to the story of a lost soul on “American Fado,” The Procussions give the listener something to think about. But don’t get it twisted; the group can get the party started too with high energy cuts like “Fight Here”, “Shabach” and “Anybody”. This is an album you definitely don’t want to miss. We caught up with Mr. J and Res (Stro was absent due to a family issue) and spoke about the new album, their situation with Rawkus Records and how their beliefs shape their life, music and careers. The name 5 Sparrows for 2 Cents, how did you come with that name for the album? Mr. J: We came up with the name of the album before we even did a song, and we set it as a standard. It was our staple and our standard to remember what was important. Five sparrows can be sold for two cents, yet not on of them falls without God knowing about it. It’s kind of like reminding ourselves of the importance and detail when it comes to purpose, focusing on everything that matters and how God sees everything that’s going on in your life. It was important for us for the album to focus on the important things in life, the importance of people and the human spirit and how sacred it is. It’s not just sparrows, it’s just not an item to be sold, it’s not ‘wow, we’re on Rawkus’, or cool and hip it’s really about really focusing on people and the little things that make us human and the little things that aren’t seen. The video for ‘The Storm’ is real fresh, how did you come up with the concept? Res: It was our man Hilton Carter that came up with it. Hilton went on tour with us and was a tour manager. The interesting thing is, he’s a film student, and he went on tour with us was to get new experiences. A film director is sort of like an emcee in a sense; they’re writing people’s stories and their personal experiences. So he went on tour with us just to witness some experiences. So during the tour, we saw some of his reels and they were completely amazing, this guy is super-talented. So we told him that we got to work together. So time moves on and we wanted to get community involved with this album and The Procussions. So the video is actually mostly funded by people who were just down for The Procussions and really wanted to support what we were doing. Hilton came in and said, you know what, I have a treatment, and he brought us the treatment. So the video is basically us building something, there’s this crazy storm going on, causing all this havoc and mayhem, and we’re down in the basement trying to do something; trying to stand up, trying to make a difference, trying to be that difference that we want to see. So we’re trying to build this thing to stop this storm. So we take it up to the roof switch it on, it starts working, then all of the sudden it completely fails. The most important thing about it is, we see the failure and we go back downstairs and start again, just like in life. You build up something, you have so much passion for it, but when things don’t work out like you wanted it to, you have to start over again. So basically that’s the concept of the video. You’re always going to be in trouble, you’re always going to be in a fight but you got to keep on going. How did you guys get your deal with Rawkus? Mr. J: When we put out As Iron Sharpens Iron there was kind of small industry buzz here and there because we were on our own label and we were from Colorado and we had some how locked some international distribution, we did shows in Japan, we did a lot of things that a lot of groups weren’t able to do on their own. So there was an industry buzz that was around. We already had 5 Sparrows completely done, we had the video done, and everything was done. Some people had our album here and there and some other groups we were working with and it finally got around to Rawkus. Brian and Jarret (Rawkus owners) had called us and wanted to meet with us. They really took a lot more steps than any other label was willing to take to lock an artist down. Other labels sent interns or the man in front of the man in front of the man, who’s never heard the album or any of the songs but kind of wants to keep you around. We had some major label interest and some independent label interest and we had some indie labels that are great in the scene right now but didn’t want to put our album out for another two or three years. You know when you meet somebody you know when you feel like you’re connecting? A lot of these business relationships, we need to be able to connect because our music is important for us, you know, this is our careers. So we couldn’t connect with a lot of people. Brian and Jarret understood where we were coming from, they heard all the songs, we had a big talk, we hashed it all out. We have creative control, we’re helping market the album and it’s more than just a group that Rawkus is getting, they’re also getting a marketing team. They can hire it out, they got the money to do that stuff, but they’re allowing us to control the element and image we want to put out. We just locked that down and been moving ever since. We don’t want to make everything about Rawkus, we want to make sure our career is our career. It doesn’t matter if we’re on Rawkus, or on Geffen or on Basementalism, we’re going to put the album out and push The Procussions as hard as we can. There is backlash towards Rawkus, everybody has their opinion and even magazines have their own angle to create drama but at the end of the day, no one is talking about music, but they’re talking about absolutely everything else. What’s important about to us is the group, forgetting about drama, we don’t even put that into account. We’re just like who’s going to put out the record, who believes in it, and we’ll just go from there. But was Rawkus’ history in the music biz even a concern to you at all? Mr. J: Yeah, it was a concern to us in a way where we wanted to know like, “Hey, how do you handle your business?” But if you look at the large scale of things, honestly, all labels are nasty. All labels, one way or another, are going to want to make money off of you. That’s good; I want a label that wants to make money because they need to have an interest in it. It’s too much to ask someone to do something for you purely and to share your vision 100 percent. It’s way too much to ask, people got lives, they got kids to feed, they got other things and if their only influence is to get money, then that’s fine, as long as they keep their hands out of music. So we heard some of it, and we talked to artists too and heard what they had to say and when it came down to it, it came down to contracts, actual words that were being said and the fact that we have a really good lawyer on our hands. So we hashed all that stuff out at the very beginning and we take gamble with any label, and we felt that Rawkus was our best gamble. You guys are pretty open about your Christian beliefs but don’t really force it on anyone. How has your faith helped you in your careers? Mr. J: The idea that there is a reason to it, that there’s a purpose. It’s very important to know what you want out of music, it gives me a standard and it gives me an understanding of who I believe people to be, which is creations of God. We need to encourage each other to reach this place that we’re trying to reach which is whatever people say it is, heaven or a place without pain, and worrying and anxiety and all these things we experience before we even get the experience ourselves, all these external things that keep us from our potential as a person. And if you’re not reaching your potential as a person, you’re not reaching you’re potential as a family, as a community or even greater as a world. It’s so personal and up to every single individual, every individual matters. You got one person who can create a war; you got individuals whose personal beliefs can dictate how the world works. You got George W. Bush who can do what he wants to do, you got Che Guevera who can do what he wanted to do and Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr., you know you got good and bad. So it’s very important to be rooted in some core value of what we believe. And in my faith that’s what I’ve been able to come up with and be able to understand. And I feel blessed that I know what I believe, people need. It’s important, the sacredness of the human spirit, to honor that and keep that and the idea and concept of agape love. It’s unfortunate that because so much is going on with Christianity, the religion of it, and what George W. Bush is doing with it and it’s like how much are we going to talk about this element outside of its core? We’re never talking about the core issue. We can talk about George W. Bush and we can talk about Pro-Lifers and people burning down abortion clinics for days and we will never get to the core value that really has nothing to do with other people’s interpretation of it like the external things. So what we do with our faith and our music is we try to get down to the core values and give people the opportunity to see them and try to understand them for themselves. Agape is what I think it comes down to, the idea of agape love, not a romantic love, not even a friendship love, something greater than that, something that goes beyond, where you love your enemies. Not because they’ve done something special for you, or because you feel bad for them, but because they’re important and God loves them. The reason that God loves them is because they’re his creation and we’re supposed to have that respect and that same love. Also take a responsibility. A lot of Christians tell me I have a special responsibility because I’m in the limelight, and I think that’s baloney. And I’ll tell you why, everybody is in the limelight. There could be a kid who is his father’s biggest fan; his father is in the limelight. Everybody has that responsibility, whether I’m on stage or off stage, to present not myself but an idea that’s greater than me. So I will come across as a hypocrite sometimes because I’m talking about perfection here, I’m talking about ultimate love, unconditional love; you know things that I’m not able to fully attain. But it’s something I want to talk about, something I want to get out in the air.
iHipHop Blog Team