Hydra Special – Mike Heron Interview

A little while after I posted an article on Hydra Entertainment on this site, I received an email from Mike Heron, who as it turns out started the label with Jerry Famolari in 1997. Their debut release, “Screwed Up/They Wanna Know Why” was also the first of many dope records from Queens super-group Screwball, in addition to the B-side being the first track produced by Mike to hit vinyl (The Beatnuts handled the flip). He has been involved in a number of significant projects as an A&R consultant (most notably Big L‘s “The Big Picture”) and has created some classic songs as a producer (such as Screwball’s “H.O.S.T.Y.L.E.” and “Who Shot Rudy”, as well as Big L’s “Flamboyant”). Right now he’s managing Joell Ortiz, who’s killing shit right now. When I finally spoke with Mike, I found that he wasn’t afraid to speak his mind on a number of topics, and he had me in stitches when he got amped. The following is a transcription of two phone calls made way back in January, 2005….

Robbie: I know that you were heavily involved with Screwball, putting together that first album, but did you actually put that group together? Or did they just approach you guys to put them out?

Mike: I met Poet through this guy in Queensbridge. Poet had done a record for Tuff City – he was in PHD with Hot Day. I used to try to get at the A&R dude from Tuff City, sending him beats and stuff. He had called me once, but he never called me back…I had been wanting to get with Poet and them back then. And then I’d met this dude from the Bridge who knew Poet, and then I met Poet. It originally started with Poet, and Poet had the idea [for Screwball]. When I heard the other guys, I was
like “Hell yeah”, especially Hostyle, he was amazing…and Kyron too – Solo. And the other two guys – Solo and KL – they were in a group called Kamakazee, that Marley Marl had.

Oh yeah, they did “Snakes”. That was great.

Exactly, they did that with Marley. It was like a super-group, so I was like “Hell yeah, let’s do it!”

Hydra Entertainment was you and Jerry Famolari. What was the whole idea behind that? Just to put some good stuff out?

Yeah, just to put some good shit out. At the time, when we first started, there wasn’t anybody really putting out good hip-hop twelve inches. We got lucky, timing-wise, because right when we started everyone else was doing it. There was a lot of good underground records at that time – during and after we started doing it – so the timing was really good, on our part. There was a lot of stuff after a while. Shit started getting flooded, ’cause everybody wanted to put out a twelve inch. We went literally from
selling maybe 8,000 of a selection, to maybe 3,000. Nowadays you’ll be lucky if you can break a thousand, 500, because the market got flooded, man. No one would do a twelve inch back then – you had to pay niggas money to do it. Now motherfuckers do a twelve inch for $500! It was rare to see a DITC twelve inch, but if you go into Fat Beats now man, they beat you over the head with them shits! You trip over them shits! [laughs] It was rare to see that, now there’s boxes all over the place. It’s capitalism, and the price went down. You can’t put too much of something out there, man. It is what it is. Niggas ate, everybody ate, it was cool.

It kind of got to a stage where the first song people made, they were like “OK, let’s go press it up!”

Yeeaah, instead of finding the quality record. You’re absolutely right. What started happening – and what I think is still happening – is people are putting out the stuff that won’t make their album. For instance – it may not be their favorite cut in the album – they already paid the producer, “Fuck it, let’s twelve inch it”. The kids know when you’re giving them bullshit. Motherfuckers sat around for a while, man, looking for twelve inches. I remember going through shit like “Nah, we can’t do this”. Finding the right beat, finding the right chorus, and really putting work into a twelve inch. Niggas don’t do that shit anymore man. That’s a dead issue. I went over to – and worked at – Rawkus.

You were involved with that Big L album [The Big Picture] a lot, weren’t you?

Yeah, exactly. I did A&R for some of the twelve inches that came out there as well. In the very beginning, it was the same way – we were very careful about the twelve inches. I don’t know if you know the “Ghetto Gold” records?

The Artifacts one? Oh yeah, they used The Beatnuts track from Hydrabeats.

I did that one for them, and I did Black Attack.

“My Crown”?

Yeah, I did those records for them, put them together and shit. Records like that, you put time into it – because you know kids are gonna know if it’s bullshit, you know what I mean?

Yeah, that was a good period for Rawkus. There was a stage where they were putting out some really nice stuff, then after a while…

It was bullshit. It turned into bullshit.

That first Mos Def record was great. “Universal Magnetic” and stuff like that.

That shit is hot! That’s when people were hungry – you were making records for wreck. It was like a competition, you wanted your shit to be crazy. After a while, everyone’s just like “Yeah, that’s cool”. It went from “My shit gotta be hot, or it’s not coming out! I want my shit to be bananas!” to “Yo! Yo! Just white label that shit, son!” [laughs] It went from one thing to another quick, man, it just turned real fucked-up.

So you took up an A&R position at Tommy Boy, before you worked at Rawkus?

The A&R thing at Tommy Boy was really a consulting thing, as was the Rawkus thing. I ended-up working on the [Kool] G Rap thing – ahh, fiasco…

[laughs] Because it got bootlegged, and then came out on KOCH.

Me and V.I.C did the “My Life” record, which was a pretty good twelve inch. It didn’t get promoted the way it should have, but whatever. That was my only proud moment on that fuckin’ album, let me tell you.

You were saying in XXL that Jarred from Rawkus told G Rap “You’re not young like Nelly or good-looking like Ja Rule, so I don’t know what I’m going to do with you.” And G Rap laughed in his face. So were they just clueless?

They were just crazy, man. They put up a million dollars for this guy, and they didn’t want him to be himself. They hired me to work on G Rap’s album, but the deal took so long to go down that I ended-up doing other shit. I worked on twelve inches, and the Big L shit, all while I was waiting for them to finish the G Rap deal. They finished the G Rap deal after the Big L thing, and they didn’t trust me – and I had just done the Big L thing – and they didn’t trust G Rap. Fuck trusting me, G Rap was doing this shit before any of us thought about doing it! It didn’t make sense. They hired me because of the Screwball thing, because they wanted a hard album for G Rap, and then afterwards when G Rap got there – they didn’t want a hard album anymore! Like they didn’t understand G Rap anymore. It was weird. They didn’t want a Queens-sounding album. I envisioned…his comeback album had to be really gritty, had to be G Rap with features from Nas and Mobb Deep, a celebration of his career as the pioneer gangster nigga from Queens, you know what I’m saying? It would have been edgy, Havoc would have done beats – real Queens shit, celebrating this nigga’s career – and I’m sure it would have sold a lot of records. But these niggas were on some pop shit, like they wanted this nigga to get in a fuckin’ time machine or something! Get some plastic surgery and a time machine! And that nigga wasn’t tryin’ to do that! [laughs] That shit just made no fuckin’ sense.

You just alienate your core audience that way, because all the people who grew-up on G Rap records don’t wanna hear it.

Exactly, they wanted something else. I was confused about it, he was confused about it, and I think that’s where the relationship strayed. I don’t think they understood what G Rap is about – his legacy’s about – and the reason motherfuckers still mention him is because he never traded in shit, he never played himself, and he wasn’t about to start playing himself for these motherfuckers. So he was like “fuck it”.

I’m surprised they signed him for so much money, because you can’t imagine G Rap going triple platinum.

At that point he had a very clear plan, and it worked. He executed it right. Before he got the deal, he did something like thirty features in less than two years! So he was in demand, because all these rappers were putting him on these records. It was a smart move on his part. The only fucked-up part is he signed with Rawkus [chuckles]. He built his name up again, he got hot again at one point where everybody was fighting for him, and Rawkus put all that money on the table and just didn’t know what to do with him. It wasn’t like this motherfuckers walked in sexy and got all fat and ugly! [I laugh] Like some girls, you marry ‘em and shit and they get fat, they go crazy – it wasn’t like that. [now I’m laughing twice as hard] G Rap walked in as G Rap! It was sad, really. Rawkus were like the kids in high school that buy everybody ice-cream.
“We’re having a pizza party guys!” They tried to sit at the cool table, and motherfuckers sent them to go get sodas and shit. They weren’t at the cool table and they tried desperately to sit at the cool table, and motherfuckers weren’t havin’ it. It’s as simple as that. When somebody’s always talking about “Yeah, this is sexy, I’m ghetto fabulous…”

Hahaha!

[laughing] These motherfuckers used to say shit like that! Telling a black dude how to make a ghetto fabulous record! Who the fuck do you think you’re talking to? They’re very wealthy kids who went to school with Rupert Murdoch‘s son, and got off! They never worked a day in their life! Think about it – they went to high school, prep schools, then they went to college with Rupert Murdoch’s son – when they left school, they had a fuckin’ label! Rupert Murdoch’s pops put up all that money – millions of dollars for a label. They never worked! They went from fuckin’ grade school, to high school, to college and then to school again – which was the record companies. They’ve never worked, they don’t know what it is to take the train, to get up early in the morning, to wake-up and your fucking lights aren’t on, to wake up to roaches, to wake up to “I hit the lotto and I’m gonna go and spend the money in the after hours” – that’s ghetto fabulous! Who the fuck are you to tell me about ghetto fabulous motherfucker! That’s ghetto fabulous. Hitting the number and going out and dancing with your girl and getting some nice shoes…wearing your Sunday clothes on Saturday night and going to church on Sunday with liquor on your breath! [I’m dying with laughter at this point] That’s ghetto fabulous, motherfucker! You don’t know anything about that! So don’t tell me how to make “ghetto fabulous” records!

So they were living out some fantasy?

Yeah, they were weird dudes, man. They were trying extra hard sometimes…and you don’t want to rock the boat, you don’t want to insult people, but when motherfuckers are telling you that you don’t know what you’re talking about – and it’s your culture – you’re like “Yo, listen motherfucker, you’re not gonna tell me about this! Especially you’re not gonna tell me about G Rap! I’m from fuckin’ Elmhurst, Queens nigga! G Rap’s from Corona – he’s from East Elmhurst, I’m from Elmhurst – I grew up on his fuckin’ records!

He’s one of the greatest rappers of all time!

Yeah! You’re not gonna tell me about him! I walked the same streets, I went to the same schools he went to! He’s a few years older than me, but still, I know what he raps about, I know the people he raps about, how the fuck are you gonna tell me about how to make a record with him? You can’t! When I’m in a session, and all is friends are there, and I walk in and I know a good 40% of his friends…you can’t tell me that, man. It was difficult, man. It was hard. A lotta bullshit.

That must have been frustrating.

Yeah, it was. When you’re passionate about what you’re doing, and you strive for excellence in everything that you do, it’s hard to deal with motherfuckers that are tryin’ to tell you how to do something, and you know what you’re doing.


Mike demonstrates what he thinks of the Rawkus management.

You also said that the Big L project was the only Rawkus record you ever heard coming out of a car?

It was a barbershop in Corona, I was outside and a car passed by and I heard it, that’s the only time.

For a project like that, did you feel a lot of pressure since this guy’s been killed and everything?

Kinda sorta. I wasn’t feeling pressure from anybody outside, to me it was more like wanting to make a great record in his memory. So I didn’t care what anybody said, what anybody did, because a lot of people – in the very beginning – were hating. It’s weird, because once money’s involved, people start acting funny. Even if the guy’s dead. I never met the guy, but if somebody passes away, and you have the responsibility of walking on their art, you have to put your best foot forward. So that’s what I did. I didn’t give a fuck about what people thought, said, whatever. I just wanted to make a great record. I was a fan of his, so for all his fans you wanted it to be something really hot. Apparently his mother found a contract for Rocafella in his room after he passed.

That did album did pretty well, didn’t it?

That one did good. Also what it did was give them [Rawkus] a lot of street credibility.

Which they then proceeded to fuck up.

Right.

What made you step away from Hydra? Did you just have other responsibilities?

Mainly the Rawkus thing. And Screwball was a weird situation – I love them to death, don’t get it twisted, but sometimes with family you’ve just gotta cut your ties. And I’m one to cut my ties when I see something going the way I don’t like. I keep it pushing. They were thinking one way and I was thinking another. An opportunity turned-up somewhere else, and I ran for it. I’m not saying they were wrong or I was right, we just weren’t seeing eye-to-eye after a while.

The Ghetto Pros – that’s you and V.I.C?

I’m not doing that anymore, either. Like I said man, I keep it pushing. [laughs] It’s not bad – it’s good. I think more people need to do that. When stuff doesn’t go your way – it’s not working out the way you like it to work – it’s better to disassociate yourself quickly, before things get ugly. I’m a firm believer in that man. I will not sit around a wait for the boat to sink – I’m gonna jump the fuck off that motherfucker…first.

That’s a good policy. That [Ghetto Pros] album that you guys did, that was meant to come out on a major label, wasn’t it?

That was supposed to come out on Warner Brothers, through T-Ray – Todd Ray.

Beatdown?

Yeah. He’s a piece of shit. Let me tell you something, and you can quote me on this shit – he’s about the only motherfucker that you will ever hear me talk bad about. That dude’s a fucking homo. A faggot. I hate that motherfucker. But with that said, T-Ray talks a good game. He talks that hip-hop shit, but he ain’t nothing about hip-hop. He’s a great producer, he did ground-breaking work in hip-hop. But personally, that dude’s a straight-up shitbag. And he’s racist. He thinks ’cause he’s white he has a birth-right to be in the music industry on the business end, and since I’m black I’m not supposed to know about business. Like “you’re supposed to fuck me in my ass”.

Tryin’ to jerk you with paperwork?

Yeah, yeah, yeah, but listen. Like I’m supposed to get fucked – ’cause I’m a nigga and he’s a white boy! “Play your position, nigga. Bend over!” I don’t bend over, you understand me? I don’t get fucked in my ass! That’s just not happening, doggy. He really, really wanted to fuck me in my ass, and I was really, really not having it.

[laughs] You were not having that. I can understand that.

Yeah, I’m not with that. That’s where we always used to butt heads, because the guy just didn’t understand that I was not tryin’ to get fucked…in my ass….by a white dude! He just though because he was white, and he had his lawyers and he has a lot of money, that I was supposed to just bend the fuck over. So that was it! The shit never happened.

But that came out though.

I don’t know, man. Niggas bootlegged it. I don’t even give a shit, whatever. That shit is old news – fuck it. I hope niggas hear it and they like it. Bootleg the shit out of it. I don’t give a rat’s ass.

So you’re not messing with V.I.C anymore?

Nah, I don’t mess with V.I.C either.

You did that dope song with Screwball and Tragedy called “Too High, Too Low”. Was Trag good to work with?

I love Trag, Trag is one of my favorite dude’s, man. A lot of people think he’s crazy, but I like him. He talks from the heart, man. He’s really like a Tupac – what you see is what you get. He’s a straight-up guy, there’s no agendas. There’s no bullshit with that guy.

That last album he did – his lyrics were just killing it.

Yeah man, he’s one of the most underrated lyricists. His pen is sick. That guy is amazing, he doesn’t get the credit that he deserves. That guy created C-N-N, and C-N-N was hot! NORE – he jump-started a career right there. A lot of people don’t give Trag that respect and that credit, and it’s a shame, because NORE’s a huge artist. We wouldn’t know about NORE if it wasn’t for Trag, we gotta keep it funky. There is not no NORE without Tragedy. The Intelligent Hoodlum, all that shit, that nigga went through so many ill phases…Tragedy‘s the man. I love that dude, he’s the real thing. He’s a nice guy too.

Do you want to let people know who you’re working with now?

I’m working with Joell Ortiz. We put out a record with him on Rawkus – Joell Quickman he was going by. He did a record called “Brooklyn” recently. It’s on Tim Westwood’s compilation that just came out a little while ago. He’s getting a lot of good buzz out here. He was “Unsigned Hype” in March 2004, he has a write-up coming in XXL. People are liking him in New York – he’s Puerto-Rican, and he has the Puerto-Rican community in New York in a fuckin’ headlock right now. We’re starting with the believers – the Puerto-Ricans – in Bushwick, Jersey City, the Bronx, Corona, Jackson Heights…we’re carrying this movement into bigger, better things. It’s the same as Screwball – I’m doing all the groundwork, and it’s hard because people….they show up when you blow up, you know what I mean? Big Mike did the mixtape, Cipha Sounds plays the shit out of his records…it’s crackin’. Actually, what I did with Screwball is what I love doing – developing an artist and giving them to a label – because there isn’t any artist development at labels anymore. I think that’s what I’m best at, and what I want to continue doing. A&Ring the record from the beginning stages, developing the artist. With Screwball we were getting them little write-ups and stuff, here and there before they got their deal. Getting them some radio spins, building up some kind of story for the artist. That’s what I’m doing now. That’s what I started doing, and I wish I would of just kept doing that, ’cause all the other shit I did was for nothing. The T-Ray nonsense, tryin’ to sell beats with Vic to all these fucking homos. Sitting in a room, trying to sell beats to people who are just skipping through your CD –

Just going “Next! Next!”

I mean that’s part of the game and everything, but it’s a part I don’t like playing. I’d rather sit in a studio and develop an artist. You can shit on me, going “Next, next, next” but I know I put in a lot of work, and I’m a ballsy motherfucker – I’d rather roll the dice on the big ones, than being #14 on the “cool” rappers album. “Yo! Which one did you do?” “You heard #12?” I’m not with that, B. I wanna be “Yo, you heard five through ten? I did those. The development of this artist? I worked on that. The marketing? I worked on that. Everything. The video? I chose the director.” I like being part of the entire package, rather than trying to sell a beat over here, over there. I’m not knocking guys that do that, it’s a great hustle. If you can get it bopping? Whew! You can get rich doing that shit. But it’s not my cup of tea, man. I like doing this, staying positive and doing one thing, and sticking with that one thing until I get it. And I’m gonna get it! If I can get Screwball a deal, then I can get this nigga a deal. Not saying Screwball was wack, but it was four guys…

I noticed with their Y2K album, where you did the majority of the beats, it was a better package – because the second album wasn’t as cohesive.

It made no sense. That’s basically what I do – making an album, and making an image for the artist. I like that. Even down to picking their logo. Everything. That’s what I’m back to doing.

Have been listening to any new hip-hop records that you’ve been liking?

I’ve been like T.I. – T.I. is hot. I think now, in hip-hop – and a lot of people won’t agree with me – you’ve gotta be a fuckin’ MC to win. Niggas with pens are winning. T.I. got a pen. Believe it or not, the nigga got a pen. What’s old boy’s name? The nigga from Chicago, the fast-rappin’ nigga?

Twista?

He got a pen. Ludacris got a pen! To win, you’ve gotta be marketable, you’ve gotta look a certain way, but everyone knows a good rapper from a wack rapper now, you know what I mean? You can’t do Hammer now. Eminem got a pen – you can’t have Vanilla Ice no more. You’ve gotta have a fuckin’ pen and a half! Of course you’re gonna have the breakthrough guys that piggy-back off of the success of a certain area – like Atlanta. Atlanta’s crazy right now. You’re gonna have that white guy that’s gonna come through, but T.I. and Ludacris ain’t goin’ nowhere. Tommorrow they might call some guy “ATL”, and he’ll be from Atlanta and everyone will get on him from Atlanta – but he won’t be hot. He won’t be T.I. or Ludcaris. That pen is what matters now, duke. Look at Fat Joe. Fat Joe had to step his whole fuckin’ shit up! Motherfuckers may not still respect him as an MC’s MC, but you can’t front – the nigga’s stepped his shit the fuck up. He had to!

Hangin’ out with Pun, he improved a lot.

Yeah, but I’m talking about more recently. The guy just improved in general. He realised he had to – he stepped it up. Underground guys, they don’t listen to anything that scans past 500,000, but these guys have pens, man. You can’t front on them! Put Ludacris against anyone of these fucking underground MC’s – he’ll chew into them man! Don’t get it fucked up! Stand across from this motherfucker and battle him – he’ll fuck you up! This is my thing that bothers me about the underground motherfuckers – none of them is a total package. Give me a fuckin’ song…like KRS for instance, Rakim for instance, EPMD – and that’s all they look back to, like [in a whiny tone] “Man, why can’t it be like the days with EPMD and them?” Nigga, you nowhere near them! They were the total fuckin’ package, motherfucker! They made great records, they wrote great hooks, they did great shows, they had great flows, they had great voices – they were the total fuckin’ package. Just ’cause you’re sitting there, battling a nigga on stage – spitting in his face and all that – that don’t make you a great MC, nigga. LL Cool J is a great MC. He went through battles, he went through longevity, he went through ups and downs, he made great songs – you cannot fuck with him! Great MC’s, you just cannot fuck with. You can sit there and talk about space and Granola bars all day, nigga [I burst out laughing], but until you make a great record? You ain’t a fuckin’ MC my man. You’re just not. “No, but that’s not what hip-hop’s-” What the fuck is hip-hop? Don’t tell me what the fuck hip-hop is, nigga! Hip-hop is about making great fuckin’ records, making bitches dance, duke. That’s what niggas started rapping for! Don’t tell me. That’s what niggas wanted.

It’s not about dudes hangin’ out in coffee shops!

Exactly! Where the fuck are the bitches, nice cars and furs? That’s what niggas is about, B! Straight up and down – money, hoes and clothes. That’s what hip-hop is about. If you think it’s about anything else, you’ve got the game fucked-up. Money, hoes and clothes – that’s what we grew up on! Niggas are like “Yeah, man”, like you’re gonna snap fingers to clap for niggas and shit, like it’s a poetry reading. You niggas got this shit fucked up, nah’mean?

So how do you feel about that Talib Kweli dude? I’ve never liked his stuff at all.

Kweli? I know the guy, and I love the guy, dude. He’s a really nice guy, man. I see Kweli going through transformations. At the end of the day, he’s a good nigga, man – but don’t get it fucked up. It’s still about money, hoes and clothes – I’ll leave it at that. He raps about whatever the fuck he raps about, but at the end of the day it’s still money, hoes and clothes, B.

Godfather Don kind of dropped off the radar. Is he still doing beats?

Do you want to know what his story is, man? Don is a fuckin’ eccentric motherfucker – I’m choosing my words carefully.

I read an interview with him in On The Go and he’s talking about stalking chicks and saying all this bugged-out shit. It was funny, man.

He’s a weird dude, man. He’s a weird cat. Sometimes I would sit there and try to figure this nigga out, like “Damn, son!” But he’s a talented motherfucker. The guy’s a genius. This nigga’s using an MPC-60 to make some beats – shit sounds like an orchestra, man. And it’s some shit with limited sample time, dog. That nigga kills that machine, he destroys that machine. I love Don, B. He’s sick.

Remember he had that first album with the song where he rapped like three different guys? One sounded like Big Daddy Kane and shit, that blew my mind.

He’s crazy, man. In more ways than one.

What’s that Sirius Radio like? Don’t they have Future Flavas coming on?

Future Flavas? That’s my man Marley, right? [starts doing a vocal scratch up of “Marley Marl”] I love that nigga, Marley’s a good dude.

He’s a legend.

He’s a fuckin’ legend, and he’s a great guy. Marley is one of my favorites, man. He’s a really, really nice guy.

Did you ever hear the TJ Swan album?

Who?

You know TJ Swan? He used to be on Biz’s records.

Nah.

He sang “Albee Square Mall”, “Nobody Beats The Biz”…

Oohhh, TJ Swan. You pulled out… [laughs]

What happened to his album? In every interview Marley was like “Yep, TJ Swan is gonna be big,” this and that, and it never came out!

[still laughing, talking to himself in disbelief] TJ Swan? What the fuck is that nigga talking about? [more laughter] Swear to god, you said that… I should’ve got TJ Swan on Screwball’s album.

He was the best singer in rap. Forgot all that -

Yeah, he was the first Nate Dogg! But there’s gonna be a lot of stuff on Sirius. My man Sacha Jenkins from ego trip, they got a deal with Sirius, through Shady’s shit. So they’re gonna have a show coming up soon. I’m tryin’ to get a show on there with my man Dom, who’s a Puerto-Rican. Santo is talking about his jail stories, and beating people up.

Ha!

[laughing] Yeah, it’s funny. He talks about being Puerto Rican and being locked-up and shit. That shit is hot. I think satellite radio is going to be real big. They’re hiring everyone, man. It’s about to explode.

What was your favorite Hydra record that you put out?

Gab Gotcha.

Who’s the most difficult artist that you’ve worked with in the studio?

I don’t know, man. Everybody’s been pretty cool. Everybody’s weird, you know, everybody’s nuts. Everybody’s got their quirks and shit. I’ve been doing it for a minute, and I hear a lot of horror stories and I’ve been part of them, but after a while it’s just like “whatever man”. I don’t think anyone’s been worse than any other…they’re all pretty bad, man. They’re all really, really bad, homie. I can tell you who’s really easy to work with – Nate Dogg. Let me put it to you this way – the positive, underground, “cool” rappers that everybody thinks are really cool are the most difficult pieces of shit you’ll ever fuck with. The positive, coffee-shop rappers are the most difficult. I’ll leave it at that. They’re always late, they’ve always got a complaint, they’re always high, they’re always bitching and moaning about bullshit – they’re the
worst. Unprofessional assholes. Underground rappers are the worst…from my experience.

What was the story behind “Who Shot Rudy?”

Kyron was locked-up for some bullshit – I think he was smoking weed or something, and he had a warrant. He was locked-up when he wrote it, and when he came home he was telling me about the idea, and I made a beat for it that same night. He just had the rhyme, so me and Hostyle wrote the chorus. He had got locked-up and he was pissed-off because Giuliani was on some damn-near Nazi shit, arresting people for any little bullshit.

Was there a big reaction to that in New York?

Yeah, that was on the news for like a week. This publicist for Tommy Boy gave it to Elliot Wilson, Elliot gave it to someone at the [New York] Post, and that person was writing a story about groups that were against Giuliani’s new crackdown on black youth. They wrote it up, and they [Screwball] were all over the news. Tommy Boy initially distanced themselves from the group, and when they realised that people thought it was cool that these guys were anti-Giuliani, they jumped on the bandwagon. But too little, too late. They should have put out the album that following week. They waited three months after everything went away, and then they put out the album. It was a horrible, horrible, horrible situation…but whatever. It was fun! I’m so happy they gave me the opportunity to do that record, ’cause if it wasn’t for Tommy Boy trusting us to do that shit, I would have never did anything else. Although I think they made big mistakes as far as marketing the record, I still love ‘em for giving me that shot. I love Rawkus for giving me that shot too – I just think they made fucked-up decisions – but I love ‘em for giving me the shot. I’m not gonna front on that. Them niggas gave me opportunities when nobody else would give me shit. You gotta give ‘em their due….with that said [laughs], motherfuckers made some fucked-up decisions that fucked other shit up, but whatever. Sooner or later, everything comes together.

Screen grabs courtesy of “Deep Crates Vol. 1″

Some of Mike Heron’s production work:

Jo-Ell Quikman (aka Joell Ortiz) - Real Recognize [Rawkus, 2001]

Joell Ortiz - Street Knowledge [Hydra, 2004]

Joell Ortiz - Been There, Done That [Hydra, 2004]

Screwball - They Wanna Know Why [Screwball, 1996]

Screwball - H-O-S-T-Y-L-E [Tommy Boy, 2000]

Big L - Flamboyant [Rawkus, 2000]

Screwball “H-O-S-T-Y-L-E” video:

Joell Ortiz “Brooklyn Bullshit” video:

Magazines that have camera reviews also carry product reviews of nextel cell phones , label printer and similar products. They even mention sites from where cell ringtone like lg ringtones can be downloaded.

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24 Comments so far
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Dope Interview! Heron seems like a real dude!

It’s a shame that Ghetto Pros album was never put out proper, I had the mp3 rips of it at one point, and that shit was hot!

Comment by MPIDDY 05.15.07 @

great!

Comment by Pete 05.15.07 @

great interview. rawkus sound like the herbest of the herbs. hilarious!

the vic / mike heron part in deep crates is the best part of that flick.

Comment by Eons1 05.15.07 @

Ha!…wow Robbie that was an ill interview, Mike certainly had a few things to say, that Gab Gotcha record stands as one of my all time faves and Screwball’s Y2K is still an incredible album…

How the fuck are they (Rawkus) going to say that shit to G Rap, he should have busted that dude in his mouth for that kind of shit…good looking like Ja Rule?…I have heard it all now.

Very impressed with Joell Ortiz, loving that real shit and the video….so what I…

Dope

I am pleased to say that I own the first Screwball 12″.

Thanks for this man

Comment by Jaz 05.15.07 @

Robbie,
Hands down you are the only cat that I will read an interview from. You bring cats out with your knowledge. This joint was a gold standard drop.

And I’m not just sayin’ that because dude is fam.

Comment by Dallas 05.15.07 @

Another wicked interview Rob.

Comment by End Level Boss 05.16.07 @

Dope interview
Yo MPIDDY what up with those Ghetto Pros rips?

Comment by illest 05.16.07 @

It was a promo to the Ghetto Pros album

had Beatnuts, Dead Prez, Kurrupt, B-Real I think?

I’ll look around on some Data Discs and see if I still got them…

Comment by MPIDDY 05.16.07 @

Another great job Rob even though I feel like I read this a year ago. :)

You can tell these guys must deal with a lot of bullshit and people who don’t know what they’re talking about. YOu can see in each of your interviews when they get someone knowledgeable about what they’re doing they get excited to talk.

p.s. Is T Ray hanging out with Pudgee now????????

Comment by bbatson 05.16.07 @

Another gem. You certainly pick great targets with your interviews… Now, how about a magazine or book from ya? ;-)

Peace from all at DWG.

Comment by chr!s 05.17.07 @

man, that was a no-frills interview. Heron comes correct!

but I’m not really feeling Joel Ortiz as the next best thing man. I dunno.

Comment by sooch 05.18.07 @

expect a lot of singing hooks on Joel Ortiz album, he is great @ rapping, but as a song writer???
expect Nate Dogg & Floetry .Smokey Robinson, wtf.

Comment by devon 05.19.07 @

joell is mad nice.
he spits real talk.
and his shit is on point.
his album is bangin.

Comment by swordfish 05.20.07 @

This shit is gold! One of the most entertaining interviews I’ve read.

But that “(real) rap is (exclusively) money, hoes, and clothes” stuff is as stupid as the “hip hop is NOT money, hoes, and clothes” bullshit.

Comment by eauhellzgnaw 05.20.07 @

a real ass nigga. completely gets my respect. it’s hilarious how he clowned those rawkus dudes hahahaha. i agree with pretty much every opinion he gave about labels, artist development, and the idea of a “full package” emcee. dope interview.

Comment by anthony obi 05.21.07 @

On point as ever. My one beef with it is the Kool G Rap stuff. Don’t get me wrong. G Rap is one of my all time favourites, but he hasn’t made a good record since the year dot. The biggest mistake Rawkus made was in signing him full stop – he jumped the shark years ago, when he stopped being a brag rapper with occasional street tales and just started doing Mafia shit – all that unlistenable Giancana bullshit. I’ve interviewed the Rawkus guys about it recently and don’t get it twisted, they know they made a mistake with that deal, but G Rap didn’t cover himself in glory there either

Comment by Drewhuge 05.21.07 @

Yo, Robbie? Excellence in interviewing; great subject. Heron’s insight into the Rawkus situation and his experience with T-Ray are classic. Again, great feature.

Comment by Fosterakahunter 05.21.07 @

g rap unlistenable?
hell no!

Comment by swordfish 05.21.07 @

“This is my thing that bothers me about the underground motherfuckers – none of them is a total package. Give me a fuckin’ song…like KRS for instance, Rakim for instance, EPMD – and that’s all they look back to, like [in a whiny tone] “Man, why can’t it be like the days with EPMD and them?” Nigga, you nowhere near them! They were the total fuckin’ package, motherfucker! They made great records, they wrote great hooks, they did great show, they had great flows, they had great voices – they were the total fuckin’ package. Just ’cause you’re sitting there, battling a nigga on stage – spitting in his face and all that – that don’t make you a great MC, nigga.”

CLASSIC! I’m dead serious, I’ve BEEN had it with people who claim to uphold real hip-hop and the “essence” and all that… but their shit is nothing like the great hip-hop from back then. It’s not entertaining, it’s nothing you want to learn all the words to, it’s nothing about their presentation that says they’re hot at all. I’d take an artist who may not be the most verbose and complex, but has all the REAL key elements anyday. That self-important “sun moon stars quasars” shit is for the birds.

Comment by DANJAMANIA 05.22.07 @

Amazing interview, and I completely agree with a lot fo the shit he said, except on the underground hip-hop thing. Well, the only part of the underground hip-hop thing I disagreed with was the reducing the history of hip-hop into “money, clothes and hoes”. Nigga, I’m well aware that even old school niggas were about that shit, and that’s fair as a dude living in America, but what the fuck is wrong with talking about other things? Peep some Saul Williams and Mos Def. If Mos Def isn’t a perfect MC (or was, unfortunately), then what is? And shit, how does he feel about KRS, then, who (besides bemoaning wack MC’s for 20 years straight) talked about real shit? What about “The Message”? How the fuck do you grow as a genre if you just talk about money, hoes, and clothes? That’s my sole beef. All the other shit he said was true, cept on the issue of subject matter. Think outside the box, nigga.

Comment by Bed-Stuy. 05.24.07 @

yo,yo..i just found a ghetto pros album dbl vinyl 2nd hand..its not on a label, just the labels are red with ghetto pros in black and tracklisting..its got jo-ell on the intro various rappers inc Beatnuts ‘who are the beatnuts?’brand nubian, pocket pete?? etc..can someone here give me some info about this..oh and the sleeve is plain white?? peace

Comment by P.M.ES 06.01.07 @

Good interview mike.

Comment by KIRK T 09.24.07 @

I just now read this and for real this was the best interview ever. I wish this guy would come over for dinner. Waaaaaaaaaaaa, he sounds like a fucking trip. I can’t agree more with his comments about niggus needing to have a pen.

Comment by DF MALO 10.17.07 @

One of the best interviews i have read in a long time!

Cheers Mike

Comment by Hip Hop Drum Kits 08.22.11 @



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