Jbutters: Well here we are finally hooking up this interview again after a month or so, but that was my bad.
Bigg Jus: Nah it was a little bit on my end. I’m trying to finish the album up. That shit has really been critical. I just went into a deep hole in the lab. I’m coming out now with a crazy long beard looking mad wild and rugged trying to get everything done. I knocked everything out myself so I’m engineering, troubleshooting, and mixing. I’m literally doing it all and it wasn’t supposed to be that way but that’s kinda how it happened.
Is that more of lack of trust of other cats putting out the exact sound you wanted?
Bigg Jus: Nah I wanted to pretty much produce everything and I have my own lab and it just turned into if I’m producing it I’m already engineering it and before you know it I was doing all aspects of it. Its cool and to add that on top of how busy I was this year, it’s the hardest I’ve ever worked in my whole life. I’m kinda glad its over and I can look back and say damn I did mad shit and motherfuckers didn’t really know.
I’m guessing your not going to plan on doing that again?
Bigg Jus: I’m a lil overachiever anyway so I’m constantly going to work hard but I’m trying to work a little bit smarter and still get shit done. This year is going to be a crazy year.
Give me the rundown on how Sub Verse Music grew from the ashes of 3-2-1 Records.
Bigg Jus: Basically it stemmed from 3-2-1 which was kind of a rock label called Zero Hour. They got a little bit of funding and there was a girl there named Fiona doing A&R for the rock side. A while back I had approached them to do an Indelibles album which was going to be the very first thing they did to start off their hiphop label. For some reason it fell through. I got up with them a year later and they had got some funding and I happened to visit them at the right time so I got my project off for a nice hefty price. We had a history from the year before (with Company Flow, Indelibles, etc.) so it kind of worked out both ways. Later on that year they lost their funding because this rich kid’s father was funding the label and he decided to pull the money away right at tax time. Nobody even knew, one day you call up there and everything is ok and the next day motherfuckers is like the label is dead if we owe you money I don’t know what to say because we are getting ready to go into bankruptcy. I had signed like 4 or 5 groups up there and I felt I left them hanging in a sense. Me and Fiona tried to see what we could do about funding because we had the label, the groups, and everything situated. 3-2-1 just went below and breached all their contracts. We found this cat who wanted to get into the independent scene and do it from the ground up. His name is Peter Lupoff and we started that July before last. We put out the Blackalicious EP, the Blackalicious album, the Scienz of Life album, we re-released Rubberoom and we put out the Micranots album. We getting ready to release the MF Doom album and the Lune TNS album. All last year we did mad shit and a lot of people really ain’t up on it. On the other hand a lot of people are because we also did a lot of Sub Verse shows and we kinda heated up New York for a minute doing shows every month. It built up and we never really lost any momentum.
What ever happened to the Indelibles project?
Bigg Jus: That kind of lost momentum. Everyone is doing they own thing. Breeze is doing things with his brother and sister they got a studio, J-Treds is up in the industry hard he is like an industry executive. He is making moves. Everyone is healthy and active doing things we just waiting for the stars to align again so its about to come around because 2001 is definitely gonna be a year when shit is coming out. My project is coming out as well as EL-P, and Len so once that’s out of the way…
We gonna see a reunion??
Bigg Jus: Yea then we can assess and see what’s happening and see where people is at. Right now everybody is really concentrating on their own stuff. Basically I got a song left and my shit is done. The album is retarded I can’t wait to release it.
When are you putting it out? The day after you get out of the studio?
Bigg Jus: Yea as soon as its mastered this shit is getting taken to get pressed up. Ghetto release style. I left it wide open for cats to analyze and criticize. Feel free to be the most critical motherfucker you possibly can and you literally can’t front on it because it reeks of innovation and pure b-boyism.
Was it your plan to come with one style throughout the album as far as production if not how did you avoid coming with the same flavor since you did all the production?
Bigg Jus: I would imagine if I released several albums with me doing all production then maybe you could formulate some kind of style that I’m doing. Being that technically this is the first one its going to be hard because its totally different from what other cat’s is doing. I definitely approached it from all different angles. I have an approach that was used with Company Flow where you have to have a certain amount of things to make a classic album. I have guidelines that I follow and if I achieve everything on the guidelines than I know basically where I’m at. Niggas is definitely gonna be surprised.
The name of the album is the “Black Mambas Serum” what’s the meaning behind that?
Plain and simple we got the cure for the most venomous snakes on the earth plus a cure for all the style biters. A lot of it is dedicated to hiphop and its pioneers giving respect to the forefathers of the style. Other than that I’m just getting in the style biters asses heavy. If you biting styles this one is going out to you wherever you are and you’ll know cuz you will be sitting there shrieking going “Oh he’s talking about me!”
A lot of heads are on a complaining style in hiphop where MCs just say I hate this or that about the music. How can you approach the style biters and not actually bite this style?
Bigg Jus: Part of that is because I think a lot of cat’s are on a pseudo battle style where they say they hate this or they hate that. I basically approached it knowing that the #1 issue was that you really can’t come out complaining so I knocked that out right off the bat. I’m not complaining but I do have some shit I have to spit. I got some venom verses where I’m getting in motherfuckers’ asses. I took the approach where you have to say something. First and foremost you gotta drop science, you gotta have a style, and you have to come battle. I drop everything you supposed to as an MC. I’m looking for positivity and enlightenment because that’s the key to what’s going down. Also importantly if not more important I wanted the shit to sound like a true B-Boy in hiphop. That’s one thing I feel is missing more than anything else. Like you put it on and feel that this cat is authentic hiphop. Cat’s is coming from all different types of angles and the shit doesn’t have a true feel to it. When you put mine on its pure hiphop.
I heard your trying to make moves in Africa?
Bigg Jus: We doing an Africa tour. We’re trying to get that together now we doing it for a cause so it makes it a little bit harder so we constantly trying to find sponsor that won’t pull out.
How does Conscious movement for Aids Awareness come into play?
Bigg Jus: Conscious movements is the name of the collective trying to put together the Africa tour.
You’re one of the few MCs I know who have gotten into hiphop through the graffiti scene. How exactly did you evolve from tagging and bombing to rhyming?
Bigg Jus: I just happened to get into writing first. Around 6th and 7th grade I got bused out of my neighborhood so we had to take city buses to get where we had to go. Writing basically already had a movement of 6 or 7 years by the time I started so there were already writers around. I had a click and we started writing on busses. By the time I hit mid 7th grade I wasn’t a toy anymore and I was getting up with the best of them. At that point and time hiphop was budding so there were a lot of good emcees. At the time an MC was like the neighborhood kid who had the gift of gab, talked mad shit, had mad mother jokes and that wasn’t me but I loved them cats. I would go to the park and listen to them with no idea whatsoever that I would possibly rhyme. During the course of years hiphop had went through all its changes and I just got to the point where I felt that there were less and less people coming from the roots of hiphop. You had gangsters and all types of crazy shit so it was like I was forced to rhyme to basically show people that this is where the culture is at and that’s when Company Flow came out.
How involved are you with the graffiti scene now cuz I know you got a train right by the crib?
Bigg Jus: I’m recording the album in a down low spot on the outside of Atlanta and it’s literally a cotton mill. Mad ancestors and ill spirits be roaming the halls in here but it’s also right next to a freight lay-up so I constantly get up. I’m not trying to get arrested but I still get up.
How do you think the scene has progressed or regressed since you were 13 “Bombing the whole system up beautifying the scenery”?
Bigg Jus: Yea it kinda regressed. In NYC the scene started ’69-’70 and really had a little flavor around ’72-’74 and then went through its heaviest periods about ’75-’78 so I damn near came on the third wave. I came when it basically officially ended. Since that time I’d say it definitely regressed but at the same time it had picked up everywhere else all over the world. Right at the time it was dying in NYC everyone else was catching it like crazy. I’ve been driving in Norway in the middle of nowhere and seen a burner on a barn. The writing culture just took off all over and that aspect is good. Sometimes in NYC its a lot of heat and you don’t want to get busted there because they will try to make an example out of you and next thing you know you got a retarded fine. Most writers don’t have any money and you don’t want to get hemmed up like that. I’m not trying to catch any felonies. If I can get by and not catch a felony that’s fine but if I do then I can’t leave the country nor can I vote. As I get older and get some refinement I’m stepping it up by being responsible and positive. I’m not trying to do anything to jeopardize that but at the same time I was born on the edge so I got to do something to get that out of me.
As an artist you still emcee, tag, etc. but you also have the label. How much of a businessman do you consider yourself now?
Bigg Jus: I don’t really consider myself a businessman. I was brought up on the streets of New York during the crack game. I’ve seen all types of street entrepreneurs. The music business is crooked and it never really has been straight so I look at it as a big safe to crack. If you hustle you’ll find a way to make it in the business and I’ve been like this since Company Flow. That’s one of the reasons Company Flow came out, we was on some grimy, independent shit, hustling trying to find a way to put out a record. Now that’s so second nature to me that I can do business in hiphop and I don’t even think about it. It’s just apart of me and it makes it easier for me but the bad part is that it takes up long hours.
Tell me about the video documentary on the four elements that is in the works.
Bigg Jus: I’m knocking out a documentary, that shit is coming along beautifully. I’ve got a lot to say musically for your ear but at the same time I’m not really capturing the visual side of it. A lot of the visuals that we are shooting are just as B-boy as what you’re hearing. I’ve been trying to do this before anyone else really but at this point and time everyone is so called making films and documentaries. There will probably be a couple of them coming out and then we can really see where people are. My shit is going to be fucking B-boy of Pain.
Bigg Jus: I have no qualms about anyone doing something like I am doing. I was born during the time when it first started, spent my time in between the Bronx, uptown, and Queens, so I got one foot in the old school and one foot in what’s happening now. It doesn’t seem to be too many people like that anymore so I feel obligated to show cats exactly what’s going down.
I think that is something a lot of people aren’t doing right now. A lot of times the hiphop heads have a tendency to be arrogant around those that don’t know as much about the music and the culture. A long time ago someone called me a hiphop elitist and at the time they were probably right. I think many of us hiphop heads come off that way but someone has to explain the culture to the heads that don’t know.
Bigg Jus: The other aspect of it is that you can’t just sit there and talk about it and not be doing it. That’s another thing about showing and proving but I don’t do too much talking at all. No one knows where I’m at. I’m on the low with my down low partner MF Doom. We have to be the two most low profile individuals that are out in the game.
Everyone seems to want to shine for whatever reason so why are you not taking on the spotlight.
Bigg Jus: For that very reason that you said there’s so many people trying to shine and I’m not really trying to compete with nobody. I make music so I’ll let my music speak for itself. I ain’t trying to be glossy and popular that shit don’t really mean anything to me. The only thing that means something to me is burning through albums and knocking people out the box that way. You can’t spend your time walking around here trying to be a star that’s how you fall the fuck off. A lot of cats never really had anything so they spend mad time getting their first Range Rover, diamond teeth, trying to run menage a trois’, and eating lobster. They spend the whole day trying to be a celebrity.
Bigg Jus: I stole cars for a long time so I been pushing ill whips before I got in the game so I don’t have a car fetish. I don’t wear jewelry and I was popular before the rap game so that shit is old news now. I’m trying to burn down Babylon.
A lot of heads have taken the live band approach, (Roots, Dujeous?, etc) tell me about the group you have with Scienz of Life and how its different from the traditional live hiphop crews.
Bigg Jus: All of last year we did shows. We wanted to do something live because to me that’s where hiphop really needs to progress. It needs to cover and address any questions about its validity. A lot of people are like hiphop artists aren’t doing shit because we sample but we really are doing something. The easiest way to show that is to start playing live. We tried to flip shit. There are a lot of style biters out right now. You already have the Roots and you got heads already with the bass, keys, and the drum set so now 50 motherfuckers want to jump onto that bandwagon. Those type of instruments only produce certain sounds and then everyone will come out sounding the same. We went about it totally different. We just got a whole band of indigenous instruments. We had djembes and marimbas etc and took an ancient drum and infused it with modern technology. We had SP 808, Nords, turntables, djembes, marimbas, chimes, tone boxes and we created a sound that was totally original. We’re going to try to get back on tour and knock that shit out again this year.
Was everyone in the group able to play all the instruments?
Bigg Jus: Yea it was kind of like that. Everyone had a series of instruments they liked to play. A lot of cats didn’t play anything so what we basically did all last year was have mad drum sessions. I played piano for a long time but I’m the type of cat that if you gave me anything I can create some sort of appealing sound with it. A few of us in the group were like that so we fucked around tell we came up with some shit.
Were heads rhyming over all the beats?
Bigg Jus: Hell yeah! What it was is that there were 6 of us in the band and 5 of us rhymed. We all switched up on instruments. I’m not doing what everyone else is doing because there are mad elements in the culture (that aren’t being explored). I just spend my time doing shit no one else does. Sometimes it gets the light of day and sometimes it doesn’t. A lot of people weren’t aware of it. Once we get established this year, get my album out, MF Doom and me are going to do an EP. It’s a bugged out story line EP, I’m knocking out the documentary, and I got a couple other little secret squirrel things going on. By the end of the year a lot of people will be talking.
One of the biggest misconceptions to me is how underground artists will tour the world like Company Flow but still don’t make a lot of money, get frustrated, and break up when they are doing what they love and are able to perform for all types of people. How does that lead to conflict?
Bigg Jus: I guess everyone is different but Company Flow was another situation all together. We came together under different circumstances. We did the album to basically give the middle finger to a couple of people in the industry. That’s what it was all about we was like fuck you because we nasty, we ain’t signed, and we don’t care about it. When it blew up the album was being promoted for a year and a half. It got to the point where we was like we aren’t even a group but we can’t necessarily tell people that because we did so many interviews it seemed like we were. We didn’t bump heads but we were just supposed to be that one album and it got a lil bit hairy because so many people were expecting something after that. We were independent too so we weren’t necessarily seeing any money. We would get money for shows, but you had to split it three ways and then pay your manager so you really ain’t coming home with money. Then your in France and they got the Izod store there and your see the flavor kicks nobody else got or the terrycloth Izod fisherman hat. Its outrageous money plus you got mad Francs is your pocket that you have the convert over. So you come home with a pair of ill kicks nobody got, a couple of spare dollars, and some foreign coins. You have the experience but that ain’t putting food on the table for my son. It’s very important to have your business worked out and make sure you’re getting paid and good contracts. Other than that niggas is gonna have problems. A lot of time it seems one person wants to be the point man and handle everything when it should be like a company where everything gets divided up because with radio, retail, websites, etc. there’s a lot of shit for cats to do.
There were so many ‘Company Flow broke up’ emails because you were working on a separate project.
Bigg Jus: That’s what it was all about. We all wanted to work on our own thing because everyone was doing they own thing when we got together to begin with. Company Flow wasn’t necessarily the group if anything El-P was Company Flow. That’s Company Flow right there he had the name of the group. Me and my man put out the first Co Flow record and that was basically him on his own. We got together like jazz cats did a little jam session and put the shit out. Between us we have our own sound and we want to express that and let people hear it. Besides that I would love to do something with them cats again.
How would you describe the sound you created?
Bigg Jus: I spent most my time trying to define my sound, a lot of my shit is intricate. It’s like forty percent samples and sixty percent live. I play keys, bass, all types of drums, and little chimes and shit. I got live chimes where I painfully hit every chime one by one. Within that I came up with my own little style.
Is putting out a variety of music a goal of Sub Verse?
Bigg Jus: The shit has to be quality first and foremost but we want to hear shit from different areas because there are mad ill cats all over the country. Blackalicious is from the Bay, Micranots is split between Minneapolis and Atlanta, Scienz of Life are from the Bronx and Jersey, Rubberoom is out of Chicago and we got this cat from the U.K. Skit Slam. We got cats from all over the place because hiphop is a world sound.
What are you looking to accomplish as an artist?
Bigg Jus: I’d love to go down as an innovator like how Miles was for Jazz or Phase 2 was for writing. I want to be known as a cat who came out and flipped it different from everyone else and flipped it again and changed the structure of the sound showing what you can do in this culture. There is a lot of shit MC wise I want to do, so I see my growth in that and in writing, so I’m good for another 3 albums for myself and I would love to hook up with some other people. I’m trying to do a project with my man Orko. Shout out to Orko he is retarded.
Any plans on a Sub Verse sampler?
Bigg Jus: Yea we gonna do that at the end of the year because we are releasing 7-10 times singles and many of them are only going to be on vinyl. So we are going to combine these with some exclusive cookies for a year in a review kind of thing.
Give me the whole breakdown of what’s to come.
Bigg Jus: We got a four song single from this cat from London named Skit Slam, then we have a three song single by Mark Spec from Atlanta, my album is dropping, we gonna re-release some Mf Doom albums “Doomsday” and “Black Bastards”, drop a series of seven other singles, a project from Orko, A Mark Spec EP just mad shit. A lot of it isn’t even defined yet we just trying to get out as much stuff as we can let people know that they can come to us for quality work.