Filed under: Flushing's Finest,Interviews,Large Pro For Prez,New Rap That Doesn't Suck
Written by: Robbie Ettelson
Superbad Solace and Oprime39 first made some noise with their Brugal & Presidentes EP in 2012, and followed-up with their debut album Rock-It Science the following year. With a new EP and album due soon, it seemed like the perfect time to build with these two brothers from Flushing, Queens to talk about music, their iconic neighborhood and the importance of dressing fresh.
Robbie: Did you both grow-up in Flushing, Queens?
Solace: We moved out here in in 1988 because my father was a building superintendent and he landed a gig right here. We were living in Corona before that and that was a dream job back in the day, so he took the whole family out here.
Oprime: He was a super out in Lefrak at the time and an opportunity popped up in Flushing. We’ve been out here ever since.
Solace: The ill shit with a superintendent job is you also get the rent-free apartment.
How was it different than Corona at the time?
Back in the 90’s there was a lotta Dominicans in the area where we grew up so it felt like a little DR. Our grandparents were out there, all you would hear was Spanish music – Dominicans running the bodegas, the barber shops and local businesses. Towards the millennium it really changed, a lot of South and Central Americans started moving in and they just took over. A lot of Dominicans relocated to Florida, others got deported. Flushing is very mixed. The junior high school we went to was predominantly Black and Spanish and the main street is like Little China. You’ve got Korean and Japanese people, Indians, then you’ve got blocks that are just all Black people, blocks that are all Spanish people. It’s a real crazy melting pot in Flushing.
Oprime: We be seeing them halal trucks come out and they be carrying the skinned goats over their shoulders with flies buzzing around and all that craziness.
At what stage did you start rhyming?
Solace: Prime was always immersed in hip-hop in some way, shape or form, he wrote graff and he was around a lot of the Flushing legends. I was always just watching, as the younger brother. Around 2006 we were both rhyming here and there and we just decided, “Yo, let’s do this. It’s just us, we don’t need nobody else.” Then my brother went to college with Meyhem and they figured out the right studio situation, and that’s how we landed up at Hydra. That was homebase, that’s where we started recording.
Jerry Famolari’s spot?
Oprime: Jerry was never in the cut, but we would always hear about him. Max Vargas was holding it down and that took part in us really taking it to the next level and trying to put out quality work because that studio was so fuckin’ comfortable. Wild shit happened there, it was real gritty, it felt right. It had a huge lounge so we’d kick it there – drink, smoke and just hang out and do music. Working with Max, it felt like a job. Max was mad professional so it felt like we was on the clock.
Solace: Max is not an opinionated engineer, he won’t insert his thoughts on what you’re doing. The music is up to you, he’s there to record. His mixing and engineering is unparalleled, but he’s not gonna become the third member of the group. That was pre-Timeless Truth, we were just Oprime and Solace at that time. One of the last joints we did there was the joint with G Rap, but everything before that a lot of that stuff was demo shit.
Did you used to see Godfather Don and Screwball come through the studio?
Oprime: Nah, this was after all of that. The kind of characters that were coming out of that studio was Outdoorsmen – that’s when [Action] Bronson was up in there, Meyhem – I think Lake was recording outta there, J-Love was working heavy out there. I remember bumping into Large a few times out there.
Solace: The Screwball presence was definitely felt, they still had all the stickers, the posters. They flooded that spot.
What was the next step?
Oprime: Organic collaborations like Outdoorsmen / Timeless Truth started happening, we started fuckin’ with J-Love. That led to us fuckin’ with PF Cuttin’ when Hydra shut down and that led to us fuckin’ with Sean P and then meeting dudes like Masta Killa. One thing led to the next, man.
Solace: It wasn’t about just putting music out for the sport of it, we never fell into that trap – record a million freestyles and gives the blogs a freestyle just to have your name out. We were more focused on putting together a good song. Quality over quantity all day.
Oprime: We were schooled on how to do this music shit by the original dudes, where you would perfect a project, try to pitch that project, have somebody pick-up and pay you for that project. Nowadays we have to adapt to it in this tech era where you’re managing yourself and there isn’t a machine behind you.
How did you guys connect with Roc Marciano?
We met Roc being fans of the U.N. stuff and reaching out through MySpace. The internet is a beautiful thing! Two days later we were meeting up on Jamaica Ave. and building a little bit. He came through PF Cuttin’s studio and laid something and then from there he threw us a whole bunch of beats. We built a friendship from that point on. He wasn’t crazy tech-savvy in the beginning and we were a little more inclined, so we would help each other. He was also one of them dudes who was used to doing everything, so building with him really taught us about doing shit on your own and building your own empire.
Solace: He’d always tell us, “Treat your rap book like a check book. When you write a verse, make that a check out to yourself.” I thought that was one of the illest gems anybody’s ever dropped on us.
When did you start building with Large Professor?
Oprime: When we did the “Wavelength” video we were just cruising in the whip and I was like, “Yo Large, you remember when we started fucking with each other?” When the internet and MySpace first started popping, I was doing rooftops on the 7 line with an old bombing partner by the name of UNED. We was in Corona, and that day we were walking down Main street with a box just bumping “Ijustwannachill” and when we did the rooftop we hooked-up “Large Professor” on the rooftop. I took that opportunity to connect with him and send him pictures of the shit we did on that rooftop and told him we do music. He said, “I still cruise by Flushing, I’ll hit you up next time I’m around.” He showed up to Max’s studio on a snowy day with a fuckin’ mask on, he laid the beat down and said “Get busy” and just bounced!
Solace: He never took the mask off.
Oprime: He had a ski mask on the whole time! You can’t even see what his facial expressions are, you just seen the guy’s eyes. That wasn’t even the “Wavelength” joint, that was even further when he started throwing us a few more bones.
What did he used to write?
He used to write GAZE, and I think he also used to also write GHETTO. I was connected with Flushing writers who were older than me and they knew all about him since the Bowne days. He had another cat that he used to bomb with by the name of See3, and it was like archaeology because in our garage I used to see See3 throw-ups, and Large told us, “Back in the days I used to breakdance in your building.” It was like carrying on tradition.
Who else from Flushing did you used to mess with?
I used to be partners with this cat UEND, he was ten years older than me. He was running around crazy in the 80’s and 90’s. There was Stae2, LC, Sire from Latimer, Diego127, a DJ dude named DJ Reverse, who I linked up with early and this dude Shen, he was one of the first dudes to give us beats. He was like an encyclopedia when it came to old funk and jazz records. We had a crew back in the day called CND, we started killing the 7 with productions – I used to write PSYCK. For a while that was what I was really into, then from ‘05 the music just started taking full force.
Can you speak on the importance of Polo outfit architecture?
That’s another piece of New York city – the mentality, the lifestyle – always trying to be fly. That aspirational mentality to get what you’re not really supposed to have. Take it and make it yours. It’s a meticulous thing, making sure that everything is right, down to the laces, the kicks, everything is matching. It’s piecing a puzzle together, making it all form a picture. But it’s just the uniform, it ain’t the job.
What are your thoughts on Kool G Rap’s legacy?
Solace: G Rap is a master wordsmith. Who hasn’t he influenced?
Oprime: The 4,5,6 album specifically had the biggest impact on us in terms of the technicality, the beats, the storytelling, the flows. That album did a lot for us in terms of finding our lane and finding where we wanted to take it.
What makes Queens MC’s stand out?
Solace: Queens niggas are just so fresh. Brooklyn arrogance and Queens is very different. A Queens cat will play the cut, but when it’s time to do what it does, a Queens cat will get busy. Queens is it’s own world.
Oprime: It’s less about the flashiness and it’s really just about the skill. We don’t need to showboat and hype everything up. We know what we got and when it’s time we just do what we do. That’s an ill characteristic that you see throughout the Queens’ legends – Mobb, Nas and Tragedy – those dudes understand what they got, they know their skill, everyone has their own character.
Solace: It’s just nonchalant. “This is how we are and I know it’s better than you.”
Anything else you want to let the people know about?
You’ve got an ill site, man. You really are responsible for a lotta ill shit as far as this documentation shit, it’s needed. A lotta people try to do it but they don’t do it the right way. You’re coming from another place in the world and nobody would even fuckin’ know it! That’s dope, man.
Oprime: We definitely been rocking with Unkut for a hot minute.
Cheers. What’s next for you guys?
The next project is an EP called Dominican Diner, which is gonna smack a lotta people upside the head. Shortly thereafter we’ve got Coldwave, and “Wavelength” appears on that joint. We’ve got Arch Druids production on there, Skizz blessed us with some heat, Large Pro, RTNC, we got a joint with Ill Bill, Roc Marcy production on there as well.
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