You've been working on a new compilation album. How are you going to make this new one different from your first one Loose Cannons?
It's coming along well. It's a similar roster of established and up-and-coming cats. I had a lot of up-and-coming cats on Loose Cannons before they had a big name, like Papoose, Jae Millz, Saigon and Immortal Technique. There's going to be a lot of up-and-coming dudes that are hot on the street and hot on the internet. That will definitely be there. I'm showing the new breed of MCs and basically who I like as a fan and then also who's just hot in general. I'm also going to have a couple songs and verses on there.
I have Saigon, Ransom, Crooked I and Nino Bless on there. I got Bun B on there. I got Twista on there and I have Joe Budden on there. Basically all the hot dudes that I think are hot right now and that I work with are going to be on there. Maino and Uncle Murder will be on there. It's going to be the whole New York roster and then I'm branching out of there too. I'm gonna have the first song Raekwon and Kool G. Rap ever did together on there. I got Alchemist rapping on there. I got a record with Brand Nubian, all three of them. I'm just keeping it all classic hip-hop.
What is it about Haffa that made you want to work with him?
He always had a gift of telling stories. I basically met him through Justo, Rest In Peace. Justo brought him to me with his partner Tytanic. At first, it was definitely an evolution because at first, his voice sounded like Biggie. The way he played Biggie on “The King is Dead”, that's exactly how he was rapping but his bars were still crazy so he brought his voice down a notch and we just started banging out mad records and then we were like, 'Shit, why even waste the fact that you can sound like Biggie? Let's get creative and do a conversation with Biggie and ask him questions and have him answer them.' That's how we came up with “The King is Dead”. We basically turned his skill from a negative into a positive. And when Justo passed, I put him under the Beast Music umbrella and we just started going hard. His HipHopGame mixtape got great reviews. And right now we're shooting a video for “The King is Dead” and that's really going to be controversial. We're definitely going to raise some eyebrows.
You asked us to repost “The King is Dead” when Haffa's HipHopGame mixtape dropped. I know “The King is Dead” means a lot to you.
(laughs) You know what it is? I see the reaction when the people hear it. The first time people are listening to it, it makes people bug the fuck out and I played it for a lot of credible people. I played that shit for Primo and he went crazy for it. Mister Cee heard it and liked it. And 50 Cent himself went crazy over that shit. He took a meeting with Haffa over that record and he was just amazed by that shit. It's definitely showing us, wow. It's in the Blackout movie right now and he got a lot of calls on it. I'm all about creativity and that's out the box. I don't want to do just records that are 16 bars and hooks and that's it. When I do creative records, that's what I'm into.
I even did some shit with my artist Veneno, who's bilingual. He did something where he's talking to an old man and the old man is talking back to him in Spanish. It's another story joint and that's what Pharrell heard and he basically gave him a deal off that one record just because he was so creative and he was talking to himself. He played a young kid from the Heights talking to an old hustler. I'm always sitting there with my artists trying to think outside of the box, whether it be the flow or the concept. Shit is boring right now and I can't deal with these carbon copy records. Everyone is trying to follow the same format. So we put “The King is Dead” record out there and we weren't sure who really heard it and then when we re-released it for Big's anniversary and the release of Haffa's mixtape. Now we have a couple of video directors who want to shoot the video.
How is Haffa's album coming?
He's got more than an album's worth now. We're just going to continue to record and we're probably going to drop his second mixtape/pre-album just to give the world some more original Haffa shit before we drop the album. We're sitting on a lot of good records that people gotta hear and then we'll probably release the album.
You already mentioned taking a meeting with 50 Cent for Haffa. Where do you think Haffa's project will land?
For the most part, we're not going to wait around for anyone, but at the same time, we do see the interest. Until then we're gonna keep releasing records and projects until we are at a level that we don't need anyone.
As Haffa's main producer, how do you help him grow as an artist?
I just try to get him to not do generic records. He's got party records and he's got records and they might be hit records and I credit him for that, but I really want to follow up with this “King is Dead” record and come out the box. Singles back in the day weren't all about parties and having fun and clubs and the radio. You could come out with a single back then that was just a hot record. Black Moon and Wu-Tang Clan for example would come out with just a hot hip-hop record and video and the people loved it and it would wind up playing in the clubs. Now it's like we have to make something for the clubs and for the radio. Fuck that. Let's just make something that's different and is creative and stands out and shows you as a different type of artist. Nowadays anyone can do a record that is a girl or club record. I'm not saying that you can't do those records, but do it with a creative twist. Haffa's storytelling ability is his best skill.
Venom, also known as Veneno, is signed to Star Trak but I haven't heard anything from him in a long time. Where's he been?
The problem we've had with that is that they really don't know what to do with him. We're sitting on a goldmine right now because there's not a Spanish artist right now that can rap and sing and do all the crazy different styles that he has. He does the Bone Thugs thing and the Twista thing in English and Spanish and on top of that we've been working with the Grammy-winning Latin band Aventura. We've done a handful of records with them and these records are incredible. The problem is that either the records are too hip-hop for the Spanish station or they're too Spanish for the hip-hop station. So he's really ahead of his time in waiting for the genres to evolve. It's not reggaeton and it's not straight hip-hop music because it's melodic and it has a lot of styles in it. Right now we're just going to start throwing a lot of shit out. Right now with the label thing, we're waiting. He's got some hit records with Pharrell but these guys don't really know what to do with him. We're trying to make our own noise right now and see if they can kick into gear and get into the momentum. If not then we'll just be doing our own thing.
You stay working with other MCs, whether it's on mixtapes or their album, which a lot of producers don't do. How important has making music on a consistent basis been to keeping your name out there?
That's definitely it. It's just about keeping your name out there and being a hip-hop head and a fan yourself. My whole thing is the business is sort of fucked up now, but that doesn't mean the music has to be fucked up now and be put to a halt. A lot of these producers are chasing checks and doing that. I'm still doing that but while I'm waiting for songs to be released, I'm going to release my own. I'm going to stay relevant and with a lot of new producers and new rappers, a lot of times it's out of sight, out of mind. You have to just keep feeding them and I got so much music. I'll get frustrated myself when I got all these records sitting here and I'll want to just throw one of them out.
I also want to just be involved with all of the up-and-coming dudes because that's what I'm about. I'm not a front-runner at all. I go for the underdog a lot. I want to work with anybody spitting those lyrics. That's who I want to work with from Ransom to Joe Budden to Saigon to Sean Price to Raekwon to Haffa to even Nature or G. Rap. I don't care politically where they're at or financially. We're just making music. I'm trying to bring it back to the old school feel and now, to be honest, a lot of the old school rappers, I feel more than the new dudes. I feel Raekwon and G. Rap more than these new dudes who think they're the shit.
You've done a lot of work with Saigon in the past. Are you still working with him?
We've just been on the road. I did a couple of new records with him. I got two new records I'm probably going to put on my compilation that have never been released. He's doing something with Haffa and Ransom on there too. He did some shit with me and Crooked I and Nino that will be on my shit. But otherwise he's just been on the road. I've been overseas with him for the last six months. We've been globetrotting and doing all these shows. I've been DJing for him and it's been crazy. Before it was maybe a couple of shows a month. Now he's got a couple of shows a week. I can't even keep up with that. I just had a new baby and I got other things. I can't be on the road for a month. I think he's on the road all month long overseas. But we've just been performing, basically. And we've got a couple of new records, but since his album is done, he's just trying to promote it and get that show money. Overseas is loving him right now. He's through the roof over there right now.
How did you feel about not getting a beat on his debut album The Greatest Story Never Told?
Oh, I'm on there. I made sure I was on there. I'll be honest with you, I was disappointed I didn't produce half the album with Just since we had recorded over 30 records together and got a great chemistry but I understood Just wanted to produce the majority of it. I had a meeting with him and I told him we leaked a lot of classic records that should be on the album like “True Story” or “The Color Purple” or "Desperado". Just said he wanted the album to be all exclusive shit, which I understood but it definitely bothered me that those classic records were skipped over. So basically we just made a new record in Bassline Studios. It's called “War” and it's a real hot record. It's the third song on the album and I got my one slot.
But I understand what Just was saying about how it was his chance to produce a whole album and that it was his baby. I understand it and he did his thing. If the album didn't come out so good, I would be talking that he messed up. But because the album is so hot, I'm not even mad at it. And I got records for Sai for days. We're going to keep on working and we came up together. We got up in early '02 when we both got the Unsigned Hype and we've been mashing out records for almost seven years. It's like we were coming up together. I was helping his buzz and he was helping my buzz and that's the way we look at it.
When Jae Millz was coming out on Warner Brothers, he didn't work with you at all on the album after you gave him his biggest single in “No, No, No”. Did that bother you?
Well, I did work on the album with him and produced a good handful that were fed to the street but when it was time to pick songs for album it became same scenario so hell yeah, it definitely bothered me. At the same time I was a new producer trying to maintain relationships and get my name out, and "No, No, No" helped me a lot regardless. That was almost four years ago so I'm past all that. Plus he still hasn't released an album so it never affected me.
Once artists cross you, in terms of loyalty, will you give them a second chance?
You got to separate personal and business. Sometimes you can and sometimes you can't and that's where the problems happen. It depends how it goes down and if there's something still to gain with continuing to work with them.
You used to rhyme a lot on tracks, but I haven't heard any tracks with you rhyming lately. How much have you been behind the mic?
Not much recently but I've been doing a lot of writing. The feedback I got from spitting on "Third Degree" with Crooked I and Saigon was big enough to put the battery back in my back to get back in the booth and finally finish my album. My first record rapping I dropped in '99 and that was almost nine years ago and that shit bugs me out and sort of depresses me.
How do you stay motivated in the game today, where album sales are at an all-time low and most people in the game are still as, if not more, shady as ever?
Well, music is what keeps me sane so I'm be doing it regardless but the nature of the business now definitely forces you to grind ten times harder. That's why you gotta start allying up on the business and get more creative on the music. I'm always trying to master my craft and make as much music as I can so I have songs in abundance.
I actually just got a new studio and I got Buckwild and Vinny Idol over there as well as other producers with their own rooms who give me inspiration. It's good to be around creative people because they keep the creative juices flowing. I always like to go in the studio and bang out tracks or write some rhymes or bang out on the turntables. I'm always going to be doing that shit regardless.
What's the next move for Scram Jones?
My main focus is to get all these projects out. As fucked up the game is now, it actually is an opportunity to come out with the music you want to hear and try to start your own empire. You don't need the majors anymore. After I do my compilation then I got my solo shit as well as the Haffa shit and the Nature shit and the Billionz project and the Veneno project. I'm also working close with Raekwon on Only Built 4 Cuban Linx 2. And I'm working with Jadakiss, Sean Price and Crooked I. I can't even think right now. I don't know. That's some of them right there. We are launching BeastMusic.com soon and will be setting up shop with all of our music.
For now people could check my MySpace. I'm trying to bring good music back and I think everyone is craving it right now. I think everyone is sick of what's been going on right now and people forget what made hip-hop so big and what made people gravitate towards hip-hop. That's what started that whole era, whether it's the '80s or the '90s. A lot of artists were coexisting and that's hip-hop right there. They were making music in their own style. I do think hip-hop is changing for the better since Kanye dropped. You see a turn now and you see the “conscious” rappers are beating out the street rappers right now. People are gravitating towards substance more since we're living in a crazy time right now and dealing with everything that's going on in the world. Not everyone right now can relate to popping Cristal or having diamonds. Everyone is struggling and everyone is going through a recession. People want human music and people want to be able to relate to the music that they're hearing.