- Celebrity Entertainment Interviews
- The Jacka
- Dead Prez
- Sosh B
- Triple C’s
- Charlamagne the God
- Duo Live
- Olivia of Love and Hip Hop
- J. Cole of Roc Nation
- Ryan Leslie
- Mikkey Halsted
- The Wellversed interviews Herself
- Troy Ave
- Platinum Pied Pipers
- Ellen Stag
- Bow Wow, New Jack City Part II
- Obie Trice, Special Reserve
- Pretty Wicked Television Premiere
- Asher Roth, The Greenhouse Effect
- Diner Dining: Queens
The prison community and Hip-Hop seem to be two industry that would have a natural connection. Most people invlolved with it artists and all have some type of relation with it. Be it a family member, friend or maybe the artist spent time there, it’s a unfortunate truth. It would seem that a lot of artists would try to reach out to that market or speak on it more. The Jacka is an artist who took the time out to actually make his music not just for the freed fan, but the one’s in jail as well. With a pretty strong buzz on the West coast particularly in his home are the Bay, he’s managed to release albums off his independent label with Tear Gas being his most recent.
With prevlient talent such as Andre Nickitina, Too Short and E-40 creating a name and representation for the Bay area not to mention the Hyphy movement and slap music that show the innovative and energetic side for the Bay. The Jacka is another Bay artist on the come up who is creating a buzz on the underground. Although The Jacka’s widely noticed in the Bay he has collaborations with people such as Freeway and Cormega. This could posisbly grab some fans on the East as well. At the end of the day it’s all about the music for him.
HipHopDX: What does the Jacka represent?
Tha Jacka: I represent Hip-Hop. I represent Islam. That’s basically my main thing; everything else just comes with the territory.
DX: Being Muslim clearly influences your music. When deciding to work with Freeway on your album Tear Gas, was it more about working with a fellow Muslim or to get more of a reach outside of the Bay area?
The Jacka: It was just two people coming together to make music really. I think he’s dope and he liked my stuff so we came together. I’m from the West coast he’s from the East coast. It was really something to wake people up. Taking it upon ourselves to go figure out what Islam is. It was just to do something good and get people to think.
DX: Describe you music style for those who may not know.
The Jacka: it’s got a little bit of everything. I never tried to be like anybody else. When I first started out I listened to a lot of different rappers and what not, I’m sure it influenced me a bit. Once I started making my own music I stopped listening to a lot of different kinds of rap. I didn’t want to pick up on anybody else’s style. I would say you got a little bit of Rap/Hip-Hop, a little reggae, a little bit of Pop and a little bit of Rock. My style is a little bit of everything.
DX: How did you and Cormega end up linking up?
The Jacka: I’m not sure if it was 2001, 2002 or 2003; I honestly can’t even remember. I was in North Carolina and I saw him and one of his boys. Someone told us it was Cormega and we were already up on Cormega. My boy used to have these beats on cd’s like mixtapes. Them boys used to be ripping mixtapes back in the mid ‘90’s with the mixtape game. I’m talking about Capone and Noreaga, Cormega and people like that. I would hear Mega on ‘em and I always thought he was good. He would have stories he talked about and he seemed like a real ni**a. His boy ended up getting us in contact and he flew over to the West coast and wanted to get introduced to the Bay area. He wanted to see how we get down out here and I thought he was dope. That’s how I started fu*kin’ with him, out here in the Bay.
DX: How about with Andre Nickatina?
The Jacka: I always knew him. We would always speak to each other and what not. He’s a fan of Hip-Hop or just a fan of the music as well. He heard my sh*t and liked my sh*t so we linked up. We put out 3 albums with the Mobb Finga’s and he presented them. We’ve known each other for a long time now. One day we were talking and said if we’re going to do something we might as well do it big. I took some beats and he came and ripped it down. He’s just a genuine cat and he really likes the music. He doesn’t f*ck with everybody either. I think it’s a privilege for me to even fu*ck with him.
DX: What have you learned and taken away from Bay Area veterans?
The Jacka: First and foremost I learned to just stick to the program and don’t give up. At the end of the day the dude that works the hardest is the one that’s gonna get to eat. They really paved the way for me. I can go everywhere E-40 went. I can go anywhere T oo Short went or Master P. I can go anywhere everyone before me went on that independent level and just let them know I know these cats. It’s all good. They can all vouch for me. I just try to follow the routes that they set. I just try to stay with it because it’s a market and it’s real. We’re starting our own companies and putting these albums out ourselves. We gotta hit these markets up real hard just like we used to do in the early 90’s. We gotta get on the movement. Whenever somebody came out with something on an independent label; the movement for the artist was the movement for the label. It’s just gotta get back to that ground work. That’s what I picked up from the Bay Area veterans. That ground work and hussel to have your own thing going. No label telling you what to do. You just go out and get your own sh*t. the whole thing to start a label and do your thing. That’s really what I got out of it.
DX: Speaking of independent labels, you own your own music label which is an accomplishment. Want to speak a little more about that decision?
The Jacka: A lot of the Bay area artists have their own label. Even people who aren’t from the Bay like Master P. have their own thing. I wouldn’t say Master P. got his exact start in the bay, but I remember when he had a No Limit Records store around here in the Bay. He was pushing the No Limits thing real hard and it was before they got big all in the South. It was huge in the Bay area though. Master P., they were repping that Richmond, California and all that. Silk tha Shocka and all them boys knew what was up. After seeing that and how he took his to a whole other level, I was like damn. I saw the same happen with E-40 and Too Short. They had their own labels and are able to put out what they want. They don’t have anybody dictating them and saying what they should put out. They get the chance to stay creative and really come up with the shit that they like to do. That was really my inspiration to do it myself as well.
DX: Creating music for prisons is a very interesting angle, where did that idea come from?
The Jacka: A lot of people that I know might have been in the pen. They come up to me and say “hey man, a lot of people listen to you in the pen man. They play it all the time”. When you’re in prison you got a lot of time to think. You have to really listen to music because it gives you a chance to separate good music from the bullsh*t. You can separate it from the ni**a who is trying to be famous, to the ni**a who is trying to really spit their sh*t. You get the time to really just sit there and soak it all up. A lot of these cats are just talking it but their not really saying the life. You have to really live to know their life. To actually see sh*t and watch it go down and see how it happened. When you do all that and deliver it with your music, people can’t believe that sh*t. People who actually been through some things and now are in prison, it’s their life and they wanna listen to it. That aint no bullsh*t because you can’t even come up with sh*t like that; you have to either been around it your whole life or done it.
DX: Where do you plan for that approach to take you and your music?
The Jacka: I’m not really trying to make a gain from it. It’s just me delivering something to someone that knows what they’re going through. If I can make someone be able to deal better just through my music, that’s big to me. A lot of our brothers and sisters are in prison. If I can help these dudes deal with their time away from their families and anybody else that means the world to them and they listen to me. That’s the crowd I need to roll with.
DX: Do you feel like there is any pressure on you because you are one of the few people representing the West coast?
The Jacka: It isn’t actual pressure. I know once I get out and people actually get a chance to see me and hear me and f*ck with me it’ll be a whole other thing. It isn’t like I’m a typical West Coast artist that everyone is used to seeing. I’m on some whole other sh*t as well. At the same time I’m keeping it so true to what it is that I don’t even feel any pressure. It’s just that everybody wants to see you do the right thing so you just have to do it. Right now I know that if I ever really blow all the way up people are going to be like yea he’s hot but he’s a shaky dude. That’s what people do. Right now I’m the underdog and people want to see me make it.
DX: What did it mean to you to be on the Sound Scan top 200 as a Bay rapper?
The Jacka: It was crazy. It’s kind of crazy because I come from a culture where we always be on the billboards. When you get that ground work in there’s a lot of real genuine fans. Every time we drop an album, that sh*t is always on the billboard. It’s a big deal. These days and times it’s a way bigger deal than what it was then. I get more credit for what I’ve done recently when I feel I’ve done better before. I guess it is a different time where music is either dying out or something. Everyone that is dope, you don’t get a chance to hear them because radio doesn’t really play anybody with any substance to what they’re saying. It goes down to real fans buying your music. We were out there grinding. Going everywhere and dropping CD’s off, posters and showing face. Letting people see us and know us. The true fans will want to support it and see you get there. They want you to be there. It feels good. We always get recognized for it.
DX: What’s one of your favorite songs?
The Jacka: There’s so many of ‘em. It might even be like the ones that I have on my records aren’t even my favorites. It wasn’t like I was just doing ‘em to shoot the breeze. It was for the love and a lot of people feel the same way about it. Right now I would have to say…”Dream” off of Tear Gas. It’s a different kind of rapping. It means a lot to me. To some people they don’t get it. If you’re listening to it and are truly a Hip-Hop fan you’re gonna get it.
DX: Glamourous Lifestyle track is a hot song. It was the one used for your album release trailer. Want to talk a little bit about it?
The Jacka: When I first heard the beat I knew what it would sound like. I was actually on the phone with one of my boy’s who was in federal prison at the time. I was actually just picking the beat. I listened to it while he was on the phone and he thought it was a good beat so I just used it. It was used for some other people prior but it never came out too serious. I took the beat and it ended up being better. We mixed it made it happen.
DX: What do you think the West Coast might have to do to become a major standing in Hip-Hop again? Do you think it’s all an evolution and it will take the wheel soon? Is it just the evolution of Hip-Hop making its rounds?
The Jacka: There’s a whole underground movement that everybody doesn’t even see. I’m underground and in the Billboards, that’s gotta be something. That’s a genuine thing. That’s what Hip-Hop should be. You gotta find it. It isn’t commercial, it’s in the streets and that’s real. Everybody is on their high horse. They don’t see what’s going on. They don’t see the real Hip-Hop. We live it and that’s what it is. Everyone who doesn’t get it isn’t meant to get it. Everybody just wants to be famous. They want to come up with this scene and just do that, instead of trying to take the fans over and winning their soul. I think the way Hip-Hop is going is great and we’re here.
Pulse of the People
“If we don’t get them, they gonna get us all/I’m down for runnin’ up on them crackers in they city hall.” Now that I have your attention we can speak on some dead prez. dead prez managed to consitantly say what was on their mind freely and have people of all kinds vibe with them. This is quite the rarity within the Hip-Hop genre. Nevertheless being a politically conscience group in an industry where it is overlooked is hard to come by. dead prez has been speaking about subjects such as healthy eating, living green and activism for years. The group has been known to burn money on the stage and I’m not talking about singles. With a new president who stands for numerous things on many different levels, it seems only right to get the opinion of stic.man and M-1 on the Head of State. Just because a black man is president it doesn’t mean that they have completed their thought. What do they hope the new President can bring to the table and how do they feel about what he’s already done thus far?
Although the group has been pretty low key on the music radar for the past few years, they come back with a project for the people. The new album Pulse of the Poeple is collaboration between dead prez and DJ Green Lantern. They’ve all worked together before and this project is special because it proves that both parties still have the creativity to make powerful music that reaches many. “We titled the album Pulse of the People because we have our ear to the ground. We’re listening to the pulse of the people from the ground up” -M-1.
HipHopDX: Being a politically conscience group, do you feel it’s harder to get your message across to people?
stic.man: We just doing what we feel. Who feel it, that’s who it’s for. It’s a grind like anything else. We been traveling. We just came from Scandinavia, Austria, Africa all over the world. It’s a good response.
M-1: We been blessed to have a runnin’ for a minute, ya know what I mean? We put out our first record around ’99-2000 and without any commercial kind of support from the industry we’ve been able to feed off what’s happening underground with the people. To answer your question directly it’s not hard to get your message out when people are going through the same thing that you’re talking about. So that’s what we find. It might not be the same thing that’s happening in musical space, but, it’s the same thing that is happening in every community in the world. We are fortunate enough to be able to tap into that.
DX: Would you say there weren’t that many obstacles for you, or you were focusing more on the people instead of being commercial?
stic.man: I mean, how can I say this? You know, the music that we doing is the mainstream. A lot of people aint sittin’ on Bentley’s and sh*t like that. I don’t feel like it’s not what people are going through. Everywhere we go we get support. We don’t really see ourselves like political rap. Everything is political, every part of life. We deal with politics in our music because that’s part of life. A lot of people take that part out and want to play the fence. They don’t wanna talk about certain political things. We talk about it because we know we got a platform. Hopefully we can inspire people to rebel, to have hope, to get information, to get involved and get organized so it’s all apart of the process.
M-1: To add on to your question because you said about the commercial and obstacles. When you intend to do what we intend to do, you recognize the obstacle before you even set out to do the plan. Yea there is a very huge obstacle in the way. The obstacle has nothing to do with the music industry, it has the same thing to do with the system that creates all of the industries. Not just the music industry, the entertainment industry as a whole, the education industry, the prison industry every industry is affected by the same system. We recognize that coming in. We intended to use our music to open up what people might think or might have heard about or want to know about and what we can learn from. Yes, that’s a challenge. You take sacrifices to do that. I take sacrifice in the honor of people who did it like me. Political prisoners and OG’S, riders, freedom fighters they made me who I am, actually even gave me my name, so for me the challenge is beautiful. Actually for me it’s a beautiful struggle.
DX: Since we’re getting political, how do you guys feel about the current presidency?
stic.man: What is it number 44?
M-1: That’s symbolic, 4-4 baby…I got my 4-4 too baby, what’s good?
stic.man: It’s the same sh*t different face. I separate my analysis/critique on Obama as the president right now from being personal. I have no personal issues with Obama as a man. I think he’s charismatic, I think he’s intelligent; he’s a breath of fresh air in a lot of ways. I respect that he’s got a family and yadi-yada all day long. I can say that about Obama the man. Obama the president, 44th “masta” of U.S. imperialism, I look at his policies in the world. I look at the 3.2 billion dollars that his stimulus plan gave to the prison industry. I look at his double talk on different issues around the world when it comes to “white power” or Americanism. I see that too. What I think about the presidency is that Obama has been selected at a crucial time when the system is in a crisis. When people already had their back to the wall and was ready for change, any kind of way and it was coming and brewing and people were fed up and seeing the okidoke. Then along come this charismatic black man who put more faith in the system so the system could last a little longer. People would think that “now we’re actually gonna get what we were supposed to have”. I think it’s part of the okiedoke. That’s what I think.
M-1: Hell yea. HipHopDX if you aint know lemme let you know…he aint the first black president. I’m not talking about that dude who was head of that Continental Congress neither. I’m talking about Fela Kuti, he’s the black president, Fela Kuti. If you don’t know go check Nigeria, matter of fact after Fela, Martin Luther the King. He’s the first black president of the United motha*fu*kin States. He was shot down and what you gonna do about it. What?
DX: What would you like to see accomplished by President Obama?
M-1: I would like to see him free all political prisoners and prisoners of war. I think symbolically what that represents is an African struggle inside the United States that would be recognized as legitimate worldwide. It would recognize the genocide against African people in this country, if we even recognize it. Mumia Abu Jamal is innocent as far as I’m concerned. This is a 30 something year old trial. It’s not just about the death penalty and this is my thing I’m sure the stic.man is gonna jump in real crazy, but, I start out by saying this. If we free all political prisoners and prisoners of War in the United States, prisoners of conscious, people who fought for black people freedom and justice and equality in this United States, it sends a symbol to the rest of the world that we’re ready for justice in the whole world. You know what I mean? Like I say off the back of Fred Hampton Junior son of slain Black Panther party leader Fred Hampton Senior.
…I say free them all. Free them all. Keep the hands off of our comrades out of U.S. borders. That sends the hugest kind of message towards the waiting African community worldwide who are waiting for justice, freedom and equality. I would love to see that happen.
stic.man: I really don’t have any expectations for him. My mind doesn’t even work like that really. I got expectations for the people and what we’re going to do. What he could do with his office is tell the truth. Expose the system for what it is. Reparations, investing in our communities, putting money, land resources, gold and kill all the laws that say mandatory minimum sentences. There’s so much work that he could do and that’s what we thought he was going to be about, but, my faith is not there. My faith is in the power of the people. Based on his track record so far I think he’s trying to appease the white population and make sure they know he’s safe. I mean more so then he’s trying to work on getting justice to our struggle. If he does, I’ll be the first one to say hey I appreciate you.
M-1: Fo sho! So you got a lot of work to do Obama. HipHopDX is watching you and even Dead Prez is watching you. The people is watching you. Obama listen to this new Pulse of the People. Obama put your ear to the ground and listen to the Pulse of the People. Listen to this “Gangsta, Gangsta” that’s gangsta, gangsta with a “a” not an “er” feel me?
DX: Do you feel like you are rebels in an unspoken revolution?
stic.man: I’m definitely a rebel. I’m just being true to self. I’m a rebel to the systems, I’m a rebel to they religions, rebel to they food recommendations, rebel to they schools and holiday’s all that sh*t.
M-1: He spoke on the rebel part; I’m going to speak on the unspoken revolution part. Our revolution is spoken. It’s clearly laid out with clear points. It has international scope and national scope. It’s not one that was born yesterday; it was born from years before I was even on the Earth. I’m apart of it and I hope to assist it and aid it towards ending the relationship that we’ve had with this parasitic system for years and years. I know it’s hard to say this especially when Hip-Hop don’t say this type of sh*t. Realistically that’s what we’re looking at right now. We’re looking at the ability to end the relationship between the system that has been sucking the blood out of the black people for years. What does that mean? That means a new day on the plantation. That means shackles have come off. That means a new day for a spoken revolution. This revolution is spoken. Dead Prez has been apart of this and that’s why we’re putting out Pulse of the People. That’s why we’re putting out Information Age, our next LP, we’re going to put out another piece as well. What we want to do is be able to popularize some of the sentiments that people don’t often get to hear in the music. We wanna talk about what it means to be “green” in the hood. Not just what it means to be “green” for white people. Not Al Gore “green” because of his Inconvenient Truth, because we need a convenience and truth of freedom. It’s a convenient truth for us because we need it realistically. I want to speak it out loud and tell the world we here and we aint going nowhere, Dead Prez for life.
DX: What do you guys think you have been most influential in accomplishing?
stic.man: Surviving, staying out of jail, staying off dope you know what I mean? It has to do with humility. I say humility because if you don’t talk to people you don’t hear what they think. What I hear from people is that they say “man I feel the same way, I don’t have to feel like I’m the only one.” I think we turn people on to that there is a revolutionary movement. It didn’t die in the 60’s and they’re real ni*gas still here still working. Not to just be on the podium talking but for our lifestyles. I think we’re trying to cut through some of the bullshit. There’s a song on Pulse of the People called “Gangsta, Gangsta” and we’re about defining a phenomena and making it active. So we come to get the terms that they term against us and put some use to it and make it functional in our own interest. Helping people speak up and say what’s on their mind. Having our own companies is an example that we don’t want to be conscience nig*as talking sh*t. Seeking power. Small steps, none of us are free yet so we have a long way to go. Besides the music that I think we’re here to do.
DX: What brought the collaboration between Dead Prez and DJ Green Lantern?
DJ Green Lantern: How I look at my role in the pulse of the people is to just provide the craziest sound scapes for Dead Prez to be able to speak their mind. I want the music to be able to inspire them with the craziest music that I could possibly find in different areas and different chambers because they represent so many different things. Political revolutionary, fuck the police, healthy eating, it’s all revolutionary in the general sense but there’s all different areas for it and different types of music you can make. It’s not all “rah-rah” guns blaring, but, we definitely appreciate that.
DX: How do you guys feel about the current state of hip hop?
stic.man: I appreciate hip hop. I appreciate the energy. I appreciate the economic opportunites. I appreciate seeing our culture and just the swagger and the pride that people have for this music. A lot of times we criticize hip hop so much we don’t just appreciate that we have this art form. I want to see hip hop just be more under our control. The producers, the writers, the people who live this shit, I want to see us in charge and empowered by it that much more. More in control, more self determined and with it.
DJ Green Lantern: I think that’s definitely happening more now too. With major labels shrinking down because the record sales are decreasing so they can’t afford to pay this overhead. It’s getting back to a more independent game. They have people that have foundation and fan bases that are independent brands like a Dead Prez. The list goes on and on and on, there’s like 5 people who are strong names that are independent. Jim Jones to Fat Joe, there are a bunch of people who can do things on their own with no label clearances. Wait hold on I got to take the Jim Jones back he just signed a deal, but, the idea. The point is we’re moving towards the independent game and independence is always the best thing. Take your destiny into your own hands.
stic.man: Keep it creative. We’re definitely not promoting one sound or one point of view, there is room for all types of music. Music is supposed to fit your life. Everything you do should have some music that you can resonate with.
DJ Green Lantern: I think that Dead Prez is like a rarity in the fact that they don’t do things for the money quote unquote. I been walking around asking people this question as they get on my radio show for an interview or something like that and I ask do you do what you do for the love of doing it, like what made you first start doing it, or do you do it for the money? 9 times out of 10 if you’re doing what you do for the money…your art is wack and it is going to suffer. You’re not going to move forward and it’s not going to be anything that anybody is going to look at years later. I feel that that’s another way that I’m proud to be on this project because these guys represent integrity, musical integrity and that’s what I like to be involved with. Anything as genuine but I feel like this day and age we have a lot of creativity come in to the game based on the fact that the record sales are lower. It’s opening up another lane for artists to be creative again. A lot of the crop of the new young dudes is really creative in comparison to the last 5-8 years, when everyone had to be 1 or 2 stereotypes. In that sense I got a lot of hope for hip hop. I love all of the new guys that are coming with new flavor and new lanes and all that. Asher Roth is like I’m a crazy college kid that does bong rips and drinks out of a keg and pancakes and flip flops. I Dig that.
Coming into this game with songs geared towards other artists and their situation sounds a lot like another rapper from Queens we all know and love. Although Sosh claims he’s not trying to get at peoples fitted jeans in a bunch, he is stating some facts that has gotten the internet buzzing. With his one track called “No Co-Sign” to “Exhibit S” Sosh has come out with a lot to say and is actually being heard. Being involved professionally with Hip-Hop for some time now, he’s learned a few things and observed even more.
One thing Sosh does claim to be is a lover of the ladies and creating that music that the females can enjoy. I guess he learned it from the best, shout out to LL. Sosh garnered some attention from DJ Envy and Kay Slay and produced some mixtapes with their help. With his music ranging from songs about women, the city and his place in the industry he shows the same type of content reminiscent of MC’s from back in the day. At the end of the day Sosh is a Queens bred rapper giving that old gutter edge back to the music.
AllHipHop.com: First off, let’s discuss your stage name. How did you get it?
Sosh B: My friends call me Sosh a.k.a. Bacardi and I put it together. I made it shorter to Sosh B. because when I went to shows and stuff they thought it too long so they cut it down. I got the name from my man Suave out in Queens. He was just a neighborhood cat that always gave nicknames to people in the hood. It just stuck. I asked him “what the hell does Sosh mean?” He told me that I just look cool as hell and I looked like a Sosh. Now I made it into an acronym meaning So Original So Hood. I put my own twist on it. I had the name since I was about ten years old.
AllHipHop.com: Speak about your come up and how you got to where you are now.
Sosh B: I’ve been doing it for a while. I was attached to Onyx back in the day. Jeffrey Harris was their manager and doing the “kiddie group” thing back then. I branched off and started to do my thing. I started to play ball. Then I linked up with Graf and Black Hand. I linked up with them and got my first feature. My first feature I ever did was with Busta Rhymes through them. I remember thinking to myself “I must be good if Busta let me go in on the track. I’m gonna start pursuing this for real.” I then branched off again because they were putting a lot of effort behind Graf. He’s a dope artist I can’t deny that. It just made me want to go and seek somebody out to do that for me. I went and found my team that was behind me and pushing me hard in Queens. We have posters up all over Jamaica Avenue. We’re right there on Merrick and Linden. That’s my hood right there. Sutphin Boulevard as well, I’m deep in Queens. Right now we’re trying to kick it up a notch and take it back to when you used to see posters and stuff up. Nobody’s really doing that right now. This way you can take over the internet and the streets at the same time. That’s what I’m doing in Queens as of right now.
AllHipHop.com: What would you say Queens brings to your music?
Sosh B: What Queens brings is that fly aspect. I wouldn’t even say swag because that’s so saturated right now. I would say fly aspect for the ladies and lyricism. My Queens Four fathers before me like Nas and LL, my family is from Farmers so I took little bits and pieces from people that are from Queens. You have to especially get the aspect of the ladies because you got to get the ladies. In Queens we do that. Make it from the street to the club; just like going from after hours to the club. It’s got to be the same thing. That’s how I treat my music. Queens we’re always going to be like that. Take it from the streets to the clubs, just trying to provide good concepts and music.
AllHipHop.com: Would you say you’re trying to play the part of the ladies man?
Sosh B: Yea, ladies buy records. Plus I love the ladies. That’s just me. I got songs talking about giving fat girls love. Then I can talk about my daughter. I can talk about the first time my heart got broken. That’s why a lot of people don’t relate to artists because they don’t give up their everyday experience. The ones that are winning, they do that. I hope everybody has been in a relationship at least once. You got to cater to the women, definitely.
AllHipHop.com: How did you get up with DJ Kay Slay and Sha Money XL?
Sosh B: Kay knew me from back when I was with Black Hand. I was actually in a cipher on Hot 97 when they could actually let artists come upstairs. I was on the cipher with Shellz, Graf and Kanye. I did my thing, everybody did they thing. We kept in touch from then on and I just reached out to him recently. I had Envy doing my mixtape. I thought to myself, I need the streets to show me some love too. I reached out to him and he did it. He hosted my whole joint. The deal with Sha is I’m reaching out to everybody in Queens. I know certain people that I know in the game. For instance Steve Raze, he’s a good dude and that’s his people. In Queens we gotta have some brotherly love. Hopefully Steve can speak to him. I can reach out to him and he can give me a shot. I like Sha. I like what he brings to the game. He’s about people that can bring some substance to the game. It’s about longevity and that’s what I’m about. I’m not some fly by night type of dude. I really appreciate the work that Sha puts out and Steve. Maybe they can make that link happen.
AllHipHop.com: With that being said you have a song called “No Co-Sign”, yet you’re looking for one. Discuss more about the song and the situation.
Sosh B: That was a song that I made that got a lot of buzz on the internet. It was from the heart and it was frustration. It was about how you got Drake who has Lil Wayne; J. Cole who has Jay-Z; Jay Electronica has Just Blaze and they all have somebody that’s saying they’re hot. I’m not going to lie they’re hot, they sick but I’m just saying I don’t have that. When I say no co-sign I’m saying I’m doing everything by myself. Everything that I’m doing, I’ve done it. I don’t have a co-sign. I would love one; I would never say I wouldn’t take one. As of my career right now I’ve done it to the point of just pure grind. Even with the Kay Slay’s and the Envy’s, they’re DJ’s. Unless they do like how they did with Papoose. I think that was beautiful. Kay took Papoose and made him his artist. Nobodies doing that, they know I’m nice, but that’s the whole no co-sign theory.
AllHipHop.com: Discuss more about your mixtape with Envy.
Sosh B: The joint with Envy is called 151 Proof. The joint with Kay Slay is called the Hangover. The one with Envy is just about giving it up to day to day life. Just my activities and things I go through in my life. It was about the recession and how that was bothering me. I touched on a lot of aspects on the album. The mixtape I threw it out there on the internet so people could know cats from Queens were here rocking it.
AllHipHop.com: What’s with Exhibit S?
Sosh B: Exhibit S was another thing. I don’t want cats thinking that I’m picking fights for attention. Jay Electronica is nice, I just didn’t feel that line he said about New York. It was like c’mon man who you talking to? You’re nice but c’mon. Nobody stepped up to him either. Diddy and Mos Def they’re all on stage with this dude. They didn’t tell him to retract that line? People get so happy to hear a spitter, they forget what the hell the concept was of that song. That wasn’t just bashing New York, but he slipped it in there. I don’t like that. When you talk about New York I’m going to say something. I’m not the one that’s just going to let it slide. That’s my point about that.
AllHipHop.com: You wouldn’t say that you’re trying to burn bridges with anybody? You do have “No Co- Sign” and “Exhibit S” and you’re from Queens like 50 whom started off his career with picking fights.
Sosh B: No, not at all. I don’t know I just can’t bite my toungue on certain things. If you check my song “No Co-Sign” you’ll see I never said these dudes are wack. I’m just saying if you’re giving them a shot, you should look over here too and give me a shot. That’s all I’m saying. The Jay Electronica one I wasn’t feeling that. Son is nice, I’ll say son is nice, but I was not feeling that. I’m nice too so I feel I can say something. He’s in the same boat as me. He may have a deal he may not; I just feel that I’m just as good. I would never go and say something like “New Orleans” you all should just stay under the water.” I wouldn’t say something like that. We’re not jacking nobodies slang. If anything we create it.
AllHipHop.com: What is something you’d like to happen that would really help your career?
Sosh B: I just want to be heard. I’m not one of those artists that is going to say I need a million dollars because my budget is low. I think my music is good enough that it will touch somebody. I really need to be heard. I need my buzz to be bigger. I need people to pay attention to what I’m saying. That’s what is next for me; me creating a bigger buzz for myself. I’m not asking for anything astronomical. No big figures and stuff like that. I’ll make it work. Whenever somebody does reach out and wants to do something with me I’ll make it work. I know I have that product that will make fans happy. I just want to be heard and get my buzz up.
It was always the plan for Rick Ross to go off into the music world and blow up big. Apparently the “put on” game isn’t being played when it comes to the group Triple C. In Hip-Hop there’s usually one thing that is most commonly seen, putting your friends on. You know the classic story “my homeboy made it, so now he’s gonna put me on cuz it’s my time”. With Eminem it was D12, Biggie had Junior M.A.F.I.A. and Nelly with the St. Lunatics is just a few examples. Now emerges a new group called Triple C. The difference here is that although Rick Ross is involved with creating the group, he’s not just giving the group members a platform to stand on, he’s actually in it. This makes it difficult for critics to just write them off as being a talentless Hip-Hop side project for Ross.
Custom Cars and Cycles is their debut album title and it leaves me wondering what makes this any different from other music from the South. Why should someone give it a listen? Their message is basic in it being about staying real to oneself and loyal to friends, sounds like true hood logic. The group has been compared to the immensely successful Hot Boys, you can make the decision yourself by checking out their debut single “Go”. I had a chance to sit down with the group during a video shoot and chop it up about what it’s like to work with Ross and why this group is different from the rest. “The world doesn’t know what it’s in for.” –Torch.
HipHopDX: What does your group name stand for and mean to you guys?
Gunplay: Triple C is Carol City Cartel. That’s the city we’re from in uptown Miami. We took it from the streets to the music and just kept the cartel. That’s how it came to be Carol City Cartel.
DX: How did you guys come to be a group?
Gunplay: I met Ross when I was young. We both had the same dream and drive. A year or two later we met Torch. Recently within the last two years we saw Young Breed on his grind in the streets. We saw the talent and the drive and picked him up to complete the Carol City Cartel.
DX: How did Rick Ross’ solo career come about? Who decided he would be the one to be solo first?
Gunplay: Rick Ross did.
Young Breed: That was always the plan.
DX: Since Rick Ross is the one with the huge name and exposure, how does it feel to have that kind of upper hand in getting the groups name out?
Torch: It’s like that’s the schooling that we came under. It’s almost like a big brother effect. How I measure myself is like this, if I can stay on a track with him and just have somebody say “oh he’s nice”, then I feel like there’s nobody in the world I can’t do that to. If we all go in the booth with that edge like you’re tryin to impress the next person, you want the other dude to be like “yo you killed that sh*t”. Ross’ lyrical ability will make you look at him like he’s a machine. He just bangs out track after track. With that work ethic around you, you have no choice but to pick up yours. Even if you were lacking in the work ethic department, it’s no way you could be around somebody that works like that and not work like that. You’re going to feel like you’re slacking.
DX: I’ve seen that you’ve been compared to the Hot Boys. Do you feel it’s an accurate comparison?
Young Breed: It’s a suitable comparison. We are different in our own right. When they compare us to the Hot Boys they mean the whole aura. We come out as a label with Maybach Music and we’re going to continue on that regime.
Torch: They love to use that comparison. I don’t mind that comparison because everyone from that group came out very successful. I feel like we’ll take it to even bigger levels then them. Shout out to all of them. I love their music. I’m just so confident in what we do. I cannot wait for the world to see what we can do. It’s like an enlightenment is about to take place.
DX: Who are some of your musical influences?
Gunplay: All the street ghetto legends that came up in the game, from Trick Daddy, JT Money, Scarface, UGK and the whole Texas movement. There’s also the whole West Coast with Ice-T, NWA, Tupac and Ice Cube and all of that. Of course we have New York with Rakim, Eric B and Biggie Smalls.
Young Breed: That’s just to name a few.
DX: What can we expect from your upcoming album Custom Cars & Cycles?
Young Breed: You can expect big street music with ghetto classics, hood classics and a lot of big stuntin’. The name of the album is titled Cutom Cars & Cycles, we got that just from it being as far as we could see at the time. When we were just freestyling and beating up the booth dropping mixtapes and hustling and grinding, as far as we could see there would be custom cars and cycles that we’d get off this rap thing. We’re just paying homage to that. Expect a lot of that type of stuff, we stuntin’ on ‘em and ballin’ out. You can also get to know Gunplay individually on this album. You’ll be able to get to know Torch on this album. You’ll get to know Young Breed as well. You already know the big boss Ross.
DX: What’s the track to look out for?
Gunplay: Look out for the single “Go”. It’s produced by Schife out of West Palm Beach and it has Birdman on the intro. Rick Ross, Torch, Young Breed and myself shot the video a couple of weeks ago and you can check it out on MTV Jams on heavy rotation. Look out for the 106 and Park debut soon. It’s taking the radio and streets by storm as well.
Torch: My favorite songs on the album are “Diamonds & Maybach’s” and “Hustla”. I don’t even call them songs, I call them psalms. Everything that we do is kind of like teaching somebody. Someone is going to learn something when it comes to our music. We’re going to surprise a lot of people. A lot of people know already, but we’re going to surprise a lot of people. They’re used to cliché artists putting out their homeboys sh*t and this is completely different.
DX: How is it different?
Torch: We’re different because of our talent. How I feel about it is like this; when you look at most of those groups that come out when their homeboys put them on, there is only a few successful ones. They were successful because they actually had people that were talented. Recently there has been a lack of talent in the group. It’s almost as if there is only one main person in the group who has the talent. If you do your homework with Triple C you’ll see that there are tracks with just me and Gunplay. There might be a track with Breed by himself or just Gun by himself or me by myself. People love it. We have solo mixtapes and soon after this is all said and done we have solo albums coming out as well. That’s really what separates us. It’s the talent. You can listen to all of us and compare it to those other groups. If the main ni**a isn’t on the song than you don’t want to listen to it.
DX: What exactly is the message you’re trying to say with your music?
Gunplay: To be loyal. To be a real dude, be a real ni**a to yourself. If you’re real with yourself you will be surrounded by real people. That’s basically the message. Keep it gangsta.
DX: What has been the response from your peers and fans in regards to your music? What has been the feedback?
Young Breed: Everybody is showing major love. They just know it’s our time. They have been hearing it for so long. It’s been embedded in their heads. They’re just ready for it. Everybody is excited. We have been getting a real good positive response. We’ve been going from city to city and state to state and they love it. We’re about to go over seas. Where we headed Gunplay?
Gunplay: London tomorrow and Germany after that.
Young Breed: We’re about to go show Germany love and see their response. Overall it’s been real positive.
DX: What are your thoughts about Rick Ross being called a liar due to his position as a corrections officer?
Gunplay: That’s just media hoopla. That doesn’t stop anyone’s bank. It doesn’t stop me feeding my belly. We got more money, more deals and what not. After that we got bigger and stronger. When you’re great and you’re a great artist people will try to bring you down in any way possible. It didn’t work. The plan backfired. It didn’t work at all.
DX: What does each individual person bring to the table?
Gunplay: I bring that carefree, wild style, unorthodox, no guidelines type of personality to the table. I don’t play by the rules.
Young Breed: Torch is going to bring you that arrogance. He is going to bring you that talk and immaculate vocabulary and he’s going to do it in that smooth way. He’ll still bust ya head at the same time. He brings that Bronx flavor. I’m the newest and youngest member. I just bring that young gutta side. I’m here to represent a whole new generation. I’ll still give that old soul at the same time, but, I’m going to rep for the young generation and put on.
DX: Is there ever any conflict with the group in a sense that Young Breed is too young or Torch being from the North and what not?
Young Breed: As a group you’re going to have your arguments and disagreements. Someone may not like how this sounds or how that was done but, real ni**as do real things and all we do is brush that off. We’re brothers so there is always going to be a little conflict here or there. For the most part it’s not stopping any money.
Gunplay: Exactly, as a semi veteran of the game and watching Young Breed on the come up he is soaking it all in. He’s really taking everything in real good. He’s humble. He pays attention. He works real hard. As long as you got that in the game you will succeed in whatever you do.
DX: Going back to Torch being from the North and the sound of music up here as opposed to down south being different. What’s the overall sound of the album? Was there any conflict in creative direction in that sense?
Gunplay: The whole album is well rounded. It’s not strictly one way. It’s not just South bounce, kill, kill, kill and all of that. We got songs for the ladies, gangsters, hustlers and feel good songs to pop in on a sunny day. It’s for everybody. It’s well rounded.
Torch: We’ve been down for so long. I’ve been down with them since ’98 going back and forth to Miami. It’s not like I’ve only known them for the past month and it’s chemistry that is issue. We’ve been doing music together for a while and we’ve been building together and groomed together. It’s like being around people in your neighborhood. When you been around them for so long you start to move similar and that’s what happened with the music. We come together so well because we have been doing it for so long together. In New York and down South it’s not even like that. I write for a lot of people. I write for males, females and I can see from a lot of different perspectives. Getting on a beat and vibing with a beat it doesn’t really matter what region you’re from. If you know how to you rap, you can rap to anything.
Charlamagne the God
Southern born and bred the influences of the South remain fully intact with this recently relocated country hustler. Staying on our grind and having constant persistence will prevail through all. Charlamagne the God, current assistant to controversial radio personality Wendy Williams, proves that staying true to your self will always be best regardless of the controversy. Some say he’s crass, insensitive and annoying when speaking his mind, he seems to think differently. In the end does it really matter what everyone thinks? With the stab he took at rapper Chingy, to the allegations made by assistant Nicole Spence , Charlamagne still manages to stay on top of his game at the only black owned radio station going. With many years deep in the game he’s still pushing buttons of listeners and station directors alike and doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon.
HipHopDX: Do you feel that you will be the next to take reign as a controversial force in the radio community as Wendy Williams is doing now?
Charlamagne the God: Definitely, I’m next. I am the future. I been saying I am the future since 2001 to 2002 ya know. Wendy obviously saw something in me to say, “You know what I think that kid is big.” That’s why she got me out here from South Carolina. Me, side by side with her, ya know, she’s teaching me the ropes on the next level, because I been doing this for years. I was doing radio in South Carolina. I’ve had my own show, Charlamagne the God: Concrete Jungle, in South Carolina. That’s where she heard me. So I’m definitely next.
HipHopDX: Do you truly not care what others think about you, particularly the listeners to the show?
Charlamagne: Not at all. No, no, no…the reason is because I feel like maybe other people might feel different, but, I don’t s ay things out of malice. I’m a very opinionated person and I don’t see anything wrong with having an opinion. We live in a world where everybody wants to be so “politically correct.” I know I have politically incorrect views and potentially dangerous rhetoric, for the simple fact that I am honest, I stay true to myself. If I don’t like something, what’s wrong with me saying I don’t like something? You would be surprised how many times you walk into these TV studios or radio studios and they tell you things like “don’t have an opinion on this” or “don’t have an opinion on that” and “don’t say such and such about this” or “don’t say such and such about that.” Me myself, I would rather not partake in any of these shows or be involved with any station that doesn’t allow me to express myself. What’s wrong with me having an opinion? The same way I can tell Rakim or Nas or Andre 3000 and T.I. that they’re great MC’s, I should be able to tell somebody like Chingy or Young Berg or whoever else that they’re a wack MC. It’s just my opinion. It’s the way I was feeling at the time.
HipHopDX: Many find you to be over the top and crude…do you feel your take on life and saying how you feel is only helping you or hurting you?
Charlamagne: I mean I got an album coming out on EMI this Tuesday. I just got the green light to be an associate producer on a BET show. I’m sitting down doing meetings with a couple other networks that are trying to develop shows for me. I think I made one of the top 30 radio personalities under the age of 30 in the country. So…if it’s hurting I can’t tell. Laughs. I put out mixtapes. I done got over 200,000 downloads just last month alone. My new mixtapes are on the streets right now by DJ Drama with D. Woods from Danity Kane and Crooked I from the West Coast, so it’s like, that’s on the internet right now at tapedeck.com. I know we’re gonna do at least another 100,000 downloads. I can’t see where I’m hurting.
HipHopDX: With your music you poke fun at the current state of hip hop music. What musicians do you have respect for in the game today?
Charlamagne: Right now, like, right now? My favorite MC’ s of all time, my three favorites are: Nasir Jones, Ghostface Killa and Rakim Allah are my three favorite of all time. Currently, I’ve acquired new era favorites of all time. T.I. is one of my favorite MC’s of all time now because he is a brother that grew up in Atlanta and that’s right by South Carolina and that’s something I can relate to. When I see him and the things that he says and talks about in his music I can relate to, so he’s one of my favorites. I like Jeezy, I think Jeezy is dope. Jeezy provides the soundtrack to my life for many occasions right now. Who else is out there right now? I like a lot of West Coast artists. I like Glasses Malone. I like Crooked I. I think Killer Mike is incredible, I think Killer Mike has totally gotten up there with Chuck D. It’s like Chuck D., Ice Cube and Killer Mike all in the same three. Nas is in the same tree as Rakim. T.I. has just created his own tree. I think so. There’s a lot of MC’S that are coming out of the south now that are sort of branching off the T.I. tree. They’re doing things. I don’t really make fun of the whole current state of hip hop, but, come on man hip hop is corny right now. It’s this one huge big reality show and we all just watch it. Even though we know it’s fake, it’s entertaining. So, ya know, that’s what it is.
HipHopDX: It’s funny that you mention Nas. I was just about to ask you how you feel about the album.
Charlamagne: That’s ma dude. I’m a Nas fan. I thought the new album was dope. Untitled or whatever you wanna call it was dope. It was very socially conscious. It had a lot of things that I felt had a very socially redeeming value. I just thought it was a dope album all the way around. I recently kind of met Nas though and his energy was kind of funny. That kinda disappointed me. I guess that’s why they say it’s not good to meet your heroes. I met him a couple weeks ago actually. He was on the set of Wendy’s TV show and his energy was just kinda funny. I wasn’t really feeling his overall aura. That kinda disappointed me but as far as I am concerned, his album was a dope album.
DX: Do you think the South still can grab the credibility needed to stay in a respectable place amongst hip hop?
Charlamagne: The South doesn’t need to be doing anything but what the South is doing. The South is no different than any other region. You got dope MC’s and you got wack MC’s. Just like New York had dope MC’s and it had wack MC’s. Cali had dope MC’s and it had wack MC’s. Mid-West had dope MC’s and it had wack MC’s. The South is doing nothing that hasn’t been going on in hip-hop before. The only problem that people have with the South is that the South is dope. It’s the only region that is dominating right now. Nobody else seems to be able to get ahead. What everybody needs to realize is that if it wasn’t for the South, most of these Urban divisions of these record labels would be shut the fu*k down. Clutter be coming through the pipelines. All those little corny a** ringtones people dance to, that’s what’s keeping the doors open. That’s what’s keeping the doors open at Atlantic, that’s what’s keeping the doors open at Def Jam; that’s what’s keeping the doors open at Interscope…not necessarily Interscope because they got 50 Cent and Eminem and them, but, let’s keep it real. Come on all those other labels know this. Think about who dominated last year, Soulja Boy, Hurricane Kris. So it’s like without the South don’t put your nose up because without the South I would almost guarantee that most of these rap positions at these labels would be shut down. Period. What other region in rap has been doing it for six, seven years straight? You tell me…name one. Look at Atlantic right. They got Mano on it right now. I’m glad Mano is getting a look now because he’s actually a good dude. Atlantic wouldn’t take a chance on Mano before they had T.I. If it wasn’t for T.I. being in Atlantic and doing the numbers that he’s been doing and getting respect from the label and being able to say “Yo this is somebody you need to rock with.” So it’s like the South is helping everybody right now. People need to respect that.
DX: What was the worst thing that ever happened to you during your radio career?
Charlamagne: What’s the worst thing that ever happened to me? There’s no such thing as a worst thing to ever happen. To be truthfully honest there is no such thing as the worst thing to ever happen in life, because, every time you think something is bad, it’s really just God’s plan for you. Sometimes you think that just because it’s a bad situation that it was not on your path, but, naw you know it was God’s doing. There’s a path that he wants you to be on and sometimes there’s things that happen that don’t necessarily detour you, but, they can make you move over to the left, a little bit, to get you to the right side of the road. Something might be coming; it might hit you with something. I can’t necessarily think of a wrong really. I’ve been fired. We suspended right now. Our program director just told us that me and Wendy have been suspended today. I can’t really think of a wrong thing. There’s really no wrong. I can’t think of a wrong thing because at the end of the day…I’m good. I’m blessed. I’m blessed now. I can’t really think of a wrong thing.
DX: Your publicist mentioned to me that Wendy and you had been suspended just now. Do you know why you were suspended?
Charlamagne: Honestly, I have lost track of why we’re reprimanded, suspended, get memos etc. I don’t even really pay attention. I go sit down and talk in the director’s office and everything is like a blur to me. The funny thing is, is that it’s weird. We were taking off tomorrow and Monday, so now it’s like, you’re suspending us on our days off anyway…like that’s stupid. God bless everybody man. Laughs. God bless em’. But you know it comes with the territory with personalities like us. That’s one thing I always tell people man, don’t be risqué if that’s not you. If you’re not willing to walk through that fire and deal with the consequences that come with being an opinionated person…don’t do it. Don’t do it, just because, you know what I’m saying, you can’t open your mouth and be like I’m a satire. There’s no such thing. That’s something that people call you when you’re a risqué personality. Don’t do it just to be doing it. Trust me; if you’re not willing to take the consequences that come with it don’t put yourself out there like that. Don’t do it. This is me. I’ve always been like this. A lot of people think I am like this because I’m with Wendy now and trying to create something. You can go to South Carolina and ask about me. You can go to WHXD hot 103.9 in Columbia South Carolina and ask about me. You can go to Hot 98.9 in when they was around, they’re not around anymore because after they fired me they went in the toilet. You can go and ask about me. This is me. This is how I’ve always been. I been doing radio since 1998-99 so you know this is what it is.
DX: What’s your take on the current situation between Nicole Spence and Wendy Williams husband Kevin?
Charlamagne: I mean it was heartbreaking. It was heartbreaking because Nicole is like family. I love Nicole; I still love Nicole to this day. She’s like my sister. We don’t communicate now because of the situation, but, I love her. I don’t know what goes on. Do I necessarily believe it…no. But they’ll take it to court and check out the facts and do whatever they gotta do. It’s really not my concern.
DX: When you decided to write for Ozone magazine was it done in haste? Do you feel as though it was something you thought you could handle, only for it to become somewhat of a burden?
Charlamagne: I love writing. Actually, when I got fired from WHXD Hot 98.9 in Charleston, South Carolina, this was back in ’02 maybe, and I was out of radio for 6 months. I was doing what they call now blogs. I had a website and it was a subsidiary of MCZ and I had an actual page on the website that I was just writing to let the listeners that used to rock with me get a chance to know what was going on. I was doing that for a while. Then I was approached back in ’05 and asked if I ever thought about writing a column for OZONE magazine. They said it’s almost like you’re expressing yourself the same way you would on the radio. Just this time you write it out. I was definitely interested in it. Ozone is a reputable magazine and it’s from the South. It’s like we been growing together and I’ve been rolling with them since. I been writing for OZONE since they did the first OZONE awards. I love OZONE magazine. I love writing for them. I been a fan for a while and it’s really a privilege and an honor.
DX: What’s some advice you’d give someone who was interested in entering the radio world?
Charlamagne: The radio game is rough right now. People haven’t really figured out what makes PPM tick. We got shows and stuff that are number one in their market at one point and now they’re number 15 and 17. No one gets what is making the PPM move. The stations that have good PPM are the ones that have the White Cume. It’s when you bring the most amounts of people to the radio station at one time. It’s like having 500 people at a party and then just 20 people. 20 people might come to the party and stay for 4 or 5 hours but cume is more like having 500 people come to the party for ten minutes. It’s like a device that picks up whatever radio signal is around. If you walk into a building and Z100 is playing. Z100 might not necessarily be your favorite station, but, its’ getting picked up. White cume is what makes the PPM pop off. Urban stations, hip hop stations don’t get a lot of white cume. It’s because we’re Urban stations. It’s like how do you beat that. The law of nature or the law of mathematics is against you. There are more Caucasians then there are black people. We’re only 12.86 percent the population in America. I might be off, but, regardless it’s like how does a black station build white cume? You can’t. So it’s like a real rough time in Urban radio right now. You see how a lot of stations would rather have syndicated shows and I’m not knocking that because I am definitely gonna be a syndicated personality and I am now the co-host to a host who is now. It’s rough. Someone trying to get into radio I wouldn’t necessarily tell them to focus on being a personality I would tell them to focus on the behind the scenes. For personalities and DJ’s it’s kind of rough right now.
DX: Yea because recently Ms. Jone’s lost her job.
Charlamange: Yea God bless her. She was actually in Philly but they dropped her too. Like I said radio is a tough position to be in right now. God bless her. It could happen to anybody. It could happen to us. That’s why you gotta have so many different side hustles. You really gotta be about building your brand. Radio is not what it used to be anymore. I still love it though.
DX: So what can we expect from your album?
Charlamagne: I put together this album and it has other DJ personalities on it all from South Carolina. I’m not doing it because I wanna put my region on. I just want to show that here in South Carolina it is a very heavy hip hop industry out here. I wanted to put together a compilation of my peoples and put them on. I wanna put my peoples out there too. It’s called South Crack the album. It will be in stores and online August 19th. We also have this special deal with iTunes. From the 19th to the 26th we got what you call a seven series special. The whole album is gonna be a $1.99. The whole entire South Crack the album is gonna be $1.99. Everybody that has been downloading our South Crack mixtapes you know we got South Crack Bomb 8 out there hosted by Kanye and Swizz Beatz. We got South Crack Bomb 9 that will be out probably by the time you read this interview and it’s hosted by DJ Drama. This is the actual album. So for 7 days you can buy it for a $1.99 on iTunes. I mean I get that we’re on bad economic times right now. Hip hop is not selling anymore like it used to. This is because truthfully albums are expensive and I don’t necessarily need to buy the album. There’s plenty of CD’s that when I walk into the store I go…I might go and cop it. Then I look at the price and go, that’s 12 dollars. I might just go and buy the bootleg or download it. You have to come up with new and exciting ways to get people to want to buy your album. I think it being a $1.99, I think people can rock with that.
DX: With that do you have any last words?
Charlamagne: God loves everybody. God loves me. God loves you. God loves the whole planet. Everybody just needs to keep striving for perfection and to keep pushing. When I say push I mean praying until something happens. It’s bad economic times out here. Gas prices, food prices are high but we’re gonna be okay. At the end of the day we are going to be okay. The problems of man are very minute problems in the eyes of God. Matter of fact they’re not problems at all. He’s not putting nothing on our shoulders that we cannot handle. Everybody just keep it moving man. Keep it pushing. South Crack the album in stores August 19th.
Somalia born and bred K’Naan is not only expected to represent his native country, but the whole continent of Africa. He’s been referred to by some as the “Voice of Africa.” That’s a huge responsibility to take on, yet I’m sure he can handle it, just listen to the track “T.I.A.” Or “ABC’s” off the album Troubadour. His depiction of Africa makes America seem like cake in comparison. Of course every story is different and his is incredibly diverse. The artist came from a place where doors are far and few in between.
Recently working with mixtape DJ J. Period, they concocted a three part musical compilation. Taking inspiration and music from Fela Kuti, Bob Marley and Bob Dylan, The Bob Dylan part is also exciting for all the closet rock fans, its three huge names that left an immense impact in music. The project is very different than what is expected from J. Period, but it works. Thinking out of the box and experimenting is what it’s about and these two seem to be on to something good if not great.
HipHopDX: Do you get intimidated by the fact that some people consider you to be a representative of Africa? Not just your country alone, the whole continent.
K’Naan: It doesn’t intimidate me because I didn’t set out to be some kind of representative or voice for this continent or these people. I just feel like sometimes I am put in a place where I have to just respond to things. I have go to try and inject my little two cents in how the world feels about us. In the time that I have been doing that, a lot of people have come to acknowledge me as some kind of spokesperson. I’m not really that way. I don’t think of myself that way. I just feel like I am privileged to come from a people with real history and real struggle. Sometimes I’m the only guy that they know who is on television who can speak on those issues.
DX: I read somewhere that you feel American rappers don’t have as much credibility in your eyes, want to elaborate? What are some differences in your message as opposed to theirs?
K’Naan: I don’t think it is that blanketed as American rappers. A lot of people who struggle are legitimate. I spent time in the hoods of the U.S. I lived in South East D.C. when it was called the Capitol of Murder. I know how that world is. When I make statements it’s never really about posture or being harder then anyone, it’s just about acknowledging that there are struggles. There are degrees to struggle. We just come from something slightly more difficult.
DX: Let’s talk about the reason we’re all here; the mixtape or mixtapes rather featuring Fela Kuti, Bob Marley and Bob Dylan.
J. Period: It’s an idea that K’Naan had to work with these three artists. I then took the concept to the next level. I gave him maybe more then he had originally expected to do. I took on more then I originally expected to do as well. This was only supposed to be a promo project in the beginning. I didn’t know how long it was going to take. Once I started working with the music, the music itself took over. It made me feel like I owe it to these three people to step my game up. I would send things to K’Naan and he would start to record these ridiculous verses back. It made me think that I really have to step my game up because I want to introduce this guy to people who don’t know him. I also wanted to introduce all these artists to people that don’t know them. It became a way for me to tell the story of his story (K’Naan) and all these other artists. It was also a larger story of the power of music and what it can potentially do.
DX: How did the whole collaboration originate?
K’Naan: We met because I had this dream of these three artists, my heroes, and I wanted to figure out who I could work with to make things happen. In the world of mixtape DJ’s there isn’t anyone else that I could think of other than him (J. Period) that could make it work. It takes someone who is musically sensitive, whose projects have spoken to many to work with on something like that. I was blessed to get J. Period to say that he was down.
DX: Getting praise from Nas and Damien Marley must be insane, how does that make you feel?
K’Naan: It’s great. I feel good. Nas’ album Illmatic was one of the reasons why I wrote to begin with. I heard the song “New York State of Mind” in this record shop. There was stuff going on in this record shop. I stood in the corner and told my mans and them to chill for a second. There was a robbery about to happen at this record store. Nas was on the shelf and I told my guys to chill because I wanted to listen to it for a second, which was crazy. I played New York State of Mind and it changed my world. I thought if he could show pictures of the American ghetto experience that vividly, than I should be able to do it about Africa. That was when I set out to make my music. To hear him speak of me the way he does. When I met him he said that I moved him more than any artist in his peer group ever did. That is pretty intense. To get that back, the full circle. It’s a beautiful thing.
DX: There is a song between all three of you correct? Were you guys all in the studio together creating or did each person send in a part separate?
K’Naan: Yea we do. We were in the studio for weeks chilling out. Damien called me saying he was doing an album with Nas and if I had anything musical to contribute. I played Damien my samples. That’s how I met Nas. He heard the music and that was that.
DX: Who else would you like to collaborate with?
K’Naan: I’m not really all that desperate for collaborations. I don’t set out to collaborate with anyone. Things like that just happen. I’m sincere about that. It’s not like I’m trying to say one thing and do another. With artists that I really like, I feel like they are already great. What do I have to do to contribute? What am I offering? If you think of the world like that, there will be a lot less garbage I believe. For example, when I’m out and about on a vacation or something, I never pose with landscape. I take photos of landscape. I wouldn’t super impose myself on a tree or something because it is already beautiful.
DX: Would you say your move to Toronto helped in your progression on finding a place in hip-hop today?
K’Naan: I didn’t really have a career plan for music. I just had music. I wasn’t trying to get out there or anything like that. When I wrote The Dusty Foot Philosopher it was a necessity for me. I was diagnosed with what is called post dramatic stress disorder. It’s what happens to people who experience war. I was about 16. I became a recluse and I was depressed for a long time. Sometimes I would be in a room for three months at a time by myself. I began to write the songs with melodies and stuff like that. One of the strongest songs I had written is called “Smiles”. I would take actual events and scenarios that happened in my life that I otherwise couldn’t have conversations about and mold them into songs. I would successfully mold them into songs and not think of them as events that were painful. I did that with the whole album. I had about 30 songs sitting around with no prospect of release. That’s when fortunes happened and people heard them. I surely wasn’t trying to get out there. That wasn’t my thing.
DX: Where do you think Hip-Hop is going?
J. Period: It depends on who has the reigns. I think the reason why I love projects like the one we just did is because we pushed the envelope. When you do things like that people take notice. Not to sound “bragadocious” but it makes an inferior product sound inferior. It’s not to say that I did anything special. This is the music of Bob Marley, Fela Kuti, Bob Dylan and K’Naan spitting well on top of it. Pretty much it’s a simple formula. If people hear good music they can instantly put that next to bad music and they know which is which. For me, the more people push the envelope in this way, the more Hip-Hop goes back to where it began. It was always about taking the breaks and finding the best bits and pieces everywhere. It didn’t matter where it was from. You just put them together in a way that is fresh and new. In essence that is what I try to do with mixtapes. That’s what we’re doing here but on steroids because we have completely different things that are powerful on their own.
K’Naan: both Black Thought and Wyclef were in the room tonight. Both of them had the same thing to say to me about the project and how they’re really inspired and moved. They wanted to do something. They wanted to go and create. That’s ultimately the job of art. It’s to make us feel like we need to do something.
DX: Where do you hope to take your talents?
J. Period: On the road first. I have been someone who has focused on creating a product and letting that spread. Now it is time to go and show up places and do my thing in person. That’s the first step that K’Naan and I are doing. To go back to Wyclef and Black Throught being in the room, I really want to take this rule breaking Hip-Hop essence of mixtape and making it a legitimate art form. Making it something that can be cleared and released album and for me that would be the next step. Once I do that one time and prove that it’s successful, I hope to have some kind of impact on changing the landscape of things.
Olivia of Love and Hip Hop
Whatever the reason for Olivia’s departure from G-Unit is not important at this point. Both sides seem to want to forget the whole debacle and move on; although the rumors were quite entertaining to say the least. Either way it’s in the past and Olivia is back on her grind to claim her place in the R&B world. Even though she claims she never really stopped doing music, visibility wasn’t strong on the television or music charts. With a new mid tempo, sweetly hooked single titled “Take It Off”, she could very well be off to a good start.
When Olivia first materialized on the scene with “Bizounce” I questioned just what type of longevity she would have in this industry. She popped up years later with G-Unit and it seemed like maybe she would gain some type of stability there. Yet her role seemed a bit choppy and non fluid within that team as well. The woman did have a great upbringing within this competitive field. Working under Clive is always a plus. With that being said she has re-emerged with a new outlook on her role and place within the industry.
AllHipHop.com: What brought the desire for a comeback?
Olivia: First of all I didn’t leave. I was overseas touring and recording, doing things like that. I just wanted to take a little break so that I could re-brand myself. Everybody thought I was still with G-Unit, some people still ask me if I am with them. I just wanted to take some time off to do this whole album over again. Do some recording and go overseas to perform. That was the whole point of just chilling; I wanted to get away from the whole G-Unit thing.
AllHipHop.com: What exactly happened with G-Unit?
Olivia: It was really just a bunch of politics. 50 and I had the same manager. We always had conflicts with him bringing back information on me or him bringing in information on him. There was no R&B present at the labels; there wasn’t any at Violator or at G-Unit. Fifty really had to do everything himself. He doesn’t know about R&B, he only knows about rap music. He was trying to market me as a rapper. We would always have those conflicts where I would tell him that things weren’t going where I wanted them to go. He would have to have the last say because he’s the boss. In the end, he and I talked about it and I told him I really wanted to leave the label. We had to figure out a way for me to leave it and that’s when things got funny. Everyone started coming up with stories that happened and what not. We just let the media go wild. I was just happy to be off the label.
AllHipHop.com: You can rap if you wanted to right?
Olivia: Yes I can.
AllHipHop.com: Is there any hard feelings between you and 50?
Olivia: No not at all. I still talk to Banks and Yayo all the time. Sha Money is my big brother. Fif and I haven’t spoken. We both tried to reach out to each other and it didn’t work out. It’s all cool though. Everything is fine.
AllHipHop.com: What’s something you can take from your experiences with record labels?
Olivia: J Records was my very first label. I was straight out of college and he put people from all different labels together. People were just learning how to work under Clive. I was just learning how to work under Clive. There were people brought in from different labels and I knew I was an experimental project. I was just happy to be there. That was my first job. I then went over to Interscope and I met Fif there to do Interscope/G-Unit. That is where I really learned about the politics of things. I knew exactly what I was doing and how the industry is. This being the third time I’m ready.
AllHipHop.com: You did a bit of acting; you want to talk a little about that?
Olivia: Yes. The three movies are ready. My acting coaches are Tracey Moore and she is amazing. She trains all the big actors and actresses you can think of in the industry. The first movie we did was called “Peephole”. The last one we shot was called “Conspiracy X” with Shawn Baker as the director. Kellita Smith is in that one, it’s a great movie. It’s about a guy who just got out of jail and he’s trying to get back on his feet. He ends up running his own clothing company. Somebody tries to frame him and that is why it’s called “Conspiracy X”. I’m just happy to be able to get into new things and pursue different endeavors.
AllHipHop.com: Was the acting done as another way to pass time?
Olivia: Not at all. Like I said it was never passing time because I was overseas. In movies it just came naturally. It was something my acting coach said was natural for me. I should go ahead and pursue it. I did a few personal classes with her and she brought me over to Paradon and we met with a few people and it kept going from there. Being on stage is kind of like acting in a way. Instead of me having to sing, I’m acting.
AllHipHop.com: What was your experience like overseas?
Olivia: The overseas audience is always wonderful. They’re always very responsive and more energetic and hyper. They’re very friendly and the crowds are amazing. The crowds are larger as opposed to over here. That’s why you may notice more artists enjoying their time overseas.
AllHipHop.com: The style of your music will stay consistent with R&B right?
Olivia: Yes, it’s R&B. It’s going to be a different sound. Most people expect from me what they heard when I was with G-Unit. That’s just what I had to produce at G-Unit because that’s what I had to do to fit in. I couldn’t come straight R&B because Fif wanted me to do stuff with him, or the guys would want me to do something with them. It’s not like I could be doing a ballad on a song with them. It had to fit the whole process that we were doing. You’re going to hear something totally different, but it is still R&B.
AllHipHop.com: What are some highlights to look out for on your upcoming album?
Olivia: As far as some of the producers and artists on the album there is Missy Elliott, Rock Wilder and Ne-Yo is on there. I got a few new producers including Sham and Marcus Divine. I have the hot producers and the hot up and coming ones. I wrote 85 percent of the album. We just had a really good time doing it. Like I said I’m making sure to do all of the songs that I had at G-Unit over. A lot of people were asking if any of the songs from Behind Closed Doors was going to be on it. I did the whole album over and I’m glad I did.
AllHipHop.com: You write most of your own music, who else have you written for?
Olivia: I have written for other people, but I can’t really say who.
AllHipHop.com: Do you have a release date for your album?
Olivia: Yes, we’re looking to drop in February/March. There is a track that leaked called “Take it Off”. We’re going to run with that. It was supposed to be the “buzz” record, but it’s picking up quickly so we’re just going to run with it.
J. Cole of Roc Nation
Whenever Jay-Z does anything, people pay attention. The world seems to move in the motion to his beat and we all eat it up whether we like it or not. With his new label Roc Nation signing some extremely talented artists it’s a wonder where this guy J. Cole came from. With a silent buzz, the rapper was not the pupil of Memphis Bleek, or the patient multi-talent of Kanye West. Instead, the Hip-Hop world seems to look to Cole to soon show us what it was Jay-Z saw, in a major way.
With the new wave of rappers coming out who seem to be closely apprenticed by their older counterparts, J. Cole and Jay’s relationship is a unique one. It seems that he’s trusted more to create and come up with quality material and use the Roc’s resources as he wishes. Being compared to Drake is another feat to overcome, yet the comparison isn’t by any means a negative one. The St. John’s graduate from North Carolina proves that being an educated artist with a major in creativity and minor in drive will land you somewhere.
HipHopDX: What was the driving force that brought you to New York?
J. Cole:My mentors, these dudes that I really look up to when I was on the come-up, I saw that they weren’t getting the attention that I thought they deserved. It was really the location. It is tough coming out from where I’m from. Nobody is really checking for anybody where I’m from and most people in the city aren’t either. People were more interested in who was hot in the mainstream.
DX: You never thought to go to Atlanta? I find that people from the South tend to stay in the Southern area and try to make their mark there first.
J. Cole:I’ve wanted to go to New York ever since I was a little kid, with the music and what I thought the city was like. The big buildings and stuff, I always liked New York. When I came up here Atlanta was hotter, but, it worked out better for me being a kid from the south and coming up here.
DX: Your sound isn’t a typical southern flow. Who influenced your flow?
J. Cole:A lot of 2Pac and Nas. I was a big fan of Canibus back in the day. A lot of people like Jay-Z and of course, Andre 3000, a lot of OutKast shit.
DX: Was the plan to do school and than focus on rapping?
J. Cole:I was always rapping period. School was just my ticket to get to New York. I just thought if I could get to New York with school I won’t have to finish college. In my head I figured I wouldn’t even have to finish because I’m so good and whatnot I would get signed. The reality was that I had to take more time, but it worked out.
DX: I heard you were really into basketball at first and then switched it up to rapping. Was the decision made because you felt you couldn’t make it as a baller?
J. Cole: It wasn’t like I gave up. I wasn’t like, “Oh, I’m not good at this” and that was that.” I still was interested in it. I was good at it and stuff. I was a average pretty good player. I wasn’t top of the line stand out player. I just preferred rapping. It wasn’t a serious or hard decision; it’s just the way it was.
DX: Can we clear up this mixtape confusion. How many do you officially have out?
J. Cole:I got one million mixtapes out. [Laughs] I really have one called The Come Up that is an official mixtape. I have another one that is a sampler to The Warm Up that came out in October. The reason we put that out was because I had a couple shows in North Carolina and I wanted to pass out CDs. The Come Up was kinda old so I wanted something that was fresher. That’s how the sampler came to be. It’s not an official mixtape and it’ll probably never be heard again are on there. The Warm Up is the follow up for an official mixtape.
DX: How did you land the deal with Jay?
J. Cole:My business partner Mike Rooney [was] getting my music to the right people. This was about a year-and-a-half of us trying to get our foot in the door and trying to get somebody to pay attention. Every time he would play my music the reaction would get crazier and crazier. Eventually, somebody he gave it to ended up giving it to Jay. He played it for him and Jay was like, “Who is this kid? We need to bring him in.” We set up a meeting and I didn’t believe it. Three weeks later I was in his office and a couple months after that I was signed.
DX: How does it feel to be the first artist on his label?
J. Cole:It feels good. I don’t even pay attention to being the first. I’m just happy to be on something. If I started paying attention to the pressure I might start to feel some type of way. I feel privileged and honored, but, I don’t feel the pressure because I don’t really look at it like that. I look at it like I got an opportunity and a platform. I’m thankful, thank you, now let’s go.
DX: when you’re in the studio is Jay ever there with you?
J. Cole:I been in the studio with Jay. When I’m working on stuff in the studio, he’s not there. He’s not overseeing my every move. He’s too busy to micromanage me. When I’m in the studio it’s just me, unless it’s a special occasion and I’m in there with him.
DX: What is your take on “Death of Autotune”?
J. Cole: I think that shit is fuckin’ crazy, man. That shit gave me the chills when I first heard it. Not necessarily “Death of Autotune”, but just Jay coming back the way he did. Coming back that hard and coming back that strong was like, “Damn, he did it again. How did he do it again?” I think it solidified his relevance if anyone was questioning it.
DX: How do you feel about Auto-Tune?
J. Cole:I think it’s cool. I think it’s actually ill when it’s used in a classy way. When it’s overdone and sloppy with no melody, it’s distasteful.
DX: Speaking of fads, which Hip Hop fad was your favorite? For instance; singing rappers, jerseys, North Faces etc.
J. Cole:The Soul beats. The sped up chipmunk sample, that would have to be the best. I was in love with those. Those were good times in Rap. Except that was another thing, people overdid that. It was so overdone and terrible. Again, when it was done in a classy way it’s always good.
DX: What’s your favorite song that you created so far?
J. Cole:I got way too many. This song I got called “Night Rider” like the show. I’m saving that one for the album. It’s one of those conceptual songs that is like the Nas‘ “I Gave You Power”. “Lights Please” is a song that I have and “Lost Ones,” which is for the album. “Lost Ones” is about pregnancy at a young age. It’s not in a corny way either; it puts you in a very real feel. It’s almost like watching a movie.
DX: What’s your favorite verse?
J. Cole: I don’t know I got too many verses to have just one favorite. I really have no clue. Actually one of them is off the mixtape with the song called “The Badness”. It starts off like this:
“Believe in God like the stars up in the sky / Science can tell us how but it can’t tell us why / I seen a baby cry, than seconds later she laughs / The beauty of life, the pain never lasts / The rain always pass / The Sun don’t always shine/ Then it’s gone I’m lonely, but when it’s there I’m fine / I hate the winter time because the nights come quicker / the light makes them whites think I’m a nice young nigga / But at night, they think twice and walk a little faster / It’s funny how years ago I woulda called this niggaa masta / How the tables turn…” and so on and so forth.
It’s just real, it’s kinda out there. It’s one of them deep verses that is still cool. You can just listen to it and you wouldn’t even know that it’s so deep.
DX: How do you feel about the Drake comparisons?
J. Cole: I really think it’s the fact that we’re light skin. [Laughs] Honestly, I don’t necessarily agree with it. I think the people who say that just get a first listen or first glance at me and decide from there. People say, “Oh, a light skin kid who is not rapping about guns. He sounds like Drake.” Once people dive into the music they’ll have a clear picture. It doesn’t bother me because it’s not like Drake is wack, he’s super hot right now. He’s one of the hottest niggas in the Rap game. If you wanna compare me to him, and that’s what floats your boat it’s only helping me out in the long run. I would just hope they dive into the music.
DX: What are you currently listening to on your iPod?
J. Cole: I just got a new iPod so I gotta step my whole library up. I got old shit. I’m listening to OutKast’s Aquemini, this album [My World] by this guy Lee Fields that my man Damien put me on to. It’s a current album that he just put out this month by Now-Again/Stones Throw, but it sounds like its straight outta the ’70s. I actually sampled a couple joints off of that on The Warm Up. Those are just a couple things.
DX: What are some other upcoming projects other than The Warm Up? What can people look forward to?
J. Cole: I’m on Wale’s album. There’s a song with me, him and Melanie Fiona and it’s produced by Green Lantern. I’m on his [Back To The Feature] mixtape as well. Just look out for a lot of features. I’m on a few joints with Young Chris. I got some other special top secret stuff that I’ma be on.
DX: Is there any talks of touring?
J. Cole: I want to set up a college tour for next semester. My goal is to not just visit a regular college, but I wanna do all the auditoriums. Remember when we were in school and we would have guest speakers, like poets come? When I was in school we had Nikki Giovanni come and it was more like a talking session. I think she did three poems. Even though she came to recite poems she ended up talking the whole time. I want to do something a little bit more intimate like that. Something where I can be more interactive with the people because I feel like a large percentage of people who are going to relate to me right now is in college. Seeing that I’m fresh outta there, it makes sense.
DX: Who would you like to work with?
J. Cole: For my album, I’m in the type of zone where I don’t mind staying to myself. I’m not anxious to just go in the studio with anyone in particular, but I’m open to everything. My favorite producer in the history of the world is Kanye West. That would be a great day.
DX: Where do you think Hip Hop is headed?
J. Cole: It’s headed back to another high. It turned the corner. I think it had to go through a phase where fans were kind of complaining. It went from fans feeling like they had nobody to root for and nobody to check for. They were so bored and annoyed. Now they’re arguing over who’s your favorite. Is it Drake, is it J. Cole, is it Wale? This guy’s better than such and such. Now they got their hands full and I think it’s only going to get better. I’m just happy to be apart of the people who are turning the corner. I want to be one of the ones who last for a very long time.
With the heavy radio play of the single “Diamond Girl” to the second hit single “Addiction” the artist, producer, songwriter and executive known as Ryan Leslie has been on the long hard path to stardom. Many have seen him from his intimate videos on YouTube where he gained online stardom with millions viewing his page or subscribing to it. Some have even gone as far as calling him the R&B Kanye West. He has produced songs for Beyonce, Britney Spears and Usher. Creating the global marketing and media company, NextSelection Lifestyle Group he exemplifies the word talented and knows very well how to handle his time. With his efforts in many different outlets its surprising he had time at all to go through an interview, luckily he made the time.
HipHopDX: I heard about you a while ago by a blog that mentioned your YouTube page. I have been interested in you and your music for a while now and have been waiting for the album. Now that it is actually coming, do you feel that your album should have come out sooner or is the time just right with a lot of people anticipating it?
Ryan Leslie: I would say that I’m not in any rush at all for my album to come out, just because of the climate of the music industry right now. People are putting out, or it seems that, consumers are really consuming music that is kind of disposable. You see that there may be a massive hit which only translates into minimum sales. And so for me my album sales and my live concert tickets and any of the other ancillary income that’s gonna happen that results in me putting out an album, all of those things I think are contingent on me illustrating that I’m actually an artist that deserves to be supported through all of those outlets. I’ll name them again: album sales; concert tickets; merchandising and any other ancillary income. For me I am really just about building for as long as I can the respect of people who, like yourself, be introduced to me whether it be through a blog, my YouTube channel or Myspace. I want to earn the respect of those consumers because I’m doing this for life.
DX: Are you planning on touring once the album drops? Being in New York I have heard about you performing at clubs…do you plan on continuing at small venues or are you going to try bigger venues such as joining a concert tour? Where can someone expect to see you in action?
Ryan Leslie: I plan on going through all the steps that it would take for any artist to build up to stadium status. I’ve always enjoyed performing in clubs. Years ago, before my album had any anticipation at all in the States; I was doing little clubs in Germany and Europe, rather Germany and other parts of Europe like Paris and London. There is something really intimate about the club environment which I don’t think I’d ever want to lose, but, I do have a lot of creative and artistic ideas of how I want to express myself on a stadium level. One being with an orchestra or an orchestral arrangement of my record, therefore, I do want to do things at a larger stadium level too. Really for the time being I am doing the requisite radio promo dates which consist of me going to whatever club that the radio jock is spinning and I’ll perform my record from the DJ booth. But my real bread and butter as a performer is, I put together a 7 piece live band, 3 horns, bass, keys, guitar drums and also myself on keys that I really think represents me as an artist. I can do any venue from a small club in the DJ booth to sort of a theatre venue with the 7 piece band and then all the way up to a stadium, when the time is right, with a full orchestra. I’m excited about taking all the steps that it takes to get me to that worldwide touring level.
DX: Did you start off playing piano growing up, or did you learn it on your own time later in life?
Ryan Leslie: I just learned piano on my own. It really happened my 8th grade year. My parents, well my mother, had taken a job overseas at an international law firm. We were in school, at the Catholic school right down the street, and the teachers went on strike. My mother had shipped a piano to Europe. So, during the days when we didn’t have school I was going through my mothers, my mother is a classically trained pianist, I would go through her piano books or teach myself enough so that I could memorize the classical pieces that she would play as we fell asleep, my sister and I, and so now years later I can appreciate those 8 hour or 9 hour days that I could sit there and figure out or pluck out the notes and I’m still continually learning on the keyboard. People like Herbie Hancock, Roger Troutman and other great people who have played, like Stevie Wonder as well, continue to inspire me and I’m always discovering new chords and progressions. It’s been a lifelong learning experience sort of getting comfortable with the keyboard.
DX: Working with so many artists, such as Usher, Britney Spears and Beyonce, how does it feel to be the man behind the music that helps elevate other careers?
Ryan Leslie: Well for me it has always been a learning experience. My life has been a learning experience. I’ve always been sort of an academic from the time I was very young, so, I really approach things academically, scientifically and working with artists of that caliber really just gave me an environment that I could study those people that were megastars. In so doing I sort of learned what made them tick, what inspired them, what made them excited musically, what made them excited creatively. I was able to take from each one of those artists, take away something that makes me who I am as an artist now because I was able to see their struggles. This is for artists of any level, from Usher, ya know I was just out in L.A. working with him on his score for his performance on the BET awards, literaly just got in this morning from doing that the last three days, all the way to brand new artists like Cassidy. I went on the road with her and I went through every stage with her from rehearsals, to shows, to radio shows, to interviews and everything, so, it has been a learning process and being behind the scenes elevating them, I think each artist as a vessel, really just to me, I think they elevate themselves. They elevate my music and they elevate me as well.
DX: Is it harder for you to write a song for yourself than for other artists, because you know they say sometimes we are our own toughest critics?
Ryan Leslie: I say I never look at writing music as a difficulty; it’s always when you’re thinking about it too hard or trying too hard, 9 times out of 10 you can hear it in the finished product. So for me I really just let things flow. I’ve been fortunate that people respond to my music. It’s really not hard work. The real hard work is, ya know, promoting the record and exposing it and marketing it. But the actual creation of the music is something that’s so innate and something that’s so apart of me, to me now it’s like an extension of me. It’s like breathing almost.
DX: Earlier you said you’re an academic. I’m curious to know what made you choose Harvard?
Ryan Leslie: What made me choose Harvard? You mean besides the fact that it’s historically the best University in the world…
DX: Let me explain. I ask this because you are in the music industry and Harvard isn’t known for a strong music program. Did you go into the school knowing the music industry was one you wanted to get into? What was your major while you were in Harvard? Did your parents have certain expectations of you because you went to Harvard? Was it expected that you would do something different and then you went into music? How did it all pan out?
Ryan Leslie: Well it was many different reasons for me choosing Harvard. First and foremost just the historical reputation of the University was an immediate draw. I had applied to two other top tier private schools, Yale and Stanford, Stanford had accepted me, Yale had not, they felt I was too young and wanted me to do another year in high school. I got into Harvard as a junior in high school. I had applied to several different medical programs. I went to college initially with the idea and aspiration of being a brain surgeon. I got into a couple other California medical schools as well but my father suggested Harvard because he felt that Harvard would allow me to spread my wings as a young adult and get out of my parents hair so to speak. We were just moving to Sacramento at the time, so if I went to Stanford I would be 45 minutes away from home, and probably, most likely, would come home every weekend. Now that Harvard is clear across the United States my dad felt that it would give me a chance to learn and grow and much to their chagrin, with that independence came the realization that I wanted to pursue music. That was in my freshman year and after spending 30 hours a week in a rickety studio in the basement of my dorms teaching myself the basics, I was on academic probation 3 times during my Harvard career, I ended up changing my major. Which ended up having more of a focus on Political Science and Economics; they were also on the graduate level so we met once a week. This gave me more time to devote to music.
DX: Now that you have an album coming out, do you consider yourself Ryan Leslie the artist solely or are you still planning on being Ryan Leslie the producer, executive and artist?
Ryan Leslie: Yes, I think all of those things make me who I am. I would not be me if any of those things were missing at all. In my opinion I am all of those things in one. Producer, songwriter, entrepreneur, I am definitely exploring the boundaries of music and new media and what they mean combined in the changing industry. All of those things sort of play into how I express myself creatively; I am always just going to remain me, being myself and all of those things in one.
DX: Since you seem to be so well versed in the aspect of the music industry. You know many different aspects of the industry from an artist prospective and the business side. How do you handle yourself within the industry? Do you feel like you can manage yourself?
Ryan Leslie: I have a team around me and I also have an internship program where really I hand pick some of the most talented young people from around the world to lend their talent, time and creativity to what I’m building at NextSelection. Combine that with an attorney and manager whom I’ve worked with for quite a long time I really feel like I’ve got a great team. The object for us is to create, at the end of the day, the best art that we possibly can create; and, also to really promote a positive role model, imagery or concept within music and art. My pedigree as an academic and sort of as a good kid, non drinker, non smoker and hard worker definitely had dealt with my own short comings and faults and I am aware of those. It has happened not even with music but just personally sort of exemplify this level of humanity that people can relate to and still entertain them with great art.
DX: On YouTube you have a video with one of your interns. How do you go about finding interns? What does it take to work with Ryan Leslie?
Ryan Leslie: It really just takes a degree of dedication, discipline, drive and desire. Somebody has to really want to understand all of the different aspects of the music industry, well, the entertainment industry and how it relates to technology. Social networking, whether it be through Myspace or YouTube, have been great tools in sort of giving young people a chance at creating virtual business cards. I am consistently inundated with messages, e-mails and different videos from YouTube that inspire me. When I see someone that is really dedicated, driven and has the desire and discipline that I think exemplifies or applies to what we’re doing at NextSelection, I reach out to those people, or sometimes they reach out to me and I’ll respond and I invite them to come and be apart of a 24 hour workday at NextSelection. There have been a few that haven’t really made the cut, but the ones that have made the cut have gone on to do some really incredible things.
DX: I like your song I-R-I-N-A. I read the blurb about how you came up with the song and it lead me to think, what gets your creative “juices” going?
Ryan Leslie: I really just let it flow. No matter what time of day or night, if something inspires me or I hear something in my head I have enough command of my little studio or my portable music creations software on a lap top where I can put down an idea. Sometimes I gotta sing it into a voicemail or sing it into a Quicktime on my computer. I capture those moments because those are the inspired moments. Then I can get to the work of producing the best record around them that I can. It really just comes spontaneously and I just try to be as open and perceptive to those ideas as they come.
DX: In the midst of you working on this upcoming album you are still working with other artists as a producer. Who have you been working with in the midst of it all?
Ryan Leslie: I am going to be working with and collaborating with Fabolous on his next album; just got off the phone with Busta Rhymes; Omarion stopped by the studio when I was working with Usher and we talked about working together; a couple of joints with LL Cool J. Like I said for me it’s about things happening organically. LL happened to be in the same photo studio as I was. I was shooting pictures for a magazine and he was in the adjacent room shooting some album artwork, heard the music, we connected and two days later we were in the studio. Like I said, I was working with Usher on some things and next thing you know Omarion stops by the session, I played him something which inspired him, we’re gonna go back in and work. Busta Rhymes heard my record “Addiction” on the radio; he did his own remix of it, reached out to me so I will be doing some work with him. He has his own label, and it’s really for me I try not to force anything creatively. If you do good work its sort of a calling card for other artists to either be inspired or respond to the music that I’m making. I sort of pick my collaborations based on a great vibe that I get.
DX: You sound like you never sleep…do you sleep at all?
Ryan Leslie: From the time I was in college I really became accustomed to just 2 to 3 hours of sleep and it really hasn’t changed since.
DX: What is your personal motto that you live by?
Ryan Leslie: Do what you believe in and believe in what you do. Very Simple, I wrote a speech about that when I was in my mid teens for the Rotary International Scholarship. Rotary International ended up giving me a scholarship to go to school. Just the idea that is behind it, despite what other people may feel, despite other peoples beliefs and perceptions or pre-conceived notions about you capabilities, if you believe in yourself and you apply yourself with sort of the unbridled passion and what I like to call the “4 D’s”, discipline, desire, drive and dedication, I feel as though doing what you believe in is the best way to contribute to the world. You end up doing something that comes from within and in doing so the best is demanded of you because it’s not anyone else who is pressuring you or who is asking of you, but its something that is coming from within. I think that some of the greatest contributors to society, whether you wanna talk about a Michael Jordan or Albert Einstein or countless other examples, I think that the common thread is that they did what they believe in and they believed in what they did. That is something I aspire to everyday as I continue to build NextSelection.
Chicago has bred some phenomenal talent. We’ve heard great music produced by Kanye. Positive messages told through some of Common’s verses. Crazy intricate double meaning laced tracks by Lupe. This is what we’ve seen come and grow within the industry from Chicago. What most people seem to expect from Chicago is great innovative music that’s thought provoking and truly artistic. Mikkey Halsted has dually noted this fact and feels the pressure.
Mikkey has had a crazy journey within this industry trying to create a name and following. He has been signed a few times, worked with some incredible talent and still is just as hungry as ever before. Working closely with No I.D. he plans to produce some dope stuff. With Chicago on his back and experience under his belt, landing a deal isn’t the problem, it’s getting what he feels he is worth. Once the right deal comes it’s a wrap for this Windy city emcee.
AllHipHop: Describe your style of rap delivery.
Mikkey Halsted: My style of hip-hop is like militant street wisdom. It’s intelligent street music. What I do is intelligently give you street tales and paint vivid pictures with words. I try to bring it back to what Hip-Hop was when I fell in love with it.
AllHipHop: What is your relationship with Kanye West?
Mikkey Halsted: He’s the first person that believed in me. I met him through my sister. She was out there rapping with him in the early days. I rapped for him one day while I was out supporting her. He was impressed and gave me some beats. I took them and recorded some real dope albums. They are pretty prevalent to Chicago till this day. From that point we started rockin’ together. He’s the one who kind of gave me the confidence to think I could do it. He would tell people I’m the best in the Chi. It gave me the confidence to take rap serious and really pursue it; big shouts to Kanye for being the first to believe in me. He also introduced me to No I.D. No I.D. has been very instrumental in my rap career.
AllHipHop: What exactly is your relationship with No I.D.?
Mikkey Halsted: No I.D. as far as the music goes is my partner. He has quality control over what Mikkey Halsted does. Our relationship is that he is the quality control. He does most of my beats. Every other beat I use or song I choose has to be cleared through him. It has to be at a certain quality before it can come out and make an album. Me and him have been working on this album for a couple of years now. It’s a beautiful thing to have somebody that is that dope to be over your project.
AllHipHop.com: I also heard that J.D. had an interest in you at one point. Want to describe that situation?
Mikkey Halsted: Basically No I.D. had played him some music; this was when he was at Virgin. I actually had a few other deal situations on the table. No I.D. is very good friends with Jermaine, so he played music for him. Jermaine loved it. We did the deal. Unfortunately, after I did the deal he ended up leaving Virgin for whatever reason and went over to Island. When he left, I got stuck in some legal limbo at Virgin. Luckily, I got out Scott free and got to keep all my music. That was a beautiful thing for me. It was a blessing in the end. It was a blessing really to be working with JD for the time that I did. As a artist under Virgin it was a dope experience. Just being around somebody that is such a hit maker and having somebody like that believes in you and that you can be the future of the game. JD gave me the confidence to know that I’m doing the right thing. We still have a good relationship until this day. Even though that situation didn’t turn out how I wanted. I count it as a blessing. I learned so much just being in his environment, in his studio and soaking up knowledge. I finally understood how to put real records together.
AllHipHop.com: You also had a stint with Cash Money correct?
Mikkey Halsted: Yea I did actually, it’s kinda crazy. Basically I was super young. I was a teenager. You really don’t know what’s going on. I started working with Kanye and the songs that we did were tearing up the streets. The music got its way into different people’s hands and it worked its way to New Orleans. I went over there for a stint. There are a lot of similarities in certain things. I basically went over there and learned. I got experience. My only mistake was that I did not know how to really brand myself and do things in that way. All of my experiences have led to me to know what I’m worth. I’m older and wiser now. Through my time and experience I have managed to build a buzz and following that I have now. I’m getting calls from a lot of labels who would like to work with me. It’s just a matter of choosing the right fit. Again I’m a little older, I’m not a teenager anymore and therefore I understand the business better. I understand how to build your worth as an artist. You gotta have some leverage in the game. That’s what I’m all about.
AllHipHop.com: Did you ultimately feel like you were a fit for Cash Money?
Mikkey Halsted: I wouldn’t say it was a true fit, but, being young you just go for it because it showed promise. They wanted Kanye too, but he knew he wouldn’t be a good fit there. Me being young and in the financial standing that we were in…it seemed to make sense. You could say I made the wrong decision, but I don’t look at it like that. It was just a learning experience. I learned a lot of things. I learned how to run a entertainment label. I learned how to build a buzz. I learned Guerilla marketing; I learned a lot of things from them. I made some great friendships with Wayne and some of the other guys from New Orleans. I still maintain these friendships till this day. I wouldn’t change a thing.
AllHipHop.com: Are you looking to get signed?
Mikkey Halsted: Actually I’m not looking for a deal. I got a great team. Deals have been the easiest thing to do. I never sat across from a executive and played the music and they didn’t want to do the deal. That’s never happened to me. That’s the easy part. I didn’t look for a deal. I just started putting music out. I was just trying to get my story out and really try to attack the streets and attack the internet. I’m not afraid to put a project out totally independent. It’s like the labels have heard and they caught wind of it. It’s becoming harder to stay independent. Once you create a kind of buzz they come knocking. Right now we’re just putting out good music. We’re giving good music to the people. We’re just constantly putting good stuff out there and staying relevant. I’m just building my brand. People know who Mikkey Halsted is. The album I’m working on is a pretty strong album. It’s going to stand up with some of the great albums in Hip-Hop history. When it comes out I’m gonna take my place among some of the greats in Hip-Hop history. We’re shooting for greatness. We feel like if you make a great product and build it, the labels will come and jump on board. We’re not aggressively looking for a label. The label would have to understand the movement and try and get a grasp on what we’re doing. I just worry about making dope music. I concentrate on working with dope producers. Coming out with dope music and working hard.
AllHipHop.com: Do you feel any pressure to be the next big deal from Chicago?
Mikkey Halsted: Yea I do. Just because of the lineage that I am from. I’m from the No I.D. family tree. That has produced a lot of great Chicago artists like Common and Kanye are from that. There is a lot of great Chicago emcee’s such as Lupe Fiasco. Lupe and I just did a monumental record together. The pressure is on me to carry that torch and keep it going. It’s nothing that I can’t handle. I’m the one that Chicago is kinda putting the hope on right now to go out there and represent. I’m trying to do good because I have full support from Chicago. I feel like I’m in a dope position. I know that I have the potential and the means to put out quality music. I want to do something that they can be proud of; something that is going to be dope and change the game like Resurrection did for Common, Adrenaline Rush for Twista and College Dropout did for Kanye. All of those records were monumental records. I feel like I’m the next one in that lineage.
AllHipHop.com: I saw that you have a Masters degree in education. I was wondering what pointed you in that direction?
Mikkey Halsted: I got a basketball scholarship to college. Basketball was my original dream. I was rapping and I started messing with Kanye and Cash Money, but I never really stopped and gave up on school. Through it all I kinda stayed focus. Thank God I got funds through basketball. I’ve always been the type of person who was into acquiring knowledge. Actually getting the Master’s was easier than getting the Bachelor’s. I pride myself on that and I don’t hide it. To be one of the best rappers on the planet you have to be intelligent. A lot of people don’t know that about their favorite rappers. They don’t know how intelligent Wayne is. They don’t hold ont o the fact that Wayne was taking college courses. They don’t understand how much of a genius Kanye is. Even my favorite rappers like Ice Cube, Chuck D. or Jay-Z how intelligent they are. It’s to prove a point to me, my family and my future son’s that school is important and you can have something to fall back on. It gives you something that a lot of rappers may not have to fall back on. I still go hard as if I don’t have a back up plan. Yet I do. I do believe that having a plan b is important. I’m from the South Side of Chicago. I made it out of disparity, drug abuse and pimps and ho’s on the corner. I made it from one of the roughest parts of the city. Period. I have seen death first hand and have seen some of my best friends die. I made it out of disparity. I know that it’s really my way out of the ghetto. If you’re really from the ghetto what your whole point is to get out of the ghetto and elevate your whole situation. It’s to get your mom a nice crib. I lost a parent to drug abuse so I have a different stake on it. I have a different perspective. I don’t glorify that. It’s just I did that for my father, finishing my degree. I take pride in my degree. I think that it’s a good thing. When I reach the level that I’m about to reach. When shorty’s are just repeating every word that comes out of my mouth. I want them to know that I got a masters degree. I want them to know they should pursue their dreams at all costs. There are many people whose dreams don’t manifest the way that they had hoped. School can be part of your dream. I did that and finished because I believe you should finish what you start. I thought it was the best thing for me. It turned out to be a really, really good thing and it’s something that I’m proud of. I think the light should be shined on that more. I got a master’s degree and I’m from the ghetto. I’m from the roughest part and I made it out. I made it out. I’m pursuing my dream to the fullest and guess what, when I’m 40 or 50 years old and I want to do something else I can do it. I can do it because I have a education behind me. That’s why I don’t hide from it or run from it.
AllHipHop.com: Your rap style is very distinct. You can sense you have a strong background with vocabulary. Tell me more about how you attack the creative process.
Mikkey Halsted: It definitely helped to the way I paint pictures. I attack my songs like essays and I stay on topic because I’m trying to get a point across. It really helps me. I was always a good writer and it’s really translated into me rapping. Even when I don’t have it down it’s still a story. I feel like I’m one of the best writers in Hip-Hop. In rap it’s like writing an essay or delivering a speech. Obama delivers those speeches because he knows how to get an emotion from the people through words. That is was an emcee does. I don’t dumb down my vocabulary when I talk or rap because there has to be an alternative to some of the rap that is out there.
If you grind hard, you can ball even harder. New York based rapper Troy Ave put in some work the old school way to make sure he was heard. If you’re into that dope boy rap presented with a cocky tone then Troy Ave’s stuff is probably a right fit for that. Dude literally sold a large amount of CD’s from his car trunk in New York and he definitely saw a result. Having a chance encounter with Fabolous changed Troy Ave from just a highly buzzed and sought after mixtape rapper to someone who had a solid co-sign. Now he has a newly released mixtape “Bricks in my Backpack” which is executive produced by Fabolous and life in the fast lane seems to be getting faster.
Repping Brooklyn to the extreme, his name Troy Ave is a street that runs from Brownsville, Crown Heights, Flatbush and Bed Stuy. His popularity with most people could be the fact that he’s believable in what he says. After having a sit down conversation with the kid I must say, I definitely don’t think he’s acting. After almost being signed, then denied to selling mixtapes and investing in self promotion; Troy Ave shows that if no one else is going to help you, you have to help yourself.
ItsHerWord.com: Give a little information on your background.
Troy Ave: My whole come up in music came with the grind in the street. You know the avenues and streets run perpendicular and parallel to each other. I would go along each avenue selling my CD. I wasn’t on any bum stuff walking up to people saying “yo buy my CD.” I believe I had my Tahoe at the time and I had the 20 inch rims. I would pull up to people and say yo “fu*k with my stuff right here. This is some real stuff. Not too many people are selling their stuff out of the trunk like that.” People would say “Alright, alright I’ll support.” Then I would sell it for $5, $3 if they couldn’t even do that I would say take it for $1. I wasn’t doing it for the money. I just wanted people o hear the music. They would buy it and that got me buzzing in the street. The reason why I decided to do my own mixtape was because I called this DJ to help me put together my own mixtape and he said $1200 dollars. I wasn’t going to do that for a mixtape so I got my own stuff and paid only $600 dollars to do my own thing. I was getting free studio time. I put my stuff out and at first it wasn’t all that. I didn’t have my flow together; the words I wanted to say weren’t quite there. Once I got my flow together the sky was the limit. I was saying real stuff. I wasn’t trying to come off like I was in St. Tropez on a 72 foot yacht. I was saying some real things. I’m not rapping about being in a Lamborghini, I’m rapping about being in a Mercedes because that’s what I drive. I think more people related to that and they took to it.
ItsHerWord.com: How many CD’s do you believe you sold from your car trunk?
Troy Ave: I would say at least 40,000 at one point in time.
ItsHerWord.com: In New York alone?
Troy Ave: I believe so; my stuff was so crazy it was getting bootlegged. I would go into a mixtape spot to pick up some instrumentals and ni**a’s would have my sh*t on the floor.
Troy Ave: I was buzzing in the street crazy and I had sold one of my CD’s to this guy who worked for Butch Lewis. Butch had gotten something going with Def Jam. He was doing a lot of behind the scenes stuff with BET and stuff getting all kinds of crazy paper. We had gotten a situation with Def Jam but it didn’t really pan out. I figured it was time for me to get up out of there. I put money towards my own video and my own things and that’s when I started back on my get money stuff. Once I got my money right again I was like okay here goes another shot.
ItsHerWord.com: Going back to the subject of Universal, what happened with that?
Troy Ave: They weren’t really pushing my stuff like that for some reason. For example; Jay-Z heard my music and he thought it was dope and was saying he might have to pass me the baton or whatever. I was like iight, but when I got there it was like a different story. He was saying that I wasn’t lyrical enough. You can take what you want to take from that but I wasn’t trying to hear it. You could say anything about me but that didn’t seem realistic to me. It was whatever though, “to each his own.” I shot my own video and it got on BET. I spent a lot of money to get that video out.
ItsHerWord.com: So what did BET do for you?
Troy Ave: I felt good it made it on there. It was an accomplishment, yet at the same time it was like I had fame but not money for it. I didn’t have all my business right. I didn’t have it to where I could get shows booked and stuff like that. I didn’t know how to do it. I was mad ignorant to those kinds of facts. It was cool. I got a whole bunch of calls. It was on Rap City and BET Uncut and stuff every day. Yet I wasn’t making any money off of it so I had to find other ways.
ItsHerWord.com: Your content is hugely influenced by the Dope Boy status. Are you a product of that type of lifestyle?
Troy Ave: For the record, no, no I’m not. Does it really sound like I’m in involved in it?
ItsHerWord.com: That I don’t know, hence the question.
Troy Ave: Well you see me, does it look like I’m involved with it?
Troy Ave: Now I’m going to show you. When you usually interview ni*ga’s they may have on a g-shock or a big as* chain. They may have the big stupid earrings with the clusters on it. Now I have this, this and this all 100% pure stone. Now this one here is 2 and 2 and this one is 3 oh and these are 31. I don’t know how much that costs, but, let’s just say that my music career is going very well. No I’m not involved in any illegal activities. This is all for entertainment purposes.
ItsHerWord.com: With all of that being said, who do you believe is legit in their message regarding the drug game hustle?
Troy Ave: I believe Young Jeezy, it’s actually been kind of documented. I know people exaggerate but I believe he dabbled in it and did his thing. I’m going to say probably Jay-Z in his early days. Definitely 50 Cent and definitely T.I, I can’t say Rick Ross. I believe he grew up around it. He probably witnessed things going on outside of his window. He was probably on some Nas tip and witnessing things. He may have known people who were in the mix doing things. He could have been rapping based off of that. Nas grew up in Queensbridge so he is allowed to rap about those kinds of things.
ItsHerWord.com: You’re only allowed to rap about what you know.
Troy Ave: Definitely. This way when you rap about things you are giving the full story. If you don’t know what you’re talking about all you are giving is half of the story. It would just have a glamorized picture of things. It doesn’t express the highs and the lows. It just has the highs because all you’ve seen were the good parts. You’re only going to see the times when people are driving up state talking to girls, getting money and doing their thing. You won’t see the times when they’re locked up in jail and their family is going through it. You don’t see the time when people get bad work. You don’t see the time like that when it’s bad. That can kind of mess things up for a kid listening to your music and thinking everything is gravy when it’s not always going to be like that. The kid will go on to do things and try to be something that sounds great and end up getting robbed or shot at. They weren’t expecting that because you never mentioned it.
ItsHerWord.com: Have you ever been shot at or robbed?
Troy Ave: I’ve been shot but never robbed. I’ve never been robbed my entire life. I probably say that, knock on wood, I mean hopefully not. To rob me would not be a good idea because something will happen.
ItsHerWord.com: How did you get linked up with Fabolous?
Troy Ave: My homegirl does her thing with modeling and she knows Fab through that. Me, her and Fab were chilling and drinking and what not and decided to go to a restaurant to grab some food. We sat down and talked and took it from there. I didn’t even come at him on some “yo I rap” type of stuff. He didn’t find out I rapped till later on.
ItsHerWord.com: Which led to him co-producing your new mixtape “Bricks in my Backpack”?
Troy Ave : Yea, he produced my new CD. I had recorded a few songs inside his studio actually. That’s when he really found out I was a rapper. I was at his studio and heard his engineer doing some things and I was rockin’ out to it and told him we should record it. He was with it and we went in. Fabolous came in and saw and asked to listen and he liked it. He said whenever you want to come in and record feel free and do what you do. That was dope. That’s real ni**a sh*t.
ItsHerWord.com: How’s it feel to have a Fabolous co-sign?
Troy Ave: It feels beautiful, pause, no homo. Everybody knows he’s the only thing moving out of New York besides Jay-Z. 50’s one of my favorite rappers but right now he isn’t doing to much. Yet Fab did some real ni**a sh*t. He could have just hated but he didn’t
ItsHerWord.com: Since 50 is one of your favorite rappers, how do you feel about the whole Brooklyn-Queens relationship?
Troy Ave: I didn’t know there was even a thing. People in Queens bump my stuff so it’s all good to me. Shout out to Jamaica ave.
ItsHerWord.com: Talk more of your “Bricks in my Backpack” mixtape.
Troy Ave: I’m on my NWA sh*t they banned me from the internet. You can’t even get it anymore.
ItsHerWord.com: Yea I tried to download it and the site was down.
Troy Ave: Shout out to my man Hoffa at On Smash for the link. He put up the link and showed me the way to do it. They send me a cease and assist every single day.
ItsHerWord.com: How was it performing for the Sickamore famous factory showcase?
Troy Ave: That was dope. It had a better turn out than I expected as well. I didn’t really promote it like that, but they promoted it and what not.
ItsHerWord.com: Wasn’t Diggy there too?
Troy Ave: Hell no, DIggy wasn’t there. Me and Diggy aren’t even in the same lane. If I were Diggy I wouldn’t even rap. I would just be mad rich and f*ck bi*ches. That’s a fact. He’s taking up a lane for another little ni**a to try and get. One who is really struggling out here in the streets. What are you rapping about right now? I’m sorry I just speak my mind. Everyone wants to be from the streets. That’s the problem, the streets is real.
ItsHerWord.com: Do you have any plans on touring?
Troy Ave: I want to. I’m starting off with this CMJ show and then we’ll see what happens from there. If nothing really happens from there, I’ll promote my own tour. I got my own money, I’ll rent out a venue and we’ll do things from there. Get people to promote it and see what’s good with that. Even if you break even with what you’re spending it’s an investment in your career.
Platinum Pied Pipers
Aboveground; underground…it’s all relative to Platinum Pied Piper’s producer Waajeed. Being in the game since the early 90’s as he teamed up with hip hop producer Jay Dee, where they both worked together on the song “Welcome to Detroit”, Waajeed had created a name and following for himself amongst the hip hop scene. He helped in forming the group Slum Village. Contributing tracks to their “Dirty District” and “The Trinity: Past, Present and Future” albums. “The Official Jay Dee Instrumental Series” is a compilation of instrumentals he put together that is considered to be an instant underground classic. Along with that he produced his own instrumental series “BPM” under his own label Bling 47.
Working with a fellow Detroitian Saadiq, the two met through their mutual friendship with Slum Village, they made their first album “Triple P” together. Artists such as ?uestlove of The Roots swears by the album claiming he’d go to jail for PPP because the album is that hot. Although many have not even heard of Platinum Pied Pipers, those that have truly believe in their work. Pharrell even gave a shout out to Waajeed claiming he’s a fan on BET’s 106 & Park. Trying to promote real, fresh untouched upon talent in each album, PPP try to be the base for musical hopefuls.
At the end of the day regardless of all the accomplishments there is still many things to be learned. It does not matter if you have worked with people such as Jay Dilla, Dwele and have fans such as Pharrell. Never be satisfied and keep it fresh and the only place to go is higher. Waajeed knows this, but do you? With the sophomore album, Abundance, set to be released in this Fall off of Ubiquity records, the hopes to be played in the club and not Kinko’s is expected. Keepin’ it fresh and unpredictable is always good.
DX: I read an interview a while ago where you stated that in Detroit they don’t support you as much as in other states or overseas. When you decided to move to Brooklyn was it done in spite?
Waajeed: I can’t say that Detroit doesn’t support their own (musicians), but, what I will say is that the resources for Detroiters are not there. They can’t support their own in the way that other cities can. I think that’s probably what I meant when I said that. It’s just more or less about the resources. There is only so much you can do in the city in regards to before you “hit the ceiling”. Ya know…as far as the “connects” you can make, or as far as the radio people who can play your stuff or the venues that you can play in. I think that is what I meant. This move to Brooklyn was only done for newer resources and for more opportunities for your music to be heard.
DX: Who would you like to work with musically that you have not gotten a chance to work with yet?
Waajeed: Man, there are so many people. All the way from pop to rock to underground hip hop. I feel like I’m willing to work with anybody that’s willing to work with something new, innovative or creative. It could be from, shit, Rihanna to Lil’ Brotha whoever. Whoever is open and kinda got a clean pallet and is willing to do something fresh.
DX: Is there anyone in particular that sticks out at all?
Waajeed: At the moment? No, no.
DX: What is your approach to getting you creative juices flowing musically?
Waajeed: Well I find that when Saadiq and I work, it’s better if we work on our own first. Generally, the way that this upcoming album was done, we would get together and speak about what we’ve been listening to, our influences, what’s the latest and the greatest. We don’t necessarily talk about the direction we came up in or where we wanna go, and usually we have the same idea or similar feel of what direction we want to go in. We usually have a general feeling of what is good and bad and we just work separately. Then I bring in my ideas and Saadiq will bring his and sometimes his are better then mine or mine are better then his and we kinda challenge each other that way. Generally, once the production, sketch or an idea is there, usually I kinda take the track and kinda manipulate it and kinda manipulate it or produce it or Saadiq will take it and add bass or keyboard.
DX: How do you incorporate what you’re currently listening to into something organically your own? For instance, if you’re feeling Outkast at the time, how do you work with that or incorporate that?
Waajeed: Most of our influences are older stuff. Like for instance a lot of Aretha and all the old school Motwon stuff that my mom used to listen to. My mom had an interesting story. She was raised in the same neighborhood as Diana Ross. I believe they were both beefing about some boy who lived in the neighborhood. They both had a thing for him or they were both seeing the same guy in Detroit. So, a lot of my influencesfor On a Cloud are based around that, and the fact I couldn’t listen to many Motown records as a kid because my mom didn’t really like Diana Ross.
DX: The crowd that typically you attract is it what you had expected or did you go into your endeavors with no expectations?
Waajeed: No, not really, it’s kinda my job to make the music and I guess its peoples job to respond to it. I don’t have any particulars about who likes it and who doesn’t like it. I really don’t give a fuck really. If you’re into it great, if not…keep it moving. But yea I don’t have any particulars about who is into it. The more the merrier.
DX: Since no one is buying records across the board – does performing in Europe work better for your career as opposed to playing shows in America? If so, how?
Waajeed: Not really to be honest with you. As far as our last record. The sales for the United States and Europe were about the same. I think some artists kinda in general have this vision that the grass is greener on the other side. But it really isn’t. The dollar is just better on the other side and that’s really it.
DX: It seems like they try to make it that artists have this stardom and that there is more openness artistically overseas.
Waajeed: I really don’t understand that either. The response we have gotten in Europe has been as relative as the results we have gotten here. I don’t know, I think because our sound may be a little different, at least on the last record it was a bit different, people just wanted to peg us as one of those groups who would have more success with Europe, but…that’s Bullshit.
DX: Since the internet allows people to have better accessibility to resources such as music, have you found that it has given you greater success?
Waajeed: Yes and no. The problem with internet success is you get a lot of buzz, but, buzz doesn’t equate to success to some degree. With the internet there are a lot of pros and cons with the internet. One being that it is a great resource to get your music out here and to be heard and to get people to check for you and what not. The con that comes with it is that the buzz is not a sustaining buzz. The buzz kinda comes and goes quickly and it affects sales. And sales affect everything. It is the music business and whether you are in it to make creative music or to make money or stuff that’s just straight ahead like pop, hip hop or whatever, sales are important. Sales ultimately affect how you get booked in a territory and how a promoter decides to use you or not. If a promoter hears about you and they check your SoundScans and your SoundScans suck, they won’t bring you to the territory because they know they’re not going to make their money back. For me it’s a love/hate relationship because like I said, buzz doesn’t equate to food on the plate. My landlord doesn’t take buzz for rent payment.
DX: What was it like remixing Roy Ayers record?
Waajeed: Amazing and very intimidating. It was intimidating I think that’s the word to be used. I mean that’s Roy Ayers. When you get those parts, I was able to get all those parts. Just to hear him play and see how his mind kinda works just makes you think like man, I really need to get my shit together. My first thought was like man I got a lot of work to do, it’s very humbling.
DX: Everyone enjoys reppin’ where they’re from. After Dwele appeared on West’s “Flashing Lights” track do you hope or expect it to help give Detroit music more recognition?
Waajeed: Absolutely. I mean we always kinda carry the Detroit banner whether it be consciously or unconsciously. After moving from Detorit and moving to Brooklyn about five years ago I find myself kinda representing my city even more then I did when I lived there. Ya know, it’s like I find myself ever wearing a NY Yankee hat since I been here. I think its just part of the whole thing, I dunno. I used to live in Bedstuy and I would wonder why a lot of the people from Tobago would have their flag up. I used to think like why they reppin’ Tobago so hard, if you love it so much how come you’re not there? But since moving I find myself doing the same thing now. You just want to represent where you from and ya know, its home.
DX: The Brooklyn hip hop festival is coming up pretty soon. What are your plans for the festival? Are you going to participate on stage as well as off? Any plans on getting Detroit based acts to fly out here and perform with you?
Waajeed: Yea, oddly enough I believe we’re gonna be performing at the after, after party and it actually has a Detorit theme. Where I believe Invincible, who worked with us on the last album will be performing and we got DJ House Shoes in there as well. So it will be a Detroit themed after party oddly enough.
DX: In your music you tend to put a lot more underground artists on tracks. What is the intention of doing this? Even though you worked with people such as the late Jay D and Dwele are you more interested in putting on lesser known talents to get them exposure? Is it consciously done to help out people you believe in?
Waajeed: I think that’s what it’s more about. It’s also easy to kinda reach out to people with bigger names and get them on the track and to be honest with you it’s just fuckin’ boring. I think it’s much more exciting to work with new artists and people with a new vision. Just to kind of keep it fresh. I mean how many countless times have you picked up compilations and you just hear the producers fuckin’ with people who are the artists or flavor of the month. I think it’ss kind of corny. It’s much more exciting for me to find out about somebody new, then find out about some old artist who has been doing things for the last ten years and not trying to re-invent themselves.
DX: Do you think it’s harder to have an American base when you put on artists who no one knows of?
Waajeed: I don’t give a fuck really. They kinda get it after a while, it’s just more that you have to be more patient. You just gotta be more consistent and really just gotta put out some fly shit. If you start with the end in mind then you’ll get a lot further.
DX: On your album Triple P you had a lot of appearances from Tiombe Lockheart. Is she a personal favorite of yours? Where did you meet and has the relationship proven to be beneficial and something you plan on continuing to invest in?
Waajeed: Definitely. We met in New York at a Slum Village album listening party. Man it was some time ago, it had to be 5 or 6 years ago. It was some time ago and we took a road trip up here for this listening party. I dunno why we drove. That was one of my first opportunities and I had just recently started producing at the time and being with Slum village you just get beat in the head with demos. And outta all the CD’s I had gotten that weekend there was one particular person who never gave me their CD directly. A friend told me you gotta listen to this CD this girl is really something. She was actually standing there and she was kinda reserved. I remember my father telling me as a kid that some of the most talented people never can speak up for themselves. They let the music speak for them. So when I got the CD I kinda had that thought going on throughout my head and all the way back to Detroit we listened to that CD over and over and over. It just ended up being one of those things that stuck to me. I remember saying to myself whenever I get the opportunity to start an album or be apart of a project, I’m gonna bring this chick in with me. And sure enough when I signed a deal with Ubiquity Tiombe was the first person I called. The first person I sent a check to. And she is definitely someone I will always continue to work with. Not with PPP cuz PPP is a spring board where we try to work with new artists, but, I will defiantly work with her more and Tiombe is someone I would go to war for.
DX: Wajeed you are a pretty popular producer, especially after getting the shout out from Pharell on 106 & Park. Do you feel you will explore the realm of hip hop more? What direction are you planning to go?
Waajeed: I plan on going..I dunno…maybe…I dunno…I cant say. I won’t say as far away from hip hop as possible, but, I plan on exploring it all. I definitely wanna keep exploring options; rock, hip hop, house whatever’s good. Keep it fresh. Lets keep it ADD lets keep it moving.
DX: Your music is very straight forward lyrically. I find it to be very relaxing and the type you vibe to and just let it sit in the tape deck on a relaxing Sunday afternoon. When writing is it in your particular interest to create music that is made to chill and just shoot the breeze to? Would you call your style “grown folks music” in the sense that it takes a mature type of ear to appreciate it?
Waajeed: With the last album it was more kinda jazzy and chill out shit. With this new album it’s completely opposite. The last album we had the highest tempo we went was about 105 with the 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover track. With this new album we’re all the way at 130 BPM’s. It’s not super kind of chill out shit. We start with the ending in mind. We wanted to make a more danceable album, stuff that has more energy to it. With the last album I was shopping at Banana Republic. Not that there’s anything wrong with Banana Republic but they’re playing our record at Banana Republic and I was just like awww shit. Aww man…it’s definitely a compliment to be played anywhere, but, I remember thinking naw…we need to be at a club. Yea they played the record in Kinkos I was like what the fuck? What’s going on here?
DX: Any Last Comments?
Waajeed: I would def like to say I wanna thank all the people who have continually supported us as far as being patient; all the people who have been waiting for the upcoming project. I would also like to tell them to continue to support us and to continue to buy and purchase albums. Put your money where your mouth is. Not just in the hip hop community but in the worldwide community. People don’t tend to put their money where their mouth is. Let this music be recognized by people such as SoundScan and the industry at large. If people want the industry to stay alive and continue to have artists that aren’t at McDonald’s or Sbarros making pizza, then they need to actually buy the record and not steal it.
Hometown: Bronx, New York
Equipment: Logic Pro on a Mac, Some analog synths, Juno-106, MS-20, Guitar and Bass
Everyone knows the story of grinding out until you finally get recognition. It takes some people a very long time before they reach a plateau of substantiality. The Illfonics have been patiently working behind the scenes with television shows such as Rob and Big, underground artists like Mickey Factz and video games like NBA ‘07. With the recent success of their current beat with Jim Jones “Na nana na” it seems like they are finally going to get the credit they been waiting for.
AllHipHop.com: What initially got you guys into beat making and then becoming overall producers?
Jed: We both had been playing guitar since we were real young. We met at school, NYU, we were studying music technology. The transition from beat making to instrumentalist just kind of happened.
Matt: We went to school for music technology and focused on production. We were into the more electronic sounds and weird instrumental stuff. What we were making were beats, but, no one could necessarily rap over them. They were really hectic musical stuff. In 2002-2003 we decided to go more main stream with our stuff.
AHH: Why are you guys called the Illfonics?
Jed: A friend of ours actually thought of it. It’s kind of like a play on the Delfonics.
Matt: We were just trying to come up with names and we hated everything we came up with. A friend said you guys should call yourselves the Illfonics. We were like alright cool. It’s not that deep honestly we just kind of went with it.
AHH: Do you guys use a lot of guitar riffs and stuff when making beats?
Matt: In some of them. We use more electronic “synthy” stuff.
Jed: We do rock stuff and pop and R&B as well. Rock stuff is all guitar and bass most of the time.
AHH: Do you think it’s harder to be in a partnership than it would be if you both worked individually? How do you guys conduct business?
Jed: In terms of what?
AHH: For instance since you guys are considered as one entity is it harder? Does one guy come in and make a beat than the other might come in later and tweak it?
Jed: It goes both ways. We make beats together for the most part. There are joints that we’ve made completely separate. There are things one may start and the other person comes in and finishes it.
Matt: We all kind of cover the same basis. We both use program drums or play drums. We play guitar, bass, keys and stuff so we can both take something from start to finish. Sometimes we’ll just start something together completely and finish it. As far as the business end of things, we let our manager Toshi handle that and our lawyer Paulina.
Jed: We’re just doing the music.
AHH: What was your first piece of equipment?
Jed: It was the MPC 3000
Matt: I don’t even remember…wow. I think it might have been the MPC 2000. Yet I’m almost positive I was tinkering around with other stuff as well before that.
AHH: What’s your favorite piece of equipment to work with?
Jed: The computer.
Matt: We do everything in Logic. There’s a lot of stuff in there, a lot of sounds in there that we can use. We have a lot of analog synths and stuff.
Jed: There’s a virtual MPC in the bottom.
AHH: I bet everyone asks you this question, but, how did you link up with Jim Jones? What was it like working with him?
Jed: Our manager is cool with Jim’s publicist. That’s how the initial connection was made. He gave Jim’s A&R a beat CD and he really felt this one beat. The beat later became the “Na nana na” track. He just kept playing it. Jim was in the studio and he just had the beat on repeat.
Matt: He wrote down his stuff. The whole thing happened real quickly. It took about four days.
AHH: He was here in your studio?
Jed: No he has his own.
Matt: They started on a Saturday or something like that. He laid down his thing and then they hit us asking us if we’re still doing this. They invited us to his studio and we met Bree as she added her vocals. We all just hung out and stuff and met Jim. That night into Sunday morning we were awake doing a mix session until 6 a.m. By Thursday it was on the radio. It was nuts because the album was already closed already.
Jed: They bumped somebody’s track for ours.
AHH: So the track wasn’t even supposed to be on the album?
Matt: I know the album was supposed to come out earlier, but, I think there were other reasons as well. The album got pushed back and stuff.
AHH: Jim liked the track enough to get it pushed on the radio and stuff?
Matt: Yea. He liked the single and I think they were floating two other tracks before that and testing them out. He just really liked “Na nana na”.
AHH: Where are you guys going next with producing and who do you have lined up to work with?
Matt: We got a track with this guy Jackie Chain. He’s on Universal and the track will probably come out in the summer with his project. Nipsey Hussle is another one. We’re doing a real West coast track.
Jed: Honestly we’re going to keep the rest f our endeavors quiet. Keep our mouths closed…haha.
Matt: We got stuff in the works. We have a lot of projects we’d love to get on.
AHH: When it comes to music do you want to stick with just hip hop?
Jed: No not really.
Matt: It’s pretty funny because we started off doing hip hp stuff for the longest. It just wasn’t happening. We started doing pop stuff and got such a strong reaction from that. We kind of left the hip hop stuff behind and then the LL Cool J stuff happened. After that things started to pick up and we went back to it. We are definitely trying to get the pop stuff off the ground again. Some rock stuff as well.
AHH: What else outside of the music industry are you involved in?
Jed: We did a lot of TV stuff. We got some tracks with Everybody Hates Chris. We did a lot with Rob and Big on MTV. We did a track for Entourage on HBO. We have a lot of stuff we’ve made in the past that still might get used. Music supervision companies will have it and will take it when they feel.
Matt: MTV has a bunch of our tracks and they’ll throw it on there. We’ll get ASCAP checks months later in the mail.
Jed: There are a few tracks on Rob and Big that I didn’t even know were placed on there.
AHH: What’s the difference in making a beat for an artist and a video game? I know you guys made a beat for NBA ‘07.
Jed: The video game situation is a more hectic time constraining situation. We had to make about 60 beats or rather 30 second snippets in about a month.
Matt: It was actually more like 2 weeks. They than gave us an extra week.
Jed: So basically 3 weeks total.
Matt: This is all while working full time jobs. It was pretty hectic.
Jed: We were just banging em’ out. They would give us direction as well. We also made the theme song for that particular game.
Matt: The difference with an artist is it has to sound like a record. It has to have a certain quality. Videogames don’t always have to sound like a real record. Some do, but they can be more abstract. Another thing with video games is there is no sampling. You have to make each one different. You can start t run out of ideas.
Jed: Quality is compromised with time constraints.
Matt: That was dope for us because we learned in two weeks how to pick up a lot of tricks and stuff. Trying to model beats out of what was out already.
Jed: We needed Dre sounding beats and stuff like that, in the club sounding joints. In the process of recreating those sounds we learned a lot and it came through in our future creative processes.
Matt: Basically to make a beat for an artist it’s different because they will just ask for a hit. With the TV or videogame stuff they will give you references. They tell you what they’re looking for. Making it for an artist is much more vague and elusive.
Jed: Most of the artist situations we’ve had they didn’t specifically ask us to make a beat. They just heard a beat they liked. The LL joint we made for him. He felt it. We already had one track placed, but he heard a different beat and went with that one.
Matt: Artists always pick the beat you least expect them to. I won’t want to play something for them, yet we do it anyways and they pick it.
AHH: Are ringtones a viable option for producers?
Matt: In terms of making stuff strictly as ringtones? We never actually did a deal to just make ringtones. I’d be open to it. It’s more the Jim Jones track will be a ringtone.
Jed: As far as revenue goes it is a viable option. It is something to think about when making a track. Would it be a good ringtone?
Matt: It seems like Timbaland could do a deal with Verizon to make 40 original rigntones and that’s a pretty sweet deal. Once you get to a point where your name counts for something it can get a company to want to use you to market.
AHH: What’s your take on the current rap game?
Matt: I think there is a lot of cool stuff going on. There’s stuff that gets boring and monotonous. There are a lot of guys trying to do new and interesting stuff.
Jed: I think something is going to happen at some point soon. I think it’s been a bit oversaturated with the down South 808 sound. I feel like a new sound is going to break sometime soon. It has to.
Matt: I like a lot of the dudes coming out now. I like Mickey, B.O.B. or Cudi. They seem like the guys that care less about being rappers as opposed to being artists or musicians.
Jed: I think one of those dudes is going to come out and set a new wave of creativity.
Matt: I think it’s where people are at with music in general. The genre line gets blurred more and more and it matters less and less to be a certain way. There will always be rappers.
AHH: Any advice for someone who might want to be a producer?
Matt: Don’t do it…haha. It’s hard. You have to be patient.
Jed: Send your music out to everyone. The biggest mistake for a lot of up and coming producers is they worry about their music getting taken. You just gotta send your stuff out to as many people as possible. You have to expect to get ripped off. It’s gonna happen at some point. Most new artists and producers have that happen all the time.
Matt: You have to be patient and believe in what you’re doing. Get a good team. Get a manager. Get someone to help you put your stuff out there.
Jed: Get someone to handle the business side too. When you meet up with the artist and talk music the business end doesn’t fit. It’s hard to do both. It’s much better having someone else handle the business stuff.
There’s more to Ellen Stagg than a pretty face and camera, underneath her slender, bohemian dressed body, is a 10 year veteran who’s shot everything from national advertising campaigns to naked porn stars. The last 2-3 years have been a whirlwind for the visual artiste who managed to land an IFC reality show (“The Stagg Party”), shoot calendars for Brooklyn streetwear brand Mishka, appear on the cover of Time Out NY, all while making sure her site, StaggStreet.com, was updated with fresh nudes weekly.
While catching up at a Williamsburg café, Ms. Stagg speaks candidly on why she shoots erotica, what it means to break into the “boys club,” her personal boundaries, and what she would like to do with Rihanna…
What’s one of the ways you try to show that you belong in the “boys club”?
I don’t try to be any different than I am. I always say that I’m the gatekeeper to naked women. A perfect example would be Mishka and how I’ve been working with them on their calendar. They always wanted to do something like that, but didn’t have the connections to naked women until they met me. Now I feel like I’m a lot more equal to them. They’ve made t-shirts out of my photography. We’ve done these projects together and now I’m treated like one of the boys. Most of the people who work on their designs are men. I think there’s one other woman they’ve made a t-shirt from. It’s about being myself but getting my way in by luring them with the naked women. (Laughs aloud)
Working with Mishka must have helped you commercially. What else has come out of working with them?
I actually did a skateboard with Living Proof out of Philly. There’s a naked girl on it. If anything I look at Mishka as they’re helping me brand myself. Instead of just being a photographer who shoots naked women for Penthouse. I am also branding myself with streetwear companies and skateboards, stuff like that. That way I become more of a rounded brand where everybody knows my name. I’m not just an art photographer. I would love to do projects with anybody as long as they give some money to me and my model.
Growing up was it just your brother and father as an influence? I watched the documentary and noticed there was no word of your mom.
My mom was around but we blurred her face out of the documentary because I haven’t talked to her in 4 years. I didn’t want to have to ask for her permission. My mom is still alive; I just don’t have any contact with her. When I was little my dad and brother were the two people I hung out with the most, especially on the weekends. I think that could be why I’m more comfortable with the “boys club.” I grew up farting and burping and thinking baseball was cool when I was little. I didn’t know that just because I’m a girl I’m not supposed to do that type of stuff. I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m a tomboy. Obviously I’m not because I wear makeup and have long hair. I get along with guys. I love to go to strip clubs, drink beers and eat buffalo wings like anybody else, or I guess like boys do.
Is your work the reason why you and your mother don’t get along?
Us not speaking has nothing to do with my work. I actually started this work when I stopped speaking to her. A very long story short, she’s a very negative human being. I don’t want that energy in my life. My mother is Catholic. Me and my brother didn’t grow up Catholic but we have that Catholic guilt. I think that may have something to do with me wanting to go in the direction I did and explore my work in a sexual way. My dad, when I was growing up, he collected post cards, nudie magazines and penis statues from Europe. Dad was my friend and his idea of sexuality is a lot more open, honest, and free; whereas my mom was the enemy and to her sexuality was bad and evil. Of course I’m going to rebel against the enemy. I gave him my first Penthouse magazine and it was a girl on girl spread. The girls are making out and simulating sex in it. I was like “look dad, aren’t you proud?” We were out in the middle of the street and he was like I gotta hide this from your step mom. It was very funny. This all obviously has something to do with my work and the psychology behind it.
Do you have any nay sayers; people who are against your art?
If anything I’ve had a lot of women e-mail me saying how excited and happy they are that somebody like me exists out there. I’m photographing women in a way that breaks down that wall of stereotyping them as sex objects. I’m photographing women and appreciating them for who they are. I’ve never gotten any negative e-mail. The only things closest to negative are the creepy dudes. They e-mail me saying they think my girls are hot. They say stuff they wanna do with my girls and I’ll get creeped out.
Are there any celebrities you wish you could photograph erotically?
Rihanna would be amazing, especially the fact that she’s taken her own cell phone pictures naked. We know she doesn’t have a problem with it. I think there are tons of celebrities out there that I’d love to see naked and everybody would love to see naked.
Have the nude pictures of you ever gotten in the way of relationships?
When I start dating a guy I ask him if he googled me. Haha. It’s more like watch my IFC series. Just putting it out there that my shit is out there. It’s gonna be out there so I hope that doesn’t make anybody uncomfortable. Has putting all the information out there in the beginning worked in my favor? Yea I guess so. I’m not dating anyone right now, hopefully I find someone who is cool with that. They don’t really have a choice. It’s like asking a guy to be comfortable with my bleach blonde hair and tattoos. It’s part of me. My cat too, it’s all apart of me, it comes with the package.
Have any of your clients ever made you blush?
Justine Jolie was the first girl I ever photographed naked. She said she tried really hard to get me to feel uncomfortable to see how far she could push me. It was the first time I photographed a woman. Spread vagina and sticking fingers in areas. I just kind of let it happen. I was like okay let me see where she’s gonna take this. I want to see if she can push me. She said months later “yea you didn’t even flinch. You were just like okay, yea go ahead.”