By Will “Deshair” Foskey Four time Grammy winner, R&B songstress Tamia is back with her fourth album (first on her newly Independent Label, Plus 1 Music Group) “Between Friends”. Tamia’s first single ‘Can’t Get Enough’ written and produced by Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins is a sure fire hit that is currently rising up the charts. During my walk through Time Square with the beautiful and extremely hilarious R&B star, we talked about her new album, her new found independence & I got her take on being a recognizable star compared to not being noticed at all. “I co-wrote the entire album,” says the homebred Canadian. “I love working as a part of the team. Shep (Crawford) and I just clicked. I had that same energy working with Rodney. That chemistry was one of the main reasons why I titled the album ‘Between Friends.’ It wasn’t about ‘You call your lawyer and I’ll call mine.’ I’ve built a great relationship with both Shep and Rodney. Rodney and I wanted to work together for a long time. So when the opportunity finally arose after he found out that I was working on my fourth album, he gave me a call and said that he had to be a part of it. I asked him what he was doing that weekend, and from there I was on a flight to Atlantic City. Without building these friendships, it would have been a harder road for me as an entrepreneur. Running my own label (Plus One Music Group) is hard work, but its well worth it. I am completely hands on with every decision that is made and every dollar that is spent. One of the many lessons that Quincy (Jones) taught me was to own everything that I put my name on. He made sure that from the very start of my career that I owned my Publishing. I honestly believe that now is the time that more artists take back their rights in this industry.” For those who are familiar with the busy streets and sidewalks of Time Square, NYC, you know that traffic both on the road and on foot can get pretty congested. Yet during Tamia’s press day where we had the option of being chauffeured back to the Westin Hotel, she had no problem making the two block walk. “I don’t need validation of who I am when I’m walking through public,” says the pint-sized siren as we walk down 42nd Street towards 8th Avenue. “It doesn’t bother me at all if people don’t recognize me, immediately. I’d much rather be able to go to the grocery store without being mobbed. I know that there are people out there who thrive on receiving attention. I just prefer walking down the street with everybody else.” Tamia stated that she’d like to work with John Legend in the near future, and that she’s happy to hear that her ‘So Into You’ co-star, Fabolous is recovering quickly from his gunshot wound. The new video for “Can’t Get Enough” is playing on all of the major video outlets and her new album “Between Friends” is in stores now.
Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category
By: The Hip HopJournalist Interscope has to be the most strategically organized label in Hip-Hop, period. They encourage consumers to literally become crack fiends for their artist’s albums. Pushing projects back and back again, never reduces attention, it just heightens anticipation. But for one artist his album has been put back so many times that even he himself admits to a feeling of being ‘blackballed.’ Regardless of how he feels and how damaging this prolonged agony of sitting idle with a completed project ready to go for over a year has been, Styles P’s Time is Money has Hip-Hop fans ravenous. With a top notch team of producers including, Hi-Tek, Scott Storch, Akon and the timeless presence of Dame Grease all hopping on board to reiterate why Styles P is still that dude, it is guaranteed this album will fly off the shelves when it finally hits them. Holding Styles P back isn’t going to stop him; it may have played with his mind for a minute and had him doubting the business ethics of his secondary home, but this of course isn’t the first time someone else has had control over this Yonkers hard knock. But after the ‘long time coming’ resolution with P Diddy came into effect late last year and a scheduled drop for Time is Money in December,it looks like his patience and perseverance will be the victors. Here he talks about what has kept him up, what brought him up and just what he has been up to whilst time has inevitably marched on. Hip-HopCrack.com: So what excuses have they given you for putting the album back so many times? Styles P: I don’t even know the reasons, it is just industry politics. I think I was black-balled if you ask me. Hip-HopCrack.com: What sort of damage does this treatment have on your character? Styles P: It’s either going to make you or break you and it can be very frustrating, but you just have to have patience and perseverance. Hip-HopCrack.com: Has the track listing changed or has it stayed the same as I know when we spoke last year you were really happy with what you had? Styles P: Not, not really, not too much. I mean I love what I have. Hip-HopCrack.com: So while you have been waiting for this album to see the shelves what have you been up to? Preparing your next five albums right? Styles P: Yeah (laughs). I mean I just keep working; you can’t let it make you not work. You know if I didn’t work, it would make my situation worse; so I just keep doing the mixtapes. I stay in the studio; that’s basically all I can do. Hip-HopCrack.com: I know you had a listening session recently for it, how was it finally seeing other people’s reactions to it? Styles P: It was good; I mean I am just really thirsty to see how people are going to respond to it. It’s going to take you on a real ride, it’s 13 tracks and has Sheek, Kiss, Talib Kweli, Gerald Levert, Jagged Edge, Marsha from Floetry and a group called Flypside on there. Hip-HopCrack.com: You get so much love from the streets and from Hip-Hop fans, I watched you rock a crowd at S.O.Bs last month. How hard has it been to keep your fans onboard throughout all this bullshit? Styles P: I really say they have been what has kept me on board instead of me keeping them onboard. They have been waiting for it and waiting for it and they know it is coming. So there has been a lot of support from them and that was also what kept me going as they could understand. Of course I am always putting out the mixtapes, I am always about. You know if I ain’t frying up the airwaves I am still being heard on the bottom, you know the underground. Hip-HopCrack.com: When you look at what other projects that are dropping around the same time yours is scheduled to drop, are you pleased with the timing? Styles P: I mean I won’t say that I am ecstatic; you know I won’t lie to you and say I feel great about it. I do however feel great about getting my music out and you know my fans being able to get it, but I definitely could have had a better set up and a better impact. Hip-HopCrack.com: What is your situation with Interscope now? Styles P: I am just working on the Lox things and fixing up some paperwork for that, figuring what to do with the Lox. Then when that drops, D Block of course and J Hood, the D Block Compilation; just want to get all the paperwork for that right and get everything situated. Hip-HopCrack.com: Last time we spoke, we talked about a book you were working on, how is that coming? Styles P: Somewhat, I mean I get thrown off sometime but I am still working on it. Hip-HopCrack.com: You see recently a lot of rappers getting involved in television. Is that something you envision for you? Styles P: Yeah definitely so, I think I would be more involved in production and direction, I would like to direct. I would take the long way out, I mean I would like to do some acting, but definitely would want to be a ‘behind the scenes’ man. Hip-HopCrack.com: Why is that? Styles P: It is just my character. Hip-HopCrack.com: You are good at keeping low key, when you see this situation you are in. Styles P: I try to keep it cool. I have been through a lot in my life and no matter what I don’t want to be in a situation like my last album, you know as far as being incarcerated and being taken away from my family, my wife and my kids, not be at home and just be able to breathe fresh air. Hip-HopCrack.com: How do you think Styles P would have reacted to this had it happened ten years ago? Styles P: I would have spazzed (laughing). Even four years ago, even right before I came out of jail I would have spazzed. Hip-HopCrack.com: So what has calmed you down? Styles P: Jail and life in general. Suffering, you know it means a lot man. This sucks going through this, it really sucks, but jail, man that is being taken away from your family. Hip-HopCrack.com: Obviously your family has been a big encouragement. Styles P: Yeah I mean that is the most important thing to me. Everything else falls after that. You know I try to do things to see us alright. But see that’s the part that really frustrates you, as going through this you have to watch your family suffer, but my wife keeps me humble. There are a lot of people in a worse situation. You know we have a place to live, three beautiful children; we can travel and have nice things. My family definitely keeps me strong. Hip-HopCrack.com: What lessons have you learned? Styles P: Patience, perseverance and sacrifice. Hip-HopCrack.com: What do you feel you sacrificed? Styles P: A lot, everything, I have almost thrown my career out of the window somewhat; that’s how I feel on some days when I can’t do something. But I guess being here is more important than that, that’s just how I feel. Hip-HopCrack.com: Almost every legendary name in New York Hip-Hop has dropped an album or is going to drop an album this year. When do you think we are going to see some new blood step up in NYC? Styles P: They are here. Hip-HopCrack.com: So why aren’t they the ones putting out albums? Styles P: I don’t know what to say no more as the industry has changed so much; what I figure isn’t what they think they need. As they think that all they need is a catchy hook and a nice beat (laughing,) you know what I am saying? They think with just that, they are in; they can just say ABC on a track and get away with it. Hip-HopCrack.com: Does it bother you, this so called decline in Hip-Hop? Styles P: Yeah definitely so. As a fan and music wise definitely so, but to take something good out of it you do see a lot of dudes making money. Money should encourage the game to step up, but there are a lot of things that play a part in this. It’s not just the rappers; it’s the rappers, the record labels, the radio, it’s the parents in the way they educate their kids. It’s a lot of shit. a lot of new rappers probably never read, or read when they was coming up. But everything is a cycle though. Hip-HopCrack.com: Are you going out on the road promoting the album? Styles P: I’m actually about to start tomorrow and I am going to damn near every state. I am going to be out on the road a while. It’s not really something I enjoy anymore to tell you the truth. Hip-HopCrack.com: Miss the family? Styles P: Yeah it screws with my wife’s schedule, it screws my schedule up, but then I do enjoy performing, I love the performance part, but the traveling shit is irritating. Hip-HopCrack.com: Do you feel that you have to do an extensive tour right now? Styles P: Yeah I feel that I have to go for myself because the music is coming out. You know I gotta do what I gotta do and do what is in my fullest capabilities and in my power so I know I gave 110% as that’s all you can do. Because at least then I can say I did give 110% and did everything I could. Hip-HopCrack.com: So when can we expect to hear anything from The Lox, I mean that’s long over due too? Styles P: I would say first or second quarter. Everybody is working you know, J Hood is coming out with Tales from the Hood; we got the D Block compilation coming out. Then we are working with our other artists too. Hip-HopCrack.com: How do you find your artists? Styles P: I know most of them, you know I met them through someone or I heard something from them. I guess you could say through life’s natural circle.
By William E. Ketchum III At the end of his Separate But Equal mixtape with Little Brother, DJ Drama screams, “My swagger is at an all-time high! Nothing can take me out my zone!” But if you look at what Drama’s been doing for the past few years, it’s not hard to take him seriously. Along with being T.I.’s official DJ, the bearded board handler’s Gangsta Grillz mixtape series has taken the streets over in such a manner that everyone from southern slingers Young Jeezy and Lil Wayne to bi-coastal mainstays Jim Jones and Snoop Dogg is enlisting his services. Atlantic Records also recognized game, and has brought Drama aboard for an official Gangsta Grillz album, whose guest list would frankly take up too much space for this article. In an interview with HipHopCrack, DJ Drama reminisces on his come-up and gives his take on today’s mixtape scene. HipHopCrack: How did you get your start on the mixtape scene? DJ Drama: Basically, I just started by trials and tribulations. I was in high school, I was just putting together tapes, selling them out my locker for five dollars. I did my first tape with a cover in like ’95, and this was around the time when S&S, Doo Wop, and others pretty much reigned surpreme. I was trying to follow in the format that was already laid. I remember Doo Wop put out “95 Live,” and I kind of followed his formula. I put out a tape called “Illadelph” that had a couple of local at the time, but also became national artists out of Philly, giving me exclusive freestyles for my mixtapes and everything. That was my beginnings. HipHopCrack: What made you decide to take your mixtapes seriously? DJ Drama: I always took it seriously from day one, but I think that years later, being a DJ. … I started doing mixtapes when I was about 16 or 17, and when I got about 19 or 20, after moving to Atlanta and being a DJ for a few years, you realize that with the clubs, you have to rely on promoters to pay you or book you. I wasn’t on radio, I was (only) on college radio at the time. I was trying to get on mainstream radio, but I felt like the radio stations weren’t paying attention. So for me, it was just that the mixtape route was my own route, because I was my own boss on that. That was the best way for me to get my name out there; I was like “f” a promoter, and “f” a radio station. If they don’t see my talent, I know what I’ve got, so I’ma just do it myself and put it out to the streets. HipHopCrack: Gangsta Grillz is what a lot of people know you for. DJ Drama: It just came about from being creative, really. I never planned on that being my claim to fame; it was just a mixtape series along with many that I did. But I was onto something; I created a brand, I rocked with it, I fed it, I let it grow, and it became the phenomenon that it is today. So it just came about from me doing what I do, basically. I can’t front—it wasn’t anything that was planned, but once I started it and realized I was onto something, I ran with it. HipHopCrack: How did you establish that brand from scratch? DJ Drama: I always had visions and goals and directions that I wanted to go in. As a DJ, my main objective on the mixtape level was (to establish a reptuation, so that) when people go to the store to get my mixtapes, you didn’t necessarily have to go look at the playlist and read what was on the tape. I wanted them to be like, “Oh, that’s that new DJ Drama? Get me that.” That was my goal from early on, and by doing that, that’s just what I struck out to do. I wanted to differentiate my tapes from everything else on the market, and that was by making sure that I had exclusives, or just making my product different from everybody else. I was out to make mini-albums; that’s what I was trying to do, that was my early goal as far as creating a brand. HipHopCrack: How do you form relationships with so many big name artists from jump? DJ Drama: I’ve been in the game a long time, so thosre relationships come from years of just being around. It’s like the NBA. You come in the game as a rookie, and you might sit on the bench for a couple years and everything. You might see people like Jordan, Kobe and AI, and they’re in the league with you, but you’re not on their level; but you still meet them and play them in the game and everything. Even if you’re on the bench, you still need to shake their hand before the game. And on the same level, other artists like TI, Jeezy, even The Roots and Kweli, I came up with all those guys. I’ve seen their careers from very early on, and people see the same thing with my career. But along the road, I’ve also been able to meet people like Puff, Russell Simmons or Jay-Z that I grew up on. But now, those are my peers; I’ve scored my 30-plus, and I go to the all-star game now, so you play with the same all-stars you grew up on. Everything’s about in relationships. It comes in time, nothing is built overnight. HipHopCrack: As much as you work with bigger artists, how important is it for you to work with newer artists? DJ Drama: To me, just as important to working with artists that are superstars. As a DJ, that’s part of what I do—break artists. That’s one of the reasons I’m so well-respected in the game and in the streets. It’s not just that I have superstars hosting my mixtapes, but I’ve also been in a position to break new artists. Hip-hop is a very fresh culture, and people are always looking for something new, so it’s about having your finger on the pulse. I take pride in being able to spot what’s coming out, what’s about to be hot, what’s fresh, and what I can bring to the table, so people can be like, “Yeah, I remember hearing that on Drama’s tape.” HipHopCrack: Primarily, you work with southern artists. Is it a challenge for you to work with a Saigon or Jim Jones? DJ Drama: It’s not a challenge for me to work with anybody; if it’s hot, it’s hot. I grew up in Philly, and I spent the last 10 years of my life in Atlanta. So that tells about the type of individual I am: I grew up on East Coast hip-hop, but now I’m a mainstay in southern rap culture. So if a Saigon has hot music and a Jim Jones has hot music, it’s nothing for me to bang out. I represent hip-hop as a culture. I take pride on holding the South down, and I take pride in being part of the southern explosion. But at the same time…it’s like when people say that you’re an actor, but then you’re a black actor. Black actors are actors at the end of the day, whether they’re black or not. The music is hip-hop, so I don’t care where it comes from. HipHopCrack: How do you think that the southern mixtape scene and east coast mixtape scene are different? DJ Drama: I don’t think they’re different anymore. I think at a time, they were different, but I think the south is pretty much caught up. I don’t think that the south was on the same level as the north when it came to mixtapes, because it was primarily an east coat and up north culture for years. With the exception of people like Jelly and Screw, and it wasn’t wasn’t even a big mixtape scene with those guys, it was a different direction. Now, I don’t really tihnk there’s a difference. Hip-hop is so expanded, and after what 50 Cent did to the mixtape game and revolutionized it, I think that regardless of where it is, it’s so big, so it’s all the same. But one thing I think the South has had an advantage of for a number of years is the money aspect of mixtapes. Up north, it was like the crack game when it comes to the wholesale prices. It wasn’t making that money like the south was making, but times have changed. HipHopCrack: You’re signed to Atlantic Records. Do you find yourself having to switch hats, working with Atlantic execs one day and with street artists another? DJ Drama: Not really. I’m a very well-roudned individual, and I just do me. They signed me because they respect my grind as DJ Drama, so I don’t try to be anything that I’m not. DJ Drama’s a hustler, he’s a DJ, a businessman. I wear all those hats gracefully. HipHopCrack: Over the past few years, major labels have really utilized mixtapes a lot. These days, you can find a mixtape in Best Buy; that’s not something you’d always see. What do you think of that, and what affect do you think that’s having on the mixtape scene? DJ Drama: It’s grand! It was only right that the mixtape DJs get their due and major labels start realizing the power. It’s not surprising to me, it’s just like everything with hip-hop in the last 25 years. It just keeps growing and growing, so nothing really surprises me. HipHopCrack: Well as far as the growing goes, people say that hip-hop has been wattered down with all of its growth. Do you think that the mixtape scene has suffered the same fate due to its exposure? DJ Drama: Mixtapes are already watered down. Mixtapes are a dime a dozen, everyone thinks they can do it. I’m just always one to discard what I don’t like, and I applaud what I do like. I don’t think that there’s that much of an extreme of major labels and mixtapes that it’s come to a watered down point. I think the mixtape game in itself, and people not being authentic DJs making mixtapes waters that down more than anything. HipHopCrack: Elaborate on that a little bit. DJ Drama: People think just because you can get on the Internet and get some songs and get a cover made and put it together, that it’s a mixtape and you’re a DJ, and that’s not the case. I thank God that I was raised on the mixtapes and DJs that I was raised on. I come from the era of S&S, Ron G, Doo Wop, Clue…people have said that Clue changed the game for the worst, but he had his own lane, and that’s why he is who he is today—he rode his lane and he followed his niche. I don’t think there’s enough DJs that respect the culture or take a pride and passion in the art of the mixtape. That goes in from the packaging level, to the quality of the CD, the skill on the CD, the mic game, the exclusiveness. I don’t put mixtapes out just cuz; I have a purpose out there. There’s an elite group of others out there doing what I do, and there are some new jacks coming up as always. I still think there’s some good in it, but just like everything else in hip-hop—just like everyone thinks they’re a rapper, or everyone thinks they can make their own label, everyone wants a mixtape. HipHopCrack: You had a blog with xxlmag.com for a while. How did that happen in the first place, and why aren’t you there anymore? DJ Drama: It happened because my man Brendan (Brendan Frederick, online editor) over at XXL, when they revamped the site, he came to me and was like, “I want to give you this outlet to get out there and be a blogger, and write what you want to write.” I’m glad I did it, because I wasn’t aware of the internet hip-hop culture, as far as the bloggers or the chat rooms and all that stuff. Because I started doing that, I got put up on it, as far as the forums and all that stuff. It’s a whole ‘nother culture that I got to see. There’s a lot of geeks on there, there’s a lot of nerds, there’s a lot of haters. But at the same time, they’re real fans of hip-hop, so it’s interesting to read what they talk about. I put up my comments every time I got the chance. I don’t do it anymore because I really wasn’t that consistent with it, and I think they wanted someone at XXL to be more consistent. I had my hands full in a lot of different areas; I wasn’t the greatest blogger, to be honest.
By William E. Ketchum III A classic quote from American author, advertising executive, and politician Bruce Barton, reads, “When you are through changing, you are through.” So why has rap hated on Black Sheep? A part of hip-hop’s storied Native Tongue collective, the duo’s 1991 debut album, A Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing, garnered both critical acclaim and legend in rap circles with its playful wit and satire serving as a lighter, equally effective alternative to the angry political rap of its time. With their disc going gold (when gold really meant something in rap) and the Native Tongues going strong, Dres and Mr. Lawnge had quite the future ahead of them. But then, the NY-born, North Carolina migrant MCs changed. Their sophomore album, Non-Fiction, turned off fans with a tone that was notably more serious and less whimsical than their debut from three years earlier, and their Mercury recording home folded, and Lawnge left the group to pursue a solo career. Dres has kept busy with a solo project and cameos elsewhere, but the new 8VM/Novakane shows Dres coming back like Jordan wearing the 4-5, reigniting the amusing, soulful Black Sheep fire while maintaining the meditative ripeness of their second effort. In an interview with HipHopCrack, Dres reflects on where he’s been and focuses on where he’s going. HipHopCrack: So what have you been up to between then and the time the last Sheep album had came out? Dres: Various things, to be honest.I had bought a crib down in Carolina for a few years, I was down in Charlotte, and it gave me opportunity to be closer to my family and just some other things. I stayed kind of busy in the music, I did a solo project that I sold myself online, five or six years ago. I did some stuff with other cats Handsome boy modeling school, some acting in a movie called “Once In The Life” with Laurence Fishburn.I mean just little things, nothing where I was in the public eye. But at the end of the day, I kept busy and just tried to be happy. It’s kind of like if people don’t see you, they feel like you’re not doing nothing. But it’s just life; everybody lives once, and I’m enjoying mine. HipHopCrack: There’s a bit of confusion on my part—I thought you and Mr. Lawnge had broken up as a group, but he’s still on the album… Dres: He actually makes an appearance on a couple of hooks but he decided to pursuit a solo career, so Lawnge is pursuing his own thing. I wish him the best, and at the end of the day that’s what it is, dude decided he wanted to pursuit a solo career toward the end of this project, and he went for it. You’ll hear him on a couple of hooks on the album, though. But a pro to it is that I get a chance to bring Sammy B, the DJ of the Jungle Brothers, I bring him on the road with me now. But at the end of the day, Lawnge just had ambitions to do his own thing, so I wish him the best with it. HipHopCrack: So what is like with touring with Sammy B now as oppose to Lawnge? Dres: I think its kind of cool, me and Sammy B are cut from the same cloth. We both have grown man perspectives on a lot of things, and we get along really well. It’s cool. There are certain situations that he was privy too and I wasn’t and vice versa, so we kind get to see things from each other’s perspective. HipHopCrack: You are from New York but you actually grew up in North Carolina. How do each of those locations affect your music? Dres: I think more than geographical would probably be our parents. Like you kind of grow up listening to your parents’ music. So at the end of the day I mean, I think just me having lived in New York and Carolina it kind of open me up to the diversity of music. When I was in Carolina, I would probably been more serious about hip hop than if I was in New York. I felt like in New York, you kind of take it for granted because you grow up around it, and you see that cats that do it, if you don’t do it yourself. In North Carolina you study a record. You knew where LL took his breaths; you studied a record, because that was basically all you had. So it kind of made us more deft at the art hip hop in my opinion, because that’s what we were in to. And us being from New York, we were very much into the purest form of what we knew hip hop could be—and that was straight coming from the hood. It was just a New York thing, totally. I come from a place and I have friends, and all of us could DJ. All of us could rhyme. We were all into hip hop and I remember tagging up a board, a wall in North Carolina. It was probably a horrible tag [laughs], but it was just where I was from. I was just like, “Damn, it is just so clean out here. A kid would just love to be able to tag some stuff down here.” And I wrote my name real big with about eight different spray cans, and it was because that’s who I was a hip hop enthusiast. That wasn’t even necessarily who I was, I wasn’t running around tagging shit. That was probably the only time I tagged something in my life. HipHopCrack: As a side note, what you think of Little Brother? There from North Carolina, too. Dres: I got so much love for Little Brother, that’s my word. I think they are dope. I feel like they are younger cousins or siblings of ours, I feel like they were the young kids at the cookout my people was throwing who was studying what was going on. We kind of share some of the same terrain. And at the end of the day, I’m proud of who they are, I see how dope they are. I see them to be artists; alot of cats I don’t see to be artists. Regardless of what their records sold, regardless of who’s playing their video, regardless of anything, as a person, I see who they are and I dig them. I like 9th wonder a lot, (I like) his energy and I think he’s a dope producer, and I think them kids got something to say. Granted, when I say kids, we all evolve—fifteen years ago, I was a kid too. I like where they are, and I hope to do some stuff with them in the future. HipHopCrack: It’s been a decade since the previous Black Sheep albums, and it’s been a minute since your solo album, too. What are some things you do now or some topics that you looked at on the new album that you can remember thinking about completely differently during the time span of your previous albums? Dres: That’s a good question. I’ll say maybe something like a “Be Careful,” where I just hadn’t had those experiences yet, to be able to know…I think we’re all cautious as people of who we are around, but it’s only after you know certain shit in life that you know why you trying to be careful. Then a record like “Novakane,”where I’m talking about we’ve got to start choosing better options for what we do. Everybody likes nice shit, but at the end of the day. I’ve grown to a person who rather spends $50,000 on a day care center than $50,000 on a bracelet. To me, it just means more. And that’s how you shine, by taking care of yourself and by taking care of people around you, and helping each other. If you’re the catalyst of a cat being able to take his daughter to day care and go to work, or the woman being able to take her son to day care to go to work and provide for this child, you’re embracing a way that a bracelet would never to begin to have you endeared. That’s where I’m headed. Not saying I’m going to do that, I feel like it’s important to put that kind of energy in the air. It’s important for cats to know that those are options. I ain’t saying you got to do it, but I am saying you should know that a situation like that exists when you walk into a store to do some of shit that you walk into the store to do. Like, “Damn, what really make sense?” I’ve bought elaborate shit that I’ve lost; you can’t lose a day care, you cant lose a laundromat. It’s certain little shit we can start doing as a community to shine as oppose to shining for self. And at the end of the day, I like nice shit still. You’re going to see me and I look nice, and if you choose to price what I’m wearing, that’s on you. I’m not really the cat that’sgone make a record about it. I don’t really make a record about my attire and or my car. That’s shit that people who have nothing to talk about do, in my opinion. Whenever I’m in a conversation when someone is constantly talking about what they own or what they aspire to own, they’re not really saying shit. Those are people who don’t have nothing to say. HipHopCrack: Why do you think your second album wasn’t received as well as your first? Dres: For various reasons. I think the most important one was that the label we were on wound up folding. From us, to Vanessa Williams, to Tony Tone Toni, everybody wound up not having a label. If a label is about to fold, it means there is a going down process. It never really got the opportunity I felt like the first got. For the first album we shot four videos, there was so much more done to create (a buzz). At a certain level cats kind of expected A Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing Part 2, and that’s really what that record is. I think it’s a dope record in my personal opinion, but I think every artist thinks their shit is dope, so I’m not going to get caught up in that. But I’ve been approached by people that feel the same way, and then I’ve been approached by people who feel the opposite. So at the end of the day, I’m good with it. I feel like I achieve what I was trying to do; rather or not it does it for you, it’s your prerogative. But it was just who we were at that point; it was real, and it came from a real place. So I have no problem with what happened. I mean, yeah you wish your label had been a little bit stronger or whatever, but at the end of the day, that might’ve have been a blessing. I’ve been to a show where the bill was us, Biggie and Pac, so I really understand that I don’t have to be here. Even taking a step back from the industry, it gave me a perspective I honestly don’t think I would have had otherwise. I think I was just as caught up in a lot of shit as a lot of people, and it was only when I removed myself from it that I kind of found myself a little bit. And I’m good with it. I don’t live for other peoples’ expectations of me. I’m real good with my life, and I enjoy it. I have aspirations. I wake up to try to do what I’m doing right now, and I feel good about what I’m trying to do. HipHopCrack: I was asking that because it seems like this new project is really a happy medium between the both of those albums. Dres: That’s true. I don’t think it’s something I consciously try to do, but I agree with you. That’s very true. HipHopCrack: What was your main objective with the new album? Dres: Honestly I wanted to make an album that each song could stand on the merit of itself. I wanted to make an album where the song that came on didn’t sound like the song that preceded it or the song that would come after. I wanted to make a record where it was just soulful, and a easy listen. Like I didn’t want to do something other than make some hot shit. Real simple—regardless of who produced it or what was going on, I wanted to do something soulful and reflective of who I was as a MC or what I was trying to convey. HipHopCrack: Who do you look at as your audience these days? Your initial audience or some new listeners? Dres: I think this is definitely something for cats that know of us and like us as a group. I think they will be very happy with the album, and I also feel like it’s a great introduction for cats that might be too young or not know who we are, or might not have even been into hip-hop at that point. I come from a place when I feel like we were one of the groups that introduced hip-hop to the masses. In the hood it was always there, but as far as suburban wise, I feel like were one of the groups that introduced. There was lot of more introduction after we left, so there might be people who are really kind of new to hip-hop, and I feel like this is a great album for them to really get a gist of what hip hop isEverybody is quick to say what is not hip hop or what we hearing now is not hip hop. Well if you look for some hip hop, I think I’ve got a dose of it for you, so that you can understand what cats talk about when they say why (current rap) is not hip hop. I feel like this album is for anybody with a sense of self, and that kind of goes against age. Sometimes you can be a young cat and have a good sense of who you are as a person. And everybody with a good sense of self its kind going to listen to this record. I don’t feel like it is for everyone. At the end of the day, ignorance is bliss, and there’s a lot of bliss in the world. Not to say that those cats can’t get something from it, because I hope that they do, but its not really my job to make sure that they do. I’m really looking for the cat who knows who they are, and wants to carry a torch that lights the way to somewhere. HipHopCrack: Something that stood out with your music, especially your first album, is that your music really made it sound like you were having the time of your life while you were recording. Was this new album just as fun? Dres: Yeah, I’ll say so. This is me as a grown man. That’s a big difference. That’s not going to be as whimsical, don’t get it twisted. Certain aspects of who we were are always who we’re going to be, so I think that comes across as well. But there’s a lot of growth that people will see between the two albums, as far as delivery, enunciation and everything. It’s like a basketball player; he could be really dope in his rookie year, but he’s not really quite the player he’s going to be as a seasoned veteran. Even if his physical prowess isn’t the same, he’s just that much more learned, and has that much more of an understanding of the concept of the game. BlackSheep
By Quibian Salazar-Moreno The events that inspired movies like Scarface, television shows like Miami Vice and video games like Grand Theft Auto: Vice City are a lot more violent, a lot smarter, and definitely wealthier. In the new documentary, Cocaine Cowboys, the cocaine drug trade in Miami during the 1970’s and 80’s is explored through stories of the people who smuggled the drugs, moved the coke on the streets, and protected their turf by taking out the competition – permanently. The film gives you an inside look at the life of drug smuggler Mickey Munday as he imported tons of cocaine from Columbia to Florida, the smarts of John Roberts to took the blow from the plane and passed it onto the retailers who distributed the drugs into the streets. It tells the stories of Jorge ‘Rivi’ Ayala, a hit man who worked for Griselda Blanco, a female drug kingpin who makes Don Corleone look like a street level thug. Told through the experiences of police officers, journalists, television reporters and coroners, Cocaine Cowboys reveals how the drug trade made Miami one of the best economies in the nation, but also the murder capital of the United States. Opening in limited release this week, HipHopCrack.com caught up with Cocaine Cowboys’ director, Billy Corben, 28, to talk about the documentary, the research involved and the latest on what the former cowboys are doing and the current atmosphere in Miami. Cocaine Cowboy Trailer Why did you want to make this documentary? First and foremost we are Miami boys, born and bred and current residents. So this is a part of our history. It had been told pretty effectively in a dramatic context in Scarface and in Miami Vice. The funny thing about those projects, everybody thinks they were over the top; they were so outrageous and so violent and so flamboyant with all the money and the murder but when you watch Cocaine Cowboys, you see the reality and realize that they were actually toned down. The reality was so brutal and so absurd that I guess [Miami Vice and Scarface creators] said who’s going to believe that? But Scarface is 100 percent accurate and if anything, it’s toned down from what the reality Miami was. We wanted to get the true story out there. Growing up in this era, of course we were too young to cognizant of the fact that we were the murder capital of the country, but I remember the affluence and everybody doing really well. I grew up in a middle class community with modest houses but a neighbor would have a Porsche in the driveway or a Mercedes or something like that. And these weren’t people in the drug trade but they were certainly benefiting from it. We all did. If you were a car salesman, or worked on the retail level or if you owned a little restaurant or something, you had people coming in and handing you cash, lots of cash for lots of stuff. It’s all in the movie. So at 28, you really didn’t experience that much of the drug trade, but just kind of watched at what happened around you? I just remember being young and sitting in the mid-80’s and my mother cooking dinner and watching the local news and seeing that there was a substantial crime problem in the city. I remember sitting at home on nights watching Miami Vice on television. But this is really a question of where we came from, where our skyline came from and how the city was built. It’s obviously a national and international story as well because not only are people intrigued with Miami all over the world, particularly Miami Beach and South Beach, but the story about what the federal government had to do to curb the drug trade. So what kind of research and process did you go through to make the film happen? In someway or another we had been developing this project for 12 years. We started our company, Rakontur, when we were sophomores in high school, and this is something that we always wanted to do and always wanted to explore. Alfred Spellman, my producing partner, he read all the books on the era and Miami that had been written and this is something that we always wanted to do. We considered doing it as a dramatic feature based on the real stories but after Raw Deal: A Question of Consent, our first film made a splash at Sundance in 2001, we became like the Miami documentary boys, so we said we’d do it as a non-fiction. At that point that’s when we decided to research hardcore and that was in 2002 and 2003. Then it all comes down to the access; like who you’re going to get, who are you going to talk to face to face. You can always find a lawyer or a reporter or a cop to talk to, we wanted to talk to those people too because there is a lot of interesting characters in that aspect but most importantly we wanted to talk to the cocaine cowboys. That’s where it began; John Roberts is the first guy we got in touch with. One of the first books we read was The Man Who Made It Snow by Max Mermelstein, who ratted everybody out and has been testifying against the Medellin Cartel for 20 years, and that’s where we learned about John Roberts. From John we got Mickey Munday and we had the business covered. There are three facets to this story of the cocaine trade, there’s the cocaine business, there’s the money and then there’s the murder. So we wanted to get all three represented. We also wanted to talk to the guy who was behind the trigger of a Mac-11 spraying the streets of Miami so we got Jorge ‘Rivi’ Ayala. We got Rivi because he was in a very unique position to talk about all of his murders because of the deal that he cut with the state attorney. He has an encyclopedic memory of all these murders. He knows names, he knows dates, he knows wardrobe what everybody was wearing, he remembers what was said, and he remembers what songs were on the radio when he was on his way to a hit and he gave it all to us. We shot 160 hours of footage with just the three cocaine cowboys so it’s going to be a hell of a DVD. Griselda Blanco was released from prison and deported back to Columbia a couple of years ago, what have you heard about her lately? We know she’s seen the movie, we don’t know how or where. We know she was down in Columbia and was interested in going to Europe but I don’t know what country would take her. The woman is a multi-millionaire; she doesn’t have to work another day in her life. But she clearly has a lot of enemies out there and is trying to lie low. Some of our law enforcement connections have said that they would not be surprised if she was back in the United States. This is a woman who started her career not only as a prostitute but a document forger, doing passports and visas, that was her early career. Back in the day she would just walk back and forth between the U.S. and Mexico. This woman is credited by all law enforcement with not only starting the Miami cocaine wars but also being responsible for the homicide rate that made Miami the murder capital of the country. You can literally track the homicide increase in Miami with the arrival and the departure of Griselda Blanco. The success of her business down here, at its peak, she was killing left and right on the street. Do Roberts and Munday still have cash from their days as drug runners? I don’t know, but I’ll tell you they’re not living large right now. They live very modestly, they live very quietly. Even if I had some of that money, I’d live quietly anyway, so I don’t know. I know Mickey’s got a job; he has a regular day job in the boat business. And I don’t know what John is doing these days. What are your thoughts on how this era of Miami has inspired movies, videos games and hip-hop? When we finally got access and decided to greenlight this project, this was right in the middle of the Scarface re-release and after the massive success of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. The Miami Vice movie had just been announced, we expected the Scarface and Miami Vice video game to come out. Now in 2006, you have The Godfather video game, we got the Miami Vice movie and video game, we got the Scarface movie super platinum re-release and video game and you got the Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories (on PSP). And now you have Cocaine Cowboys. We were very aware of that angle. The movie premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York and sometime after it started arriving on the streets of Miami. Then a couple of months ago its at the flea market, my friend walks into an inner city barber shop and it’s playing on two screens on both sides of the barber shop. Then we start hearing from the hip-hop guys. Trick Daddy wants to do something for the soundtrack and we hear from Pitbull who’s seen it over 10 times, we heard from Noreaga, Cool & Dre, Smitty, DJ Khaled, Prince Markie Dee who’s down at 103.5 in Miami. So everybody was talking about it and giving it to each other. So we realized that this community has embraced our movie so we should embrace the audience. What do you make of the recent killing of that family in Florida? Source What’s the climate in Miami now? Yeah that family of four on the turnpike and right off the bat it was a drug angle, amazing. That was such an insanely public display, nowadays everything is low key. You can’t flaunt anymore. Drugs are cyclical man. Cocaine was a disco drug, a 70’s and 80’s thing. Then in the 90’s it was the club drug, ecstasy and stuff like that, but now I’m seeing blow around again. I’m seeing it in Miami, I’m seeing it in New York and I think it’s in the midst of a resurgence. And when you have a drug that expensive and making that kind of money, you get competition and you get violence. That’s the bottom line, you see ugliness.
By: Starrene Rhett D. One has something to prove. Relatively unknown, the Boston native has been grinding for years and is finally starting to make significant progress but you probably still have not heard of him. His song, “Patriots II,” featuring Canibus has been creating a buzz and he also scored collaborations with AZ, Royce Da 5’9,” Krumbsnatcha and more but he’s just getting started. He scored a record deal with indie label, Upscale Records since moving to L.A. on a whim last year, and is working on getting a major label deal by next year. His first project on Upscale is entitled Second Nature and hits stores worldwide next month.Sure he’s another rapper amongst millions of other rappers, but D. One wants the world to recognize and understand why he’s worth the time. Hiphopcrack.com:In a nutshell, who is D. One and why is he someone people should mess with? D. One:D. One is that young vet coming up slowly but surely out of the trenches. I been independently grinding hard for 6 years now and I finally see some light at the end of this long a- – tunnel. My music isrooted on that mid nineties era lyrical tip which is my idea of real Hip-Hop. I mean the talent / music has always been there but it’s on another level now and I made some real strong connections since I moved from Boston to LA last year. Hiphopcrack.com:Why did you move to LA as opposed to NYC, which is closer, or the South, which is supposedly poppin’ on the Hip-Hop front? Did you have any family or friends in LA to hold you down? D. One:I got tired of the snow and cold! Boston to LA seemed like the two furthest points. My girl and I moved out pretty blindly, honestly. We didn’t even really plan it or think about it too much. Hiphopcrack.comHow did you make out when you first got out there? D. One: I was focused on surviving. First, I found a studio right away and spent half the year recording and finishing up my latest project, “Second Nature” it def. took a minute for anything to pop off. Hiphopcrack.com:And when it finally did, it happened at a gas station or car wash right? Can you elaborate? D. One: Actually at a Mercedes dealership. I was valeting cars part time while interning at a music management firm in LA. Nothing happend with the music job , but at the dealership I ended up valeting the car of Manny Mijares; owner of a record label out here….I ended up getting a $10,000 advance, plus studio time, beats, promotion, etc Hiphopcrack.com: You did a song with Canibus and you’ve also worked with Royce da 5’9′ and AZ. How did you hook up with them to do music? Who else have you worked with and what collabos are planned for the future? D. One:Each one came about at different times in different ways. I hooked up with AZ in Boston last summer right before I left when he was in town for a show. He has always been my favorite rapper so that was a real honor being in the studio with him. It’s crazy getting on tracks with dudes I grew up listening to. I try to collabs with legends not just whoever is buzzing at the moment. The Canibus track is something we are adding to Second Nature before its national re-release this year. Canibus is a genius. He was schooling me on the evils of this business and all that, and once again it was an honor [working with him] and we did that “Patriots II” joint and brought those lyrics back to the people. The track was released for download on all of his fan sites and really took off last month. Hiphopcrack.com:Who are some of your other influences? D. One:Jay-Z, Big Pun, Lost Boyz, Biggie, Pac,Pearl Jam, any real music no specific genre and obviously AZ, Canibus and Royce Da 5’9”. Hiphopcrack.com:Let’s jump into your album. Second Nature is out next month, what does the album represent for youand what do you want people to get from it? D. One:This project has taken on a life of its own. I mean originally, it wasn’t really an album or a mixtape it was a collection of tracks from the 2005-2006 year, collabs and freestyles. Now, we are adding some more solo tracks from my 2004 project Dvisione to it and replacing some others.I want people to get what they get from it and give it an honest listen. I know they will feel it. My only major set back so far has been exposure. Hiphopcrack.com:What type of exposure are you getting now and how could it be better? D. One:When I first signed with Upscale Records we were planning on getting the album distributed right away, but then some bigger meetings came up. We are now working with Qadree El – Amin (Boyz II Men, Blackstreet, Michael Jackson), taking him on as a second manager, and if everything goes well I hope to have the album in stores before Thanksgiving, that will be distributed through Sony Red. Also, a major label deal by the end of my Upscale contract next summer. Hiphopcrack.com:What does your album sound like in terms of production? Who are some of the producers on there? D. One:the production is real tight in my opinion. There’s some samples, some raw beats; young cats like Decap out of Boston and DJ Broc ( Mobb Deep, AZ, Chino XL, Game) out of NY and Upscale on the Canibus joint. I also executive produced it, coming up with sample ideas, song arrangement, drops, etc. Hiphopcrack.com:Are you currently touring or have any coming up? D. One:A tour is in the works. It’s still up in the air. There have been talks about the Microsoft tour but nothing is definite. Hiphopcrack.com:Where can people find your album once it drops and are you on any mixtapes? Hiphopcrack.com:Everywhere! as far as mixtapes i couldnt tell you which ones I am constantly sending djs tracks to use for their tapes…..as far as major ones that stick in my mind my track with AZ "What We Do" was featured on an Echo mixtape last year after they heard it on hiphopgame.com Hiphopcrack.com:Now is your chance to freestyle, is there anything you wan to add? D. One:Thanks for the interview. My official sitesare D. One and D1music. Second Nature is coming worldwide next month. Peace!
ByQuibian Salazar-Moreno Mr. J, Res and Stro the 89th Key are not your average hip-hop group. When asked about any crazy stories from their world tours as The Procussions, the best they can come up with is Res tripping on a curb in Europe and twisting his ankle while his luggage fell around him. That’s not your average hip-hop tour story. “We don’t really do the groupie thing, or mess with the drugs or get all drunk,” Mr. J explained. “We hang out, read books; we’re some pretty straight edge guys.” These straight edge guys met while living in Colorado Springs, Colorado. As part of rival hip-hop and b-boy groups the trio used to see each other around different shows, battles and other events in the Springs and Denver area. They finally came together in the late 90’s to form the Procussions, which started off as a larger crew and then was pared down to three. They opened for everyone from Tha Alkaholiks and The Pharcyde all around Colorado. But because of the lack of support for local hip-hop in Denver and Colorado, The Procussions made the move to Los Angeles in 2001 and subsequently released their debut, As Iron Sharpens Iron, on their own label, Basementalism Records. The album harked back to the Golden Age of hip-hop and the early 90’s sound with horn loops, bluesy basslines, and boom bap beats. Lyrically the group covers everything from their love of hip-hop to one’s spiritual identity. With their latest album, 5 Sparrows for 2 Cents, on Rawkus Records, the crew sticks with their signature sound but also brings in other influences from reggae, rock, and funk. Stro the 89th Key, a trained musician, produced most of the album and is on his way to the upper echelon of hip-hop’s top beatsmiths. The fellas are slick on the mic as well, bringing more meaning and purpose to their words instead of your run of the mill braggadocio type of rhymes. From the way we’re raising our children in “Little People”, to dealing with daily hardships in “The Storm” to the story of a lost soul on “American Fado,” The Procussions give the listener something to think about. But don’t get it twisted; the group can get the party started too with high energy cuts like “Fight Here”, “Shabach” and “Anybody”. This is an album you definitely don’t want to miss. We caught up with Mr. J and Res (Stro was absent due to a family issue) and spoke about the new album, their situation with Rawkus Records and how their beliefs shape their life, music and careers. The name 5 Sparrows for 2 Cents, how did you come with that name for the album? Mr. J: We came up with the name of the album before we even did a song, and we set it as a standard. It was our staple and our standard to remember what was important. Five sparrows can be sold for two cents, yet not on of them falls without God knowing about it. It’s kind of like reminding ourselves of the importance and detail when it comes to purpose, focusing on everything that matters and how God sees everything that’s going on in your life. It was important for us for the album to focus on the important things in life, the importance of people and the human spirit and how sacred it is. It’s not just sparrows, it’s just not an item to be sold, it’s not ‘wow, we’re on Rawkus’, or cool and hip it’s really about really focusing on people and the little things that make us human and the little things that aren’t seen. The video for ‘The Storm’ is real fresh, how did you come up with the concept? Res: It was our man Hilton Carter that came up with it. Hilton went on tour with us and was a tour manager. The interesting thing is, he’s a film student, and he went on tour with us was to get new experiences. A film director is sort of like an emcee in a sense; they’re writing people’s stories and their personal experiences. So he went on tour with us just to witness some experiences. So during the tour, we saw some of his reels and they were completely amazing, this guy is super-talented. So we told him that we got to work together. So time moves on and we wanted to get community involved with this album and The Procussions. So the video is actually mostly funded by people who were just down for The Procussions and really wanted to support what we were doing. Hilton came in and said, you know what, I have a treatment, and he brought us the treatment. So the video is basically us building something, there’s this crazy storm going on, causing all this havoc and mayhem, and we’re down in the basement trying to do something; trying to stand up, trying to make a difference, trying to be that difference that we want to see. So we’re trying to build this thing to stop this storm. So we take it up to the roof switch it on, it starts working, then all of the sudden it completely fails. The most important thing about it is, we see the failure and we go back downstairs and start again, just like in life. You build up something, you have so much passion for it, but when things don’t work out like you wanted it to, you have to start over again. So basically that’s the concept of the video. You’re always going to be in trouble, you’re always going to be in a fight but you got to keep on going. How did you guys get your deal with Rawkus? Mr. J: When we put out As Iron Sharpens Iron there was kind of small industry buzz here and there because we were on our own label and we were from Colorado and we had some how locked some international distribution, we did shows in Japan, we did a lot of things that a lot of groups weren’t able to do on their own. So there was an industry buzz that was around. We already had 5 Sparrows completely done, we had the video done, and everything was done. Some people had our album here and there and some other groups we were working with and it finally got around to Rawkus. Brian and Jarret (Rawkus owners) had called us and wanted to meet with us. They really took a lot more steps than any other label was willing to take to lock an artist down. Other labels sent interns or the man in front of the man in front of the man, who’s never heard the album or any of the songs but kind of wants to keep you around. We had some major label interest and some independent label interest and we had some indie labels that are great in the scene right now but didn’t want to put our album out for another two or three years. You know when you meet somebody you know when you feel like you’re connecting? A lot of these business relationships, we need to be able to connect because our music is important for us, you know, this is our careers. So we couldn’t connect with a lot of people. Brian and Jarret understood where we were coming from, they heard all the songs, we had a big talk, we hashed it all out. We have creative control, we’re helping market the album and it’s more than just a group that Rawkus is getting, they’re also getting a marketing team. They can hire it out, they got the money to do that stuff, but they’re allowing us to control the element and image we want to put out. We just locked that down and been moving ever since. We don’t want to make everything about Rawkus, we want to make sure our career is our career. It doesn’t matter if we’re on Rawkus, or on Geffen or on Basementalism, we’re going to put the album out and push The Procussions as hard as we can. There is backlash towards Rawkus, everybody has their opinion and even magazines have their own angle to create drama but at the end of the day, no one is talking about music, but they’re talking about absolutely everything else. What’s important about to us is the group, forgetting about drama, we don’t even put that into account. We’re just like who’s going to put out the record, who believes in it, and we’ll just go from there. But was Rawkus’ history in the music biz even a concern to you at all? Mr. J: Yeah, it was a concern to us in a way where we wanted to know like, “Hey, how do you handle your business?” But if you look at the large scale of things, honestly, all labels are nasty. All labels, one way or another, are going to want to make money off of you. That’s good; I want a label that wants to make money because they need to have an interest in it. It’s too much to ask someone to do something for you purely and to share your vision 100 percent. It’s way too much to ask, people got lives, they got kids to feed, they got other things and if their only influence is to get money, then that’s fine, as long as they keep their hands out of music. So we heard some of it, and we talked to artists too and heard what they had to say and when it came down to it, it came down to contracts, actual words that were being said and the fact that we have a really good lawyer on our hands. So we hashed all that stuff out at the very beginning and we take gamble with any label, and we felt that Rawkus was our best gamble. You guys are pretty open about your Christian beliefs but don’t really force it on anyone. How has your faith helped you in your careers? Mr. J: The idea that there is a reason to it, that there’s a purpose. It’s very important to know what you want out of music, it gives me a standard and it gives me an understanding of who I believe people to be, which is creations of God. We need to encourage each other to reach this place that we’re trying to reach which is whatever people say it is, heaven or a place without pain, and worrying and anxiety and all these things we experience before we even get the experience ourselves, all these external things that keep us from our potential as a person. And if you’re not reaching your potential as a person, you’re not reaching you’re potential as a family, as a community or even greater as a world. It’s so personal and up to every single individual, every individual matters. You got one person who can create a war; you got individuals whose personal beliefs can dictate how the world works. You got George W. Bush who can do what he wants to do, you got Che Guevera who can do what he wanted to do and Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr., you know you got good and bad. So it’s very important to be rooted in some core value of what we believe. And in my faith that’s what I’ve been able to come up with and be able to understand. And I feel blessed that I know what I believe, people need. It’s important, the sacredness of the human spirit, to honor that and keep that and the idea and concept of agape love. It’s unfortunate that because so much is going on with Christianity, the religion of it, and what George W. Bush is doing with it and it’s like how much are we going to talk about this element outside of its core? We’re never talking about the core issue. We can talk about George W. Bush and we can talk about Pro-Lifers and people burning down abortion clinics for days and we will never get to the core value that really has nothing to do with other people’s interpretation of it like the external things. So what we do with our faith and our music is we try to get down to the core values and give people the opportunity to see them and try to understand them for themselves. Agape is what I think it comes down to, the idea of agape love, not a romantic love, not even a friendship love, something greater than that, something that goes beyond, where you love your enemies. Not because they’ve done something special for you, or because you feel bad for them, but because they’re important and God loves them. The reason that God loves them is because they’re his creation and we’re supposed to have that respect and that same love. Also take a responsibility. A lot of Christians tell me I have a special responsibility because I’m in the limelight, and I think that’s baloney. And I’ll tell you why, everybody is in the limelight. There could be a kid who is his father’s biggest fan; his father is in the limelight. Everybody has that responsibility, whether I’m on stage or off stage, to present not myself but an idea that’s greater than me. So I will come across as a hypocrite sometimes because I’m talking about perfection here, I’m talking about ultimate love, unconditional love; you know things that I’m not able to fully attain. But it’s something I want to talk about, something I want to get out in the air.
By William E. Ketchum III Considering how charismatic and quirky Sadat X comes across in his music, he seems rather nonchalant today. In his phone conversation with HipHopCrack, the nasal-voiced member of the legendary Brand Nubian trio sounds notably different. Not solemn, and not melancholy—but just like he’s ready to take care of business. And these days, the man born Derek Murphy doesn’t have much of a choice. As accomplished a career he’s had—he made history with Brand Nubian, and has also enjoyed a viable solo career, with his own albums and cameos with everyone from Common to Prince Paul—the past two years have been strife with adversity for Sadat. His father died shortly after his critically-acclaimed 2005 LP Experience & Education was released, he was arrested on a gun charge last December, and around the release of his new disc, Black October, he began serving a one-year bid in jail. But as he tells HipHopCrack, Sadat isn’t asking for your sympathy; he’s holding his own just fine. HipHopCrack: You seem to place a lot of your livelihood on children: you worked as an elementary school teacher, and you coached teen basketball. Where does that passion and chemistry with children come from? Sadat X: Just from being out in the neighborhood, being outside, seeing the kids and meeting the kids. Just by interacting with them… it’s nothing I’m doing consciously, I don’t know. HipHopCrack: I asked that because you do a lot of work with children, but your music is notably mature. Sadat X: That’s a separate part of my life; my music is separate from my work with kids, I don’t combine the two. I coach basketball, and that’s a high school level, so that’s that age level. I don’t go out to go meet kids or anything like that. I’m not the sit down all over the place type of person, so I’m outside a lot of times, and so you know, who’s outside? Kids. HipHopCrack: The song “Million Dollar Deal” was a surprise for me; a lot of rap veterans I’ve spoken to really downplay the whole idea of a major label deal. What inspired that? Sadat X: Well the album is just like a movie; when you make movies, you add things that you think would be interesting. I would like a million dollar deal, but if I don’t get one, it’s not like it’s gonna be nothin’ to me. It was just a concept for a song; I didn’t go into it on some real rocket science. That’s what the chorus was saying, so I tried to play around the chorus. HipHopCrack: How far into making the album were you when you found out about your prison bid? Sadat X: I did it all after that, I hadn’t made any of the album up to that point. HipHopCrack: So did you record the album with a sense of urgency? Not only to finish it, but with a passion unseen on your last albums? Sadat X: Not really. I just wanted to finish it so it could be out there, so maybe I could get a couple of dollars. It wasn’t really nothing to that; I just wanted to get it out there and get it done, so I could do some shows. HipHopCrack: Even more than others, you seem to have a real passion for New York. How have you felt about the emergence of other coasts in rap? Sadat X: I like all the west coast and southern rappers. I’m from in New York. … For my passion for New York, I’m in New York, I’m in the streets every day in New York, I grew up in New York, so that’s what I rhyme about. I’m here. I’m in the hood, I’m not far removed. I don’t live in New Jersey or somewhere upstate; I’m in the city. HipHopCrack: Brand Nubian has been pretty active lately. Lord Jamar has a new album, you have a new album, Grand Puba was on Beanie Sigel’s last album. Are there any plans for a new Grand Puba album? Sadat X: We still do shows, we never stopped doing shows. It’s just that people don’t know about it, and there aren’t no shows really in New York. But we always did shows, across the continental United States. We are going to do stuff together at some point, but we never stopped shows. We would like to do an album, so if the time is right and we can all sit down together and do it, it’ll be done. HipHopCrack: You guys were one of the first groups to bring the five percent ideology into hip-hop. Do you think that the five percent ideology still has a place in today’s hip-hop? Sadat X: That’s how we lived. We’re in the five percent nation of gods and earths, and if we sprinkle it throughout the music we sprinkle it. We don’t go out conscious with, “We’ve got to put this ideology out for people in the mass.” If it comes out in the music, it comes out. HipHopCrack: I’ve got a couple of questions about your bid. Have you ever been to prison before? Sadat X: Well I’ve been to jail before. I’ve never been this long, but yeah, I’ve been in jail before. HipHopCrack: How have you been preparing for it, mentally and physically? Sadat X: You’ve just gotta be…there ain’t really no way you can prepare for it. When you get there, you’ve just have to take it step by step. It’s nothing you (can do) to prepare for jail. You’ve just got to get there and get through it. There’s no outside steps, there’s not a jail preparation. Just make sure your bills are paid, your housing situation, and just go in and do it, get it done with. HipHopCrack: Do you think you were unfairly profiled or persecuted? Sadat X: I was caught with a gun; I didn’t wave it out in the street like they said I did, but it is what it is. You get caught with a gun, that’s a year’s time in New York. Somebody called and said I had it, and I had it. It could be somebody else in the street; if you pick that person, and they call the police…I know regular suit-wearing dudes who got caught with a gun, and had to go do a year. HipHopCrack: It seems like you’ve really had a difficult past couple years—your father died soon after your last album came out, and now you’re going to jail. How do you keep your head up when things are just one after another like that? Sadat X: You’ve just got to keep going, man. There are people in a lot worse situations than myself.There’s people that ain’t got no roof over their head, and who ain’t got no family. Plus, when I go to jail, I know a thousand people in Rikers Island already, from inmates to the guards. I’ll keep my head up; I just want to hurry and get it over with. HipHopCrack: Your verse on Lord Jamar’s album, on the song “Study Ya Lessons,” is real emotional and really seems to sum up everything you’ve been through in this last year. Where do you rank that among the other verses you’ve had in your career? Sadat X: It was a cool verse. I think it was just one of what I think is many cool verses that I’ve had. I don’t think it’s my best verse of all time; it’s just a good verse on a good song. Sadat X
By Kevin L. Clark For twenty-year old, Megan Rochell, music has always been her calling. At age seven, the blossoming songbird first soloed as part of the choir at the Christ Fellowship Baptist Church. The Brooklyn native has been doing God’s work since that fateful day, having competed at the legendary Apollo Theater, winning five times in a row. Megan Rochell continued to reach for the brass ring by moving from Brooklyn to Philadelphia, where she was blessed with a series of chance encounters. Divine direction led her into the company of Nathan Morris (yes, that Nathan Morris from Boyz II Men) and signing to his Adlib Entertainment management company. It was only just a matter of time before she met R&B Kingpin, L.A. Reid in his Def Jam office. The end result – “You, Me, & the Radio” — a soulful collection of songs with production from Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins, the Cornerboys, Stargate, and a featured appearance by new Def Jam signee — Fabolous. Ms. Megan Rochell sits down with HipHopCrack.com as she lets the fans know intimately about her sense of humor, why she would win in a competition at the Apollo, and how MySpace allows her to stay in touch with her adoring and growing list of fans and friends, alike. HHC: For being a relatively new artist, what has been the most trying experience? MR: One of the most trying things is waking up super early and having to do so many things and not having enough time in the day to finish them. It’s so hectic. But, if you want people to know that you’re serious about your craft then you have to do it. I go through that everyday. It’s tiring. HHC: “The One U Need” is picking up some steam, being added to thirty-eight radio stations – what made you want to go with this song as the first single instead of something like, “Betcha”…? MR: Oh… you heard “Betcha”!!! Well, we picked it because it’s a real aggressive and competitive record. I know that there are a lot of girls out there who are playing the rebound chick. “The One U Need” lets them say that they can be the one that that man needs. That’s what I represent. I want all the young girls or whoever else is going through that to understand where I’m coming from and identify with me. HHC: If there was something that not too many people knew about your personality – what would it be and do you think that it is helpful or hurtful to your career? MR: The one thing that not too many people know is that I am funny, I can be a character. I think that that can be very beneficial to my career. I am the type to just bust out a joke in the middle of a conversation. I can talk to anyone, whether they’re a stranger or someone I’ve known forever. Besides… everyone likes to laugh. I think that that’s the strongest quality that I have. HHC: You’re twenty, aren’t you? Are you single? MR: Yeah, I am single. [laughs] HHC: On your Myspace page, it says that you sound like Christina Milian, Ashanti, Teairra Mari, Cheri Dennis and others. What sets you apart from those other young R&B starlets? MR: What sets me apart from all those girls is my personality and my music. It’s the way that I am around people who I don’t even know. I have a good heart. People respect people who give off a good aura. My music is definitely a separation because I think that all of the music that’s out there is not the entire definition of what music is. It’s like, when you hear a first single you get into it, then there nothing to keep you going for the rest of the album. With “You, Me & The Radio”, I am hoping to pull in and captivate the listener. HHC: So, if you all were to compete at the Apollo – who would win? MR:Me! Hands down. Because I’m more of an entertainer, I’m not just a singer. I like the crowd to feel what I feel. I would definitely take the title home of being the winner. HHC: Do you regularly log onto MySpace? If so, why? MR: I try to log on as much as possible, but I do go on and let people know that I see you. I know that people, the fans, want to be a part of the movement and I appreciate that greatly. HHC: So, if I add you to my friend list, we can get better acquainted? [laughs] MR: Oh, yeah! Definitely… for sure! [laughs] HHC: You’re a part of Nathan Morris’ (of Boyz II Men fame) management company, “Adlib Entertainment, correct? How did that first meeting with L.A. Reid go in the Def Jam office? MR:I was nervous. Nervous! I was scared, anxious, all of those things. When I finally got to meet him, I closed my eyes and got into my zone. Once I got into my zone, I just sang what was in my heart. After he heard me sing, he said that I was what he was looking for. It kind of surprised him. But he loved what he heard. After that, he wanted me to be a part of Def Jam, which is where I’m at now. HHC: It appears to be hard to keep a long-lasting R&B career as fans attention spans cater to whatever it relatively “new.” What do you think will be the key to your success and longevity? MR: Oh, yeah, I hear you on that. The key is to keep making hot albums. Not just singles… albums. Because you want people to notice your growth. The growth can only get better as an artist can, especially while being a young one. I feel that all the other ventures that I want to get into, such as acting, having my own management company, and starting my own label – music is the key for it. In my own way, I’m not going anywhere. I’ll be here for awhile. HHC: You were on tour with Chris Brown – how did that go for you? What is one thing that you’ve learned by being on tour with Mr. Personality? MR: That was hot. I loved it. It was hard work, but it was fun, too. I got to meet Chris Brown and saw how bubbly he is in person. It was wonderful to do the shows and perform. His music is crazy. It was an honor to be in front of a sold out crowd every night. Out of the whole tour, I would say that I learned how to react to my audience under a heated situation. I’ve had situations where one of my dancer’s shoes fell off on stage and my music even got messed up. I just learned that you got to be a fighter. No matter what comes your way, you’ll be able to get through it and stay calm. HHC: What is one drastic thing, if any, that has changed since getting into the music business? MR: Honestly, I can’t say anything right now that has changed drastically. HHC: Last question, when is the album supposed to drop? The album dropped on August 22nd. There’s only one feature which is Fabolous. I have production from Rodney Jerkins, the Cornerboys, the Underdogs and Stargate. Ne-Yo wrote a joint for the album that is really, really good. I hope that once it comes out everyone enjoys it and supports the Megan Rochell movement. For more information, you can hit Megan up here
By Quibian Salazar-Moreno It’s been a tumultuous three years since Bubba Sparxxx released his last album, Deliverance. Although critically acclaimed, the Georgia rapper’s sophomore effort didn’t do so well at the record store. To add insult to injury, he was left without a label home when Beat Club Records, the imprint he was signed to, severed ties with its distributor Interscope Records and then dissolved. Sparxxx saving grace was hooking up with Outkast’s Big Boi while he was launching his new label, Purple Ribbon. Now with his third album, he’s looking for The Charm. Your third album, The Charm, is of course named after the saying ‘third time is the charm.’ What’s the charm you’re hoping for? I just want to go platinum, man. I want to go platinum domectically. That’s really my goal at this point. I’ve had critical acclaim and there’s nothing else for me to do except move up. I just really want to sell a tremendous huge amount of records and I felt like I took the steps that would ensure that it would happen on this record. It’s a good album anyway, it accomplishes the roller coaster of emotions in life; you know the ups and downs the rights and lefts and all around. So I tried to put a little something for everybody on there. You used to be with Timbaland and Beat Club Records now you’re with Big Boi and Purple Ribbon Records. Why the transition? It was more of a situation between Interscope Records, who distributed Beat Club, and Beat Club Records. There was some tension that arose between those two parties. Timbaland had a different vision for Beat Club, he had a real progressive-minded vision, he wanted to sign rock bands and thing of that nature but they wanted him more or less to stick with the traditional stuff that he was known for which is hip-hop and R&B. So with that said they were just butting heads constantly and I was just kind of caught in the middle of it and at the end of the day, it was just best for everybody to go their separate ways. So I stepped and thankfully I got a partner named Big Boi whose been in my corner for five or six years and I’ve been a member of Dungeon Family that whole time. It just so happened that he had a situation on the horizon with Purple Ribbon. SO when my situation ended, we just linked up and the stars and moons and everything just lined up perfectly. Your first two albums were mostly produced by Timbaland, but this record only has one track by Tim and is mostly produced by Organized Noize (Outkast, Goodie Mob). Why the change? Organized Noize worked on both my previous albums, and being from Georgia I grew up on those guys and the whole Dungeon Family, Outkast, Goodie Mob, Withcdoctor, Cool Breeze, Backbone and they kind of molded my perception of what good hip-hop is. So they have always kind of been my foundation. But really, me and Timbaland aren’t in business anymore, but it was still important for me to work with him to show people that we’re still brotherly. At the same time though, he’s always doing different things and I’m going in a different direction myself, but I would like to say that Timbaland will work on every album that I’ll do. You have a hit song with your first single, “Ms. New Booty,” which surprised your fans because it’s a song that they wouldn’t expect from you. It surprised a lot of people, that’s why it worked! It’s been two and half years since I put out anything so I had to do something shocking. But it really is a side of me, I’m a strip club type of guy and if I missed anything with my last album, there wasn’t anything on there for the clubs. So with that said, I wanted to come out of the gate with that energy for the club. How was it working with the Ying Yang Twins? I’ve been wanting work with them for awhile. I was relly chasing their producer Mr. Collipark, he has a good understanding of what works in the clubs as any producer in the game. He’s been a real blessing to my project and actually produced my first two singles, “Ms. New Booty” and “Heat It Up”. So were you worried about any backlash the song or video may have caused in regards to objectifying women? There already has been backlash and there’s quite a bit of controversy surrounding the record. You know, say whatever you want to say, bring as much attention to the whole situation as you possibly can, but to be honest, if you’re worried about this record or any aspect of it, whether it be the video, the website, whatever, you just have entirely too much time on your hands.
Killer Mike with Adam Matthews These days, a gold record doesn’t guarantee a release date. Despite a plaque for 2003’s Monster, Michael “Killer Mike” Render was no longer Sony Records’ priority. So he left. He also – temporarily, at least — severed official ties with Big Boi’s Purple Ribbon imprint. He’s shifted his focus to Grind Time Rap Gang, a collective featuring S.L. Jones, Da Bill Collector, Big Slim, Nickle Plated Nario, Young Pill and producers Smiff and Cash, Chaotic Beats, B-Don and the Drum Majors. As self-proclaimed MCEO, he’s favoring a hands-on approach to running his new label, Grind Time Official. Fresh home from picking up 2500 CD’s in Houston, he discussed brand building, Southern hip-hop dominance and why he’s rolling with the underdogs. You just drove 24 hours roundtrip to Houston to pick up CDs. Why? First time I ever brought a brick of dope, I tested it myself. That ride to Texas was symbolic for me. I wanted to shake every hand in the record stores. I wanted to pick them up myself because I did this. I planned the cover and Grind Time and me hashed out the music. This was a total team effort, so it was symbolic for us to go down there and pick up the product. Now I’ll never do that shit again. I’m shipping from now on. When does this album comes out? I Pledge Allegiance featuring Grind Time Official is 22 cuts long. I’m a drop it officially on October 31st. I’ve been dropping it off at some tastemaker spots early, but it’s officially dropping in your Best Buy and all those places on October 31st. Right now, its self-distributed and we have some one stops that are picking it up. They’ve been taking orders of five to ten thousand. So what really happened with Purple Ribbon? I didn’t leave in the sense of fuck them, I am just on a sabbatical. I still talk to Big Boi a few times a week and go through the office, but until they figure out what they’re doing as an organization, I can’t properly represent them. In the meantime, I am building the Killer Mike and Grind Time Official brand. Paperwork-wise, I am on whomever shows me that big bag of money. What ties me to Purple Ribbon is my loyalty to Big Boi – Antwan Patton. If he secures a better deal, then we’re back in business. If I find a better deal, I am going to make him a part of that situation, because he saved my life. My loyalty goes beyond any contract. Is it weird to have a gold record and not have a second major label record in stores? I’m a fan of consistency. In order to have longevity, you [have to fly] below the radar for a while. EPMD and Mobb Deep, who went gold every time, were my fucking heroes. Their music was always dope. Eight Ball and MJG, UGK, had 15-year careers. Kriss Kross was dope, but they’re not EPMD. They sold five, six, seven million records as kids; Erick And Parrish changed hip-hop. But it’s hard to be a rapper without a gimmick. It’s not a rappers’ fault. There are no fledgling rap labels with the specific intent of putting out [innovative] artists anymore. One of Def Jam’s earliest slogans was “Our artists rap because they can’t sing.” I knew every Def Jam record I bought had a certain amount of authenticity. Right now, small labels aren’t reaching out to do anything. But labels have to answer to big corporations now. Does that make it more difficult for you today? I am six foot three, three hundred-some-odd pound black man. The name Killer Mike has shut me off from endorsements, which could have put me in front of a different audience and expanded my fame. But The Killers, three or four skinny white guys, get endorsements out the ass. So that’s subtle racism, but I’m not tripping off it. I don’t run the corporations that make these decisions. It’s my job to get directly with the fans. I’m used to rap being treated unfairly. So therefore, I’ve got to overcome those obstacles. I stopped trying to chase the impossible: corporate acceptance. I don’t care if I get a deal from a major sneaker company. I’m supporting A-Town sneakers and other fledgling companies. So when you see me, I’m wearing the Hundreds, Crooks and Castles or 10 Deep. I’m not chasing Heinz, Nike, Reebok, Pepsi and Coke and asking them if I can change myself to fit them. Why is independent hip-hop so strong down South? We were closed off from traditional hip-hop venues for so long. Even if you don’t get money off CD sales, you can get money off shows and put out your own record and ride to the next town. If you’re in the South, you can eat. It’s a little harder up North just because they haven’t worked hard enough on building their independent market. I haven’t had a record out in three years, but thanks to South Carolina, Tennessee, North Florida, Alabama and Mississippi, I haven’t filed for bankruptcy. A lot of small down South labels are signing deals with Asylum. Is that a possibility for Grind Time Official? I just want to do it in a way that makes sense monetarily. Asylum is offering $25, 000 or at most $50, 000, on the front. They’ll support you. They’ll do great at taking a radio single that’s regional and blowing it up and [giving you] a video after a certain amount sold. That’s not a bad situation, but I’d rather work my ass off and walk into a joint venture with more on the front to better situate my artists and producers. I’m looking for a situation that’s inclusive of my company. I want somebody who wants to help me build the next thing. Right now, I’m a player on the farm league team with potential and people are scouting me. But I’m not going to run and ask people to sign me again. If I do what I’m supposed to do, then my phone will ring. How many albums would you need to sell to feel successful? Success for me would be between 250, 000 and 500, 000 albums independently. I’m not uncomfortable being on the underground. I done slept in the palace, but at the end of the day, it wasn’t my palace. I’m back out here getting money. Me and my crew, see us in a year.
iHipHop Blog Team