By: Starrene Rhett
A-Plus is at the top of his game. As a seasoned vet with experience in the Hieroglyphics and Souls of Mischief crews, he has now stepped out on his own after more than 10 years in the game. He has grown up, matured, and as a solo artist and business man, he shows off his skills as Producer/Rapper/CEO-Extraordinaire, with his latest endeavor, My Last Good Deed (Hiero Imperium Records).
Although major label deals are a thing of the past for A-Plus, he says he’s just fine. Being independent works for him, and that’s what he’s sticking to. With alternative methods of promoting him self and an already loyal fan base, he’s not worried about sinking in the ever-changing Hip-Hop tide. However, he does have a bone to pick with people who illegally download music, as well as some great advice for other veterans trying to get back in the game. Check him out…
Hiphopcrack: Don’t hate me for this but do people ever confuse you with A Plus from Hempstead (NY)?
A-Plus: Every now and then somebody confuses me with him [laughs].
Hiphopcrack: Why did it take so long for your first solo album to come out?
A-Plus: Because I wasn’t really focused on making the solo album. I’m a part of Souls of Mischief and Hieroglyphics so I put most of my energy into making making the Hiero albums and stuff. And, I hadn’t really thought about making a solo album until Tajai made one and then Opio said he was trying to work on one, so I figured it was time for me to work on one as well.
Hiphopcrack: The title of your album, “My Last Good Deed,” was inspired by a conversation you had with your dad. Can you elaborate on that?
A-Plus: We were just talking; we talk all the time. My dad was giving advice and we were just talking about random stuff like work and relationships, and I can’t remember exactly what we were talking about specifically because that was a while ago, but I remember his answer to me on something included the phrase, “make that your last good deed,” and I thought that was dope. So, I was like, yeah, I’m going to call my album that.
Hiphopcrack: What can people expect from the album. Did you deviate from your sound with Souls of Mischief and Hieroglyphics?
A-Plus: I wouldn’t say I deviate, really. One thing about Hieroglyphics is that from album to album, none of them really sounded like the last album but they had a sound that was kind of…it’s our sound basically. After hella years, there’s kind of a way to tell our music. And I didn’t deviate from the normal way I make music. The difference is, I didn’t work with anybody but myself on the album, so it was all my decision making as far as the beats and the subject matter and the topics. I do a lot of production for Hiero anyway, so it’s still going to be familiar to anybody who’s familiar with Hiero.
Hiphopcrack: Being that you have your own record label and you’re an artist — not just a normal artist, but one who raps and produces how is it balancing being a business man and an artist?
A-Plus: It used to be kind of difficult when we first started the record label about 10 years ago, but I got used to it over the years. It’s my regular job now, to be able to do all that stuff. I have to admit it took some getting used to in the beginning, but I’ve acclimated well to the situation. I can take care of all my responsibilities without much of a problem.
Hiphopcrack: What are some of the benefits of running your own operation?
A-Plus: The first two benefits, the classic benefits are obviously being in control — creative control and monetary control [of more money] — those are the two best things; to be able to control everything creatively and to make a good living and be in control of myself as opposed to waiting on somebody’s opinion, and letting them see how much I work and taking my check. Everything is up to me and it’s a good feeling. I’m not having my life in anybody else’s hands; especially from some record company with some cat that doesn’t really care what happens but just wants me to make some pop music so that I can make him rich, so his child can have a limo on his way to grade school, f – – k that.
Hiphopcrack: Where’s your place in the industry as a veteran with the direction of Hip-Hop being so different now, and the sound so different? How do you make yourself still relevant?
A-Plus: It would be a lot harder than it is if we hadn’t established a fan base before we left the major labels. But, with that fan base, we’re able to survive regardless of what’s going on in the Hip-Hop culture. What’s going on now, like with top 40 R & B or you know…I don’t really have a problem with any other forms of Hip-Hop but if we had to rely on visual exposure from the Hip-Hop TV shows and channels like MTV and VH1, then we wouldn’t be around at all because it costs bread to do that, and they’re only looking for a certain sound. It’s like a part of the whole system of media and radio and TV. That’s why it takes a billion dollar company to get an artist some airplay. If we had to rely on that, then we probably wouldn’t be around, but either way, it doesn’t matter to me; it’s a good thing if I do get on TV but it doesn’t matter because my fans ain’t checkin’ for me on TV…
Hiphopcrack: …You’ve been doing a lot of touring anyway, right?
A-Plus: Yep; touring and we were the first group with a Hip-Hop website back in ’95 with the dot com explosion. That kind of helped us once we were fresh out of our deals with majors, and alternative forms of promoting ourselves kind of kept us in the game. Our fans are there regardless of whether we’re getting exposure or not. That’s why, if somebody only relies on Hip-Hop magazines and the radio to know what’s going on in Hip-Hop, they might ask what have I been doing for the last 10 years, because they might not have any clue. But I’m probably selling more records than your favorite dude and making more money off of it too, but I wouldn’t wanna say nothing like that [laughs].
Hiphopcrack: This is an obvious question, but how is it different with the creative process working solo as opposed to working with a collective?
A-Plus: I had to get into the process because I’ve had a group mentality ever since the beginning. With the first Souls album, I was always doing a lot and relying on other people’s ideas to see what we’re doing, that was the only difference with my album. First of all, I wasn’t used to rapping that much, I usually would spit no more than a 16 on a song when it was my part. But this time, I got to do a lot more rapping and I was the rapper in the studio by myself a lot. It’s not the same as building with the other souls, making something, so I kind of had to get used to the idea of “this is your shit.” But I used to talk to my friends because I have group mentality bad and I leaned on my family and friends for advice to get out of that but once I got into the process, it was easy.
Hiphopcrack: If you had to chose between production and rapping, you only get one, which one would you chose and why?
A-Plus: Production. After these years have gone by, I enjoy the process of production. It’s almost therapy for me. When I sit in my little studio room, I could do it all night. I don’t need anybody there. It’s just fun to hear something that you created. Even though I started rapping first, I kind of [really] got into production. I enjoy it a lot more. Also, it’s timeless and faceless. I can be a producer forever. If you’re an emcee, there are certain times when visually, you might have to let it go; like, you might be too old to move around stage with as much vibrancy as before — not to say that an older emcee can’t do that, I’m just saying there are some things that you have to start thinking about, and also, I’ma keep it real, if you start looking old, people start calling you old. Luckily, we got in the game real early and, even for how old we are, people always say we look younger. That’s just because we’re fortunate, but you see some rappers start getting a fat neck. They’re eating all good and pushing on 40; that ain’t really appealing to a young dude, he’ll say, “That’s an old rapper, I bet he doing some old school shit,” but that’s not going to happen with you in production. People don’t have to know what you look like. You don’t have to be out in the spotlight but you still get paid and still develop notoriety.
Hiphopcrack: Here’s a random question for you: What was the last good deed you did?
A-Plus: Let me think…that’s a strange question…the last good deed I did was leaving my neighbor my keys because she was moving out and she might not have been able to fit everything into her new apartment, and she needed more time to figure out what she was going to do with the stuff, and she didn’t seem to have it (time), so I left my keys and made some space in the living room and said, “You can put stuff here until you figure it out , by that time, I’ll be home and I can help you figure it out. That way you don’t lose anything.” I thought that was pretty nice. She was pretty foine too.
Hiphopcrack: What advice would you give to another person who has been in the industry for a while, but might be trying to figure out how they’re going to get back in?
A-Plus: I would tell them first and foremost, they need to have a lot of material and they can’t make material at the old school pace these new kids out here are making music fast. Anybody can make stuff if you got a digital recorder and a microphone. If someone who is garbage as sh – t, is putting out a mixtape every two weeks, and you’re putting out one or taking two years to finish your album and can make one mixtape every three months, then you’re probably not going to get the shine you’re looking for. I would also say be prolific as you possibly can and make sure you have more stuff, and that you’re not dated because none of the new kids are going to check for you if you sound like the same sh – t you were doing seven years ago, or however long. And, use your stripes to your advantage. Use the fact that you’ve been around the block to make an impression with whatever you put out, not to the point where you be the old school jaded rapper who’s mad at everybody new, but walk around like you got stripes and hop on the mic like you an OG, people feel that. But I was saying you gotta be extra prolific to make a dent in the market these days, especially with the mixtape explosion and myspace. Anybody and their mama feels like they can be an artist, and there’s a lot more competition out there — I’m not saying talent-wise, I’m saying quantity-wise — a lot more than any old school head was facing about seven years ago. They gotta be quicker and sharper than these young dudes because they’re out to get it for real. That would be the little bit of advice I would give them.
Hiphopcrack: Is there anything you want to add?
A-Plus: Yea. Let me add something for all those cats out there that think it’s cool to download everybody’s sh-t. If you really down with Hip-Hop — people try to say they’re down with real Hip-Hop, trying to make all these distinctions and sh-t, but you can’t really be down with Hip-Hop if you downloading everything. It makes it harder for people doing alternative stuff, that’s not being pumped with millions of dollars through the normal stations and channels, that majors are using; they take a hit too, but underground and smaller companies, like mine, and other people I know, take bigger hits when people are downloading the sh-t off the internet. That sh-t is foul and you not representing Hip-Hop when you do that shit. You’re just a sucker if your do that sh-t. I swear if you’re a fan of mine and you come to me and say you downloaded my album, I’m going to punch you in the mouth. People talk a lot of sh-t on the internet and like to be antagonistic and hide behind the keyboard, but if you really want to be a real boss, download my album off the internet, come to my face at my show and tell me you did it, and I’ll make you famous by punching you in the mouth. That’s all I got to say about that. And, go buy my album, My Last Good Deed. I wanna shout out my mama, my mama reads all of my interviews, and I want to shout out my son, his birthday is coming up, and that’s pretty much it, one love to my click Hieroglyphics.