Filed under: Gatin' Staten,Interviews,Not Your Average,Print Work,Rap Veterans,Wu-Tang Is For The Children
Written by: Robbie Ettelson
Around the time of Stark’s R&B album and Chef’s Cuban sequel, I interviewed the two of them for Hip-Hop Connection Digital. Here are some of the parts that I didn’t feature in the original piece that mainly cover some of the old days of Staten Island rap.
Robbie: What were the early days like on Staten Island?
Ghostface: It was all good, with my peoples, just doin’ what thugs do. We was out there, whylin’, doin’ whatever we had to do to get that money. We did the Wu-Tang thing later on in ’93. Came out with that – a few guys are from Staten, few guys are from Brooklyn – came together and we rocked the world, man! We dropped a bunch of classics…and I’m here where we are right now.
Staten and Long Island seem to have a lot more creativity since you guys had to work harder to get that shine. Would you agree?
Raekwon: Absolutely. That’s true, because a lot of people, they only knew of Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens and Manhattan. Them was like the majority of people’s whereabouts, but then when you go to Staten Island it’s like weird combination of all them boroughs. When you go to Yonkers it’s a weird combination of all them boroughs. The more that people don’t know about your town is the more that you feel that you have to represent your town! We really just appreciated the fact that people didn’t know us, because we knew when they did find out who were, they was gonna be even more open to what we had to offer. So in a way it was it was a gift and a curse to really be from a forgotten borough though.
Were there any local Staten MC’s who never got the exposure they deserved?
Ghostface: Yeah, there’s a lot of ‘em who never really got they exposure, but, ‘Many shall called, few shall be chosen’ and I happened to be one of the chosen ones. You’ve still got people on Staten who still rhymin’ that haven’t made it, but certain things ain’t meant for everybody. Or unless it’s just how God puts a delay on your future, as far as being successful in what you’re trying to do, and maybe you gotta work harder to get to where you gotta go than others. Not sayin’ I didn’t work hard – I was out there doin’ what I gotta do – but I was just around the right people at the right time, and that made it so successful for me.
Raekwon: You had a couple of dudes out there that was doin’ they thing, and some of them got shine, some of them didn’t get shine the way they wanted to. We come from a neighborhood where everybody felt they could be a MC, but it’s about having the whole package, and I think that a lotta cats had it but didn’t have everything. Whether it was character, whether it was style, whether it was real motivation around them – a lotta cats was fallin’ short. And then you had some cats that didn’t get enough shine because you can’t find cats! Sometimes you gotta step away from your hood or step away from the box just to find yourself in the hip-hop game, but a lotta dudes be so stuck into livin’ that street life in the projects that they don’t know how to escape from it, so a lotta dudes ain’t get they shot.
Kool Kim told me that Cappadonna was like the ‘Slick Rick of Staten Island’. Is that accurate?
Ghostface: Yeah, he was, he was. As far as the style, he had his little glossy moments out there on the island and all that stuff like that. That was him. He was always older than me and he was just slick wit it. He still slick wit it though.
Raekwon: When you really look at Cap from back then, he kinda resembles Slick. Real, real slim fly cat – Kangol’s, Bally’s – fashion was our thing back then. To me, fashion had a lot to do with our writing skills, because if we felt like we was fly and we was MC’s? It only made us a better MC. And watching Slick Rick come-up from the gold era, from the jewelry era, it’s like Cappa was the same kinda individual. You would walk down the block you would see Cappa, man – fresh to death, a mouth fulla gold teeth, always rhymin’, sayin’ somethin’ slick out his mouth – he had character. He was labeled the Slick Rick of Staten Island ‘cos that was his thing. He was a adventurous type of brother, I mean he could rhyme about anything! That’s what brother’s loved about him.
Did he help you develop your rhyming style?
Ghostface: It’s a mixture. It’s him and the rest of my crew. I learned from lookin’, hearin’…even watchin’ ‘em. I took a piece of something from everybody and applied it to myself, and I think that’s why I’m still here today like that.
Raekwon: We was a crew back then. We all went to school together, we all grew-up with each other so we kinda like became this crew from the neighborhood because we all grew-up in the same neighborhood. I learned from my brother, he learned from me, and at the end of the day we made sure that we was recognized as a crew more or less rather than as solo MC’s. Me and Cap, we go all the way back from cookies and milk, like rhymin’ in the hallways, beatboxin’ and rhymin’ over a brothers beats and allathat, as far as the beatbox world. I learned from all my brothers man, we all learned from each other and that’s what made us even more stronger. We had that confidence within one another to be like, ‘Yo, nobody can’t fuck with us! Not just me – us!’ We kinda kept that same vibe goin’ fifteen years later.
When Wu first came out there meant to be a single named ‘Run Ya Garments’. Was that a real song or was that renamed?
Raekwon: That shit was almost like sayin’, ‘We comin’ to get you, nigga! We robbin’ you! We gonna take whatever we feel we want from you’. We did make a song called that back then. It didn’t make the album, but it was something that we felt like a new word – ‘garments’. A lotta kids wasn’t sayin’ ‘garments’ back then, they was sayin’ either ‘gear’ or ‘clothes’. We was sayin’ ‘garments’, because anything that costs a lotta money to us is a ‘garment’. We was more educated back then as well because we all had knowledge of self, so we would say certain things that we would only be able to relate to – not the world. But then it became a kinda slang type of aura that we started to come with, so it’s all good. Anything to really let y’all know how we talk – we from Staten Island, we from the ‘lost borough’ – so we was makin’ sure that you knew who the fuck we was, though.
What is it about Staten that makes you guys stand-out?
Raekwon: Staten Island niggas is like Brooklyn and Harlem niggas all in one. I’m originally born in Brooklyn, but Brooklyn niggas is hungry – if they can’t get it, they gonna take it! And then you got Harlem niggas – Harlem niggas is money makin’ niggas. They tryin’ to figure out a way to have the latest and stay on top of they game to be able to get money. So when I look at Staten Island, it’s like certain parts of Staten Island that you’ll go to and be like, ‘Damn, these niggas on some Brooklyn shit!’ And then you got certain parts of Staten Island where you be like, ‘Yo, them niggas is on some Harlem shit! They tryin’ to get money!’ So we kinda became more than one borough – far as mentality is concerned, far as our minds is concerned – because niggas out there in Staten Island is quick to get you, or they either tryin’ to get some money. I guess that’s the way we came out to be is them kinda dudes. I don’t care, you can anywhere – you can go to fuckin’ certain parts of London and that shit look like Brooklyn to you too! You seem the same motherfuckin’ shit that you see back home. So I kinda learnt to not really judge anywhere I go, because motherfuckers mentalities are still the same all over. You’re gonna have crooked motherfuckers, you’re gonna have money makers, but that’s what it is, man. We represent all ghettos of America, all ghettos of Europe…all over the world! It’s a ghetto, and I seen it – I seen it hands on! So when I see that these people come out and they support us like that, it kinda feels like still bein’ home and shit.
What’s the funniest thing that’s ever happened on tour?
Ghostface: You have fun on tour, there’s nothing really, really, really crazy that happen. A tour’s about havin’ fun, doin’ what you gotta do, get to your destination safe, get back safe and just rockin’ the people, man. We had a lotta fun, a lotta things you can’t even talk about…I remember one time we was in the hotel – when we was younger – me, Method Man and all of us, we’d play tricks on each other. We took the fire extinguisher while he was asleep, went to his room put it under his door and just let the whole fire extinguisher out in his room. So he started chokin’ though, but that wasn’t good. We was young, we coulda kilt him! He was breathin’ all of that in, and he came out the door, coughin’, and his whole head was white! That was one of the moments from back then that you remember that was kinda like crazy, but you learn from that. I would never do that again to nobody, because you coulda choked on that if you was a hard, hard sleeper. He prolly was chokin’ in there, and that’s what probably woke him up!
Raekwon: It’s always goofy, funny shit happenin’ on tour, man. [laughs] I kinda don’t really remember a lotta shit though, because so much shit done happen, man. We not new to this music game, far as experiencing certain shit. From just watching Ol’ Dirty – god bless the dead – come in at a certain point and he livin’ out his Rick James stories. It was just a lot, man, We got many funny stories though, but I really don’t recall the one that y’all talkin’ about. That’s probably a little far back…and plus I smoke too much weed to really remember a lotta shit.
You once quoted some lines from Divine Force’s ‘Holy War’. Were they a big group for you?
Ghostface: We like to pay homage to certain artists. It just comes to you, man. Once you a hip-hop fan like that, and you was there back in the days and shit, it sticks with you. So you just love certain shit, man. You just love it, so it never leaves you.
Do you feel that you’re keeping the advanced vocab that T La Rock and Treacherous Three brought about and keep it high brow?
Raekwon: I’m always gonna continue to be a strong-content, lyrical artist because that’s the shit I grew-up under. Regardless of today’s music not really capturing a lotta people and not influencing people, I’m from that certain grain that I have to do this. I have to make sure that you know that I’m goin’ all the way in. I’m not gonna give you no bullshit lyric, I’m not gonna give you no bullshit beat. What I am gonna do is put my passion and my soul in to every rhyme that I make. You can bet your ass that I want people to be like, ‘Yo, rewind that shit again! What the fuck he say?’ Or, ‘You hear that beat? That beat is crazy!’ These are the things that I’m always gonna think about before I actually make a song. I wanna make an impression! I wanna make something that people can be like, ‘Yo, that nigga ain’t lose a fuckin’ beat!’ Or ‘Yo! I never heard of him!’ Or ‘Who is he?’ I’m always gonna incorporate that in my music, I’m always gonna go all the way in. It’s like tryin’ to be the best soccer player – I gotta kick that ball through that goal. I’m just gonna always be that way, B. I don’t think nobody could ever stop me from doin’ that. You got artists that fade ‘cos they stop believing in they self. My sign is a Capricorn, and Capricorn’s is basically go-getter motherfuckers. We can’t take a loss – even if we are catchin’ a loss, we won’t accept it, because we know that we could do better. So I’m always gonna live for that – to do better.
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