Filed under: BK All Day,Features,Interviews,Mash Out,Not Your Average,Steady Bootleggin',Tape Vaults
Written by: Robbie Ettelson
When I heard that there was a press day being held for the Marxmen to promote the new Sparta LP, I thought it might be a good oppertunity to have a slightly more rational conversation with Rap’s Greatest Duo than the last time we crossed paths. Good thing I didn’t bring up this story, huh? Turns out a bad phone line didn’t get things off to a great start….
Robbie: I feel like a lot of the aggression has been lost in rap in the last 10 years. There’s not enough music that make you want to break car windows. How do you keep that energy in the music?
Bill: Slap, can you hear him?
Fame: I can’t really hear him, mayne. What did he say?
Bill: He’s trying to say how do we keep the aggression in our music.
Fame: Uh…go ahead, you answer that one.
Bill: [laughs] We’re not really rappers, we just happen to know how to do it really well. It’s not really aggression – sometimes when you listen to a M.O.P. song you hear the pain in our voices, it’s just from being held back for so long and there’s no other way. Right now we’re doing music, so we won’t go out and be violent to try and get our point across, so now we want to make sure that people hear every word that we say. We’re not yelling either, Robbie – we’re just raising our voices. We want to make sure that people understand that we’re never going anywhere, we will never leave. Not just us as a rap group, but us as the people from those rough neighborhoods. It’s always been rough in those neighborhoods but no ones ever had no voice to say, ‘This is what kind of problems that we deal with down here’. M.O.P. will continue to be aggressive until we get our point across. People understand where we come from, they speak our language, but there’s other people that don’t understand, so we want to make sure that we put that in their ear so there’s no misconception on what it is that M.O.P. represents.
Fame, remember the first album that you worked on with Silver D, The Hill That’s Real? I noticed on the credits that you wrote the lyrics for Big Ken?
Fame: [laughs] Yeah, I wrote a lotta her songs. Ken was a friend of mine, she’s from down here in my neighborhood. Ken‘s like a older sister to me. When I was still in high school, my mom wasn’t able to come up to school, like days I would cut school, Ken would come up there and play like she’s my aunt, that way my mom’s won’t find out. She was like a good friend to me. Back then I was a pothead – I just smoked a lotta weed, all fuckin’ day. That’s what we did – we smoked weed and we vibed and shit. Ken made a lotta money back then, she made money from all types of hustlers and shit like that, so she told me stories about it and I just cut it.
How did you know Silver D?
Fame: I met Silver D through Laze-E-Laze, the same Laze that I deal with. Laze is from my neighborhood too, and Laze’s cousin gave Laze my first demo that I did at DR Period‘s house. This is like early 90’s. Laze used to come around and check me out or whatever, and Laze was cool with Silver D. If you know Silver D, Silver D was down with Kid Capri‘s group. I forget the name group…
Lords of Funk?
Fame:Yeah yeah, alright. He was one of the Lords of Funk. He had the job at WBLS at the time, and he was on Positive K records, and at the time Positive K let me use the studio, and that’s where I recorded The Hill Thats Real. So big shout to Positive K, too.
What was the name of the first demo you recorded?
Fame: It was called ‘Dope Adolescent’. [laughs] The rhyme was crazy though! I wish I could remember the rhyme though, man. Actually a friend of mine named Serge has all the songs, has all the demos and stuff.
Bill: [in disbelief] ‘Dope Adolescent’? [laughs]
You’ve been making a name for yourself in the production field as well. I liked the song you did for Cam’ron – ‘Suga Duga’.
Bill: ‘Suga Duga’, that’s my shit!
Fame: [laughs] I hate the title of it, but it was a good look. Cam was a good friend. Cam jumped on the beat, he happened to get it, he jumped on the beat and he loved it. That was good, that was jumping at the time.
Bill: Talk about some of the other production you did.
Fame: I gotta lotta joints. I wanna put out a mixtape soon, called 15 Minutes of Fame. I did a lotta production up at KOCH Records, I’ve got a lotta music that they didn’t use. I’m gonna put that out soon. It was used, but they didn’t represent it right or they didn’t push it correctly. So I did joints for Foxy Brown, I did joints for Wu-Tang, Dipset…what do they call those dudes? The Clipse, Ray-J – all type of people. I got a lotta music though. Serani, he’s a reggae artist.
What about that ‘I’m Back’ for Rakim?
Fame: That was on KOCH. I try, man. I’ve been messing with the production since I told you, since the ‘Dope Adolescent’. [laughs] It was trash, man, but back then you only had seven minutes of sample time, so you had to make it work. That was like one of my first rhymes and shit. I did the ‘Dope Adolescent’…a couple of other joints. I did the ‘I Can Feel It’ shit. ‘In The Air’. What’s his name?
Bill: Phil Collins?
Fame: Yeah, Phil Collins. I used a sample from that. I did a couple of joints. Back then, I grew up on EPMD, Marley Marl, Juice Crew, and I used to read the credits, and a lot of the credits had a artists names on it, like ‘production’, so I thought was part of the shit you had to do. Do you’re own music sometimes, shit like that. EPMD did their own shit, Pete Rock & CL Smooth, a lotta them did their own shit. So I though that was part of the package that I had to do, to be an artist. Plus it’s fun, so that’s something I ran with.
You’ve done a lot of work with AZ. Where do you know him from?
Fame: I know AZ from just making music, he was one of the first dudes that really liked my music and shit. We really connected when we got in the studio together. He was on KOCH too, a lot of my work I got through KOCH records. Cormega‘s another one. Cormega’s my brother, Cormega’s a good friend of mine. These guys really appreciate my music, so it was easy to work with them.
It must have been a nice surprise when ‘Cold As Ice’ blew up in the UK?
Fame: Yeah, they told me. Back then, like I told you, there was a big cloud of weed over my head. [laughs] I was a straight pot-head back then, so I’m just catching-up with everything right now, bro.
So you’re off the weed now?
Fame: [laughs] Yeah. Not only the weed, man, there was a lotta stress, a lotta things going on back then. Like Billy said, we was fightin’ most if the time. Fightin’ for life, fightin’ for freedom, fightin’ stress – and the weed played a big part of it. A lotta shit I missed, a lotta shit I can’t remember – people’ll tell me about it and I’ll be like, ‘Oh yeah! Come to think of it, I remember that shit!’ The past and shit. Right now I’m really enjoying this shit.
What’s your favorite production you’ve done for another artist?
Fame: I can’t say…
Bill: [in a high-pitched voice] ‘Suga Duga’? I like that song, son.
Fame: [laughing] You’re fuckin’ dumb, kid…
Bill: Yo son, I liked that shit…
Fame: Yeah, ‘Suga Duga’ is one of them…I like everything I did. I like the Rakim shit though, the Rakim gotta be one of my favorites. That ‘I’m Back’ shit was crazy.
Remember that Sade joint you flipped on Marxmen? You’re a Sade fan I assume?
Fame: That was fun. I had a lotta pain I was dealing with, that song got me through a lot, mayne. I was going through a lotta shit. My baby mother had this red Dodge with a tape deck in it – I had it on a tape – I used to play that shit over and over, over and over, over and over. That was my favorite song at the time.
Bill: A red Dodge, son?
Fame: Yeah, a red Dodge somethin’. They don’t even make those shits no more. [laughs]
Bill: The Stratus…
Do you guys feel that hip-hop has gotten too soft?
Bill: Hip-hop is still the same. Pete Rock and Smif N’ Wessun just put a record out, Talib Kweli is still putting out records, Premier’s always putting records out, Pharoahe Monch just dropped a record, we about to drop a record – so hip-hop is good. There’s a new wave of music that’s moving around – that’s soft. Buy hip-hop is 100% hard, the way it’s always been, and it’s not gonna change if we can help it.
Fame: I think hip-hop is at a spot right now for a bunch of weirdos. A bunch of weird-ass dudes, a bunch of fuckin’ E pill-popping dudes. The nerdy hip-hop is going on right now. It’s coming back to the streets now ;cos everybody’s tired of the…there’s nothing wrong with it, ‘cos everyone’s got their own style of hip-hop, but it’s not creative. Everybody’s doing the same old shit, the same old fuckin’ station, the same old song come on every day at the same time – everybody’s tired of that shit. Hip-hop needs change right now, or hip-hop needs thebasics nack to it. Hip-hop is missing that.
It’s gotta bring those hard drums back.
Fame: Right! Need the drums, need the samples back. We need all that shit back, man.
Bill: These dudes don’t know how to make music anymore. It sounds like there’s no effort in the music at all. No effort really amounts to nothing. I wanted to be a rapper because twhen i listened to other rapper;s, the lyrics they wer sayin’ or the way they presentede it over the beat was incredible. The way they do it now, anybody can do it. So what makes being a rapper so special?
Fame: The music became sarcastic. It’s like, ‘I can do this. I ain’t even gotta rap hard, watch how he likes this shit. It’s ABC shit. They really like this shit. I was only playin’ on this shit. They love this shit?’ That’s how this shit’s going on now.
Bill: Mmhmm, You right.
Plus it’s not as important to pay your dues in front of a live crowd now.
Bill: When it was about real hip-hop, you had stiff competition, and the fans wouldn’t just let you do some bullshit…
Fame: Right! Right!
Bill: …you had to pay your dues, you had to go in there. Even though Kane, G Rap, Rakim, KRS-One, Positive K, MC Lyte, Run-DMC, EPMD was all around at the same time, they was competin’ but it was friendly competition and was about the skills that you had. When you heard one song as a rapper, you said, ‘Man, this EPMD song is incredible. Let me top it!’ Not, ‘Let me do exactly what EPMD did because people like it’. That makes you a clone. That’s what the people are not getting now. The artists are not going hard, so even the listeners are not even commanding them to do their best.
Bill: Shit back then was about making great music. You had to be great, or the fans won’t accept you. It’s not even about the music, it’s about the fuckin’ clothes you wearing, it’s about image. It’s about what kind of car you driving, how many muscles you got and all this bullshit. It’s about fashion, it’s all visual now.
Do you still have the same ‘zero tollerance’ for bootleggers like you had in that video from a few years back?
Fame: That was big shit back then. Computers changed a lotta shit. They don’t have to go to the stores no more to purchase their hip-hop. That played a big role – just doing a fuckin’ walk-in for a new record you put out. Just going downtown to Beat Street records, signing autographs at a record store. That was good shit, that was fun shit.
Big Ken – ‘4 Star Bitch’
Big Ken – ‘All About the Pussy’
Lil’ Fame- ‘Bring the Rukus’
Lil’ Fame- ‘Hill That’s Real’
Lil’ Fame- ‘Neighborhood Hood’
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