Regular OldToTheNew visitors will recall a recent interview I did with Queens, New York legend Mikey D which included a number of questions relating to his well-known rivalry with a young LL Cool J back in the 80s.
A couple of weeks ago Mikey contacted me to say he was planning to make a public online apology to LL for comments he’d made over the years and wanted to do a follow-up interview to clarify his position on the matter.
As Mikey’s statement of apology to LL started to appear on numerous Hip-Hop websites and blogs, I sat down with the veteran emcee to find out what had prompted his decision and also what happened when Mr. Smith unexpectedly phoned Mikey recently.
So the interview we did seemed to get a good response from those who read it…
“Yeah that was dope. I felt a little guilty afterwards though but we’ll get to that (laughs).”
That leads nicely onto the LL Cool J situation that you wanted to address – you mentioned to me previously that you spoke to LL recently – is that conversation what led to you wanting to apologise for comments you’ve made about him in the past?
“Well, basically it wasn’t a case of me thinking about the situation because I spoke to him recently. I already had the thought on my mind prior to speaking with him. It was just a coincidence that we happened to speak although we didn’t speak specifically on the interview that you and I did or anything like that. I mean, I started having a change of heart about that whole Cool J situation awhile ago. But for some reason everytime I get interviewed I always snap back into defensive mode when that topic comes up. It’s like I automatically respond with the same amount of anger that I had before and just end-up saying the same s**t that I’ve been saying for years and years. I’ve never had a chance to really sit back and look from the outside at the situation. I mean, back in the day when I was drinking a lot of forties I was with people who were drinking to, so anytime the LL situation would come up we’d all be drinking and of course that can bring anger out when people are saying certain things, plus with me being the type of person I was, as far as being this battle rapper, I fell into all the negativity.”
So do you feel that you’ve been painting an inaccurate picture of what happened between yourself and LL back in the 80s?
“I mean, a lot of the stuff that happened in the past was my fault, so how could I blame Cool J for my failures?! I didn’t take the time to really think about what was going on. So now, as a different person and a sober person, as a person who has changed and matured, I can look back at all of that and I kick myself in the butt for everything that happened. I mean, me and Cool J did take jabs at each other, but at the end of the day I threw the first punch. LL was already doing his thing and I was the one that was left behind, but not because Cool J left me as when he got his contract he told me we could be the next Run DMC. It was me that didn’t believe him and wanted to just stay in the streets running around drinking, satisfying these cats that I was running with instead of taking care of business.”
Your biggest problem with LL always seemed to be that you felt he was emulating your style and image on his early records…
“When his records started coming out I started taking jabs at him because people were telling me, ‘He took your style and ran with it.’ Looking back at it, how could I say he took my style when he was already hot when I met him. I’ve always said in my interviews that when we originally met we were supposed to be battling first as he was the best in Jackson High School and I was the best in Springfield High School. He was already that good. So if he bit my style why would I then say let’s get together and rock out after we’d met and compared notes? That was contradiction number one. Contradiction number two was when I kept on saying, and started believing, that LL stole my style with the Kangols and all of that. People were wearing Kangols and sweatsuits before Mikey D! I got that image from people before me. Cool J got that image from people before him. It wasn’t like Mikey D told LL to start wearing Kangols or anything like that. But I fed into all of that bulls**t when people would say those things to me. So I just felt that it was time for me to be a man and publicly apologise to that brother for all those years that I dragged LL’s name through the dirt because I was wrong. As a man I can admit that I was wrong and I do feel bad about it. “
You mentioned that you had a change of heart about the situation some time ago – when would you say that actually happened?
“My change of heart really happened when I decided to stop drinking. Well, saying that, even when I initally stopped drinking I was sober but I was still in the same surroundings in the ‘hood hearing people saying that same stuff. So what really brought the change of heart was when I moved away from everything. Me and my lady moved and I got my life together. By me getting away from everything and not having anybody in my ear all of the time talking about the same situation, it gave me a chance to reflect and think back on mistakes that I made and to be thankful for where I am now. A lot of people talk about keeping it real and never leaving the ‘hood, but leaving the ‘hood was the best thing that could have ever happened to because since I did that I don’t drink anymore, I’m much healthier, I’m more focused and basically I’ve got one of my best friends back. So after making that move I had the opportunity to look back and reflect on a lot of things. Even the situation with Melle Mel at the 1988 New Music Seminar. I don’t owe him an apology publically because what he did was still wrong, but all these years later I didn’t have to keep feeding into it talking about, ‘I had to do what I had to do.’ I could have went about that differently as well.”
With regards to the LL situation though I don’t think I’ve ever read or heard interviews with you where you’ve been disrespectful or flippant about him. I mean, you were very clear in our interview about the fact that Cool J did come to you after he got signed to Def Jam and talked about doing something together but it was your decision not to pursue that…
“Right, right. But I just started to feel weird about it. I felt like I was adding more fuel to the fire, particularly when I’d do an interview over the phone years back and I’d have my people around me drinking, saying stuff about the situation when I’d get asked questions and it was really just putting a battery in my back to say stuff that really didn’t need to be said. It was just that battle instinct in me that would come back and I was saying stuff that was so embedded in my mind that I’d said so many times before that it would just come out without me even really thinking about what I was saying. I guess it was just young stuff, but here we are thirty years later and I just wanted to clear the air about all of that and move on. I can’t blame anyone for how things turned out because I had the opportunity to be side by side with LL but I f**ked that up myself.”
Regarding the Melle Mel situation, that New Music Seminar incident was such a historic moment during Hip-Hop’s Golden Age that I don’t think people will ever stop talking about that battle in the same way that people still talk about classic boxing matches…
“Right. But I definitely wanted to publicly apologise to my boy LL. I think it takes a man to do that and it’s a big step because I guess it could hurt my image or reputation but who cares? It’s a whole new day, it’s a whole new me and I just want to focus on moving forward with the new music I’ve been working on. Artistically I feel better than ever and I’m planning to make old-school feel new again (laughs). I want people to judge me on my craft now and not because of things I’ve already done. I want people to respect what I’m doing now.”
So when you spoke with LL recently did you discuss how you felt about the situation with him?
“Well actually I did the public apology first and then I spoke to him. He called me and I was buggin’ out like ‘Wow it’s really him!’ because I didn’t know the number and usually I don’t answer numbers I’m not familiar with. But I happened to answer the call and we spoke for a few and before the end of the conversation I told him straight up that it’s been thirty years that this s**t has been getting between us and that I wanted to apologise to him for all the times I’d dragged his name through the dirt.”
What was his response?
“Basically he was like ‘It’s nothing, it ain’t even a thing’ but he respected me as a man for even making the statement. He respected the fact that I swallowed my pride and got that chip off my shoulder. I just told him that we’re grown men now and there’s no reason for us to be going through any of this and that I wasn’t going to have anybody in my ear anymore trying to make it into something that it ain’t.”
When would you have spoken to him last?
“It was probably when he would have done the filming for my documentary “The Making Of A Legend” which would have have been about 2005. We never really stayed in touch or nothing like that, partly because I didn’t want him to think I was trying to ride his coattails for nothing and that’s still the case. I’m not asking for nothing or expecting me making this statement to boost my career because that’s not what I’m about.”
What’s the likelihood of you and LL actually collaborating on something now you’ve opened those lines of communication again?
“That’s an option that’s in the air right now but like I said I don’t want anyone thinking I’m doing this to re-launch my career because that’s not what it’s about. But I definitely put a bug in his ear that hopefully one day we’ll get a chance to do a project together and that option is open for both of us. So hopefully before everything is said and done Cool J and I will rock together on something. Nothing was made concrete, but it was a suggestion that was made and it’s definitely an option.”
So moving forward is the LL situation something that you now no longer want to discuss in interviews etc?
“I know it will always be mentioned and all of that but I just wanted to clarify my position. I know it’s something that will still be talked about for years to come and I don’t have a problem with that. The only thing I had a problem with was some of the things I said about the situation that I think could have been clarified a little more and said a little more directly. So that situation is always going to be discussed and I can’t change history, but I can clarify history.”
Now you’ve made this apology to LL what do you think the reaction will be from longstanding Mikey D fans?
“I mean, people grow and I really wanted to clear this out of my system and in order for me to be in a good place to make music that makes the fans happy I need to be happy myself. I had this feeling in my gut and my instinct was telling me that certain things I said were wrong. So my real fans should really respect me and the growth and maturity that I’m showing. Doing this doesn’t take anything away from my battle capabilities or my lyrical prowess. It was a decision I made to put my mind at rest by clearing out all of the drama and if anyone does have a problem with it then they weren’t really a fan to begin with. It’s not about publicity, it’s not about money, it’s coming from my heart.”
So now all of this is out in the open do you feel better prepared to focus on the new music you’re working on?
“Absolutely. I’m really looking forward to this Elements Of Hip-Hop project coming out and getting back out there. I want people to see that’s there’s no age limit on making good Hip-Hop. For me to be able to still have the impact today that I had back when I first came out is a beautiful feeling. It feels like I’m a brand-new artist.”
Elements Of Hip-Hop’s album “Calm Before The Storm” will be released on April 2nd.