MVRemix caught up with Mr. Lif while on tour with Cage at Richards on Richards in Vancouver, B.C., Canada, (July 2006). This interview was never added to the site in a transcribed form and is only available through this video.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been more than a decade since the release of his highly-acclaimed solo debut, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx. Despite having dropped two other solo albums since – 1999’s Immobilarity and 2003’s The Lex Diamond Story – the streets have been fiending for more of Raekwon the Chef’s grimy street appeal that first caught their attention back in ’95. The streets asked for it, and the Chef responded.
This summer, Wu Tang Clan’s best storyteller will drop Only Built for Cuban Linx II. On one of many mini-tours to promote it, the Chef sat down with MVRemix to talk about the album, being an icon and a teddy bear, and hip-hop as a tall bitch with big feet.
MVRemix: So how long you been on tour, like late March to mid-April?
Raekwon: Yeah, something like that. A two-and-a-half week thing.
MVRemix: Is that just on the west coast?
Raekwon: Nah, that’s international right now, you know, all the different countries, just letting people know to get ready for the album. Not too many artists that take it all across the world. I like to just travel the world, let the word be known, so I can be like, ‘Yeah y’all.’ At least the places I won’t be able to always to be at, at least I can show them some honor, you know.
MVRemix: The obligatory shit: You got a release date for [Only Built 4] Cuban Linx II yet?
Raekwon: It’s gonna be in the summer, you know. It’s not really no date solidified yet, because things can happen and change, you know. We’re gonna be shooting for, like, June or July, you know. It’s probably looking like a 70/30 probability.
MVRemix: I know you don’t want to give away too many details about the album. You’re very secretive about it—
Raekwon: Very much.
MVRemix: But Busta’s executive producing?
Raekwon: No doubt.
MVRemix: And mostly RZA beats?
Raekwon: Mhmm. [Nods]
MVRemix: Some Dr. Dre, some Erick Sermon, some Alchemist?
Raekwon: It’s possible, it’s possible. I mean, you doing all the answering! Saying everything that’s correct! You know, I don’t really want to give too much information, because it kind of takes the fun out of it. And, you know, my whole thing, at the end of the day, this album is just me with a street mentality. I’m not really worried about any press or any commercial radio, you know what I mean? I couldn’t make Cuban Linx [II] with that frame of mind because that wasn’t my frame of mind when I made the first one. So basically I just zoned out and just really got on some strong production shit, you know, compliments of Dre, RZA, Scram Jones, you know, J. Dilla, God bless him, he’s a maniac on the beats. Couple of things that are already going to make it classic, so I feel good right now.
MVRemix: Yes or no: the whole Clan, minus the late ODB, is confirmed to appear on the album.
MVRemix: The tracks you and Ghostface did together were done via e-mail. How do you feel about the chemistry between the two of you when it’s done that way as opposed to in the studio together?
Raekwon: One thing about me and Ghost, we both extremists. We like powerful production and we know we got our hands on some big production. To me, it’s just natural, because when we get in a room together, the chemistry just falls in place. It’s like being around somebody that’s an athlete, and you an athlete, and when y’all talk the same talk and move the same way, things start to play out better towards the future of whatever you’re doing. It’s about that confidence, you know what I mean?
MVRemix: You’ve said repeatedly that this album is going to be what the fans want, what they asked for. For example, you told MTV.com: “Nobody’s ever satisfied. At the end of the day, this album is gonna be the album dudes want. It ain’t gonna be the album Rae felt he should have given. This is gonna be what y’all wanted.” What is the album you felt you should have given?
Raekwon: One thing about me, you know I like to be versatile, and not just go into a certain kind of world where— this world, which is basically the cocaine era. This is a movie right here, you know what I mean? This is a movie of my life and where I had been before I even became the successful Raekwon. So for people to want that, that’s cool for me, but when you look at my name chef, I have many different dishes that I like to serve, you know. For this fortunate album here, that I’m able to make, I love the passion of this album right here, because it takes it back to the hunger of hip-hop. It’s needed right now. I understand that I may be the last man on the totem pole that can pull of such an album with this kind of sound. You know, it’s about the production as well the gangsta lifestyle, you know what I mean? It was more or less about, we street, like all the way. You didn’t have to look at Wu Tang on any commercial level, or how big our fanbase got. We always had the slang, the talk, the style, the different kind of music, the beats. The formula was just totally upscale. Now, you just get a bunch of whatever. You don’t get art at its best no more.
MVRemix: Real quick: Any updates on the [Wu] reunion tour?
Raekwon: I can’t comment on that. [Smile] I can’t. I’m sorry.
MVRemix: Ghost was saying he was a little disappointed with the last couple [Wu Tang] albums [The W and Iron Flag]. What are your thoughts on that?
Raekwon: Ghost can say all that shit, but at the end of the day, it’s like, one thing people gotta realize about Wu Tang: we make good albums, man. We might not be the best single-pickin’ dudes, but I know as far as making good albums, you compare any Wu artist to anybody’s album and they can’t fuck with us when it’s more than one song. You may have one or two good videos, but— sometimes Ghost be exaggerating, you know what I mean, with his mind frame of thinking that the albums be wack. I know anything I do, I don’t never make nothing wack. Any of my songs, we might not have as much focus as we wanted to, but we don’t make wack shit, so I’m not going for that. You can go get anybody’s album, put our shit next to it, lyrics, beats, whatever you want to do, it’s self-explanatory how we really get down. That’s what people look at us for; they look at us for album. Wu is a whole different family. People gotta remember that. We can talk about tennis balls today and talk about big, heavy pieces of ice tomorrow. It’s about the creativity that lives inside of us. We’re unpredictable. You gotta remember that, you know what I mean? For me, it’s like, I learn from every album. It’s just a vibe. Everything is not made to be the same, so that’s just him talking that bullshit. I ain’t going for that. He might have not liked it, but that’s cool. To me, I think we overkill ourselves sometimes with just being our worst critics. Sometimes we don’t get a chance to promote our albums either, so they won’t get the proper loving they get, because there’s no promotion on it. We’re not moving it like that.
MVRemix: What did you get your first big pay check from and what did you do with it?
Raekwon: Robbin’ and stealin’! [Smiles] Nah. Um, I don’t even remember, actually. I think I bought me a car. Bought me a Lex, or Acura or some shit. Got up out the hood, you know what I mean? Gave my mom some money, my family some money, then kept it moving. I wanted to get out of the neighborhood. I went and bought me a house.
by Jeremy Simmonds
MVRemix: Where in the world have you toured?
Dru Down: I’ve been all over. Everywhere except China.
MVRemix: That would be pretty big if Dru Down rocked China. Have you been to Canada?
Dru Down: Yeah I’ve been to Canada a few times. As far as rocking shows, I’ve never done one, but I’ve been there cuz I do this pimp thang! You know what talking â€˜bout I’m real in the fields.
MVRemix: In September of 2006 you dropped your sixth studio album titled “Cash Me Out” in collaboration with your cousin Lee Majors. Tell everyone out there about this project and your upcoming “Crack Muzic” mixtapes?
Dru Down: Crack Muzic is all out about taking a mutahfucka-it’s going to be inspired by it’s some different from Dru Down. People ain’t heard me rap over others, been waiting for. It’s with my blood cousins, but at the same time there gonna have to love my cousinsâ€¦which is real family.
MVRemix:In your music you make a point to express your roots and where you come from. Tell me about how Oakland shaped you as a person and why you take such pride in representing your town?
Dru Down: I’m 35, people don’t know. I feel like I’m still 20, like Jay Z. We’re out here in the gusto, if you see me you think of that. Hyphy is just another term of mobbin’. As far as the 50s, that’s the hometown. That’s my base, that’ my heart, that’s where I was raised. I been here for a lifetime. Everyone have a grandchild when they been here, I been back in forth between counties in La. But you know I stay town bound to the fullest. East Oakland, North and West, that’s my town, we all Oakland.
MVRemix: Do you ever feel as though you’d get more acclaim and attention if you were based in New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta?
Dru Down: Well right now maybe Atlanta, â€˜cause it’s on fire. Right now they on fire. We had that, then LA took it, and New York. But as far as respect, I get respect as soon as I step off a plane. I’m different by my ways, I stay oceaned up, curls, gold teeth, town business all the time. People ain’t gona say I’m NY, people know I’m a Cali cat, you know East O.
MVRemix: On a number of your songs you talk about police corruption and police brutality, such as “Bad Boys” among others.
Dru Down: Police ain’t nothing but a gang. They’ve been a gang, that’s way back if you look at the Al Capone days. They made it bigger, legit, just to stop him. People may do crime in the streets, and they’re made to catch it. That’s all it is, some people don’t understand crime, they a gang. Fuck the police, in my book. Any time they try to arrest me, I’m running. Any time they try to put a cuff on me, I’m out the dirt! American society is up on police brutality, that’s why people run, cuz of the situation of brutality. They don’t know what’s gonna happen. But when you’re legit, you can talk shit! [laughs]
MVRemix: Explain the origin of your word “pimpydoism” and what it means.
Dru Down: Oh pimpydoism is a mix of everything. That’s me, within all the game a mofo got and what goes with it, town business, within family origin of blood line; a pimp.
MVRemix: You have a lot of character and creativity in your writing and rapping. Among them is Jackrabbit the Bugsy. How would you describe that character, how it is incorporated into your music, and you come up with it?
Dru Down: Just fast rapping, Dru Down is typically more slow, but from my album “Pimpin Phernelia” that’s how everyone know about Jackrabbit the Bugsy. The fast style of rhyming.
by Todd E. Jones
Sadat X is a caged legend. As a member of Brand Nubian, he has performed timeless verses on the classic songs such as “Slow Down”, “Punks Jump Up To Get Beat Down”, “One For All”, and “Love Me Or Leave Me Alone”. As a solo artist, he has achieved an undeniable credibility. His solo track “The Lump Lump” is a magnificent remarkable track that incorporated a vocal sample from Groove Theory’s “Tell Me”. The song, “Hang Em High” used a sample from the theme song to “The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly”. His classic debut LP, “Wild Cowboys” is an under appreciated magnum opus. Released on Loud Records, “Wild Cowboys” featured production by Pete Rock, Roc Raider, DJ Ogee, Da Beatminerz, Diamond, and others. Released on Stimulated Records, “The State Of New York Vs. Derek Murphy” EP was also terribly slept on. The EP featured production from A Kid Called Roots, Diamond, Minnesota, and more. Standout tracks included “X-Man”, “Cock It Back”, and “You Can’t Deny”. After signing to Female Fun Records, Sadat X released the “Experience & Education” LP. Guests included Heltah Skeltah, Agallah, Edo.G, and Money Boss Players. Production was handled by Agallah, Geology, DJ Spinna, Vin The Chin, Diamond D, Madsol-Desar, Sha Boogie, Minnesota, and A Kid Called Roots. Throughout the years, the emcee has worked with a myriad of legendary artists including The Notorious B.I.G., Edo.G, Common, Large Professor, Big L, Guru (of Gangstarr), Vast Aire, O.G.C., A Tribe Called Quest, KRS-One, Kool Keith, Xzibit, The Beat Kids, Talib Kweli, Big Daddy Kane, Greg Nice, and many more. His nasal sounding voice is a significant attribute that makes him sound unlike any other emcee. His unorthodox flow and loose structure of his verses accentuate his uniqueness. His verses are loose, but somehow always tight. He has made his offbeat delivery sound perfectly on beat. His multiple contributions to the hip-hop culture are soulfully based in truth.
The wild cowboy is now behind bars. Professionally, Sadat X was living a positive life while free. He has coached basketball, taught in schools, and even released a new Brand Nubian album with the original members (Grand Puba and Lord Jamar). Ironically, Lord Jamar portrayed Supreme Allah is the HBO prison series “Oz”. Spiritually rich, Sadat X was enlightened when he became a member of the Muslim organization known as The Nation Of Gods & Earths. Unfortunately, a money dispute caused intense conflicts in New York. Someone snitched on the wild cowboy! Sadat X was arrested for gun possession. At the time, he was facing almost a year in jail.
“â€¦Stages and cameras and lights don’t affect me. Same on the wax as the same on the streetâ€¦” (from “Stages & Lights” from the “Wild Cowboys” LP). The music of Sadat X is admirably honest and vividly real. Before he had to start his jail sentence, Sadat X completed an entire album. “Black October” by Sadat X was released around the same time he went inside. The opening title track (produced by DJ Spinna) is a poignantly heartbreaking look at his preparation for his incarceration. In the brutally honest “Momentary Outro”, Sadat X tells the story behind how he got arrested. Like the song “The Daily News” (from “Experience & Education”), “The Post” (produced by Diamond D) features Sadat X free styling by using the headlines from the newspaper. Produced by Ayatollah, “Throw The Ball” is a vivid picture of a family barbeque. Produced by The Asmatic, “Eternally Yours” is a heartfelt atmospheric track. J-Zone produces the excellent “X Is A Machine”. Fellow Brand Nubian members, Grand Puba and Lord Jamar joint Sadat X on “Chosen Few”. Produced by Scotty Blanco, “Million Dollar Deal” features X pondering what he would do if he had the opportunity to sign a record deal for $1 million. Da Beatminerz produce the sonically rich “On The Come Thru”. Hidden tracks include a fantastic remix of “God Is Back” and another song about a woman trying to turn Sadat’s girlfriend into a lesbian. The album offers a harsh view of the struggles of Dotty X. Like life, the emotional spectrum is offered. Sadat X displays his love for his family and girlfriend. His anger and frustration is evident when rhyming about his legal problems. Some songs showcase his sharp skills as an emcee. The “Black October” LP is the most realistic and honest hip-hop album in a very long time.
NOTE: This is a lost interview in 2 parts. Conducted in November 2006 while Sadat X was locked up in Rikers Island, this first section was not completed until March 2007. As of this time of writing, the second part has yet to be completed. Hopefully, Sadat X and I can have an in-depth conversation when he is free.
Sadat X may be incarcerated, but his music cannot be chained. The great Dotty X is the wild cowboy who has already left an immortal mark on the hip-hop culture. His indelible contribution to hip-hop demands absolute respect and acknowledgement. From his signature vocal tone to his and funky delivery, Sadat X is truly one of a kind. New York may have locked up the man, but they did not lock up his spirit. Sadat X, keep your head up!
by Dwain Lucktung
There is a mass of shit on the floor, from clothes to teddy bears, given to the band by fans. Through the large windows of the $600,000 tour bus, all that can be seen is a line of fans, extending around the corners of Vancouver’s PNE Forum.
“What the hell was that breakaway,” shouts an Underoath band member. “That was ridiculous!” The group is playing some NHL game on a PS2. Show time is in an hour.
The boys are chilling out, “preparing” for an explosive 45-minute set of intense and mind-blowing songs taken from their latest album, Define the Great Line (released on June 10, 2006). Lead vocalist Spencer Chamberlain sits calm and collected, speaking in an almost monotone voice, but the 24-year-old expresses undeniable passion for what he does.
“I love writing music, I love writing lyricsâ€¦I love performing. Playing shows every night is the most fun ever. And thereâ€™s this camaraderie of friends hanging out all the time. Itâ€™s pretty amazing.”
When Chamberlain is asked about his definition of “success” and highlights in his career thus far, he claims Underoath simply plays for the crowd cheers, as they segregate themselves from other bands who yearn for chart positions, album sales and hits on their MySpace webpages. Modest and honest, he seems to encapsulate the original and pure reasons for starting a band: Love for the band, respect for the fans.
Sounds simple. But according to Chamberlain, many bands seem to forget the point of creating music even before strumming the first chord. “The way music is now kind of sucks to me,” he says without a stutter or the bat of an eyelid. “Thereâ€™s a million bands on the radio that sound exactly the same because theyâ€™re writing music to get attention for a record label, and thereâ€™s too many people who are in bands just to be in bands.” It is a mutual understanding that just doesnâ€™t work.
He describes great artists as those with the passion and drive to create something as original as possible, but we both smirk at the reality that that is almost impossible these days.
Underoath is nevertheless trying, with their unique hardcore flavour and in-your-face sound that is so rarely associated with a Christian band. However, Chamberlain reiterates what he said on the bandâ€™s website, saying hopes that the group wonâ€™t be tagged as just a limited Christian band. Underoath wants its fans to appreciate that they go way beyond that.
“We just do what we do,” he says so nonchalantly. It must be like the million dollar bore-of-a-question to repeatedly ask Underoathâ€™s line-up: “Do you think that being a Christian band helps or hinders your fan base?” but Chamberlain makes it clear itâ€™s barely an issue: “We just stand up for what we believe in and people respect thatâ€¦but when we hear that cheer, I think its not because the crowd are necessarily believers, but simply because theyâ€™re enjoying the show.”
So many say it and hardly any mean it, but Chamberlain sits back and reassures me that Underoath does not consist of fame-hungry spotlight-huggers; theyâ€™re merely savoring the moment. From sold-out shows in Australia to insane tours in the States, the heavy rockers are enforcing their intoxicating nature with a medley of intense foot-stomping, fist-pumping tunes of uproar to anyone willing to listen â€” and a flick of the finger to anyone not interested.
I leave the boys to finish their game with lasting thoughts of Chamberlainâ€™s advice: “Write music you care and love about, collaborate with people who are on the same page with you, and it will happen for you.” I step off the bus to see a couple thousand sulking fans in the distance that soon realize I am not one of the bandâ€™s members.
The majority of the flock have come to see the weekendâ€™s main act Taking Back Sunday, but Underoath couldnâ€™t care less about being the supporting band. “Weâ€™ve surpassed our dreams,” says Chamberlain. “I mean, coming into a room where even 1,000 kids are singing your songs, thatâ€™s the dream. Thatâ€™s it.”
“And thatâ€™s a neutral feeling across the band,” he adds. “I donâ€™t think anyone did expect, and should expect, anymore than this.”
by Aaron “A*maze” Joseph
The music was pumpin’ and the crowd was live. There were balloons, beautiful women, a woman swinging from the ceiling, shiatsu massages and performances by Vancouver’s own RED 1 and from DJ’s Supafly, Kemo & J Swing. There were also a few Canadian celebrities in attendance such as Nelly Furtado, Chin Injeti (from bass is base) and a few local Vancouver actors. All of this was for one man: Maestro Fresh-Wes, who celebrated his 39th birthday in Vancouver at Ginger 62.
The second annual Media Benefit/Birthday bash was a huge success, and left everyone in attendance feeling good. Those who attended left the venue feeling even better knowing that the money donated was going to Motionball and the Special Olympics, organizations Maestro chose to donate to this year.
Everyone knows how hard it is to catch someone on their birthday, especially if they are throwing a birthday bash and performing at it as well. Regardless, Maestro was kind enough to sit down and catch up with MVRemix since we last saw him.
MVRemix: Last year you told MVRemix about your adventures in “Hollywood North” and about your blossoming acting career, how are the adventures going so far?
Maestro: Not too bad, I got a supporting role in a Danny Glover movie, plus two songs on the soundtrack as well. It’s called, “Poor Boy’s Game” and is directed by Clement Virgo. We shot the film in Halifax over the summer time, I got to film down there for about eight weeks and had the chance to go down to the community and see my people. It was a beautiful thing. Also Instant Star on CTV just got picked up for fourth season.
MVRemix: Aside from film & television, how is the music side of your life going, Anything planned for the near future?
Maestro: I’m about to go shoot a video with my man Classified, it’s called “Hard to be Hip-Hop” and we shooting the video the 27th of this month.
MVRemix: Tonight you get to celebrate your birthday with Vancity’s own Supafly, Kemo, J Swing and Red 1, what does that mean to you?
Maestro: It means a lot we celebrating life and friendship. I’m a big Rascalz fan. I’m proud of my man RED1 for coming out and doing the solo thing. God bless the child.
MVRemix: Last year this Media Benefit/Birthday Bash’s proceeds went tot the African Aids Angels organization, can you tell me about the organization your representing this year?
Maestro: This year we representing Motionball and the Special Olympics.
MVRemix: Last year you told MVRemix that a night like tonight’s “solidifies a career” what does it mean a second time around?
Maestro: The same thing. We still alive and we’re still doing it. It’s about people coming together and it symbolizes community, because a lot of the people we seeing tonight, we also saw last year.
MVRemix: Any shoutouts or anyone you’d like to thank?
Maestro: Everybody! God bless the child. Man, woman, and child.