Krondon: We’re good! We’re all in the house today. We’re good. We’re on this tour with Talib Kweli doing Rock the Bells. His album Eardrum is in stores now and our album Deep Hearted is going to be out on Tuesday on Nature Sounds.
What kind of response are you getting at Rock the Bells?
Mitchy Slick: It’s crazy, man. We’re just out here enjoying it. We’re in the situation we are and we’re doing some stuff that I don’t think anybody at our level of the game is getting an opportunity to do. There aren’t any new cats on this tour. We’re on the road with legends like Wu-Tang, EPMD. The way Kwa brought us out, he brought us out to crowds of 10,000 and 20,000 people. It’s incredible. How could you even get on this tour? There’s no new cats that you see on TV on this tour. This is really about the cats that laid the foundation down. We’re loving it.
Deep Hearted is about to drop. Are you happy with the way it came out?
Mitchy Slick: Oh, yeah. This isn’t anything that you would hear on the radio. It’s all real music and it’s all real MCs on the album. I don’t feel like none of the records on there were compromised. It’s what we felt was real music on there. It’s real, hard music. That’s what’s on the album.
How is Deep Hearted different from your album Arms and Hammers coming out on Blacksmith in 2008?
Phil Da Agony: This album right here is like our street shit. The Blacksmith album has a lot of singles. That has a lot of official radio joints and official video joints. This album is a real gritty, grimy street album. We have all of our collaborations on there like Chamillionaire, Ras Kass and Black Thought from the Roots. We put out more of a street album. It’s more gritty and grimy. And just from the title of it, Deep Hearted, it’s showing how we’re great writers like Scorsese. Even the guests are great writers like Chamillionaire. Deep Hearted is just the struggle that we’ve been through up to this point. This is really the edgy, street shit. Our next album is way more polished from a production standpoint.
Why did you guys want to have so many features on Deep Hearted?
Phil Da Agony: Because that’s how we get down. We get down in L.A. L.A. has the Soul Train Awards and we bumped into Juvenile there. Instead of just drinking and smoking with him, we were like, ‘Let’s go back to the lab and record.’ We have a lot of guest appearances that we didn’t put out on Deep Hearted, like tracks with Obie Trice. This is just the project that we wanted to put out at this time with Nature Sounds. This has been a long time coming.
What was it like recording “You Ain’t Me” with Chamillionaire and Ras Kass?
Krondon: Ras Kass is a good friend of ours and he’s been through a lot in this music industry. He’s had as much of a rollercoaster ride of a career that any MC could have. That’s our thing right there, man. We’re the new West Coast group that has been culminated from as far as the beginning of West Coast hip-hop from Eazy-E and King T. Now we have J.Rocc and Babu and up in the bay there’s Mistah F.A.B. and Bullys Wit Fullys. We represent the neutral ground for West Coast rap and for gangbanging culture for the West Coast as a whole. Our moniker is “red and blue make green.” That’s not to say that we’re glorifying gangbanging, but let’s try to pull all of our resources from city to city and neighborhood to neighborhood so that we can have something positive out here. That’s what dudes on the East Coast and in the South have done. They’ve created opportunities. I think that not since the Ruthless days have we been able to have an energy like that and it’s important that as Strong Arm Steady that we represent that, not just in the music but in the business world as well. Mitchy has an album out with Messy Marv, who’s incarcerated right now. Free Messy Marv. But these guys are out in the community and they’re revolving around each other and listening to each other and helping each other. I think that’s what’s going to make cats like yourself and cats in other markets gravitate towards what we’re doing.
Xzibit was a part of Strong Arm Steady and he’s barely on Deep Hearted. Why did Xzibit fall back from Strong Arm Steady?
Phil Da Agony: X is on the album. We have been recording this Deep Hearted album for the past two, three years so you have to understand that this is all the songs we’ve done. We have to have people catch up to where we’re at. X is a good dude and he helped lay down the foundation for Strong Arm Steady, but we were here before X and we’re here after X. We have a lot of soldiers that we work with like Chace Infinite and Planet Asia. There are a lot of different avenues for the Steady. There ain’t no love lost.
Are you and X still cool?
Phil Da Agony: Yeah, we’re still cool. I haven’t hollered at X in awhile, but we’re still cool. We always have good things to say about each other. That’s no problem.
How does Strong Arm Steady work together as a group?
Mitchy Slick: It’s more than just this, but in a nutshell, the way we really look at it is that Ag is going to go in there and take care of the business, Mitch is going to make sure the streets hear it and mash on it because I’ve been doing the underground shit and it’s nothing for me to get out there in the streets. You’ll still see me to this day handing out flyers. And Kron, most definitely, his heart is in what you hear. Now all of us are that, but we let each other step into those realms. I know that if I can’t make it to the lab, Kron’s going to handle it and Kron knows that if he can’t make it to the streets after the show, he knows that I’m going to handle it. And Ag makes sure the check comes.
Phil Da Agony: But we’re all businessmen in our own right. Slick has a lot of things popping. I’ve been in the industry for 15 years, working through independent labels and big labels like Def Jam and Priority Records. We’re all businessmen and we all bring that to the table for what we do with Strong Arm Steady. We have everybody doing their part.
Krondon: Us, personally, as a group, we’re not self-contained. We love to reach out. But how important is it for everybody? Every rapper on the West Coast has to answer that question. Cats that are reading this interview have to ask themselves that. How is the South connecting and doing their thing? This shit is hip-hop music and this is why Strong Arm Steady is where we are today. We’ll work with anybody.
There’s no question that you guys rep where you are from and are proud of it, but you don’t stay confined to one sound or one style. What kind of sound do you want Strong Arm Steady to have?
Phil Da Agony: We just do what we do. We just let it do what it do, baby. But as far as our sound, we do have a futuristic sound. We’re like the old West Coast and the new West Coast all wrapped up in one. We’re fucking with the producers Dr. Dre is messing with. And we have a lot of East Coast love from the records we make. But we also worked with Juvenile, Chamillionaire and Black Thought. Whatever it is, we just wanted to get together and make some good music. The sound of our shit is that there ain’t no sound. We’ll make a down South record, East Coast record, West Coast record or a salsa record. We’ll make a record just by banging on tables. We don’t like to be pigeonholed. We like it when people say we can’t do one thing. We’re going to go out and do it.
Strong Arm Steady has good relationships with other artists in L.A. like Chace Infinite and Planet Asia. How important is it that you guys are all cool with each other and work together?
Mitchy Slick: Well, really, homie, the way I noticed with the game, man, is when you go to these other places, man, everybody really fucks with everybody. If you go to the studio in New York, you’re likely to run into anybody. We have the gang shit in Southern Cal and we really try to not include that in our music, even though we come from that environment. We really try to include everybody in what we’re doing. Looking at Angeles Records, everybody at Angeles Records is a personal friend way before everything else. Chace, Muggs and Sick Jacken and all the Soul Assassins shit, we’re all cool. From Defari to Krondon to everybody else, it’s all friendship. This isn’t no prefabricated shit. We’re all friends and it just so happens that we’re all doing the same thing to make money. We all back each other up and even the guys at Blacksmith are friends with us and Muggs and Chace. We go to the clubs and we party and everybody’s there together. We’re just using our resources, man. That’s it. We fuck with you, you fuck with us.
What are your goals for Deep Hearted?
Krondon: To sell records. That’s what we’re in this for. And we’re also going to show how we match up against other artists. Not in a competition way, but in a contrast of things. Some of the cats that are our favorite artists and that we grew up listening to, we’re on stage with them now like Talib Kweli, Mos Def and Pharoahe Monch. We’re on stage with Cypress Hill and Wu-Tang Clan. All of these cats were selling records all of these years. They’ve been putting records out and we’ve been making records collectively and individually for a long time now. We’ve been featured on other albums, wrote for other artists and we’ve been through a lot. But at the same time, we have not put out records to sell a high amount of numbers, but at the same time, we’ve been put on stage in front of a million people. We feel fortunate. It’s like we’re fraternity brothers without having to go through the hazing and the album is a reflection of that. We have cats like Chamillionaire and Black Thought working with us and you can hear how we worked with those artists before you hear our debut album, which is coming out on Blacksmith/Warner Brothers next year.
How’s Arms and Hammers coming?
Krondon: That album is a classic. It’s a great effort from us.
What made you guys want to sign with Talib Kweli and his label Blacksmith?
Phil Da Agony: That’s what it is, man. You have to look and see. We’re not going to tell you nothing that’s not real. We’re grown dudes. A lot of these cats are fake and they BS people and they tell the people what they want to hear. For real, though, man, if we say we have a song that’s a hit, we’ve been in the game long enough for people to trust us. It’s not like we’re some dudes who are just doing this for ourselves. There are not a lot of avenues for artists on the West Coast for artists to be heard. If every artist and every company was run by people that loved hip-hop, they would all love us. But they’re not. Nobody past the West Coast is going to measure our value if they never hear us. You don’t have to have BDS or Soundscans to somebody that has the power to get you heard to get you heard. There was a time when Xzibit and them went to Columbia or they went to Priority or Warner Brothers. The Rocafellas, where street cats are cutting the checks, that’s not happening on the West Coast. There are no companies on the West Coast that have, like, an urban label like a Slip N Slide or a Cash Money or a Full Surface. All of the companies out here, like Death Row and Ruthless, those are things of the past. If you’re coming from Southern California, you have to have BDS and Soundscans or Dr. Dre, because they trust him. But they don’t put money in Southern California artists because they don’t know any better. Believe me, if there was a Death Row out here, Strong Arm Steady would have been out five years ago and you would have heard us on the radio and TV all day. But it took somebody that was an urban, street cat to recognize us. We treat Blacksmith like brothers. There’s nobody else out here that does what they do. I could question why it took so long, but I know why and that’s a whole ‘nother interview right there. We did our underground thing. Honestly, I sold around 30,000 records and in the streets and that didn’t do shit for me. It didn’t do nothing. I’m around 13,000 – 14,000 Soundscan for my first record in the streets and it didn’t do nothing. If I was in the South or on the East Coast and I did those kinds of numbers, they would have been like, ‘Let’s get this cracking.’ I had one of the most requested songs in the city and as Strong Arm Steady, we get that too. It took somebody to say, “Hey, these cats can be somebody.” There’s nobody doing that for anybody out here. And it’s cool. They don’t have to do that. It’s not their obligation to do that. But it’s hard to compete when you have other people putting triple-platinum artists in their videos and the kids point to them and they’re like, ‘He’s the one.’ But I love our situation because Corey is a hustler and he’s including us in everything that he does. In the South you have other outlets like Black Colleges and the radio. You don’t have the radio on the West Coast. But we’re happy with where we’re at right now and we’re just going to see where it falls right now. There aren’t a lot of outlets for Southern California artists, no matter how good they are.
What’s the next move for Strong Arm Steady?
Phil Da Agony: For the next few months we’re going to be promoting this Deep Hearted album. We’re going to be on the road a lot and preparing everybody for the Arms and Hammers album coming out on Blacksmith. That’s going to be coming out early next year. We’re just going to be doing a lot of recording and setting a lot of groundwork for everything. You’re going to see us on these stages and doing a lot of things.
What do you want to say to everybody?
Phil Da Agony: Pick up the album. At least show support. If you’ve never heard of us, check us out and what the West Coast is about. Check out our movement. I want to shout out everybody from the East to the West Coast. We’re building with everybody. And shout out to all of these fans. Keep supporting that hip-hop and go to the shows and Rock the Bells and support the artists when they come to your town. And keep it Steady.
Krondon: We made this music for our people and I’m not saying who our people are, but we made this for our people. To our people, go buy our records. If you really want to see what you want to see on the TV or hear what you want to hear on the radio, you have to go and buy it. Stop downloading music. Even if you do a digital download, at least come to us. That shit is what’s destroying the game. We’re not tripping on nobody on this hip-hop site, which to me is one of the No. 1 hip-hop sites in the world. We’re not tripping on you guys previewing our music, but I don’t think the fans should not support the artists. Shout out to everybody that went out and bought the Common album. He had his run on his last album. He definitely had his run. But for him to be No. 1 in the country, it just shows that real music is still wanted. And I think that everybody should go out and buy W.C.’s album because he’s been doing it for a long time and he came with it. Stop downloading and bootlegging the music. W.C. has seniority in the game. Stop bootlegging his shit. Go buy UGK. Those guys deserve to be bought. They put out a double album full of incredible music. Go buy their shit. If there’s a nigga representing your hometown, treat him like you would treat your hometown team and go buy those tickets and get those jerseys because there’s not going to be no team if you don’t do that. MTV’s My Block isn’t going to come to you. If you want MTV’s My Block to come to your city, support the artists in your city. The artists get frustrated at the fans and the fans get frustrated at the artists and I think we all have to support the artists. There’s no us without you and vice versa. With all the downloads and shit, it’s all good, but go buy that shit. There’s ways around being a pirate. And believe me, I’ve downloaded enough music in my days. And go buy Talib Kweli’s album Eardrum. And if Strong Arm Steady isn’t on your album, you’re playing yourself. If Strong Arm Steady isn’t on your album, then yeah, I said it, it’s not a dope album. We have so many niggas down with our shit. We’re consistent and persistent. You need to get your bars up. Deep Hearted is in stores August 28 and Eardrum is in stores now. And for all you cats around the world that’s reading this, with the Rock the Bells tour, we have about four more shows. We’re going to Cleveland and we’re doing the Midwest now. Shout out to everybody that’s been on tour with us like Wu-Tang, the Roots, Pharoahe Monch, Mos Def, Nas, Cypress Hill and of course the big homies Talib Kweli and Corey Smyth. You already know what it is.