What was the reason behind the Arsonist split and do you feel it was in the best interest of the group?
Well as far as the group I felt it was all confusion. Niggas really couldn’t handle the pressures of being a group and having problems. That’s the overall reason. When it comes down to the specific reason it was D-Stroy. He was on a solo mission. There were times he would say to us that he put this group thing together so it could make his solo shit. We were like where is this coming from? It was basically like he said I want to do my solo shit, Arsonists could wait 3 or 4 years then we could put out another album. It was more of a selfish thing. It started making niggas nervous with each other, cats started to argue and it created this big confusion. In the end with all the yelling and screaming it got out of hand. Now he is still basically running around using people.
Are you still cool with the other 3 cats in the crew?
Yea we cool on a wassup level but that’s about it. The whole thing wit D-Stroy made niggas fight physically and mentally. I got caught up in the mix of it. I’m the type that don’t like to argue but niggas wanted me to argue so they forced me to get caught up in the bullshit and I didn’t want to. I ended up getting mistreated and I was like yo I’ll just leave.
How are you approaching your solo career?
Well I never did want to go solo after I got with my group. It was like I found my family and I wanted to stay with them. Maybe have some problems somewhere along the line and then get past them but that didn’t happen. As far as my solo shit its basically getting recorded I have 7 or 8 joints done. Hopefully I’ll get it on a label that can get it to a different level than I’ve already been.
Have you looked into putting it out on Matador Records?
I thought of trying but I never approached them. I’ve spoken to some other labels but after the whole Arsonists thing went down I was like let me just stay away from that whole camp.
How has your life been affected by the constant touring? Have you picked up any new languages?
I can speak little phrases and things in about 4 different languages but I’m not speaking anything fluently. It changes one’s life if you travel like that. Your never home, you don’t see your family, and it got tough for me because I was missing them. I felt wack and I wanted to go home but no matter how much I wanted to I had to stay out there and do my thing. I just got back a week ago and now I’m chillin. Touring you miss your family if you love them. You miss home period. On the road you meet different people, learn different things and see the world from another perspective. I go out there and come back to Brooklyn. I don’t know many niggas in BK who do that.
How do you think traveling will affect your future recordings as far as beats and rhymes?
None, hiphop is hiphop. When you travel abroad it’s not that different from where I’m from. You go abroad and you think Premier did the beat and its some kid from Denmark. The biggest differences in hiphop are north, east, west and the south. The only place that’s different is here. You go to Japan and niggas beats sound like East Coast shit.
You don’t feel the West Coast cats who tour as well have a lot of influence on what people are producing in different countries?
I don’t think so I go out there and I haven’t heard that much at all. The biggest influence all over the world is probably East Coast. I look at it as where hiphop started and that’s probably the main reason. They copy other cats but it just doesn’t get as far. You got kids overseas trying to copy Master P.
Now to me that sounds pretty hilarious.
Not as far as the sound but the artwork but they go nowhere.
I’ve heard though cats abroad aren’t even feeling the more popular mainstream music here.
Maybe Jay-Z travels and does things but I can say M.O.P can’t go where I go. They can go but they won’t get as much love or respect rather that I would get.
How many spots have you hit?
I’ve done most of Europe except Spain.
How did you go about setting up shows and what advice would you have for other artists that are trying to do the same thing?
I wouldn’t say I did it all by myself. I’ve had booking agents help at one point. When I started it was all me, even the shows for the Arsonists it was me and Q hooking up stuff. We met people and we hooked up the shows, got the calls done me and Q did a lot of that. Then after that we did the whole tour shit and that was done with a booking agent helping out. My word of advice for niggas doing for self is that you just gotta be real. Why your doing it has to be real and if you’re new to the game please at least be able to tell me I grew up with music and I love music. So many niggas be like I can rap and make money and that’s bullshit. Then the game gets cluttered with these fools so basically be real with yourself. Once you have that there should be drive behind that to get up and say I really want to do this. You have to do mad shit, start meeting people, keep your face in the public, and do shows even little bullshit shows cuz all that helps. Get on the net and meet cats if you can. It takes a lot of politicking when meeting people. When you meet them it comes down to yourself. If you’re a bad person I don’t know who your going to be able to deal with. If you’re a good person your going to meet good and bad people just be ready to meet them and deal with them on a certain level.
Do you think foreign emcees approach the game differently or is it just a lot of variety like everywhere you go?
Everywhere you go people are people. There are going to be different types like anywhere else as far as approach to the game.
Was it difficult working with emcees rhyming in another language or did they all speak English as well?
That’s exactly what it is, usually they speak English. If you go to Germany the young kids speak English and those are the cats listening to hiphop. They all speak English so you can usually communicate with the hiphop heads. It doesn’t really matter when it comes down to recording.
How was the diggin?
It’s different because they have different selection. They have records you can’t even find here. That’s only because all over the world they just catching up to what we doing. They have the drive to do their homework and really dig. They will spend mad loot on a record just because it’s a collector’s item. Niggas from Japan come here and buy records by the bulk.
How long were you on tour?
It was a little more than a year. We started in ’98 for the album. I would always come home for a little while.
How do you think you have evolved as an artist and as a person after this tour?
I found myself getting more open because I got to know people and I had to deal with more people. You have to get an understanding of different people and yourself because you have to learn to relate. So it was basically being able to blend in wherever I went. It takes adjustment, it influenced me and when you come down to it changed who I am. Now I got it to a science I go somewhere I know how to speak. I gotta flip how I say things because I can’t speak to them like I speak to you. I know certain phrases and gang signs to get myself out of trouble. Ha Ha
So do you think adjustment was the most important change?
No I would say the most important thing I’ve learned is performing. I can get on stage and rock a crowd of 20,000 people without my hit being played on Hot 97 a million times a day.
I’ve seen you perform with Arsonists and everyone gave you guys props as far as stage shows what have you implemented from the group performance to put together a tight stage show?
I put in a lot of input in the stuff you seen at the shows. It was all of us so all I did was apply it to myself. If you see me perform it’s similar to an Arsonists show.
Does it still involve breaking even though I don’t remember you breaking?
Nah I never did break. I was the only one that didn’t. I would pull off to the side and emcee while they break. I never broke on stage. When I was young and thought I had potential I did.
So you don’t think you got the skills?
I never could break but I could pop.
I only could do a kneespin. I kinda gave it up after that. I had the tight kneespin down and I tried to finish it off with the legs crossed head to the side but it never did work out that way, plus after a while the carpet started to burn your knees. (A lot of y’all know exactly what I’m talking about!! Don’t front..)
How have the fans reacted to the Arsonist separation?
People were practically crying to me. That’s all I hear now. Now all I get is concerned people. What are you going to do? Are y’all gonna get back together? Why did you break up? I can’t believe you broke up how could you do this to me?!?
Ha Ha how could you do this to me?
That’s all I get now. Heads is like we had it and now we lost y’all over some bullshit but its mad real.
Any foreign artists you think have the potential to have an impact on the U.S. hiphop market?
I haven’t run into anybody who would make it here cuz they don’t speak (rhyme in) the language.
What do you think is an essential component in making quality music?
I already told you that one that’s being real to yourself and being real about music not just jumping into the game because it’s a game. Its like wanting to be on the basketball team when in all reality you ain’t a ball player you just want to be on the team to get all the girls. It’s corny.
Are you going to be dedicating more time to recording the Celestial Souljahz project with your cousin Shabazz the Disciple?
Right now me and Bazz are like let’s get our solo shit done and then we will come out with the Souljahz shit after that.
How soon are you planning to release solo 12’s and then a full length? Do you consider the single from the Prunes your first solo release?
That’s not my solo shit because it’s not a single from my album. It’s my single cuz it’s me rhyming but it’s their project. I’m shopping labels and letting people hear things. Hopefully someone will want to put it out cuz my aim is to put it out this year. Everyone is in a rush putting out albums twice a year. Its like I got to compete with them and since people are subject to that you can get forgotten. New motherfuckas are coming out all the time and the ones that aren’t new are dropping several albums a year.
Are you still using the build up and destroy tactical strategy in Starcraft or have you moved onto something better?
I haven’t played for a long time because I’ve been playing Counterstrike now. Niggas can’t fuck with me in CounterStrike and Half-Life. I’ve been playing Age of Empires a little bit but the first thing I did when I came back was chill and play Counterstrike.
Are you interested in getting a full time computer job?
That’s my future. When I stop rapping and no one cares about me anymore then I’ll get into computers. I can put them together, fix minor problems, exchange software etc.
This time next year what do you think will be said about you or hope to be said?
I’m not sure what will be said. What I hope to be said is that people respect me as a lyricist. I just want heads to be like his lyrics are dope. That will give me the drive to keep doing what I’m doing. That would mean I achieved the goal of having heads really listen. I’m not gonna get on the mic and be mad simple. I want them to listen and be like oh he said this and then compare it to other people. Niggas ain’t trying to get metaphoric and clever anymore. Either its too deep or too simple.
What kind of topics have you approached on the 8 songs you got so far?
I did one song about brotherhood, how my group shitted on me, and how Shabazz wouldn’t to compare the two. That’s the type of nigga I want on my side, the type I want to have my back. That’s my nigga to the end and that’s the type of shit I’m on. Then there are two songs with me just spittin cuz you know I have to give you that. One song about hiphop, what I like about it and what I don’t and how people could stick together to make it better. There is a song I did about issues I have like everyday life issues. One of the verses pertains to my ex girl and how she was stressing me. I just go all over the place. I try to span into a lot of shit. Whatever is on my brain I spit it out.
I remember I asked you a question about the over saturation of battles a while back and I think you gave a good answer what do you think about the current battle scene?
It’s starting to get commercial, its been saturated, its like bullshit. They are holding battles just to hold a battle. There isn’t even anybody out there like I really don’t like this nigga right now and I want to kill his shit. Back in the days it was like “Yo I heard this cat Dynasty want you son” and you would get hyped about one battle. Now its like “We’re having a battle there’s a $500 prize everyone sign up its ten dollars to be in it”. It’s bullshit. Then there are all these wack emcees that sign up get on stage and they garbage. The one nigga that’s alright will win the whole thing and everyone will be like oh he’s great. I want to see Foxxy Brown and Lil Kim battle, let me see Jay-Z battle Pharaoh. I don’t want to hear about how much money, ice, drugs, etc that you got let me hear niggas really spit. It’s not too many heads that do that. The battle before the last battle I had was in Brooklyn. I haven’t battled in Brooklyn in a long time. Mad niggas was on stage and I took everybody out. I got to the end and it was this kid and me. Everyone was garbage. It was so bad I ain’t even want to be in it but Bazz was like come on just go take everyone out and call it a night. I got to the end and I lost to this kid and he couldn’t even rap! All he kept saying was “Yo all my niggas wit the 40’s word up shorty yo yo where my niggas at ohhh”. Then they were like to prove you freestyling lets give them a topic from the crowd. This one kid was like rhyme and try to use the letter P as much as you can at the beginning of each word. I was putting it on this nigga and all he did was say the same shit about 40’s and shorties and he won.
He must have had more heads in the crowd
That’s the problem. Mad niggas was there, Bazz, Lord Jamar from Brand Nubian and they was all like I can’t believe this is happening. That’s not a loss on my belt. After the show mad kids came up to me, people down with him came up to me like yo son you was ill. I’m like I can’t believe this I was like anyone wanna battle come on then I left the stage. It was mad thugs there too it was thugged out but I was like whatever right in the middle of Brooklyn. You know how many wack emails I get yo? They be like yo check this verse “yo yo yo…” they will type yo mad times I’m like what is this?
I would like to big up my man Akrobatik that did that song internet emcees cuz that shit is very real. Chatroom battling is another thing that needs to be addressed. Chatroom battling come on this battle shit is out of hand.
Everybody wants to rhyme these days
I’ve been rhyming 16 years. I rhymed in ’85 and I came out with my first record in ’96. Busta was LONS now everyone knows him but it takes a lot of time. Its not like you jump in the game and be like oh shit its happening.
You’ve got the rep for answering all the emails sent to you from fans. Is that still the case with all the wack emails you get now?
I answer them too and be like yo I don’t like what you sent me. I say thanks for reaching out, I’m glad your feeling my music, its an honor you bought my album, its cats like you that keep me doing what I’m doing. Now the verse you sent me I’m not feeling it.
Do you give them constructive criticism?
Yea I tell them I can’t say your not flowing because I can’t hear you but I don’t like what you said here or if I’m not feeling the rhyme scheme. I’ll just be honest and before my opinion I put “DO NOT TAKE THIS AS A DIS” in all caps. It is not disrespect it is an opinion and constructive criticism. Look at it and take it for what it is and run with it to better what I feel about you cuz maybe someone else thinks your dope but I don’t.
At least your honest have you had any dope ones?
Yea but maybe only like 2 or 3 out of hundreds of emails but that doesn’t discourage me. It just means the online world is filled with a bunch of people trying to rap.
Since I’ve started writing at different spots I get a lot of MP3.com emails from heads that made their own page. I haven’t had a chance to peep any of them yet cuz I’m never home but I will. I try to take the time to at least listen to what they sent me since they took the time to send it.
I did I didn’t like it. I did that with one kid and I went and it was bullshit. Show me the skills when I see you, hear you on a mixtape, on stage, or if you put out vinyl but not MP3.com.
Are you going to be doing all your beats?
Hell no! That shit isn’t easy to sit and make your beats and write your rhymes. There are people who can do it. I can do it I just don’t want to. I got lots of beats but that’s all one flavor. That’s why I was with Arsonists to begin with cuz we were all different flavors. I like to give people variety. Most of the serious stuff by Arsonists was probably my idea like “Seed” or “Venom”; the funny stuff was Q or D-Stroy. I like to work with different shit so I’ll have different producers. If it’s hot it will make me write.
Freestyle can be reach for questions and comments at Settnfires@aol.com. Look out for and support the new single by the Prunes Feat. Freestyle “Rockin the Mic” b/w “Enemy of the Crate” For more info check www.grandroyal.com