“I make wax, I pay tax, I don’t show cracks,” OC rapped on “Constables,” one of the many standout cuts off his debut album Word…Life. Nearly twenty years after that seminal album dropped, OC’s stayed true to those words, releasing a slew of albums showcasing his lyrical acrobatics with a variety of talented producers, including Soul Supreme, Apollo Brown, and most recently, Ray West.
O’s latest album, Ray’s Cafe, a pairing with producer/engineer and co-head of the recently created boutique label Red Apples 45 Ray West, provides jazz-infused backdrops that compliment Omar Credle’s smooth baritone. In a rare interview with HipHopGame, the legendary OC talks about the making of Ray’s Cafe, reflects on Word…Life and the moves he’s made, his immortal crew Diggin’ in the Crates, and much more in this can’t-miss interview.
You’ve told me in the past that you feel like you’re always going to be a student of the game. Do you still feel that way?
Yeah, definitely. I was a fan before I did the music, before I participated visibly. I was a fan since I was a kid, since its inception.
Do you remember the moment when you realized that you could do music as a career?
I actually started off DJing. My parents bought me turntables. It wasn’t even in my mind to rap. I loved what other dudes was doing growing up. I was always fascinated by it. I was always part of a couple of crews and I think the older I got, the more intrigued I got with the approach and it took on its own life after that.
Yeah, it did. Ray West and A.G. are actually partners of Red Apples 45. That’s how I hooked up with Ray. You know, just hooking up with him and talking with him, he’s a very good side and a very laid back dude. He has a good spirit and his vibe is good. He presented the idea of if I would be interested in doing a project with him. I remember all the stuff him and A was working on and I was like, ‘Cool.’ People don’t realize that projects just come together sometimes by destiny. Sometimes people’s vibes, they just gravitate towards people and it takes on its own life. That’s what happened with him. He’s just a good dude. His vibe is just good. Out of the conversations that we had over time, over that short period of time, we recorded songs and that’s why it sounds so organic.
Was there a plan for the overall project or did you take it track by track?
Each concept really just came out of the air. Basically, when I would go to his studio, we would just have conversations and at the end of the conversation, for some reason, I would have a song out of it in my mind. I would just sit there and write. That’s usually not my format of coming up with songs. I think maybe I did one song at home off that album. But for the most part, I wrote everything in his studio and it wasn’t a long process. It probably took me 10, 20 minutes to write a record and record it at the same time. That’s how I knew it was some kind of special.
How important is it to write in the studio and work out the song there instead of at home?
I think working with different producers and working with different artists, different times bring out different things. With him, this was something I rarely did with the exception of Diggin’. We would write in the studio sometimes, more or less, or just take the joint home and everybody would have their verses. But with the exception of writing one songs, we would write everything on the spot because we was just having life conversations. There wasn’t nothing like gloomy or moody in that sense. His vibe is just that he’s always in a good space. That’s why I feel like the record just came together like that when I was just sitting there and writing for 10, 20 minutes, because we just had good vibes.
As a vet in the game, do you find that you work best with other veterans?
It depends. I don’t work with too many different people. It happened with Apollo when I did the Trophies record. He didn’t want to work with sending beats over the internet and working on it through email. He flew me out. That’s what I dug about him. It was sort of similar situations. They came at me and presented me with an offer to do an album, but before anything could happen, me and Apollo had to talk. We spoke like we’d known each other for a long time, even though he’s younger than me. It just seemed like a marriage. It’s rare to have one dude doing a project and that’s what I respect about dudes like Ray and Apollo.
You ended up with two albums that really played like albums instead of collections of songs. Do you see yourself doing more albums with just one producer?
Yeah. Not being all over the place with five different producers. That worked with people like Nas and Hov and Biggie early on, but if you listen to even projects from the ‘90s era, most of it didn’t work with everybody. I’ll always say that’s lightning in a bottle with certain people. Nas caught lightning in a bottle with Illmatic. Jay caught lightning with Reasonable Doubt. As well as Biggie and Ready to Die. But some of the biggest records that ever came out that are timeless to this day are with one producer or the artist collaborating. The Great Adventures of Slick Rick is a great record. That’s probably one of my favorite, if not my favorite, hip-hop albums of all-time, and that was one producer. It was a collaboration. Hank Shocklee or Keith Shocklee, Rick, and Jam Master Jay. But if you look at all the PE stuff, it was all in-house stuff. All these dudes actually worked together. It was a formula.
Even with your crew, Diggin’ in the Crates, it was all in-house.
Right. It was a quirky relationship, but Diamond never produced on a record for me. That doesn’t mean it never would have happened. It just didn’t happen. It wasn’t that he didn’t have no hot stuff for me or I didn’t like his stuff. It’s just that it didn’t happen. Some things are just destined to happen. You let it happen at its own time.
Diamond and I were just talking about why you weren’t on his new compilation The Diam Piece and he said the way schedules worked out, it just didn’t happen.
He has records with me on them that probably didn’t fit the format of what he was trying to do. I’m not mad at that. That’s his album. You gotta respect what he does with his projects. But there’s a couple of songs over his music, but it probably didn’t fit the format of what he was doing.
It sounds like everyone in the D.I.T.C. fam is really spread out now, which would make it hard to do something together on a major level today.
Yeah. That was 15 years ago. Yeah, definitely.
How hard would it be, at this point, to bring the crew together?
(laughs) It’d be hard. I mean, at this point, I don’t even see a Diggin’ record. As far as individuals and Show and AG stuff or OC stuff, you’ll see that, as long as we’re making joints. But a whole Diggin’ album, I don’t see that in the future. With everybody? Nah.
Diamond D also mentioned how he gets asked about a new Diggin’ record every time he goes out. Do you get similar questions from fans?
Yeah, but we gotta be honest. People, at some point, don’t give a shit because it’s like a Dr. Dre Detox-type of situation. He’s been coming out with Detox for the past 10 years. After awhile, it’s like, ‘Man, I’m not waiting around for this.’ I’m a fan of his past work, but come on, man. Saying that the record is coming out and then it never comes out. I think at some point, they move on.
As an artist, are you okay with another Diggin’ record not coming out?
Yeah, I’m cool with that. Everything happens for a reason. L is not here anymore. In my opinion…things happen for a reason. I’m not saying the situation with L happened for a reason, but everything has its own space, time, destiny, fate, and if it was going to be a record, it would have been a record already.
I couldn’t believe it’s been 15 years since Big L’s passing. Is that still hard to fathom?
Yeah, definitely. I get what my parents say about how time flies. When you’re young, you’re not thinking about your mortality. You think you’re immortal when you’re young, when you’re younger. But now that I’m a little bit older, I think about mortality every day, as opposed to being young. I didn’t think I could die. Not that I didn’t think I could die, but just having a young mind, you’re not thinking about none of that. You think you’re going to live forever. You get in an accident, you just think you’re going to recover. Just that immortal mindstate. We’re not immortal. Your music is immortal. Or it comes out and if you put out good music, it’ll last a lifetime. But physically, nah.
When your perspective on life was changing, was your music changing alongside it?
Of course. Some fans used to tell me that I needed to do another Word…Life. Yo, I’m sure if anybody can duplicate their first album, they would. But it’s impossible to do that. That’s a moment in time that you capture. That’s lightning in a bottle right there. You can’t repeat that. You can repeat success, but you can’t repeat what you actually recorded.
Raekwon came out with a sequel to Only Built for Cuban Linx 2, and that was great, but it’s one of the only sequels I liked.
Yeah, the album was dope! And that’s rare for titles, part two’s, to their original records. It was a dope record. But it didn’t sound nothing like the first album.
I think a lot of things shouldn’t be touched. I think they shouldn’t be touched. If you’re really feeling it in your soul and you just feel that it’s going to come out even better or on an even keel as the first one, then just do it. Rae took a chance and he won with it because it was a grown-up version of the first album.
If you were to remake Word…Life and it didn’t come out right, do you feel you’re hurting the legacy of Word…Life at the same time if the sequel doesn’t come out perfect?
It would. It can. Not to say that it would, but it can. Just as quick as fans would love you, they’ll hate you. Not every person who’s digging on your music, but for the most part, you have to be real careful with what you do with stuff like that. With Eminem, they was trying to tear him a new asshole. Come on. This dude is incredible. Maybe he had a continuation in his mind, that’s why he did a part two. But I wouldn’t touch the first album because it was just that moment in time for me. I think I’ve done better records
than Word…Life, but if people feel like that’s my best work, in their mind, then that’s cool to me.
Some of the best work I’ve done would probably be the work I most hate. People are just now coming around to Bon Appetit. And the reason why I say that album, I’m like, ‘Yo, before y’all heard of Kanye and before y’all knew about Just Blaze at that point, me and Buck did a soul record, which is Bon Appetit.’ People were saying I was trying to get the radio, but if you listen to that album with an open ear, I didn’t have no radio records on there. It was soul samples. Each project was a moment in time. I think Jewelz was better than Word…Life.
But I’m not making records for the people. I’m making records for myself, and whatever I put out there is what y’all are feeling. It’s weird, man. It’s not something I can really explain in depth, but I don’t make records for fans. I make records for me first. And not to sound selfish, but I make records for what I feel or what I’m going through or what I’m into in the moment. And every record has a story, whether you love it or hate it. I just think that with Bon Appetit, people are like, ‘Oh, I get it now.’ But y’all bought The College Dropout and The Blueprint. Y’all don’t think I was the blueprint to a lot of that? Buck was in the studio playing these dudes some of that Bon Appetit album before Blueprint came out. You think that’s a coincidence? That they came out with a soul record? That’s just my opinion.
That was right before the whole soul explosion in hip-hop.
Oh, man, they chewed me a new asshole for that album. I was getting it. I had people standing in line overseas just to tell me they hated that record. It was like, ‘Wow, you stood on line for an hour to tell me that?’
Yeah. But then I get it, where I know that music affects people because music affects me. That’s why I say that I’m a fan. I’m always going to be a fan. Music affects me. I can tell you how I felt when I heard Michael Jackson’s “Wanna be Startin’ Somethin.” I know people get their feelings hurt, including me.
At least the fans cared enough to tell you how they felt.
Yeah. It’s dope in a sense, but I’m not a superstar. They can get life-threatening. You see what happened to John Lennon. It’s real. People take things too far. I get that. I get where people get their feelings hurt because I get my feelings hurt about certain albums, but I keep my opinions to myself and hope they come out with a better record next time. But I don’t expect nobody to be standing outside of my crib like John Lennon, but it gets that deep. Music affects people to the third power.
Do you feel your fans are loyal?
Yeah. I mean, they tore me a new asshole on certain projects, but to me, people complain about how there’s no real good music out there, or there’s no real hip-hop. They’re on this “real hip-hop” stuff. But yo, half of y’all don’t even support what y’all consider real hip-hop because y’all are stealing the music. We got the internet now and instead of buying it, you’re stealing it, and then you’re talking shit about it. Y’all aren’t even supporting the music.
And then at the end of the day, you’re not going to like everything that I do, so stand behind me when you feel like I took the L. You root for the underdog. We’re considered the underdogs in the game. Just stand behind the artists, man. Don’t tear them down when you feel like they’re making something you’re not digging. That’s just two-faced.
You can’t please everyone all the time anyway.
Not at all.
How’s your project with Bumpy Knuckles coming?
It’s supposed to be with Preem too, but you know how that goes. That was Preem’s idea. Preem came up with the idea that we should do a record, but you know, that was two years ago. Bump was saying we should do it regardless, but I’m like, Bump is a dope producer but you gotta give it that added effect with Preem, and he’s the one that came up with the brainstorming to do the album, so why would we do the album without him now? ‘Cause Bump’s got his own studio and everything. He’s in-house. He’s his own engineer and he’s got a futuristic studio. He does everything in-house. His studio looks like what we used to pay for back in the day for $3-400 an hour. He was just like, ‘Yo, we need to do this record regardless.’ I was like, ‘I don’t know. I gotta think about that.’ And we still might put it in the air. Bump stays working. He’s probably recording right now.
With Bump and Preem doing The Kolexion and me recording with Preem in the past, I haven’t done an album with Preem in the past but he has. Just imagine. It would be something special. But Bump was like, ‘We just gotta work, no matter what.’ I understood exactly where he was coming from, but Preem put it out there to do the album, so why wouldn’t we do the album? It would just have a bigger effect if we were to do the album with Preem?
Is the holdup because Preem’s a methodical worker or because he has too many projects? Or is it something else?
Honestly, Preem takes on a lot of work, not that that’s a bad thing, but he goes on tour. He’s probably home a week, two, if that. He’s back out on the road. He’s home, he’s back out on the road. He has a lot on his plate. I’m not mad at that. Preem stays busy. But you have to be stable in one spot to knock out a record and I want to be there. We’re all in New York, so why wouldn’t we all be in one spot to record this album? It makes no sense. Even hitting us with the beats and us doing it in Bumpy’s studio, because Bump has everything at his disposal, but even getting the beat out of Preem is hard because he has a lot on his plate.
If it were to come together, it sounds like you’re still down to be a part of it.
Of course. Definitely. But him and Nas was supposed to do an album a couple of years ago, so what does that tell you? Dude is busy. He’s a busy man. You can’t keep dangling that meat over the lions and the tigers, man. After awhile, they’re just going to be like, ‘Eh, if you drop it, I’ll eat it,’ but it’s not the same as them jumping and jumping for that piece of meat. When you’re dangling something good in front of people, they’re gonna grab for it.
Right. And those types of albums don’t come out every week.
Exactly. I still look forward to it. I just put it on the backburner in my mind. But if he calls today and is like, ‘We’re going to start working tomorrow,’ I’m there.
Hell yeah. Hell yeah. I mean, Oasis, we took too long to do that record. We’re talking about Bon Appetit, me and A did a record on that album “Weed and Drinks,” where he talks about smoking weed and I’m a drinker, or I was. That was back in ‘01. We did that record in 20 minutes and we was like, ‘Wow. Wow.’ We did that record in 20 minutes. And we looked at each other and laughed and said, “Just imagine.” We didn’t think about doing a whole project until later on, years later. But if you listen to that record, “Weed and Drinks,” it tells the story of how Oasis came together.
Do you have plans for more new music?
Yeah. To be honest, Ray’s Cafe was done five years ago.
Listen to the song “Breaking the Rules,” I said, “Ashamed of my age, now I’ve lived for 38 summers.” I was 38 years-old when I did that. I’m 42 now.
It was his project. It was something we did. I don’t know. You would really have to ask Ray that. But it was just something, timing, I guess. Dude is a genius too. People are gonna see. He worked on the Marcberg record. He mixed that album with Roc Marciano. He’s going to get his credit. People are really going to start doing their research on Ray and see that this dude has been putting in work. But I mean, we did that record almost five years ago and I laugh when people think we just did it because we did it five years ago. If we had put it out five years ago, y’all would have said whatever. Now that it’s taking on its own life, I’m telling people what it is. We did this five years ago. What’s up? This is not right now.
This is not talent for me. This is a gift. I keep telling people this, man. It’s not a talent. A talent is something that you learn. A gift is something that you’re born with. I was born to do this.
Can we expect you to keep rocking, then?
I’m gonna rock ‘til I’m ready to stop, man. Some are talented, some are gifted, and not to toot my own horn, but I’m gifted, man. This is not a talent.
How much of your day, right now, is spent on music?
My day is music. Music is life. I mean, you draw from everyday experiences, at least I do. I don’t know what everybody else draws from. I can’t speak for everybody else, but I was taught, just watching musicians, just great musicians, that you draw from everyday experiences, whether they’re good or bad. Everything around me is rhythm. Me and you having this conversation is rhythm. It’s harmony. I might catch an idea about it. I might not.
Have you ever tried to leave the music alone?
I tried. I tried, man. I’ll take it to the grave with me. When I’m ready to stop…But I recorded Trophies in eight hours. I wrote the record at home. I flew to Detroit and recorded the record in less than eight hours. Me and Apollo made a bet that that couldn’t be done. He was amazed at it because I was just throwing rhymes and he was stopping me, saying, “I ain’t never seen no shit like this.” I told him, “I’m not the only one that does it, but this is what it is.” This is my life. This is what happens. I’m not the only artist from my era that does this. Y’all gave up on us, man.
It’s sad that so few of the artists I grew up loving are still doing this today.
It’s crazy. I think some of them that are still trying to do this should stop, but some people are born to do this. It’s like with the music production. People looked at J Dilla, for example, and they’re like, ‘Yo, J Dilla’s the greatest!’ Do y’all realize that he was putting work almost back to Tribe’s second album? Do y’all realize that he didn’t just…I mean, you shouldn’t give a person kudos after he dies. I always say give people their props while they’re alive. Give me my flowers while I’m alive. He was great when he was alive. What makes him even better now that he’s dead? Y’all are not appreciating your people. This dude had been rocking out since Tribe, early Tribe. He’s been a genius. He’s more of a genius now that he’s dead? Come on, man. Y’all should have given him more of that love that y’all are giving him now when he was alive.
I think something that really illustrates that point are those “Dilla changed my life” shirts.
And he didn’t change your life when he was alive? It’s the same with Big L. I don’t want that much love when I’m dead, man. Show it to me now. Support me now when I’m physically here with y’all. That means promoters, people who want features…Stop feeling like this is what you’re worth and this is what I’m going to pay you. I’m not even going to get into all of that, but people feel like this is what you’re worth and this is what we’re going to pay you now. If that’s what you think I’m worth, then it’s not even worth my time to work with you. I don’t do as many shows and that many features. My features are calculated. But shows, especially here in the States, people are paying mortgages and a couple hundred dollars or a thousand dollars isn’t a lot of money.
Do you have to go overseas to get the respect you deserve?
I’ve been overseas a lot. It’s sort of like that over there. They got a lot of favorite artists over here in the States, but what that means is that artists can settle for a thousand dollars and lodging and per diem. They put us in a box, like all of us are like that, and then they get surprised when it comes to me and I tell them that I’m good. They’ll come back and try to lure me out. That’s no money, man. I gotta pay a DJ. I’m not even taking a manager. They don’t want to pay for business class. That’s cool. I’ll sit in coach. But pay me what I’m worth. But without mentioning no names, a lot of people are going overseas for short, short, short money.
Which is messing up everybody.
And it’s messing up everybody. Your rapper’s favorite rapper, they’re going over there for pennies on the dollar. It’s like, ‘Damn, man.’ So when I do spots overseas now, it’s almost like a treat when people see me because people don’t see me every month. I’m doing an hour and a half easy. That’s not even two albums! I’m doing an album and a half. And you can’t even do three albums. Your cutoff limit is probably an hour and 20 minutes because they gotta close up the spot and they’re usually on a curfew. But I run through shows with ease. I don’t do too much talking. That’s a waste of time. I’m doing a verse apiece off 40-50 records, stuff that y’all actually know. Come on, man. Pay me what I’m worth.
I’ve been to shows of some of my favorite artists and they’ve shown up onstage completely wasted, stumbled over verses, and then left.
It’s like fool’s gold too. What you’re saying, exactly to the letter, people are going online and saying the show is incredible and the show was dope, and I’m saying, “Y’all can’t be serious. That show was shit.” And the thing is too, man, these promoters have relationships with a lot of these artists and they don’t’ want you showing up their artists. It’s almost like they manage them. There’s a lot of politics and bullshit in this. I don’t get up there with no hype man. It’s usually just me and Boogie Brown. We used Boogs, Pharoahe uses Boogs, and Finesse uses Boogs. Go on and Google me and look at the last show I did in Slovenia. We ran through hit after hit and I don’t think a lot of people like that, as far as promoters. They’re like, ‘Damn, people are actually doing good shows. They’re going to demand money.’
Do you think fans don’t know what’s a good show anymore, or do you think they just want to believe it’s good?
They don’t know no better! I’ve seen dudes like Kane rock. You don’t want to go on after Kane. That always keeps me motivated. Kane is the beginning of my era, the end of his era. He’s a generation before me. But if you ever sleep on Kane going onstage, you’re a fool because Kane tears it down. He comes with theatrics. He comes with everything. He dances. I don’t dance, but Kane is an all-around showman. De La is another example. You don’t want to go on after them. De La has hits, man, and they know how to work that stage. They’re still performing and they’re doing festivals to this day. I’ve seen Ice Cube rock. I’ve seen people where it’s just like, ‘Damn, that’s not even going on anymore, but what can you do? Do what you do.’
As someone who came up in the early to mid ‘90s, would you call your era “The Golden Era”?
Who came up with that? I don’t know what to call that. It was a…how can I say this? It was like more or less the early stages of people signing deals, like the deal structure ain’t changed really too much. You got 360 deals now where they’re taking everything from artists, but back then they was just signing everybody. But you had a whole plethora of artists. Look at what came out of that. Busta came out of Leaders. You had Redman come out of that EPMD camp. You had Meth come out of that Wu-Tang camp. There were incredible artists. They were making conceptual albums. You had Cypress Hill. You had Tha Alkaholiks. And nobody sounded alike. That’s the main thing right there. No two artists sounded alike. Everybody had their own style as opposed to today. I really try not to get on the youngins of today, but my problem with them is I think they don’t respect their past and they don’t dare to be different with the exception of a few. I think Schoolboy Q does his own thing. I think Kendrick does his own thing, not too far off of what we’ve done or laid down already. He’s just continuing the tradition. But for the most part, a lot of these dudes, they want to play it safe so they make records that almost sound exactly alike, just to hit the radio. We didn’t think about radio back then.
What was your priority?
I was looking at being accepted on that first album by my peers. You had the Nas’s, the AZ’s, the Pharaohe’s. You had everybody who was lyrical. I was looking for acceptance from them. I wasn’t really thinking about selling records. People always say I’m an underground artist. An underground artists is considered underground because they sold less than 500,000 records. Would I have loved to sell a million records? Yeah. But doing what I do, not being forced into a box with the record company telling me what I had to do. I wasn’t about to do that. I mean, I just did what I did, man. If it made it to the radio, cool. If it didn’t…We had college radio back then. If you couldn’t break college radio back then, why even try for commercial radio? Most of the artists that are still around, college radio made them what they are today.
Do you have any regrets over how you did things in the ‘90s?
No, I wouldn’t do it over. I would probably do it more independent. I probably never would have signed a record deal, a straight up artist deal. Nah. If I had that due over, I would have never done that.
Are you talking about a specific deal?
Any of them. Word…Life, Jewelz. Word…Life was on Wild Pitch/EMI. I probably had the biggest deal Wild Pitch ever gave out. I did have the biggest deal at that time. I was at $100,000. Finesse’s budget at Wild Pitch was like $500. Serch was president at Wild Pitch and then they hooked up at EMI. I think I got the biggest deal, Main Source too. I had gotten bought by Pay Day and did the deal with Pay Day. And I did a publishing deal, which I would never, ever do again. There’s just certain things I would do different. You only do publishing deals if you’re going to sell a zillion records and getting paid for your music being used in the Super Bowl and places like that.
Prince Po and Pharoahe Monch just got back together for an Organized Konfusion show. What do you think about that?
I did the show with them. I did the anniversary with them. I’m on Po’s new album Animal Serum on there called “Smash the Devil.” I think it’s needed. I think people didn’t get enough. I don’t think people got enough of Prince and Monch, show-wise. They didn’t get to see them do a lot of the classic shit live. They deserve to give that to the people.
What would an Organized Konfusion reunion and new album mean to hip-hop?
I put them in the category of Rakim, Kane, and Ultramag. They come from that era. People don’t realize they were signed to Atlantic, if I’m not mistaken, before their first album. They’ve been around. So at the end of the day, their history is extensive. They mean a lot to the game. They was trendsetters. They took the emceeing game to another level. I’ve seen it firsthand. I’ve seen it in the studio. I’ve been around them in the house with them actually coming up and conceptualizing songs, even before hitting the studio. Word…Life is a continuation of the Stress album because my album came out, I think, three or four months after that. So it was a continuation of their record because I was around them from day one. People don’t really realize that.
Do you look at them like mentors?
They was definitely my mentors, yeah. They was definitely my mentors. I got the deal, I got my first deal about halfway through, not even halfway through that second album. The Word…Life album is actually most of my demo stuff. It took me, like, four months to do the album, four to five months, because half of it was demo. So it didn’t take me long to do that record. Plus Serch was on me. Serch was helping me and I was signed to Serchlight. I was busting my ass in the studio, making it to the studio. Serch played a big part in that record. He played a big part in my history, period. Me and Nas. If it wasn’t for Serch, there wouldn’t be no O or no Nas.
The fans who know, know how important Serch is, but a lot of people see him only as a member of 3rd Bass.
Nah. He’s the one that got us our deals. Not the dudes that we rocked out with and gave verses on their albums. Organized didn’t get my deal. Serch got my deal. Large Professor didn’t get Nas is deal. Serch got him his deal.
Me and Buck used to go back and forth, but in a good way. We used to spar a lot in the studio about what I should do, what I shouldn’t do, how we’re going to freak it. But that was our chemistry. We argued in a good way, not in a bad way where we got bloody or upset at each other. This was our debut. From that record, it taught us both how to deal with people different. As far as his relationship when we recorded, we agreed to disagree and we always came to a common understanding and records came out the way they did. There was supposed to be a third verse on “Time’s Up.” I didn’t like the record the way it was but Serch said to keep it. I didn’t like that because it sounds unfinished to me. Buck was like, ‘Nah, leave it.’ So that was Serch’s call. He did the video. That was Serch’s concept. That was everything.
Serch said it was perfect the way it is. He really executive-produced the record. He wasn’t just there. He executive-produced that record, along with me and Buck.
Do you feel like that was Buckwild’s coming out too?
Yeah. That’s Buck’s introduction, man. Buck played me so much music. I played him some of my demo stuff. Songs like “OZone” and stuff like that, that was already recorded, demo-wise. Buck was like, ‘Yo, redo your verses a little bit, touch up your verses a little bit. I got an idea for that.’ We revamped the whole “OZone” record. I put the demos out a few years ago. If you listen to the demo version instead of the album version, you can see the difference. It’s two different records.
“Time’s Up” gets used a lot, even to this day. Do you keep up with all the freestyles over the beat?
Yeah, definitely. I just saw something online, and I think it’s old and people like to start shit, but AZ rhymed over “Time’s Up” and he bodied it. And that’s not a record everybody can rhyme over. And I’m not surprised at that because he’s cut from the same cloth. I’m not surprised that A caught a body on that. He knows how to rhyme and he has a comfortability on those beats. We come from that same era.
Do you have a favorite “Time’s Up” freestyle or remix?
Nah, not really. I think ain’t nothing touching Buck’s original. I think Eclipse did a remix to it that was dope. And then you have a hundred other people trying to remix the record, but Buck’s original is not to be touched. The next best thing is probably Eclipse’s joint.
Showbiz is working on a D.I.T.C. remix project. Are you going to get involved in that?
That’s something I’m gonna hear when everybody else hears it.
It doesn’t sound like you have interest in remixing your older music. How much of that music should be left alone?
I mean, if you can bring another life to it…My thing is if you got a vision for it to bring a different light to it, do it, but make sure that’s what it is before you put it out because once it goes out to the public, you can’t take it back. I just think certain things shouldn’t be touched. I’m not talking about the Diggin’ record, but I’m just saying in general, just certain joints, man, shouldn’t be done over.
I’m an Eminem fan, but the “I Got Ya Open” joint (“Don’t Front”), I thought, should not have been touched. I just think Buckshot murdered it. And certain records you just don’t touch. And if I’m not mistaken, Busta and the Flipmode Squad did it for the Flipmode album and their version was dope. Eminem’s version was dope. But I just think certain things should not be touched. That’s just my opinion. I’m not knocking them. I’m just saying in my opinion, certain things, just leave it. Leave it as is.
And don’t get it twisted. Eminem is a fan, man. Eminem is a student of the game. I don’t care how many records he’s sold. People don’t realize that what he does, that’s what we’ve been doing. But the politics with him being white, of course, and he’s one of the biggest-selling artists so far. It just doesn’t happen, but we need him to open up that pipeline like that. If I ever did “Rap God,” that record wouldn’t have made it to radio. I’m sorry. If Redman would have done “Rap God,” I don’t think that would have made it to radio. But Eminem is an MC. That’s what people tend to forget. He came out battling. You have to give him respect and I respect him. He’s a genius when it comes to wordplay and stuff like that. He’s incredible. He’s probably top 10, top five.
Who’s your all-time favorite MC?
Slick Rick, Rakim, KRS, Kool G. Rap, LL, Chuck D. That’s my influences right there. I bit the shit out of all them if you listen to all my records. They influenced the hell out of me. They taught me structure. They taught me music. They taught me to speak my mind. It just taught me the structure of making music.
What does it mean to you that other MCs might name you in their top five?
I don’t know. I don’t know about that one. There was a guy my pops used to tell me about back in the day. I’m going to go into one of my little funny stories. But there was a cross-eyed boxer back in the days that Ali didn’t want to fight. Ken Norton didn’t want to fight. Frazier didn’t want to fight. Being that he was cross-eyed, nobody knew what was coming and he kicked everyone’s ass that he got into the ring with. I’m that dude in the game. A lot of people don’t mention me when it comes to influences like that. They don’t put me in that category with the Biggie’s and the Jay’s and all of them. And that’s cool, but I know. And they know. And that’s all that matters to me.
That just means MCs aren’t studying enough.
That’s cool. It used to bother me, but it don’t bother me no more. People will love me when I’m dead even more! (laughs) That’s just how things turn out, man. People will remember me when I’m gone.
What kind of projects are you working on?
My next situation that I’m trying to work out is this producer kid from Slovenia named Dosha. He hit me with a CD of joints that I didn’t listen to when I got back home from out there ‘til probably two weeks later and yo, this dude is incredible. It’s just me working it out. Obviously I have to email him my vocals and shit like that. But this dude don’t even sound like he’s from Slovenia, and that sounds biased. I actually had to email him and ask him if he actually produced these beats because of how dope he is. That’s my next project that I’m on top of now.
And more stuff with Ray and more stuff with Marco Polo. More stuff like that. Just from here on out, having fun and giving people a steady stream of music.