You just had your release party for your new solo album Dueces Wild. Did you get the reactions from the people that you wanted?
Yeah! They loved it. I kept hearing “This is a great record. This is a great record.” I kept “emphasizing to them, “Go buy it!” (laughs) Everybody was like, ‘This record is so dope.’ It was dope to have strangers and family coming up to me and telling me that. I don’t hang with any yes-men so it’s good when my people are telling me that this is serious.
Dueces Wild is very cohesive from the lyrics to the production. Was that a goal for you in making the album?
Thank you. That’s a great compliment. I did my best. I wanted to really stand for what I believe in and I grew up in hip-hop culture. It was important for me. I’m tired of hearing people complaining all the time about how something is bad. “The industry is this. The industry is that.” We are the industry. You’re sitting here complaining. Do something about it. Bust your ass and do something about it. Create the best record you can to rep for your industry so you’re not always complaining every five minutes about what the industry is. I’m tired of that. We are what this culture is.
So I’m repping real hip-hop. You know, I’m definitely busting my ass in the studio and it shows in my Mighty Joseph project, Empire State, that I released on my own a couple of months ago with my man Karniege. And it shows in Dueces Wild, which is going to have worldwide stores and coverage. I was just a beast. I’m a beautiful beast in the studio. I’m here to make good music, man. You know, I’m not here to play around. This is serious for me.
I know you have a couple of meanings to the title Dueces Wild. Can you break that down?
Dueces Wild has multiple meanings. The main meaning is the power of two. That’s what “duo” is. Your mom and dad made you. That was two. You and your wife is two. The power of two is a very significant thing. That’s why when you flip the cover around, that’s not my face. Everyone’s like, ‘Why isn’t that your face?’ That’s not my face because the foundation of this project is me and Monk. It was originally an EP. It was eight songs that I did with him. And I started this with him and came up with the whole concept with him. That’s the first meaning connected to the cover and the power of two. It was our idea to make this work.
And the other meaning is “why is the ‘e’ after the ‘u’?” The ‘e’ is after the ‘u’ because I paid my “dues.” Do you understand? So I’m saying “Dueces Wild” like I’m the wild card. How does the two beat the joker? You understand what I’m saying? Because it’s wild! Like, you call that in the beginning of the game. “Deuces wild!” So that’s where I took it from. That’s why I spelt it with the ‘e’ after the ‘u’ because it means “dues.” I paid dues. I’ve been doing music for mad long. So that’s what that was about. And I’m The Wild One. It’s the wild card. We’re going wild on this. So we’re going to win the game. So that’s the other angle. There’s many angles to take it from but those were the main two.
Even though Melodious Monk only produced five tracks on Dueces Wild, how did he help you put the album together?
He taught me how to make beats! Monk has been a huge mentor in this whole thing and in my whole development, he was always around. He was always there. He started getting his equipment and mastering his equipment when I was doing Cold Vein and the Atoms Family stuff. He was busting his ass and he became an amazing producer and I was always telling him that we had to work on stuff and this is the first thing that we did.
When we had eight songs, it was 2 Dueces Wild. Some of the fans might remember that. That was back when it was an EP. Then we scrapped that and went back to the drawing board. I told him I could get a couple of other dudes to produce, big names and big sounds to add to you and we made it work. And that’s what the record is. It’s just me getting with people that I felt had the quality and meaning. Everyone from people I met outside of the industry to people I met in the industry and people are in my industry, there’s no one that don’t know them. If you had the quality of music that I needed, that’s 2 Dueces Wild.
But we’re all family, you know what I mean? That’s why it came together so well. Monk is a genius. That’s why I loved him helping me. He helped me how to order it and how to get the right mixes out of people. That’s important.
What inspired you to write “TV Land,” a song that has you weaving a story with classic characters in TV?
Well, basically that whole process was crazy. “TV Land” is nuts. I pretty much, one day, I was just bullshitting with my peoples. I was like, ‘Yo, I want to do a joint where I just blend all of my favorite shows.’ That was the initial thought. Then when I was actually doing the song, I ended up developing a story. I saw that I could do a story and I saw that it should be my own show in itself. So in that essence, it was like Vast Aire is like a Dolomite-ish in that song. It’s like Superfly Vast. And that’s why that first verse I’m starting off light with cartoons and basic-like shows because I’m describing how Willie Dynamite does not want it with me. Willie Dynamite never wanted it with me. Willie Dynamite is actually Dolomite’s enemy, but now I’m making him my enemy on some fun shit. On some fun shit. Dolomite has always been very close to the hip-hop community and I just ran with it from that angle. That’s why the rest of the song is centered on us running up to Harlem. It’s like a Black exploitation film.
Are you more inspired by characters you saw on TV when you were growing up as opposed to the current characters?
I mean, there’s a lot of good shows out but there was some real good shit when we were young. Like, I mean, come on, I ran home for G.I. Joe. You know what I mean? I ran home for Transformers. I ran home for all of that. I always splash that in my music. You could pick up any album and I’m always talking about some character from somewhere because that was a part of my life. I liked comic novels and I liked cartoons. I saw The Hobbit when I was crazy young. It changed my life. You know what I mean? I’ve always been into that. It was a huge part of my inspiration. I draw from that. You know what I mean? I draw from that. Definitely.
What was it like working with Pete Rock on “Mecca and the Ox”?
Pete is a genius! He’ll roll back an L, run though some record and he’ll just visualize it and make it work. The kid is a genius. He has beats with all types of styles and he had this beat already made. I was like, ‘Yo, this is it!’ I have three beats and they came down to that one. I was just like, ‘Yo!’ We were family for awhile. We had similar management for three years. We were on tour together. So we made it work. We made it work. He was a huge fan of S.A. Smash and Can Ox so I always wanted to work with him and we had to make it work for this project.
How important was it to you to get your Cannibal Ox partner Vordul Mega on “Mecca and the Ox”?
Me and Vordul are always gonna rap. Always. That’s our thing. It’s a special thing when me and Vordul get together. We did a classic album a few years back so when we get back together everybody is paying attention. That’s good. I like that me and him can instantaneously get in the lab. We grew up together. It should be like that. That’s why it’s “Mecca and the Ox”. We’re bringing it to the foundation. Mecca for us is Harlem. It’s Uptown.
Will we see a new Cannibal Ox album in the near future?
It’s possible. We’ve been talking about doing more shit together. Vordul doesn’t do as much music as I do so, you know, I’m on my 28th song and he has, like, six songs. You understand? We gotta put it together ourselves and make it work ourselves. And then we’ll be all right. We can’t have outside influences trying to just make it work because they think it will be profitable. Me and Shemar have to be like, ‘You know what? Let’s do this record.’ Shemar’s record is ridiculous. It’s incredible. And I’m on his new record. And I can’t wait for his to drop. His drops in, like, August. So it’s going to be dope. We have new music out.
Is releasing music on a consistent basis, whether it’s a solo or group project, a big goal for you?
Oh, yes. Yes. Definitely. I like to stay consistent and I like to constantly put out music. Like, I’m already plotting for 2009 right now. That’s how you gotta be. I’ve been doing this as my life for awhile so I honestly, I know the secrets. You gotta hustle, man. You can’t bullshit. You can’t bullshit and try. No one cares. No one cares about you in two days. So you gotta be real. You gotta stay consistent. I’m talking to the artists right now. You gotta stay consistent and do your best at all times. As long as I’m in the game, you’re going to get something from me yearly or every year and a half or two years. I always drop something.
Sometimes your rhymes are very abstract where they may only be accessible to hardcore fans while you have other songs that most fans can understand. How do you balance the type of lyrics you release?
I just create, man. I just create what I like. I just create what I’m into. That’s all I do. Sometimes, you know…I’m an interesting dude so it’s not going to be easy to just understand me. You’re going to have to have a grip and some understanding of the metaphor at hand and what I’m trying to get across. Some people say Ghostface isn’t making sense. No. You don’t have the knowledge to understand what he’s trying to say. There’s a difference. There’s a slight difference. You know what I mean? It’s poetry. Look at it like poetry. It’s just my form. You might have lack of knowledge of what I’m talking about but you’re going to understand my language. That’s why I always loved Nice and Smooth for putting the dictionary in their record! (laughs) You know what I mean? They put a dictionary in their record to let you know “this is what we’re talking about for all you idiots who think we’re going to sound weird but you really just don’t understand the language.”
Speaking of abstract rhymes, let’s not forget you worked with Geechi Suede of Camp Lo on “The Dynamic Duo”.
Exactly! I mean, Camp Lo is amazing! I love this kid and that’s family. We got a lot more in the bag for everybody. Look out for that. He’s a genius. I look up to that kid. He has verses that I think about, like, last night. (laughs) You know what I mean? The kid is amazing. And for me and him to get together and rep Harlem, yo, it was a blessing to get him on a record. You know what I mean? We have a mutual friend and that’s how we became close. It’s love, man. It’s all love.
It’s good to see you still had plenty of martial arts references on Dueces Wild.
Well I’m still practicing marital arts. Martial arts is a part of me. It’s a natural part of me. And it’s always going to be around. You know what I mean. (laughs) I’ve studied Aikido for over 10 years and I’m studying Shorinji Kempo. That’s definitely a great addition to my studies. And I’m going to soon jump into Sumo. It’s a love of mine. It’s a personal love of mine.
Camu Tao’s unexpected and untimely death was a shock for his fans. What was your relationship with him like?
Camu Tao is a genius. That was a good friend of mine. We were actually roommates for three years when he was first living in New York and we were both in The Weathermen crew. And I was a fan of his as Can Ox and Atoms and he was a fan of mine as a Megahurt. That was, like, a blessing. When we met we just clicked. And I clicked with Peter too. That’s Copywrite.
Rest in Peace to Camu, for real. The music scene doesn’t know what they lost. They have no idea what that kid was capable of doing.
What kind of a person was Camu Tao?
I mean, that kid was such a genius. He could make a hit, no lie, in, like, 20 minutes. It was simple for him. He was this clear and precise genius musician. I’m really hurt that he’s gone and wasn’t able to show his full potential. But he has more than enough music for people to check out and to see that I’m not bullshitting with my statements. The kid is a genius in any era. You could go to ’98, you know, ’99 and he’s a genius. You could go to 2004 or 2002 and he’s a genius. He left a trail for any real head that wants to really understand Camu Tao and what he was really about. Mad love. Mad love to him and his family and mad love to Megahertz. Straight up.
How do you feel hearing Cannibal Ox’s cult classic Cold Vein today?
It feels amazing! (laughs) It feels amazing. I love…I mean, to be honest, MCing after that is all the same to me. That was old me. Anything current to me is 2005 and up. And when I hear Cold Vein, I’m like, ‘Wow, I was a kid but look at how good I was.’ I wrote most of those lyrics when I was 19, 20. But the shit is ingenious.
Will we see an LXG album sometime soon?
We’re working on it right now and Genesis’ record is going to come out soon. We’re definitely putting together an amazing mixtape so look out for that. Stay tuned for that and you’ll see all of us on tours and all of that with each other. Holla at us. We’re out here. LXG is a thick crew. It’s an old crew of musicians that just want to rep New York and want to do it hard. And Gen, he’s one of my hugest mentors and we’re definitely up setting new standards right now. Genesis is a genius. He’s on my MySpace page. Check out LXG’s music. We’re doing it up hard. We’re doing it up hard for the new year, man. The new year is serious. 2008 is our year to take over, straight up.
What about another Mighty Joseph album?
It’s possible. I’ve spoken to Karniege about that and we’ve laughed about it. We’re always going to have music together but, you know, in the future, who knows. We might put another Mighty Joseph out. I mean, he’s LXG so we’re always going to be doing music together. I can’t honestly just say that there’s going to be an album that’s only me and him.
Is The Atoms Family still recording together at all?
The Atoms Family is still around. The only thing is everyone is separate doing their things, basically. I had a lot of help putting together the Mighty Joseph project. And Cryptic always gives me beats. And Hangar 18, I believe he’s in Alaska and that’s family. We’ve been talking about putting a finalized record together just to rap what we did for the New York underground in the early ‘90s. For East Coast underground hip-hop, Atoms was there. That was a big movement.
How does being a part of various crews help you grow as an artist?
No. 1, we’re just real musicians. We’re just real musicians that want to do what we love. You know, I’m not supposed to be Gladys Knight and The Pips for 20 years. That’s not my destiny. My destiny is to put out music I like and I respect and it’s almost like respecting our jam sessions. I’m a hip-hop musician but I make moves like a jazz artist. And what that means is I’m not limited to certain things that other artists are limited on. I’m not limited. So that’s my thing with all these different projects. It’s us creating. We do what we want to do. If I only did what I did early on, I would still be putting out Atoms songs with eight dudes on a song. Then you grow and you learn that we have to break off. Not in a bad way but in a good way like Raekwon and Ghostface. Raekwon and Ghost are still a team but they’re Wu-Tang. That’s how we looked at it. If your voice sounds great with his production, why are we going to stop that? It’s going t help the greater whole. You know what I mean?
What’s going to be your main focus for the next few months?
The focus right now is we’re finishing up videos. I’m working on, like, five videos right now. Crazy! It’s going to be nuts! And I’m setting up tours. My tour dates should be in in the next two weeks. So that’s pretty much my new movement. That’s pretty much the new movement. It’s tours and dates. It’s tours and it’s dates and getting this video stuff done.