You come from being in the game for many years. In your opinion, what are the most applicable elements of ‘old school’ Hip Hop to today’s music?
I don’t know. Hip Hop today is not what it was. When I look at Hip Hop today, there’s no real format that they follow. Not most artists. Most artists are like, whatever’s popping right now is what I’m gonna copy. No originality, they’re not educated to a lot of things when it comes to Hip Hop. Hip Hop dealt with good music and lyricism and today… got a few people who do it, but lyricism is not there.
You worked with DJ Premier before he gained his popularity. You also did work on Dre’s 2001. As far as producers are concerned, who made the biggest impact on you?
I didn’t work with Dre, he produced the first single off of my Funky Technician album, which was produced in 1999. I look at Premier and he works off of anything. Its 2 different formats. Dre looks at things and works with whatever sounds good, feels good. Premier is a producer with an old soul. He deals with a lot of soul and funk and will chop stuff up together. Dre is a scientist. He works it from scratch. He’s life a chef, mixing the ingredients. He got something in mind before anyone else.
Hip Hop originated in the Bronx, but lately that borough has not gained that much attention. Why do you think that is?
Really no reason. Only thing I can say is they lack consistency. They don’t lack talent, they got hot groups, its just consistency. I’d say the most consistent borough would have to be between Manhattan and Brooklyn. Nothing taking over, right now its just about dealing with constituency. Like people say I’m old school. I don’t think I’m old school. My peers and colleagues are Jay-Z and Nas and DMX. They just consistently recording records. That’s the difference between Jay, Nas and everyone else. That’s what I’m not doing. I do when I feel like doing. To be successful in this game you got to stay consistent. Everyone wants to know what have you done lately. What are you working on now? That’s how the game rolls now.
You’ve discovered Big L. A few questions about him:
What was it about his lyricism that made him so unique?
Big L. is like Lebron James. Big L. was just straight out of high school doing it. I was out of high school doing too but he was doing it at a more advanced level. If you got artists around you got blueprints in the game. When I came up in the game the blueprint was The Cold Crush Brothers and The Treacherous 3 and Rakim. So I was working off of that blueprint. Me discovering L, he had my blueprint down pat. He was advanced with, going crazy with it. He was extremely advanced.
It is rumored that he refused to battle Jay Z at one point. Do you know why?
That battle took place. Trust me. Big L. was a battle hungry dude. There’s people in Harlem, people who were there, that can vouch for that. You can ask Jay-Z.
Do you remember who won the battle?
Do you see much comparison to Big L. lyrically in NY now?
Not at all. Only one I can put similarity to is Jada. He’s witty with it. I know people compare Papoose to Big L. his vocals sound like Big L. somewhat but lyrically? No…
You frequently spin in NY clubs. Do you enjoy working in clubs or recording in a studio more?
I enjoy all aspects of music. I enjoy creating it. I enjoy being a part of it. I definitely enjoy playing it. Whether Hip Hop, R&B, Jazz, Funk, Rock. it sounds good, it feels good, that’s all that matters to me.
You are working with DJ Premier on a new album. Could you talk about it a bit?
It’s a Funky Technician remix album. It got Madlib, Large Professor, there’s quite a few people. It should come out later this year.
On the day of your birthday it was the 42nd anniversary of Malcolm X’s death. Looking at the society of today, how do you think the issues of racism and such changed since then?
Racism changed slightly. It ain’t a big difference. It’s just racism is more hidden. Segregation is here now but [racism is] more hidden. A lot of things take place but behind closed doors. Secret society type thing. A lot of things are still the same. Certain races are still locked up, can’t afford good representation in courts. There’s so many issues on that one, we can be talking for 6 hours about that one.
Hip Hop music has always helped the less privileged people to get their voice in the open. Do you feel like commercialization of music today has helped spread it or changed the lyrical context?
It does both. It does spread but it does hurt when it’s not presented properly or people aren’t properly educated on what they’re talking about or what their definition of Hip Hop is. Its good and its bad. Right now it’s more bad due to the fact that music lacks that quality right now. The sales are up but what’s sales if you can’t play that record 10 years from now or if that record made no kind of impact. In today’s society how can you reflect on that 15-20 years from now?
Birthdays are a good time to make a wish. What would you want to wish for yourself and Hip Hop music in general?
For myself I would wish to be in good health and continue my crusade and the music that I do. As far as Hip Hop I would love it to go back to its raw and real form. It did much more for the culture then than it’s doing now. Its more negative in Hip Hop now and people take it in a negative form. We gonna have a Hip Hop concerts and people be like, nah, there’s gonna be violence and there’s gonna be fights. It’s not what Hip Hop is about. People say rap is negative and I could always challenge it ‘cause you got KRS-1, Nas, X-Clan, different rappers that impact. Now, if I name positive rappers they don’t have the same influence like Public Enemy and KRS-1. Like say Mos Def, talib, Common, Kanye… Kanye by far made the biggest impact of the things that I just mentioned, but compared to the commercial world of rap, it won’t balance out. Rap is 70-75% commercial and there’s really no positivity to balance the game out. My wish would be to have balance, so it’s not as one-sided as it is now.
What’s going on with you nowadays? You mentioned going to Europe soon?
I’m touring as a DJ now. I got skills to do it all. I produce, I rap and I DJ. I’m just using another channel of my skills right now. I do as I feel fit. When I feel like going on the road, I do that. I’ll be in Spain soon. I’m DJing now, going to Paris. It goes around in a circle.
Do you enjoy performing in New York more or abroad?
I love New York ‘cause that’s where I’m from. And everything about New York is what made Lord Finesse Lord Finesse. But here’s 100,000 MCs in New York. This is what I call The Spoiled Capital. You eat steak and Lobster every day… if you bring it to Ethiopia it’s a different impact. I’d rather perform where people will appreciate what I’m doing. I want to have an impact. I do New York once in a blue moon.