By: Nova Slim Ron Artest dropped a rap album this year. That’s right. The same dude that brought it to the fans in the stands back in ’04 in the “Detroit Melee” has something to say. With My World, and his TruWarier imprint, Ron Artest has a big challenge on his hands. Not only does he now have to balance careers as a baller and a label boss, he has to emerge from the preconceived notions the general public has about athletes that rap. (Deion Sanders, anyone?) Did you purposely decide to drop the album just as the season was starting? ARTEST: No, as a matter of fact, dropping the album while the season was just startinghas beendifficult, because I have commitments to the Kings with games and practices and everything, and then I have to do everything I need to do to promote the album. So it’s definitely a challenge juggling everything right now. I’m grateful that I have the support of my coach and my team. There’s a stigma associated with athletes entering hip-hop. What separates your approach to music from people like Shaq, Kobe or A.I.? ARTEST: I’m not really worried about the stigma. People know me as a basketball player, not as a music artist, so I know I’m going to have to work hard and prove myself as any other up-and-coming artist has to. As for Shaq, his album went platinum so no one can hate on that. The music industry is pretty cut-throat right now and it’s hard for established stars to sell music these days. Did you have any fears going into this aside from the fact that you’re an athlete? ARTEST: Yeah, the music industry is very competitive, and being an artist is a lot harder than being a ball player. I have a lot of respect for all the artists out there who have made a name for themselves, as I’ve personally discovered just how hard the music business is. At the same time, I’ve always loved music. It’s always been a passion of mine. I’m thankful that I’m in a position where I can do both– play basketball AND do music. I put 110% into both of them. How did you approach the Detroit incident when using it as material for your album? ARTEST: I have a song on my album called "Haterz" where I discuss the Detroit incident. But other than that, I don’t talk about it on the album. There are so many other things going on in the world, so many more important things. It’s crazy how people still focus on that incident, when there are so many other larger issues people should be looking at. I have some serious songs on the album, some party songs, some songs for the ladies. So really, I address a lot of different things on the album. What else will we learn about you from this album? ARTEST: I hope that people will be able to understand me more a person. I am really just a regular dude at the end of the day, human just like everyone else. I hope people check out the album and enjoy the music. Did you reach out to any of the Queens-bred rappers for blessings or for guestspots? ARTEST: Ya know, I got so much support from artists from other areas of the country – Mike Jones, Fat Joe, Diddy, Juvenile, and so many offers for help from other artists, which I am really thankful for. But I didn’t get much supportfrom the rappers in my own hood -go figure. You opened for Young Jeezy and Fat Joe. How did the crowds receive you? ARTEST: It was amazing. Young Jeezy and Fat Joe are both professionals, so it was an honor to see how they do their thing and how they got the crowds motivated. During the Fat Joe tour, we opened for a crowd of 30,000 people at one show, the crowd was jumping. It was bananas. How do you plan to balance both careers this season? ARTEST: It’s been hard but I’ve been managing it. The most important thing is to get enough rest and not stretch myself too thin. I pace myself and when I’m getting tired I take the time to rest. Otherwise, I’m just on my grind, making sure I’m playing ball to the best of my abilities, and working on promoting the album as much as possible. What are you playing on your ipod? ARTEST: Jay Z’s [In My Lifetime] Volume 1, Mobb Deep’s The Infamous, 50 Cent’s first album, Slick Rick, Eminem’s first two albums, Nas’ Illmatic, Keisha Cole and Dido.
Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category
By: William Ketchum III Respect is crucial in rap, and 8Ball has that in spades. With a career that dates back to the early 90s, Ball and his partner MJG’s storytelling skills, witty metaphors and pimpish tricks of the trade have garnered them a reputation that spreads throughout and beyond their stomping grounds of Memphis, Tenn. Adding onto the individual legacy he’s created with several solo albums, his new disc, Light Up The Bomb, is a highlight for the artists on his label 8 Wayz Entertainment. In an interview with HipHopCrack, 8Ball puts his career into perspective, gives his take on southern hip-hop, and speaks on future projects. HipHopCrack: Your album in 2001 was called Almost Famous. What do you think it’ll take to get you “famous” on a national, mainstream level? 8Ball: Well, like I’ve said over and over again, when I titled that album “Almost Famous,” I didn’t mean it like I’m scratching trying to get this certain level of fame. I meant it like I’m really where I want to be. I’m almost famous, I’m at a level…that’s how I describe what I am. I’m not the stereotypical whatevers of being famous; I’m almost famous. HipHopCrack: So where do you see yourself at now? 8Ball: I think at all levels, if you have hustle in you, you always want to try to do better and try to do more. I’m with one of the greatest hip-hop duos to come out of the south, 8Ball & MJG. We’ve been around for years, and people are still buying our albums, people still love what we do. That’s a real big accomplishment in itself. Being able to do my own label, 8 Wayz Entertainment. I’m in a good place right now. A lot of people are still scratching, trying to do the things that I’ve done. But in my mind, I feel like there’s always more to do, no matter how much you’ve got, or how much you’ve done, there’s always more you can do. HipHopCrack: Well what more can you do? 8Ball: You’ve got to think: this is entertainment, and this is life. We’ve got a couple of movies coming up, and things like that. In the entertainment world, we’ve got a couple of movies coming up and things like that. In the entertainment world, there’s always more to do. The industry is forever going; it’s 24-7/365, it don’t close, it don’t stop, and there’s always other people working to what you do better than how you do it and make more money than you and work harder than you at the same thing that you do. I’m always thinking that there’s always work to be done, no matter what. That’s how I look at it. No matter how much money you’ve got, no matter how much you’ve done, there’s just always more to do. You’re always learning stuff every day; as long as you live, you’re going to learn shit. The smartest muthafucka in the world learns something new every day. That’s all I mean by that. HipHopCrack: A common misconception about the south is that the south is less lyrical, and more for just driving and clubbing. Does that make you upset, being a southern artist who takes pride in what he spits? 8Ball: Every form of hip-hop comes from their world. How can you tell the next nigga, “You don’t be doin that, you don’t be clubbin’ all day, poppin ecs all day, or smokin’ all day, or fuckin’ all them bitches and drivin’ all them cars, you don’t be doin’ that shit.” How can you tell a muthafucka that shit, if you don’t be with them all the time to see if they’re doing the shit? The music is going to go where life goes, because hip-hop is reflective of life. This isn’t what the world say, this is my opinion. There’s a lot of partying that goes on around the world, and that’s what the music reflects. Not everybody can rap about the same shit or make the same kind of songs, because then we’ll take the diversity away from hip-hop if it was all the same. HipHopCrack: With that being said, what do you think of the whole “snap” movement? 8Ball: It’s party music, man. That’s undeground, Atlanta party music that went mainstream. Just another form of music. People love it. It’s just another chapter in the book. I’m not ‘finsta be one of them mad niggas. Let’s celebrate what’s going on. If the snap music is lasting longer than people anticipated, that means…it’s hip-hop music, man. I was looking at Ludacris’ shirt at the BET Hip Hop Awards in Atlanta. I love his shirt. Everybody’s talking about hip-hop’s dead, and all that bullshit. Hip-hop’s not dead; it lives in the south, like Ludacris’ shirt set. It lives all over the world, but it’s alive in the south, man, because people are doing different shit. The world is getting the same kind of music, because that’s what’s popular now, but there’s a lot of different kinds of music going on out here other than just that, but it’s getting the most attention because that’s what’s popular now. I ain’t gon be the nigga that’s gon be mad at everything because I’m not doing it, or it’s not just me. HipHopCrack: Do you think that viewpoint is a product of you being in the game as long as you have? 8Ball: I think my view comes from me being on this earth as long as I have, not just in the game. That’s just my opinion, that’ s just how I look at it. HipHopCrack: What’s it like being on Bad Boy and working under Diddy, compared to your other label situations? 8Ball: To me, it’s just another major label experience. It ain’t groundbreaking, or we ain’t changing the world. Same shit going on over here that’s going on at other major record labels; you’ve got to get in where you fit in. HipHopCrack: Well what would you say is one thing that people don’t know about him that you know after working with him? 8Ball: I think the world knows all the same shit I know about him [laughs]. We don’t work in the studio every day together hand-in-hand, with him standing over us watching everything we do. We don’t work like that. We talk when we talk, we see each other when we see each other, and it’s business. That’s my relationship with Diddy and Bad Boy; we work to gether, and that’s it. We don’t really have a big personal relatoinship; when we see each other, it’s work. It’s about some business. HipHopCrack: What’s the word with the second Bad Boy album? 8Ball: It’ll be out in February. It was lined up to come out earlier, but that’s another example of the major label bullshit. They felt like it wasn’t ready for the October release, so they released Diddy, and our album will be next in February. HipHopCrack: With the extra time, have you added a lot on or taken a last off? 8Ball: That’s just like…I don’t know, you’ve got to really wait and see on that one. I don’t want to say; I want to shock the fans. HipHopCrack: Has the Memphis rap scene been any different since Three 6 Mafia won the Oscar for Hustle & Flow, with more labels coming there to find the “Next big thing?” 8Ball: Yeah, but that’s what major labels are doing right now. They’re shaking trees everywhere. We’ve had our share of people coming through here looking for stuff, but that’s what they’re doing in every small town. HipHopCrack: One of the primary things that people note about the south is that you guys stick together and support each other’s music more than any other area. Where do you think that unity comes from? 8Ball: It’s just the pride of the music, the pride of the art form. People stick with what they love and what they know. It goes the same for West Coast music, East Coast music…cats just stick with what they know and what they feel. We were all we had at a certain time period in this hip-hop thing, so we relate to our music form. We can relate to it all, because it’s all music, and it’s all hip-hop. It makes your head bob, and you like what they’re saying, then you’re relating to it. You can just relate to your backyard a little better when it’s someone from your backyard. HipHopCrack: You also have a film coming out. 8Ball: We just really started on it, we’re literally right now in the writing process of the movie. The casting starts in January, the filming starts in early spring, and hopefully it’ll be out to the public by fall or something like that. We always wanted to do something like this, but it really just came about. I’m not really no actor, I’m not no in front of the camera type of dude, but we’ve been wanting to do this, so we’re just going to explore that side of it and see what it do. We’re going to be starring in the movie, it’s going to be on some Cheech and Chong or Half-Baked type shit. We’ve also got the history of Memphis DVD coming out, hosted by 8Ball & MJG, that should be out in January or February. That’s an 8 Wayz Entertainment thing, it’s just the history of Memphis rap from the beginning till now. All of the pieces of the puzzle are there, from the old school cats to Three 6 Mafia and Yo Gotti. HipHopCrack: The last few years have shown backlash toward rappers who go into acting. Did you have that in mind when thinking about this movie? 8Ball: No, because I’m not going into acting. I’m not doing this trying to be an actor, I’m just making a movie [laughs]. Me and MJG have been wanting to do this, and now we’ve got a chance to do it, so I’m just making a movie. I’m not trying to seek out a Hollywood career. This is 8Ball & MJG’s movie right here. HipHopCrack: With this new album, you give your label a lot of shine. How have you liked having your own label? 8Ball: It’s cool, man. I love music, music is my favorite love, man. This is what I want to do. It’s been a beautiful process to me, and it can only get better. It’s really about just having the chance to have someone who’s been in the game as long as I have, and been through what I have, to be your CEO. I think it’s better for them than I had it, because you have someone there who has been through what we’re going through. At the time, when I first got into the game, me and my CEO were learning shit together.
By Kevin L. Clark The year was 1996. When BET’s Rap City was still showcasing balance in Hip-Hop music, a video aired that showed a back-and-forth exchange between Q-Tip and a newcomer to the Tribe. That “newcomer” was not all that new as it was Queens, NY MC, Consequence. Those familiar with ATCQ knew – Q-Tip’s cousin appeared on The Chase, Part II off of Midnight Marauders. But now, ‘Quence has hooked up with the updated version of the Native Tongues collective by signing to Kanyé West’s – G.O.O.D. Music label. Having release a three-part mixtape series called, The Cons, ‘Quence links up with DJ Clinton Sparks for its fourth installation entitled, Finish What You Started. The mixtape has featured appearance from Mary J. Blige, Bathgate, and G.O.O.D. Music family members, GLC, and Sa-Ra — ‘Quencehas a sure-fire heatrock on the table. Consequence sits down with HipHopCrack as he talks about how even though things in Hip-Hop have changed… they still stay the same, his forever chemistry with cousin, Q-Tip, and why Hip-Hop should be taking it’s death certificate and hand it over to R&B. HHC: In 1993, you were a part of one of the rawest crews in Hip-Hop with A Tribe Called Quest. Over the years, though, the landscape of the music has changed. What do you hope to accomplish with this new mixtape? Consequence: I just want to give people a head’s up with what’s going with the album. I want to continue to gain new listeners and fans. I am definitely proud of this joint. I did it with Clinton Sparks and it is well received by a lot of people. They are saying that it’s the best one that I’ve came out with. I mean I have had a lot of them [mixtapes] come out and this one is definitely the best. It never hurts to cover all the bases… mixtapes, albums, appearing at shows – just whatever can be done to keep your name out there. HHC: Do you think that the climate or trend is ripe for actual “good” music? Consequence: Yeah, I think that people are ready for something different. Some that is relatable, new, and refreshing. I want people to say that they’ve been in the situations that I talk about in this mixtape and even so with the album. I’m not shinin’, son. I’m not all the way successful, so, the album kind of touches upon different aspect of life that should resonate with regular person. The album is supposed to drop on February 6th, 2007. HHC: I mean… Lupé Fiasco seems to be doing successful. So are your co-horts Kanyé West and Common. So with that said, do you think the mainstream public will buy into the Consequence movement? Consequence: You know what’s funny? The public buys into it because they’re different. Before, you had acts like Tag Team and others who were the minority. A Lupé would’ve been the majority during that time. He would’ve been right up there with 3rd Bass and Gangstarr. That’s the landscape of what the music is right now. They’re the small group of MCs who are staying afloat. The times have definitely changed. Those guys that you’ve mentioned are special for how they managed to survive even though the Hip-Hop scene has changed. Fifteen years ago, everybody could rap like that. Look at all those who were hot a while back and tell me where they’re at now! They are gone. Charlie Brown [from Leaders of the New School] is as nice then, as Lupé is now. I think Chip Fu [from Fu-Schnickens], at his prime, is at the level of guys who are special now. It’s just that there isn’t an abundance of emcees now. I think that it’s due to the fact that you got beat over the head with so much good music that you couldn’t take it anymore. Then the times switched. I think that’s how it is now. You’ve been banged over the head with the snap music that the people are just waiting for people to just say something clever. I think that Hip-Hop is something that evolves and revolves. HHC: In light of your new album, “Don’t Quit Your Day Job” – what can your fans and new listeners expect? Consequence: I hope that they enjoy it. The album is from top to bottom, something that I am happy about. There are a lot of records on there. There’s a lot of potential on there. It mostly features the family, GLC, Kanyé West, John Legend, and Really Doe. It’s mostly 80% me on there. I want to showcase myself as much as possible. I want people to know me as an artist and as a person. I don’t have beef with anybody else, but I find it better to have myself on the track. I love to just express myself. I think that one… you beat people to the punch and secondly, nothing sells more across the board than being genuine. People can relate to that. When you put something false on the table, you have the damnedest time trying to fill up those holes. HHC: The other thing that people have been talking about is that A Tribe Called Quest started doing shows together. Will you or have you made appearances during any of their venues? Consequence: I just finished up doing the NBA 2k7 tour with them. We could possibly get back together in the lab and do a collaborative effort. So, I hope that that will be in the works. HHC: What do you think is about the chemistry that you and Q-Tip have that makes people listen so intently? Consequence: I mean it’s because it’s natural. We’ve been doing it for a long time. We have made a lot of records together and it’s just us. When you put the two of us in a booth… it’s a wrap. I mean we’ve established a certain benchmark that most can’t aspire to. We’ve never had a wack joint. We may have an a couple of aight joints, but we’ve never done anything that’s dead wack. I can definitely say that. Even with the demo stuff. I mean… that’s how I ended up getting down with Tribe in the first place. Our chemistry is something concrete and it always works. It never fails. HHC: A lot of acts during Hip-Hop’s “golden years” are coming back onto the scene. Yourself, AZ, Tribe, De La Soul are right alongside acts like Lupé and others who are given the charge of “bringing Hip-Hop back”. Do you think that the music is in such a downward trend that critics and fans alike have been indicating? Consequence: If that is how the fans feel about it then, man, I don’t know. I feel like… how can Hip-Hop be dead when R&B can’t really come out without us? Mariah Carey is the only one who can come out without a chance. Swizz Beats did that single for Beyoncé’s album. Maybe we should start saying that R&B is dead. I mean when’s the last time you heard Whitney Houston and Janet Jackson ballad-type production? It’s not R&B anymore. That’s why Hip-Hop has opened its arms to it. You can’t get on the radio without a Hip-Hop beat, period! R&B is dead and there ain’t no hand coming out of the ground to resurrect it. It’s just sad. I mean you have Hip-Hop producers doing tracks for established acts. Look at what Timbaland has been doing for Justin Timberlake and what Preemo’s done for Christina Aguiliera. No one has a true R&B album anymore. No one has a Pleasure Principle out there. Hip-Hop accommodates the R&B style nowadays. HHC: This new mixtape is titled, “Finish What You Started”. What more do you have left to accomplish in this industry? Consequence: I have so many things you know. I’m really just getting started. I’m building from the ground up. From the underground and hopefully build this brand up till it’s allowing me to be really comfortable. I’m trying to keep my base, which is with the mixtapes. Those are what got me in XXL and The Source. Plus, it’s a good exercise if more than anything else. It allows me to continue to do it and I am glad that the fans allow me to continue to be myself.
By Will “Deshair” Foskey One of the biggest selling Hip-Hop artists in the history of the musical genre, Nelly is a very busy man these days. From his Derrty Entertainment imprint to his successful Apple Bottoms clothing line, the Mayor of St. Louis has brought having the Midas touch back into style. In the next 5 minutes, Nelly shells out the facts on what his fans can look out for over the next year. Since we don’t have much time to chat, what do you currently have going on? Nelly: I’ve been busy working on a lot of projects including Ali & Gipp’s album, Kinfolk. I also have an artist that I’m working with named Avery Storm, that you may be familiar with from the Nasty Girl remix with me, Puff & Jagged Edge. He was only white guy with cornrows in the video, so you can’t miss him. We got Murphy Lee dropping soon, and I have another album coming out. So there’s a lot going on with my label. So when will your new album be released? Nelly: Not until next year. We haven’t titled it or scheduled a date, but it might drop somewhere between the third and fourth quarter of next year. I definitely want to make sure that it’s right. Early this year at the Magic show, you’ve introduced your Children’s line as well as the new wave of the Women’s line of clothing. So now that the fashion world is starting to look towards the Spring line of clothing, what do you have in store for your consumers? Nelly: Let me first start off by giving a lot of congratulations to our designers. I don’t want to act like I’m sitting in the room with boards and shit, drawing up designs and putting things out. It did start off like that, but as a CEO, it’s about hiring the people that you can respect and know that they will do outstanding work. Our Children’s line has taken off faster than our Junior line has. We’re doing a lot of ads as far as showing fathers with their daughters. I’ve done an ad like that myself. Jermaine and his daughter will be doing an ad as well; Ali and his daughter, Gipp and his daughter. We want to show that there are fathers out there that do give a damn about their children. Talk about your foundations and charities that you’re currently working on. Nelly: Indeed, 4sho4kids and Jes Us 4 Jackie. We’re getting people signed up on the Bone Marrow/Stem Cell registry to help fight Leukemia. Leukemia has taken so many lives including my sister who has been gone for over a year now. We’re still pushing; we’ve been able to find 8 different matches which allowed for us to save 8 different lives. You can say what you want about Nelly, but Nelly has helped to save 8 different lives and I don’t know too many people who can say that. Even though we didn’t find a match for my sister, we want to let people know that this is bigger than one person and that we will continue to get the word out there to try to help save as many lives as we can.
By: Kevin Clark With the fifth pick during the 1999 NBA Draft, theToronto Raptors selected Jonathan Rene Bender. Bender, a 7-foot-tall prospect from Picayune Memorial High School, was a college prospect to play at Mississippi State. He was then traded to the Indiana Pacers for Antonio Davis. Bender’s size, athleticism, and skill complimented the Pacers style of play. This never progressed to stats, as Bender proved disappointing. At the end of his career, Bender totaled out at 1,335 points and 530 rebounds (combined offensive and defensive). Having never averaged double digits in scoring and plagued with injuries, Bender sat out most of the 2004-2005 season after playing only seven games. At the end of his playing career, Bender was waved by his team and retired on February of this year. Never one to be counted out, the 25-year-old Mississippian is building himself into a powerful brand. He sits down with HipHopCrack as he talks about his retirement, his upcoming projects, and why people nowadays don’t really respect a daily grind. HHC: You were drafted straight out of High School, although, you had a verbal commitment to Mississipi State. Why did you think that it was more beneficial for you to go to the League, instead of going to college? JB: Actually, I did the verbal commitment when I got out of High School to get the press off of my back. You have to look at things like you’re playing chess. Especially, when you’re indecisive about going to college, the press will try and pinpoint it. Then after that, they’ll make it a focus and I really didn’t want that type of attention. So, it was all a strategy that I had planned. HHC: Do you think that Mississippi is underrated as a basketball state? JB: Yes, I really think that it is. In Mississippi, there are a lot of athletic guys down there that have skills. They just don’t have anything down there that’ll put that spotlight on them. They really struggle down there because they can’t get the right showcase. Right now, I’m in the works, trying to put together a foundation so that attention can be focused on the guys down there back home who have that potential. HHC: Scouts felt that you were the perfect fit with the Raptors and the Pacers for your size, athleticism and just plain skills. Although, your career was plagued with injuries, your high school accomplishments were lauded. Do you think the transition from high school directly into the League left you somewhat unprepared? JB: I was prepared it was just that training and practicing that I was doing in High School had a long term affect on my body. I am glad that I got out of the league before anything serious could happen. The type of training that we were doing wasn’t beneficial good for me during my growth spurt. We were doing a lot of jumping drills and running on the hardwood. That meant a lot of pounding on the knees. Even outside of basketball, when we would get finished with practice, we would continue to ball on the street. So, you’ve went from an inside court to running up and down on concrete. That wears after awhile. Plus, growing up… and even still, you don’t have anyone in your early stages that is there to help you train efficiently. HHC: In the final days of your NBA career, you were waived by the Pacers in 2006 after previously being limited to seven games during the 2004-05 season. Do you think that you were “forced” into retirement by your former team? JB: Nah, I wasn’t forced at all. The team was behind me 120%. After that first year when I came back, I decided to keep my sanity and I had got myself back together. But I had the same pains. Then, I took a couple of MRIs and it showed that my knees weren’t getting any better. The doctor kept asking me what I wanted to do. At the time, I told him that I wanted to keep going. So, we kept trying but it became progressively worse. HHC: But you have yet to file retirement papers. Why? Are you still collecting checks from the team? JB: No, I didn’t sign the papers because you never know. I’m really just taking a year or two off to really try and heal up. If you sign those papers, you’re not allowed to come back. I would make a return if I’m mentally and physically prepared for it. If I can maintain on the court then I’ll continue to try. HHC: Having moved on from professional basketball, you’ve dabbled into real estate and entertainment. What should we expect from you with “Retired at 25”…? JB: The show is basically just about me; it is about me and my life. I was always into music before I played ball. I have a label called Akright Records. A lot of athletes get stereotyped because they have some sort of boutique label. They try to say that they don’t know what they’re doing. But “Retired at 25” is just to show that I have a deep passion for all of the things that I do. I work really hard, despite what others may think of athletes. My daily grind is serious – from boxing to the real estate company to my recording label, I oversee everything that goes on. HHC: You also have a Hip-Hop cooking show? Obviously, Hip-Hop is the selling point, but what else should viewers be looking forward to with this show? JB: The cooking show is more original and looser. The chefs dance and really have a great charisma on screen. Personally, it’s on some New Orleans type stuff. We have a lot of Deep South recipes. On the show, we try to switch it up as much as possible. For instance, we’d fry some oyster and mix it in with greens and pepper it with some spices. These guys have a lot of imagination and they use it to the benefit of the show. We’re finishing up the pilot and we’re getting ready to shop it around to networks. HHC: It seems that Hip-Hop and the NBA have a love-hate thing going on, yet, the players seem to all cool within the culture. You, yourself, have a recording label called Akright Records. Do you see this as a successful venture even after failed attempts by Allen Iverson and Kobe Bryant as rappers and even Shaquille O’Neal as a label head? JB: Nah, I don’t like people who just take it as a hobby. I work hard everyday with everything that I do. My daily schedule starts off by me going to the gym. Then from there to the studio; I have credibility with all that I do. It is hard to pick out the real from the fake because there are people out there who have a like for what they do and then there are those who have the love. I’m not one of those lackluster homeboys. I’m into this for the gusto. I have the love for this. I get up at around 7 or 8 in the morning, eat breakfast, I stop to talk with my boxers – we’re putting an album together, so we’re getting the credit sheet together. I stay in the office to work on getting sample clearances with the lawyers. After that, I go to work out. I go to [producer] KLC’s studio in Baton Rouge. At the end of the day, I come home. Even there, I still check on the real estate. I figure out what states I have to be in to shoot for the shows and try to finish up with the pilot for the shows. HHC: For you record label, you’ve concentrated your attention on your hometown and Louisiana, why? What is it about these rappers that you feel they have what it takes to be put out in the national spotlight? JB: I focused on home because that’s where I’m from. Plus, I believe that there is untapped talent that doesn’t get the attention that it deserves. I think that all of the artists signed to Akright bring their own flavor. They’re all going to appeal to the ladies. But I think that Young A, Shawt, and Nosa have a strong future ahead of them. All we have to do is grind hard for us to have something to shock the world with. HHC: For such a young guy – even though you’re older than me [laughs] – you’ve been able to dabble into a lot of things including real estate. What is it about that next level of professionalism that opens up so many opportunities? JB: It just shows that you’ve laid a foundation. That you’ve worked hard for something. Being a professional is like having a stamp, a mark of approval from your peers. It means that you have credentials. It really takes time to achieve that. Once you get that stamp, people respect you because they see you doing your thing. When people are following you they understand that you have a movement behind you. HHC: Why don’t more Black athletes school the youth to the alternatives instead of seemingly encouraging kids to pick up a ball? JB: Because a lot of people like fast money and don’t respect a daily grind. It’s instant money if you have skills. We have a lot of athletic brothers who can make that jump into football and basketball, but not a lot of consciously forward thinking people. There are some people who decide to go into real estate. Other wait until their career is over to try and branch out to create another business. So, a lot of people have the ingenuity, but a lot of others haven’t. Those who haven’t really have the entourages and are really materialistic. They just aren’t taking hold of the opportunities. It’s sad.
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.
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.
iHipHop Blog Team