Psycho Les [The Beatnuts] – The Unkut Interview
Following on from last year’s interview with former Beatnut Al’ Tariq, I finally got a chance to speak with Psycho Les about the ups and downs of one of rap’s greatest groups. Turns out that Les’ history foes back even further than I thought, as he revealed he worked at Music Factory during high school and produced his first record in 1988…
Robbie: Do you feel like Al’ Tariq’s comments about his time with the Beatnuts were accurate?
Psycho Les: It was pretty much right. Me and Al’ Tariq never had a problem. The problem was between Juju and him, they didn’t really get along. When people don’t get along shit ain’t gonna happen.
He mentioned some subliminal stuff between him and Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul?
There was subliminal shit going on but it was more on Juju and Fashion’s part. That had nothing to do with me, I always stay away from any negative shit. I ain’t out to diss nobody.
What made you want to get involved in hip-hop?
Just being a kid from the streets. When I was coming up in mid ’80s the streets was the only place you could find hip-hop. You would go to the parks and we would have the cardboards, people breakdancing and the guy with his boom box playing tapes of Cold Crush and Spoonie Gee and Kool Moe Dee and all that shit. I was into everything of the culture, man – from breaking to graffiti, I did it all. I just fell in love with the music, just watching the DJ and all the power he had. I started messing with all the DJ’s that lived in my building. I would go to their apartments and watch them DJ. From there I developed the whole dream to have turntables and mixers and collecting records.
Aaron Fuchs [Tuff City] – The Unkut Interview, Part Two
Concluding my discussion with Tuff City Records founder Aaron Fuchs, he talks about working with The 45 King, Lakim Shabazz and the Flavor Unit, the ‘Crack It Up’ single, the Ultramagnetic compilations and the highlights of his discography.
Robbie: The 45 King had a big impact on the Tuff City discography. How did that relationship begin?
Aaron Fuchs: He was R&B driven, which I loved. Red Alert was a DJ of rare honesty, he played a record if he liked it. You didn’t have to pay him. He was partial to The 45 King so making records with The 45 King wasn’t rocket science. Where I made my contribution was my role in the creation of the Lakim Shabazz persona. Listening to hip-hop shows, so many dedications came from prison – people with Islamic names – so it was like, ‘Let’s get a rapper like this.’ So MC La Kim became Lakim Shabazz, with all due respect to his legitimate involvement with his Islamic faith. But we played it up.
How successful was Lakim Shabazz’s Pure Righteousness album?
I think that that was the first hip-hop album that ever came out without a hit single. At that time, the wall of a record store called Music Factory in Times Square was an international communications medium. I had first seen that wall’s responsibility for the transition of west coast hip-hop, from being years behind the east coast, to catching up. In ’84 they came to the New Music Seminar and they were just ripping records off that wall, and it caught them up with the east stylistically. I knew that was happening and that European tourists shopped there too, so I made the Lakim Shabazz album just so I could put him in a picture with a kufi and a dashiki. It broke the album internationally.
Aaron Fuchs [Tuff City] – The Unkut Interview, Part One
Aaron Fuchs‘ Tuff City label was the David to Def Jam‘s Goliath in the early 80’s. The label would go on to deliver important records from the Cold Crush Brothers, Spoonie Gee, The 45 King and Lakim Shabazz, to name but a few. Aaron talked extensively about how to keep your head above water in the record game and offered some interesting opinions about where hip-hop might have ended up if Harlem hadn’t gotten involved.
Robbie: What’s the longest that you’ve been in one location?
Aaron Fuchs: Five, six years. In New York City, no matter what business you’re in, you also have to be in the real estate business. It’s just chaotic keeping an office address for more than a few years at a time.
What are your proudest achievements as a record label so far?
I was very proud to be on the scene around ’82, when the electronic drum machines came on the scene. I described it as ‘a thousand flowers bloomed.’ You previously had all your DJ’s just looping or sampling beats from the same body of records, and when the electronic drum machines came in, all of a sudden it seemed like the unique sub rhythms of the DJ’s ethnic backgrounds – because hip-hop is a very Pan-Caribbean music-came to the forefront – it was wonderful to be working with Charlie Chase and Master OC, who were Puerto Rican; Pumpkin, who was Costa Rican;and Davey-D who was American black. It was really reflected in their different approaches to rhythms. What a wonderful time to be making music.
How had you met all these guys?
Hip-hop was incredibly small when I got into hip-hop, circa ’78. The communications medium for hip-hop was a 7 x 5 sheet of paper called The Phillip Edwards Report. He was the guy who had the bright idea to list all the stores in the metropolitan area and create a list of records that they were selling and distribute them around the boroughs. When I told Bambaataa, I wanted to sign an MC crew, I didn’t know he’d bring me the greatest of all-time, the Cold Crush Brothers. When I befriended Barry Michael Cooper, because we were both music critics for the Village Voice, I had no idea that he had cultivated a friendship with Spoonie Gee, who was the most influential of hip-hop artist of the old school era.
What can you tell me about your experiences as a music critic?
Criticism started because of Dylan and John Lennon. All of a sudden, lit. majors had something to write about with rock & roll. I always had a niche because I was one of the very few guys writing about black music, so while the review of the new Beatles or Dylan album was always taken, the review of the Wilson Pickett album or the Aretha Franklin album was always available.
Toney Rome – The Unkut Interview
Toney Rome and Large Professor go way back, and share a lot more history than simply a production credit on the b-side of ‘Mad Scientist.’ Toney talks about growing up in Flushing, Queens, facing music industry hurdles and memories of having the hottest tape in school.
Robbie: How did you first get involved in hip-hop?
I grew-up in New York in the 70s and the 80s, when hip-hop was just getting started. I can remember before there were records, used to be chasing tapes, trying to find the hottest tapes and also trying to get to the Bronx to hear the music.
You were in Flushing at the time?
From Flushing, Queens. It was a really organic thing. I was hearing the music out here on the streets, then they started doing jams out here and eventually I started deejaying.
Where were you getting your records? From the city or locally?
It was the era where DJ’s was really secretive about the breaks that they had. Some of the stuff you would know, but you would have to be a sleuth like Sherlock Holmes to figure out what breaks. First you raided your father’s record collection, and you found the old funk and soul records from there. Of course I didn’t have a lotta money back then, so I used to go to stores in Jamaica, Queens and places that I knew out there that had record shops.
Guru – The Modern Fix Interview
Editor’s note: The following interview was conducted by Bill Zimmerman in 2007 for the now defunct print edition of Modern Fix magazine prior to the release of Guru’s Jazzmatazz, Vol. 4: The Hip Hop Jazz Messenger. This Sunday marks the fifth anniversary of Guru’s passing.
On April 19, 2010, the rapper born Keith Elam died of complications from cancer at 48. Hip-hop lost one of its Golden Era notables. What remained were questions about Guru’s association with Solar, his late-career producer and business partner in the label 7 Grand, whose motives were questioned by the rapper’s family and former collaborators. Shortly after Guru’s death, Solar released a letter purportedly written by Guru and critical of Premier. Guru’s family labeled it a fake; Solar defended the letter as “what Guru wanted.”
The self-proclaimed “king of monotone,” Guru possessed one of the most unmistakable voices in hip-hop. Honest and authoritative, he delivered music over three decades, most notably in Gang Starr with DJ Premier as well as through genre-bending Jazzmatazz solo efforts. What follows are excerpts from an unpublished interview with Guru and Solar in 2007. It’s a snapshot of Guru’s late 2000s, post-Gang Starr career. It shows two men focused on making their own lane and taking creative chances in the leadup to what would be Guru’s final Jazzmatazz project. Despite all the drama and confusion that would ensue, Guru made a mark on hip-hop. That’s indisputable.
Bill: Guru, one the previous Jazzmatazz projects you were working with multiple producers. What was it like just sticking with Solar on this one?
Guru: Actually, the only one with multiple producers was the third one (Street Soul). The first one (Vol. 1) I produced, the second one (Vol. 2: The New Reality) I produced and then the third one multiple (producers). Actually, after the third one I said I wanted to go back to working with just one producer because I left like the third one – even though I had like a lot of big name producers – it came out more like a compilation than it did an organic work. It’s still one of my favorites joints, but it was something about the cohesiveness of one producer bringing everything together. After teaming up with Solar – first of all when I first started hearing his music that was after we were friends already for two years. Then we decided to do the label. We were introduced six years ago – he took me to his lab so I could hear some tracks, and it was crazy because it was almost like he read my mind because I was looking for a future sound, a new sound for myself. All my favorite artists are able to do that – to recreate and renew and then reinvent. So, when I heard his tracks, I was like, “Oh, man.” I was blown away and actually took some stuff home right then. Our first release came out in 2005 on 7 Grand. That was called Guru Version 7.0 The Street Scriptures, and that was just the tip of the iceberg. That was just the introduction to this new chemistry. Now, at this point, the chemistry is just more intense, so this album is definitely proof of that.
Black Rob – The Unkut Interview, Volume Two
Back in 2013, I got to chat to Black Rob for ten minutes as he was on his way to the studio. This time around I tried not to repeat the same questions, but unfortunately I caught him as he was trying to catch some food. Guess some things just aren’t meant to work out, huh? Regardless, you can catch Black Rob’s new LP, Genuine Article, is out 21 April.
Robbie: Were Spoonie Gee and Doug E. Fresh a big influence on you when you were a kid?
Black Rob: Hell yeah! Parties, break-outs – the whole shit! Doug E. Fresh was definitely slamming, man. I already wanted to my thing, but it gave me some inspiration to tbe best that I could be.
What was it like growing in Harlem?
It was different, man. A lotta kids was doing what they had to do, playing around and not doing music, so I came in there doing music. I used to have the parties jumping, little freestyles and all that stuff. Hear that shit out the window. I used to be the number one guy, but I was too young to really comprehend what I was going through, cos I was just stretching out. But I was nice though! [laughs]
Chill Rob G – The Unkut Interview, Volume Two
While I was staying in New Jersey mid 2013, I attempted to shoot some footage of the original Flavor Unit crew. As it happened, I only managed to get Chill Rob G on film, and after watching the video back I’ve decided that this plays better as a written piece. While some of the same stuff from our 2006 conversation is covered, Rob also went into a lot more detail on some topics, making it a worthwhile piece on it’s own. Not to mention that Ride The Rhythm still stands as one of the strongest and most original releases of 1989.
Robbie: You mentioned that you went through a few different names when you were younger?
Chill Rob G: When I first started I had an identity crisis, I had a bunch of different names. It was Jazzy B, it was Bobby G, it was Killer B – cos my name was Robert. I was down with a couple of different crews too. I was down with The World Rap Crew and I was down with the Dignified Almighty Magnificent MC’s – Those D.A.M. MC’s. When all of that fell apart I just kept rapping on my own. I used to practice with my man Michael Ali, be up at his house every single day, making tapes. When I said that on the record it was true!
Were these beats that he’d made?
He tried to make beats but they was [blows raspberry]. I would just rap over popular rap records. He would try to cut the break. He wasn’t really that good a DJ either – but that was my man back then. [laughs] We would make tapes and try to get it out to the drug dealers, cos they’d be out all night. They would play that music and people would get a chance to hear me rap.
Ultimate Breaks and Beats: An Oral History
This one has been cooking up for long time now, but it’s finally out of the oven and ready to throw on your plate with a side of mash – the history of the Ultimate Breaks and Beats series told by the people who put them together and some of the DJ’s and producers they went on to influence:
Ultimate Breaks and Beats: An Oral History
Shout out to Shecky Green and the design team at Cuepoint for turning it into a multimedia masterpiece and whatnot.
Phill Most Chill aka Soulman – The Unkut Interview
Phill Most Chill came up drawing flyers for local crews before dropping his own independent record in 1988, moving into some production work and eventually landing a regular spot at Rap Sheet. From there he became a record dealer and collector, released over 100 mixtapes and eventually returned to the microphone in 2005, and has since released a number of new projects. I caught up with Soulman to talk records, journalism and more records…
Robbie: How did you first get exposed to hip-hop?
Phill Most Chill: I go back as a little kid, cos I grew up right outside of New York, like a half an hour away from the Bronx in Connecticut. I go back to before when hip-hop was even on record yet, it was just parties. I’d see all the classic crews from back in the days – the Furious Five, Cold Crush Brothers – all of ’em, they would rock at the community center or roller skating rink or high schools in my neighborhood. I started out as a fan but also I used to do flyers for some of the hip-hop pioneers back in those days. From there I went to making records myself – little, small indy records – and that led to the thing with Rap Sheet. During that time I also got into production and I went all out with collecting breaks and digging for records to the point where I would consider myself one of the leading people as far as digging in the crates. I used to also sell breaks and records to all the top producers in New York City. They used to have the Roosevelt Hotel record conventions. That came from me doing the ‘World of Beats’ column – at that point I felt I needed to really up my game and go all-out with the records. That led to me becoming a dealer as well, because a lot of the breaks people were looking for? I had ’em and I knew how to get ’em. Pretty much every great producer in the New York area back then? I sold records to. The only dude I didn’t see at the shows was Preemo.
DJ JS-1 – The Unkut Interview
Rocksteady member DJ JS-1 has been putting it down in the DJ, mixtape and production game for years, as well as getting busy with the paint as JERMS since his school days. We caught up last November to discuss the sorry state of modern rap, the trials of making compilation albums and tips copping vinyl on the sly.
Robbie: How did it start for you?
DJ JS-1: Growing up in Queens, New York – I was born in the mid 70’s – so by the time I was old enough to look around and know what’s going on, you’re six, seven, eight years old. It’s early 80’s and hip-hop culture was everywhere. My grandmother lived near Lefrak and I first remember them doing a mural on the side of pizzaria there when I was really young. I always loved to draw, and I got into graff from watching these guys do that. By third or fourth grade I was trying to draw my name and do stuff, and in sixth grade we stole some spray paint and went to the schoolyard to try and write our names. That was 1986. I was always listening to hip-hop and started buying vinyl as soon as I was old enough to get on the bus or the train by myself to get to the record stores. Then I saved up to get turntables.
O.C. – The Unkut Interview
Working through my list of D.I.T.C. members to interview (only Fat Joe, Buckwild and O.Gee remaining), I got to talk shop with O.C. recently to ask the question that’s been burning my soul slow since 1994 – why didn’t he use that Rakim sample on ‘Time’s Up’!?
O.C. – The Unkut Interview
DJ Too Tuff – Part Time Rap Star, Full Time Drug Dealer
My second piece for Cuepoint tells the story of DJ Too Tuff‘s life after Tuff Crew as he turned to the drug trade to survive, and barely made it out alive.
DJ Too Tuff – Part Time Rap Star, Full Time Drug Dealer
CJ Moore [Black By Demand] – The Unkut Interview, Part Three
Concluding the three part interview with Black By Demand front man CJ Moore, he covers working with Paul C, Ultramagnetic MC’s and Super Lover Cee, the importance of engineering and chopping, getting ripped off on the ‘Rump Shaker’ single and his deep crates of unreleased material.
Robbie: What was your involvement with Super Lover Cee and Cassanova Rudd?
Super Lover Cee lived in the building behind mine. He has a group called Future Four MC’s, which was Super Lover Cee, myself, DJ Rudd and there was another DJ named Tiny Tim. We did shows around the neighbourhoods and then we disbanded. I was the guy doing the beats and the choruses and putting the track together. When I did ‘All Rapper’s Give Up,’ I had not gotten a deal just yet. He was hanging out of his window, cos he lived on the first floor, he was playing some stuff and he said, ‘Yo C, listen to this!’ I’m standing by his window and I said, ‘Let’s put it together.’ He wound up putting it together and I wound up tightening it up. When I brought him to the studio to do the session and introduced him to Paul and Mick, Paul C. didn’t want to do the session. He couldn’t hear it, he didn’t see anything pleasurable about it. He wound up doing it. As far as the entirety of the project, when he did their album Girls I Got ‘Em Locked, I did not do any of those records. But a lotta those routines we had in the Future Four? He wound up using them.
The RZA – The Unkut Interview
The mastermind responsible for the mighty Wu-Tang has finally reunited with the original crew to celebrate their 20th anniversary with a new album and a new approach. The RZA has been more focused on the film world in recent years, but it seemed like the perfect time to talk about his founding days and what lead up to him creating the infamous Wu-Tang sound, which reminded the rap world of it’s humble beginnings in the basement during a time when everything was getting a little too polished.
Robbie: What sparked you off to want to start making music?
RZA: My cousin, the GZA, had took me to a block party. I probably was 8 years-old, and the DJ was deejaying and somebody had grabbed the microphone and was saying some lyrics like, ‘Dip, dip, dive. so-socialize/Clean out your ears and you open your eyes.’ I started repeatin’ that, and a year later the GZA – he’s three or four years older than me – he started making his little rhymes, him and his homeboys were trying to make their little DJ set, and I would watch them. At the age of nine, the first rap record comes on the radio – Sugarhill Gang. When that happened I knew that’s what I was gonna do, I knew that I’m gonna have my voice on the radio, because they proved to me that it was possible.
CJ Moore [Black By Demand] – The Unkut Interview, Part Two
Engineer all-star CJ Moore delves into the behind the scenes events of Kool G Rap‘s Roots of Evil and the infamous Rawkus album, heading out west, working with the Live Squad and much more in the second part of this interview trilogy.
Robbie: What happened after the Akinyele sessions finished?
CJ Moore: When money started coming into play between Dr. Butcher and myself, things started getting funny. I went out to California and I teamed-up with Ed Strickland again and we was with a guy doing a project called The Reality Check – a guy named Michael Harris – Harry O. He’s the guy who funded Death Row Records. Ice Cube, Ice-T, Dub C, all those guys were involved. I produced a couple of records with Ice-T with me and him rapping back and forth. I was doing the east coast stuff, Battlecat was doing the west coast stuff. I went to Big Daddy Kane, talked to him on the phone, I said, ‘I need you to be out in California. I’m doing this project, it’s kinda merging the east coast with the west coast. Let’s talk about what it’s gonna take to get you on the project.’ He asked me who was on the project, and I explained to him. There was guy named Black Ceasar on the project, he was from Pittsburgh, real talented guy, but Kane had a problem because his name was Black Ceasar. I said, ‘But your name is Big Daddy Kane!’ ‘Yeah, aka Black Ceasar.’ I said, ‘What kind of bullshit is that?’ He couldn’t do the project because of that. I stepped to Method Man and I was trying to get to Redman and everyone was kinda busy, so the east coast/west coast thing never did the proper merge. There was so much money on the table, more than these guys have ever made. For some reason it just backed-out. I guess the whole Harry O thing might have scared people to a degree, if you know the homework on the whole Death Row situation. But we can’t get into that.
CJ Moore [Black By Demand] – The Unkut Interview, Part One
CJ Moore has been at ground zero for more classic hip-hop records that most of us can either count, through his work as an engineer at 1212 during the Paul C. era, with his group Black By Demand and with his work for Akinyele and Kool G Rap to name a few. After chopping it with CJ for three hours, there’s a lot of material to get through and a lot of behind the scenes stories to drop, so let’s begin with how it all got started.
Robbie: When did you first get involved with music?
CJ Moore: About 83, 84. My brothers had a DJ group, and I was just a guy around the group. They were into the deejaying aspect of it and I was into the rapping aspect of it. I started getting into the technical side of it around 84, 85. My mom had bought me a little portable piano and I started making my little compositions from that point. That stemmed into me being the guy who understood a lot of the technical ins and outs as far as equipment was concerned, and I took it from there.
You didn’t study engineering formally?
I just picked it up as I went along. It was a studio called 1212 that I worked at, I was 14, going on 15. I had made a record called ‘We’re Gettin’ Paid.’ My aunt had bought me a drum machine, called a Casio RZ-1. One of the first sampling drum machines, it had like a 2.5 seconds of sample time on it, so I started making my beats from that and using my little piano. I took it into 1212, and the guy who owned the studio – his name is Mick Corey – he took a liking to the fact that I had never been in the studio before, how I kinda knew my way around to where I recognised what I was looking at. I knew how to get in and out.I used to go over to Sam Ash and Manny’s on 48th Street after school and play around with the equipment until they kicked me out. I would watch people and at some point I would overhear conversations about studios. I was trying to get in these places, but I didn’t have the money nor the backing, as far as you get into the buildings and they see this little kid trying to come into a music building. They looking at me like I’m crazy, with no supervision. 1212, I saved up my little money and went and did the sessions. I asked him, ‘I would love to work in a place like this!’ And he said, ‘Why not?’ I liked at him like he was crazy. He was asking me what did I know about this and what did I know about that and I was answering all of the questions right. He was talking about ratio and threshold and attack and things of that nature. I understood that because I used to read a lot and picked it up from that point until I really got my hands on it. I had some sort of a tutorial head-start due to literature.
Al’ Tariq aka Fashion – The Unkut Interview, Part Two
Continuing my interview with Kool-Ass Fash, we discuss him leaving The Beatnuts, meeting Kanye West, forming Missin’ Linx, getting beat-jacked by Dr. Dre and his ill-fated experience signing with Dante Ross.
Robbie: At what stage did you decide to do a solo album?
Al’ Tariq: While we were out on tour doing The Beatnuts joint, we were doing a show close to home at a school, maybe in Long Island or some shit, being on stage and then somebody started heckling us. Talking shit, ‘Yo, you fuckin’ aargh!’ I finally look and it’s Juju. Then he comes and hops on stage and joins in on one of our songs and shit. I was so mad, and I could never understand why Les and Peter Kang didn’t get mad with this dude. I had a few serious run-ins with him.
Al’ Tariq aka Fashion – The Unkut Interview, Part One
The artist formerly known as Fashion aka Kool-Ass Fash took some time out to discuss the ups and downs of his career as both a soloist and as a member of The Beatnuts. This first part focuses on his early days, revealing that the Intoxicated Demons EP could have been completely different had fate not intervened, his thorny relationship with Juju, subliminal rhyme jabs between the Native Tongues and how recording the Street Level album was absolute hell.
Robbie: What made you want to rap?
Al’ Tariq: I wanted to rap at an early age, growing up in The Bronx. The first time I heard Spoonie Gee [starts reciting ‘Spoonin’ Rap’] I wanted to do it bad. I always sang and act and wrote plays and movies at a young age, but what made me think it could be real was I went to school with a young gentleman named James Todd Smith. We attended this school called Christopher Robbins Academy, we were both in ninth grade together. I had gone down to North Carolina to live for two years with my family and sister. I was down there in the fall, my brother came to see me, he was like, ‘Look at this record that Jay made.’ I couldn’t believe it. That was the moment. ‘He did it? I could do it!’ When I heard ‘I Need A Beat’ it was the fall of 1984. At them times, I was rhyming but I wasn’t out there rhyming with everybody. It was something I did on the low. Basketball and girls was all I thought about. I wanted to be an entertainer anyway, but rhyming was probably the fourth or fifth thing on that list. I had other pictures for what I thought I was gonna be at the end of the day.
The Mighty V.I.C. – The Unkut Interview
Photo: Alexander Richter
Not sure how my extended interview with The Mighty V.I.C. from 2008 slipped through the cracks, but after using a couple of parts of it I never got around to transcribing the entire three hours that we spoke over a couple of days while Vic ran errands. As before, the full version will be in the Unkut book, but here’s an edited version which covers the major points in his career. V.I.C. discusses how he began interning as a recording engineer at Power Play in the late 80’s, before joining The Beatnuts and working with Godfather Don under the Groove Merchantz banner and later recruiting Mike Heron to create the Ghetto Pros.
Robbie: How did you get started in music?
V.I.C: I started deejaying when I was fifteen years old. I was at the local bagel shop and one of the local kids who worked at the bagel shop showed me a mixer. I was in the tenth grade and I remember being home, sick at the time, and the guy came over after school – and after he was done at the bagel shop – and showed me how to DJ. From there, I found out you can actually go to school for engineering. I was like, ‘You can go to school to edit?’ So I did that a short time after. I went to an engineering school in the city, which I learned zero from, and I started interning at Power Play. That’s where I met Ivan ‘Doc’ Rodriguez, I met Norty Cotto, Patrick Adams – the guy that used to play on all those Eric B. & Rakim albums. At that time there were guys like Just-Ice recording there, you had KRS-One, you had EPMD. Hurby Luvbug used to record there too, Salt ‘N Pepa, Dana Dane, Kid ‘N Play.
Lord Finesse – The Unkut Interview
At long last, I got around to interviewing the great Lord Finesse officially. I’m also deep into completing the first proper book of Unkut interviews, so I’m saving the second half of this piece for print, along with a whole bunch of recent follow-up interviews that I’ve been doing. That being said, I didn’t want to hold back everything, so I had to drop a chunk this discussion with the Funkyman to keep your ears ringing until the print edition is released in early 2015. Lord Finesse needs no introduction, as he’s the man who built on the punchline foundations laid down by Big Daddy Kane and paved the way for the next generation of MC’s. We kicked it about his experiences with record labels, his love of the SP-1200, plans for the future and the and the infamously misunderstood Mac Miller lawsuit.
Robbie: Did you feel like you were prepared when you started making Funky Technician?
Lord Finesse: C’mon man, you can listen to that first album and it was dope, there was structure, but nobody was telling me, ‘You should do sixteen bars here, you should do sixteen bars there!’ I was rhyming forever on some of those records.
Nothing wrong with that!
[laughs] Most of that album was written while I was going to the studio or the day before. Some of it was freestyle stuff, but connecting it and doing it all together I had to write rhymes around some of the stuff and make ‘em songs. If you listen to the battle with me and Perc you’re hearing a nice amount of Funky Technician in that ‘89 battle.
So they were your stock battle rhymes?
When it’s time to make records you take ‘em and you re-craft them for the record.
Did any labels try to make you compromise your sound or image?
I didn’t even get that far. I went from Wild Pitch, which was a label with really no money and no promotion to take artists to the next level at the time, to being at a label with a lotta money. They got everything to take me to the next level, but they don’t understand who Finesse is as an artist! It’s like the popular gun that everybody’s talking about, you’ve gotta have the gun, not because you’re a shooter or you go to the gun range. You just want the gun because everybody else got the gun. Then when you get the gun, you don’t know nothing about the gun, you don’t know how to shoot it! You don’t know the mechanism’s of the gun so you kinda toss the gun to the side cos you don’t what you purchased! That’s how I feel when it comes to Giant. I’m there, but they don’t really know what they got! ‘This is the dude everybody was talking about! OK, we got him! Now what do we do with him?’
Buckshot – The Unkut Mini Interview
Once again I found myself subjected to indignities of a press day, where you have ten or fifteen minutes allotted to talk to a rapper who has already bored themselves to death speaking to the twenty other jerks before you and some herb always messes up the schedule and as a result that fifteen minutes turns into less than ten. Just for laughs, I decided to stay on the line and laugh at the other shitty questions from the amateur journalists who followed me, while witnessing Buckshot get progressively more confusing the more he drank and/or smoked to make the whole process slightly less tedious for himself. Nevertheless, I still managed to get a couple of interesting jewels from the former Black Moon front man.
Robbie: What inspired you start making music?
Buckshot: My uncle David was a dancer, he was an entertainer and he made dancing a big influence on my life when I was a youngster. He was a dancer for a group called Mtume, they made a record called ‘Juicy.’ I saw him on TV and I felt like he achieved the ultimate impossible and one day I was going to do that and I would achieve the same impossible. I kept going and kept going and I kept dancing. I stopped dancing in 1990 and I became an MC at that point. I always wanted to be an MC but never thought that that was my path. I always thought that dancing was gonna be the way for me. When my MC got locked-up I felt like I had no choice but to continue what we started. When he got locked-up he was like, ‘Yo, keep it going!’ I was like, ‘How am I gonna keep it going? You know what? I’mma just start emceeing myself.’ That’s how I became an MC.
Angie Stone aka Angie B [The Sequence] – The Unkut Interview
It’s taken me ten years to interview a female rapper on these pages, which either means this marks the onset of ‘progressive’ thinking in my old age or I’m a natural born rap misogynist. Either way, during the limited window of time I had to talk with Angie we kicked it about her days in The Sequence and she shared an eye-opening story about her involvement with The Roxy.
Angie Stone – The Unkut Interview
Video of The Sequence performing ‘Simon Says’ on the Job Man Caravan show:
Non-Rapper Dudes Series: Brian Coleman Interview
At one point liner notes were nearing extinction on rap albums, but thanks to the fine work of people like Brian Coleman and the crew at Get On Down, they’re currently experiencing a renaissance of sorts, giving aging, bitter rap fanatics such as myself the perfect excuse to bang on about the first Ultramagnetic album in day-to-day conversation. Most of you would have read Rakim Told Me/Check The Technique by now, so you know that copping the Mr. Coleman’s third tome is mandatory at this point. He took some time out last weekend to trade war stories from the trenches of the hip-hop interview battlefield and discuss the trials and tribulations that go along with such in-depth work.
Robbie: Was the ‘Classic Material’ column in XXL your first published work?
Brian Coleman: I started that column in 1999, that was Elliott Wilson’s idea. I had been writing for XXL before that. I started, I think, in the second issue. I wrote for them until 2004. That Ultramagnetic chapter in Rakim Told Me started as a piece I did for XXL and then I expanded it greatly over the years. In ‘98 Ultramagnetic was supposedly reforming so everyone was like, ‘Oh, we should talk to them about that!’ I had been writing a little bit before that, I’d been writing for URB, The Boston Phoenix, I wrote for this magazine called CMJ, it’s basically the trade publication for college radio. I was a hip-hop columnist there, it was cool because you could write about a lot of indy stuff.
Cole James Cash Discusses Making The BBW Album
Cole James Cash proves that being a homeless, recovering drug addict who wears a mask is no obstacle to making rap albums and hanging with XXXL XXX gals.
Robbie: Tell me about the BBW album?
Cole James Cash: I was trying to make the shit sound romantic, as ridiculous as it sounds. I was trying to bring a theme of romance, which is why you hear a lot of soft and very melodic type samples.
Were there many BBW porn stars that you wanted involved on the album that refused?
Not so much refused as ignored. [laughs] When we did the song named after Karla Lane, that’s when Kacey Parker was like, ‘I would like a song!’ That’s when she threw her support completely behind it. Everything from being on the cover to doing the intro. She went out of her way yo help me and she didn’t have to. I asked Sophia Rose and she straight ignored every email I sent.
Non-Rapper Dudes Series – Akili Walker Interview
The always under-appreciated role of the engineer, both in the studio and on tour, is always a fascinating one. Akili Walker, who has worked with everyone from hip-hop production legend Larry Smith to James Brown, Eddie Kendricks, Kurtis Blow, Prince, George Clinton and LL Cool J, took some time out after the release of his new book, Turn The Horns On, to recall some of his best memories behind the boards.
Robbie: Where about did you grow up?
Akili Walker: I grew up in Freeport, Long Island, right next to Chuck D and Flavor Flav. We were like a mile from each other, they grew up in Roosevelt, but they’re a little younger than I was.
Are you a recording engineer by trade?
I’m an audio engineer, I switch between the studio and on the road. I was a musician at an early age – I was a drummer when I was thirteen. I won the ‘Battle of the Bands’ with my band and we was in the Musicians Union of New York at the age of thirteen. My father was an audiophile, he loved music and he had a large jazz collection and an expensive stereo. My drumming career ended when I was sixteen. I stopped drumming to join the hippy generation and do drugs.