good. Everything's good right now.
the Mental Sharp 101?
Mental Sharp has become a collective over the years. It started off with
two MC's from completely different worlds. Sharpness is from Baltimore
and I'm from Blackwood. We were doing a lot of things in drum-n-bass but
we're grounded in our hip-hop roots. We're building a movement with our
music trying to give people something they're not used to.
We basically came together because we were doing the drum-n-bass thing.
In that scene, there are only a few MC's who are trying to do anything.
Armanni and I were in the same places all the time and we both had the
love for hip-hop. We were trying to do something different other than
what we were doing professionally with the drum-n-bass shit. People accepted
it right away and it just snowballed into what it is now. We have a few
mixtapes out now and we're working on an album. We're doing shows all
around the tri-state area and out west. It just snowballed on its own.
It's dope, man.
you guys work together?
We work crazy together. We have a whole collective. Mental Sharp is a
gathering of all forms. We have tattoo and graffiti artists, we have DJ's
and other MC's in our collectives. As far as Sharpness and I are concerned,
it's a natural connection. If I hit it from one angle, he hits it from
another angle. We hit everything from two different aspects no matter
what. That's how we do it.
The chemistry between us has been so smooth. It seems to be a lot harder
for other people. We're usually around the same place when we hear a beat
or have an idea. Recording a song might not even take that long, it's
just that we pick at it as much as possible after the initial recording.
We work hard and we make sure that everything we do is something that
can stand. If I don't like something, I tell Sharpness and vice versa.
A lot of people can't do that. We've been in this grind way before we
started doing this hip-hop project. We were doing the things that needed
to get done way before this so it's almost as if we have a head-start.
It's really about doing it instead of talking about it.
have a lot or raw energy on tracks.
That's because of the drum-n-bass music that we do professionally is 98%
live performance. You have to look at how you project your voice and everything
else. We took that edge into the hip-hop thing. Even if you don't like
what we're saying or if you don't agree with everything we're saying,
you're definitely going to feel the passion we're bringing. We never try
to downplay that, whether it's some party shit or some deep shit.
We like to think and our lyrics are in the words of the common man. You're
going to at least feel where we're coming from. You may not like it at
first, but I like that. You may have to listen to our tracks a couple
of times to really get it. It's about bettering yourself and knowing you
are a warrior of the light and nobody can be perfect. It's really about
raw emotion. It's really about music. For somebody else, it may be different.
a hip-hop and DnB background. What beats do you look for?
To be perfectly honest with you, we thrive on versatility. It can be a
club track one day and a grimy track the next day. We've been lucky to
have drum-n-bass and to be able to travel all around the world so we've
seen a lot. We look for the vibe. We're not looking for what's going to
be the next hit tomorrow, especially with the state of the game today.
I'm not complaining about cats getting their money, but we're building
things from the ground up.
is it to do what you want regardless of trends?
It's really not important to not follow the trends, but you have to do
what you feel. If I'm going to do something, I'm going to do it because
I feel it's the right choice to make. Hip-hop is a reflection of what
you represent and how you feel. A lot of times you're not getting accurate
representations. It just so happens that some of my choices are against
the grain. You have to just do you.
Being we have the fan-base we do have, we owe it to the fans to be honest
with them. We don't want the fans to think that we're doing something
different just to be different. The ones who do something different just
to be different are just following trends by bitching about the game.
We've experienced different forms of music and have been able to talk
to people from all over the world. It's not so much about not following
the trend but just doing our own damn thing. That's what we do. Fuck everybody
you balance DnB and hip-hop?
That's a loaded question.
Rolling with TekDBZ with Photek and Ho-Chi, DJ Craze, MC Dre, the thing
is, drum-n-bass is a different thing. It's a very eclectic vibe. You have
people from rock and roll, reggae, and people from all over. You have
some hip-hop heads. Anybody can be in a drum-n-bass party. When you make
a drum-n-bass track, it's really about the vibe and the music. We're trying
to change the sound with TekDBZ. It's not that much different between
the two genres, it's just that the format changes.
The vocals are in drum-n-bass just to add some more flavor to the track.
It gives it that extra push of emotions. It's more about the beat. Hip-hop
is more about what you're saying and the direction you're taking the song.
We really try to put the lyrics back into the music in everything we do.
Guys like Papoose are bringing back the lyrics and the delivery. A lot
of cats forgot what made it work. That's why we hit all our aspects from
writing to performing. You get all of it at our shows. Anybody can make
beats and say something over it and have guest appearances, but that's
not really our style. We want to focus more on the lyricism and what made
it an art-form.
be hard to break into hip-hop with a drum-n-bass background?
It's always going to be a challenge, but at the end of the day, if your
project speaks for itself, usually everything else falls into place. I
think once people hear our shit, people will realize we were hip-hop before
drum-n-bass even came into the picture. That's just an avenue I got into
because I love the music. If people want to pigeonhole us and say that,
it just means that our project has to be that much stronger.
We also realize that drum-n-bass caught a very bad vibe in America because
it was attached to house and techno and cats couldn't really get with
it at first. We basically represent American MC's in drum-n-bass. People
haven't really gotten it yet, but there is a large group out there who
does understand and that's why we do what we do. We take the culture of
hip-hop and drum-n-bass and try to redefine it. you can see the progression
in the music and it just keeps on getting better every time. The more
people who climb on, the more times you get producers trying new things.
I talked to Roc Raida from the X-ecutioners all the time and we talk about
how hip-hop mixes in with the drum-n-bass. Roc Raida and the Beatnuts
see the energy and they want to get into it. Cats understand the vibe
of what a drum-n-bass party is and you can't match the vibe. When you
mix in the street vibe, it's unstoppable. It's more street than anybody's
ever realized. It's easy to knock if you don't know anything about it.
do you see hip-hop production going in the future?
I think the hip-hop production is on its way up. I think it's really getting
better with time. I think producers are paying more attention to sound
quality and they're being more careful with sampling. More producers are
using their intuition to make better beats. I think that's unfortunate
because rappers are slacking right now. There aren't too many people who
can carry a track unless it's a dope Timbaland or Scott Storch-produced
beat. How many times in the last four or five years have you liked the
beat but not the lyrics? What the fuck is that? How come the beat is hot
but the lyrics suck? That's corny to me. I can't tell you how many times
I've been in the club where they're just playing the instrumentals. We're
trying to bring back that syllable wordplay with deeper meanings where
you have to listen a few times to get it.
I'm feeling a lot of the production now. I like a lot of the production
out right now. The music as a whole, I'm not going to front, I'm kind
of disappointed in it. It is what it is. It will work itself out in the
end as more people step up to the plate. I'm feeling Kanye West's stuff
right now, Ghostface's album
When you get into the point of who I'm
actually feeling, it's really an MC thing to me. Wu-Tang, Papoose and
Planet Asia, those are cats who have something to say. I like the music
and I listen to everything in the club, but I don't put the club shit
on when I'm smoking and playing video games. It's cool in the club but
it's a problem to me that that's the only place it's cool for.
TekDBZ is an all-star cast of cats who are affiliated with drum-n-bass
and hip-hop. Drum-n-bass is predominantly listened to by people in Europe.
In the States, we have DJ Craze and Photek who's originally from London.
TekDBZ is basically all of us getting together. We've really developed
our own sound. We also got Ho-Chi who is a sick producer. There's Infiltrada
and MC Dre. Free MC Dre! There's Johnny Johnson out in LA. TekDBZ is really
spread out and it's hard to link up with everyone, but we're working on
taking our music to a worldwide status. We're trying to bring hip-hop
and drum-n-bass together, which isn't throwing lyrics on a drum-n-bass
track. We all have a hip-hop background and what's coming out is a new
type of sound that people aren't used to.
We did a
show out in November at the House of Blues. It was Craze, Ho-Chi, and
KRS-One. KRS was tripping over it. The vibe was dope. Craze flipped his
drum-n-bass set into a hip-hop set and you can get both vibes and it's
perfect. That set up KRS perfectly. Hip-hop and drum-n-bass have been
separated a lot, but the shit works together flawlessly. People have to
open their minds. America has everybody so brainwashed and Clear Channeled.
The underground isn't even the underground anymore. You have to make sacrifices.
That's what we've been doing and that's what we're going to do until people
next for Mental Sharp?
We have the TekDBZ project which is going to be a double-CD. There's going
to be a lot of different tracks on that. We're also working on our fourth
Mental Sharp mixtape, Above the Beats, Below the Bass. We've been dropping
them every six months with a lot of tracks from people all over. There's
all original production from cats like Ho-Chi and Craze. We get original
music and make an album. We take the 2Pac approach where we make as much
music as possible where if I die tomorrow, people will still be able to
understand what I was talking about. We're also working on a full-length
straight hip-hop album. That's going to take a little more time. It should
be out early next year. It's called Epiphany. We're just working on a
lot of projects and we're touring. We're just making music every day on
the grind like we're supposed to be.
Mental Sharp fit into the Philly scene?
The great thing about Philadelphia is you can't put a certain sound on
it. When you have talent, people recognize it. There's still politics,
but the good thing is people recognize talent. There are so many rappers
out here who are good and have talent. In Philly, if you're trash, they'll
let you know fast.
There's a lot of versatility. Philly's been on the grind for awhile and
we're overshadowed by New York. Philly has a chip on its shoulder and
it will always have a chip on its shoulder. I don't think we get the respect
we deserve. I put us in the top-five cities of all time.
you want to say to everybody?
I just want to tell the people to support our music. We're doing something
for the greater good of hip-hop. Ride with us. We're giving you what you
Be yourself. We don't make music just to make it. We don't water anything
down. Remember those times when cats were actually saying something? Come
check us. We're working for cats in that everyday life whether you're
in the city or the 'burbs. We've seen all walks of life. We're all in
the same struggle. That's what our music is about. That's what cats need
to understand. We have the MC'ing, DJ'ing, breakdancing, and graffiti
artists together. There's so much in this movement. We're not backpackers
and we're not thugs. If you understand what it is, it's all good. We're
trying to hit it from all angles. It's all about the partying, having
a good time and keeping true to yourself at all times. We're all soldiers
and everybody has to be a soldier in their own life.
Mental Sharp's mixtape here: http://killahertz.com/mentalsharp_negative3.zip
with Mental Sharp at http://myspace.com/mentalsharp