Interview with YZ

You guys are more of an old school movement. What are your thoughts on re-entering the scene and performing tonight with X-Clan?

Can I make a small correction? I don’t think that we are ‘old school’. When I think about old school I think about Grandmaster Melle Mel, people of that nature. They are the true founders of Hip Hop. We came along and we changed the world. We threw the elements of Hip Hop that you see now with the elements that we brought to the table. Not saying that we are not happy to be here because of this resurgence. However I just want to make this clear. I don’t want people looking at us and thinking that we are some old school cats. We’ve never been that. If anything we were considered the conscious movement and that’s true. It’s good to see that those things are coming back now.

Talking about that, do you see anyone on the scene now, who makes great conscious music?

Well, I mean, you have people like Talib Kweli, he’s been around for a while, who touches that. Mos Def touches that. Actually Mos came from our camp. I used to manage Mos and his group UTD, Urban Thermo Dynamics. So when he had his sister Ces and DCQ I got them a deal over at Payday and all that. So Mos, he was always into acting then, but he is truly Hip Hop, so I have to give him his props. I think he’s well rounded when it comes to music. You can almost hear jazz; you can almost hear blues in his music. As far as refreshing you may be able to look at somebody like Lupe Fiasco. I don’t think it is completely conscious but at least he gives some elements of awareness. You can hear some elements of that real music where it’s not all about violence. It’s not all about killing and murder. I think its missing in the music today. The balance of music is kind of missing right now. There is so much negativity and it’s doing so well because the corporate sponsors are saying ‘that’s what people want, let’s feed them negativity, killing will sell, bad news will sell’. They don’t want to put anything behind somebody like X-Clan or YZ, because they think that youth want to hear about selling crack or shooting somebody. It’s kind of sad that our people are buying into that.

The music has gotten a lot more accepted than it was 20 years ago, yet the lyrics deal a lot more with violence and such. Why do you think that is the case?

Ghetto violence exists. I’m not saying that it doesn’t exist. It existed 20 years ago, it exists today. As far as the music is concerned thou I don’t necessarily think that people in the ghetto contemplate violence every single day of their lives. Yet the music only represents one side of the ghetto, one side of the street, one side of the perspective. What about the other sides? Hey! Does this man ever make love? Does he have children he talks to? What about his family? Does he work? I mean, does he ever smile? I mean it lacks the scale. The scales are so tipped one way that it just hard to listen.

So are you more with the Zulu way of thinking?

Literally I think what they are doing, what they are thinking is rehashing or disturbing the minds. They are saying to these kids that it’s OK to sell drugs. It’s OK to do violence, it’s OK to shoot people, it’s OK to be shot at. For me that’s just genocide. If we as people stand up to it… white, black, mixed… we as people need to do something about it. Because if we don’t than what’s gonna end up happening is there’ll be a small seed that’ll continue to grow and continue to grow and continue to grow and people won’t be leaving their door after a while. I don’t care where you live. You can be in Harlem or Brooklyn or right in midtown and there’s gonna be problems.

When it comes to self-empowerment, what do you think people can do to take charge using Hip Hop music?

You can do research. I mean you can find a world of information on the net. And if you can find your way to the library, if you want to learn about Hip Hop, the history of Hip Hop, where it’s come from, you can see where it’s going, just go on the net and you can find out anything. You can actually go on the net and there is a world of music out there, so you don’t necessarily have to buy into the more commercial tunes on the radio. If you want to do it sometime than you have to do your own due diligence and find the info, ‘cause its out there. The history of Hip Hop and rap is in the most libraries now. There are many books written about Hip Hop, the history of Hip Hop. People need to study a little more. If you’re not really into reading, there are plenty of DVDs out there; there are plenty of people that you can ask questions.

Your music personally, what’s different about it nowadays, what’s new?

Actually, I don’t necessarily think that my music is different except the date. I’ve always had music music either ahead of the times or at least with the times. I don’t make music that’s behind the times. However my music now is more testimonial than ever. I’m a very good writer in a sense of a book writer. I can write some stories that are very visual. So I thought I would take this time now to be very testimonial. I think that most people what they see when listening to Hip Hop is they think they see something testimonial. They think that all these stories of being shot or whatnot are testimonial. Well, I have a testimony too. I may have been involved with the same thing. I mean I’m not saying that I haven’t. I’m not saying that I’m perfect, that I was never involved in drugs or violence. Everybody has their quirks and colloquialisms. However when you get to the point that you’re glorifying the fact that you have to sell crack to survive there is a problem with that. So if I was to say anything about it, the music is very fresh, it’s up to date and to put it plain and simple, my shit is hot. Back in the day I’d go to a studio and whatever I did I’d put out. I don’t do it anymore. I’ll be recording till I’m blue in the face and I’ll be listening to stuff and if it don’t make the grade it don’t make the album.

Are you more studio album or mixtape focused nowadays?

To be honest I don’t know if I focus on the album as much as I focus on getting in the studio and making sure that I tell people exactly what I want them to hear and not a misstatement. When they hear me I want them to say ‘Hey, this dude put it down like that. He told me something that I wanted to say but didn’t have the guts to say. When you listen to me that’s what you hear. I’m not saying that all things are good. However, if I come and shoot this man right here and I have a party about it like its OK to do that, than what does it say to a young man who’s looking at that? That’s a very negative view. To be honest, what’s really going through my head nowadays is how much time will I have to do, how much karma will I have to deal with because I just put a bullet in this guy? That’s what I’m really thinking about. So that’s what I talk about. The real effect of my action. What’s gonna happen because of my action rather than letting people think that it’s cool to do these things.

In 2006 Hip Hop albums did not see as much success as before and a lot of people are attributing it to New York not making quality work like before. Do you feel that New York is about to bounce back or is this a longer slump?

I think New York will bounce back if New York wants to bounce back. To be honest with you if there is any city in this country that can do it, New York can do it. I just think that New York needs to get off its own shit for a minute and realize that it’s not all about New York. I think it’s a big problem. So many people here think that their shit don’t stink. That’s why you have so many people in other places like Atlanta or Miami or LA that outdo people in New York. Then you have one dude in New York or two dudes in New York kinda running everything and making all the money. The truth is New York can do it, it just needs to realize that the strength is in the numbers. There is a lot of good music that can come out of New York. They don’t develop anymore. Everything is like ‘Hey, if you find that hate in that camp, let’s throw it out’. It don’t work like that. Back in the day they used to put a lot of time into groups. They used to put a lot of time and effort into making sure that any music that comes out of New York is on a certain level and gonna be hot. They don’t do it anymore. I think they need to get back to that. The part about music is just people gotta find different ways to find music. There are free ways to get music. As long as there is that people will go and get free music. Especially if people only give out 1 or 2 songs on the album that’s hot. People wanna make a good album, make sure that every song on that album is hot.

So talking about New York now, you don’t think that Jay Z is the Hip Hop savior like he says?

Savior? I like Jay Z. I do. Would I consider him a Hip Hop savior? I don’t know about that. I mean I like him I like what he does. In my opinion, I’m a Hip Hop savior. X-Clan. They are the Hip Hop saviors. I mean, if you listen to their album, from top to bottom it’s hot. I’m not saying that ‘cause he’s my man. ‘Cause if they put out a half-assed album, I’d be saying ‘that’s my man, but they just put out a half-assed album’. That album is hot. you put it on and you listen to it to the end. People don’t do it anymore. (Brother) J made it his business so you could listen to every song, get your songs worth. Artists start doing that again, people will start paying attention to New York again.

What was your favorite album of ’06?

There were a couple. To be honest I like the Ghostface album. More Fish. That came out in ’06. I thought it was hot. It reminded me of Wu. I heard those elements and it made me proud to listen to that record.