by May Blaiz
It was dubbed the East Coast Renaissance. Wu-Tang brought the ruckus with 36 Chambers. The world was ours when Nas released Illmatic. Big L, the MVP, came out with Lifestylez ov da Poor and Dangerous. Temperatures rose in clubs when Mobb Deep came out with The Infamous and Brooklyn’s finest Jay-Z released Reasonable Doubt. And when big poppa B.I.G released Ready to Die things done changed. This snapshot in time? 1995. The Hip Hop Revival. Yet let’s not forget – out of the trenches also that year- was the birth of Smif n Wessun.
Following the release of ”Black Smif n Wessun” on Black Moon’s classic Enta da Stage album in 1993, Tek and Steele – collectively known as Smif n Wessun – released what would be the #1 Rap Album, selling over 300,000 copies and even making a #3 spot on Billboard’s R&B chart. This was Dah Shinin’. Can you remember the reggae tones and vivid street tales of “Sound Bwoy Burreil”? The collective chants of the BCC in “Cession at the Doghillee”? And who can forget the powerful uplifting anthem that would brand New York’s concrete “Bucktown”? Y’all better Wreckonize!! Most definitely, this is a classic album to have and keep in your collection because even until now, their sound sets the standard for music makers in hip hop. Its timeless in that their emotion-invoking beats and influence are still heavy to this day. Ahh, it was a beautiful time in hip-hop history that many of us wish we could return to.
And good for us, these hip-hop soldiers are back together. In an interview with MVRemix, Smif n Wessun share the importance of remembering the past, the meaning of resilience in present time and tells the fans what to expect from their 4th LP release, The Album.
MVRemix: Its been 15 years since “U Da Man” on Black Moon’s Enta Da Stage. How do you compare Smif n Wessun then to the Smif n Wessun now?
Steele: Bigger and better.
Tek: I definitely know for a fact that we matured in the game. We experienced numerous good and bad things, won along the way and had a couple of losses. But to be a champ, sometimes you have to get knocked out. Lose the belt in order to regain it again and get this shit on the right track and that’s where we at wit The Album.
MVRemix: Hip hop has changed so much over the years. What are your thoughts on the direction of hip hop? Where is it going?
Tek: That’s definitely what it is, it’s progressing, and there’s nothing slowing it down. The computer era, the decline in record sales, not even the selling of vinyl is stopping it anymore. Hip-hop just keeps movin’ and going.
Steele: We livin’ in a technological era. Right now it seems that the direction of hip-hop is going to the worldwide scope. It’s untamable right now. It’s at a point where now I can communicate with somebody in Japan, right now. I can communicate with someone in Australia. I can communicate with someone in Africa. You can be in a small place in Brooklyn in your desk and you can record music without even going anywhere. You can do podcasts, radio stations, magazines, DVD’s. You can do a lot of things without even leaving the privacy of your own home. A lot of people are seeing this, doing this. We been talking about this since 1999! Here we are, releasing albums without even having actual CD’s anymore. We’re downloading straight from iTunes. Many people don’t even have cable. They just watch our streaming videos directly through youtube.. It’s a phenomenon, I don’t know how big it’s going to get but it’s going to be …it’s going to be infinite.
MVRemix: How does this impact Smif n Wessun?
Steele: It’s been a good thing. We’ve been able to sustain. Especially for us, cuz we don’t get the commercial radio play that many other artists have. We deal directly with our fans. Duck Down has been prominent in the web since Day One.
MVRemix: Over the years, you released “Rude Awakening” as Cocoa Brovas; celebrated the return of Smif n Wessun in “Reloaded” and appear on Boot Camp Click’s “The Last Stand” and “Casualties of War”. What has kept Duck Down tight and BCC going strong?
Steele: A lot of hard work, dedication, our faith in the higher power and our friends and family. Being out there in the streets when kids and people say, “Hey, your contribution to hip hop helped me get through school” or “It helped me get me through issues in my life that was tough for me at the time” and “You inspire me”. If I have that type of power, who am I not to use it? So I go out there and work. And work hard.
Tek: Oh man, it’s a new experience everyday. Still being fans of the music that we are – for the whole hip-hop game. It’s a combination of newer artists coming out, some of the beats just get you in the mood where you have to pick up a pen and write down what’s in your heart and mind at that time and my Boot Camp, Duck Down family keep pushing and that’s what keeps us going. And of course, the love from our fans.
MVRemix: I understand both of you have done some solo projects. General Steele, you have Hotsyle Takeover out and I believe Tek, you have an album called UGP (Underground Prince) . Tell us about that.
Tek: Yeah, that’s right. It’s actually a mixtape, UGP. It’s not out yet, but my partner has the Hotstyle Takeover joint that’s in stores online now.
Steele: That’s official right there. That’s exactly what it says it is. Hotstyle Takeover. It’s out right now, go to www.duckdown.com and look out for a couple of the videos on youtube. I mean, I’m always doing stuff. I have a couple of artists that I’m working with right now with Bucktown USA, but my focus is promoting The Album. In this day in time, things can go either way. There’s a lot of drama going on in hip-hop and it’s looking real crazy right now. The streets of New York is on fire. Fingers are being pointed out at gangsta rap. It’s a good time and a bad time right now with hip hop and with that being said, it’s a great time for this album to come out. So when people listen to it, it shouldn’t put you in any particular mind state but it should inspire you to just do whatever you’re doing, to live your life, to enjoy your life and do what you do best to the best of your ability. Go in and go hard.
MVRemix: Do you go on any retreats on your own? To just get away?
Steele: The city is my retreat. I can retreat anywhere in the city and no body bothers me, I just blend in. And that to me, I like to be around people. I don’t like to be in some lost, over there, too far away from ourselves kind of place. I like to take the subway too. It gives me a chance to think. The city inspires me. I love the movement. It keeps you sharp and you always have to prepare for the unpreparable. You just gotta learn how to retreat from your own mind when things get crazy.
MVRemix: So with The Album, I understand that you guys went to Sweden to produce this 4th LP release. What should we expect?
Tek: Expect some of the dopest, the hardest, the hottest, the most beautiful symphony of music that you’ve ever heard before especially coming from Smif n Wessun. We didn’t try to go any commercial route to have a song for the females, for the clubs or a New York song. We just got in the studio, locked down and got what we needed to have in there and we made some magic come out. The whole album is produced by our Swedish boys over the water; Tommy Tee, Loudmouf Choir, Collen, Rune Rotter, Soul Theory and of course our boy Ken Ring. There’s magic in the air from all our bodies and our souls as well.
MVRemix: I understand that the producer Ken Ring produced the track ‘Trading Places” from BCC’s Last Stand album as well as “Reloaded” off of your Reloaded album.
Tek: Yeah, exactly. We formed that relationship over the years. He also produced “Timbz Do Work”. They are part of our team so naturally we gave them the exposure they need to get out there. The Album, it’s just blessed with our lives. That’s our life in there. But yeah, there’s joints in there where you can get your hustle on, get your slide on, you can drop it like it’s hot in there and you know, songs you can get your two step on. Enjoy it.
MVRemix: Thank you for your time. Final comments?
Steele: Yeah, to everybody out there in Canada and in the world, support the BCC, look out for Boot Camp in the 08 and buy The Album. It’s in stores right now. Look out for the “Stomp” video that’s out now on youtube with our boys Joell Ortiz & Rock. Too all the people, let’s not forget where we came from. Let’s focus on where we are trying to go. Remember our forefathers in the game, Kool Herc, Afrika Bambattaa and all. Rest in peace to all the souls that ain’t here. 08 Buckdown USA, here we come.
Tek: Canada always shows us love. Every part we go to…. So fans, get at us at www.myspace.com/smifnwessun and www.duckdown.com. Please support the new album. Stay strong with your boys here at Duck Down and Boot Camp cuz we ain’t goin’ no where, we’re here to stay wit cha… get in ya…ya dig?