Filed under: BK All Day,Internets,Interviews,New Rap That Doesn't Suck
Written by: Robbie Ettelson
Photo by richdirection
Best known for his zero fux given style, Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire‘s more recent work reflects an MC who refuses to be pigeonholed. With a long list of indy releases under his belt, he’s currently preparing his major label debut for Universal. I could tell from his music that this guy wasn’t just another “New New York” type, and he proved me right with a deep appreciation for the music that came before him when we caught-up for a chat the other month.
Robbie: I heard the troubling news that you’ve stopped drinking?
Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire: I stopped drinking a long time ago, almost a year now. I don’t drink,
I don’t have sex, none of that. I’m 28, I feel like when you get to a certain level in your life, you mature.
You’re Brooklyn born and raised?
I’m from the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn. Buckshot Shorty is from where I’m from, Ruste Juxx.
How do you feel about all the girls with bad tattoos who have moved into Brooklyn from outta state?
For the most part, I like it. I think it’s cool that people come and they find Brooklyn interesting. It’s different being from here, growing up and seeing a lot of things that you love disappear. The whole environments changed. Before, I could take you through Brooklyn and I would know everything. Now I have to relearn the neighborhood.
What pushed you take rhyming seriously?
I would say Biggie, of course. Big Pun. I started rapping around ‘99. At that time everything was so crazy in New York. It was the super era of mixtapes – every Tuesday, new mixtapes would come out. I used to go to up to Utica Ave. in my neighborhood, go get my haircut and just buy every tape I could get. Just studying the game – Noreaga and Cormega and AZ and Half-A-Mil. All the DJ Clue tapes, all the S&S tapes. I just had a big collection of tapes. After a while I got intrigued by it, and in eighth grade I started recording myself on the karaoke machine. You could play a tape on one side and record my album on the other side.
What got you into the Company Flow/MF Doom beats that you used on your earlier stuff?
My friend Mad Dog was in the marine core, and they used to listen to Def Jux when they went to shoot and chill. I had no idea about any of that stuff until I was 23-24. I didn’t know anything El-P, I just used to download all the instrumentals, I used to think all the beats was crazy. And my boy was like, “Oh, you rapped on that beat by El-P! That’s Cannibal Ox!” To this day, I’ve still never heard Cannibal Ox! The production just blew my mind, because at the time I felt like rap got boring, production-wise. It was just so ill to me and different to me. Then I got into Sleep When You’re Dead, that’s my favorite El record, hands-down. Everybody was rapping on “Candy Shop” 50 Cent or whatever, so I came up with the idea of, “How can I get noticed?” It was a different angle for me, being where I’m from. You don’t typically hear people rap over shit like DOOM and El-P. I got into their records after I rapped to they shit, like, “Lemme see what they did to it.”
Were you a big fan of DMX when he dropped?
Hell yeah! The summer DMX came out, I stayed with my aunt in the Bronx. I remember the day they shot the video for DMX’s “How It’s Goin’ Down”, they announced on the radio that they were casting for the video. That’s a really big part of my hip-hop love. That’s why I got an ‘X’ in my name, it’s partly because of DMX. I pattern a lot of my shit after him, that’s why my stuff is so depressing. X and ‘Pac were a big part of my influence.
When did you do your first proper recording?
My first recording, I was probably about eighteen years old, right before I went to college. I wasn’t going to rap, I was going to be a writer. Before I went upstate to school, I went to the studio a couple of times. I’ve still got the records. The whole time I was at school, I could do nothing but write rhymes. I was just so in love with it, I was just so in love with being a rapper. I was totally convinced this was all I was gonna do with the rest of my life. I ended up dropping out of college and moving back to New York. I stayed in school seven months, as soon as summer came, I was home! I started doing shows and doing a lotta local shit, trying to push, trying to make it.
What type of writing had you planned to do?
I wanted to write about music, because I figured, “Alright, I’m probably never gonna be a rapper. Maybe I can just write about the culture. I’ll at least be able to be involved in it that way. At least I can meet rappers and be around hip-hop.’
Get some free t-shirts and shit. Were you thinking about starting a blog or something?
Nah, they didn’t have that type of shit back then, yo! The most you had back then was Audiogalaxy and message boards like AllHipHop.com and shit like that! [laughs]
Real Player Audio and shit! That was the worst. What was the first tape you put out?
I was Tru-Gizzy Da Great, that was my original rap name. I used to do all the open mics and shit, I mighta been 21, 22, going out to 42nd street every weekend and hand out my CD’s. We used to press them shits up, 500 at a time, hand them shits out and nobody would call us. Then we started doing shows and shit. That lasted for a while. Actually I almost got signed to Universal, where I’m signed am now, back then when I was real young. They said I was good enough to sign, I was a good enough songwriter, but the shit I was talking about wasn’t gangster enough.
Because you didn’t sound like G-Unit?
Exactly. They didn’t care about my nerdy shit. ‘This is dope, but we don’t know how to market this’. It’s so bugged out that when Lupe came out, I was like, “Damn, Lupe rapping about the same stuff I’m rapping about!” I was so heartbroken, I quit rapping after that. That’s where Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire comes from. I didn’t think I was ever gonna make it – I didn’t really care – so I just said, “Fuck it!”
Did you feel like that gave you more creative freedom?
In retrospect, that was the best thing that could happened to me. At the time I was crushed, I was about to be on and then, “Nope! Back to square one”. I reformatted and that’s when I got the gold teeth. My first heartbreak in the record industry made me Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire. I was a security guard at a high school – I hated this fuckin’ job – and I saw this movie called Office Space and I was like, “Yo, I’m not going back to work”. I didn’t quit, I just stopped going. I took my last little bit of money and built a little studio in the projects. I was like, “Fuck it! I’m just gonna make songs. I’m not doin’ nothin’ else until I make it”. That’s where Lost In Translation comes from. This is ‘09. The week I made that album, my grandmother had a stroke, my job was a wrap, I had no money, my girl was cheating on me – it was a terrible week. All this shit I went through at that time just made me became a fuckin’ monster. For like two years I was a fuckin’ mad man. Too many chicks, mad sex, liquor, I was just doing the most of any time in my life. It was like I had a midlife crisis in my twenties. That was the craziest I’ve ever been – little by little, just didn’t give no fucks. I love that album for that, I can listen to it and laugh.
What made you move onto the next phase after that two years of partying?
I caught that shit at like 25, and I woke up at 28. I had to grow-up fast. “Alright, it’s time to be a little bit more level-headed”. I was doing rapper shit before I was a rapper. Then I just kept doing shit, cos it’s almost like if you rhyme and you have a certain persona, then certain shit is expected of you. I wasn’t necessarily happy with my success, I kinda shied away from it, I didn’t want to be involved with it. I didn’t feel like I was being myself, I didn’t enjoy it, ‘cos I’m trapped in one part of my life. I’ve spiritually moved on.
Photo by richdirection
So you feel like Kismet is you really starting to hit your stride?
Yeah, I don’t feel like I’ve reached my pinnacle yet. Kismet was the first time I wasn’t rapping in my crib, it was the first time I had an engineer. It was my first time rapping over my own beats!
That ‘Chains’ joint was the stand-out for me.
Wow. I made that record two years ago, I was drunk when I made that. I had it around super long, but I just felt that it fit on there.
Taxi Driver or Raging Bull?
I lean towards Taxi Driver. Raging Bull moves too slow for me. Taxi Driver, it’s the colors of it and the scenery of New York. I love it. Just the colors and vibe of the streets, you can just feel that shit when you watch it.
It captures a side of New York that isn’t there anymore.
That’s why I think it’s beautiful. It’s not there anymore, not even a pocket of it. Totally gone.
If you could make your own version of “The Symphony”, who would be the other three MC’s?
Ghostface – young Ghost, like ‘9, dusthead, drunk, wyl’ out, bust your fuckin’ forehead open, Ghostface Killah with the mask on. Of course I would do Biggie, because it’s only right if you’re from Brooklyn it’s the honor of all honor’s to do a song with a Biggie. The last one I’mma do a wildcard – I’mma say Royce Da 5’9”. Definitely top ten of all-time.
Why was Biggie so great?
He wasn’t the best at anything – he was great at everything. That’s why he’s the best. Like Jordan – some niggas score better than Jordan, some have better D, but no one can do all that in one body. It’s the same thing with Big. That’s why he’s totally untouchable. Like Eminem get on a track, his syllable game is crazy – he’s amazing. But I think he’ll tell you that Big is better. He just had it all. He just had it figured out.
He talked about wanting to return to the hardcore stuff before he died as well.
He discovered Cam’ron! Cam and Ma$e met Biggie, that’s how they got into the whole thing. Ma$e went with Puff and Cam went with Big. But then Big died and Cam went to Undeas. Big Un – Jay stabbed him up! Cam was Big’s artist he was a protege. I also want to say – Cam top five New York artist ever.
Plus he made the greatest rap movie ever with Killa Season.
I’m not co-signing that shit, that was terrible! [laughs] That movie gets so crazy.
It’s a Rapsloitation classic! What sets Brooklyn rappers apart?
Queens always has the most rappers, and the fewest rappers come from Brooklyn. But every time a Brooklyn rapper comes, our presence is felt. When you’re from Brooklyn, you get such a multi-cultural influence. You can walk seven different blocks and be in seven different environments just that quick. On one block you see the Jews, next block it’s hipsters, the next block is Jamaicans, the next block is thugs, the next block is Spanish people. In a ten block radius! Growing up around so much influences makes you very versatile. That’s why Jay and Big are so versatile. I think that’s why we make an impact. We’re formless, but we’re very hard. We can be very abrasive, even if we don’t mean to be. It takes a lotta getting used to to be around somebody from Brooklyn.
Tell me about the cover artwork for Kismet?
I take my cover art very, very serious. If you look at that picture of me with the chick, it’s meant to represent me shedding layers, letting my true self exist and just making music for my personal voice and my heart – or you could just look at it like, “Oh, he’s fucking a bitch. He’s nasty.”
What about the grapes on the back?
Have you ever seen Just-Ice’s cover? Kool & Deadly? I love Just-Ice, that was the reference for that. Just-Ice is my idol.
I saw it as a mix of that and the first Big Daddy Kane album cover.
Yeah, you caught it! If you watch the “The Last Huzzah” remix video, I got the hat on and the beads on my neck. That exact look I took from a Just-Ice picture. That was my homage to Just-Ice. “Moshitup”, all that shit? When I went back to old school rap, one of the rappers that connect ed to me most out of all of that shit was Just-Ice. I wanna get him for my [debut major label] album! That’s on my wishlist.
What’s your favorite Just-Ice story?
I heard he used to get off stage and rob people right after he got off stage! [laughs]
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