You just got back from touring overseas. Do you get a better response overseas than in the U.S?
We get a crazy response in the overseas more because it’s not everywhere. Over here in New York and America, it’s everywhere. Everywhere you turn, everywhere you look, hip-hop is all over the place so it’s not really no big thing. You could see LL Cool J walking down the street and it’s not a big deal. But over there, they go crazy. Over there they really appreciate it more ‘cause it’s kind of still fresh over there. It ain’t get watered down over there yet so they’re still under that hardcore shit over there and the response is crazy. They never forget and they really support who they like.
From the show footage that went online, it looks like you have a lot of Screwball fans over there.
Oh no doubt. They come up to me all the time with the Y2K album and want me to sign it. They’re really, really into their hip-hop and they love it over there. I’m here to bring it to them all across the world.
Are you getting the response you wanted from fans for your new music?
Every time I hit the stage, I don’t know what the crowd is gonna do. I don’t care. I just want them to pay attention to what I’m doing and listen to the music and check me out. I don’t care if they just stand there and look and don’t say nothing as long as they’re inhaling all of this fury. That’s all. It don’t matter. 5,000 motherfuckers or five people, it don’t matter. I’m going hard no matter what.
The fury has always been a staple for who you are as an artist. How do you think that’s made you a great MC?
That’s what kept me alive in this game, the fury of it. I can’t let these bitch-ass niggas win. I gotta win, yo, and before it’s all said and done, I’m gonna win. Word. It’s all about that hardcore. That fury is not gonna go nowhere. That fury kept me alive all these years and I’m trying to stay current with what’s going on without falling into that pit, man, that fucking pit that they call “pop.” “Pop” is short for “popular” and I do want to be more popular so people can get that fury but I ain’t gonna change that sound up.
Has changing your sound up ever been an issue for you?
Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. Back in the day Marley Marl was telling me I was nice but I had to stop cursing so much. I was listening to him like, ‘Word, word.’ Next thing you know, who comes out? Fucking N.W.A. and they’re cursing up a storm and they’re wilding and I talked to Marley again a couple of months later and he told me, “Hey Poet, keep doing what you’re doing, man.” I was like, ‘All right.’ I already knew I was on the right path. I don’t curse just to curse. I curse because it’s necessary to the part that I’m saying. I ain’t trying to water shit down and I ain’t trying to cover up nothing. If a curse deserves to be in that spot, that’s where it’s gonna be at. It ain’t gonna be all “fuck fuck fuck, shit shit shit, bitch bitch bitch.”
How did you approach your new album The BlaqPrint?
You know, you ease into it. You can’t hit them too hard because they’ve been partying for years and have been having fun partying. The next thing you know you wake up sober and I’m standing here like, ‘Whaddup?’ Fuck that partying shit!
Your lead single is “Ain’t Nothin’ Changed.” What was your writing process like for that cut?
You know, Primo makes that fire and I was asking if he would give me something to smooth it over and I was like, ‘Find a beat that you can sample and everything.’ So he went through his stacks of shit and found that Akon sample and I was like, ‘All right, that sounds hot.’ So he chopped that shit up over the bear and he just started chopping that shit up and he put it together crazily. And I just started thinking about how when I go through the ‘hood in Queensbridge how shit be with my dudes. I just got the vibe of being out there with my dudes and everything just came together.
The video has a really organic vibe to it. How important was it to have a grassroots vibe to the video shoot?
Me and Primo stressed that. We just wanted a regular video, like how Rakim and Eric B. did “Paid in Full.” They were just on the block with it and they were with the people and we were just going to take it back to being with the people because everybody doesn’t have $200,000 chains on around their neck. We were just going to bring it to the people and be with the people.
Why is that vibe so rare to find these days?
I think it’s the labels, man. They go with what they think is popping. The labels, they don’t understand that the streets really decide what’s hot and what’s not no matter what. Everything comes from the street. All the slang and all that comes from jail and the streets. They’re just following what they think is hot and that waters down the product that they accept. I’m not trying to diss him or nothing, but Soulja Boy is out there doing his thing and he sold a million ringtones and they’re trying to go with that, the next Soulja Boy or Lil’ Wayne. They’re not trying to experiment with people like they did back in the day. They’re just trying to hit the lotto and they’re trying to water it down with the music. Once the labels open up, they’re going to fuck with everybody and they’ll see what everybody brings to the table because more hardcore shit will be coming out and that will be promoted down your throats but until then, independent dudes like us will be going in and bringing the value to you this way.
You and Premier have worked together for a long time. Why do you think you two work so well together?
Well, you know, that’s my son. He’s my son and I’m his son. He do what he do and he do it the best. And I do what I do. People who buy that shit will get nothing but fire. You’re gonna get nothing but fire. There’s no choice but to have fire. It’s all about how the people want it. We’re for the people, man, straight up.
What’s it like working with Premier on music?
Oh, it’s crazy watching Preem. That dude, he’s just amazing with the sound bank. You don’t know what’s going through his mind. You might pick a record up and you’ll think he’s doing it this way and he’ll go to the left with it. If you think he’s going to go right, he’s going to go left and he uses his records like they’re instruments, man. His records are like instruments. Primo don’t play no keyboards or nothing like that but he listens to all kinds of music and he can do all types of shit and there’s music that you wouldn’t even know he knows about and he’s a record master. He’ll go through one record and find something and go through another record and find something else. He’ll go through five different records to make a beat and he’s crazy with it.
What’s your favorite track that you’ve recorded with Premier?
Oh, man. “F.A.Y. B.A.N.”’s hard. I like the really hardcore shit. We got a song called “I Get It In” that’s got a real slow, sinister beat and it’s just crazy. I love that. I love “Let the Gunz Blow.” That’s another crazy joint on the album. There’s a lot of shit that we did that I like. There’s mad shit. (laughs) Everything’s my favorite, man. Every new one we make is my favorite. There’s a record to my cousin K.L., who died last year from asthma, it’s called “Never Goodbye.” That’s the last song on the album, the last song that was mixed and handed in. That one really gets me and I think that’s the favorite-favorite one. If I’m gonna pick one, I gotta pick that one.
How did K.L.’s untimely passing affect you?
Oh, man, I’m still going through it. It’s been a year. March just passed. It’s been a year. That was my dude. That was my cousin. That was my brother and my best friend. That was my everything. When I lost him I lost a piece of me but I know I got extra strength upstairs now and that’s a reason to go ahead and take care of this here rap game and get this shit done.
K.L. left an unfinished body of work behind. Do you and the rest of Screwball have to carry the torch for him?
Oh, no doubt! Just like my man Screwball. We created the Screwball group in honor of my slain friend Louis Chandler. I made sure that the world knows who he was and his name and it’s going to be the same thing with K.L. We ain’t gonna never let people forget about K.L. Word.
How does the chemistry of Screwball change without K.L?
Oh, man, it changes everything. It’s a whole new ballgame. We gotta sit down and really attack this the right way. It’s just like Wu-Tang because I basically structured the whole Screwball thing right behind Wu-Tang. There was all of the rapping and all of that. If you lose one then you kind of lose the whole feel of everything. It’s going to be hard. You don’t replace K.L. We’re just going to add on to everything and try to make it better.
What did K.L.’s rough, grimy flow add to Screwball?
We’re going to miss that right there, K.L.’s raspiness. And his wordplay was crazy. We just have to sit down and decide how we’re going to do this, man. We’re still in the process of doing that.
Will we get another Screwball album sometime in the near future?
Oh yeah. No doubt. We’re working on that right now and we’re about 60% complete with that. It’s just a matter of going over everything with a fine-toothed comb and making sure everything is right. We don’t want to disappoint our fans and we don’t want to disappoint anybody that’s a K.L. fan. So we just gotta step on eggshells around this but it’s on the way. It’s coming.
There’s no running and there’s no rushing. You can’t rush a good feel. You gotta let it cook with love. Let it cook and then serve it up hot. The Screwball platter will be ready in a minute. You just gotta hold on, eat a appetizer.
Is a new Screwball album overdue at this point?
I mean, everything has a time, man, and there’s a place for everything, man. I feel we should always be working hard and coming out with more and more projects behind each other. We’ll catch up. But to answer your question, yeah. The Screwball album is way overdue.
Getting back to the album, how important was it to have the classic QB sound on “Don’t Give a Fuck”?
It’s not just QB. It’s that classic hip-hop hardcore sound. When I heard the song I knew it was time to attack for all the O.G.s, like the Kool G. Raps and the Kanes and the Rakims and the Kool Moe Dee’s. It’s time and I’m all of them wrapped up into one.
In the song you talk about how rap critics need to give it up for you. Have you been slighted by the critics?
You know, out of sight, out of mind. You’re out of sight, you’re out of mind. You hit ‘em with something and they will respond. I’m not mad at them for me being out of sight. I just been out of sight for a minute so of course you’re going to fall out of people’s minds. People forget about you until you come out and everybody remembers, like, ‘Oh shit, such-and-such is home.’ So that’s what it is for me. It’s like I’m coming out of jail and hip-hop, here I come.
Primo described The Blaqout as being the weakest songs you guys recorded. Is that accurate?
Half of the songs people have already heard so we did another quick five joints that nobody’s heard before. You’ll be getting a full taste of this.
What are you holding onto right now?
Primo said it’s the weakest stuff but everything is powerful and everything is strong. We’re holding onto some songs that people haven’t heard yet. That’s the knock ‘em in the head, beat ‘em in the head-type shit that you just can’t deny. It’s just that hardcore shit that you’re not going to forget. You throw that shit in your CD player and you’re just never going to take it out.
And just because we got so many good responses from joints that are older, we can’t just let them die. We got joints like “Voices” and there’s no place for nobody to get that from. This is why we leaked this. Shit was leaked for a reason, to build up the anticipation so now motherfuckers got what they like with a whole bunch of other shit that they like. Once Primo played one joint on his show, it’s automatic that they’re going to throw it up on YouTube or somewhere because they want that hip-hop. It’s all gravy but now we got everything coming out that people have heard before and they liked and some new shit that they haven’t heard before. It’s just going to be crazy, man. You’re going to get everything on one platter.
Did you put The BlaqOut together or was that an unofficial release that found its way into the stores?
That was a mixtape. That was something that I put together just for the streets. Matter of fact, motherfuckers did jack it and put it up on the web and all that shit for free downloads. It’s all gravy. All the people know what it is. That’s all I want – for people to understand what we’re doing and this hardcore street shit. I don’t care if they gotta free download it. I don’t care if they gotta steal it. Just get it. Listen.
And sooner or later, there’s going to be a time when you just give music away, period. Free albums. The only way a motherfucker can eat is through touring and merchandising. It’s going to get really deep in a minute unless they come up with some laws but I don’t got no problem with it because your real, true people are going to buy it and they want to support. You got the people who are going to download it or steal it out their man’s car and that’s cool too, as long as they’re listening and getting the message, man. I don’t give a fuck, yo. It’s like when Biggie came out with his first album. What’d he do? He went home and made mad copies and gave it away to people in the ‘hood. Puffy was fucking furious but the ‘hood had it and they were promoting it and dudes were going to school with it and going home and making copies for other dudes and Biggie put Brooklyn on his back, just like that, man, and the whole New York too.
And let me clear something up to for all your readers. Everybody who’s trying to be the King of New York, you gotta leave that shit alone. That title belongs to Frank White. Biggie took that long ago. I would love to call myself the King of New York but I can’t do it. The throne, it died with Biggie. Don’t forget that, kids. The crown, it died with Biggie. Everybody else is talking about how they’re the king. That shit is nonsense, man.
Why do you think it’s like that?
Because everybody wants to be that No. 1 dude in everybody’s eyes. If you really want to be the king of New York right now and there can be any king, it would be 50 Cent. He’s from Southside and he’s been doing it worldwide. You can’t look over Fif like that.
Do you think 50 gets an unfair amount of flack for what he does?
I mean, you know, 50’s a smart dude. It’s hard to decipher it. He goes to war on the mixtapes but when you hear his albums, he don’t mention none of that shit. He’ll go to war on the mixtapes and on his albums he’ll be talking to the girls and he’ll be having a good time. He might have a couple of gangsta joints but he’s not mentioning anybody’s names. On his mixtapes he’ll shit on you but on his albums he won’t go near you. 50 knows what he’s doing. He know. When you disrespect motherfuckers, they’re going to catch feelings and try to get at you and all of that. That’s how it is in Queens. Niggas ain’t scared of that shit, man. Bring it. I know how 50’s thinking, man.
Who can carry the torch for QB in the future?
You got Queens and then you got Queensbridge. We’ve always been kind of separated from the rest of Queens. There’s a thousand of them out there. I got my little nigga SSR and J-Hood. We call him Hoody. He’s coming out. We got Arab Money. He’s the first Arab coming out rapping from the bridge. We call him Yassar. He’s locked up but he’ll be home. A.C.B., they’re still out there. There’s a lot of dudes from the Bridge that can carry the torch, but as far as Queens in general, I don’t know, man. They’re probably somewhere out in Cali right now. (laughs) Word. There’s a lot of dudes that I gotta see and listen to before I can even make that judgment. But for right now, I’m terrorizing shit.
You and KRS-One have had a bumpy relationship. What’s it like working with him?
Oh, we’re good money now. There was disrespect and if we saw each other his crew B.D.P. and my crew, we might fight and get it on. But now we met and we chilled and he’s a cool dude and he sees that I’m a cool dude and it was me, Kris, Joey Crack and all of us backstage right before a show and we were just chilling, all of us. So all the beef shit with us is dead. There’s new niggas to get at.
And working with Kris in the studio is crazy. I did my verses and Primo pieced it together. We wasn’t in the studio together but it sounds like that. I’m gonna keep it a hundred but I don’t got no problem with Kris or being in the studio with him or him rocking on my album or me rocking on his album. What we did back in the day was real hip-hop. We didn’t really battle face-to-face but we got shit out. Go back to making your songs because you’re going to waste the whole rest of your career talking about this nigga? Nah. Get it over with. Let the fans decide who won the battle. It’s not like you’re going to stop selling records. There’s too much pride and people are getting punked. Get up there and battle. Are you going to take out your guns and start shooting? No. Get it on.
Are a lot of rappers scared to battle today?
First of all, a lot of these dudes ain’t that nice. They don’t want to get embarrassed. That’s the thing right there. Nobody wants to get embarrassed. But if you’re nice and you’re popping all of that shit, you must be ready to fight or something. I don’t want to hear records talking about all of that when I originally liked you in the first place. I might have liked the songs you made but now that you have beef with this guy every song is a battle? Do your songs, man. Do what you do. You might say something but don’t keep going on and on and on. That shit is corny. Word.
Can fans still find your first album Without Warning these days?
On Tuff City Records? If they go hard. I’m pretty sure Aaron Fuchs has it for you to cop for $1000 but he got it. He’s definitely got it.
You were one of the first rappers to work with Cormega. What did you see in ‘Mega back in the day?
‘Mega was hot! ‘Mega was fire! It was only right. I think he did one joint before we worked together but I don’t think people really heard that. Everybody wants to say they first heard him on my album. Yeah, man, ‘Mega, that’s my little brother. He’s been supporting since day one.
What should we be expecting from you in the next few months?
There’s going to be more touring. I’m trying to get together a little surprise EP for the fans too. And the motherfucking BlaqPrint will be out there, man. We might do a whole promo tour around the U.S. so we can solidify the U.S. We gotta let niggas at home know what it is too. We can’t just do it for all of Europe. We have to preach it here too. We can’t expect the dudes around here to forget about it. There’s going to be a whole lot of heat and terror coming out of here, dude. I’m going to have to get in their face and I’m pretty sure they know what it is. Other than that, we taking over.