Archive for the ‘Interview’ Category

Although this has been a year filled with some mysterious characters, those that shy away from the limelight, those with alter-egos, and those who avoid social media, Lil’ Ugly Mane has to be one of the rap games most mysterious artists these days.  No twitter account, goes on prolonged facebook hiatuses, fluctuates the prices of his bandcamp albums, dropping cassette tape only physical releases and extremely limited edition t-shirts.  Add to that his various sonic influences, vocal modulators, split producer and rapper personas, lack of concerts, and limited reliable information online and there’s a legitimate veil around Lil Ugly Mane that adds to the mystique of his art.

I caught up with Lil Ugly Mane to talk about what he’s been up to and when we can expect the follow up to this year’s excellent Mista Thug Isolation. I also asked him to explain why he unplugged from the net in May, his production techniques and his writing process.  Along the way we discussed why he feels rap is as standardized as ever, the saturation of the sound he, SpaceGhostPurrp, and others brought to the forefront, and why his next album could sound very different from Mista Thug Isolation and Playaz Circle

JB: After dropping Mista Thug Isolation, and aside from a couple appearances on the SupaSonic project you produced for Supa Sortahuman this year, you really have laid pretty low this year other than picking up a few production credits.  What have you been working on? 

Lil Ugly Mane:

I’m constantly producing – it’s literally all I do most of the time – but i scrap a lot of shit or just forget that it exists. I do a lot of waiting around for the right beat to happen.  I don’t wanna just rap on bullshit that’s good, I need production to fluidly make sense in regards to mixtapes and what not, quality of quantity I guess, don’t wanna drop 20 mixtapes.  I respect people that can pull that shit off, but its not me, everything I make I want to resonate on certain tones precisely and I cant do that unless everything is how it already exists in my head.  Right now I’m like neck deep in beats and lyrics that I’m trying to make sense of.
JB: I hear you.  Jumping into that process for a second… as a rapper how do you approach song writing?  Are you writing lyrics all the time and fitting it to the appropriate beat when you find it?  Or do you write to your beats? Or I should say, do you write only to the beat that you’re going to record a song over?

Lil Ugly Mane:

Honestly, the whole process for writing is along the same lines as beat making for me. A lot of time shit just happens when it happens.  I don’t like to force myself to do anything, I think the end product suffers when you put deadlines and expectations on shit.  But I mean usually when I’m writing, I write to old Lord Finesse instrumentals and or like Premo instrumentals and shit – I wrote cup fulla beetlejuice over the Smif N Wessun “Bucktown” instrumental – I dont know why really, I just think it takes me back to like middle school when you are just making rhymes cuz its fun or you’re bored, there isnt any bullshit attached to it.

(more…)


Tree “50’s”

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m just catching up on Tree, I just got around to reviewing Sunday School last week and have just begun to do my due diligence on his back catalog of mixtapes and EPs.  However, there is something undeniable about his music, his sound, Soul Trap, and the raw energy and emotion he brings to his music.  There’s no doubt that Tree is an emcee and producer on the rise and he’s got a lot of irons in the fire right now, so I was fortunate enough to catch up with him late last week to talk about the Chicago scene, the upcoming Tree featuring the City album, his forthcoming album Soul Trap, the real story behind his musical influences and inspirations, and why he’s not ready to sign on the dotted line on a major label… yet.

JB: For those that are just catching on, take a moment to let people know about yourself and Gutter City Entertainment

TREE:

I’m Tree, @MCTREEG on twitter, I’m a producer, I’m a writer, I’m an affiliate of Project Mayhem, Mayhem Music, and Gutter City Entertainment most of all, which is my production company, my publishing company, and I created Soul Trap, which is soul and trap music infused.  At this moment, I got the number three mixtape in the country via MTVHive, I’m one of Complex’s top ten producers to watch for, Spin magazine’s top five new artists of August 2012, and top ten songs in Chicago as of 2012 via Fakeshoredrive.com. I’m an instrumental piece to Chicago’s success, and you know, you can go on and on.  Most importantly I’m Tree – I make good music that people listen to, over and over again, not just for this summer, but classic material, I think, they think, we’re all starting to think so.

JB: You produce for a lot of other artists, but you also do projects where you just rhyme and someone else does the beats for you.  Do you see yourself as a producer first and an emcee second or do you even think in those terms?

TREE:

I don’t think in those terms, I just do music and try to stay current as much as possible, that’s the reason for the new releases that I have.  I do projects with producers, because I’m still in love with music, it’s a hobby, it’s a love, it’s something that I do.  When I first started doing this, I wasn’t getting paid for it, so it wasn’t for any substantial reason other than to hear great music, make great music, and play it for people, let people hear it, check it out and see what they think.  So I don’t see it in terms of producer or rapper, I’m both, and the fact that I can step away from producing and make a classic EP, which I think I did with The Lit with someone else and their beats and their style is because I still like music and if it sounds good I want to be involved.  Most importantly, as a writer, as a lover of music, I want to be involved with anything that sounds good.  So me stepping out and working with Tony Baines and just rapping over his beats is me as a rapper at my best.  Sunday School, that’s me and my production, and there’s a few other credits, if you ever heard any other Tree product, I try to keep it up to a certain standard of quality.

(more…)

The second installment of the Preparing for Capture EP series hits the web tomorrow

In the middle of the last decade, the thought of Illogic and Blockhead releasing free EP’s of original music to the public in hopes of landing a record deal of some kind would have been absurd.  Illogic was one of the independent rap game’s most prized lyricists, an artist who gained a lot of attention through the internet with the release of his masterpiece of teenage introspection and angst, Unforeseen Shadows, and continued to gain support with follow up projects like Got Lyrics? and Celestial Clockwork – all of which were released by the small Columbus, Ohio imprint Weightless Recordings – a label he helped build with his partner and collaboration Blueprint.  Blockhead earned his stripes as Aesop Rock’s go-to in-house producer, probably best known for producing a bulk of Aesop Rock’s classic Labor Days and his biggest single – at least at the time – “Daylight.”  But as we all know the record industry is not at all, what it once was and there are only a handful of legitimate record labels left putting out rap music at all anymore.

I caught up with Blockhead and Illogic to discuss Preparing for Capture 2, which is available for name your own price download on bandcamp on September 11th, as well on CD with some extra goodies.  We also talked about their forthcoming LP Capture the Sun, surprise guest appearances, and meeting each other in the Scribble Jam/Rocksteady era back around the turn of the millennium.  As we dug into their own creative processes Illogic revealed that he writes most of his rhymes at work at a call center, and Blockhead still produces on an ASR-10 without monitors, does not believe he invented Enya Rap beats, and once sampled John Tesh (sorry Tony I could only bury the lead so far down the page).  Finally we discussed what a good year it’s been for rap music and how the curse of the lack of record labels may be something of a blessing to the creative process for so many artists.

(more…)

Eddy Baker and Sky Lexington Chilling with Chris Travis & Ethelwulf at the Video Shoot for “West $ide Dirty $outh Klash 1991”

Each Raider Klan member certainly brings his or her own flavor to the gumbo of music created by the Raider Klan collective as a whole, but there are definitely regional twists in the flavors of the music concocted by California BRK member Eddy Baker, and his primary collaborator and producer Sky Lexington (an emcee/producer in his own right, who distinct vibes for his solo music separate from the work he does with Baker) who relocated to Cali recently.  Amber London hails from Texas, so well outside of the California border, but Texas has always been strongly cross-influenced by California, and much of Amber’s music, which has at times an authentic g-funk vibe to it, recalls artists from the 90’s artists of the West Coast, Southwest, and of course Texas.  There are a few other members of Raider Klan who have cropped up out West of the Mississippi, from Seattle’s Key Nyata to The Pack’s Stunnaman, but Eddy, Sky, and Amber have been mainstays for some time and have earned the reputation as three of the most respected and talented artists in Raider Klan.

I caught up with Eddy Baker and Sky Lex to talk about the recent release of their mixtapes Edibles and NC-17, what it was like having the Klan come out to Cali, the new rift with ScHoolboy Q, the Black Panthers, the growth of the Raider Klan movement, break down some Raider Klan terminology, unusual influences from the likes of Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin.  I separately interview Amber to talk about her influences, female rappers, how she uses youtube as a source of inspiration in her music and videos, and what it means to be the Original Goddess of Raider Klan.

[Editor’s note: Amber London was interviewed sometime in July, whereas Eddy Baker and Sky Lex were just interviewed on August 27th, so some of the variation in their responses reflect how quickly some things have changed or developed over the course of the last month, for instance on the Raider Klan album/mixtape]

To read more on the Raider Klan check out this article on them as well as Part 1: Memphis (Ethelwulf, Chris Travis, & Yung Raw) and Part 2: NYC (Grandmilly, Matt Stoops, Big Zeem)

“West $ide Dirty $outh Klash 1991” Eddy Baker featuring Ethelwulf (prod. by Sky Lex)

JB: What projects do you have coming up?

Amber London:

Right now I’m currently just working on a mixtape, it’s called Nature of the Phonk, everything is just kind of up in the air right now.  I’m just kind of going with the flow, but that’s pretty much what’s next to come out.  In terms of beats I pretty much work with any and everybody who sends me a beat if I like it, then I’ll put it on the tape.  I’m hoping to work with Purrp and Konflict OD and just a lot of random people.  DJ Two Stacks actually sent me a beat.

Sky Lexington:

I just released my solo project and it’s out right now and basically it was just a mash off all the stuff I did throughout the year, and something like four new tracks, and it’s all produced by me and there’s a couple tracks on there produced by Metro Zu too.  And that’s NC-17.

Eddy:

 Edibles is like my first mixtape, I guess it ain’t my first mixtape since I’ve been a part of the Klan, because I dropped a mixtape in like 2010 called The Bakery, it’s like my first mixtape in a minute really, it’s my second mixtape I guess, but I consider it my first. You feel me?

(more…)

SpaceGhostPurrp Performs Live at SOB’s with a couple dozen of his NYC homies

Although Raider Klan is often viewed as a kind of 90’s revivalist movement for southern artists, New York is an unofficial second outpost for the Raider Klan.  After all it was in New York, not Florida or Memphis, where SpaceGhostPurrp’s work with A$AP Rocky helped both of them gain national attention and grow both of their vibes.  It was also in New York where Matt Stoops was recently jumped by A$AP Twelvy – an incident that’s been talked about quite a bit on twitter on the internet, but really only a symbolic boiling point in tensions that have been mounting between the two camps for some time due to creative differences, petty slights, and some other incidents that have continued to push the two camps at odds with one another after their previously amicable relationship.  

Despite the fact that Grandmilly may technically be the only New York member who’s made a contribution to the Raider Klan catalog to date (at least in the form of a full album/mixtape that’s received some decent recognition online), few know that Matt Stoops is one of Purrp’s most trusted allies, a friend so close they refer to each other as cousins, and Stoops holds a kind of consigliere status next to Purrp in the Klan’s hierarchy.  Big Zeem plays a similar role in working with Grandmilly and is one of the Klan members who’s interested in turning Raider Klan fashion sense into a clothing line.  I caught up with Milly and Zeem a little over a month ago to talk about their debut, Bandanas & Black Magic and to get a sense of how they fit into the increasingly growing Raider Klan puzzle.  I also caught up with Matt Stoops to get his viewpoint on a few topics as one of few Raider Klan members who actually has a good read on where SpaceGhostPurrp’s head is at, at any given moment.  These are the voices of the New York chapter of the Raider Klan.

Link to Part 1: Memphis (Ethelwulf, Chris Travis, & Yung Raw) and Part 3: Southwest (Amber London, Chris Travis, Yung Raw)

JB: Matt, describe to people your role in Raider Klan.  You’re not a rapper so what’s your role with the Klan.

Matt Stoops:

Nah, I’m not a rapper so it’s like family.  SpaceGhost is like my cousin and I’ve known him probably the longest out of anybody in the Klan and we’re really close and we call each other cousins and shit.  We’re trying to start-up a skate team, but it hasn’t started off yet, we’re trying to get shit together right now and I skate and shit like that.  But other than that, when Purrp is gone and he has like business I try to go take care of that for him if he’s not in town.

JB: How did you meet SpaceGhost?

Matt Stoops:

I’ve known SpaceGhost for about five or six years.  I met him when I went down to Atlanta and shit, just on twitter pretty much and this was back when nobody knew who he was and my friend from Mississippi, who lived down in Atlanta at the time put me onto his music and we started talking on twitter and shit, and this was like before he moved in with Rocky and all that shit.  And we just became really cool and when he moved up to New York he stayed with me for a couple of days before he moved in with Rocky.  And we were always together in New York while he was living with Rocky.

(more…)


“Momma In My Ear,” Mikkey Halsted featuring Pusha T (prod by Young Chop)

Mikkey Halsted has been one of your favorite rapper’s favorite rappers for years now.  Not to mention a favorite of the entire blogosphere, particularly those that follow the Chicago rap scene.  That said, he’s faced over a decade of label woes and near misses.  He’s been in the same room with the greats and earned respect and shout-outs from raps biggest superstars.   He’s been so close the breaking through for so long, that it would be easy to have doubt about his career prospects at this point.  That said, something about his new street album Castro feels markedly different from his past endeavors.  It could be the all-star production lineup of No ID, The Legendary Traxster, Don Cannon, and Young Chop.  It could be that he sounds as hungry and ready for commercial success as he ever has.  Regardless of where responsibility lies, it’s clear that there’s an energy to his latest work that is undeniable, and he seems poised once again to make a run at the majors.  I caught up with Mikkey to talk about Castro, No ID and his new team, the old days, Pusha T, Killer Mike, and to find out why after so many years of unfruitful record deals he feels his time is finally about to come.

JB: First of all, why Castro?

Mikkey Halsted:

Really, like I say in the intro, it’s really just a tale of survival.  Like I go through so much just trying to navigate this minefield of an industry, but I feel like I continue to survive.  One thing about Castro, regardless of what side of his politics you might be on, everyone has to acknowledge is that he’s the ultimate survivor.  Basically, being about 90 miles away from the strongest government on the planet and surviving as long as he has, it’s definitely something where that part of him inspired me.  It was so crazy, they have this documentary out called 638 Ways to Kill Castro and it just blew my mind, and I’m like, “that’s the name of this tape,” and that’s when I went in and recorded that intro.  Once I did that intro, the tape kind of fell in place.

(more…)


“Black Magic” Ethelwulf & Yung Raw

Since “Nostalgia Rap Surrealism – Decoding the RVIDXR KLVN” was published here on hardwoodblacktop.com I’ve been working to put together an interview with all of the Raider Klan members.  Initially, I planned to interview every member individually, combine their answers, and create one collective interview for the entire Raider Klan.  While this is still the intention of the project, having finished about eleven of the interviews, with plenty still to go, I realized that there’s way too much material to publish in one interview without severely editing the material down.  It also became clear to me, that with the fast moving pace of music today, and the Klan’s development, that by the time I got around to interview each member, the earliest interviews would be extremely dated.  The Memphis interviews were three of the first ones I did on the project so I thought it made sense to share them now.  And then share each of the group’s regionally, as I found throughout the process that like their music, the attitudes of the Raider Klan members is often strongly influenced by their locality, despite the group’s geographic diversity and diversity of musical influence.  It is important to note chronologically that the interview with Chris Travis was done over two months ago, Yung Raw was interviewed in the middle of June, and Ethelwulf was interviewed in mid-July.  If you haven’t yet, be sure to check out Chris Travis’s Codeine and Pizza, Yung Raw’s The Trill OG, and Ethelwulf’s The Wolf Gang’s Rodolphe as they undoubtedly represent three of the finest Raider Klan projects to date.

Link here to Part 2: NYC (Grandmilly, Matt Stoops, & Big Zeem) and Part 3: Southwest (Amber London, Eddy Baker, Sky Lex)

JB: What projects to you have coming up?

Ethelwulf:

Well actually, right now, I don’t really have anything coming up really.  Well, actually I might do this mixtape with this producer named DJ Manny Virgo.  I’ve been working with him so that’ll probably be the next thing popping up if I get to it real fast.  I don’t know what it’s going to be called yet.  I’m just waiting on him to send me the rest of the beats, it’s going to be a five track EP.  Once he sends me the rest of the beats I’ll be working on them and we can crank something out.

Chris Travis:

My next project is gonna be, I don’t know what I’m going to call it yet [editor’s note: it ended up being this past week’s Codeine and Pizza mixtape], but the theme is going to be underground horror.  I’m trying to find a producer.  I’d like one producer to producer the whole mixtape if possible.

Yung Raw:

My next project will probably drop in 2013.  I don’t know the exact time.  Most likely around Spring Break if not before Spring Break, because I want to make sure everything is down packed again, everything is perfect.  Because if your work is not perfect, if you got one bad song, and everybody can have one bad song, people can say you’re not a good rapper.  You want to make sure everything is at a good point, or your buzz can fall all the way down.  So I’m not going to rush it.  Also, you don’t want to give out too much free music, because you’ll be over and done with before it’s time to release your real album and people won’t have time to crave it and build that buzz.

(more…)