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Da Bush Babees

Hip Hop Icon Series

card_dabushbabeesIn the early nineties Da Bush Babees hopped in the game with their debut album Ambushed. Powered by songs like “Remember We” and “We Run Things”, the Brooklyn trio (two emcees (Lee Majors and Mr. Man) and a reggae artist (Light)) gained mad love for their ragga influenced hooks and pinpoint rhymes. They returned in ’97 with Gravity, their second album, right as hiphop was making the transition from more street oriented rhymes to the jiggy era. With its superb production from Mr. Man, Pos (De La), and newcomer Shawn J. Period many consider the follow-up a hiphop classic as it successfully blended jazz, hiphop and reggae and introduced budding superstar Mos Def to the masses. Unfortunately critical acclaim alone doesn’t sell records and Warner Brothers pulled the plug on a third album. Rather than get jerked by another label they stepped into the background. Only now have they resurfaced with plans for a comeback. We got in touch with them and they dropped some jewels on the rap industry and let us in on their plans for the future.

First big up to my man Tadah from Urbansmarts.com for hooking up this interview. In the interview he did with you, you mentioned working on various projects over the years but before we get into that I wanted to know what stopped you guys from putting out a third album after Gravity was such a critically acclaimed LP?

Mr. Man: What happened with the third one is we weren’t on that label anymore. It would have probably been a natural progression of things if we were on the label where the very next year we would have come out with another album. But since we weren’t on Warner Brothers after the way they pretty much smashed up the second album, it was like it’s time to go.

Light: We had the sign or something where we were smart enough to bounce and I think it was good timing because there are so many other things going on with hiphop that you don’t have to just be an artist struggling to promote an album with no help. When you’re making a product and they gonna sell it for fifteen dollars and then give you pennies on it its kinda like highway robbery. It’s good that we were able to leave in our early twenties and still have a little life going on.

I was thinking all since this happened around ’97, at the start of the whole jiggy era, did that have anything to do with your departure as well?

Light: Ha, nah I think what happened was a lot of money was being made in hiphop but the money wasn’t going directly to the artist. It was going to a lot of people behind the scenes. The artists are just starting to get it now and it’s a little late because the major labels are pulling back on that money. Like Mr. Man said it’s a natural progression to go onto a third album if things are doing well, but if the things aren’t going well and they aren’t promoting it it’s a natural progression to back out and make something else happen.

Mr. Man: I must concur.

Mr. Man I remember right after that you was hitting with Kweli and Mos Def on Fortified Live and then you dropped a single under Khaliyl. Why did you switch up your name for that joint?

Mr. Man: Right after we finished the album I started doing just straight production and I just wanted to create a different producing entity. My name is Khaliyl so people just started calling me Mr. Khaliyl. It’s not even like I was telling people to call me that they just started calling me that. By that time, I was doing all of this production at Rawkus and they just put that on the record and it kind of stuck. It wasn’t like today I’m going to call myself Mr. Khaliyl. They just kinda ran with it.

I remember at that point a lot of cats were expecting a solo album, did you have one in the works at that time or was it just a few singles here and there?

Mr. Man: You’re always writing and recording but at the time I hadn’t thought about putting together a whole project and doing an album by myself. That’s kind of where we are going now with this new project. We have a new project that we’re doing collectively and we have our solo missions that we’re also recording. Now it’s more like that but back then I was more interested in strictly producing and Rawkus offered me some singles and I was like cool I’ll do that.

What specifically has been keeping everybody busy the last few years?

Light: A lot. I live in Cali now. I moved out here about three or four years ago to get the acting and film thing kind of going. I have always been into trying to get into this movie thing. I just been out here really learning that side of things. Before that I was an A&R at Universal. I learned a lot and it was cool but all the politics made me say let me move to Cali and do what I really want to do. So I just been out here doing that, recording some solo stuff, working with lil west coast underground cats doing features helping them, but mostly planning this reunion thing with Mr. Man trying to figure out how we gonna do it.

Mr. Man: From radio to djs to tours to promoting to marketing to the funding. You’re not doing it with a major so it’s like everything we produce on, or little shows we do go back into the pot to make sure that this is received in a proper way. You don’t want to come out and it be a half ass thing.

Light: It’s a lot to the puzzle. I took a year out go to audio engineering school to be able to clear the room where me and Mr. Man can be in there and do everything. We just taking years to do this. For the past six to eighth months we just been traveling. We ain’t really been in the study as much with the two Germany tours. I got a website I’m putting together that will be up in about two weeks called Blueprint Modeling for the girls, putting them in commercials and videos, so when its time to do our videos and we need to call shorties [we can use them]. We just putting our hands in everything.

Unfortunately, your third member Lee Majors couldn’t get up with us for this interview. What has he been up to?

Mr. Man: Lee has a private business that he is actually running so he has been tied up with that. He’s engaged to be married, they getting ready to buy a house, so he is really in that zone. When he can come, he does come but right now he is very focused. We are very grown right now. We realize we are not going to be musicians forever. Now granted we are good at it and I’m not saying that to toot our own horn. We are probably some of the best cats that have come out in a minute but at the same time we’re not gonna be like we’re doing this for the rest of our lives. With that, we end up focusing on other things and doing other things and that’s where Lee is at. He is focused on the rest of his life right now.

What’s has helped you stay tight as group for so long?

Light: We boys so it’s not really about this group. It’s not like the Bush Babees name will live forever kind of thing. It’s more about us as men and individuals and as a collective putting our music out. We respect each other, we like to work together, and we understand where each other is coming from. Khaliyl’s from the West Indies, I grew up in the West Indies, we all was running around Brooklyn, so it was easy for us because we come from the same neighborhood. It’s easy for us to do. Even though we took this time apart when we come together we always ready cuz we know each other.

Mr. Man: It’s like we never left. It’s like that every time it never fails. If I send Light some beats I don’t have to worry and say I don’t know what he is gonna do. I send him a beat tape, sometimes we end up picking the same ones and the ideas flow together.

Light: It’s kinda like when you was kids when you got mad excited, everything was mad fun and then you got older and you were like damn you got to pay for this and this and you start realizing shit ain’t that much fun no more. You still have fun. You still getting the Pumas and lacing em up but you paying for them now so it’s a little bit different then when mom dukes was getting em. It’s that kind of thing. In the beginning it was just fun gung ho do mad songs and let me show everybody I got mad skills but then after we showed everybody we had skills it didn’t matter to nobody. It was like oh they got skills and that was it. The companies and the people weren’t jumping like they were supposed to when we needed things done. We got the love and we could have kept coming back out but at what cost? At the cost of selling our face and not getting any real support in return. We trying to be homeowners so the two had to come together eventually. Rather than sell out and go get on some bullshit we stepped back and tried to gain ownership.

With all of you in different areas (Mr. Man-NYC, Lee-NJ, Light-CA) has the distance affected your music?

Mr. Man: It’s kinda easy. I don’t think it’s a problem. If Light has a song idea or I have a song idea he sends me some music or I send him some music and we MP3 it and cut vocals like that and send it to each other and add our parts.

Light: We’re hook specialists so once the beat is hot we coming with a hook, a bridge and a intro. We not just coming on there like I got my verse, its 96 bars and its fiyah! We’re coming in and letting our soul speak and whatever we feel matches the beat harmoniously we run with it. We’re pretty heavy on each other too don’t get it twisted. But it’s been awhile were we had to say Khalyl rewrite that or Light rewrite that. That was pretty much when we were first starting and now we kinda know our zones. We fans so we still listening to 50 and everybody that’s rocking.

Mr. Man: We stay surrounded by good musicians and good artists. As a matter of fact I’m on my way to a Kweli session right now so it’s like we stay with our ear to the streets. We stay knowing exactly what’s going on and what is an influence now. It’s not like losing touch with anything. You’re not hearing records from us but we’re doing things in the background until its time for the official jump off.

Light: We blessed to come up in Brooklyn. We were running around beat boxing on the corner in ’91 and ’92 together with Mos Def and Talib. We put Mos and UTD on our first album. I think that was the first album he was ever on.

Mr. Man: And that was the first album and I don’t think the song ended up being on our first album so when he got on the second album he ended up being all over it. He was on the intro, “The Love Song” and all that. It wasn’t like Mos and Kwe were some strange dudes we didn’t know from nowhere. I went to high school with Kweli. So you got Kwe on one end and Mos on the other end who we used to just hang out with on the daily and its just natural for things to be where they are now. It’s natural for Mos to be where he is and for Kweli to be where he is and for Light to do the film work he’s doing or for me to be doing the production I’m doing. It might seem like it’s a phenomenon to people that don’t know but this is what we have been working towards since then. I was an intern at a few different record labels before I even had it in my mind to be an artist. Now years later we’re doing interviews, I remember when I was 16 or 17 I used to have to archive all the interviews for the artists at the labels I was working at. It’s a cycle of life in hiphop.

Light: I wish more rappers were together like that coming up. Everybody is representing a town but I’m a big sports fan, I see all these sport guys and if you nice at ball they putting you with the other ten nice cats. You see who’s the best and you can groom the guys who need help. The hiphop game ain’t like that homie.

Mr. Man: There’s no health plan in hiphop. You fall off the stage and break your arm that’s it.

Haha

Mr. Man: You just have a high ass hospital bill. There is no HMO.

Light: There’s no development of anything, you are on your own buddy. You are lucky if a dude come in and put you together.

How did you guys link up with Tribe and De La, would they just all be in the area?

Mr. Man: Yea all the time. It’s crew. Pos and I go way back. We have a lot of family ties and that’s how I know Pos and De La. Ali Shaheed produced on the first album so all of that is just being around that circle and you end up meeting everybody else in the circle. It started out from working with Ali and knowing Pos and everything else kind of snowballed from there. The more we are around each other the more we do records together and the more we do shows together. It just became a tight knit crew or family.

I was reading an interview with Mos and he was saying how you introduced him to Shawn J. Period.

Mr. Man: Yea yea, the story with that is funny because we were still doing touring for the Gravity record. I was supposed to do some production for Mos, but I didn’t physically have time to do it because we were working so hard to get our record finished and do a couple shows we had. So I was like I know this dude we’re working with and his beats are crazy and he was like aiight bet. So I just put them in contact and that was the end of it. I never saw those two dudes again. They just came out with these crazy records. It was beautiful.

Light: And Shawn is cool. He is a good dude man.

Mr. Man: Yes, that’s one of the nicest people in hiphop. I can’t think of anyone nicer than Shawn J. Period in hiphop. He doesn’t even curse.

Light: I’ll take the stand for him. If they said he did something I don’t even have to be there he didn’t do it.

Mr. Man: He is so nice they wouldn’t even say he did it. They’d just be like nah Shawn ain’t do that that’s impossible. He never curses and he doesn’t sample because he told me one day he stopped sampling. I said what happened? He said sampling is stealing…

Light: And I don’t want to do anything wrong.

Mr. Man: Congratulations to Shawn he’s married by the way he’s got a baby girl. He’s got his family happening I’m very proud of Shawn.

He stopped doing music for a bit is he still making beats?

Mr. Man: Yea he took a break for a minute but he is actually coming back into it. He’s supposed to be doing some stuff with Mos. I’ve been hearing him and Mos are supposed to be back at it again. They’re like the Snoop and Dre of East Coast hiphop.

Light I noticed you were in a movie with Deon Richmond (Bud) from the Cosby Show and Merlin Santana (Romeo) from the Steve Harvey show who passed away not too long ago. Were you real cool with those cats and how did Merlin’s death affect you because people really ain’t acknowledge that he even passed.

Light: That’s the thing brotherman it’s an ugly game in that respect. If you don’t have a support group behind you as an individual, not just a company but your own personal engine be it management or whoever is pulling strings, you will get passed by. They did do a little for Merlin and I’m planning to do things for him when I can but it’s sad that more wasn’t done or said. During that time we were real close. He taught me a lot about acting. These are guys that have been acting since they was under ten on the Cosby show. He was a real cool dude. He rapped too and he had some skills. I have about four or five of his records that I have demoed up over here that I will never let get out. With the movie we did they already trying to put it out and they didn’t have all the clearances for him so we gonna do issues with them. But its out on stands now it’s called “The Blues.” We did it on our own. We all just put up the money together and shot it in the neighborhood and it was fun. We were just trying to show what we could do with 10-20 grand and they grabbed it.

We found out about his murder late and the info was sketchy what happened?

Light: He was shot out here in Los Angeles in the Crenshaw district. It was late at night and I had actually seen him a couple days before that in the same area. I was like what you doing out here boy you know your face is still on TV and all that. I gave him the little speech but this guy is from Harlem, he is not gonna move to Beverly Hills and never come out of his house. He is gonna roll around and see some girls and things. I don’t really know the details behind it whether it was jealousy or just random but he didn’t deserve it. He was a smart dude took care of himself, he had a daughter, and I think he was gonna be a real big actor when his time came because he had that star quality. But such is life and we gonna keep it moving.

Earlier you mentioned you were keeping your ear to the streets aside from 50 what else have you been checking?

Mr. Man: I like Jean Grae and Immortal Technique. Kweli’s new record is crazy.

Have you heard the finished version cuz everyone got the bootleg.

Haha I’m talking about the new version which is why I’m on the way to the session right. He doing a whole new record.

The new new record.

Mr. Man: Stat Qou newly signed to Aftermath. Get that Stat Qou mixtape. Those are my top three artists that nobody really knows about right there Immortal Technique, Stat Qou, and Jean Grae.

Light: Besides Stat Qou. I’m on the west so I’m sort of deprived of my real real hiphop. I just came back from NY and all I heard was G-Unit and 50 but I trust Khaliyl if he say Jean Grae is hot. I’m an old school dude dread. I listen to Delroy Wilson 1960 something reggae. That’s what I ride too. Hiphop dudes is cool but I don’t get my feel out here on the west coast. Out here on the west I’m gonna catch everybody’s single but I ain’t gonna catch all the mixtapes.

Most people would probably say you left at the end of hiphop’s golden era. What are some things you miss from those days?

Light: You know what’s funny you’re like the tenth person I’ve heard say that and when we were leaving we weren’t even thinking like that. We was just like these Warner Brother niggas in buggin. It ain’t have nothing to do with hiphop. It was total personal reasons. I think looking back what I do miss is that the powers that be was realizing that hiphop is here to stay and we don’t know nothing about it or how to flip it so lets look to these artists and producers and see what they could do with it. So it was cool in that respect when the Jermaine’s and everybody was out because they was spending money recording left and right. It was more groups and more production. Now it’s a little slower but I think there is a silver lining because the digital era is here and cats are putting their own things out. I try not to look back too much. I just miss the amount of people buzzing about hiphop. Now everybody is like they don’t give out any deals, the money’s tight and downloads are killing us. To me I don’t give a shit because ya’ll been killing the artist for years. I don’t care if they don’t sell no records. We can sell our joints online, sell 10,000 copies at ten dollars a pop, $100,000. Holla!

Mr. Man: I miss the soul of music. Luckily you always got somebody there that’s gonna keep it there a little bit. You got Kanye, you got Kweli, Mos who had a good run when he had a whole bunch of stuff out when his album was out, you got Pharoahe. There are always gonna be a few artists but there was a point in time where everybody really had some good music and we don’t really have that as much right now. Other than that I don’t really miss much I think everything goes around in cycles. What’s going on right now is what’s supposed to go on so that people will eventually say I’m tired of this and move onto something else. And every time people move onto something else they take hiphop and music in general somewhere else. I can’t miss anything because it doesn’t go anywhere for me to miss it. It just keeps adding on to the point where we’re at.

That’s brings up my next question, why now? What do you feel about the scene right now where it’s like this is they year we’re gonna come back?

Light: With the digital era, we’re seeing more ways we can have ownership. We can do our own thing. We just came back from Germany, through brothers like yourselves our contacts overseas you can work [a record]. Independent guys are selling 10k-50k copies. The problem is a lot of cats run for fame first. They think fame equal money and success. It ain’t really like that because you can get that money and success going little by little and then when everyone jumps on the bandwagon you’re stable. That’s really where we’re headed and it took a long time because when we were doing our thing spending quarter million dollar budgets in ’93 nobody was saying Light go to engineering school you got six months off. There were no big brothers. Even [with] all the old school cats I was around nobody told me that.

Mr. Man: Cuz from Tribe to De la, everyone was going through the same thing. People had them in the ringer and were trying to squeeze as much as they can get out of the artist without supporting the artist. So everybody is like I got to go on these tours because I have kids, I have a house note, I have a car note, so no one ever had time to turn around as say listen man this is what you have to do and this is what you have to look out for. At this point and time, everyone has a crew. You got Dr. Dre on your side or Jermaine on your side or Puffy backing you up. You got somebody on some level that is going to back you up and give you some kind of education and information to succeed in this business.

Light: We’ve all been learning in this hiphop shit together and that’s the ill part. Everybody comes down on us but the people Khaliyl just mentioned are working artists a little different than they did back then. Total ain’t around, Xscape ain’t around, Kris Kross ain’t around but these were all large groups when they were doing their thing. I don’t think these guys were ready to school their artists and get them into the individual positions they needed to be. So it’s just a straight music thing and you have all these companies pushing you, working you and juicing you and all that behind the scenes stuff kinda goes on and you learn a little but when you get good at it then you can help people. It takes a good decade to get good at it. It ain’t no two year thing. Even with these sports, cats coming out one or two years ain’t enough you need five years. Lebron ain’t going to the playoffs he needs some time. So hiphop is in a good place even though cats are nervous, if we all work a little harder and pull within instead of looking without we’ll be good.

The label is called Monster Truck Audio. That name kind of threw me right there how did you decide on that to represent you?

Mr. Man: If you were driving a little Toyota hatchback from 1981 and someone comes through in a big ass Monster Truck who’s system is gonna be louder?

Definitely, the monster truck.

Mr. Man: That’s kinda like the new music we are doing. We basically rolling over everybody. The material is really strong and that’s what its about because at the end of the day regardless of your sales, how many times you get arrested or whatever political bullshit you get caught up in your music at the end of the day is what’s gonna stand there. If it’s strong then it’s undeniable.

Light: Plus the carnival trucks that’s where you got it from kid. Carnival trucks down in Trinidad with all the girls hanging off the back with the costumes and the big speakers. That’s where hiphop started.

Mr. Man: Yea you right I was trying not to give that away. Haha. Since you put me out there that’s the other part

You said the magic words, which are new music. So how many tracks you guys got finished right now for the new joint?

Light: I think we got six to ten joints and probably half of them would fit for the album. They all crazy but I think our biggest issue is that we can do so many different things. We can get into the studio and if I get Khaliyl to hit the blunt, we might end up doing a old school reggae joint. Then we might do something that sounds like Bush Babbees 2010 or we might end up doing some real street shit because nobody has heard us on that. We can do all these things well it’s just a matter of getting all the avenues together so we can push it out at the same time so ya’ll get it.

Mr. Man: When the summer hits and it comes out you’re gonna kind of get it. You’ll hear it and it’s gonna sound familiar. You’re gonna be like I know these voices from somewhere, the music sounds familiar and agrees with my soul but at the same time it’s really some shit that bangs.

Light: Besides the modeling website I’m doing we are working on the Monster Truck Audio website that will be out in a couple. We’ll definitely have some leak outs there.

Before we go onto the bullets, I couldn’t pass this one up. It’s Thursday night on the ten spot and I saw in the last interview you did that Mr. Man knows Dylan from Making of Da Band. I had to ask do you think he is being accurately portrayed on TV now since you know him better than us.

Mr. Man: At this point with him, it’s a matter of how you portray yourself. It’s not like someone forcing him to act the way he is acting. I watch a lot of TV and I ask if I was on TV would I be acting like that? I look at a lot of shit that people do and I wouldn’t do it.

Light: From watching the show, the man got a chip on your shoulder and that’s bananas to everybody because you’re not even that hot. You’re acting like this ill rudebwoy reggae dude and your not even Jamaican. He Guianese or something and that’s cool but to have that chip on your shoulder?

Mr. Man: Honestly, the only reason he is having a problem is because of the way he is portraying himself. You got Sean Puffy Combs backing you right now.

Light: He kept him out of jail yo. Money should have been in Brooklyn working around sound systems daily coming back like I got three lyrics for the song which one is better? You’re the underdog you got all these rappers and singers you got to come with it.

Mr. Man: He should have gone to Junior’s every single day.

Bullets (are usually pointless questions that we ask anyway)

This is the first scenario and it’s political. You got two people hanging off of a seventeen story building by the tip of their fingers. One is President Bush and one is Saddam who do you save?

Light: Hahaha. Bush dead!

Mr. Man: I’d be in the studio on the fourth floor of the building so I probably wouldn’t even know they were up there.

Light: Khaliyl takes the passive approach and me I’d have one blunt in my lip and step on dem fuckin fingers. He no have a chance. And Saddam I’d pull him up and lock him up but George Bush would drop.

If you could bring any deceased artist back to do a song with them who would you choose?

Light: Bob Marley of course.

Mr. Man: Pythagoras, the dude who created the concept of music mathematically, scientifically and rhythmically.

Which rapper is really wack to you right now, who you are just not feeling?

Mr. Man: Shit there’s so many

Light: The second part of your question is the key who am I just not feeling. I can assess who just can’t rap like just having cadence and certain things that’s a lot of people. Who I don’t like especially…

Mr. Man: Benzino

Light: I saw him in Miami and I didn’t even want to say what’s up.

The last category is Hot or Not.

Milky Way Candy Bars

Mr. Man: Not

Nelly

Light: He’s hot

Puffy’s Clothing Line, Sean John

Light: That’s hot

ODB

Light: He’s a madman yo.

Mr. Man: Hot. That joint he did on the Neptunes album.

Light: He’s musically hot but he’s a madman.

Carson Daly

Light: Nice guy but he’s not hot though.

Mos Def

Mr. Man: Hot

Light: Hot!

Common

Light: Hot a lil weird but he’s hot. Those are some difficult ones. Common can rap but his image he is on a trip right now.

Haagan Daz Ice Cream

Mr. Man: Hot

Light: Hot

Jah Rule

Mr. Man: Not. Jah Rule is shit

Light: Not, the man too unsure of himself.

Washington Wizards

Light: Hahaha come on

Mr. Man: Jah Rule should be playing for the Washington Wizards

Magazine:HalftimeOnline
Date: May 10, 2004