Filed under: Hydra Ent. Special,Interviews,Killa Queens,Print Work,Steady Bootleggin'
Written by: Robbie Ettelson
Originally printed in Modern Fix #51.
Despite having maintained his position as one of hip-hop’s most enduring tough guys for the last twenty years, Blaq Poet refuses to be stuck in the past. As he proclaims on “Bang This” (the opening track on his latest album): “My mindstate is ’88. but my style is ’09…I’m an OG, but I’m gettin’ that new money!”. Having survived through the Bridge wars, a stint on Tuff City in the early nineties as part of PHD and two albums as a member of Screwball, Poet is sounding hungrier than ever and taking even less shit than usual. Having spent the last couple of years building a heavy street buzz thanks to a strong selection of DJ Premier assisted mixtape bangers and a couple of dope singles, he’s just released Rewind: Deju Screw [Screwball] to hold us over until his official solo album drops.
Is “Deja Screw” a collection of all your mixtape stuff?
That’s just a lot of lyrics, like my verses from Y2K, my verses from Loyalty – verses from both those albums that I felt people didn’t really hear. So I was like “Yo, I’mma do those shits over again over some hot beats”, ’cause I felt people didn’t hear that shit the way I wanted them to hear it.
Have you got any features on the new album?
I got my man Teflon on there, got my man Big Shug, I got my man J-Roc – that’s my little protege from the hood – that’s my little artist. I got my cousin KL on there, Versatile – that’s a female. She’s the first lady of Screwball. The verse she gets off – she’s gonna give a lotta bitches problems.
Is she on some Roxanne Shante shit?
She’s like ten times Roxanne Shante. Shante wasn’t a real lyricist, she was just a MC. She could rap but she wasn’t versatile as a lyricist.
Is the Year Round project with Premo still on track?
Yeah, the Year Round project is poppin’. I’m just waitin’ for Premier, whenever he’s finished doin’ what he’s doin’ – a lotta things right now. As soon as he’s finished we’re gonna start to wrap-up my album. Blaq Poet – The Best That Never Did It. If not, I’ll be working on another motherfucking album by myself. I’ll get a couple of beats from Premo or whatever. I’m working, man. I’m getting busy, it’s time to take over. Screwball Records, that’s what it is. That’s my little label, dunn. Since the group is not together right now – the group is just me and my cousin, right now – I gotta honor my man name by keeping his name in people’s faces. Screwball Records – it’s always gonna some kind of Screwball somethin’. Either the group, either the label, clothing line, it’s gonna be somethin’ all the time – Screwball.
Word. And you’re doing some stuff with some French producers for a different project as well?
Yeah, I’m doing something with 45 Scientific. I don’t know if we’re gonna go through with it because we might have some little difficulties, but hopefully it all goes through.
That “Message From Poet” record you did last year was something different.
Yeah, that was me telling niggas “Get busy – battle!”. Fuck all the bullshit, battle. I’m just tellin’ niggas a little message. Just a little message from me to the industry.
So is the album with Preme gonna be on the “F.A.Y.B.A.N.”, take no shorts tip, or are you gonna have a few message songs on there as well?
Oh, we’re gonna have messages, but I’m not telling niggas “peace”. I’m not on that peaceful shit.
It’s not some Talib Kweli kinda stuff. [laughs]
Yeah, I’m a straight warrior – I don’t give a fuck who’s in the way – niggas are getting laid down. That’s what The Best That Never Did It is about. Straight street. If I’mma preach, I’mma preach in a way that the little guys, the little niggas gonna understand and they gonna listen. I’m not gonna preach to them like “Don’t do this, don’t do that”. I’mma let ’em know the good and I’mma let ’em know the bad, and y’all make y’all choice.
You’ve been putting out records since ’86. Was “The Wopp Sensation” you’re first record?
’86, ’87 – “Beat You Down”, yeah. “The Wopp Sensation”, that was just some bullshit. That was the craze at the time, I ain’t no dancer. That was my man Noel‘s shit. He was a club DJ so he knew that people in the club were doing The Wop, so he was like “Poet man, let’s do it. A dance record”. I’m like “A dance record? Get the fuck outta here!” You know what I’m sayin? I was like “Aight, fuck it, let’s do the shit.” Next thing you know, B-Fats comes out with “The Wop”, [laughs] and he blows up with that. I’m glad I ain’t blew up with that bullshit. The other side – that’s the drama side – “Beat You Down”, that’s what it’s all about.
“Beat You Down” was one of a series of songs Poet made attacking KRS-One in the late ’80’s, as he jumped-in to protect the name and reputation of Queensbridge, at a time when BDP were tearing shreads off MC Shan. “Takin’ You Out” contained this hilarious reference to Ms. Melodie (KRS’ morbidly obese wife at the time)” “I’ll make you and break you, just like a puzzle/Melodie’s a Gooney Goo Goo, she need a muzzle/she eat all the chicken, the turkey and the hamburger – if you touch it, you’ll get murdered! That’s why you’re skinny, puny and measeley/she eat all the food and beat you up easily”. It wasn’t all so light-hearted though:
I heard that Just-Ice didn’t take too kindly to something you said on a record?
Oh nah, me and Just is mad cool now and shit, but it was the song “All Hell’s Breakin’ Loose”.
You were talking about “Just-Ice will melt”.
Yeah, I was just talkin’ about a lotta different people on there, and I looked at Just-Ice as one of the best niggas at the time. So him, T La Rock, Kool Moe Dee, Melle Mel, LL, Rakim, Ultramagnetic – at the time, those were the dudes. So I was like if I’m gonna be the best, I’ve gotta try to get at everybody! I was fifteen, sixteen years old. I just wanted to battle everybody.
Is it true that Just came down to the Bridge looking for you?
I heard he came out there and shit, lookin’ for me, and he bumped into MC Shan. Shan started punkin’ out, talkin’ about “I told Poet ‘Don’t do it!'” [I burst out laughing], but I ain’t never seen him, I ain’t never run into him. We never got it on like that, but Just-Ice, that’s my man right now.
I noticed that you took the whole Bridge wars seriously, but nowadays a lotta dudes are coming out with these sorta records just to promote a new album and stuff. Do you feel like it’s almost like wrestling?
Yeah, a lotta shit is just hype. A lotta motherfuckers is not serious, niggas do what they don’t even really feel…it’s not the same. Nobody wanna battle, like back then when I was doin’ it. I wanted to battle these dudes, that way there’d be no question. Like Jay-Z and Nas – them niggas need to battle, instead of makin’ up and all that shit. Battle! Don’t battle on wax – I mean, you can battle on wax, that’s cool too – but battle in front of the people! That’s what’s up. That’s the shit I came up in. But I ain’t battlin’ no more, that battle shit is dead with me. Niggas already know what it is.
But KRS just used that whole situation to get himself publicity.
KRS was mad at Tyrone, and mad at Mr. Magic and Fly Ty because they shitted on his music. They didn’t like what he had, and when he was trying to shop that shit to them and they ain’t like it, and from there he just attacked Shan and Marley. He just attacked The Bridge and everything, tried to shit on our whole movement, and I ain’t like that so I had to make my move.
So after that period you formed PHD with Hot Day?
Yeah, I was down with my nigga Hot Day right after that. Me and Noel went our ways, and I met up with my man DJ Hot Day. Me and Hot Day was cool all the time in school and everything. He was like the next Marley Marl comin’ up in Queensbridge, making his mixtapes and all that shit, so I was like “Aight, it’s gonna be Poet and Hot Day – PHD”. We did “I’m Flippin'”, we dropped an ill album on Tuff City back in ’91 . We were the first dudes showing guns in the video, and shootin’ shit up in the videos before everybody was doin’ all of that. We were the first ones showing the real shit on screen.
Even on the album, on the back you’ve got guns out.
Yeah, things were definitely goin’ down. We were showing the good side and the bad side of the game. When niggas start flippin’, you get that money, and the end result is you get nowhere.
Is Hot Day still making tapes?
I talked to Hot Day the other day on the phone. He’s running around, doin’ his DJ gig. He’s a big DJ right now, a lotta people hired him to do their parties and stuff.
The PHD album is also notable for featuring Cormega’s
first second appearence on record, while Havoc from Mobb Deep also made an early guest shot on a PHD posse cut called “Set It”. In the years that followed, both of them would have a significant presence in the Queensbridge rap movement, while the other MCs from that song (Hostyle, Solo and KL) also made a name for themselves when they formed Queens supergroup Screwball with Poet:
In the PHD days, you had songs like “Set It” where you featured Kamakazee and Hostyle, was that just guys from around your area – before Screwball was a group?
Yeah, back then it wasn’t no group yet. Screwball had got killed but I didn’t make the group up yet.
So you named the group after your friend?
Screwball is…that’s my man Louie Lou – Louis Chandler. That was his nickname, my man was tight. He got killed and I just made up the group in honor of his name.
Didn’t Tommy Boy hold up the album because of the “Who Shot Rudy” record?
Yeah, they held-up the album. Coulda dropped that shit and went platinum if they woulda dropped it at the right time, when we had all that free publicity off the “Who Shot Rudy?” shit. We was all on the news, in the newspapers and all of that, but they don’t roll with it ’cause they were scared of Time-Warner, and Rudy Guilliani at the time had ties with Time-Warner, who were the distributor for Tommy Boy, so they slowed down with dropping that.
What happened with that “On The Real” song with Nas?
That was some shit that Marley did with KL and Solo – Kamakazee. That’s the other two parts of Screwball. Kamakazee and Screwball are the same shit, it’s just two of ’em. With that “On The Real” shit, Marley had the DAT at his crib and Nas came up there one day and laid down shit first, to the beat. Then KL and Solo went up there and Marley was like “Yo, I got some shit with Nas. Y’all cool with Nas, right?” “Oh yeah, yeah. Nas is our man.” They jumped on the track, then Marley played it and motherfuckers was loving it. So when it was time to put the shit out, Nas was acting funny like he didn’t wanna put it out*, so we was like “Fuck it. He don’t wanna get on it, he don’t gotta get on it.” We grabbed up Cormega and Havoc from Mobb Deep, got them niggas to get on it. They flipped it up – Nas is off of it and Havoc and Cormega’s on it. $
While many hip-hop fans consider that KRS-One got the upper-hand in the Bronx Vs Queensbridge battle, these days most street-level rap fanatics would rather pick up a Blaq Poet record instead of the latest Kris Parker release. This twist of irony hasn’t been lost on Poet:
Back to the Bridge wars, KRS obviously had a lot of publicity from that but these days he’s lost a lot of fans.
Yeah, ’cause he started up with Nelly for nothing, and it just looked weak. I’m not tryin’ to be no old nigga on the mic, talkin’ ’bout I used to do this or I used to do that, or how it was in the 80’s and all that – fuck that shit! It’s all about now. I ain’t gonna stay stuck in the past man. Gotta be now.
You want to compete with what’s out now.
I ain’t even try to compete with what’s going on now – I just do me. I don’t say “Yo, I gotta do a record for the radio” or “I gotta do a record for the clubs”…nah. I pick my beats and I do my thing.
So we’re not gonna be hearing Lil’ Jon on your album!
Shit, me and Lil’ Jon could do somethin’ gangster, but it ain’t gonna be what y’all used to from Lil’ Jon. I’mma bring him into my world. I’d have him whylin’ [chuckles], but I can’t rap on no crunk beat! But I can have him screaming on some “boom-bap” beats – we can always adapt, man.
Because a lot of labels tell people “You’ve gotta do a Dirty South record”, but you’ve got to it on your terms.
I’ll do a Dirty South record, but you can’t sit back and say “I’m gonna do a Dirty South record”, you’ve just gotta do it. Whatever category it falls in, it falls in. I gotta stay nice on the mic, I can’t fall off. You’re never gonna hear me sounding old on the mic. My age and my body might get old, but the skills are gonna stay sharp. I think I’m better now than I ever was. I think I sucked back in the days! Now? Nobody can fuck with me.
$ A couple of years ago, Nas released “On The Real 2004” as a solo track as part of the Illmatic 10th Anniversary reissue, featuring his original verse and two new ones.
2005 Blaq Poet “We Gon’ Ill”/”Poet’s Comin'” 12″ (Beatdown)
2002 Blaq Poet “Poet Is Here”/”Message From Poet” 12″ (Year Round)
2001 Screwball Loyalty (Landspeed)
2000 Screwball Y2K (Tommy Boy)
1999 Screwball “F.A.Y.B.A.N.”/”Seen It All” 12″ (Tommy Boy)
1999 Screwball “Who Shot Rudy?” 12″ (Hydra)
1997 Screwball “Screwed Up” 12″ (Screwball)
1991 PHD Without Warning (Tuff City)
1991 PHD “I’m Flippin'” 12″ (Tuff City)
1988 The Fedz “Takin’ You Out” 12″ (11A)
1987 Rockwell Noel & MC Poet “Beat You Down” 12″ (11A)
Bonus Beats – Web Exclusive:
Is there anyone from Queens that you felt didn’t get the recognition they deserved?
Well…shit. Onyx, they did their thing. Akinyele, he ain’t really blow-up like I wanted him to. My man Large Professor, he coulda went a little further. Capone-N-Noreaga, they could of went a little further. There’s a lotta people, man. Mic Geronimo, the Lost Boys, Mikey D, Lotto…all the Queens niggas that people ain’t really hear. They got fire, man.
Did you used to check for Silver Fox from Fantasy Three?
I probably listened to ’em, I might not have known what their names was. I grew up on Coldcrush, Fearless 4, motherfuckin’ Fantastic Romantic 5, it was crazy man. T La Rock, Kool Moe Dee – Kool Moe Dee was the nastiest nigga on the mic. These little niggas today, they don’t know nothin’ about Kool Moe Dee. They think him and LL Cool J, that little battle they had – that’s nothing, man! Kool Moe Dee woulda ate LL, back in the days. All they saw was the commercial Kool Moe Dee. They didn’t get a chance to hear the street Kool Moe Dee. He would ate LL to pieces! The little kids were looking at LL because he was flashy, he was younger and because of the way they promote him. Kool Moe Dee, they was looking at him like he was a commercial act, because he did that “Wild, Wild West” and a couple of other shits that wasn’t that gangster.
That Teddy Riley dancefloor stuff.
Yeah, but that wasn’t the Kool Moe Dee that I grew up on. The Kool Moe Dee I know wears the black shades and stands in place of the song where he killed niggas like that. The new Kool Moe Dee – I wasn’t feelin’ that.
I agree, man. The New Jack Swing wasn’t a good look.
Nah. Kool Moe Dee needed beats that Rick Rubin had. That was his problem – the production. He killed them with the “Wild, Wild West” and all that, he went platinum and shit, he got his money up and he got paid, but as far as the streets lookin’ back and saying “Who was gutter, who was real?”, they ain’t gonna say Kool Moe Dee ’cause they don’t know the Kool Moe Dee that I know. They know the new Kool Moe Dee.
The vocab they were using on “Gotta Rock” and “Turn It Up” was so far ahead. They were so advanced at the time.
Treacherous 3? Nobody could fuck with Treacherous 3.
Where you in a group before the thing with Noel?
Nah…oh, I was down with my man Sudan. Me and my man The Rhymin’ Wizard Sudan. It was me, I was down with D.O.A. The Human Beatbox, that was my man. It was me, him and him. We were called The Rhyming Rap Wizards [chuckles].
So that was like ’84?
Yeah, it was like…fuckin’ 80’s. ’83 type shit.
Everyone had those kinda names back then. Rakim used to be called Kid Wizard.
P: Yeah, man. My name was MC Poet [laughs] then I changed it to Poet…now I’m Blaq Poet. You know, gotta keep flipping it up somehow someway – but I’m always Poet.
I’ll take a look at Poet‘s music in another post, but here are some of his illest tracks from the 90’s. The “I’m Flippin'” 12″ features three versions of the song, including a smooth, jazz-tinged remix from Rashaad Smith, who later worked with L.O.N.S. and A Tribe Called Quest, if I remember correctly. It’s Hot Day‘s “Vocal Remix” that wins though, as it’s urgent pace providing a better fit to the lyrics. “The Grand P.O.” is one of the last releases he did with Tuff City, featuring Marley Marl on production duties, while “Fuck All You Bitch Ass Niggas” is closer to Poet’s current style, riding a perfectly stripped-down Premier smasher.
PHD – I’m Flippin’ (Hot Day’s Remix) [Tuff City, 1991]
PHD – The Grand P.O. [Tuff City, 1995]
Screwball – F.A.Y.B.A.N. [Y2k: The Album, Tommy Boy, 1999]
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