General Steele of Smif N Wessun Interview

Conducted by May Blaiz

For those of you who know and for those of you who should know, General Steele along with Tek – collectively known as Smif N Wessun – released a #1 Rap Album, selling over 300,000 copies. This was Dah Shinin’. Remember the powerful uplifting anthem that would brand New York’s concrete Brooklyn “Bucktown”? The trumpet intro followed by Steele’s first verse… “I walk around town with the pound strapped down to my side…”

Little did he know at the time, a 1975 blaxploitation movie was already out there featuring Fred Williamson, Pam Grier, Thalmus Rasulala and Tony King, named what else? Bucktown! “It took about 5 years later, around 1999, when we seen the movie and we realized that something was out already”, Steele mentions.

Bucktown trailer

Inspired, General Steele samples dialogue from this film, in “Welcome to Bucktown”, the first official release off the Bucktown USA imprint. With the goal to portray life in Brooklyn through his eyes and through the eyes of a number of Brooklyn emcees and producers, he states, “I didn’t try to copy the film or the soundtrack, but the concept and feel of it. I was able to relate to what they were going through with the police and with their own comrades and I wanted to depict that vibe & energy with the songs and the artwork.”

In an interview with MVRemix, General Steels shares the making of the soundtrack, his thoughts on modern day Brooklyn, social media outlets such as Twitter, upcoming projects and a sneak peek into what we can expect from his Bucktown USA imprint.




MVRemix: “Welcome to Bucktown” is your first official release for the Bucktown USA imprint. Can you tell me a bit about the making of the soundtrack? You stated at one point that Bucktown is a modern day Brooklyn. Can you describe what that means?

Steele: Smif N Wessun started with “Bucktown”. So, it was only right. I think that it’s important that artists speak about what they know about. Whether it’s from experience indirect or direct. Having direct experience with Brooklyn and me saying that Brooklyn is Bucktown and then having indirect experience travelling throughout the states and saying “Wow, there’s a Bucktown in Chicago. There’s a Bucktown in L.A. There’s a Bucktown in Texas. There’s a Bucktown everywhere. Everywhere is Bucktown” You know what? This ain’t right. Let’s pull it all together, and say OK, this is what we’re dealing with, what is this thing we are dealing with?

Before you listen to the album, it asks you, “Do you believe in God? If you do, then you in the wrong place”. If you come into a sort of place, you’re gonna need more than God sometimes… most times. God is not going to get you through, or whatever Savoir you may believe in or may not believe in. A lot of work has to occur with the individual that’s willing to step into the arena.

Music sometimes has a visual aspect, and if it doesn’t, then we don’t get it. It’s just rap. We are trying to incorporate that feeling of what you get when you listen to Curtis Mayfield or Barry White, without saying we are going to take all of these tracks and make these over. It’s been a long time we’ve been able to listen to an album as opposed to just saying that, “I like this album, this artist and I like these 3 tracks”. So now you have an album which we choose to call a soundtrack due to the question that you asked initially. I want you to feel full. Hopefully you can get into the whole story of knowing why music is an intrical part of our day to day.

MVRemix: You stated that you wanted artists and producers who fit the cast, artists who could carry that 70s energy naturally through their personal contributions.

Steele: As a 70s baby, I was brought under a certain kind of vibe, a certain type of music which fuelled what I’m doing right now. So I have to give credit to something of my birth, into the industry. What’s so great about the 90s was that some people chose to call it “the Golden Era”. You had such diversity within that that you could be a regular person and still listen to a Kool G rap, or listen to a political rap or a hard core rap without somebody saying that you are hard core, political or that you are this or you are that.

We had a time in that era where we can just listen to music and just say that I like this tune. And because we put so much restrictions to that now, some people are saying “I don’t listen to hip hop because hip hop is this” and they haven’t even experienced the full scope of it, they just listen to what’s on the radio or what’s being shown to them on BET or MTV and we all know that what’s on BET or MTV and the radio stations don’t really represent what’s going on. It’s too vast for them to cover that.

MVRemix: So when you did the album and you approached Brooklyn emcees like Shabaam Sahdeeq, Smoothe Da Hustler, Buckshot, Sean Price, and producers like DJ Revolution and Da Beatminerz, did you approach them first with a vision?

Steele: Absolutely. I picked all the tracks first. I picked the producers and said “I think I can hear Buckshot on this track”, “I can hear the whole Bootcamp, this is a Bootcamp song”. And certain producers provided me with the mood as is parallel with the track. As opposed to giving you a track and saying “here’s the beat, rhyme to the beat”, we say, “here’s the scenario, improv to the scenario”. That’s what we try to accomplish. Most rappers already do this but sometimes, unfortunately, rappers get so engulfed with their character that they forget what they are actually doing. People be knowing though. We say they fake, or we say they real.

MVRemix: So with the album, the soundtrack, I should say, what is your message? What do you want the listeners to get?

Steele: That you have an option. It’s always good to express yourself, so long as you have the forum to civilly express yourself, you should utilize that. We have the Patriot Act 3. We don’t want to have Patriot Act 7 where everybody gotta be silent and if you talk in public you’re going to jail.

Now we have something that’s called hip hop where we can basically express ourselves. I can be talking to somebody in Africa today and then be talking to somebody somewhere else in the world tomorrow, through my affiliation with hip hop. It’s a political structure, as well as cultural structure, as well as a social structure. Big up to Zulu Nation, Afrika Bambaataa and Kool Herc.

We do our part when we add on to it and we have to make sure this thing keeps going.

MVRemix: You’re last song are “Things are Getting Better”. Tell me about what that means.

Steele: I want people to know that it’s no secret that Brooklyn has a notorious history, but at the same time it also has a beautiful history. Within the struggle comes great accomplishments, comes great benefits, great glory and if you’re not willing to struggle with it, you’re not willing to receive it. If you thought that Bucktown is crazy and that people are dying, there’s guns, weed and Timberlands and ronchy people who don’t care ‘bout nobody, there’s a different side to that. Things are getting’ better in Bucktown says that if you real and willing to go through things, you ultimately will see the benefits of it. It’s a struggle, it still is.. but like Talib Kweli says… It’s a beautiful struggle.

MVRemix: I want to talk to you about Bucktown USA. Can you tell me about the birth of that?

Steele: People who are familiar with Dah Shining and for those who watched the movie, Bucktown, you’ll see it’s all about overcoming obstacles. Some that you saw, some of them you didn’t and that’s what we do basically in life. We can identify with that if not so much, the pimps, the pushers, the players, and the gangsters…it’s not so much of that, that’s basically the positions that people play, they’ve got mad positions. So the outcome of that is who’s going to withstand through the storm. That’s really what it’s all about.

With Bucktown USA, I ask, you really want to keep going forward in life? You gotta be willing to work, to go through certain things. Some people go through things and say “Oh my god, that’s so hard, I don’t know I can’t do this. I can’t go through this.” If that’s your vibe, then hey, that makes it better for the rest of us.

MVRemix: So you have some films that you’re also working on.

Steele: Yeah. “Band of Brothers” is a docudrama about the Bootcamp Clik. We are working on the album right now. We’re also taking tracks, you can print that! We need tracks. If anybody wants to be a part of history, it’s the story of Bootcamp. I think people are going to enjoy this because it’s not really a rap story, it’s a story about friendship, about the ups and downs and a little romance, but not much. It’s really about friendships and how important friendships are.

MVRemix: You’re branching off into Bucktown USA, doing interviews, television work, how does this impact the day and the life of General Steele?

Steele: I think that as we go into more of the information age and technology is expanding, you have to give. So for example, for the people who know about Dah Shining, what more can I give them? I can bring them to my house, through technology. I can literally say, “You want to come eat breakfast with Steele? Tune in with me at 9am Central and we can have breakfast together” through the technology. The power is at our fingertips.

I mean, we from the hood but we didn’t know that we have stuff in tune with the refugees from Stockholm , the refugees from Africa, from Russia, they from everywhere. They just regular kids, just like us. I really appreciate the fact that like, I’m from Brooklyn. I don’t know the struggles of other people. But when I can say what I’m saying and then other individuals can identify with me because they had a similar struggle, this just empowers me even more.

MVRemix: What are your thoughts on social media, like, Facebook, Twitter?

Steele: Twitter is cool, but it’s more local, it’s like one big party line. Facebook is more personal, more global. I was reading that Twitter, I don’t want to misquote but, it was speaking about how it just makes people feel less emotion, less time to respond. Everything is quick, quick, quick, quick, quick!!

It made me think about music, like the microwave era we live in. Everything is fast. Like, we don’t even want to hear nothing. If you hear Bob Marley havin’ a jam session in the studio with Peter Tosh, he was just jamming cuz sometimes you didn’t have tracks in the studio, you have a jam and everything you did, you had to speak through a microphone. If you hear one of those tapes right now, you hear the involvement of each individual person and each individual instrument.

Today we live in such a modern microwave age, that you just want to hear all that shit put together, quick. “Put it together for me. I don’t have time to sift through it.” We gotta make things fast. It gets kinda crazy where we gotta make music and people don’t want to hear it, so you gotta make something that people want to hear because we know they don’t already.

MVRemix: So you like the touring and meeting people?

Steele: I love meeting people, cuz just when you thought you knew everything, you meet somebody and then you’re like wow.

MVRemix: So, what’s in the future for BCC? Any upcoming tours?

Steele: We’ve been doin’ a campaign called Tribute to the Classics where we do a live show. Black Moon and Smif N Wessun performs with a band. Sean Price is still touring promoting the Heltah Skeltah album and we gonna be making some dates for Welcome to Bucktown where we be doing what I like to call a “broadway play”. We will be doing different things with the show, coming up this year. There’s a Bootcamp album, that I spoke about earlier. There’s also a KRS/Buckshot album out right now. The album is done. They are working on the next level on that. Heltah Skeltah, Ruste Juxx, Torae, Marco Polo is out right now. B-Real album is out right now, DJ Revolution. I don’t know any record label that has as many records out right now other than Duckdown.

MVRemix: I understand that Smif N Wessun is coming out with one as well?

Steele: Yeah, I was going to get to that. That is classified information. I didn’t want to reveal that but since you brought it up…

MVRemix: Is it true that Pete Rock is the only one producing it?

Steele: We’ve been kickin’ it with Pete. We just makin’ sure everything is taken care of, red tape and all finalized.

MVRemix: Why just one producer?

Steele: I think that as an artist, we want to make it meaningful and sometimes when you get a whole bunch of producers you kind of get away from the picture. There’s one producer for the album. Like when we did interviews for Dah Shinin, the only producer that worked on the album was Da Beatminerz. I’m not sayin’ anymore, next question.

MVRemix: Do you have any last minute words for your fans in Canada?

Steele: I love you Canada! I look forward to seeing you guys very, very soon with the entire Boot Camp. In the mean time in the between time, check us out and stay tuned on www.duckdown.com

You can also join us on www.bucktownusa.com and if you just want to see some footage of what’s goin’ on here in the Brooklyn side of things you can go to www.mogulus.com/bucktownusa or www.mogulus.com/bucktownusatv. You can see 24 hours of footage interviews. I have a television show with Cynical Smith. We going on the 5th year and we want to keep the hip hop culture going.

Be on the lookout for the documentary that we are working on on the assassination of Malcolm X. We are doing a day by day documentary on one of the individuals who was convicted on his participation in the assassination and he’s saying he’s innocent.

He’s trying to get exonerated and we doing the documentation of the whole process. It’s more than hip hop, so stay tuned. Salute to everybody out there.

General Steele of Smif N Wessun Interview

Bootcamp Clik Interview

by Dale Coachman

If you were wondering where the Boot Camp Clik has been the answer is very simple and evident in the music, the studio. Known for getting caught up in label and distribution ordeals, the Camp is back on Duckdown records making hip-hop music independently and always for the people.

MVRemix: What has kept you together for 13 years?

Steele: God first and foremost because we are all spiritual individuals which all makes us humble at some point and before we all started rhymin’ we knew each other. Louisville, Rock, and DJ Logic all lived in the same building. Me and Top Dog are brothers and we lived across the street in the same building. Me and Tek went to school together and I met Buck through his sister and Buck was the last one that joined but what is funny was he went to the same public school that my brother went to. Starang lived around the corner from us, and Ruck lived around the corner from my grandmother, so we all kinda knew each before so I think that played a big part.

MVRemix: Ya’ll just came off a European tour how was that?

Steele: We actually bumped into Percee P. and RA on the tour but they were doing something different, but the tour was nice, it was real dope.

MVRemix: Tek and Steele came out with the X-Files what kind of response have ya’ll been getting, in addition is there an album coming from Smif and Wessun?

Steele: We gonna put that out in ’07. Ruck got his shit comin’ out this year, and we are gonna work this Boot Camp album cause when the Boot Camp album comes out we’re gonna be on tour, and we got like a 35 city tour that’s comin’ up and the album comes out July 18th. So we are already gonna be on the road which is beautiful and when the album drops we come back to New York and we got a show with Mobb Deep, so it’s gonna be crazy. Also me and Tek we put that out because we have been sitting on that stuff for a while a lot of that stuff was music that was recorded when we were with Rawkus, which was fucked up for us ‘cause people was like where ya’ll been? This is where we’ve been, makin’ songs, but we were in a bad position and couldn’t put them out, but it doesn’t stop the music and we were reaching out to the fans.

MVRemix: What have ya’ll learned from that because ya’ll always seem to run into the label problem?

Steele: That’s another thing that kept us together because from the gate we were with Def Jam and a lot of cats that came out with us ain’t makin’ no music right now, don’t have the same management, and don’t have the same homies, and whose group isn’t even together. Then its like the ones who have the potential to move on they either sell they soul sort of speak, like I was watching Cocaine City and Ice Cube was like, “If you ballin’ make your own records don’t sell your rights away make your own shit.” When we fuckin’ with Duckdown that’s what we doin’. We’re makin’ our own stuff. Always work never fall into a depression state never stop doing what you’re doing or what is making you money.

MVRemix: Ghostface was talking about people in New York not standing for anything and ironically ya’ll are comin out with this album The Last Stand what message are ya’ll sending with this album?

Tek: Well our message has always been a message of self determination. When you are determined within yourself and you got a good team around you can accomplish anything, like this is for the common folk, to realize that cats that are under us like you don’t have to be a superhero just be good at what you do. Rap with a passion like what Martin Luther King said, “If you’re gonna sweep floors be the best floor sweeper in your heart.” so for us like every time we together it’s a party so for us just havin’ the determination to keep movin’ forward. We kinda letting people know we’re not gonna stop until we’re dead. So this is our chance to say we are gonna stand up for everything we fuck wit and nobody is going to kill our spirits our hearts.

MVRemix: As far as the producers you have 9th Wonder, Pete Rock, Beatminerz and others, how did ya’ll hook up with 9th because I know he did Chemistry with Buck, how did ya’ll first get connected with 9th and Little Brother?

Tek: Before we did the Boot Camp album Dru-Ha had met 9th and he expressed how much he liked the camp and I had a cd out where I had instrumentals on the CD ,and Dru had sent that cd to 9th which he remixed them and Dru fell in love with them. Dru kept in touch with 9th so they set something up and Dru brung the guys down to work with 9th and he let us fuck with his producers and we stayed there for like a week it was real cool.

MVRemix: You’re comin out with Jesus Price Superstar can we expect the same as Monkey Bars or can we expect something totally different?

Sean Price: If ain’t broke don’t try to fix its like Jesus Price is like Monkey Bars on steroids.

MVRemix: Nas is coming out with his album Hip-Hop is Dead do you feel like it is dead or was dead along time ago and what are you trying to do to bring that back?

Sean Price: Hip-hop ain’t dead. People rap about what they want to rap about and the masses choose to listen to. What am I doin? Monkey Bars and Jesus Price, I’m the savior of real hip-hop and I’m goin’ through the slums spreading the gospel of real hip-hop. I’m not on no religious shit and follow me because I’m a lead you the right way.

MVRemix: Do you have any guest appearances on the album?

Sean Price: Buckshot, Rock, Phonte from Little Brother and Sean Don from the Justus League.

MVRemix: How was it working with Phonte?

Sean Price: Oh that shit was crazy, son is nice. Actually when he spit his verse I had to go home and write mine, real talk.

MVRemix: Who came up with the idea to bring the Camp back together for another album?

Sean Price: It was obvious that was the next thing to do, we did the triple threat with my album Buckshot and 9th Wonder and the Smif & Wessun album so the next line album is the Boot Camp album, my solo album and Heltah Skeltah.

Original Article

Smif N Wessun Interview: THE PAST, THE PRESENT, THE ALBUM

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?

Original Article