The battle-tested and industry-tested MC has been dropping dope music consistently for over a decade. Catch up on what the Bronx product has been up to and why 2013 could be his biggest year to date.
You just released the single “Battle Tested” with DJ Cosla. It’s always good to hear that aggressive Tribeca music.
Yeah. With growth, you realize what helped you build your fanbase and I always had a lot of aggressive music. I teamed up with my man DJ Cosla from France, again, you know we did “The World’s Best” joint, and we did a new joint for it. I just shot the video a couple of weeks ago. It’s currently being edited and you’ll have to look for that coming real, real soon. The video is a dope concept. Just think “Battle Tested” but battle tested within yourself. Imagine battling within yourself on a constant basis. That’s what the video is based off of.
You and Cosla have a great chemistry with a real boom-bap sound.
Yeah. I think that’s always the goal with Cosla. When I link up with him, we’re not trying to do anything light. It’s always straightforward, ‘90s, aggressive. It’s got that Primo sound to it, real boom-bappish. There’s always that element with the DJ too. And if you listen, I’m on the chorus with the DJ and the cuts. That’s our little trademark that we’re doing that no one else is doing. The hooks are going to be cuts and me doing part of the chorus itself.
Does it help as an indie artist doing collaborations with producers overseas?
Definitely. I always look at the opportunities. When ESPN released “The Life,” that record was licensed and it was in all the stores and on all the radio stations over there. It was a big success over there. Here it got shut down. What I noticed is that they are into hip-hop on a different scale. Hip-hop here, we get it every day. Our neighbors do hip-hop at this point. The degrees of separation at this point from somebody who’s really making music in the business is really short these days.
They’re genuine fans of the music though. I always recognize fans from all over the world. They recognize the music we make like no other.
You’re also still working with your longtime fam Camp Lo. How did you first get down with them?
It’s not your average hip-hop story. Me and Camp Lo, we go back as friends, as peers, breaking windows and playing wiffle ball. I was always the youngest dude in the crew. Geechi Suede, he wanted to be a rapper and he got the opportunity to work with Ski Beatz on Valentine Ave and he took it and ran with it. He got into the industry and the natural course is to take your friends with you. Long story short, I learned how to make music through them. I started making music for them, and here you go. You have Tribeca and I’m donig what I do. It’s all thanks to them helping me get inside the music business.
How’s the EP you guys are working on together coming?
It’s actually completed. I guess what we’re waiting for is really for his schedule and my schedule to really come to that line where we can come together. Me doing a part of a video and they’re doing the other part, it’s just been hectic that way. They live in North Carolina right now and I’m in New York. If they’re in LA, they’re over here. If I’m in LA, they’re over there. It’s kind of hard to get together but we want to make sure there’s visuals to every songs. The EP’s called R U Gonna Hit? The EP is dope and it’s something that I cherish because obviously those are my friends and we came up together in the game.
You also got your start as a producer through Camp Lo. What have you been working on, from a producer standpoint, recently?
I started licensing music and doing music for TV and all these reality shows and network shows on NBC and ABC. I haven’t really catered to artists. I haven’t really shot beats to artists anymore for one, because it’s not as easy as it used to be. Before, you could set up meetings with A&Rs for placements, and now the middleman is cut out. They would much rather you email them the beats and some producers don’t even know their beats are getting used until they hear it on the radio. I don’t really want to go there. I will in the future, but my main focus is on doing TV and movies. I just like the emotion of it. They send you clips and you could try to create something to the clip or submit beats you made and hope they place it besides their TV, movie, or commercial.
And I would get back to doing beats for artists too. One hand lends itself to the other. When I make beats, I automatically hear a certain person on the beats. It’s like, ‘I would like this person to rock over this,’ but if you don’t have that connection, your music is just going to sit. I don’t want it to sit, so I get it on TV. In the future, I would like to get back with artists. I love being in the studio and working with somebody else and coming out with a masterpiece. That’s what it’s really about, when two brains combine and you come up with something the fans will love. It’s really about making the best music possible.
You’re also working with Queen Juju on a project. Can you give us some background on who she is and what you’re doing together?
She’s originally from the Bronx and a hip-hop producer based out of Los Angeles right now. She’s just dope, man. With the way the industry is, they’re not expected to make aggressive music and this is something people will not expect. I met her online and I heard one joint and it was crazy. I tried to rock with it, recorded the song, and it came out dope. I had the idea to try something different because we’re all linking up with artists to do a whole EP, but I wanted to put the stamp on her because she’s doing something totally different from what her counterparts are doing. Female producers I meet are usually playing keyboards. She’s chopping beats and they sound crazy because it’s in her style. The EP is done and I shot a video. We’re just trying to set everything up now. This is the music that I will probably be making in the future. The emotion of her music matches the emotion of my artistry, so it kind of works very well.
When do you think we’ll get to hear some of that?
We’re looking to actually leak something in the spring. We have the first single. It’s called “Get Fly” and it’s also the name of the EP. So we’re looking spring sometime, maybe in May. We’re going to drop something and then this single right after that, with the video.
I think fans are ready for a new Tribeca project. You’re also working on a new mixtape on top of everything else.
Well, me and you go way back. So you have a strong idea of the music I make. I even made music with you, so you really know my capabilities. And my evaluation of where I stand as an artist, I realize my fanbase is way different from what I normally do. So I had to go back and search within myself and go back and listen to my old catalogue to see where things changed for me. When I was signed to Major League, we were doing a lot of things about sports and hip-hop. I have a variety of sounds that I figured, let me not do just one particular sound. Let me put them all together. So I went back to the mixtape and I want to give people the full me, so I started reevaluating things and I started finding my sound and the sound that I wanted to drop. It’s still going to be aggressive and it’s still going to be boom-bap. But I’m big on choruses and choruses that you’re going to remember. I had to make sure that the choruses matched these aggressive beats. You can’t really have a regular chorus with a sing-songy type beat. So I went back and reevaluated things. The mixtape is titled The Pookie Syndrome. I’m calling up some friends to hop on some tracks. I think one of the next tracks I drop, it’ll be my man M-Dot and Nutso on a track called “Global Warming.” That’s coming shortly. Real shortly. We’ve already dropped “True Lies” with Camp Lo and M-Dot.
There’s also “Touch ‘Em Down,” which I produced and features Skyzoo, Supastition, and UnLearn. That’s been in the stash forever.
And that is raw. That is today’s music. We could go back and think about how old it is, but when the listener hears that, they’re going to be pleasantly surprised on the chemistry. And that sound right there is the epitome of what I’m talking about is on The Pookie Syndrome. We borrowed the chorus from the old Duck Down days and Bucktown, but you hear how that sound fits with the beat. When I play that beat today, people love it and when the song is off, you hear them singing the chorus. And that’s the whole key. You want people to remember the song, not forget about it when they turn it off. You don’t want to make music that people will listen to one time and then turn it off. I want people to listen to my music now, a year from now, five years from now, and ten years from now. I want my music to be ageless. That’s the concept of it all.
You’ve also written your own book and are self-publishing this year. What motivated that?
As entertainers, that’s what we are, right? I wrote a fiction novel titled Party and Bullshit. It’s really about friendship. No matter where you live, there’s always a Friday night and a Saturday night, and now it can even be a Wednesday night. It’s about friends going to a party and within a day, so much goes down. There’s the partying and the bullshit. And you know how these books go. There’s always a twist and a turn. That’s going to be self-published and I’ve written one children’s book so far but I’m doing two more to package them. That will probably be out before the year is out.
You have a lot of projects coming out this year.
I’ve been a person that’s relied on a lot of other people in my career. I come from that place where you have to have a manager, but even back then I was always out and doing my own thing and making sure my business was handled. It’s a now or never thing. I’m older now and I’m wiser now. Though I was reliant on myself back then, I also relied on other people that held me up. Now is the time and I can only hold up myself now. It’s one of things. If people don’t know about it and they can’t read about it, they will never know about it. I’m just going to go for it and see what happens.
You were also involved in trying to save your son’s school. What happened there?
Well, unfortunately, the school was not saved, but in light of that, that’s another situation that I learned a lot. My son goes to a private Catholic school in the Bronx called Our Lady of Angels. They were put on a list to close, they were given a month’s notice that they had to raise a million dollars to cover the school for the next three years. The problem is that it was based on finances, not on anything related to education, so they closed it. I went into the school, took a mobile studio, and recorded a song with a few of the students and it came out pretty good. We put that up for sale online and it sold a bunch and made a bunch of money. It’s just one of those things where I’m glad I tried. People came together.
I don’t hear stories like that too often.
It’s the resources and the ideas. The campaign was really the parents and the teachers making a push, but nobody was hearing the kids, so what I did was I created the song, I mixed it, everything, and then I got some pictures from the art teacher. She’s also the photographer, and she had a catalogue of images. I went and created a montage, put it on YouTube. It got a few hits. The board that voted to close the school, they considered everything, but it was probably too late. It’s kind of one of those things that they didn’t really know. It was the end of November and they had all of December, and remember in December, you’ve got vacations and a lot of other things that go on in December, so they really had only thirty days to raise one million dollars, and in the urban community, that’s a tough one. But that did get some donations. Someone gave $100,000 and someone else gave $10,000. We tried, and I’m happy with tried all the time.
I don’t think a lot of people realize that you were my first interview back in the fall of 2012.
A lot of people don’t know that I am not a new artist, but I make music as if I am one. I have had a lot of things in my career go good, other things go bad. I am not a new artist. I want to make that really clear to the people. And me and 730 got a lot of joints already. You can definitely look for more, coming soon. It’s not a typical project. The premise is 730 on the beats and what I’m doing is lending the choruses and part of the song, along with some guest appearances. Everyone is doing the producer and artist thing, but I don’t think people are doing it how we are doing it. We are actually putting a theme on top of a theme. We’re tag-teaming and getting some different guests on our records. That’s something to look forward to and I’m having fun doing it.