Whether you’re sitting at the doctor’s office or trying to release music, playing the waiting game is no fun. Just ask Fatz and Slim of Da Circle, who have been honing their craft for years only to be releasing their first big mixtape in 2010. For most artists, that would be a source of frustration, but for Da Circle, things couldn’t have worked out better. Following the advice of hip-hop luminary Poison Pen, who told the two man group to step their game up, Da Circle invested in professional engineering and refocused their goals to come across as professionals with quality music in a game saturated with unintentionally lo-fi and lo-quality music.
Today, Fatz and Slim couldn’t be happier with where they are. With a Statik Selektah-hosted mixtape coming soon, led by the Sha Stimuli-assisted “Guillotine Rap,” the duo appears as though they’re going to open up some ears before the release of their debut album, The 360 Deal, due out on Viper Records. The guys sit down with HipHopGame to discuss what took so long, why they’re Da Circle, working with Poison Pen and much more in this first look interview.
Being that there are only two guys in the group, wouldn’t it be more appropriate to name yourselves Da Line?
Fatz: (laughs) Word.
Slim: (laughs) Well, as far as the name goes, the name reflects when you’re with somebody that you consider a partner in crime or close friend or whatever, whatever. It’s your inner circle and me and Fatz, we’ve been tight forever so this is the inner circle. That’s pretty much what the name’s about. The name is also a play on what we feel like we bring with our music because we try to encompass all aspects of life, not just one thing. When you hear our music, we talk about a myriad of subjects. We talk about everything. Everybody knows 360 degrees is a complete circle and that’s what our music represents. It’s a complete representation of what happens in life.
Your group started at six members and are down to two. What happened to make you narrow Da Circle?
Slim: Well, basically what happened was it went from six to two. It was a real simple process of what fit and what didn’t fit. It went from six to four and then from four to three and then from three to what you see right now ‘cause the chemistry, it’s all about that. When you make music, you can feel it, whether or not it’s right or not. You can have components that are in a song and know that it’s dope or maybe two people agree on a concept and everyone else is like, Ehh. Obviously that square cog is not fitting into this triangle or circle shape so you know what, stop trying to force it because you’re going to lose. That’s what happened.
You guys went to high school together. How have you both been able to stay cool so long without bugging the crap out of each other?
Fatz: (laughs) We definitely started out as boys and we became men together. What happened is when we started chilling in school, we were doing all kinds of things, getting into all kinds of the same trouble and everything like that. Me and Slim being very much alike, a-alikes of the mind, we both approached life situations the same way. Basically when you’re going through the same shit at the same time, two heads is always better than one. We also share the same love for this same and we both love the same groups. When Da Circle was formed, I remember the conversation to this day. I had went to school for music and took college courses for music. Me and Slim were on the phone and I was like, Yo, we eat, breathe, sleep and shit this music. That’s all we do. Let’s see what we can make out of it. Something out of something brought us close together. We were already friends and now we were riding on this industry and that brought us closer. Just dealing with the struggles in this game galvanized our partnership.
Slim: Even when we had this conversation, we looked at what was out there and we knew we were both qualified to be in this hip-hop game. To touch on what you said earlier. Don’t get it twisted. Nobody gets on my nerves more than Fatz and no one gets on his nerves more than Goodtime Slim. Brothers fight. Family fights. That’s how it is but when it is, it’s over. That’s how the relationship has been able to endure the ups and downs. Me and Fatz don’t play. When one of us gets mad, it’s a wrap! Yo, take cover! It’s like Godzilla and King Kong! We go at it, but once it’s over, it’s over and that’s because we both have respect of each other as men. There’s not a lot of nonsense. Men don’t deal with men like they’re supposed to. You’re supposed to treat a man with respect and that’s what we do no matter how crazy our arguments might be or whatever the situation might be.
I remember Poison Pen sending me music featuring you guys years ago. What took so long to finally get an album together?
Fatz: Just basically making sure that everything was right creatively and making sure that everything was right with the business. We sat down with a lot of major labels. We sat down with underground labels. You can’t just jump on the first thing that comes your way. You have to make sure that what you’re doing is the right fit. Everybody in this game thinks that when you sign a deal, that’s it and you’re on. But this game is so saturated these days that if you’re not dealing with the right situation, if you start out wrong then you’re just going to end up wrong. And we take our art so seriously that we’re our own biggest critics. If the situation is not right then we’re not going to come forth with it. Now we got a situation where the album is fire and it’s tried and true and it’s definitely the right time and we feel that there’s something missing in hip-hop and we’re right here, right on time to deliver what the people want.
Slim: Another part of that is also the dudes like [Poison] Pen have always been a brother to us. We sidestepped a lot of the mistakes that a lot of groups made because we had somebody, as well as a lot of other people, but we had somebody in the game telling us that this was a good way to go and that was a good way to go and if you do that, those are the results. We were able to have wisdom that most new jacks wouldn’t have. When you have that wisdom like Fatz said, then it keeps you from making mistakes like jumping on the first deal that presents itself or jumping on a project that you feel is hot but then people are saying that you should have been doing something differently on it. When you have somebody helping you and guiding you and helping you, you don’t make those mistakes and that’s what happened.
What’s the best advice Poison Pen has given you guys?
Fatz: I’m speaking from my perspective. From my perspective, the best thing that Pen ever told us was what you put into it is what you get out of it. When we first started, like back in the days, we was, like, so opposed to working with people and paying for stuff. And Pen used to get on us, like get off that bargain basement stuff and spend your money to get the hottest beats and the hottest engineer and to get mixing and mastering so that when you come, people see that you have a professional outlook on what you do and I think that the best thing that he ever really told us was how to shape our professionalism in this game. A lot of cats think that if they write a 16 bars that’s kind of hot, then they’re ready but there’s so much more behind it that people don’t see that Pen was really able to guide us in that direction. That was the biggest thing that he ever told me that I took and ran with.
Slim: I would definitely have to agree with that. He told us to make sure that what we present to the people is professional. You never know who’s watching you for the first time. You never know who’s listening to you for the first time and sometimes you only have that one shot where you can grab a hold of somebody. Pen is the reason why we ended up with Ariel [Borujow] at Westward. We were looking for the best priced studio available and then Pen gave us the speech that he had somebody that was dope and he had a great ear for music and Ariel, as a matter of fact, I’m positive that that early music that you heard of us was recorded by Ariel.
Are you guys happy in a way that it’s taken so long to give fans that first impression?
Fatz: Yeah. We just had that conversation last night.
Fatz: We just had that conversation last night. We were talking and the thing we were saying was that we have the experience of being around but being that people don’t know, we also have the extra added advantage of being new because in this game, this game is fucked up. And people look at veterans and pioneers as just old folk. Coming out in this general atmosphere where we have the experience of being around and doing big tours and just being around and gaining experience and knowledge from people who are doing it, now that we’re coming out and we’re getting a buzz and people are starting to listen and understand what we do on a better scale, it just works for us because now people in this game want to flock to the newest thing. We have the experience but now we have the advantage of being that new, hot thing. I’m definitely feeling that.
Slim: Peep it. I’ll relate it to you like this. We was in college wrecking shop. We was in college wrecking shop, playing basketball, just wrecking. We could have came out our first year in the NBA draft, been the first pick on a lousy team and put up numbers but no wins came there. We stayed in college four years and are still the first pick and we’re going to win the championship our first year in the league. That’s how we’re going to do it. It takes time and there’s nothing wrong with taking your time as long as you make the right moves and that’s definitely what we’re going to do.
What’s going to make your album The 360 Deal worth copping?
Fatz: The 360 Deal is definitely like a buffet table. There’s some of everything on that album. Now I know a lot of artists say that they’ve made something for everybody but we’re not the type of dudes that are pigeonholed to anything. We are regular, real-life kind of dudes. There’s things on the album where we’re talking real aggressive because we felt aggressive about a certain topic. There’s things we talked light-hearted about because we felt light-hearted about a certain topic. We ran the gamut from commercial-sounding music to street, gritty underground music and it’s all just straight hip-hop music and I think that’s what this game is lacking. People are lacking an album that they can just throw on and just vibe track for track. And I think that people in this game that put out albums, they can’t put out albums that have a ton of features on them. I think that’s watering down the game where you have to have somebody else to help you sell records. We’re coming in the door with this album just letting people know that if you are a professional MC and you’re signed to a deal and you’re dropping a project, you should be able to carry that project on your own.
Slim: Your album, you should know that you’re listening to a Circle album. You shouldn’t listen to an album and say that it was a Circle album with 12 features and it sounds like a mixtape. It shouldn’t be like that. You should have some kind of feel about the person and artist that you just purchased and you should know about that person when you’re done listening to that album. When you’re listening to our album, you’re going to know that you’re listening to two dudes who take their lyricism with the utmost seriousness. The game is twisted now because it’s almost like people look down on you for that. They say you’re old school and they throw that tag on you. I never understood that. This is hip-hop and you’re supposed to tell your story in a witty, lyrical fashion. When you listen to this, you’re going to know that we went in and that these dudes don’t play. We got Immortal Technique on there and Chino XL and Pen, C.S. and J. Arch. We got tracks on there that are vintage.
Fatz: Understand, man, just let the people know. Nowadays being wack is the law and The 360 Deal is a class A felony.
Who are the law-abiding citizens in rap then?
Fatz: Wow. Wow.
Slim: You know what? Me and Fatz, you’ll learn, me and Fatz are not regular dudes. We don’t jump on the whole such-and-such is wack and fuck him ‘cause he ain’t doing it. I’ma tell you right now. Whoever’s out there representing the hip-hop for what they feel is genuine, then it’s cool. I don’t have no problem with that. I’ma use a couple of names that people always throw out there, like the Waka Flocka cat and Soulja Boy. Those are the whipping boys for people who are associated with “true school hip-hop.” Waka Flocka was on Angie Martinez’s show the other day and he was real about it. He said he wasn’t trying to be the most lyrical. And son lived in Queens for years before he moved down south. He said he wasn’t trying to be the most lyrical. He said he was trying to make money.
Fatz: This is the perspective of Da Circle. The dudes that are not getting locked up are the part-time MCs and what I mean by the part-time MCs, it’s those dudes out there where they know that everything they’re saying is “I’m something and I just happen to rap.” Listen. Da Circle, we write rhymes. We go to the studio. We do shows. We do interviews. You know why? Because we are full-time MCs and this is what we do. I’m not going to tell you about a bunch of bogus bullshit and you can’t say that hip-hop is your part-time job because that means your regular job is not bringing you enough money. That’s what regular people do. Those are the people getting locked up for not being dope!
What are your goals for The 360 Deal?
Slim: The goals for the project are simple. We want to bring an awareness back to what’s going out of hip-hop. We want people to remember what you’re supposed to be doing with this if you’re going to call yourself a real hip-hop artist. This is how you’re supposed to be doing it. It’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with doing it this way. People think there’s something wrong with being an MC and being lyrical. There’s nothing wrong with that and there’s nothing wrong with talking about issues. That’s what we want people to remember about it. It was done successfully in the past and it can be done successfully in the future and we want to be the blueprint for that going forward. Anyone that comes after us, we want them to know how Da Circle did it and hope that they want to do it like us.
Fatz: You know why iTunes is so successful? Because motherfuckers will put out bullshit albums with two or three hot songs. The retailers made it so the person can buy the hot shit and leave the rest of that wack shit up there. We’re trying to build a brand that lets people know that it’s okay to go out and buy a full album and just put it on and let it play. That’s what we’re out to do – establish a brand and let people know that it’s synonymous with real hip-hop music. People are starving. Their ribs are touching. They’re not getting that real shit.
Slim: You know how many times we did shows where at the end of that show people would come up to us and tell us that it was the best show they had seen in years or tell us that they wished people did this more often? That happens all the time with us. And that’s not to boast or brag. And when the album comes out, they’re going to be saying the same thing. They’re going to say that they haven’t heard an album like this in years and that they wished people did it like this more often.