sits down with the legendary Steele to discuss everything from their new
album "Reloaded" to their classic "Dah Shinin,'" as
well as Sizzla, reggaeton, and Henney!
good man. Just came back from Switzerland. Just did a show at BB King's
with Sizzla, I fucking love Sizzla. The albums about to come out in two
weeks, I'm ready to go on the road. And I'm a little sober now, but that's
Steele drinking these days?
and some Guinness.
your state of mind recording "Reloaded?"
I sound so refreshed because I'm going through so many problems on a personal
level. But I'm in a good position because I'm mentally fit. When you get
problems in your life that you can handle, it makes you feel confident
about what you're doing. I feel my business is in a good position. I'm
working out every day, and I feel that anything that comes in my way,
I'm ready to bash that shit down. When we recorded the album, I think
the state of mind for both me and Tek was that it's just an honor to be
able to go in the booth and be able to record music. It's an honor and
a privilege, and it's a blessing to put it out there and have people say
"you know what, I like that." It's an extension of yourself,
so if you're able to do that shit, you have to handle that shit with good
gloves and hold it like it's very rare. Most rappers say "I spit
hot bars." Great! I've heard hot rappers spit and never put anything
out. To be successful in what you do, it's a great feeling. So when something
comes along, bong, hit that shit out. I love being in the studio, even
when there's no Hennessey around!
think a lot of rappers are taking it for granted?
I think the way a lot of artists have been successful in this game, it
would appear that it's easy to some people. But the beauty of it all is
that if you're one of those motherfuckers that think it's easy, you will
be weeded out. And we may not have a platinum plaque, but we're still
here. We're still consistent. We're still Boot Camp, we're still Duck
Down, and that right there is a powerful statement. A lot of cats do take
rap for granted. A lot of our family isn't around anymore, and for whatever
reason, whether it's financial or personal. I think whenever you know
what you have, you just channel it and treat it like it's yours. The motherfuckers
that take it for granted, they don't last.
your favorite track off "Reloaded?"
Aw man, that's
hard man. I don't know. Right now, my favorite track, shit! I got a couple,
but I would say "The Truth" because me and my PNC is going back
and forth, the beat is by Roc Raida, and we're answering certain questions
like where we've been at and what's our name.
you and Tek work together?
Me and Tek
is like night and day. It's a natural flow with us. We've been friends
for so long. We've been friends since high school. We've been friends
way before rapping. And we've done dirt together, it's a special bond.
When we go to the studio, sometimes we don't even talk, I'll write in
my corner and Tek will write in his, and this is what we call the "shining,"
because we communicate mentally, through our spirit, through our soul.
Sometimes he'll have an idea and I will have already wrote it down, or
vice versa. It's a special relationship we got. I don't know what to call
it, but it's great.
you guys deal with creative differences?
We iron them
out. We know there's going to be times when we disagree, but that's the
beauty of it. If we agreed all the time, it would be too fabricated. When
we overcome those shits, we come to the right answer.
guys still have the name problem with the gun company?
as Smif-N-Wessun. We still got the name problem, but we're using it anyway.
that hasn't heard, can you talk about what happened?
The gun company
sent us a cease-and-desist and told us that they were going to sue us
for an undisclosed amount. And they also said they would sue every publication
that prints our name. They basically wanted to put a black hole on everything
we were dealing with. At the same time, we were going through negotiations
with Nervous, trying to get more bread from those motherfuckers. We didn't
have no attorneys, I had never heard of Johnnie Cochran before. We had
to make a decision real fast, so we came out as Cocoa Bravoz. We were
also coming out on a new label, so we were also going through label problems.
If you're from where I'm from, you don't mess with the courts. We never
felt that they had the right to come at us, but they did, and we weren't
sure how to handle it, so we just came out as Cocoa Bravoz. Plus we all
got pseudonyms for each other in Boot Camp, so we tried to use that because
we didn't want to give anyone Tek-N-Steele, because once you give labels
your name, they have the right to use it however they want. Tek, that's
his birth-name. I've been Steele for over 20 years! We just go with the
packaged deal. You're either going to get Smif-N-Wessun or Cocoa B's,
but each time you're going to get Tek and Steele. But the reason why we're
Smif-N-Wessun is because we have nothing to lose. You want to sue us,
sue us, who gives a fuck. Fucking sue us! If a person can't tell that
Smif-N-Wessun the rap group is different from the gun company, then fucking
sue that person. We've been doing music for over 10 years, and we're going
to continue doing music. People remember on first impression of us as
Smif-N-Wessun, and that's what they should always remember us as, Smif-N-Wessun,
period! This is a statement to all companies. They way we spell it, the
message that we're bringing, fuck it, we're ride or die right now.
Tek have gotten down with Talib Kweli a couple times, how was it working
I love that
motherfucker man! He's a great guy, he's incredibly professional. His
message, how he delivers that shit, he's dope. I want to do more with
it recording "Crystal Stair" with him?
It was crazy!
He had his shit ready to go. He came to the spot ready. It was an honor.
I'm glad we got that shit popped off. That's my PNC, my brother from another
you want to give people with that song?
a poem written by Maya Angelou, and we wanted to say that life isn't a
crystal stair. There's going to be struggle, but you have to rise above
the bullshit and do what you need to do to be successful in life.
it working with Tony Touch?
is dope. We've been working with Tony Touch when he was making tapes.
I still have one of the first cassettes in my collection. I think that
with him, he's a down to earth guy, and it helps having him there. We
don't work together all the time, but when you have people who appreciate
what you bring to the art, it helps a lot. I like Tony, I've been to his
crib. We're one of the first artists to rhyme on his cassettes when it
was actually mixtapes. It's just pure love man, and respect.
you feel listening to "Dah Shinin'" today?
Oh man, it
gives me goosebumps. I'll listen to that shit and I'm like "we did
that shit?" There's no adlibs, no guest appearances, no special producers.
People love that shit! Listening to that album makes me spiritual, it
makes me religious! We didn't put that shit together to get rich, we were
just hungry for it. We had spent years watching rappers and listening
to the radio, and when we did it, it was just a natural flow of things.
still see the impact of "Dah Shinin'" on today's MC's?
Hell yeah! Most definitely! "Dah Shinin'" influenced every rapper
out right now. It's like how "It Takes a Nation of Millions"
influenced me, and Rakim influenced me. That's the great thing about Hip
Hop, is that we all influence each other. When I see people rocking camouflage,
and I see people rocking their boots, I feel like I influenced that shit,
and it's a beautiful thing.
you grown since you first came out?
still the beast that they let out the cage! I'm a monster. I'm a monster
on the mic, I'm a monster period. I'm a good monster, and I'm a good motherfucker
to have on your team. And I love this game, and nothing can take that
has always been known for having that reggae vibe. How did that start?
I think living
in Brooklyn, that shit is natural. It's hard not to do it, it's everywhere.
It's part of our heritage. We didn't say "let's make a reggae tune,"
it just came out like that. We knew that we wanted to have different sounds,
and different vibes on the album, but we just rocked on it. All our tracks
came from Da Beatminerz, and they're not known for making reggae tracks,
but they have a soulful sound to their music, and we just went to the
vibe that we got. Sometimes we'll write something that sounds different,
and we'll just go with that vibe.
do you feel about the reggaeton movement?
Reggaeton? Aw man. I have a friend who's from the Dominican Republic.
He can't stand reggaeton. He don't like that shit. He thinks it's popcorn.
He calls it bubble gum. But I think, without saying anything bad about
it, because I think that if you gives things certain room to breathe,
then you will understand what it comes from. I can't do what some of those
guys can do, and I think that they have the opportunity to come out with
that type of music, I think that's good. But as the industry gets their
hands on every little thing, they want to put it in a box. And with us,
you can't even really say what kind of music we really make. It's underground,
but it has it's own slot. We almost make music that no one else makes.
We don't have punchlines. We don't have these incredible, dynamic beats.
The vibe that we have is a soulful vibe. We bring the normalcy to Hip
Hop. Cats like to talk about keeping it real and shit, but then they have
$30,000 worth of fake jewelry on when they go out. That's not keeping
it real, because on your natural day, that's not how you rock. If you're
doing that, you're actually looking for attention from somebody. If you
look at most of these people that actually have money, they don't do that
shit. When's the last time you've seen Jay-Z with a chain on? He's become
so involved with himself and what he does business-wise and how people
see him, he's shaped up his shit and he looks like a straight assassin.
We bring the normalcy to the game, and that's important.
is the final part of Duck Down's 2005 comeback, do you feel any pressure
been long overdue. Me and Tek, we sat back and waited for our time, then
we get on the court and we play hard. That's what makes Boot Camp. We
have a great respect for each other, and we wait our turn. If Ruck puts
out an album, and has a show in Germany, we might go with him. And at
the same time, we're promoting our album and ourselves. There's no pressure.
Smif-N-Wessun is one of the greatest duos to ever grace the mic, and it's
an honor and a privilege to be a part of the triple threat. The other
two albums (Sean Price and Buckshot) are super-duper. The Sean Price album
is one of my favorite albums right now.
the hardest thing about coming back in 2005?
thing right now is getting to the youth. All they know is what's being
presented to them through mass media, and we're not the type of artists
to be in mass media.
you stay relevant to today's fans?
in the street, staying in the hood, and keeping your ear to the concrete.
And by not putting ourselves in a box, not thinking that what you did
is the ultimate. Always trying to learn, always trying to experience different
up with O.G.C. today?
think those niggas retired man. Word up.
you think of the scene in Brooklyn right now?
is off the chain! I don't know man, it's almost like it's a renaissance
going on in Brooklyn right now. There's a lot of artists that are trying
to crush the mixtape market right now, and it's kind of cool, even though
some of those rappers sound like what I call "microwave" rappers,
meaning that they just pop them in and pop them right out. They're underdeveloped
so they rhyme like everyone else. And you have some of the greatest artists
coming out of Brooklyn, the whole Boot Camp, Biggie, Lil' Kim, Jay-Z
you come out of Brooklyn, you have a responsibility to rep it a certain
way. Brooklyn is good man, Brooklyn is beautiful man.
get more love overseas or in the states?
I would say it varies because overseas, there's not a lot of forums for
artists to perform, so when you perform, it's like the whole fucking town
comes to that shit. But in New York, the clubs are open every night, and
because of all the rappers in New York, you might go to 40/40 and see
Jay, or Club Exit and see Tek or Buckshot, so you're not really drawn
to the show vibe because everything is a show in New York City. You go
to the club in New York and everyone's got their jewelry on, girls are
in their skimpy clothes, and all of that shit is so exciting. We just
performed at BB King's with Sizzla, and we've never performed in front
of a crowd that sees Sizzla. They wanted to hear pure reggae vibes, but
Smif-N-Wessun was able to introduce themselves to people who had never
seen them in their own town. In New York, there's just so many people
who may not know about you, and they may not take the extra step to find
out. If you're good, you can slide into the spot and show them, so they
can say "Smif-N-Wessun, they were all right." For us, we just
try to be the best that we can in whatever forum. And because we're from
New York City, we can walk anywhere. I would hate to be such a superstar
that I couldn't walk to go get me a hot dog or pizza or a sandwich from
Subway. The hood loves us, the neighborhoods love us, and when we go overseas,
the reception is phenomenal.
you want to say to all your fans out there?
I love you
guys man. My fans are some of the best fans in the world. I don't even
want to call them my fans, I want to call them my fam. My fans is my fam.
We're going to take the "n" off and add the "m." If
you're a fan of Smif-N-Wessun, then that means a whole lot to me because
Smif-N-Wessun is a fan of Hip Hop and good vibes, and we're a fan of people
on good vibes. For our fans who have stuck with us from the beginning
who loves our family and gives us constructive criticism, I love y'all
motherfuckers man. And that's real talk, not for buying my album, just
for sticking around.